Wifey Wednesday: Can Christians Be Sexually Incompatible?

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up! Today I want to talk about whether or not Christians can be sexually incompatible when they marry.

Last summer Rachel Pietka caused quite a stir by writing an article called “Christians Are Not Called to Have Amazing Sex.” In it, she argued that Christians were making far too big a deal out of great sex in marriage. In fact, she said, great sex could not be a requirement for marriage, because since God asks us to wait for marriage to have sex, we have no way of knowing whether or not we’re sexually compatible until after we marry. Thus, if God had wanted us to have great sex, and that this was an actual calling, and a requirement for Christian marriages, He would not have ordered chastity first.

Now, I’m paraphrasing, and you can read the whole article here. I already wrote a long post responding to it, talking about why great sex is important in a marriage and shouldn’t be just “pooh poohed”. But one point that I thought merited more attention was this talk of sexual incompatibility, because we’re starting to hear of it everywhere.

So let’s dive into this.

Can Couples Be Sexually Incompatible? A more helpful way to look at problems in the bedroom--and how to solve them.

Our Sexual Selves Aren’t Static–They’re Relational

Here’s what sexual incompatibility says: he’s one way, and she’s another, and together we don’t match. We’re made different sexually, and we don’t go together.

The problem with that is that it assumes that we are sexual beings in ourselves, separately from another person. We have this “static” sexuality, and he has a “static” sexuality, and when you match them up, they don’t fit.

Yet what if sex was never intended to be “she’s like that, and he’s like that”, but rather, “together, we’re like this?”

I think the “together” model is far closer to the truth. Yes, we are each born with certain sexual drives. Everybody has these. In fact, our sexuality and our spirituality are very closely linked, because with both sexuality and spirituality we have this deep need and deep drive to be intimate and known.

And it’s that “known” word that’s really important. I explain it in a really humorous way in this video, but in a nutshell, it’s that sex is supposed to be a deep knowing between two people. It isn’t that two people come together and use each other to get their sexual needs met; it’s that our sexuality is supposed to be expressed with another person. Our sexuality is, at heart, relational.

People used to understand this, but if you think about it, it makes sense only if you also believe that sex belongs in marriage. As soon as you take sex outside of a committed marriage relationship, as our culture has done, then the only permanent thing in your sex life is YOU. It’s not US, it’s YOU. So in order for YOU to get your sexual needs met, you have to get to know yourself more, and explore yourself more. That’s why so many sex toys are masturbatory in nature! They’re marketed saying that they will help you know yourself, because you have to know yourself before you can have fun with someone else. But actually, your husband can help you to know yourself better. That’s the way we were designed to work.

We’re meant to be sexual in relationship. If we start saying that two people can be sexually incompatible, then we’re buying into our culture’s view that sex is something that is supposed to be experienced with many people, and that you can be most fulfilled by doing the most with as many as possible, and it’s not true.

Being “Sexually Incompatible” is Simply a Marriage Issue that Needs to be Dealt With

In truth, sexual incompatibility simply means that something is not working well in your marriage. And honestly, that’s quite normal. We all have baggage when we get married, and because our sexuality is so close to our spirituality, it’s deeply personal and harder to deal with than a lot of other conflicts. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t deal with it!

It took my husband and I six years to figure out this part of our marriage, because I had trust issues and frankly sex didn’t feel very wonderful. It would have been easy for us to say that we were “sexually incompatible”–that his libido was higher than mine, and that I was too frigid for him. But instead, we treated it like a problem that had to be dealt with, and gradually we grew together and things got better.

That’s how it is in most marriages. When I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, I took surveys of thousands of women, and one thing I found was that the best years sexually in a marriage were years 16-24. They weren’t the early years. It takes a while to get things right. But if we believe in “sexual incompatibility”, then we can say, “there’s no point in trying. We weren’t meant to go together.”

Look, we don’t do that in other areas of our marriage. If he leaves laundry on the floor and it drives you nuts, you don’t say “we’re housework incompatible”. You say, “we need to figure out a way around this so that we’re both happy.” Why not treat sex the same way?

“Sexual Incompatibility” Could be About Libido Differences

Often when we say we’re not compatible sexually it’s because one person wants sex more than the other. We tend to think it’s the guy, but in about one quarter of marriages it’s the woman with the higher libido, and she’s left wondering why her husband doesn’t want her.

Yet what if libido differences are actually a vehicle that God uses to push us towards more holiness? I wrote a 3-part series on this a while back, and you can see the round-up (with the links) here, on what does “Do Not Deprive” mean. I do agree with Pietka that God’s main aim for us to develop holiness, not happiness. And I think libido differences push us towards greater holiness, because in order to have a happy marriage we have to adjust. One of us will more naturally bend towards self-control, and one of us will more naturally bend towards passion. Both are good things. And these libido differences help stretch us, so that the one with more self-control learns more passion, and the one with more passion learns more self-control. That’s a good thing!

“Sexual Incompatibility” Could be About Preferences

Sometimes sexual incompatibility is simply that one person is more adventurous in bed than someone else. I’ve written at length on that, and you can find some of those posts here:

How to Decide Your Sexual Boundaries

How to Spice Things Up

My Husband Wants Something in Bed I Think Is Gross!

My Husband Doesn’t Think I’m Adventurous Enough in Bed

And my ebook 31 Days to Great Sex can also walk you through, step by step, enlarging your boundaries where appropriate, and admitting that some things aren’t appropriate. It helps you communicate and helps you have great fun in your marriage–without violating anyone’s moral code.

Again, this isn’t an incompatibility issue. It’s simply a tool that can help push us towards holiness. We may need to communicate and ask for what we want; we may need to step outside our comfort zone and find real passion; we may need to confront deep-seated fantasies and recognize that these are from harmful sources. Whatever the issue, it’s not your spouse that’s the problem. It’s simply something to work through together by becoming more vulnerable, more humble, and more passionate. And those are all good things, too!

“Sexual Incompatibility” Could Be Simply About a Learning Curve

I’ve had a number of women write to me telling me, “my husband and I just aren’t compatible in bed. He never makes me feel good. It’s just so boring.”

Yet is this really sexual incompatibility–or is it just that they haven’t figured out how to make it feel good yet? Usually it’s the latter, because our bodies were made to feel good together. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t. Sometimes you may have to try different positions to see what feels best, or try more foreplay, but there is no reason why someone can’t learn to make the other feel good.

The problem is usually that we’re really uncomfortable telling the other person what we want, or we don’t truly understand how the other person’s responses work. Here are some posts that can help:

How to Have an Orgasm

The Pleasure Center (the importance of the clitoris)

How to Make Foreplay Fun for Both of You

Why Foreplay Matters

Or, get all of these posts in a much longer form, with lots more information, in my book the 31 Days to Great Sex, which helps you talk through these issues with less stress.

“Sexual Incompatibility” Could Be About Sin

Most worrisome, sexual incompatibility could be a sin issue. If a husband is heavily involved in pornography, or a wife in erotica, then you can start to want things that are just not right, or you can transfer your sexual energy to something other than your spouse. This is sin.

It’s not incompatibility; it’s sin.

And it needs to be repented of and dealt with. Here’s a post on how to ask others for help.

“Sexual Incompatibility” Could be About Health Issues

The only area where there could be a true incompatibility–a real area where working on something will not make it better–is if there are health issues involved. Perhaps one of you is paralyzed, or has had cancer, or has chronic pain, or even has vaginismus. Some of these things can get better, but others are for life. I’ve written about what to do when intercourse is no longer possible.

But is that incompatibility? Or is this part of the “in sickness and in health” bit of marriage vows? Yes, it’s heartbreaking. And yes, it’s not what either of you signed up for. But sometimes in marriage we don’t get what we are expecting, and in those times, God is always big enough to see you through.

Being “Sexually Incompatible” Can Be Fixed!

In most cases, then, sexual incompatibility isn’t true incompatibility. It’s not permanent; it’s simply something that you need to fix. And fixing it may make you go out of your comfort zone. You have to confront your own baggage. You have to communicate about tough issues. You have to compromise and adjust. But these are all good things, and they’re all a part of marriage.

If you believe the compatibility myth that sex should be easy, and two people should just work together right off the bat, you’re likely to be disappointed. That’s not how we were made.

But it isn’t that we were made to have permanent problems, either. It’s just that as we work through what we want in the bedroom, we tend to have stronger marriages in all ways. We compromise, we talk, we grow. That’s a good thing!

So don’t give up on your marriage just because you feel like you aren’t sexually compatible. Just treat this like any other problem and start to deal with it. You may just find that you both grow together, after all!

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of your post in the linky below! And be sure to share the Wifey Wednesday button on your blog so that other people can come back here and read these great marriage posts, too!


The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.


Comments

  1. Great post! I so agree with this. Hubs and I were dealing with some past baggage for many years that put us on polar opposite scales in bed on several issues. We’ve just celebrated 16 years and I think we’re finally past most of it and now are closer to meeting in the middle than ever. And it wasn’t that sex was bad before, how do you know you’re missing something you’ve never had? Any frustration we felt was mostly because we had bought into this Hollywood lie about how sex was supposed to work universally.
    Lisa Hall-Wilson recently posted…On Remaining Neutral In Private WarsMy Profile

  2. This is a wonderful and informative post. Why do couples think sex should automatically work? It takes effort like anything else for two people to come together. Like you said, there are seasons where things will get in the way. God will see you through those, and the love for your spouse. Love is a miracle that way. Blessings, Kim
    Kim Adams Morgan recently posted…God calls His Disciples, He will also provideMy Profile

  3. Anonymous Please says:

    Excellent point on the difference in viewing from a biblical perspective (“our sexuality”) vs. a worldly perspective (“my sexuality.”) I’d never thought of it in quite those terms before. I have believed for a long time that any problem *in* the bedroom has a root cause *outside* the bedroom. What a difference it would make if we were all more communicative, compassionate and compromising with our spouses…in every area of marriage!

    • Disagree. How do I know? We had a sex problem on our wedding night, and for the next 16 months after that. The problem? We didn’t have sex – not try and fail, not not doing it well. Not even trying AT ALL. Reason given: “Its just not who I am, and its just not that important” was the reason given to me. Despite the fact that we went thru premarital before marriage that covered exactly how important it was. There wasn’t even a -chance- to have a problem outside the bedroom yet! In our case, the problem in the bedroom has caused tons of problems outside the bedroom.

  4. I agree with you. Incompatibility can be used as excuses that we ought to work through in the ways that you laid out. Thanks hosting the linkup today.
    Judith at WholeHearted Home recently posted…Drop Off a Post and Run + WholeHearted Wednesdays Linkup #58!!My Profile

  5. Interesting post. You do bring up some great arguments. The problem is that as a whole I agree with you, and other Christian author’s I’ve read on the subject. However my husband does not. He loves me, is faithful and won’t leave me. But he does believe we are on “different sheets of music”. If that is what he believes, and is willing to accept, then denying it isn’t true, just doesn’t solve the problem. I was a virgin when we got married (as a matter of fact at the ripe old age of 25 he was my first kiss), he was not. So, obviously he knows something here that I do not. I love you advice, and that of other great Christians I’ve heard and read over the years, but 9 years later the problems have not gone away. Perhaps we are incompatible, but I am trying to better things. And in the mean time though he does not see that I am trying, he does still loves and cherishes me. While I’ve not read that other article you mention, my thought is that in a way Christians do make too big of a deal about it. My entire life in church and youth groups I heard “Wait till marriage. Sex will be great.” Well its not, its a lot of work, and more frustration than pleasure. I don’t feel like my having been a virgin gave our marriage any advantage. So, while I do agree that we need to work our way through it, I don’t agree that sexual incompatibility just isn’t real. We need to stop lying to the young people in our churches, that it will all be just wonderful and blessed if we only just wait. It is a very real problem, that can cause a lot of pain. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed, but almost a decade later we’re still waiting for our miracle.

    • Alex, I totally agree with you! I’ve often said that what we should tell young people is that sex is a journey of discovery, and for most couples it takes a long time. But that journey is spiritual as well as physical, and it is worth it. The couples with the best sex lives are those who are married, but it still does take time.

      At the same time, though, I’m really uncomfortable with your husband seeming to think that sex was better with someone else, or making you feel inferior. Perhaps you both could read this post, about getting over his sexual baggage? It sounds like what you’re dealing with is exactly that: his baggage, not your virginity. And perhaps if you could get past that, you could start working on this “voyage of discovery” together.

      • Thank you for responding, and for your awesome blog posts.
        Honestly your response really hit home. Its amazing how in just one comment section you have recognized something that has plagued me on and off (recently a lot) for the last decade. I read the other post that you recommended, and it brought real tears to my eyes. I will try to follow that advice, and continue to pray, and read other great tips. Perhaps one day something will click.
        As far as reading it with him, I just don’t think that will happen soon. Recently I tried some counseling, in which the subject of his exes came up too. I think he is frustrated that I am having a hard time getting over all this, and really doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. See, we have talked this (and other sexual issues) to death over the years. At this point I feel that all we need is action. So, I am trying to be a better lover myself (honestly, with a couple of kids and all the frustration I had gotten rather lazy too), and am hoping that will make things better, and eventually lead to some actual results. Maybe then once he is feeling really, really loved he can help me with some of my emotional needs.
        I don’t want to make him sound awful. Though not perfect he is a wonderful man, the perfect father to our children, and carries a lot of hurt from his own past. I know Jesus continues to working in his life too.

    • ” We need to stop lying to the young people in our churches, that it will all be just wonderful and blessed if we only just wait”

      The advice doesn’t originate from churches’ opinions. It comes from the Bible. Which comes from God. Is God wrong that 2 people shouldn’t have sex until after they are married?

      If your husband had been a virgin, then he wouldn’t be able to compare sex to anyone but you, how would things be different? The problem isn’t what the church (ie. God) teaches about premarital sex. The problem is when we step outside of God’s will for sex and marriage (premarital sex, cohabitation, pornography).

      “Sexual incompatibility” problems with my wife originate from my problems. The problem is mine, and mine alone, for allowing myself to be ensnared by society’s idea that porn is okay.

      • Alan, I know what you’re saying, but I think Alex has a point, too. Sex is NOT always wonderful if you wait, even if you were virgins. I think we need to stop promising them that sex will be explosive on their wedding night, and instead talk about intimacy and a journey of discovery.

        That being said, I think what you’re saying about responsibility is 100% right on! I think the problem that many people in Alex’s situation have is that their husbands ARE comparing, and that’s wrong. And to own up to your own responsibility is amazing. I think that’s the route to sexual healing in any marriage, and I pray that you will find it in your own.

  6. Totally. I think that the source of “incompatibility” in my marriage is the learning curve. My husband is more of a “just go for it” type of guy, and I’ve learned that showing him the “moves” that get me in the mood has really helped our sex lives.
    Little Wife recently posted…Lies I Found on PinterestMy Profile

  7. I’m so glad you shared this as this is all too frequently becoming an issue even among Christians, and sexual incompatibility is often used as an excuse for divorce. I totally agree with you that sex is about the US in marriage, not the singular ME. The journey to discovering and understanding my sexual and emotional needs within the context of marriage hasn’t always been easy for my husband & I, but it is one well worth exploring, trying, and working through. Just as I believe marriage is worth fighting for, I think great passionate sexual intimacy is worth working toward.
    Hannah recently posted…Soup & Scrabble Date in 3 Simple StepsMy Profile

  8. Jean (In The Valley) says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Sheila, this is one of the most important things you have ever written! Spot on and brilliant – thank you!

  10. AMEN. That is all. :)
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Do You Pray for Your Sexual Intimacy?My Profile

  11. I wish your advice was helpful to me, but it’s not. My wife and I had no sexual experience before one other, I do not use porn, and she does not read erotica. Neither of us were abused, nor did we grow up in home environments where sex was equated with sin. I am a helpful and supportive husband, always willing to listen, etc., etc. So none of that is a problem.

    The issue is that my wife just has no interest in sex. At all. Oh, she’ll do it because she knows it’s important to me, and she can even have orgasms. But there’s no passion, no playfulness… she just kinda lays there. Anything that gets in the way — stress, her periods, whatever — is a show-stopper because it takes an effort for her to make time for it, even under the best of circumstances. She says that it’s not me, that she just has no libido. She says that she could go weeks without even thinking about sex, much less getting aroused. She is, for all intents and purposes, asexual during the normal course of the day. And the thing is, she’s been this way since we got married. When we were dating, we had to work hard to keep from fooling around. But after the honeymoon…. we might as well have separate beds.

    I am at my wits end. We have talked to counselors. She has talked to doctors, who have nothing to offer her other than steroid creams (no thanks!). So her “solution” is to basically say: “Sorry, honey, this is just the way I am. I’ll have sex with you when I feel like it, and you’ll just have to learn to live with that. I can’t do anything else.” Any time I raise the subject, no matter how gently, she says she feels attacked. But I can only keep it bottled up for so long because I constantly feel unloved and unwanted (the latter part is actually true — as I have told her, my manhood could fall off and she wouldn’t care. Actually, she would be relieved.)

    As I have explained to her, this isn’t just about physical desire. It’s about intimacy. I have a high need for it, and she, being an introvert, does not. So in addition to being robbed of physical sex, I am not able to have the kind of intimate relationship I need and desire with my wife. Even when we have sex, much of the intimacy is missing due to the fact that she’s just going along out of a sense of Christian duty, not because she actually wants to have sex with me.

    So yes, I would have to say that there is something called sexual incompatibility in Christian marriage, because I’m living it.

    • Forgot to mention… we’ve been married for 21 years now, so we are not newlyweds, and this is not a new issue for us.

      • Jack – sorry to hear of your situation. May I suggest going over to the Marriage Bed forums, specifically the “Sexually Refused” forum? Lots of good advice and caring people there.

        You have to create an account to see the Sexually Refused forum.

        • Oops – forgot the link – http://www.boards.themarriagebed.com/

        • Is there a specific link for this forum? I registered, but I don’t see it on the list. When I searched for that term, I got a bunch of stuff, but it didn’t look like what you were referring to. Thanks.

          • BTW — Are you sure “sexually refused” is the right forum? She doesn’t refuse me — she just doesn’t WANT me. She will make love but just isn’t that into it except (sorta kinda) during the couple of minutes when she nears and reaches climax.

    • Can completely relate – both virgins before marriage – she freaked on the wedding night and we were physically unable to have sex for almost 2 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to touch her sexually in any way……She immediately put me on a schedule and wasn’t allowed to approach her sexually or try to initiate- it was Friday night at 9pm and no foreplay – “just get it over with”……but when she wanted to get pregnant, she was more than willing…. and then nothing for over a year – no sexual contact at all…..

      And the worst part is the lack of intimacy – her inability to actually connect on a deep level – she’s always holding back and unwilling to share herself emotionally……

      Its been 20 years….we are separated because I cannot continue to live such a cold and heartless life…..

      • Steve,

        I’m very sorry that your wife has closed herself off. However, again, I don’t think this is an issue of incompatibility. It’s an issue of hurt and brokenness. Just because someone is hurt doesn’t mean you’re incompatible; it means that she has to work on healing. I’m sorry she wasn’t willing to do this, but I think the root of this is not a sexual issue but instead a much deeper emotional or psychological pain that needed to be dealt with.

  12. look at the top of the screen, bottom of the menus, “what are you not seeing?”. It explains why you can see some forums, and have to subscribe to others. You can only subscribe once you have an account.

  13. A lot of these issues wind up all tangled together. Refusal, attitudes about sex, health issues affecting libido, lack of desire, etc. There are forums for all of these issues and more. Maybe start with the lack of desire and refusal ones first. Feel free to private message me over there with any more questions (same username – deepsouth)

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