A common argument low-drive spouses have against high-drive spouses “Why do we NEED to improve our sex life? Isn’t it good enough?” And that’s a difficult question to answer for most, because it’s not a simple yes or no. So, I thought I’d take a few (like a thousand or two) words and try to explain this built-in need for most high-drive spouses to continuously reach for a higher quality, and higher-frequency, sex life, because I think it’s a bigger topic than most give credit for. My wife’s comments will be in purple.
Our brains grow accustomed to input
It’s a well known fact that our brains, and bodies, get used to certain things once it has experienced them continuously for a while. We can get addicted to processed sugar, caffeine, dairy, not to mention cigarettes, and other drugs (medicinal or not). Now, there is a physiological response at play here, but also a psychological one (which really boils again down to physiological if you get deep enough). Our brains are constantly rewiring themselves.
Ever hear a song that you instantly hated, but you couldn’t avoid (maybe it was on the radio at work or in the car constantly). After a while, you don’t hate it anymore. Then you start humming it when it’s quiet. Your brain adapts to inputs, and when it misses it, it craves that input.
Counselor Deanna Troi: Have you ever heard Data define friendship?
Commander William T. Riker: No.
Counselor Deanna Troi: How did he put it? “As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even missed when absent.”
This becomes very clear to the spouses of anyone who has been a gatekeeper, or refuser, and then changes their belief, view, or habits towards sex. The strangest thing happens. Your spouse, who used to avoid sex like the plague, all of a sudden starts to miss it when it’s been a few days since you’ve had sex (which just feels like a miracle the first time they say it).
I think I still shock Jay when I say that I was looking forward to having sex, or that I really missed the opportunity because he accidentally stayed out too late, and I needed the sleep so badly. It still feels surreal to him that I’ve changed so much.
But, this extends further, into a problem. You see, when we experience something exciting, our brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that tells our brain we’ve done something good. It’s been called the “reward” hormone, and it makes you feel amazing. But dopamine is highly addictive. We crave dopamine, we want to be excited. But, as we continue to receive these bursts of dopamine, the problem starts to come up. They don’t feel as good any more. That “fix” doesn’t quite do as much for us. And so, we crave more to keep our levels of dopamine higher for longer.
So, we want more sex, we want higher quality sex, we want more exciting sex. I often wonder when the kids are grown and out of the house and we’re retired and with each other all day long, will we be bored with “normal” sex? Will we be wanting it ALL THE TIME. (although Jay’s drive is what I would call constant, he would be on cloud 9 if we could have sex practically all the time).
Do you remember your first romantic kiss? That one peck that sent you over the moon for days? What happens when you give your spouse that same kind of peck? Probably nothing. It probably barely registers that you did something, because it’s such a habit. I wish we could hold on to that feeling. But, we progress, kissing turns into all sorts of activities (in different orders for different couples), and each step comes with an increase in dopamine, and, in turn, the previous step no longer gives us quite the same feeling. How many of you remember how awesome making out was? Just kissing until your lips felt numb and tingly. How many of us do that in our marriages, years, or even months, or weeks, later? I know we don’t.
Sex progresses the same way. As our library of sexual expression with our spouse expands, it becomes nearly impossible to go back to a singular physical expression of love. My wife said the other week “when was the last time we had sex with the lights off?” Neither of us could remember (since then, we have once, I’m not saying having sex with the lights off is bad, it’s just rare in our house, because, well, I enjoy the visual inputs. And I like being able to see too).
And so, we have this constant drive to improve our sex life, to reach the next level of dopamine. I’m not saying it’s the most noble reason (or a noble one at all), but I don’t think we can ignore this biological desire to want to experience more and more exciting sex.
I know for myself, having ADHD, I get bored easily, so having that excitement factor is very important for me to want more sex. I need it to stay engaged in our time together. Jay is very good at keeping me engaged.
Everything that stagnates, dies
Corporations that don’t grow, die. The same can be said for relationships. Marriages need to be constantly growing, constantly improving, or else they will die, and part of that is our sex life. We hear the phrase “stuck in a rut” in marriage, and often it describes their sexual relationship. Spouses will complain that the same script is constantly being followed whenever they have sex (or don’t). The initiation is always the same, the foreplay is always the same (even if that means it’s non-existent), sex is always the same position or two, or maybe three, but in the same order. And eventually one spouse usually ends up thinking “I’d rather not have sex than go through that script again.” This was/is always me. But I blame it on homeschooling 4 kids and a toddler that doesn’t yet sleep through the night. So it’s got to be interesting, and new to spark that feeling of, “Ohh, what are we gonna do tonight?” I love asking him what he has planned for me and hearing what he’s been thinking about doing when we get some time together. Why? Is sex bad? No. Is the orgasm awful? No. But it’s boring. Yep. Sex can be boring, if it’s constantly the same thing, over and over again. This is what happens when we don’t improve our sex life. It becomes scripted, mundane, boring, and then dies.
My wife and I are studying Song of Solomon at the moment with our small group, and one thing is clear in that book so far: Sex is meant to be exciting and adventurous; the newlyweds described were having all kinds of sex in and outside of the bedroom.
And so, your sex life should be constantly evolving. Try new things (not new people), write each other an erotic story, add mutual masturbation to your list of activities, give some light bondage a try, or hair pulling, or any number of things you two can come up with. If you generally do not initiate, change it up a bit and initiate with confidence!
The facets of our relationship are all linked
Our sex life doesn’t exist in a silo. Our physical, emotional and spiritual relationships are all intertwined. As one grows, they all should grow, otherwise your marriage becomes unbalanced. If your physical relationship is not growing at the same pace as your emotional and spiritual relationship, then they’re growth will be stunted, or they will grow out of control, without the support it should have. These relationships tend to twist and corrupt into something they were never intended to be, something not resembling marriage at all.
This can be used to advantage in a marriage as well though. If there are no impedances on a marriage, nothing holding back the different facets of the marriage, often you can kick-start growth in the others by focusing on one. For example, I quit porn at about the same time that my wife stopped being a refuser/gatekeeper. We had done a lot of damage to our relationship. Our sex life was abysmal, our emotional relationship had taken a beating from both sides, and our spiritual relationship was neglected, at best. So, we did a 10 days of sex challenge. I’ll be honest, at first all I could think about was “yay! sex!” I had no idea how much of an impact this would have on the rest of our marriage. It brought the start of healing for our emotional relationship, and the beginning of growth for our spiritual relationship. We were both amazed, and still are, at how much our marriage has changed and grown over the course of a few short years. But, we were both willing to let the facets of our relationship grow. If one spouse is blocking any of them, this won’t work. Typically, not always, the men block emotional growth, the women block the physical growth, and often both are uncomfortable with spiritual growth. In those cases, even if the genders are reversed, they typically don’t realize how much they are impacting the part of the relationship they are interested in the most. You cannot have the emotional relationship you want in marriage without having a great physical relationship, and you cannot have the physical relationship you want without investing in the emotional relationship. And the same goes for the spiritual relationship. They all need to grow together, because they are all facets of one relationship.
I would like to add that I think some aspects can have growth spurts and then the other area’s catch up. We improved our sex life dramatically in a very short time span, but it took quiet a long time for our emotional side to really heal and grow beyond the hurt that we caused each other. So while you can’t really grow one area in particular without the others, the fact that we wanted to grow all of them together and change everything I think was the biggest impact to our turn around. Putting your pride aside and making yourself vulnerable in your most challenging part of life will deepen the connection between you and your spouse and with God.
How are your relationships in your marriage? Are you nurturing all three? Maybe ask your spouse what they think before you answer.
27 thoughts on “Why we need to improve our sex life”
So i have to have sex when i really dont want to AND find a way to make an already frustrating event more “exciting” for my husband?
Sounds like you need to find a way to make it more exciting for YOU. Why is it frustrating?
Perhaps what she means is she is having to meet expectations set by her husband and he either shows no appreciation or approval and/or keeps raising the bar on her and she is feeling inadequate which would be frustrating.
Hard to tell from the syntax.
Also, it could be that he has ED and is the one frustrated and she is expected to provide evermore stimulating arousal when she really isn’t into it. Either way, it sounds like there are issues outside the bedroom that carry over into the marital bed.
Its frustrating because I simply dont enjoy sex. I try my very hardest to give in to my husband when he asks, and i even try to pretend to be enthusiastic about it but i dont get any enjoyment from sex, at all. I dont feel this connection that everyone keeps talking about and it definetly doesnt make me feel loved and cherished. Sex just makes me feel as though my body is being used for his own pleasure and enjoyment, and im left feeling like im nothing more than a tool. Having sex despite the fact i that i dont want to have made the entire act repulsive to me, I hate the idea, but i love my husband and i want him to be happy. But now you are telling me that i have to find a way to make sex more adventurous for him to? That is another huge sacrifice to add onto the already monumental sacrificeof having sex period. I dont think i have it in me, why cant he sacrifice having sex for a while at least until i can get to the root of my problem. Where are the sacrifices that he is supposed to make for me? I dont feel like my husband, or anyone esle, understands or appreciates my sacrifice.
I think there are things you need to work on before attempting to fulfill this.
Why is it that you don’t like sex? Have you taken the time to find out if it’s a physical (medical or skills), emotional (relationship) or spiritual (bad theology or teaching about sex) issue? Sex shouldn’t be repulsive in marriage.
I want to take the time to figure this out but he wont let up, he would never admit it but i think he feels like being sexually available is my duty as his wife despite what im going through. Even though I willingly have sex with my husbnad, it still feels like its being taken from me. And i cant understand why he still makes me do this knowing how i feel about it. Is that normal for men? Is that how it is supposed to go? I feel like he should love me enough to give me time to work through this (possibly without sex). But everywhere i turn someone is making me feel bad for feeling this way. I have never actually gotten any pleasure from sex, but i used to just enjoy doing it because it made him so happy. Now it just feels like a chore that i do for him.
That is a tricky situation. On the one hand, he is correct, I believe it is the duty of spouses to provide sexual fulfillment for their spouse (1 Cor 7:4-5). However, it is also the responsibility of spouses to care for each other and provide a safe place within marriage to grow.
That said, one not being fulfilled does not negate the other, or visa-versa.
So, is it possible for you to figure this out while still meeting his needs? I don’t know what the issues are exactly (other than revulsion). If it’s a psychological problem, see a counselor or therapist. If it’s physical, perhaps read a book together about learning to be better lovers. If it’s theological (bad teaching), perhaps study together what the Bible says about marriage? My wife and I are reading Intimacy Ignited together, and so far, I would highly recommend it.
I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel bad about feeling this way. I merely wish to encourage people to grow the sexual aspect of their relationship. In yours, I think the biggest area of growth would be enjoying sex, not trying to increase frequency, or try new activities, or anything like that. That stuff can all come later, if possible, when you actually want to do it. But, first, focus on learning what God intended for sex within marriage, and finding a way to experience that.
I feel like if he loves me he would at least give me time to figure out what my problem is, i think i have earned that much, especially with all i have sacrificed for him. Is that asking for too much? I cant find my issue with sex, if im still being forced to do it. I think he should love me enough to sacrifice his want for sex, and help me work through this problem so that it can be better for both of us. If he truly cared he would, right? Isnt that the type of sacrificial love that the bible talks about?
I cannot guess at what is in your husband’s heart, and unfortunately, I have no way of communicating with him. So, talking about what he should or shouldn’t do is fruitless.
I write only to the spouse who will read. In your marriage, that is you. Discussions about what is fair, just, owed, earned, etc., have no value in marriage. We should each live for our spouse, regardless of whether or not our spouse is living for us. That is the kind of sacrificial love that the Bible talks about.
Thank you for replying to my comments.
I thought I would comment because this sounds very familiar. My wife and I are going through a lot of healing right now. For over 15 years our sex life was all about me. Recently we have been talking a lot about many different things including her physical and emotional pain and how she has viewed sex. I would encourage you to invite your husband to talk with you through a written letter. My wife loves to journal and she has written some things to me that have stopped me in my tracks and caused me to see things about myself that I never knew. Through this we have begun to talk and experiment with sex in a new way that has brought her real pleasure and brought us both much closer. Take the time to write out your thoughts and find a way to present that to him. More than anything take the time to pray that God will intervene and he will.
I am a little late to comment, but wanted to second Martin’s suggestion below. He makes a great point about opening a discussion through the written word. It sounds like there are other issues that are effecting your sexual intimacy. If you could present them to your husband in a neutral way, it may be enlightening for you both. And, yes, above all, pray! God will hear you and send insight. I am praying for you, Angie.
Never too late Bonny.
I have read through all of your comments. I am replying here rather then the end because the question if prompted by this comment.
You DO NOT have to answer these questions publicly and they may not reflect the attitudes Jay Dee and Christina on this blog but when you speak of getting to the root of the problem you have to begin at the beginning. Below is a laundry list of questions that are pertinent if you were to go into counseling or not.
1) Have you EVER enjoyed any type of sex as a source of personal pleasure?
2) Have you EVER had an orgasm?
3) Have you EVER masturbated? IF SO
a) Did you feel shame?
b) Did you feel pleasure?
c) Did you achieve orgasm?
d) Did or do you do it with any regularity, even if only monthly?
4) Is intercourse physically painful for you in any way?
5) Do you suffer from body dysmorphia?
6) Were you physically or sexually abused as a child or adult?
7) Are you a victim of rape?
8) Are you a victim of incest?
9) Do you have an unmet sexual desire or fetish that would make sex arousing or pleasurable?
10) Has intercourse ever been pleasurable?
11) Is oral sex an option and has it ever been pleasurable?
12) Do you ever fantasize about sex in a pleasurable way?
13) Do you have latent same-sex tendencies?
14) Are you avoiding a demand to birth a child?
15) Is your husband asking you to do “not normal” things that create revulsion, or are a violation of your moral or personal ethics?
16) Have you ever had sex with any man and found it pleasurable?
17) Have you had sex with any female and found it pleasurable?
18) Is your husband emotionally and physically appealing to you as an object of sexual desire?
19) Do you feel shame over sex in general?
20) Did your parents model a healthy marriage for you?
21) Do you feel you are betraying the love (not sexual) you had for your father if you sexually bond with your husband?
22) Have you always felt used when giving sexual pleasure to another?
23) Do you tend to feel or have you always felt you are a tool for other in ways that are not sexual and your feelings are not considered?
I know this is a daunting list, but any therapist would ask these and more if you presented as you do here. To not feel sexual with your husband is one issue. To not feel sexual at all (asexual) is a total other thing.
I am sure it is very difficult to be constantly identified as “having a problem” especially if it “isn’t a problem” for you. It sounds as if you have accepted you have little or no sexual desire, do not find it a problem for you (only for you as it affects others of course), have adapted your life to it, and other than your husband’s involvement, do not feel the need or desire to be fixed, cured, helped or changed. I say that realizing that everybody wants to be considered “normal” as opposed being thought of as having something wrong with them and being constantly put upon by well-meaning others. At some point, after numerous attempts at a “fix”, a chronic issue can cause a lack of faith or just plain emotional exhaustion and we just decide THIS is the fabric of my life. Even if you enter therapy, it may take multiple trials of therapist and treatments if that is your desire. I’m sorry that something that should be a source of pleasure and bonding between you and your husband has become a source of friction (and I’m sure that’s putting it mildly.)
You might find some help in developing and maintaining intimacy in Marty Klein’s book, Sexual Intelligence.
I hope the formatting holds up so these are easy to read. Jay Dee, if you feel these questions are not suitable, I will not be offended my you not publishing them or editing them. Sorry for the not so mini-post Jay Dee.
I am going to be blunt. If you’re feeling “used” during sex, then – based PURELY on what I’m reading here which, admittedly, might not be the whole story – I would guess that either a) there’s some past baggage there on your part, b) he *is*, in a sense, “using” you because he’s not taking the time to make sure your needs are taken care of, too, or c), both.
If you have had past sexual relationships, there’s a good chance you have some baggage, even if you don’t realize it. Restoring the Lost Petal is really good reading for this.
If he’s not taking the time to make sure you’re taken care of, and you don’t feel the two of you can talk about it, I’m not sure what to suggest, other than possibly counseling with someone, because you can’t make him do something different. But my husband will tell you – and I’m sure Jay would agree, too – that if he isn’t pleasing you, you’re not the only one missing out. HE is also missing out. It does something for a man’s ego to know he is able to bring his wife pleasure.
But to get back to the original objection, and the emotion I sensed in your message in response to the post…I believe the post was directed toward couples where one has a lower drive/interest than the other, and not meant to imply that one spouse should be subject to the whims of the other. The aim is mutual benefit.
No argument here.
Hi Angie – why did you marry your husband if this is how you feel about him? If you love him, set him free to love and be loved. Maybe what you need is to allow him to make love with another woman. Maybe even watch another woman thoroughly enjoy having sex with him and let him have the pure joy of pleasuring a woman who fully and completely appreciates him. And then you’ll start to understand what a wonderful man you had and what you have been missing. You are trapping him between his love for you and his God and your refusals. You don’t deserve him and will likely lose him if you haven’t already. Better to lose him to another woman than to thoroughly destroy his heart and soul.
I considered deleting this comment, but I don’t think we can hide from the world’s view of how we are to deal with things, so instead I’ll address it.
“Realist”‘s suggests go against everything God wants for our marriage, and his response nicely clarifies Satan’s plans for our marriages. He does not want us to work on ourselves, or our marriages. What he wants is to destroy the sacredness of marriage, and of sex. He’s condoning adultery in the guise of doing it as a loving gesture, or of self-discovery. And if that doesn’t work (which it’s sure not to), he seems to suggest divorce.
This is becoming a common word of advice and sentiment out there, even in Christian circles: let your spouse go find someone else to have fun with.
Do not listen to advice like this. Follow God’s word. Work on yourself, and your marriage. In the end, you may reap benefits beyond your ability to hope for at this time. I know, because it’s happened in our marriage, and in many more who I’ve come in contact with. Don’t give up, and don’t compound your issues with even more issues by allowing another into your bedroom.
Your wife’ last sentence says so, so very much. Intimacy cannot grow without shared vulnerability and acceptance.
You know Dennis, I really dislike that over-used in-to-me-see contrivance some writers have adoped to illustrate and define “intimacy,” but that is what being vulnerable is all about and without vulnerability there is no in-to-me-see so I am going to apply it here with a slight moan and agree with you and Christine.
I used to think that sex is what I “needed.” I want it, no doubt. But I need an intimate, close, accepting relationship with my wife where I feel comfortable. I need her to be on that same page. Then, sex will happen, it will be natural, it will be fulfilling. I once was like C describes J – “always on.” But what I figured out is I was frequently using sex as a stress relief, anxiety cure, self esteem booster, manly value gauge…..the list goes on. Emphasis on the word using. The problem with that is you are depending on someone else to make you happy. That always results in disappointment. Always. Because people are imperfect. That dynamic leads to much bitterness. As I begin to figure out that it is not my wife’s job to make me happy and I try harder to put Paul’s motto in action (“In all things I have LEARNED to be content), I start to be a happier person. And slowly my wife begins to soften and like me more. Sex becomes something she starts to think about. Happiness and contentment, the scriptures teaches us and general worldly wisdom even teaches, is a personal decision.
My drive is still exponential compared to my wife’s. That will likely never change to a great extent. However, how we BOTH react to each other can change and that can create the intimacy and closeness that I have learned is what I truly need and desire as much, or even more, than physical sex. Because without those things, sex gets real hollow and boring and perfunctory real fast.
It ain’t easy and, as you have said, certainly not quick. There are bad habits on both sides to be broken and new habits to learn, walls to be broken down and wounds to heal.
My wife would be appalled and devastated if I ever used the word “boring” to describe our sex life. And yet what you’ve described here pretty accurately portrays it. And if I even suggest that it is the case then its a major fight because this simply confirms for her that I am never content nor satisfied. So this issue must be addressed with the tiniest of baby steps and maybe after a few years I pray we can look back and see some growth. Well put JD and C.
I do happen to agree with a lot of aspects of this article. However, I personally am facing a physical issue with sex and it’s called menopause. At 46, this next stage of life has begun and it has really taken a HUGE hit on my libido and it takes twice as long to orgasm than it did before. My husband’s libido is not at all waned and it is frustrating for both of us. I WANT it to be like it used to, but that physical need for sex has dropped (now don’t get me wrong as I think about sex with my husband often), and my body’s response is not what it used to be. We have incorporated various things like toys to make it easier for me, but I still want the fires to burn like they used to. As the saying goes, the mind is willing, but the body not so much. To top it off, our work hours clash so when he’s home, it’s quite late and the mutual exhaustion combined with my lack of libido make it all the more difficult. I know I can’t reverse time, but how does one get around the physical limitations that can sometimes present themselves?
Oh, we are still fairly regular and still make time to have sex at least twice a week or more so we aren’t totally lacking.
I should also add that we did start having children late in life so I don’t have an empty nest, but am a post menopausal woman with an 8 and 6 year old so the vision of having time to ourselves to be romantic is not a fact for us. I have tried reading up on the topic and it always mentions that romance can have more freedom at this age because your children are either grown and out of the house or older. Not in our case.
Please look into natural progesterone cream. It changed my life when I was having the same issues. I highly recommend Dr John R Lee’s book ‘What Your Dr. May Not Tell You About Menopause’.
I am also ADA, and in many areas of my life, I feel a huge need for new and different. For some reason, this has never been much of an issue in my sex life. For me variety is nice but not necessary. I find a good deal of pleasure in what I know – the familiar.
I think many men confuse their desires for more frequency and more variety. There is good reason for this – variety can temporarily lessen the sting of lack of frequency. The down side of this is variety can cost a woman a great deal, especially if sex is already difficult. She can give him greater frequency or greater variety, but not both – and giving much of either will reduce the other.
In this situation, the men needs to figure out which is more important to them – frequency or variety. Asking for both is a sure way to slowly get less of each, and create a huge problem for her.
Boring sex is the way it is. I always wanted to please her, but unemployment and low self esteem took its toll on me and she felt it, thus making sex a chore as she describes it. Right now she feels pain as though she has a yeast infection constantly. She is making no effort to get medical help. I am trying to take over leading the house. Her lack of interest in sex prompts her to lecture me on the differences between men and women. Her attempt is to shut off my desires with an “understanding” lecture about why men are the way they are and therefore don’t touch me “there.”
Boredom is the name of the game. Sex starvation is the only way to arouse me. I feel so hopeless with her stupid lectures that I give up. She can’t ever remember things I do for her. Wants to make me into a pansy. People here speak about the man trying sexual techniques. What techniques? I am so limited in our sex life (if we have sex) that in order to create the “moment,” I need; the planets aligned, congressional approval, kids who are deeply asleep, empty bladder, warm room, not too much cologne, shaved face, good breath, (some things are reasonable), no family issues to discuss, money in the bank, dogs not barking out back, pillow properly positioned, stomach not growling, water bottle nearby, neck /back not sore…did I miss anything?