Fear is holding back your sex life

Jay Dee

Fear is holding back your sex life

Jun 01, 2016

For a lot of us, fear is holding back our sex lives.  I know we don’t like to admit it, but it is.  We usually like to blame it on our busy schedules, on low energy, on a spouse who has a lower sex drive

FFear is holding back your sex lifeor a lot of us, fear is holding back our sex lives.  I know we don’t like to admit it, but it is.  We usually like to blame it on our busy schedules, on low energy, on a spouse who has a lower sex drive than us (for higher-drive spouses), or on ourselves for not having high sex drives (for lower-drive spouses).  And usually there’s some truth to those excuses.  But, only in rare cases (though they do exist) is fear not the real underlying cause.

Because as I wrote about last week, intimacy is risky, and physical intimacy is no different.  Many of us feel afraid and so we hold back instead of initiating.

And the funny thing is, both high drive and low drive spouses feel fear, but each typically doesn’t think the other does, or should.

High drive spouses feel fear

If your a man, then according to our societal programming, a lot of your sexual identity and self worth is tied into being at least sexually competent.  There is this expectation that women (our wives in particular) should be so enthralled by our love-making skills that they just can’t wait to be back in bed with us.  But, the truth is, how good sex is is rarely the issue.  Usually it’s all the other stuff.  Not, sometimes technical skill, or rather a lack thereof, is a hindrance, but again, I think those are the rare occurrences.  Doesn’t mean we can’t learn to improve.  I’m just saying, it’s probably not the factor that’s limiting you the most.  Usually, the desire to have sex by our low-drive spouse has very little to do with our skill and a lot more to do with things like their stress level, their hormones, their beliefs about sex (psychological or theological), how their day was, how the rest of your relationship is, how long it’s been since you had sex, the temperature of the room, whether they got to have a shower today, and on and on it goes.  This is what causes many men to say “we have sex with all the planets align”, because it can feel like a huge mysterious astrological calendar of events that we can’t interpret decides when our wife will feel in the mood or not.  And even though we know there’s a lot of external factors going on, we still feel like if our spouse doesn’t want to have sex…it means they don’t want me.   It means I’m not attractive, either physically, or as a personality, as a husband.

High drive women have a lot of those same fears, but they also have to fight against the stereotype that tells them that men always want sex.  So, if their husband turns them down, they feel like something is desperately wrong with them, because society has taught them that ALL men want sex ALL the time.  Sadly, it seems like a fair number of high-drive women marry low-drive husbands.  I’m not sure why that is, but it seems to be the case.

So, whether you’re a high-drive husband, or a high-drive wife, the fear of rejection is the perhaps the single largest fear that’s stopping us from initiating.  It’s hard to go back again and again, knowing you’re going to be hurt.  As much as many low-drive spouses think their high-drive spouses want sex all the time, the truth is, they’re probably only initiating a fraction of the times they actually want sex.  This means that by the time a high-drive spouse actually initiates, their probably pretty desperate.  Of course, this just makes it worse, because then when you get rejected, it hurts that much worse.

Being denied a piece of bread when you want a snack is irritating.  Being denied a piece of bread when you are starving feels like abuse.  If a high-drive spouse is too fearful to ask for sex when they are “hungry”, then they’re likely being rejected regularly when they’re “starving”.

Most low-drive spouses don’t have a clue that this is going on.  They don’t understand what it’s like to have a high drive.  They just think “it’s just sex”, and so they don’t even realize that by the time their spouse can’t stand it any longer and overcomes their fear, that a “no, I’m not interested” feels like emotional abandonment.  Worse actually.  It’s an active rejection, so feels more like emotional abuse.  From their perspective, high-drive spouse should have nothing to fear, after all, it’s just sex.  For many of them (not all), it’s just a want, not a need.  It’s like saying “no, you shouldn’t have a chocolate bar now”.  But, for the high-drive spouse, what they hear is “no, I don’t want to love you right now” at best, at worst “no, you haven’t earned my love yet”.

Low drive spouses feel fear

High drive spouses (myself included) are often surprised to find out that low-drive spouses have fears about sex too.  They’re usually not the same fears though.  Some do have a fear of rejection, especially if they’ve been rejected in the past.  Sometimes high-drive spouses, when they’ve been rejected too long, by the time their spouse wants to have sex, they can’t manage to open up, and so they shut down, rejecting their low drive spouse.  It’s not wise, and it’s self-defeating, but it happens.  It’s hard to let the walls down when you’ve been hurt so often.  By that same token, may low-drive spouses have been hurt emotionally and that makes it hard to open up physically.  They have a fear there too, because they’re afraid that they’ll let themselves be vulnerable, have sex, and then be shut down emotionally again.  In as much as refusing to have sex is a form of abuse, so is refusing to engage emotionally with a spouse you’re having sex with.  And any type of abuse is, of course, going to raise walls.  And contrary to physical walls, emotional walls are far easier to build up than tear down.

There are other fears as well.  Often there’s a fear that things won’t go perfectly, especially if you have this belief that sex needs to be perfect and romantic and go like it does in the movies.  So, there’s a fear that something will go wrong.  There are fears that young children will interrupt, or that older children will hear and know what’s going on.

For many women (and some men), there are often fears relating to body image.  Despite 96% of husbands in our survey saying that they are as attracted to or more attracted to their wives than when they got married, there is still the devil telling them through media and culture, that they aren’t beautiful enough, that they aren’t sexy.  Sadly, more often than not, wives trust Satan more than husbands.  They don’t know that’s what’s happening, but that’s the underlying truth of it.  Then there the fears about whether they smell good enough, taste good enough, and fears about how their genitals look.  Many women seem to think their genitals are weird, some even say gross.  Most men, on the other hand can’t get enough of them.

Both men and women sometimes have a fear of performance.  Men with ED are afraid they won’t be able to get an erection.  I hear from a lot of wives that their husband won’t even try, because he’s so afraid he won’t be able to perform.  You know what?  The wives don’t care about the ED.  They just want to feel a connection.  They’re willing to try other things.  Or, just to be held naked.  Women worry about performance too.  What if they can’t get their husband to orgasm (if he has delayed ejaculation).  After all, the stereotype is that men orgasm too quickly…so if he can’t, does that mean she’s not sexy enough?  What if the wife can’t orgasm?  Most wives know their husbands love to see them achieve orgasm, so when they can’t, they feel like they let their husband down.

Or, what if you’re afraid that your spouse will want to do that thing again.  You know, that activity you let them do once but you really didn’t like it.  What if they want it again.  Will saying no ruin sex for them?  Will saying yes ruin sex for you?

Of course, the high-drive spouses don’t understand this, because to them, it’s simple: “I want sex all the time, so you have nothing to worry about!”  I said this just last week!  Because for us, our fear is rejection, and for many, there is no situation we can comprehend where we would reject our spouse.  But, the fears aren’t usually based around rejection.  It’s a completely different set of fears.

Get over your fear

Both sides have fear.  We’re both afraid to initiate.  The fact that high-drive spouses initiate so often is not that they’re not afraid, it’s that they are so desperate they push through the fear.  The fact that low-drive spouses don’t initiate often is only because that drive is not forcing them through that fear.

In both, these fears can be overcome.  How?  With love.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. – 1 John 4:18

First, we need to recognize that our spouses love us.  That our fears about them are unfounded.  They don’t think what we think they think.  They don’t feel how we think they feel.  And if we’re unsure, we should ask.  So, let’s work to set aside those fears that have to do with our spouses.  And help our spouses set those fears aside.  One of the most loving things my wife ever did was to promise not to say “no” to me anymore when I initiate.  She’s kept that promise (except a few instances).  No more explicit “no”s.  She’s working on the implicit ones (You know, when you initiate and you see her shoulders slump, so you pull the initiation back, because only an idiot keeps that wall down when you see the punch coming).  She’s also working on working through her set of fears, and I’m doing my best to help address them.

Second, we need to recognize that even if we have fear, that’s not an excuse not to love.  I’ll be honest, I haven’t been initiating for the last … 15 months.  I haven’t stopped completely, but I’ve been holding back a lot.  Why?  Because I’m afraid.  You see, we have a 15 month old.  Who keeps my wife really tired with nightly feedings.  Who likes to wake up while we’re having sex and interrupt us.  Who generally makes my wife far more likely to give those implicit “no”s even before I ask.  But, that’s not the kid’s fault, and it’s not my wife’s fault.  It’s no one’s fault.  It is, however, my responsibility to stay authentic, and I have failed to do that.  Because while I’ve been holding back on initiating, I haven’t master not being hurt by “no”s, be they explicit or implicit.  And you know what…sometimes the implicit “no”s are all in my head.  I think she’s going to say no, and so I don’t initiate.  But, some of those nights…it might have been a yes.  In fact, we’ve had conversations the day later, and it’s more than a “might”.  Then I kick myself for missing out on an opportunity to reconnect.  Not only that, but I feel like a liar, because I haven’t been true to my wife about what I’m feeling.

So, I’m not perfect either, but I’m working on it.  And when I figure it out, I’ll let you know how to do it too.

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7 thoughts on “Fear is holding back your sex life”

  1. Jeff Harris says:

    Very insightful post! This is so true. How freeing to get all these perspectives defined and out in the open. Thank you!

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Glad to be of service!

  2. Ken says:

    Great post!

  3. Warwick says:

    Yes this all seems true.

    There is just no answer when you get a baby. Especially if you are out at work a lot of the times the baby has a nap. Maybe that is the key – come home at lunchtime. But then when the baby naps on her chest. That can be disappointing.

    It does not help that there is never a shortage of people coming to tell you that you should just have stuffed your baby in a box and CIO. The truth is that CIO is popular for that very reason – convenience to the parents whatever the cruelty to the child. Before baby, I thought the problem is just for people with some kind of hangups about having sex when the baby is awake. There certainly is a brief age where that is the only way to have sex – there can be times the mother and baby are always together when the baby’s asleep – but it’s never going to be quality time, keeping a weather eye. Now I know the problem is mostly just the raw fact that when they are awake there is no (un-cruel) way to ignore them for long.

    With co-sleeping it becomes possible for the mother to leave the baby temporarily at night after about 18 months. At that point you get maybe half an hour, an hour that the baby can be left alone. I always valued romantic, un-time-constrained sexual encounters, the furtive peremptory quickies never meant the same to me anyway, and that can make the baby time harder still. It gets a bit better and worse as they get older, and eventually you see it’s true what all the cynics said, that it obviously never is the same.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Yeah, babies are difficult. I’m with you there.

  4. Hurting says:

    Hmmm, unfortunately the comments about low drive spouses means they have to recognise they have a low drive. There are relationships out there where one spouse has a “moderate” drive (only wants sex on average three times a week, maybe 4, unless on holidays and then daily would be nice) and the other spouse has virtually no drive (like once or twice a year or less if it were up to them). They don’t blame their “low” drive. They actually insist their drive is normal! That their spouse who is only saying they want to average three times a week is a nymphomaniac and “no one” has sex that much, even on their honeymoon (yes this is for real, that is what my husband has told me repeatedly, that “no one” has sex three times or more per week on their honeymoon – this is my second marriage and I don’t have the ability to say to him “honey, my first husband and I had sex more than three times a DAY, every single day of our honeymoon and we only had sex that little because we had his family invade our honeymoon, and we also went out and did activities together every day”).

    Some low drive spouses have no fear. They simply do not believe they are low drive and emphatically insist their sexless marriage is the norm.

    And while body image fear might effect some low drive spouses, but it also effects high drive spouses too. After suffering years of abuse from my first husband about my body image, I’m the one who despises my body. My husband has no body image fears at all (he only doesn’t like to be naked because it feels uncomfortable in a sensory way, but I’m happy to have sex with his clothes on if he likes even though I want to be able to look at him and to be able to feel bare skin, if it’s so uncomfortable, then leave his clothes on – I don’t care as long as we have sex). Yet as much as I hate my body (and as much as my husband has done nothing to make me feel any better about it, and actually has successfully made me feel worse by his porn habit and trying to hide his porn habit and outright lying about it even when caught out), I’m still the one getting naked and initiating sex.

    It’s now June and we haven’t had sex since January. We’ve had sex once in 7 months. And he is happy with that. And doesn’t consider that abnormal at all.

    “First, we need to recognize that our spouses love us. That our fears about them are unfounded. They don’t think what we think they think. They don’t feel how we think they feel. And if we’re unsure, we should ask. ” The thing is, this isn’t true for everyone. My husband has outright said he hasn’t loved me for some time and he has made his feelings very clear. So I do know exactly how he feels. He shoves it in my face constantly. Some people who call themselves christians simply do not love their spouse. They can go to church each week, they can know huge amounts of theology, they can convince even their closest family and friends that their faith is genuine, and yet still will frequently tell their spouse, they do not love them and deprive them of every any form of intimacy – including sex, especially sex, but every other form of intimacy as well.

    ” In as much as refusing to have sex is a form of abuse, so is refusing to engage emotionally with a spouse you’re having sex with. ” Some of us are married to spouses who not only refuse to have sex, but also refuse to engage emotionally. They just cut you out of their lives and pretend you don’t exist – and yet claim they are a christian, and not just a lukewarm one but a passionate, dedicated one, and one that is educated and claim to know what the bible says.

    It’s so hard being the one who has been hurt over and over, by your spouse by an ex-spouse, been sexually abused by an ex-spouse, and by a stranger, being physically and emotionally abused by parents growing up, by an ex-spouse and by others, and yet you still keep opening up, you find someone who claims to be a serious follower of Jesus, who says and does all the right things, and then as soon as you’re married, after the wedding day and wedding night, they don’t want to know you. They just want to get back to acting single again and pretend you don’t exist.

  5. Randy says:

    I’m going to study your post more, as wife and I are stuck-in that she has fear that sex makes her vulnerable to words from me that would be emotionally uncomfortable to her, while I have a fear that in conversation she will continue her overly frequent observations of what she does not like about what I do and say. I dearly love her and LOVE ??? for us to make love to each other but for years have been practically sexless. Arg! ???

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