Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at it. Here’s a difficult situation, where a woman asks, “my husband wakes me up for sex. Is that really reasonable?”
I may be being a bit selfish here, so I need to ask your opinion. We just had another baby a few weeks ago. Now there will be times when I initiate and my husband says no, which I am okay with. But then he will want to a few minutes later. Now this doesn’t seem like it should be an issue, but for example, today I had to go to work and knew I would be leaving in a half an hour. I offered for us to have a quickie before I had to go. He said he was okay. Then right before I had to leave, he asked if we could go in the bedroom. I got frustrated but didn’t want to deny him which of course killed the mood for him and he got frustrated.
Also our baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet. When we go to bed I am normally pretty tired already, I initiate and he normally wants to, but there are nights where he doesn’t…when I initiate, then as soon as I fall asleep, he wakes me up and says he is horny (or he will wake me up early in the morning around 5. I am a sound sleeper so I normally sleep through it and he’ll make comments about how I didn’t wake up to have sex).
I don’t want to deny, but it is so frustrating and I feel like he isn’t being at those times considerate. How can I communicate this to him in a loving way? Or am I being in-considerate? Any tips or help?
Let’s paint this picture a little more: They have a newborn. She offers him sex frequently, and he sometimes says no. Then he’ll come back and ask for sex at a really inconvenient time, and get annoyed when she doesn’t wake up.
Wow, there are a lot of issues here which make me a little uncomfortable, so let’s start with some fundamentals.
First Principles About Sex in Marriage
Sex Should Be Mutual
Sex isn’t just about using each other for your own pleasure. Sex is about sharing something together. It isn’t just physical; it’s also emotional and spiritual as well. That doesn’t mean that every time you have sex that the earth has to move for both of you, but it is about sharing something together, not using someone. There’s one part of the letter which could be taken in two ways; I’m not sure if she’s saying she sleeps through the times he ASKS her for sex, or if she’s saying she sleeps through sex. If he is having sex with her while she is asleep, that concerns me greatly. There is no consent going on, and there is absolutely no mutuality.
I’ve written more about how sex should be mutual here.
To Say “Not Now” is Not the Same as To Refuse or Deny
We aren’t to deny our spouses (I’ve written a three-part series on what that means as well). But it is not denying to say no to sex when you’re late for work, especially if you had given him the opportunity thirty minutes earlier. We are not obligated to act as if we’re at our husband’s beck and call sexually, with no regard to our feelings or our needs. Again, sex should be mutual.
Respect Should Be the Cornerstone of any Relationship
And what does respect mean? It means that you value the person as a person. You don’t view your spouse simply through the lens of what they can do for you; you hold them in high esteem based on who they are. If a spouse is asking for sex while you’re passed out cold because you’re exhausted with a newborn, and then getting cranky about that, or demanding sex right before you have to leave, that does not show respect.
Sure, playing “beat the clock” when you’re both into it and it’s something you’re laughing about together is one thing. Having someone consistently ask for sex at the worst possible times, even when they know it’s a bad time, is something else entirely.
Self-Control is a Christian Virtue and a Fruit of the Spirit
Asking someone to wait twelve hours until you can both enjoy it and both be there mentally and physically is not unreasonable. Again, you’re not saying “no”. You’re saying “not now, but soon.”
Those are some foundational principles. Now, with that background, what would I say to this woman?
Create a Relationship that is Mutual and Respectful
It seems to me that there’s a really unhealthy dynamic being set up in this marriage. They both seem to have this idea that when he wants sex, she should not say no, even if it’s inconvenient. He’s come to expect that, and he expresses displeasure if she says no (even though he often says no to her). This makes her into a sexual object, not a person.
I love this quote from Leslie Vernick:
Ladies, I talk so much on this blog about how we need to initiate more, and how we should be having sex frequently, both for him, but also for ourselves. I talk about how men need it. But I absolutely do not believe that this means that you should let yourself become an object to him. That isn’t glorifying to God or helpful to your husband or your kids.
What does God want? He wants each of us to resemble Jesus more and more. According to Romans 8:29, it’s His will that we should be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. We should be looking more and more like Him.
If you are allowing your husband to treat you with disrespect, you are encouraging him to look less like Jesus.
You are setting up a dynamic in your marriage where your feelings and your needs are considered unimportant. Do that for long enough, and it will be easy for your husband to overlook you as a person, and see you only in terms of what you can do for him. And that is not a healthy dynamic for the kids to witness.
You can’t DEMAND respect, but you can COMMAND it.
Certain people we automatically have respect for. Others we tend to discount. The difference is usually in the way the person acts. It sounds like this couple has set up a dynamic where he thinks he can get whatever he wants whenever, without thinking about her at all. And the reason that he thinks that is that she has allowed him to treat her that way. Becoming a sexual object for your husband does not point either of you in the direction of Christ.
So how would I handle this? I would begin by starting to be very forthright. This woman hasn’t been happy with the way things are, but she also hasn’t said very much about it. He has expressed his displeasure; she doesn’t mention expressing hers. In fact, the whole tone of her letter (and I edited some out) seemed to be, “do I have a right to feel a little bit upset, and to ask him not to do this?”
Let’s practice this. It’s 10 p.m., and you’re heading to bed because you know the baby will need to eat in a few hours and you need to get some sleep. So you say to your husband,
“I’m going upstairs now. If you want to come, I’d love it, because I’d love to have some fun with you tonight. But I really need sleep, so it’s now or never baby!”
You can say it in a fun way, but be very clear: you will not be making love in the middle of the night because you need to sleep.
If you’re willing to have a “quickie” during the day, and you offer and he says no, that’s fine. But then if he comes back half an hour later, at a time that is really inconvenient, you simply say,
“I’m sorry, babe, but you missed your chance! I’ll try to find some time tomorrow.”
Start saying this enough, and he’ll start taking you seriously when you initiate, realizing that it’s now or never.
Will he be upset? Perhaps. That’s okay. He’s allowed to have his feelings, after all. But you’re allowed to have yours, too, and you can talk about it, and just say,
“I want to have a great sex life, and you are an amazing lover. But there are other things I need to get done, too, and I need my sleep. So let’s look at how we can find times to make love where it’s for both of us, not just for you, and where I can still get the sleep that I need.”
If he continues to be upset, then you need to let him have space to have his feelings. But it is not okay to set up a dynamic where you become an object, rather than a human being with real needs.
One more thing: I would not be being this harsh about this had she not also said that she initiates sex frequently and says yes frequently. I do believe that your needs are important, but so are his, and having a regular, active sex life is a legitimate need. So don’t take any of this advice to mean, “Great! It’s okay to say no every single time I’m tired!”, especially if you’re tired every night. I’m just saying that in the context of a marriage where there is regular, frequent sex, let’s make sure that we’ve got lots of respect going on, and that sex is totally a mutual thing.
I’d love your thoughts now, too! What do you think about a husband who wakes you up for sex frequently? How do you handle that? Let me know in the comments!