What does it mean to be “attracted to your husband”? What does that actually feel like and look like?
I’ve been talking about libido all month on the blog, and one of the problems when we’re talking about libido is trying to understand what we even mean by being attracted to someone and wanting to have sex.
So here’s an interesting question I talked about 4 years ago on the blog, and I’d like to re-run it because I think it’s a great discussion topic!
A reader asks:
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.
I know she raises several issues in her email, but I’d like to deal with this question of why doesn’t she feel more visually attracted to him?
Here’s the problem with different libidos and misunderstandings
(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 more visually stimulated. They see a woman, and they want to make love. So when they see their wife, they immediately get turned on. (Research is now emerging saying that this can’t actually be shown, and may largely be cultural, not biological. But in general, this seems to be how it works).
- Many women, on the other hand, don’t get turned on in the same way. 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.
As I explained in the very first module of my Boost Your Libido course, we often don’t understand that libido can look different for different people, because it’s always portrayed the same way in shows: You pant, you kiss, you take your clothes off, you end up in bed.
So that’s libido, right? Pant-Kiss-Clothes-Bed.
So if you’re at home, and you’re not panting, you figure you don’t have a libido. You must not be attracted to your husband.
But many women are able to get aroused and into sex once they start. They don’t feel the same desire beforehand, but once arousal kicks in, so does desire.
For many of us, instead of being Pant-Kiss-Clothes-Bed, it’s Bed-Clothes-Kiss-Pant. And that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you don’t want your husband. It just means your libido works differently.
One is more spontaneous, and one is more responsive. But they both get you to the same place.
Is this a lightbulb moment for you, when you realize you’ve been seeing attraction and libido all wrong?
In this 10-module video course, I walk you step-by-step through understanding what libido is, identifying your roadblocks to libido, and figuring out how to turn yourself ON again! And we look at how the brain, body, and emotions all contribute to our desire (or lack of it). It’s super fun, and right from the beginning you’ll experience HOPE that you really can anticipate and yearn for sex in your marriage!
Let’s get back to that assumption that we should be weak-kneed and turned on when we see our spouse, though.
To a certain extent, that does often happen at the beginning of a relationship, even for those of us who do have more responsive libidos. 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 when I was writing my thesis about the portrayal of women in advertising, 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 can arouse many women, then, is the idea of being wanted, not the wanting itself.
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.
For many women, that’s the key to desire: Feeling as if we are 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. Just over 20% of women in our survey of 20,000 reported having the higher libido, and many talked about how visually stimulated they were, too. I know I’m speaking in generalities; forgive me for that, but the generalities happen to fit this letter writer. 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.
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). Libido exists on a spectrum. It isn’t that “everybody is like X”, or even that “all men are like X” and “all women are like Y”.
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? What do you think it feels like, years into marriage, to be “attracted” to your spouse? 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
- The Frequency Podcast: What if Libido Differences Aren’t the Real Issue?
- 8 Questions for Wives to Ask if Their Husbands Don’t Want Sex
- 4 Reasons You May Feel Sexually Frustrated–Even if You’re Having Sex
- What Does It Mean to Feel Attracted to Your Husband?
And don’t forget to check out:
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
What do you do if you've lost that spark and you want to be turned on by your husband again? I...
What if women's low libido is partly a self-fulfilling prophecy? What happens when women are told:...
When we talk about people's "sexual needs", are we muddying the waters? Happy Monday, everyone!...
If we believe that men are insatiable sex machines who will want and need sex everyday, what...
I wonder: since we've grown up believing so much that men want sex all the time, then when he...
Are libido differences really about libido--or are they often about orgasm? We've been talking...
What do you do if your husband doesn't want to make love? That's such a lonely place to be in a...
The Bible does not tell women that they can't refuse sex if their husbands want it. This week,...