SEXUAL CONFIDENCE: 4 Tips for Building Sexual Confidence as the Higher Drive Wife

by | Nov 1, 2021 | Libido | 20 comments

Sexual Confidence as the Higher Drive Wife
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I’ve often said that the higher drive wife carries a lot of burdens that other permutations of libido do not.

It can be very difficult to be a husband married to a woman who doesn’t want sex, but at least that’s culturally expected.

As  a woman, we grow up hearing how men are sex-obsessed and won’t be able to keep their hands off of us once we marry. If your husband ends up keeping his hands off of you quite easily, the rejection can be even more profound, because no one expects or understands it. In fact, your friends may say they envy you–“I wish my husband would leave me alone sometimes.”

We’re talking about sexual confidence in October and November, and I wanted to devote a post to feeling confident as a woman even if your husband doesn’t want sex very much.

Basically, sexual confidence is part of emotional health.

As I talked about in the very first post of the sexual confidence series, a lot of sexual confidence is accepting where you are right now, and not blaming yourself for things you can no longer change (or which were not your fault in the first place). It’s understanding that you don’t need to be perfect to enjoy yourself.

It is, really, emotional health.

And a large part of emotional health is understanding what is in your control and what is not, and not taking responsibility or blame for things that are not in your control, while owning the things that are in your control.

Here’s a reader question that recently came into the blog from a higher drive wife:

 

My husband enjoys sex but he doesn’t seem to want it as much as me, and I can sense that he is uncomfortable with branching out and trying new things. As a result, we have infrequent sex about once every 2 weeks that has become very predictable (as in, we pretty much do the same kind of foreplay that mostly includes a lot of kissing and only do missionary every time). This is problematic for many reasons, not least of which is that we are wanting to have a baby. Obviously we need to have sex for that to happen, but I feel like once or twice during my “fertile window” won’t cut it (keep in mind that I am the one usually pushing for even that much).

He has said to me that he feels like I “bother” him about having more sex, which makes it feel like an obligation, and we all know how un-sexy that is. He has also said that it makes him feel like he’s not good enough, which I think is probably the real issue, but I don’t know how to approach it.

My question is this: How do I advocate for my own need for sex without turning it into an obligation for him? How do I encourage him to try new things with me with foreplay and positions without pushing him?

I think there are some red flag issues here since he’s not even interested in sex when they want to conceive, and this does seem like an intimacy/control issue that does need to be talked about with a counselor.

But just using this topic as a jumping off point, and keeping in mind some of those elements of emotional health, let’s see how this plays out in the sex arena when you’re the one who wants sex and he doesn’t.

A sexually confident woman recognizes what she has to offer.

We’re taught that the point of being a woman is be desirable. We want someone else to find us desirable. That’s what being a woman is!

Indeed, if you look at ads aimed at women vs. ads aimed at men, in the ads aimed at men, the person is usually looking directly into the camera. In ads aimed at women, the woman is often looking off to the side (not always, but far more often than with men). Why is that? Because the point of the ad aimed at women is to help a woman imagine herself as that person. She’s not looking at you; you’re being her, being watched. Being assessed.

We think of feminity and worth as other people watching us and liking what they see.

That’s just a perfect storm for lots of confidence issues and problems (and is another reason I wish we’d redefine biblical womanhood so it’s not about being wanted).

Sexual confidence, though, is really very similar to confidence in general. It’s enjoying life with gusto. It’s being passionate about life in general. And you know that you are a special, exciting person.

This takes channeling some of your feelings of passion into other things. Volunteer at church. Take up a hobby you love. Start making TikTok videos to change the world! It doesn’t matter what it is. But find life in other areas of your life as well.

When the only place that you really feel alive is in sex, then you will always feel rejected or “less than” if he doesn’t want it as much. But when you turn yourself onto all of life, when you seek out God’s calling on you and get excited about the things that God gets excited about, then sexual rejection will less be a rejection of you but rather a rejection of passion.

A sexually confident woman recognizes the difference between a problem and a preference–and honors preferences.

I’ve talked about this before (and I talked about it in an Instagram Live I did on Friday about this reader question), but researchers have found that in general more sex = higher marital satisfaction. The impact of having more sex, though, starts to decline the more sex you have (the law of diminishing returns, for you economics lovers). And once you get to having sex everyday (or even multiple times a day), often marital satisfaction is negatively impacted.

But what researchers have found, and what we found too, is that the magic number seems to be once a week. When people have sex at least once a week, marriages tend to do pretty well. It’s not that they don’t do better with multiple times a week (they do), but the amount of marital satisfaction that is added by adding one extra sex session a week is significantly less than the jump to once a week.

So I like to think of once a week as my problem/preference delineation. 

If you want to have sex four times a week, and he’s happy with once a week, that’s a preference issue, and you need to honor each other and compromise. If he wants to just do the missionary position and you want a whole lot of other things–again, that’s a preference, and you honor preferences.

If he’d rather have sex once every two weeks or once a month, though, that’s a problem and a signal that something else is going on that really does need to be dealt with–as it is with this couple.

We do need to honor preferences (and we should expect our spouse to honor our preferences too, and you can talk about this). But when things fall into the problem category AND it’s not a super busy time at work or you don’t have a newborn or you’re not in the middle of grief or something, then that is something that is likely best dealt with by seeing a medical professional or a licensed counselor (or ensuring no porn is involved).

One more thought about compromising: it can feel incredibly unfair and like you’re frustrated all the time to settle for once a week when you want more. But if he’s enjoying the once a week, then part of marriage is also learning how to honor your husband. I know that’s tough–but believe me, it’s the same advice that we give to men with the higher libidos too!

This balance is played out in the next two points:

A sexually confident woman recognizes that the sexual relationship encompasses far more than the bedroom, and puts emphasis on other parts of the relationship as well.

When you’re sexually frustrated, it’s easy to feel that as a profound rejection by your spouse, and to feel anger and resentment that will flood over into other parts of the relationship.

But a confident woman recognizes that her sex drive is a part of her, but is not her. She can still make choices how she will respond. And she puts emphasis on other parts of the relationship, even when it’s difficult. She tries to encourage her husband. She tries to spend time with him doing things that they both will enjoy. She tries to do low-stress things with him that will lower the tension level of the relationship and bring more laughter in. She knows that even if sex isn’t as frequent as she would like, she can still feel emotionally and spiritually connected with her husband in other ways, and she realizes that those are also important parts of her to nurture.

A sexually confident woman addresses things that need to be addressed, because she knows that sex is not a petty need but an important part of the relationship.

At the same time, when sex becomes very infrequent, she knows that this goes beyond a preference into a problem that is hurting both her and her husband. She knows that this does need to be addressed, because sex is an important part both of the relationship but also of who both of us are.

When men especially run away from sex (when there are not medical issues or porn issues or stress issues involved), there is often a fear of vulnerability. They may try to keep themselves walled off emotionally in some way, because vulnerability and passion are threatening. This is something that needs to be addressed for his own sake, not just because of her sexual frustration. It’s holding him back from enjoying all of life, and likely keeping him from real emotional growth.

When you see a man who rarely wants to do anything other than a very precise order of particular foreplay–one position, that could also be a clue that vulnerability is scary.

It’s okay to say, “this is a serious issue. There is something wrong that we need to deal with, and I would like to see us grow–not just in the bedroom.” And if he just won’t budge, then see a licensed counselor yourself so you can find your voice and learn to draw boundaries!

The biggest problem when you’re the higher drive person is how to advocate for more sex and intimacy in marriage.

You don’t want to do so in a shaming way that will push your spouse away.

It’s all too easy to do so out of anger and rejection–which will also push your spouse away.

That’s why a big part of sexual confidence is owning your own feelings around sex and not projecting them onto your spouse (“You’re making me so frustrated/you’re depriving me/ you’re making me miserable”). Instead, when you approach your spouse to talk about it, the purpose is to grow your relationship and to do what is best for your spouse. You are iron sharpening iron, not just someone who wants to get their desires met.

And that also means realizing that focusing on other parts of your relationship can grow you emotionally too! See this as a time of emotional growth for yourself, but also a chance for you to discern how to help your marriage grow too.

Not out of anger. Not out of resentment. Not out of frustration.

But out of love and a genuine desire to see the best for both of you!

The Great Sex Rescue

Changing the conversation about sex & marriage in the evangelical church.

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

Sexual Confidence as the Higher Drive wife

What do you think? Do you find the rejection and frustration just too difficult to deal with? How do you get your husband to talk about these issues? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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20 Comments

  1. Elsie

    I’m grateful that you address higher drive wives since we are often treated like we don’t exist!

    My husband usually wants sex about once a month, sometimes twice. He rarely initiates. In the beginning of our marriage, I initiated often and we did have sex about once a week. Then as my work got busier and more stressful, I was no longer able to remember to initiate all the time and our sex life dwindled to once or twice a month. I’ve had serious conversations with my husband about how we need more physical contact (even if not sex, at least some kissing or cuddling or something) but things don’t change.

    So my question is how this intersects with mental load. I used to carry most of the mental load of housework and we have fortunately been able to make the situation more equal (thanks to a lot of initiative and work from me, my husband was agreeable to adopting a new system but did no work to build that new system). I know if we want to fix our sex life I will be the one who does all the work, whether it is initiating more, having more conversations or asking my husband to go to couples counseling, all of that work will fall on me because I’m the one who cares and my husband is happy with the current situation.

    I don’t have the energy and motivation to do all this work. Until my husband decides that there is a problem, I don’t see any point in putting all this work into our sex life to try to make it better. It seems like one more thing that is being added to my already very full plate. What is your advice to wives when their husbands won’t share in the mental load of their sex life?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Elsie, that’s just really tough. I’m sorry. And I guess at this point it’s a question of picking your battles. At this point in your life, if you’re super busy, it may not be the time. If you can live with the way things are, then perhaps that’s what you do until you have more emotional bandwidth to invest more into it. I think the big thing is to communicate that to him that this is your choice–“I don’t think things are good; I want X and Y and Z, but I also don’t have the energy right now to make that happen. I’m hoping and praying that one day you may prioritize those things too and help make them happen, rather than waiting for me to. But for now, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing until I have more energy.”

      And I am sorry. That must be lonely.

      Reply
      • Elsie

        Thanks for your response and encouragement, Sheila! I do hope that one day my husband and I will have a more frequent sex life. I don’t comment much, but I’m grateful for your ministry. The mental load series had the biggest positive impact on our marriage out of any relationship advice I’ve ever received. Your blog has been such a blessing for my marriage.

        Reply
    • L Johnson Scott

      Hi Elsie,

      I can only imagine how sad and frustrated you must be right now.

      I would recommend seeing a licensed professional counselor to help you both navigate sharing the “mental load” in your relationship as well as work on your sexual relationship together. Especially as you anticipate getting pregnant and having children this is very important to work out your husband and you working together to have a healthy marriage and to your own mental and physical health too.

      If he won’t go with you, please go yourself so you can get the support you need so you don’t have to carry these burdens by yourself.

      Reply
  2. Jen

    Thanks for discussing frequency and putting some norms/averages out there. That information helps to offset those other toxic teachings my husband and I are releasing. How refreshing to have data driven information that we can use as a starting place to discuss what meets our needs as individuals and as a couple. We are shedding the garbage and living in truth! Hallelujah!!

    Also, great job offering life-giving commentary on these topics. What you’re saying in this article lines up with everything I’m learning in therapy and from mental health/trauma informed sources. I appreciate the time and care you take to offer quality insights.

    Reply
  3. Ying and Yang

    “If you want to have sex four times a week, and he’s happy with once a week, that’s a preference issue, and you need to honor each other and compromise. If he wants to just do the missionary position and you want a whole lot of other things–again, that’s a preference, and you honor preferences.”

    So, I agree, it’s a preference, but who’s preferences do you honor? Always the lower drive spouse? It feels like “Compromise” always means the higher drive spouse get’s ignored – it’s not really compromise because there is no movement on one side – it’s one sided compromise which is no compromise at all. To me, that doesn’t pass the “reasonable” test. It sounds very one-sided and not what God wants in a relationship.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is really difficult. I would give the same advice to both–you honor the other’s preferences. I think the best way to get a lower drive spouse to want sex more, though, is to talk about it less in terms of “I’m sexually frustrated” and more in terms of “sex gives both of us so much–why would we want to miss out on it? What gets your accelerators going? What makes you want sex more? how can we include more of that in our lives?” Like understand what the lower drive person needs to get things going, rather than just pressuring the lower drive spouse.

      And as for more adventure–that’s far more likely to happen when it grows organically out of safety and trust than when it grows out of pressure. So, yes, both should give to each other. But we should also recognize that sex is a unique thing. It’s intensely personal. It is vulnerable. And to pressure someone at their most vulnerable point is not healthy either. To build safety and trust and honor into the relationship, as well as more understanding, usually works better.

      Reply
  4. Sue

    Love seeing this topic covered.
    My husband and I are best friends, very connected, open and honest, and have wonderful sex.

    I have a higher sex drive for the most part.  Not that much higher, but enough that it created some really painful opportunities for growth in the beginning of our marriage.  I was so shocked that he didn’t want to have loads of sex like I had been taught men would want.  He was easily satisfied by a couple times a week early on and focused more on other connecting activities, our shared interests, quality time, chilling together.
    This caused a lot of insecurity on my part and shame on his part – a year of trying to understand eachother and set aside gender stereotypes and really learn to lean into what eachother actually needed and felt. 

    I read articles sometimes written about the way men treat women with lower drives and I am embarrassed to admit I mistreated my husband early in our marriage, because he was “supposed to be this other way.”

    Early in our marriage I also had some sexual disfunction, he would spend hours trying to help me orgasm.  This eventually resolved, but because he is such a selfless soul I think he had a hard time feeling like sex was a safe place for him too.  I just want to put this out there because I know often it is the reverse, where women are never pleased and feel like sex isn’t for them.  This can totally happen for men too.

    What helped us was always remembering that we are on the same team, not against eachother.  Always asking ourselves how can we make the way we approach this issue better for both of us..

    Years later durring certain seasons this issue will pop up.  He has a hard time unwinding with sex when he is under a lot of stress, where my drive tends to not be affected.  But there is a lot more understanding between us, a lot less judgment of eachother’s preferences.  We are so grateful for eachother and just want people to be more prepared than we were going into marriage.

    Reply
  5. Lauren

    This hit me HARD. In my marriage it began as me wanting it multiple times a week and my husband pushing for once. My husband was diagnosed with depression (which is partly what killed his libido) and his anti-depressants have helped him tremendously but squashed any bit of drive he had left. It has now been 2 years and I feel so far from him. I feel rejected, I feel undesirable, I’m angry. I’ve been working through this problems myself, reminding myself that my worth isn’t in whether I’m wanted for sex. I’ve given up trying to talk because nothing changes, and I desperately want us to see a counselor but he immediately comes back with “you think I’m a bad husband”. This whole article really made me feel better about how I’ve begun working on healing myself but what do you do when it seems so fundamentally broken? I don’t feel emotionally or spiritually close anymore…

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so hard, Lauren. But you know–if he has depression, he really should be seeing a counselor too. Most people recommend antidepressants in conjunction with a counselor. It’s okay to make this an issue if it’s really affecting your life like this. And you should also be able to bring up issues without your spouse saying, “You think I”m a bad husband/wife.” That’s just an attempt to deflect the conversation. That’s really not okay!

      Reply
    • Nikki

      Lauren, I’ve also been there. I’m in my 30s and went over two years without sex. We’ve probably had sex about five times in the last year which is much better but I was also the higher drive spouse before this so it feels like so broken. I told one friend when we were one year into the drought and her reaction was so shocked that I can’t bring myself to tell anyone else. I also do almost everything at home and we’ve three kids so I can’t get time to go to counseling myself, I mentioned marriage counseling once and got similar response. It’s really tough. I just wanted to say you’re not alone.

      Reply
  6. Hopeful

    I’ve struggled so much with being the much higher drive wife in our marriage.
    After 15 years of marriage we are finally at 4 times a month or a bit more. Which you say is normal , yet I find it soo hard to be satisfied with that. Even though it’s much better than it used to be.
    I’ve realized from reading your blog that I often have acted towards my husband , the way high drive husbands acted to their low libido wives. (Pressure, guilt trips, etc)I have been convicted by it, and am trying so hard to be content, even though I just am not.
    I appreciate your content that is directed at high drive wives very much, it makes me feel seen, and heard. It’s a very lonely life, always being rejected, and always feeling emotionally and sexually deprived.
    Just knowing others struggle with it too, is helpful.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry, Hopeful. I’m sure it is really difficult. I wish there were an easy answer I could give!

      Reply
  7. Kim

    I find the examples of “preferences” vs “problems” as lacking evidence based information. I don’t see how 1xweek is some magical number and that less is a problem and or more is just a preference and therefore not a problem. Also… why in the examples given are you having women cave to all male preferences? If he wants to have sex in this position only then that is a preference and you honor preferences. This makes sex sound like a legal contract… totally not fun

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      The studies about the once a week are quoted in The Great Sex Rescue–I can look up the endnotes if you want. But there is a rate of diminishing returns. Once a week sounds like the magic number where marital satisfaction is helped a lot–and beyond that it’s more marginal. That’s what we found in our survey of 20,000 women too. And I think it’s important to make a distinction between something that is honestly a problem and something where you’re not getting what you most want, but you’re honestly not that badly off.

      We don’t get everything we want in marriage. We have another person we have to adjust to, and their preferences and needs matter too. We can’t just railroad over a spouse who has a different libido than us and declare that they must do what we want. But at the same time, there is a point where it isn’t just a preference, and it has gone into problem territory, and it seems like the literature has identified once a week as a good measure of that. If someone truly never wants sex that often, and doesn’t try to get in the mood, then, yes, it’s likely a good idea to make an issue out of it.

      But as I say in an upcoming book, if you treat a preference like a problem, you will likely create a problem and make the whole situation worse (we have lots of evidence of that happening as well).

      So what would you suggest you do if one person wants sex 4 times a week and one person wants it once a week? What should the 4 times a week person do?

      Reply
  8. Rose

    Thanks so much for covering this important topic, and for so thoughtfully answering our comments. It is a powerful ministry.

    I am struggling with being the higher-drive spouse. My husband is kind and selfless beyond what I deserve or could ever ask for, but I can’t help interpreting his efforts to please me as an insult: “I’m not attractive enough for you to purely desire me sexually, so you initiating sex is an altruistic sacrifice to pacify my drive and not because you truly enjoy me.” I end up being disgusted with myself for wanting sex more than my husband.

    I’m curious about something I feel the Lord revealed to me recently. I felt like He showed me that my emotional pain is not so much rooted in my frustrated sex drive, and more in the fact that I want to feel wanted. I want my husband to genuinely desire me.

    I’m grateful for this revelation, but I don’t know what to do about it. How can I get to a healthier emotional place? My husband has low testosterone and may not ever be able to naturally desire me like I want to be desired. Do you have any advice about how I can deal with this pain?

    Thank you again for this ministry.

    Reply
  9. Eliza

    I’m going to offer my thoughts as someone who has always been the higher-drive spouse over 18 years of marriage, even when we were young and in the middle of pregnancy and babies, and now due to various chronic physical conditions on his part he is lucky to have one day a month when he has the ability to engage in sex while I would be happy to have it every day. That situation might get better some day as he is always working with his medical professionals to try to get better, but I also have to accept that it may never get better and will almost certainly end altogether long before I am ready for that.

    I definitely have been through all the doubts of desirability, frustration, being demanding, and these were really compounded by my husband’s deep shame over his own sexual desires due to purity culture. We’ve worked through a lot of baggage. And I couldn’t give an exact roadmap but now we are at a place where we can accept where both of us are.

    In some ways it’s a gift that my drive is so high–imagine if we were both low-drive, we might never match up. As it is, whatever day he gets lucky enough to have the energy, he knows I’ll be ready and eager. And the rest of the time we try to put more effort into that mid-range of touch you were talking about a few days ago–he knows that I have no expectation on him to manage sex if he can’t, so it’s OK for him to communicate that he finds me attractive and desirable even if his body is not cooperating. And it’s OK for me to communicate the same, it doesn’t mean I expect him to do anything about it.

    I’m still in the same state of physical sexual frustration that I’ve always been in, but it’s no longer an emotional drain. I’ve come to accept my high drive as just a part of who I am–as part of the strength and vitality that makes me able to care for my husband and family in the way that they need–as something that helps me feel alive. It doesn’t have to have an outlet all the time (or even hardly any of the time) to be a good and valuable part of me.

    Reply
  10. Lily

    I didn’t want to comment…. but since this is such a RARE THING, I absolutely have to share this in order to give others hope.

    I am a little short of being married for ten years. Yey! And ALL. OF. MY. FRIENDS. have a crazy husband who wants sex every day or every other day and I actually had to set myself a personal boundary to NOT talk about sex to girlfriends ever because it just causes sadness to me – especially if I know their husband’s and see them often it just gets weird!!!

    Anyway, I’m a pretty high sex drive person and just like many, I also grew up telling myself that I’ll have to have set with my husband whether I want it or not and I must do so everyday.

    Only to find out that he didn’t want it everyday! At first, it was a HUGE problem and I struggled so so much internally, but knew that it would be so wrong to shame him about it so I was quiet. He’s an amazing man and sex is SO good with him. He always makes sure that I’m satisfied and the whole thing lasts about two hours (maybe thats why it makes sense to not do it that often). Anyway, I put ALL my desires into God’s hands and got to the point where ALL my needs and wants are completely satisfied in His presence. What a wonderful thing that has done to our marriage! When I was pregnant, I was always up for sex, but he was TERRIFIED to cause the baby harm 😅

    I realized that each marriage goes through so many seasons. There are times when we had sex the amount of times that I loved. Now we moved and are living at laws while remodeling and its been a month since last time we had it 🙄 but, I know its because of the obvious reasons. Of course, I wish he would be wild enough to just want me all the time but nearing our ten years- we really know each other well and it doesn’t bother me too much. On days when I want to feel extra loved, I ask for a massage or something indirect to the act. Sometimes that gets us going.

    I stopped initiating like I used to and just allow him to want me by indirectly initiating it… asking for a massage, offering a massage with no sex pressure, cuddling while watching a movie, kissing for long while saying goodbye when he leaves for work, going to sleep naked “just because I like to”.

    I almost started doing the opposite and if he reaches out to touch me sometimes I say “no I’m exhausted” and it seems to give him a “mission” to seduce me all the more. In essence, giving him an opportunity to “chase me”.

    The Holy spirit is the one who has been giving me all sorts of ideas to test out and try. Its been an amazing journey and I can say that I NOW prefer a respectful man who doesn’t force anything on me, especially with three kids – I can’t imagine having to have sex every day!!! (I feel like I had a process in prayer where my drive because much less and sort of matches my husband’s drive- which has been amazing. We have sex once every one or two weeks. Of course, I will never share this with my friends.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      thank you for sharing that, Lily! I love how you focused on your relationship and your own unique husband, and how you’ve not just come to peace with this but that you really embrace it. That’s beautiful.

      Reply

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