Many, if not most, of my readers are low-libido spouses.
Sex just isn’t the biggest need you have, and quite frankly, most nights you could do without it.
I get it. I’ve been the lower libido spouse for most of my marriage (it does go up and down, though!)
Today I have a few things that I’d like to say, as we’re talking this week about what a healthy frequency of sex is in marriage.
When your spouse married you, your spouse trusted you with something that was very near and dear to their heart.
Your spouse trusted you with sex.
Assuming your spouse is healthy and your marriage is healthy, your spouse wants to make love with you, to connect with you, to experience real oneness with you. Your spouse wants to be passionate the way that God made us to be passionate.
But there’s a problem. You’re the one who holds the key.
You’ve become the gatekeeper.
It’s not fair, I know, but the person who wants something the least always ends up setting the terms for the relationship. When you’re dating, the person who is least invested decides how often they see each other, text each other, talk to each other. The person who is more invested sits by the phone, waiting for notifications to pop up.
Was that ever you? If so, you remember that it’s a lonely place to be.
Well, we create a similar dynamic with sex in marriage. Assuming there is no coercion on the higher drive spouse’s part, then the person who decides how frequently you make love is the lower drive spouse.
And that puts your spouse entirely at your mercy.
Some people are being coerced into sex. If you’re wondering if that’s you, these posts may help:
- Let’s talk marital rape
- The marital rape and obligation sex podcast
- 10 times you’re allowed to say no to sex
Sometimes the low libido spouse doesn’t understand how much sexual rejection hurts.
Because you don’t experience intimacy and love and connection through sex in the same way, it feels strange to you, and maybe even a little pathetic, that your spouse feels so rejected and hurt when you don’t have sex. But please listen to these people’s stories:
Other than my children, my life is RUINED. I have little to no friends (why have friends you can’t confide in?) I don’t trust anyone (If I can’t trust my wife, who can I trust?), I avoid, both physically and socially, any woman because I can’t even trust MYSELF to not to something stupid, because I still believe I made an oath I need to keep. I can’t look my family in the face, feeling like a failure. My work is in shambles, because I feel worthless, have no ambition or drive, and most time feel whats the point? I don’t trust churches/preachers, because all I hear about is how evil men are, and if we were just better men things would be hunky-dorey, and never anything about women. I don’t even trust GOD anymore: why should I? He has never helped me at all, not once.
Most days I just want to end as quickly as possible, and most nights as I sit in the dark untouched, unloved, unwanted, I just want to die – but then I’m too much of a coward to do that, so there is no escape there.
But you want to know the sad part? I have told my wife, in counseling, exactly everything above. Result: “Thats not my problem.”
For [higher drive spouses], it’s not about the physical. It’s about a deep emotional connection that I share with one person. The pain of being emotionally rejected is so very real. It’s hard because we are effectively told to “shut up and be content” simply because our meaningful connection includes something physical. No amount of talking will ever truly take the place of sex. In fact, talking and then ending the night without sex, is one of the hardest things to face. My husband gets his emotional needs met and considers it good, while I have to figure out how to walk away from my emotional needs because it includes sex. I have had to literally teach myself to shut down any sexual drive, and the emotional connection it brings, and walk away from it entirely. Sex is on his terms. I’ve never felt so distant from my husband, despite the hours of conversations we’ve had (we are both big talkers).
I know that you want a close and intimate marriage. We all do!
But you can’t have a close and intimate marriage unless you BOTH get what you most need.
Close and intimate doesn’t happen when one person is getting what they need; close and intimate happens when you both truly feel cared for and “known”. And that means that the way your spouse feels cared for and known needs to matter.
When you married, you promised that the things that mattered to your spouse would matter to you.
This is one of those things.
Now, I know there are many, many reasons why sex may be infrequent in your marriage, and why your libido may be low. So I want to address some of the big ones here, one by one, because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem.
When you like sex fine, but it’s just not a priority
Many, if not most, low libido spouses fall into this camp. Sex, when you have it, is fine. Good even. Sometimes even great! If you’re a woman, let’s say that you tend to reach orgasm at least most of the time, so that’s not the problem.
Instead, it’s just that it’s not a pressing need for you. And at the end of the day, you just want to relax and have some time to unwind. So you watch Netflix, or you do a hobby, or you read a book, all until you get tired or it’s time to go to bed.
You rarely head to bed until you’re really exhausted. And then you’re just too tired for sex.
People with responsive libidos don’t necessarily feel “in the mood” or feel like sex until you start kissing and touching. Desire for sex doesn’t kick in until arousal does. And so unless you actually decide, “tonight we’re going to make love“, and unless you actually start kissing, you’re never going to feel that desire for sex–or at least you very rarely will.
If your marriage is a priority to you, then you need to act like it. Don’t stay up until you’re exhausted. Don’t turn to everything but your spouse at night.
I know you need to relax. I know you need downtime. But making love can help you sleep better! It can give you energy for the next day. It releases hormones that make you happy and relaxed and satisfied.
When you don’t prioritize sex, you’re not prioritizing your spouse. Head to bed earlier, when you still have energy. Forego that last episode on Netflix. Take your spouse’s hand (or another body part) and take them into the bedroom with you today. When you prioritize your marriage, life will stop being so stale. You’ll feel connected. And then you likely won’t even need all that downtime anymore!
When you’d love to have more sex, but you’re so overwhelmed
Sometimes the problem isn’t that you’re not making sex a priority. It’s that you honestly have no energy left after everything that you do. You’re carrying the majority of the mental load for the family, and you’re “working” all the time, looking after small children, combined with maybe outside work too, and you’re just exhausted. You’re trying to keep the details of everybody’s schedules and what to make for meals and everything in your head, and you can’t turn it off. It’s too much.
You daydream about going to a hotel for a day, all by yourself, and doing absolutely nothing.
You think to yourself, “I’d have more of a libido if my spouse would take more responsibility around the house!”
I hear you.
I’d suggest that both of you sit down together and take a look at my emotional labor series from June, and work through that. This is important.
But can I also offer a warning? Sometimes we grow resentful that our spouse isn’t doing what we want or need them to do. And in your marriage, perhaps you’ve both become resentful. One of you resents the fact that you rarely have sex; the other resents the fact that you’re doing most of the work. And so you’re both angry, and you’re growing further and further apart.
Growing further apart is not going to help you get what you want. It’s going to make it worse.
Now, if the situation is really dire, I’d suggest seeing a licensed counselor. Some people are married to selfish and entitled people, and the situation isn’t fair and isn’t right.
But often it’s not that crystal clear. It’s more nuanced.
So, yes, please talk to your spouse about how overwhelmed you feel. Tell them that if more of the mental load and work was shared, your libido would likely reappear. Tell them that this is vitally important to you.
But then, at the same time, can you also make more of an effort to prioritize sex? Again, it helps you sleep! It makes you feel more energetic the next day and more relaxed at the end of the day. It can help you handle the stressors of your life anyway! And by showing your spouse goodwill, you also create that goodwill circle so that you bring the tension level down in your marriage, and you make it easier to talk about big things like sharing the load.
When sex doesn’t feel pleasurable
But now we come to another huge group of people–those who don’t want sex because, well, why should they? I’m going to speak in gendered terms here, because overwhelmingly this category is female. Sex doesn’t feel like much of anything, and when you do have sex, it doesn’t make you feel close at all. It makes you feel used.
Sometimes this is because your husband has made little or no effort to make sex feel good for you. He assumes that because intercourse feels good for him, it should feel good for you, too, and you’re selfish for wanting anything else.
That’s selfish! But you also don’t have to accept that. Don’t let his selfishness or ignorance rob both of you of what God wants for you. You can say to him: “I want to have passionate sex with you and make love more, but I am not willing to be treated like an object. Sex has to be a two-way street. It has to be about my pleasure, too, and we need to figure out how to make me feel good.”
Then work through 31 Days to Great Sex together!
Feeling sexually disconnected?
Like you've lost your groove?
Like you're on two different planets when it comes to sex in your marriage?
31 Days to Great Sex can help you talk through what's gone wrong and try some new things to figure out how to make it RIGHT!
What if your husband really doesn’t care about your pleasure? These posts can help:
- Godly sex is mutual sex
- Can the “do not deprive” verses apply to women, too?
- Why we need a new definition of sex
- Women should experience fireworks, too!
Sometimes, though, you don’t feel pleasure because you’re uncomfortable telling him what you like in bed. He’s tried a bunch of things, but none of them have felt good. You feel awkward if he spends too much time trying to arouse you, and you’d rather just get it over with.
I get that, too. Lots of us have so many reasons why sex doesn’t feel pleasurable. Maybe we’ve believed bad and shameful messages about sex. Maybe we have assault or abuse in our past. Maybe we believed the purity culture so much that relaxing now is almost impossible.
There are so many reasons you could be having trouble! And that’s why I’m working right now on The Orgasm Course (to be released late October). We’re looking at all the different “streams” that go into orgasm, and how to make sure everything is flowing in the right direction, so to speak. We’re going to unlock what’s been holding you back. And there’s even the option to buy the men’s modules so that the can learn better how women work.
Make sure you’re signed up to my email list to be notified when that’s out! I’ll have a big sale on it during launch week, so you don’t want to miss it.
When your marriage is in trouble
Then there are others who have genuine marriage issues which ar causing them to hold back from sex–things like a husband’s porn use, or husbands wanting you to do things in bed that you find degrading. Things like having no emotional connection at all, or being emotionally abused. If that’s you, I’m not telling you that you have to have sex with your spouse.
But here’s what I am saying: You can’t live in that limbo. You can’t refuse to have sex while there are these huge issues, but then leave those huge issues. If you have huge issues, please deal with them. See a licensed counselor. Tell somebody. Learn to draw clear boundaries. It’s okay if marriage problems are keeping you from sex–but then deal with those marriage problems.
What I really want low libido spouses to know
I don’t want to tell you that you are obligated to have sex with your spouse because the Bible says so.
We found in our survey of 20,000 women that when women believe “you are obligated to have sex with your husband”, that sexual satisfaction plummets and sexual pain rises.
Why? Because it makes it sound like you don’t matter. It makes sex feel no longer intimate.
If sex is a deep “knowing”, where you both feel connected to one another, then what you want and feel has to matter. And doing something just because it’s a duty means that you don’t matter.
I get it. Duty sex is really the biggest turn off there is for you, and it’s a huge disappointment for the higher drive spouse.
So none of this has been about duty sex. Please hear me on that.
I am also not going to tell you that if you don’t have sex with your husband, that he’ll be tempted to watch porn or have an affair and he won’t be able to stop lusting after other women. That’s a terribly toxic message that similarly hurts women’s sexual satisfaction. Having sex when you feel like you’re being blackmailed again wrecks real intimacy.
So here’s what I am saying: God created you for a passionate, abundant life. God created you to feel amazingly close with your spouse, and to experience the heights of pleasure. This is something that God wants for you.
You don’t want to miss out on it! I know it feels like it’s not that big a deal, but it’s like trying to convince a colour blind person who can’t see red that they’re missing out on something amazing. Sometimes you just have to go with a leap of faith.
Think about this: what can I do right now that can put us on the road to a passionate marriage?
- Prioritize making love with your spouse.
- Address the big marriage issues that are driving you apart.
- Figure out how to make sex great–even if that means having some awkward and difficult conversations with your husband.
- Deal with baggage that’s holding you back from experiencing sex.
Whatever it may be, do what is in your power to do. Take that first step.
Don’t miss out on the passion that God wanted for you.
And one of the best ways to deal with this is my Boost Your Libido course! It goes over all the things that go into a woman’s libido (and explains different kinds of libidos), to show you that you do have power over how you feel about sex. You can want it again!
Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?
You were created for intimacy and passion, and in marriage, sex is the culmination of all of that. Don’t downplay it. Don’t miss out on something this rich. Please.
If you’re the low libido spouse, what’s stopping you from having sex more? If you’re the higher libido spouse, does anything here resonate? Let’s talk in the comments!
The Libido Differences Series:
- Can Higher Drive Spouses Be Content with their Sex Lives?
- How Many Times a Week Should Couples Have Sex?
- A Word to Low Libido Spouses
- 10 Questions for High Libido Husbands to Ask if Their Wives Don’t Want Sex (September 16)
- The Frequency Podcast (what our survey told us about sex frequency) (September 17)
- 7 Questions for Wives to Ask if Their Husbands Don’t Want Sex (September 18)
- How to Handle Rejection When Your Spouse Doesn’t Want Sex (September 21)
- 10 Things that Tank Women’s Libidos (September 28)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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