What does it mean to be “attracted to your husband”? What does that actually feel like and look like?
Here’s a really interesting reader question that I think many of you may wonder about, too. Every Monday I like to post a reader question and take a stab at answering it, and I thought this one on what attraction actually looks like may make a good discussion topic!
My husband and I have been married almost 5 years. We’ve never had a great sex life, but in the last year or so it’s gotten a lot worse.
A combination of my husband suddenly having 14+ hour days, me feeling very lonely and isolated, me initiating sex occasionally but often feeling rejected, me feeling too fat and unattractive (both because of my own insecurities and hurtful words coming from my husband)….there are definitely a lot of issues at play, and we are planning to start counselling soon to address some of them. My husband has recently told me that it is difficult for him that I do not “lust” after him. I’ve never been one to be physically attracted to guys, and never really had a movie star crush.
I do really enjoy having sex with him, and love feeling so connected, and it’s not at all that I have low libido…..but he feels I don’t want him in the same way we see some wives around us wanting their husbands and being specifically physically attracted to him. Is my lack of attraction to my husband something that we can work on and make better, or is this something we just have to accept and move past? I don’t want him to feel hurt and unattractive, but I also don’t know how I go about changing this.
I’m so glad that someone wrote with this question, because so often couples just don’t understand this about each other, and it leads to all kinds of totally unnecessary hurt.
Here’s the problem (and I’m going to talk in generalities here, so if you don’t fit in this, that’s totally okay. Not everybody will! But these are some of the most frequent problems I see):
- Men tend to be visually stimulated. They see a woman, and they want to make love. So when they see their wife, they immediately get turned on.
- Women, on the other hand, don’t tend to get turned on like that. In fact, women aren’t usually aroused BEFORE we’re making love. We tend to get aroused AFTER we start.
TV shows and movies, though, often portray women with the same kind of sex drive: we see a guy, we start panting, and we want to make love.
Now, to a certain extent that does happen at the beginning of a relationship. Those “infatuation” feelings, when you get the electrical surge if he touches you, are quite common. Scientific studies, though, have found that these feelings only last about 18 months. Then they’re gone, and you’re left with a more mature love–and just as much ability to enjoy sex.
This woman says that she does enjoy sex but she’s never really gone weak-kneed over seeing a guy. Again, very common.
Back in the 1990s I was writing my thesis about the portrayal of women in advertising, and I started looking at some of the studies about arousal and media. And what I found was that women tended to get more aroused looking at pictures of women rather than men–even though they weren’t lesbian at all. I don’t mean to be gross here, and forgive me if this veers on inappropriate, but here’s what the researchers concluded: when women look at images, they don’t “lust” after the image as much as they picture themselves as the image (that’s why women in ads are often portrayed looking away rather than directly at the camera; it’s easier for women to picture themselves AS that woman).
What arouses women, then, is the idea of being wanted, not the wanting itself.Don't go weak-kneed when you see your husband? That doesn't mean you're not attracted to him! Click To Tweet
TV shows and movies bear this out, too. As I talk about in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, the scenes that women find most erotic are often not the “down and dirty” ones, but instead even passionate kissing where there’s been a major lead-up of sexual tension. Matthew and Mary from Downtown Abbey; Bones and Booth from Bones; Jim and Pam on The Office; even Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. It’s not about graphic depictions of sex as much as it is the passion that the couple feels towards each other.
That’s why the scene in the original Pride & Prejudice (the best version, of course) when Colin Firth dives into the lake is often talked about as so “hot”. It’s not that he looks particularly good; it’s that the viewer knows that he is just tortured by his thoughts of Elizabeth and he’s trying to rid his head of them. It’s how much he wants her that becomes so attractive to the viewer.
That’s how women work: We long to be desired.
And we’re aroused by the thought that a guy is passionately carried away by us.
Now, again, I’m not trying to say that a woman can’t get aroused by seeing a good-looking man or that she won’t enjoy looking at her husband. I know I’m speaking in generalities; forgive me for that, but the generalities happen to fit this letter writer. She’s quite typical. She has a high libido by her own account. But she doesn’t “lust” after her husband in the way that they think other women do. Maybe that’s because it’s not her husband’s body that makes her go weak-kneed as much as it is the sum total of their relationship; being with him, feeling loved, feeling desired.
But let’s take a step back: Why do we think OTHER women “lust” after their husbands like this?
He’s saying that he feels really hurt because his wife doesn’t act like “other” women, and it’s causing him to reject her. But how does he know what “other” women feel?
Look–the media portrays women’s sex drives as if they’re just like men’s. And quite often, that’s not true (and in many cases, men’s sex drives aren’t as strong as the media portrays, either).
Since we don’t tend to talk about this stuff with friends in detail, so we tend to believe the media’s depiction of men’s and women’s approaches to sex.
The media lies.
It doesn’t matter what the media shows; what matters is whether you two love each other and have fun together. If that’s true, then does it really matter if it’s not exactly like the movies?
Just because a woman doesn’t “lust” after her husband does not mean that she doesn’t want him.
You want to make love to him because:
- You enjoy making love.
- You enjoy feeling close to him.
- You want to relax.
- You want to have fun.
Those are all good reasons!
So hear me, women: Just because you don’t look at your husband and go weak-kneed does not mean that you aren’t attracted to him.
And guys: Just because your wife doesn’t jump you every time you take off your clothes does not mean you don’t turn her on.
Just understand each other, have a lot of fun together, and work at making sex feel great!
Most of all: don’t let the media tell you what your relationship should be like.
As soon as we start comparing our marriage to what we think other people do, we’ll tend to fall short. If you’re enjoying each other, then what difference does it make what other people are doing?
I know this letter writer had other issues–rejection from her husband; insults from her husband about her looks; stress and exhaustion. Those are important, too, but I’ve written about them before. Today I thought I’d just focus on that one issue, and I hope that perhaps I’ve said something that may help you feel reassured about your feelings towards your husband, too!
So tell me this: do you think the media portrays women’s sex drives wrong? Do you think there’s a difference between the way women “want” their husbands and the way men “want” their wives? Let’s talk in the comments!
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If you and your husband are having a lot of these misunderstandings about sex and libido, my book 31 Days to Great Sex is a great one to work through! It helps you get these issues out into the open in a non-threatening way, and then helps you learn to really enjoy each other in every way. And the ebook version is only $5!