Is it ever OK for a husband to ask his wife to act like other women in order to be sexier?
On Monday I asked what your thoughts were on a reader’s question about her husband wanting her to be more sexy, and you had a lot of great thoughts! So thank you for commenting–it was a fantastic conversation!
As a reminder, here was the question on Monday:
I’ve been married for a few months. My husband and I were both virgins on our wedding night. We both adore each other and the friendship aspect of our marriage couldn’t be better! In fact, the romance couldn’t be better. My husband is very physically affectionate, caring, and sweet with me. But when it comes to sex, I’m very interested in lovemaking all the time but he often would rather do anything else. (No history of porn use or molestation.) It is really painful to get turned down, especially since I thought I was giving him a wonderful gift that most husbands would love to receive! Finally the other day he let me know very kindly that it would really help him if I learned how to be sexy. He said, “I know you’ve spent your whole life in the purity culture learning NOT to be sexy.” and he’s right. I don’t know how! He mentioned that some girls with the way they act and carry themselves can make every man in the room want them. But what are they doing? Can you help me? I love my husband dearly and I know he loves me, but I don’t know how to turn him on. I’m willing to learn!
In your comments, you seemed to answer based on a variety of possible scenarios that could be at play here. So I’ve organized some of them them into different categories and shared my thoughts on how they can work through this issue! Let’s go!
Scenario 1: He’s lying about never using porn
This seemed to be a popular one. And to be honest, because he’s comparing his wife to other women, I see a lot of possibility for this. Here are some of your comments:
Yeah, I’m really not buying the “doesn’t use porn” thing. His blame-shifting exacerbates that impression. This does not sound to me like something that is her problem. It sounds like a husband who is sinning and blaming his wife.
I really do believe that he is lying to her about the porn. I mean, sure – maybe he’s never looked at hard core porn, but he has most likely been masturbating for years to images of other women and the fantasies that he’s built in his mind. I feel a deep sense of foreboding for this sweet, naive young woman – when she finds out the truth she’ll be heartbroken.
But, just for argument’s sake: let’s say that this man truly is pure in mind and just doesn’t find his wife sexy. He’s still selfish and immature. Selfish because he is obviously more concerned with sex on his terms than meeting his wife’s needs or making her feel loved, and immature because if you want something different in initiation (been there, it does happen) the onus is on you to have clear, useable instructions and not just “other women do it right, maybe you could learn from them.”
I hope this isn’t the case for this couple! If it is, their marriage can be healed from porn use. And also, I would tell this woman that it’s important that she remembers that his porn use is not her fault, and that the husband allows her to help him recover instead of pushing her away and refusing to deal with the issue.
I’ve spoken about Covenant Eyes many times because I do believe that it is a very helpful tool in helping someone recover from porn use and become porn-free. Seriously, this is a real problem and if you’re facing it in your marriage, this is an awesome tool:
Find freedom from porn!
We obviously don’t have all the information, maybe he isn’t using porn, maybe he just has unhealthy ideas of what “sexy” means. Which brings us to the second scenario:
Scenario 2: He’s trying to make her live out his fantasy life
Porn doesn’t always need to be involved in order to create unhealthy, unrealistic fantasies about what sex should look like.
Here’s a great perspective from a wife who has been through this herself:
My heart hurts for this woman. I was her.
A few weeks after my wedding we went to VS to use a gift card we were given. My new husband couldn’t find anything in the store he thought would look good on me, but he pointed out how sexy all the models were and told me to act like that and have “that” facial expression/look in my eye. That was a devastating blow to someone who was still new to everything and who thought that by only having sex with him we would be crazy about each other. But my new husband also didn’t want me the way I wanted him.
It came down to a fantasy life that I didn’t live up to. It sounds like the same for this woman. And the problem is that she never will live up to it. 🤷🏻♀️
(God got ahold of my husband and he has repented of the way he used to act and treat me and is truly a very different man who seeks to love me as Christ loves the Church, so there is hope!)
It’s always so encouraging to hear when couples who have really rough starts end up in an amazing place at the end, but BOY I feel so badly for that poor young newlywed!!
The problem with trying to get your spouse to live out your inner fantasies is that frankly, they likely will not be able to measure up because fantasies aren’t real. They’re fantasies.
I too really hurt for this woman. Basically he just told her she’s not enough without telling her what he “needs”. He’s measured her to the standard of “other women” and she’s not enough for him. If he pursues her and acts desirous of her, she will be so much more likely to act sexually confident. If you ask me, he’s built up a fantasy even if he doesn’t use porn.
I saw lots of red flags in this letter. I would be willing to bet there are some lust/porn/masturbation issues going on. Just because he says there isn’t, does not make it true. But, really, he is putting her in an impossible situation. She isn’t good enough to meet his undefined standards, and she has to look to other women outside of their relationship to figure out how to meet those undefined standards. I’d be willing to bet the goalposts will be moved often and she will never be able to get it right, now matter how hard or what she tries.
My two cents for this scenario: her husband needs to learn what sex actually is. Because it’s not just about having someone put on an act for you–it’s about intimacy. True, vulnerable, intense intimacy that requires a deep knowing of each other’s souls. That’s what sex is for–it’s not a tool to use to force someone into a box they were never made to fit into.
If this is the problem for this couple, I hope he’s able to recognize that his idea of what sex looks like is likely pretty skewed and needs to be fixed. Because until he deals with that, there’s nothing she can do to create a healthy sex life for the two of them because feeding into the fantasy may lead to more frequency of sex, but not good or even healthy quality of sex.
Here is one last comment that does a great job describing how you can deal with differing expectations for sex without dehumanizing the other (and also, this blog helped their marriage! Love hearing that!):
I’m not really an “act sexy” kind of girl. I think the young hubby is confusing a certain type of female personality type as the only definition of sexy/seductive. He is expecting his wife to be someone she is not. Not all women can behave that way, whether they were raised in the purity culture or not. If I had to I would be putting on a play-act and not be myself when it came to enticing my husband which wouldn’t be good in the long run. My husband wanted a much more direct approach from me. So we compromised. I found a few ways to be direct without feeling awkward and turned off/distracted and he learned to read my less obvious but still clear messages of desire. None of that would have gotten smoothed out without the advice from this site.
Scenario 3: He’s just a really bad communicator
If there truly are no issues (porn, abuse, whacked out thinking, etc), my 2 cents is that it can take some time (or at least it did for us) to figure out what sort of initiation strategies don’t make the other one just roll their eyes and be decidedly not turned on. And I’d assume (not having consulted the national public about this) that it varies from couple to couple and 6 months in is early in the game for figuring this out. lie there and let hubby go at it starfish style. This also matches up with the purity culture upbringing. I genuinely believe that he started to get tired of that.
If we’re giving the guy the benefit of the doubt, then the problem may literally be that he’s just really really bad at communicating what he wants.
But guys, let me tell you: saying to your wife “you should be sexy like how other women are sexy” is simply not a good idea. It’s not helpful, it’s not positive communication, it’s just damaging. Take a minute, think about what you actually want to say, and then say that instead.
Here are some other great comments about how communication in the early years especially can be difficult:
It sounds like they need an honest talk:
- What does he mean by needing her to be more sexy? He needs to find it to better understand where he’s coming from.
- Is he being honest about not using porn? If he needs her to act in a certain way to be aroused, he may not be truthful here.
- No couple has identical drives. And sex isn’t just intercourse. I would recommend working together to make a list of sex activities other than intercourse to choose from when he’s not wanting intercourse, but you are.
What if he just in fact is not expressing himself well. Maybe when he says “when other women walk in a room and every man wants her” he is talking about being sexually confident? My husband has told me repeatedly that confidence is the sexiest thing.
They are newly married and were virgins before; it can be really difficult to communicate their needs and explain what they want. They both may be struggling with this.
And honestly, if they’re having a hard time communicating effectively about sex, I highly recommend 31 Days to Great Sex. That’s exactly why I wrote it–to help couples actually get on the same page and sort out these issues in a healthy, constructive way!
Do you find it hard to talk about SEX?
Scenario 4: She honestly is struggling with sexiness
She mentioned in her comment that she grew up with a pretty strong Purity Culture influence, which can make embracing her sexiness and accepting herself as a sexual being. It also seems like she has a higher libido than him, which is a lot more common than people think!
So maybe part of the problem is that she doesn’t actually understand what “sexy” means, or she isn’t comfortable with being sexy. So maybe as a result, her husband just feels like sex is lacking something.
For me my wife is sexy just standing there. I think a maybe answer is this pending no issues in the relationship: The guy wants her to build sex up. Flirt. Build the excitement. Seems the post offers maybe the way she is approaching sex is a turn off or maybe he is just looking for variety.
Personally, I do think it’s odd that a couple who’s been married for only a few months and were virgins before they got married would get bored already or already be looking for variety, but I think it’s a fair point to consider!
Scenario 5: He is working through his sexuality
We got one comment on Facebook I thought was really interesting and wanted to highlight. Listen to this:
He needs to explore his arousal template. This can be done without judgment but it’s easy to feel shame when doing it. Many men have issues that stem from their relationship w their mother. If their mother was a little “too close”, they don’t want anything about sex (with a wife) to remind them of the other prominent woman in their life (mom). This has NOTHING to do with this newlywed bride. Mother-enmeshed men are very attentive, romantic, and compliant. But they’re boundary less with women and their sexuality can feel icky. They’re reinacting being overwhelmed and dominated. (I want you to seduce me). The GREAT NEWS is: they’re dealing w this early!!
Maybe this man is just finding it difficult to be intimate with someone he’s actually emotionally close to because of his relationship with his mom. I thought that was an interesting perspective, and not one I would have thought of myself ever!
Also, love the positivity and encouragement at the end–it really is good that they’re able to start working on whatever issue it is in their marriage now, just a few months in, instead of looking for a solution for the first time after years of dysfunction.
But no matter what the scenario was, I hope we can all agree with this comment here that perfectly summarizes the main issue with what this husband said to his new bride:
He should never have said that to his wife. Ever. Let alone so early in their marriage. He is communicating to her that sex is about him and she needs to get it together and learn how to be what he wants-which tells her that she, his new wife, isn’t what he wants. That is sinful and selfish. Sex is for both of them and they need to learn together by doing. They perhaps need counseling and help in learning what sex in marriage is supposed to portray. Coming out of purity culture is HARD and that mindset will affect everything. He will need to be patient and loving, and that isn’t what he’s being (from the sounds of it).
So what do you think? Anything you think that I missed?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below!