Are the higher drive husband, and you’re wondering what to do because your wife rarely wants sex?
We opened the week looking at frequency of sex in marriage. Usually marriages start off with couples having sex relatively frequently (like at least several times a week).
(If yours didn’t, then that really is a sign that something major is going on, and you should see a licensed counselor).
But then, just as frequently, couples see a drop off in frequency. Sometimes it’s not a big deal, but sometimes, even over a period of years, that drop off becomes drastic.
In this post, I’m addressing marriages where the drop off is huge. I am definitely not addressing marriages where sex is happening once a week or more. I mean where sex is really rare–a few times a year, maybe monthly, or maybe even every few weeks.
Next week we’ll look at high drive spouses where sex is actually happening a healthy amount of time (as we looked at on Monday), but today, I want to focus this on high drive husbands who are having sex a few times a month or less. (We’ll talk to wives on Friday)
So let’s get started!
An uncomfortable truth: Drastic drop-offs in frequency of sex rarely happen in isolation.
When we surveyed 20,000 women last winter for our upcoming book The Great Sex Rescue, we found that 73% of truly sexless marriages had at least two of these problems:
- Porn use
- Male sexual dysfunction
- Anorgasmia (not reaching orgasm)
- Not feeling close during sex
I’m going to assume that for you the issue is not male sexual dysfunction, since if it were, this isn’t the post that you’d be reading.
Now, what about marriages where sex was just infrequent, but not technically sexless? These things were still far more likely to be true than in marriages where sex was happening frequently.
Please hear me on this one: I am not saying that this is necessarily your fault. If the majority of marriages do things because of X, you could still be in the minority who look more like Y. And when it comes to sexual pain, you’re not responsible for that (although you are responsible for how you handled it). In many cases when she doesn’t feel pleasure, too, the problem is more that she won’t let herself relax and explore what feels good because of things that she’s believing. You’d love to give her pleasure, but she’s not willing.
(And we’ll be addressing a lot of this in our Orgasm Course launching next month! Make sure you’re signed up to the email list to be notified when it’s available, and so you don’t miss the launch sale!).
That being said, it does very little good to tell you that it’s all your spouse’s fault, and you’re justified in being angry and hurt. That only leaves you stuck, and I want to see you move forward.
Yesterday I addressed what the lower drive spouse can do to help the situation, and today I’d like to ask you to take an honest look at what has happened in your marriage and sex life, to see if there are steps you can take to bridge the gap.
Questions for Higher Drive Spouses to Ask Themselves
These may be hard questions to hear, but please, pray now, before you read them, and ask, “God, if any of these relate to me, please soften my heart so I can hear it.”
1. Early in your marriage, did you express frustration, anger, or criticism that your wife wasn’t enjoying sex as much as you were?
For most women, orgasm is a learned behaviour; it isn’t something that automatically happens with intercourse.
If you were critical or angry that your wife didn’t enjoy sex the way that you did, or were frustrated that she couldn’t orgasm or couldn’t get aroused, it’s quite likely that she now equates sex with something she’s not good at. Most women already have body image issues; she likely now feels, “I’m broken.”
Even if you don’t feel that you were angry at her, if you were internally focused on your own disappointment rather than helping her experience great sex, she likely picked up on that.
Or if, when she did have sex and enjoyed it, you’d also complain and criticize that you weren’t doing it more, she would have internalized the message, “nothing I do will ever be enough.” Then sex, which she was enjoying, became something that still made her feel inadequate.
2. Did you take time to ensure that your wife felt pleasure?
When you were just getting used to intercourse, was her pleasure your focus, or was it your own? Did you slow down so that you could figure out what would arouse her, or did you think that she should be aroused by the same things that arouse you, and so figure that she should “catch up” to you?
If you had sex for months, or even years, without her experiencing pleasure or an orgasm, you may need to apologize and ask for forgiveness.
Maybe you wanted her to feel good, but she had too many hang-ups or she wasn’t comfortable with you trying to touch her. Even then, to go ahead when she’s not enjoying herself is to solidify in her mind, “sex is not for me.”
It’s better to sit down early and talk about how God made sex to feel passionate and amazing for both of you, and go through a challenge like 31 Days to Great Sex, which can help her step-by-step discover how her body works, without it being overwhelming.
You may also enjoy:
- The theology of the clitoris
- The theology of the penis
- The theology of sex podcast
- How to see sex from a woman’s point of view
3. Have you expressed frustration when she is experiencing physical issues making sex uncomfortable?
Up to 7% of evangelical Christian women experience sexual pain to the point that penetration is impossible, and many others experience vaginismus or other kinds of dyspareunia (sexual pain) where penetration may technically be possible, but is very, very uncomfortable.
If your wife experienced pain, did you insist on trying to have intercourse anyway? Did you talk about how disappointed you were that you couldn’t have sex, to the point that she pushed herself to go through with it because she felt so embarrassed and broken and guilty, or did you show her acceptance and love and reassurance?
After having a baby, women can experience sexual pain, even if sex was easy beforehand. If that was your wife’s story, were you patient as she healed, or did you pressure her to have sex regardless?
Perhaps it’s not sexual pain, but pain overall. If your wife has had heavy periods so that she’s experienced a lot of cramping or very heavy bleeding, did you express sexual frustration to her, rather than compassion for what she is experiencing? Did you prioritize your own sexual frustration over her physical discomfort? I know that many Christian books talk about men’s sexual discomfort as if it’s very difficult to go more than 72 hours, and women shouldn’t make their husbands wait. But this isn’t God’s view (as we see from Old Testament laws about periods).
When women feel as if their physical experience isn’t important, then sex is no longer a mutual experience. It’s only about being used. That can easily turn a woman off.
4. Was sex, when you had it, depersonalizing?
Many high drive spouses say that they feel most intimate with their spouse, and closest to their spouse, when they have sex.
This doesn’t always mean, though, that they are going about intimacy or sex in the way that will build intimacy. Sometimes we swap intimacy with sex, and we actually debase both.
If you’ve used pornography extensively, then you’ve learned that sex is about using someone, not about “knowing” someone. In porn, sex is about a man getting his needs met by using another person, often violently. Most of the sex acts that are depicted are done in such a way as to provide maximum humiliation to the woman, and maximum power to the man.
If you have grown up masturbating to pornography, you have trained your brain to become aroused by things that make you feel powerful at the expense of another person. It’s almost inevitable that you will bring part of that into the bedroom.
Maybe you’ve been pressuring your wife to do things that she is not comfortable doing and that don’t feel intimate. And maybe you’ve expressed disappointment that she won’t try things, as if she doesn’t love you because she won’t give these things to you that you want.
Or maybe it’s not to that level. All of us, in the Western world, grow up in a pornographic culture, whether or not we’ve watched porn. And what becomes sexy is what is depersonalized. “Taking” someone is sexier than just loving someone. Sex has been divorced from marriage in our culture, so that it’s become all about the body, and not about the heart.
If you haven’t been able to say “I love you” or say your spouse’s name during sex, but instead tend to use very coarse language that your spouse doesn’t like, or even “check out” during intercourse so that it’s obvious you’re not really thinking about your wife, then sex may become something very ugly in your relationship. Here’s how one commenter described it:
Sorry if this seems crass, but there’s no better way to put it in the English language in my opinion. My husband is very good at f***ing me. It’s something he’s seen modelled to him through porn for years. It’s physical, it’s animalistic, it’s a release during which he says stuff like “you’re so hot” etc. It’s focused on the here and now… on the bodies present. He feels loved during that experience because he’s experiencing the highs of arousal and orgasm in my presence while also enjoying my body. Because he’s doing that to me in my presence, he thinks that means it’s him showing me his love. I understand why he thinks what he’s feeling is enough and is love/loving me. But 99% of our sexual encounters don’t go much beyond that. The exchange is purely physical.
16% of our survey takers said their primary emotion after having sex is feeling used. If your wife could have written that, it’s likely that she’s one of the 16%.
5. Have you broken trust with your wife?
If your wife has found you using pornography, or knows of a long-standing porn issue, then you have broken trust with her. So many women on this blog comment that they are now turned off of sex, because they can’t trust that their husbands actually want THEM, or that their husbands are thinking of THEM.
If you have had an affair, or had an emotional affair, even if it was in the past, if you have not taken time to admit the depth of hurt that you have caused, and rebuilt trust, then she may still be withdrawing. It’s very difficult to want sex when trust isn’t there.
6. Did you use the Bible to pressure her into having more sex?
Did you talk about the “do not deprive” verses from 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, and tell her that she was in sin by not having sex more? Did you tell her that you find it much harder to resist porn or resist lusting if you don’t have sex frequently (after all, Every Man’s Battle actually says that women are men’s methadone)? Did you tell her that if she doesn’t give you sex, or sexual favors during her period, that you would lust, because the Bible says that without sex we’ll be tempted?
We found in our survey that certain teachings very prevalent in the evangelical world cause women’s libidos to plummet and women’s orgasm rates to plummet. “Have sex so he won’t lust!” and “You’re obligated to have sex with your husband” are two such teachings, and there are many more. (we’ll tell you the exact numbers, plus so much more, in our upcoming book The Great Sex Rescue, out March 2021!)
The Bible clearly says that sexual intimacy is a vital part of a healthy marriage, but sexual intimacy does not just mean intercourse. It means sexual activity that is mutual, pleasurable, and intimate. Pressuring someone repeatedly using Scripture is actually a form of spiritual abuse and coercion; it is not a proper use of Scripture.
We should allow Scripture to point out where we need to change to love somebody more effectively, not distort Scripture to get our own needs met. That’s going against the very nature of Christ, who said, “For the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).
7. Do you care for your health and hygiene?
I know this is a tricky one to deal with, but excess weight plays a major issue when it comes to sex. It is difficult to have pleasurable sex when a man has a big belly. Excess weight impacts “usable length” of the penis, and prevents his pelvic bone coming into contact with her clitoris during thrusting, reducing her ability to feel pleasure. It can also make the man-on-top positions impossible (due to feeling as if she’s being suffocated), but many women have said that straddling their very large husband is also too physically straining.
Every time I write about hygiene, too, the comment floodgates open. It seems that many women are embarrassed to tell their husbands, “your breath stinks”, or “you need to have a shower”, because it seems rude, so they avoid sex instead. Other women do tell their husbands, but don’t get the desired behaviour.
Do you shower everyday? If you work at a physical job, do you shower before coming to bed? Do you brush your teeth before coming to bed?
8. Do you share the load with your wife?
If your wife is run off of her feet caring for the family, while you get a lot of downtime during the day or in the evening, then she could simply be exhausted and feel very taken for granted. If she carries most of the mental load for the family, so that she has so many things running through her head and she can never “turn off”, then maybe she’s always turned off sexually because there’s no room in her brain for sex!
I talked about this phenomenon in our June series on mental load and emotional labor, and so, so many women told me that THIS was the #1 reason that they had no libido. If their husbands could take on some of the mental load of the family, it could change everything.
If you didn’t read that series, please check it out. And ask your wife to work through it with you.
9. Do you show your wife love OUTSIDE the bedroom?
Does your wife feel loved, cherished, and valued outside the bedroom? Are you only nice when you get sex, and do you act disappointed and withhold affection if you don’t?
Is the only time you touch her or kiss her when you want to have sex? Do you grope her when she’s doing the dishes or other things, rather than show her affection in a way that she’d prefer that would honor her? Almost 20% of our respondents say their primary motivation for having sex is that their husbands treat them badly if they don’t have sex. Over time, that wears on a woman.
You may also enjoy:
- 10 Reasons Your Wife Doesn’t Want Sex
- 10 Sexy Questions to Ask Your Wife (to warm her up)
- 10 Ways to Initiate Sex with Your Wife without Turning Her Off
10. Do you open up to your spouse emotionally?
For women, sex is very physically vulnerable. You’re literally letting someone inside your body.
As we talked about in the podcast last week, many men who have a difficult time opening up emotionally prefer to have sex to connect. But sex is not a substitute for emotional vulnerability.
I know this is a bit of a chicken and egg thing–how can you open up to her when you feel rejected sexually by her? Why should you have to be the first one to make the move?
But again, we’re talking about trying to fix the problem, and to fix it, you can only change yourself and how you react; you can’t change her. She will not want to make love to someone that doesn’t listen to her emotions or share his own emotions. Likely she wants to actually connect and feel “known”, and that isn’t just a physical experience. It’s everything all wound up together. If you’ve had a hard time emotionally connecting with her, take a look at my post on 10 questions to build your emotional connection from last Friday, because I’ve got those questions, and some other great tips, in there to help you. Plus try my emotional reconnection course!
What if you see yourself in some of these high-drive husband questions?
Take some time to pray through them and ask God to show you how you have hurt your wife or given her a bad view of sex. If you can relate to some of these, you haven’t just pushed your wife away; you’ve also stolen the sex life that she was supposed to have from her. You have tainted sex to her, and that has hurt her. Allow yourself to feel the pain that she has felt–even if she has caused you pain, too. Focus on what you have done.
Then I’d suggest writing her a letter, because we can often think better if we write it all down.
List what you have done. Tell her how you think this must have made her feel. And apologize for each thing.
If you can remember specific instances when you did any of these things, name those instances. Say, “I remember our anniversary two years ago when we were having sex, and I was using really bad language. You asked me to stop, and I didn’t. Afterwards I knew you were upset, but I couldn’t handle it, so I didn’t say anything. I let you go to sleep feeling used, and I’m sorry.”
Ask her to forgive you. Tell her that you know that it may take her a while to trust you again. If the issue is porn use, show her that you are serious by joining a recovery group, confessing to a close friend to hold you accountable, and sharing your passwords with her.
To rebuild, tell her that you want to focus on her, not on you. Suggest trying something like 31 Days to Great Sex which can be focused on how she feels about sex, and learning how to make it personal and pleasurable for her. Tell her you want her to be the focus from now on.
Feeling sexually disconnected?
What if you don’t see yourself in these high-drive husband questions?
In some ways, that’s awesome. It means that you likely don’t have things you need to repair; that you are a selfless husband who is loving his wife.
In other ways, it’s tough. If you did something to contribute to the problem, then you can also do something to contribute to solving it. But if this really wasn’t you, then you’re in a tough spot.
Please, one warning, though: only 7% of women in sexless marriages report having none of porn use; anorgasmia; pain during sex; not feeling close during sex; and male sexual dysfunction. Really make sure they aren’t true in your life!
Now, that being said, what do you do when you didn’t cause this?
Make sure that there aren’t other issues going on, such as your wife feeling really stressed for other reasons; health issues; issues with the kids; etc. Do what you can to smooth these issues out.
Then say to your wife, “I know we were meant for more. I want us to experience real passion and intimacy, but you are continually pushing me away. That makes me not just sad. It makes me rejected, lonely, and in despair. I don’t want to live in a marriage like this, and I believe that we have to do something about it. We’re missing out on so much. I know sex doesn’t matter much to you, but I’d like to figure out how to show you what all the fuss is about. Can we please try?”
And if that doesn’t work, if it really is that she simply doesn’t like sex and doesn’t prioritize sex, then I’d advise talking to a licensed counselor. If she won’t go, go by yourself. A counselor can often help you see what’s really going on, and make a plan for how to address it.
Women reading this–do any of those questions ring especially true for you? And everybody–how would you repair if some of those questions did apply to you? 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
- 10 Things that Tank Women’s Libidos (September 28)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
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