What do you do if you want sex–and your spouse doesn’t? How do you NOT feel guilty for wanting sex?
Every Monday I like to try to take a stab at answering a reader question. Sometimes I’ll do it in video form (I hope to do one next week in video!), but this is one I haven’t answered before, so I wanted to do it in written form since I don’t have as many other posts to link to.
I’ve got a husband writing in saying that he’s feeling guilty for wanting sex, when his wife obviously doesn’t. He writes:
I received the libido course email blast titled “What happens when you stop feeling guilty for not wanting sex?” And it stirred a feelings of a dilemma I face with my wife, which is feeling guilty FOR wanting sex. I imagine that this is a topic you’ve addressed, be it on your speaking tours or on the blog, as I’d be surprised if I’m alone in grappling with these feelings, but there are times where I do feel guilty for feeling desirous toward my wife because our drives are so different. Many times I feel that she perceives my overtures more bothersome than complimentary, and it takes a lot of effort and energy for me to muster the courage to make the first move. Any insight or guidance you can offer is appreciated.
This is such a common phenomenon: the high drive spouse (usually the husband, but not always) wants sex, but their spouse seems to always see it as a bother, which makes the high drive spouse feel like there’s something wrong with them, or they’re somehow being wrong for wanting sex. More often than not, after a decade or two of this, often a spouse just stops initiating altogether, which often leads to even more problems in marriage.
So let’s talk about it!
God designed us to want to connect sexually. Sex is not just physical; as I explained in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, it’s also highly emotional and spiritual, too. God created us to feel oneness in all three ways when we connect sexually, and that desire is a good thing. It means that you are open to intimacy. I explain how to talk about sexual needs in a healthy way here, and how to raise this topic of conversation with a wife who just doesn’t “get” your need for sex. Now, sex should be mutual, and should be about your wife feeling pleasure, too. But sex is a good thing.
God designed sex to be a frequent part of marriage
And sex is supposed to be fairly frequent and regular. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says:
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
(I explain the meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:3-5–the Do Not Deprive verses–too. Wanting sex a few times a week is not unreasonable.
When you’re the high drive spouse, you have very little “power” in this area of the marriage.
In almost every human interaction, the person who cares less has more power. In an early romantic relationship, the person who isn’t as invested has more power than the person who is infatuated. And with sex, the person who wants it least basically controls how often you have sex. And so the lower drive spouse often ends up having the power in the bedroom. That’s why the low drive spouse is often called the “gatekeeper”. They decide how often sex takes place.
This power dynamic isn’t really healthy; but it tends to be what happens regardless.
To the low-drive spouse: You need to be willing to give up some of that power.
Your spouse’s needs matter! And talking specifically to lower drive wives, here, if you have no libido, you’re missing out on a lot. Your husband is feeling distant from you, and your relationship is lacking an essential ingredient of intimacy that would make you feel close regardless. But you’re also missing out on something which is supposed to be amazing for you, too! Sex really isn’t only for your husband. Sex was created for both of you.
I felt guilty for the first part of my marriage because I knew that Keith needed and wanted sex, and I just wasn’t into it. And so I always felt like I wasn’t good enough. And I felt like if sex weren’t a part of our relationship, we’d get along so much better! Sex was all we ever fought about, and so it seemed to be the culprit. But I had to learn that I didn’t just need to make love more so Keith could be happy; I needed to learn to make love more so that our marriage could be stronger in every way. And that meant that I needed to understand that our sex life wasn’t only about what I wanted; it was about us, together. I had to willingly give over some of that power. And it worked! Now, I did that in conjunction with figuring out how to make sex feel much better, and with growing our relationship in other ways, too, but me realizing that sex was not the problem was a big breakthrough for me. I needed to stop seeing sex as the issue, and starting to see sex as the solution to many of the things that were driving us apart. It meant finding some humility, but it was so worth it!
If you’re struggling with this, I really do get it. I’ve honestly been there. But I just want to reassure you that things can get better. Check out these resources for more help:
Need more help? You should also check out:
To the high-drive spouse: You need to be willing to push through towards health for both of you.
We’re talking about boundaries this month, and how to figure out what’s in your area of responsibility and control and what is not.
Acting in a Christlike manner does mean that we are to serve our spouse, and love them above all else. Where things get murky, though, is understanding what “loving your spouse” means. We often believe that loving our spouse means doing what our spouse wants and making life easy for them. However, God loves us, right? And is His main aim for us to do what we want and make life easy for us? Or is His aim for us to refine us into the likeness of Jesus Christ?
If your spouse is missing out on a significant part of life that God designed them for, and is running away from intimacy, the way to love your spouse isn’t to make this rejection of intimacy easy for them. The way to love your spouse is to show them what they are doing and lead them towards greater intimacy.
Let’s dig a little deeper: the reason you’re feeling guilty is because you feel as if your sexual desires are causing your wife discomfort and are hurting your marriage.
But what if that’s not the case?
What if your WIFE’S lack of sexual desire is causing YOU discomfort, and your wife’s lack of desire for intimacy is what is hurting the marriage?
We feel guilty for many things in life, but not all the guilt is justified. And often we take on the guilt for friction in a relationship that someone else is actually causing because we don’t want that friction, and since we can’t change what the other person is doing, we assume that the only way to reduce that friction is to change what we are doing. But when the thing that we are doing is simply a natural human drive–well, you can’t really change that.
Identify the source of the guilty feeling you’re experiencing. Is it that you are feeling and asking something unreasonable? Or is it that you actually have a normal, healthy drive, and your wife’s (or your husband’s) response is to put you on the hot seat for that? Is it that you are trying to reduce conflict and “be loving”, but in the meantime, are you being driven further apart?
Now, some give and take is necessary here. Expecting a spouse to have sex everyday is unreasonable. Expecting your spouse to have sex when he or she is sick or exhausted, or right after a baby, or in the middle of grieving, is similarly a time when grace needs to be given. But expecting that sex will be a regular–and fun!–part of your marriage is not, on the whole, unreasonable at all.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”When you’re the higher drive spouse, it’s easy to feel guilty for wanting sex. But wanting to make love is not bad! Here’s how to work through those feelings–and towards real intimacy:” quote=”When you’re the higher drive spouse, it’s easy to feel guilty for wanting sex. But wanting to make love is not bad! Here’s how to work through those feelings–and towards real intimacy:”]
How to take responsibility for the RIGHT things when it comes to your sexual relationship
You are responsible for loving your wife in a way that she needs to be loved. Learn her love language. Help relieve her burden by being involved around the house. Accept responsibility for caring for the kids and the house as well. Speak to her heart, and share your heart. Spend time on things that build your friendship. All of these are non-negotiables, and are part of the things that we commit to when we marry.
But then it’s okay to say,
I love you. I will always love you. I will work to get to know you, and to listen to you, and to relieve your practical burdens. I want to be part of every part of your life. But our sex life is not okay. We are missing out on so much. I am not going to reject you, and I am not going to stop loving you. But I also will not let this go. This is too important for me to say, “Okay, I’ll just stop wanting sex.” That’s not what we were designed for. So I’m going to pull close to you in every other way. Absolutely. But I am also going to keep insisting that we talk about this. I am going to find a counsellor for us to talk to if we need to. I am willing to listen to anything you have to say that can help us build our sex life. I even want to listen to constructive criticism, and if any of this resonates with you, let me know! (and show her the post on 10 reasons why your wife may not want to have sex). But we’re going to keep talking about this, because we were meant for more. And I want to work towards making our marriage amazing for both of us, so that it’s truly a haven from the rest of the world.
Sometimes a spouse just doesn’t want to talk about important things. But if your spouse refuses to talk about something, that doesn’t mean that you just let it go. Fight for the best in your marriage. Do it in a loving way. Don’t pull back. Lead them to a place of real health; don’t let them stagnate in a place where they reject real intimacy.
And if you can, suggest that you try to work through 31 Days to Great Sex. Approach it as: I want so much more for us. Can we try this? The first few days are really more about addressing what we think about sex, and it really does ease people into it. It’s not like you have to try 10 new positions at once. Working through that can help talk about the roadblocks, try things one by one so that she sees that sex should feel good, and helps you both communicate more. Pick it up here!
What do you think? All of you who are low-drive spouses–how can a spouse raise this in a way that would resonate with you? Let’s talk in the comments!
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