Does Your Husband Need Sex?

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Until recently, it has been part of the Christian marriage narrative that men need sex. Christian marriage books over the decades have repeatedly claimed that sex is a primary need for guys in marriage. In many marriages (but not all), husbands would eagerly nod their heads in agreement. 

That assumption has now been challenged for a few key reasons. First, more women are speaking out about their sexual desires in marriage. What about a wife’s sexual needs? In approximately 25% of marriages (which is no small number), the woman is the one expressing the greater sexual desire. Secondly, some are sounding the alarm of unhealthy and abusive patterns resulting from the narrative of a “husband’s sexual need.” 

I’ve heard Christian speakers say things like, “A woman should never say no to her husband’s sexual advances.” If he needs sex and you’re the only one who can give it to him, sex becomes less romantic than cooking him dinner. If you have followed this advice, you may feel like a “sex dispenser,” just there to meet your husband’s biological needs. Even if you once liked sex, all pleasure and anticipation may have been drained out of it.

This is certainly not God’s design for sexuality in marriage. A couple who operates with this thinking is likely to experience no “intimacy” in sexual intimacy.

On the other hand, it is unloving to cling to a posture of consistently denying one another sex in marriage. God’s Word tells us that regular sex should be a priority in marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says that both the husband and wife have an obligation to minister to each other sexually. (To learn more about this idea, listen to "Is Good Sex a 'Right' in Marriage?" and read "How To Go From Demand and 'Duty Sex' to True Sexual Intimacy.")

How do we value the importance of sex within marriage without sex becoming an on-demand obligation?

Rethinking the Word “Need”

We have a strange relationship to the word need in our society. We claim to need everything from a cup of Starbucks to the most recent smartphone. In reality, we need very little to survive: food, shelter, community, and family. However, there are other things we don’t need for survival but are necessary to function in our world. For example, you don’t need a car . . . but you do. You won’t die without a car, but unless you live in a big city, it would be very difficult to navigate life without one. We also have emotional needs, like feeling loved and valued. While we won’t die without feeling loved, we also may not want to keep living.

Think of sex in a similar vein. No one needs sex, but a marriage needs sexual intimacy to thrive. Intimacy in the bedroom is directly correlated to overall marital happiness. When a couple regularly engages in sex, even their body chemistry is working to build a positive emotional connection. Hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin released during sex have been shown to reinforce bonding and even discourage sexual temptation.1 

God has wired our bodies to express the importance of sexual intimacy, whether it is the husband or wife who prompts the other. In the majority of marriages, the husband is the more constant reminder of the priority of sexual intimacy. Because he has more testosterone and his body is wired to respond sexually, it’s usually on his mind much more often than it’s on hers. Some sex therapists refer to this as “initiating sexual desire.” 

Beyond an Obligation

A good man will not only want sex, he will want his wife to enjoy it. It’s not enough to give him your body while the rest of you is mentally a thousand miles away. The most satisfied husband is the man who has a satisfied wife.

If you’ve fallen into the pattern of “checking the sex box” to meet your husband’s needs, it’s likely that neither of you feel sexually fulfilled. Your response to that statement might be, “You mean I have to like it too! Can’t I just fake it?” Instead of seeing this as even more of an obligation, step back and consider it as good news. Your husband isn’t fully satisfied just to have a physical release; he wants intimacy with you. He wants to build sexual memories with you and learn how to bring you pleasure. This means that you are not just a sexual object to him. He wants you to be his lover—to have fun and explore each other.

In order to accept his invitation, you may need to switch gears mentally. Your sexual relationship will never be fulfilling if it is oriented only around your husband’s needs. 

Here are three practical things you can do to nurture your sexual desire without simply meeting your husband’s “need.” 

1. Say "No" So You Can Say "Yes"

One of the problems with the “never say no” policy is that it creates a dynamic in marriage in which sex revolves exclusively around a husband’s needs. Instead of saying no, I’d encourage you to say “not now.” In other words, if you had sex right when your husband asks, you may be distracted, exhausted, or frustrated and not able to enjoy it. Even a willing wife will grow resentful with this pattern. 

While many men have an “initiating desire” for sex, the majority of women have a “receptive sexual desire.” This means that even if you aren’t thinking about wanting sex, you have the capacity to fully enjoy it once things get going. This means you may need time to relax, think about sex, and anticipate being together. 

When your husband initiates, consider giving him a time within the next 48 hours when you will be ready to say yes. This gives you time to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally so that sex can be fulfilling to you too. It also teaches your husband to consider your needs instead of just communicating his.

2. Invest in Your Sex Life

Unless you have have a high sex drive, experiencing sexual arousal and fulfillment takes some effort on your part. Your sexual appetite will be little to none unless you work on developing it. 

There are many ways to invest in your sex life. For some women, saving energy for sex and investing in some sexy underwear may be helpful. For others, you may be confronting significant barriers like unresolved conflict or triggers from past trauma. Investing in sex might require you to work through the pain, shame, or lies that keep you from experiencing sexual freedom and pleasure. 

You may also need to encourage your husband to “invest” in your sex life by learning about your sexual response, engaging in foreplay, and being willing to engage in counseling when needed.

3. Shift Your Paradigm

For the first decade of my marriage, I thought of my husband’s sex drive as a curse. My mental dialogue sounded like this: Not again! Didn’t we just do it? I’ve learned over the years to view my husband’s desire for me to be a gift rather than an obligation. This has been a major paradigm shift that has changed the atmosphere of our love life.

One day Mike asked me, “Aren’t you glad that I want to be with you all the time? Isn’t it a good thing that I desire you and want to be intimate with you?” I had to agree with him. If it weren’t for sexual intimacy, Mike might get lost in his own world and be content for weeks without connecting with me. This one special part of our relationship causes him to think about me often. Our sex life makes our relationship different than every other relationship he has.

Instead of lamenting the fact that your husband needs sex, why not celebrate that your husband needs you

 

God has given the gift of sex not just for the immediate experience of intercourse, but for the intimacy forged through a lifetime of navigating desire, obstacles, and even disappointment. Simply approaching sex as a need to be met will shortcut the more significant work of two people learning to become one.

 

Want to learn more?


1 https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795

 

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  • Nancy Pone

    Nancy Pone

    Thank you for bravely saying this. Thank you for stating that the the words "I need" must always be immediately followed by the words "in order to". And that sexual intercourse in and of itself-even in marriage-is not equivalent with sexual intimacy. (You could have perhaps saved me months of counseling were this written a few years ago lol!) I think Willard F Haley Jr. makes marriage palpable in his illustrations, but if not careful, boil marriage down to an economic transaction...short changing the picture of Christ and his agape (and yadda!) love and his power that is present for us, and from us in a Godly marriage.
  • Carla  Heinrichs

    Carla Heinrichs

    Thank you for this post. Although I feel more pressure now to be more present during intimacy! I am one of those women who used to enjoy but now would rather read a book. I hate that I feel this way and have prayed about it and spoken with trusted friends without gaining much hope of things changing. I love my husband very much and I know we need physical intimacy as part of our marriage but I wish there was a little blue pill to help me enjoy it and want it. I just plain feel discouraged no matter how much I try.
  • sarahsalith

    sarahsalith

    I have spent so much time and money to hear someone say this. Thank you. Although, it is SO MUCH EASIER TO WRITE THAN TO IMPLEMENT IN LIFE. My husband “needs” sex every day. I am now checking the box just so I can go to sleep. We have eight kids, but most importantly, I stay at home with or take to work two toddler boys and I’m pregnant and I. AM. TIRED. However, that does not deter him. I wish he would understand. He just gets upset when I say something like “let’s wait”. I love him and I wish he would love me the way I would like to be loved.
  • John Prin

    John Prin

    Speaking as a husband of 35+ years, at last I’ve read a woman’s thoughts about sex that resonate strongly with my own. Here are my Top Ten reasons. Yes, intimacy in the bedroom is directly correlated to marital happiness. Yes, God has wired our bodies to express the importance of sexual intimacy. Yes, regular sex should be a priority in marriage. Yes, most men not only want sex, they want their wives to enjoy it. Yes, the most satisfied husband is the man who has satisfied his wife. Yes, consider it good news when he wants to build sexual memories with you and learn how to bring you great pleasure. Yes, view your husband’s desire for you as a gift rather than an obligation. Yes, he understands you may be distracted, exhausted, or frustrated and not able to enjoy it. Yes, give him a time within the next 24 hours when you will be ready to say yes. Yes, celebrate that your husband needs you. Yes, yes, yes!
  • Chet

    Chet

    Great article. I too am a veteran in marriage. I had to chuckle as I read your article, cause it's so unlike anything I've ever experienced in my years of marriage. I think the work you've been doing is invaluable and so helpful for anyone that wants help. To be quite honest with you, I've found that most women are totally opposed to talking about anything having to do with what they're doing sexually in a marriage. They may say they are , but it's like a sacred cow. I congratulate you and encourage you to keep on doing it. Your work would have been helpful 30 years ago for me. For the women coming along today, it may save their marriages. Godspeed.
  • John Prin

    John Prin

    I sympathize with you, Chet. Seems we’ve struggled with similar issues in our long term marriages. I agree that “. . . most women are totally opposed to talking about anything having to do with what they're doing sexually in a marriage. They may say they are, but . . . ” Same goes for pastors and leaders in the church who shy away from the topic and relinquish their responsibility to the secular culture. It saddens me, and this sorrow has surfaced often -- sadness for my wife’s lack of intimacy as much as my own, and even for God, who is the third member of our marriage. Surely we have fallen short of His ideal, and He must be saddened as well. I am praying for Juli’s work and her new book to open up productive dialogue for everyone involved, leading to renewal and healing for us all.
  • Mom's Girl

    Mom's Girl

    Still new to this marriage gig after almost 16 years. :) Great article! My question is what if your husband doesn't seem to even need or want sex but once a month, if that. He's admitted after surveys from marriage conferences that he's guilty of "just sex". I can't seem to get him to talk to about it and how I think we should work on all the aspects of intimacy in our marriage, but he won't talk.At all. My concern is sincere, but he just clams up. Any words of wisdom?
  • Chet

    Chet

    Mom's Girl....I saw your reply. I am not a counselor in any way, and my opinion is offered as just that. I do not pretend to have all the answers, neither do I pretend to think my opinion is the only right one. I simply trade ideas with people because I enjoy people. My opinions are based on 35+ years of marriage and a whole lot of interesting conversations with people....and a whole lot of eaves dropping on others conversations. I am a Christian, and what I say is offered with a realism that life can be tough, and marriage sometimes brutal. Having said that, your situation is different than what I was complaining about in my post. God did an interesting thing when he made men completely visual, and women not so much so. Like always, he seemed to complement one sex with the other. Assuming you've not made him totally angry with you, and I say this jokingly, but equally serious, you should use that factor of creation to your advantage. Assuming he's wired like men typically are, maybe that's the answer. You asked for words of wisdom, so you may say you've already tried that, and it didn't work. Most I've talked to seem to say there's only three possibilities from that point. 1) Sexual fulfillment from somewhere else, 2) some sort of same sex attraction, 3) some medical situation that can be corrected. As to this last one, if I hear another Low T commercial, I'll go crazy. It is, however, something that many men deal with, so it can't be discounted. Hope the answers can be found. This is a wonderful work they do on this website, so I'm sure there may be others that have opinions also. Hope it works out. 16 years is a long time, obviously you're very committed, and are desiring to make it all it can be. Just my opinion, hope it has helped in some way!
  • Laura Taggart

    Laura Taggart

    I find it fascinating that oxytocin, the loyal bonding hormone, surges in our bodies during sex which is the only time our husband's level matches ours. Having sex truly does cause him to feel emotionally close! I used to be dismissive when my husband told me he loved me after sex thinking, "Why don't you tell me more often when I'm pulling weeds or cleaning dishes." I've come to realize he really feels it following sex!"
  • Tim Alvey

    Tim Alvey

    “No matter how tired or distracted you are, never say no when your wife wants to talk or cuddle.” Isn't this an axiom in our culture?

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