SWM 047 – Spontaneous desire is a blessing
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on how responsive desire is actually a blessing, because I was getting so many emails from people lamenting the fact that either they or their spouse has responsive desire.
It was extremely well received and I got a lot of emails from husbands and wives telling me how it’s helped them, either as one with responsive desire, or having a spouse with it.
Then one asked me to write a reciprocal post about spontaneous desire. In her case, she’s the one with spontaneous desire, and he has responsive desire. This, unfortunately, has led to a lot of frustration for her in her marriage.
I don’t think this is an isolated incident. In much the same way that responsive desire spouses can think that they’re broken because they don’t want sex all the time, spontaneous desire spouses can start to feel like their desire for sex is a burden. Likewise, those with responsive desire can sometimes feel that their spouse’s spontaneous desire is overwhelming. Sometimes they feel like their spouse always wants sex, or only wants them for sex. Sometimes they classify their spouses as sex addicts, and write their desire off as a pathology to be downplayed, ignored, mitigated or suppressed. That it’s their job to hold back their spouse’s desires.
Writers in the 1800s didn’t help this mentality. Sadly, one of the founders of the denomination I’m in wrote this:
Sexual excess will effectually destroy a love for devotional exercises, will take from the brain the substance needed to nourish the system, and will most effectively exhaust the vitality. No woman should aid her husband in this work of self-destruction. She will not do it if she is enlightened and has true love for him. The more the animal passions are indulged, the stronger do they become, and the more violent will be their clamors for indulgence. Let God-fearing men and women awake to their duty. Many professed Christians are suffering with paralysis of nerve and brain because of their intemperance in this direction. – Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church 2
It is not pure, holy love which leads the wife to gratify the animal propensities of her husband at the expense of health and life. If she possesses true love and wisdom, she will seek to divert his mind from the gratification of lustful passions to high and spiritual themes by dwelling upon interesting spiritual subjects. It may be necessary to humbly and affectionately urge, even at the risk of his displeasure, that she cannot debase her body by yielding to sexual excess. She should, in a tender, kind manner, remind him that God has the first and highest claim upon her entire being, and that she cannot disregard this claim, for she will be held accountable in the great day of God. – Ellen White, Adventist Home
And I know it’s not just in my denomination that this occurs. It was a fashion of the day to believe that having sex lessened your “vital force”. That is, the more sex you had, the shorter your life would be.
Some 150 years later, this mindset still exists in much of the collective Christian subconscious leading many spouses to wonder what exactly is good about spontaneous desire? What’s good about having it, and what’s good about having a spouse who has it?
What’s good about having a spouse with spontaneous desire?
Without them, sex might not happen outside of trying to conceive
Think about it. Responsive desire spouses need someone to turn them on, to arouse them. But if neither spouse had the impetous to do so, would sex ever happen other than a means to an end?
I get so many emails from husbands saying that their wife was incredibly interested in sex when they were trying to conceive, and then not at all afterwards. I had this experience myself. Sex becomes merely a necessity of conception, stripping it down to a simple bio-mechanical task.
You’d lose the sense of adventure and mystery, the joy of sex. I sometimes get emails from couples where both spouses have responsive desire asking if sex is required for marriage. They’re both just not ever interested in having it. Or maybe they have sex, but both are sort of bored with it. Neither has that drive to push it beyond what works – what simply gets them that orgasm in the most efficient way possible.
And while responsive desire spouses may often seem to pull away from the idea of sex, the truth is, most of them enjoy abd even need it. Spontaneous desire spouses lead the marriage to this special kind of connection that doesn’t exist outside of sex. This one act brings vulnerability physically, emotionally and mentally. In no other situation do we bare ourselves in quite the same way:
- With our bodies – being naked, sweaty, sometimes messy
- With our emotions – orgasms are difficult at best if you’re holding back emotionally, and just try not showing how you’re feeling during one, plus the oxytocin makes you feel emotionally connected
- With our minds – it’s intimate and requires trust telling your spouse what you want and need in bed
In short, spontaneous desire spouses make sex happen. That’s not to say that spouses with responsive desire don’t initiate, but generally they’re doing it because they know their spontaneous desire spouse will appreciate it. Sometimes because they know their spouse will NOT appreciate it if they don’t.
They keep sex exciting
One of the challenges with marriage is that if left alone, sex becomes dull and routine. Responsive desire spouses tend to have this paradox of both needing sex to be exciting, new and adventurous, but also lacking the energy required to fulfill that need.
I wonder how many men have heard their wife say, “So, what are you going to do to me?” while lying naked in bed. (this is not to say that women can’t have spontaneous desire, I just have never heard of a husband asking his wife this particular question – doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen though).
Many responsive desire spouses desperately want something new, but have no ideas of their own. They need someone to take the reins and lead them to adventure. As luck (or God) would have it, spontaneous desire spouses tend to be thinking about sex a lot of the time. Remembering what they’ve done, thinking about possibilities, filing things away here and there for later use.
Funny story – on our supporter forum, someone made a typo in a post. We were talking about responsive desire, and it kicked off this exchange:
Supporter 1 – We don’t play the “read my mind” games or employ misdirection. If I want something, I clearly state what I want. Then he can decide whether to accommodate it. He does the Santee for me.
Supporter 2 – May I ask, what is “the Santee?”
Me – I think it’s a typo. I suspect it was supposed to be “same”. You were hoping for some crazy new sex act you hadn’t heard of before, weren’t you?
Supporter 2 – You never know!!!
Point is, we’re always on the lookout for something new, some adventure, something we can share with our spouse to drive even more intimacy, pleasure, excitement, etc..
Now, sometimes we still get sort of a “deer in the headlights” moment when asked what we want to do, because there are just so many possibilities we go blank, or because we’re not quite sure if they’ll be okay with the first dozen activities that pop into our mind, but generally, spontaneous desire spouses are the ones who are bringing up new ideas, leading the adventure.
Again, not always, but often.
If a spouse is going to randomly show up in the bedroom with a sex toy for the first time, chances are it’s the spontaneous desire spouse. That or a really frustrated wife. Or both.
They push your boundaries
Tied to the previous point, because spontaneous desire spouses tend to be more adventurous, they also tend to push boundaries. Often with regards to sex, they’re the ones thinking “I wonder what it would be like if…”
This can be scary for someone with responsive desire who feels less adventurous. As my wife said recently “Before we got married, I never thought our sex life would look like this.”
Spontaneous desire spouses need to learn how far they can push and at what speed those boundaries move, but assuming they’re going with a progression you can work with, they will expand your boundaries into mind-blowing sex, the likes of which you might never get to at your own pace.
It takes time and a willingness to be challenged, but having a spouse who’s constantly looking at the possibilities helps increase intimacy in all areas of marriage. After all, if you’re willing to have some really adventurous, naked, sweaty, vulnerable sex with the lights on, then that builds trust which carries over into other areas.
They make you feel desired
Eighteen years ago, I said no to sex. It was on our honeymoon. I know, bad. But the reason was that I had the flu and was ready to pass out or throw up, or both. (worst honeymoon ever – that’s not even the half of it). Anyways, I honestly don’t remember saying no. I think the fever messed with my memory. The point is, years later, my wife said that even with the flu as a reason, my rejection still affected her ability to initiate. She still remembered that event and it hurt.
There are some other responsive desire spouses who have had similar things happen. Maybe their spouse was sick, stressed, or simply exhausted. Whatever the reason, it seems to hurt responsive desire spouses a lot to be turned down. I think they just expect sex to always be there on the rare occasion that they want it. And when it’s not – well, one of the fundamental laws of nature has just been broken.
On the other side, it’s pretty rare for a spontaneous desire spouse to say no to sex. I mean, it happens, but more often than not, I hear spontaneous desire spouses say “I’ve never turned down sex.” when lamenting that their spouse says no regularly.
There are a lot of spontaneous desire spouses grumbling as they read this, because they deal with rejection on a regular basis and they’re probably thinking to themselves “it’s not fair”. You’re right, it’s not. Get over it. Who said life was going to be fair? This section isn’t about you. That’s further down.
Someone married to a spouse with spontaneous desire rarely has to feel that they’re unattractive to their spouse or worry about sexual rejection. They might feel insecure about their body, and feel unattractive in general, but they still know that even if no one else does, their spouse finds them hot and is ready to get naked with them at the slightest invitation.
As such, initiating sex is largley risk free. That doesn’t make it easy, but at least they know the risk of rejection is pretty low, if not completely implausible.
I know, it can be difficult having a spouse who always seems to be focused on sex. Sometimes it can seem like all they want you for is sex. But the truth of the matter is that they love you, and they love having sex with you. It’s how they express and receive love in many ways, and that’s a good thing! I mean, if the entire relationship is based on sex, then there’s a problem. But likewise if you have a marriage without sex, I think you have a problem.
Having a spouse with spontaneous desire is a blessing, for the reasons above, and more mentioned in the previous article. If you haven’t read it, or listened to the podcast episode yet, go check it out.
Having spontaneous desire is a blessing
So, what if you have spontaneous desire? I’ll be honest, I had trouble with this section. A lot of the time, it seems like more of a burden than a blessing. I think we generally have trouble believing that our own sexual desires are good. I think if my wife would have tried to write the last post, she’d struggle with how responsive desire is a blessing.
But, ultimately, I believe God made me this way for a reason, just as I believe God made my wife the way she is. Now, neither of us is perfect, but I think the underlying dynamic of responsive vs spontaneous is a good thing.
And I know my having spontaneous desire is a blessing to my spouse, for the reasons above, but like many spouses with spontaneous desire, I’ve wished in the past God would take it away. Many years ago, I changed that desire to have it removed, but I still struggle to accept that it’s a good thing sometimes.
So, this part is for any spouse who has spontaneous desire, like me, and struggles to see the blessing in it.
Sex is an oasis
One of the benefits of having spontaneous desire is that I’m constantly looking forward to sex. In some ways, my life is lived as the space between sexual encounters. Or rather, going through life feels like fighting battle after battle, and sex with my wife is the break between. Its that oasis where I can rest, recover, be myself, be free, feel loved, show love, have fun, shed my clothes and my worries. It’s peace. Even that is not quite right, because while that sounds like it’s just sex, what makes it all those things is that it’s with my wife.
It’s like when we leave our bedroom, we’re in that battle together, yet not. We live intertwined lives, but still, we are often separate. My job takes me out of the home twice a week (my wife is a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools). My wife’s hobbies tend to take her out of the home (my hobbies tend to be at home). As well, we each have different roles and duties to perform, so we can’t be together all the time.
And it’s good that we have our own things. It’s good to keep some sense of individuality. But the point is that even when we’re together in daily life, we’re still not really together. We don’t get each other’s undivided attention because there’s always some task that still needs to be completed, or a child vying for attention.
But when we reunite, all of that falls away. I get her 100% to myself (barring some ADHD random thoughts). No one is asking us for anything. No one is interrupting. I mean, sometimes we get knocks on the door from a child who can’t sleep, but that’s pretty rare. Our infants waking while we have sex is a thing of the past. There are no tasks to do at the moment. It’s just us.
I honestly don’t know if my wife has anything like that. Sex doesn’t have quite the same effect on her. She doesn’t really get what it means to me. She knows, because I’ve told her, but she doesn’t really understand.
Because while she gets the same break, sex isn’t as much a relief to her. For her, it’s still a lot of mental effort. Yes, I do my best to help bring her along, get her aroused, but she still has work to do to get herself in the mood and keep herself there. She has to constantly choose to give in rather than shut down.
You don’t have to work to get in the mood
Along the same lines, if you have spontaneous desire, chances are you never have to work to get in the mood. Anytime your spouse even hints at sex, you’re probably willing.
I think many of us don’t realize just how much of a blessing that is. Because it’s often not even a split second thought for us, we don’t get how much mental work it can be for a spouse who needs to make a decision to be willing to be aroused, to stay focused on sex, to dampen their hangups, discomfort, shame, or whatever other sexual inhibitors they might have.
For my wife, I know that even accepting my initiations is a struggle. Every single time.
Like above, I know this, because she’s explained it to me, but I don’t really understand. I have no idea what that’s like. Sometimes I wish I did so I can understand her better, because my natural inclination, which I’ve spent years trying to kill, is to assume that she’s purposefully trying to reject me for some reason.
Isn’t it awful how our minds work? We jump to the conclusion that our spouse is being malicious rather than loving. The truth is she’s fighting a battle in my favor to try and be open to sex, and sometimes she loses that battle. What’s more, my natural assumption that she’s being malicious makes it harder for her to win it for me!
Point is, I may never have to fight that battle, and that’s a blessing. I just have to make sure I don’t take that blessing for granted and turn it into a curse.
Spontaneous desire spouses tend to be sex-positive
Along the same lines, I’m generally open to trying just about anything (within the moral boundaries). If my wife ever says “I think I’d like to try x”, I’m up for it.
Now, that rarely happens. Actually, you have to be careful to listen or watch for these hints. Many responsive desire spouses aren’t likely to come right out and ask for what they want. They’re likely to hint subtly, or tell you something is interesting. If you miss it, it may not come up again for years, if ever.
But the point is, I don’t have to take time to get used to a new sexual activity. I don’t worry about why I liked it or what that means about me. So long as I believe it’s moral, it’s a simple question of “did it feel good?” But for many responsive desire spouses, there’s all this worry about what this means, what sort of person you are, why do I like this? Why doesn’t it feel good when I’m not aroused, and on and on.
So, if you have spontaneous desire, you likely have fewer sexual hangups getting in the way of your pleasure. I’d call that a blessing.
Spontaneous desire spouses have to learn patience, and to be content with what they have, not what they want
Alright, this might not sound like a blessing, but I think it is. There are some things more important than sex. One of those is learning to have a Christ-like character.
And really, both sides have a blessing here in that regard, but they’re different. For a spouse with responsive desire, it’s a blessing to have an opportunity to in-turn bless your spouse with yourself. When you choose to be accepting of their initiations, you are choosing to accept them, to accept their desires as more important.
That’s an act of humility and love, which are some of the fruit of the spirit, and part of the character of Christ which we should all be working towards inhabiting.
Likewise with spontaneous desire spouses, we have an opportunity to learn patience and gentleness. We know there are times where it takes more effort for our spouse to accept our request for connection. We have ample opportunities to say “I will wait” and then to wait with graciousness, not resentment. We have lots of chances to choose to love, even when our hormones are depleted and screaming at us that our spouse doesn’t love us.
We have a lot of opportunities to show unconditional love. I mean, both spouses do, but these are the ways that spontaneous desire spouses get those opportunities.
And that’s a blessing. These small tests of character help us exercise our will. They’re practice in leaning on God, on dying to self, on choosing to love and be more Christ-like. They teach us to be content in whatever situation we find ourselves, even when we don’t get what we want. In this way, our sex life becomes a training ground for life. These small moments can add up to large changes that can have effects in all aspects of life.
So, the next time you’re feeling rejected and choose to show your spouse love, thank God for the opportunity to learn.
Let’s not kid ourselves. The dynamic of responsive vs spontaneous desire has a lot of pitfalls. There’s a lot of opportunity for hurt feelings. There are many moments where you have to choose to love, because by default we tend to hurt or even hate.
But, how you experience sexual desire isn’t a problem. Whether you’re responsive or spontaneous, it’s not a curse. You aren’t broken. You’re just different from your spouse, and it’s that difference that makes marriages great. It’s those differences that cause us to grow.
I hope this post showed you that there are some real benefits to having spontaneous desire, or having a spouse who has spontaneous desire. If nothing else, I want these two posts to help you look for these benefits. To appreciate them in yourself and in your spouse rather than take them for granted.
Because unfortunately, we tend to just write off the good as “that’s just the way it is”, and then focus on the negative as “they’re doing this on purpose”. What if we could turn that around? What if you saw the negative parts of sex drive differences as “that’s just part of the dynamic” and actively sought out the benefits and were grateful for them.
What if you regularly told your spouse that you’re happy their sex drive is the way it is and told them it was a blessing to you?
How would that change your conflicts about sex? How would it change your marriage?