Excerpted from 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy by Dr. Juli Slattery. © 2015 by Moody Publishers. Used with Permission.
I get asked this a lot. The woman often sheepishly approaches me at an event and says, “I’m one of those women you talked about who has a higher sex drive than my husband. What should I do?”
Because women in this situation defy the stereotype, they sometimes feel shame and inadequacy. I must not be pretty or sexy enough. Is there something wrong with me? For many women, the "men always want sex" stereotype has been fed to them for so many years that they assume their husband will always be initiating and constantly in the mood. When he isn't, they sit silently and make a list of all the things that must be wrong with them. STOP!
Practically every couple has difficulties to overcome in their sexual relationship. Each husband and wife has their own unique set of strengths, weaknesses, and areas of incompatibility. If this is something you’re struggling with, please don’t add to it by assuming there must be something wrong with you.
Despite what you might have picked up in Christian circles, there is nothing in the Bible that says that a husband should or does have a higher sex drive than his wife. In fact, the Bible assumes that both the husband and wife have sexual needs. I Corinthians 7 records Paul’s teaching that many use to promote a “wifely duty.” Here is the passage:
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer (I Corinthians 7:3-5a).
Did you notice that a “husbandly duty” is mentioned even before the “wifely duty?” Interesting, huh? Even in Paul’s day there were probably women who were frustrated by the lack of sex in their marriage.
Have you and your husband talked about this issue? Because these are such sensitive topics, many couples only address sexual differences when they are fighting. Instead of talking, they settle into patterns that lead to rejection and frustration. You initiate or hint toward intimacy and he turns you down. You get angry and lash out or avoid him. This kind of pattern becomes ingrained until even the mention of sex becomes a powder keg. Both husband and wife feel misunderstood and marginalized. You will never solve the problem until you learn to talk about it with the goal of understanding each other and getting on the same team.
One of the first things to do is start a conversation with your spouse and not assume the worst. One wife put it like this:
I would count how many nights in a row we weren't having sex and feel worse and worse about myself and our marriage. As friends were saying things like "I can't get my husband off of me! I can't even change in front of him because he always wants it," guilt and insecurities filled my mind. After months of frustration, I sat down with my husband and explained that I felt like we weren't having enough sex. He responded with "I never would have thought that. Why don't you ever tell me you want it or initiate?" I realized that I had carried the expectation that men will always pursue, and I hadn't shared my desire and drive with my husband. My sex drive is still higher than his, but instead of filling myself with guilt, I have now learned to talk with my spouse and show him my needs. Initiating isn't just a man's job! This has not only helped my internal struggle, but our marriage as well.
Problems or conflicts become much more manageable when you can talk them through without blaming or hurting one another. Spend time asking God to show you the right time, to give you a sensitive heart, and the right words to express yourself.
We need to distinguish between a wife who has a higher sex drive and a marriage in which the husband never wants sex. One situation represents a normal difference in desire while the other likely indicates a deeper underlying problem.
If you tend to be the one to initiate sex, but your husband is eager and responsive, I wouldn’t worry about it. While men typically think about sex more often than their wives, this is not always the case. There are some men who are more comfortable expressing love verbally or by enjoying activities with their wives. Other men avoid initiating sexually because they are afraid of rejection, but are eager to engage when their wife initiates.
While men and women have various sexual appetites, it’s not normal for a man never to want sex with his wife. If your husband is simply not interested in sex, it’s important for both of you to understand and address what is getting in the way of his desire for and enjoyment of sex.
Sometimes, the problem is a physical roadblock, like thyroid disease, low testosterone levels, medications that interfere with sex drive or performance, obesity or exhaustion. Stress, grief and depression can also lower sex drive.
One question I’d encourage you to ask yourself: do you think your husband feels dominated or overpowered by you? In some marriages in which a husband isn’t sexually aggressive, he is also passive in other areas of the relationship. When a wife is bossy or critical, sometimes this impacts a man’s confidence and results in sexual passivity. If this describes your marriage, I’d encourage you to pick up a book I wrote called Finding the Hero in Your Husband. It will show you how to use your power as a wife to build up your husband in every area, including sexually.
Your husband could also be dealing with an emotional trauma like childhood sexual abuse. As difficult as it is for a woman to talk about molestation, it is infinitely more uncomfortable for men. Dr. Dan Allender’s The Wounded Heart and Cecil Murphey’s When a Man You Love Was Abused are wonderful resources, in addition to counseling, in helping you and your husband work through painful past issues.
Sadly, some men have other sexual outlets that keep them from desiring sex with their wives. An extramarital affair, habitual masturbation, a sexual fetish he is too ashamed to admit, or porn use could all come between the two of you.
A lot of men were introduced to porn as boys and engaged with it throughout their teen and young adult life. The images from the past are seared into the brain and impact a man’s sexual response in his marriage even years later. His brain is trained only to respond to more and more graphic sexual stimuli, so he is unable to enjoy normal sex with his wife.
As you might imagine, it is very difficult for a husband to admit to his wife that he is engaged with porn or some other form of immorality. Instead, he makes excuses and often continues secretly with porn, masturbation or other sexual outlet that will keep up with the demand.
The encouraging news is that we can rewire our brains to learn a healthy sexual response. As porn impacts more and more marriages, God is raising up men and women to minister in this area of redeeming male and female sexuality. A list of trusted resources and counseling centers is included at this website.
The truth is that while marriage is intended to fulfill our sexual needs and desires, millions of married men and women are sexually unsatisfied. Many who bail on marriage do so because of their sexual disappointment and frustration.
I encourage couples to do everything they can to meet each other’s sexual needs. If sexual intercourse isn’t possible, find other ways to enjoy sexual intimacy together. Teenagers seem to be able to figure out how to be sexually intimate without having sex--why can’t we?
Don’t allow this issue to be swept under the carpet. Even the Bible says that sex is an important part of marriage that should not be neglected. If your needs are vastly different than your husband’s needs, work together to find the right balance or compromise for mutual sexual fulfillment.
You may have a spouse who is unwilling or unable to sexually satisfy you. While sex is an important part of marriage, remember that it is not the most important part. Marriages ultimately don’t die because people stop having sex; they die when people stop keeping their promises.
God cares deeply about the covenant you and your husband made with each other. He also understands the limitations and longings of these bodies of ours. Because sex seems like such an earthy part of life, we often don’t bring our sexual concerns and frustrations to God. I would encourage you, friend, to pour out your heart to the Lord. Ask Him to bless your sex life but also ask Him to use the difficulties and frustrations to help you become more like Him.