If you want sex more often than your spouse, are you doomed to have a disappointing sex life?
It’s September, and in Ontario, where I live, the kids are back to school today (I know they’ve been back for a month where some of you all live, and in Australia & NZ, I think this is the middle of the year? )
I took yesterday off for Labour Day because I needed a vacation! We’re in the middle of edits for our new book The Great Sex Rescue, plus we’re filming and writing our brand new Orgasm Course which is launching next month (Yay!). So I’ve been TIRED.
But today I want to start a new series for the month of September on navigating libido differences.
I’d like to start by asking this question: Is lack of contentment hurting your sex life?
If you are having sex weekly if not more, is it possible to be content, even if you want sex more often?
I’ve been in several interesting discussions in the comments and on Facebook in the last month which have made me think about this question. In two of the cases, the scenario is that the husband wants sex a lot, and they have sex about 2-3 times a week, and she enjoys it (and frequently orgasms). But he isn’t satisfied and wants it more, and so she feels inadequate. And in another case, sex is just as frequent, but she isn’t enjoying it (and the husband is just as unhappy).
But this isn’t a gendered issue. I’ve had other commenters where it’s the other way around–she wants sex more often than he does, and she feels rejected, and puts her disappointment on him.
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Now, I do think regular, frequent sex is a huge part of a healthy marriage.
I am all for frequent sex. I am all for fun sex! I’ve written 31 Days to Great Sex to help you both find passion and find an equilibrium that works for both of you. I’ve created a Boost Your Libido course to help women embrace their sexuality and want sex more. I am all in favour of that, and we’ll be talking more about that this month.
But that being said, what really matters here is relationship.
- Does sex bring you closer together?
- Does it help you feel more intimate?
Let me tell you about two of these conversations I’ve had, because they offer us some warnings.
What happens when one spouse continuously criticizes the other for not wanting sex often enough?
In one conversation, I was talking with a gentleman in his 60s who had been married for over 40 years. They have sex once every six weeks now, and she sees it as a duty. She does tend to orgasm, and he says that he longs to do more to bring her sexual pleasure, and he’d gladly sacrifice his own for her, but she’s not interested. This is how he feels intimate, but she rejects it.
In the beginning of their marriage, though, she was “all over him”, and they were having sex 2-3 times a week. And, again, she did reach orgasm. But he could never understand why she didn’t want it more frequently. So he’d say, “we should do this more often!” or “why can’t we do this all the time? It’s so wonderful; why don’t you want it more?”
Another woman told a similar story a few weeks ago, when we were talking about what to do if sexual favors were actually physically uncomfortable:
I feel that I’m treading a fine line of our sex life being ‘satisfying enough’ for my husband. He’s the higher drive spouse and even though we have sex 2-3 times a week, he would prefer more. Also he would prefer us to be more varied and spontaneous than I feel able to be. So… I do often feel that I should provide an alternative if I am too tired/not feeling well enough to have intercourse, if it’s been a couple of days since our last time of making love.
I do orgasm (through clitoral stimulation) almost every time. I think with the frequency, we rarely leave it long enough for me to notice if I myself actually desire sex …. So it’s hard to note my own natural libido or desire, and stop it from feeling like a duty.
Another woman left a longer comment a few months ago, that we’re using for our Orgasm Course. She was explaining all the different problems she had trying to make sex feel good for her. But part of her comment resonated today for our discussion, too:
When we first got married, it was overwhelming because I did enjoy having sex, but it always felt like there were “comments” or borderline complaints. The biggest complaints were he would tell me he wished the sex had been longer and he wished we would have it more often, and I felt like my comments were always opposite. I felt like it was plenty long (I don’t have the time or energy for 2+ hours of sex) and we were having sex at least every other day at first. With the complaints of how often, came a pressure that made me less interested.
Let’s think about these different scenarios: In all cases, the couples (at least initially) were having sex several times a week. In two of the three, the women were reaching orgasm.
But in all three cases, the husbands were critical and expressed disappointment, even when sex was relatively frequent.
They were having sex 2-3 times a week, but the wives were told, “we don’t do this often enough. Why don’t you want it more often? This isn’t enough.” (And again, I’ve heard this scenario with the opposite dynamic, where SHE wants sex more often. So it’s not a gendered thing. It’s just the recent conversations have been with men with the higher sex drive).
In the first case, with the 40 year marriage, we see the result. Even though she used to like sex (and even though she can still reach orgasm), she’s given up. They now have sex every six weeks, out of duty on her part.
And I can’t help but wonder, “what would have happened if the husband had expressed love, acceptance and contentment with their sex life, rather than disappointment?”
I don’t even know that he meant to express disappointment, but by always talking to her about how it could be so much better, she felt like she was inadequate. She was never enough. No matter what she did, it would never be enough.
And so what should have brought them together ended up creating a rift between them.
Does your wife not want sex? You may also enjoy:
- 10 Reasons Your Wife May Not Want to Have Sex
- When Your Wife Hates Sex
- 31 Days to Great Sex (a fun marriage challenge that helps you talk through the hard stuff–and spice things up!)
Again, I am not addressing marriages where sex is relatively infrequent.
We’ll look at that more later in the month.
But are we looking at sex from a consumer mindset, rather than a relationship/intimacy mindset?
The first gentleman I was talking with said that he longed to feel intimacy with his wife, and he longed to “know” her better, but she kept getting annoyed with him.
So let me back up a bit here. Yes, sex is a deep knowing, as I talked about in detail in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. God meant for it to be a deeply intimate experience where we do know each other better, and we become truly vulnerable.
But that doesn’t mean that sex is a substitute for knowing. Sex is only about knowing when sex is focused on the other person, not on sex itself.
And if sex is focused on the other person, then what the other person is experiencing and feeling should matter as well, or else it’s not a real “knowing”.
Our consumer culture says we can’t be happy until we get what we want.
If you ever took Psychology 101, you’ll likely be familiar with the concept of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He said that our needs are on a pyramid, with basic ones like food, water, safety and shelter first, and then higher ones, like social acceptance, belonging, etc. higher up. And you can’t satisfy the highest ones until the lower ones are met. No one cares about the promotion at work or whether their friendships are life-giving if they’re running from a bear.
Here’s why I think this is relevant to our discussion: We’re really the first generation to live in a world where those bottom needs–food, water, safety, and shelter–are all met for us. There are certainly exceptions, as any abuse survivor will tell you, or as any marginalized person will tell you. But, in general, in the Western World, compared with other cultures across history, we have far more than anyone else ever has. We don’t worry whether we’re going to starve or whether war will displace us. And that means that our lives, instead of being oriented around what we need, can be oriented around what we want.
That’s why we have this consumer mindset. We’re told that we’re to look for what we want, and that getting what we want will make us happy. And we’re told that to settle for less is, indeed, “settling”. We will never be happy if we settle.
This consumer mindset, especially in marriage, is not compatible with Christ-filled relationships.
“The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” (Matthew 20:28)
Our life should be about love, and love requires acceptance of the other person, not always trying to change them. Love requires contentment. Love is not selfish; love is kind. And contentment comes from God:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
So let me ask: Are you practising contentment in your marriage?
What we heard, over and over again in our Bare Marriage survey of 20,000 women, is that many, many women feel that no matter what they do, it will never be enough. They can never satisfy their husbands’ desires (and even lusts).
And we also found that when women feel as if sex is a duty, and something that she must do so that he isn’t upset with her, her sexual satisfaction goes way down. Over time, that wears on her. It’s not surprising that, decades into marriage, frequency disappears, too.
How could your marriage change if, instead of focusing on what you’re not getting in your sex life, you rejoiced in what you were getting?
We hear so much about how to be sexually fulfilled, but it’s the wrong emphasis. Sexuality is about relationship.
Are you allowing sex to drive a wedge between you, or are you using sex to draw you more intimately into each other?
I know that if sex is very infrequent, more may need to be done (and more on that later this month). But I think if couples practised contentment and rejoicing in each other, then often the frequency part and even the spicing things up part could take care of itself.
When one spouse hears criticism and disappointment about sex constantly, though, how do you think that person will grow to view sex?
Look, I know some people would love sex everyday, and can’t figure out why their spouse doesn’t feel the same urgency.
But believe me–if you’re having sex twice a week or more, you’re having sex more than the average couple. You’re doing really well! And if you’re having sex once a week, you’re really only slightly below average. Your spouse not wanting to have sex everyday is not a rejection of you. It just means that there are other considerations as well, and part of loving your spouse is honouring what else is going on in his or her life.
I’m not saying we should aim for average. But I am saying that practising contentment may be a discipline that is worth learning, both for your own well-being, and for the long-term well-being of your sex life. Focus on your spouse, not just on sex. Focus on how to love your spouse, not just on what you want out of sex. When people feel acceptance and love, they’re able to blossom. But when they only feel criticism and disappointment, it drives them away.
What do you think? Have you ever been turned off of sex because it seems like your spouse can never be satisfied? Or do you fear that you have created this dynamic yourself? Let’s talk in the comments!
The Libido Differences Series:
- Can Higher Drive Spouses Be Content with their Sex Lives?
- How Often is it Reasonable to Expect Sex? (September 14)
- The Frequency Podcast (what our survey told us about sex frequency) (September 17)
- How Can I Help My Spouse Understand How Important Sex Is? (September 21)
- 10 Things that Tank Women’s Libidos (September 28)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
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