I Am the Higher Drive Spouse (or Yes, Rejection Hurts)

"I want you to want me." - Cheap Trick

Last week, I posted that just because he has stopped asking, that doesn’t mean he has stopped wanting physical intimacy. Within the post and in my tweets about it, I acknowledged that it could actually be SHE who has stopped asking and still wants. Statistics vary, but in perhaps 20-25% of marriages, the WIFE is the higher drive spouse.

Currently, my marriage is in that 20-25%. I’ve experienced all three possible situations: My husband and I have been equally matched in libido; then my libido took a massive drop, and his remained high; and more recently, his has decreased, while mine has increased. So that now, I desire sex more frequently than my husband.

Which means that I’ve been on the rejection end.

Let me clarify that my marriage’s sex life is solid, and that our “rejections” are more like passes until a better time. (See Rain Check Sex.) I know that some, or perhaps even many, of you have received harsh refusals of your advances, and that pain is particularly deep.

However, I know how it feels to get yourself all geared up and feel that fire in your belly and want to express your love for your mate in sexually intimate ways . . . and get a “not now.” It stinks.

In that moment, I sometimes wonder if it was my presentation. Like maybe my belly fat really has crossed the line over into my being unattractive physically to him. Or maybe I came on too strong. Or maybe I worded my desire badly.

I’ll wonder if my timing was off. Would he have been interested 30 minutes earlier? In the morning? Right when he got home from work?

I’ll wonder if there is something wrong with me. Am I too interested in sex? Should I be able to tone it down? Shouldn’t the husband be pursuing the wife?

Now I don’t wonder such things at other times because, as I said, solid sex life. My husband and I have fostered our physical intimacy in a way that satisfies and honors God. But in those moments when the “not now” happens, I know that heart-sinking feeling of rejection. I know the frustration of feeling pent-up with no immediate outlet for your desire. I know the doubts that creep into your mind.

I haven’t walked a mile in your moccasins, but I have tried them on.

Reading the comments from last week’s post, it was clear that rejection hurts whether experienced by the wife or the husband. The saddest statements were from those who wished that their sex drive would simply go away so that they could avoid the pain of rejection and simply enjoy the remaining areas of their marriage. That is not God’s intention for marriage! But I could hear the heartache in the way these spouses explained their feelings of frustration and loneliness.

So what is the answer for the mismatch in drives?

Well, there are really two scenarios:

1. Spouses are willing to work together to meet each others’ needs. There are plenty of marriages in which one spouse has a stronger libido than the other, but it works out just fine. Perhaps the lower-drive spouse participates anyway and enjoys the intimacy, even if they don’t desire for it beforehand. Perhaps the couple negotiates an amount of sex that is higher than the lower-drive spouse would choose, and lower than the higher-drive spouse would choose, but both are satisfied. Some may choose to have sex less, but for longer periods of time. Or more frequent, but for less time each encounter. Some may use lubricant or marital aids to get things rolling for the lower-drive spouse. Neither is depriving the other of marital intimacy, and both are considering the others’ needs (1 Corinthians 7:4-5; Philippians 2:1-4).

Whatever works here, as long as it works, the mismatch in drives is well-managed and results in two happy spouses.

But then, there is . . .

2. Lower-drive spouse refuses and won’t listen to the higher-drive spouse’s desire for intimacy and pain of rejection. That’s a whole other ball game, folks. At the core of the problem here is selfishness — and it can be from either side or both sides. The lower-drive spouse may refuse sex because they don’t personally want it, but they also refuse to see how their actions negatively impact the other. They may brush off the advances, make excuses, participate so little in sex that they say they are meeting the need but really aren’t, or even mock their spouse’s libido level. OR the higher-drive spouse may demand sex, pursue constantly, ignore the lower-drive spouse’s need for atmosphere or foreplay to get in the mood, or even cite scriptures and appeal to a sense of duty to get what they want.

But selfishness is the culprit here. Thus, the question becomes less about how to avoid or get sex than how to foster communication, understanding, and unity. How can the two become one flesh, even in their approach to sexuality in marriage?

I admit that #2 is harder to solve. What I have heard from couples is that various methods have cracked through the barrier to satisfying marital intimacy. Examples include marital counseling; one spouse hearing a sermon or reading an article that finally awakened them to the hurt caused by their actions; an extramarital affair or near-affair jolting the couple into addressing these issues.

However, I want you to take heart. If your marriage is currently one in which your drives are mismatched, there are answers. Couples who can communicate and work with each other can find solutions to address the libido difference, and couples who cannot currently communicate and work together can find healing in the future.

While I read tales of pain and heartache in marriage, I also read stories of hope and joy. Check out these comments:

Please don’t feel ‘relieved’ when your HD spouse stops pursuing you . . . I speak from experience! I never realized what depths of pain I was causing my husband . . . It is only through the grace, mercy and love of God that we are still together and thank goodness I finally “saw the light” so to speak. Our sex life is now better than ever and I see what a difference ‘ministering’ to my husband in that way makes.

My wife and I experienced a sort of re-awakening of our whole relationship about 3 months ago, including dramatically increased sex. We went from an average of about twice a month (for many years) to, I kid you not, twice a day . . .  Oh, btw, I’m 56, wifey is 51. I’m hoping to keep up this pace for another 20-30 years.

Hi, this is the wifey of Mr. Anonymous. What he didn’t tell you is that we’ve been married for 30 years . . . “by chance” through wandering around on Pinterest (praise God for Pinterest!!) I found Sheila Gregoire and her blog and read this post and man! my eyes were opened to how my husband truly feels about sex. I was so thrilled to have discovered this post, as it revolutionized our marriage . . . That post and others in her series, and eventually Sheila’s e-book 31 Days to Great Sex opened up a whole new world to me/us and we are experiencing true intimacy on every level and amazing sex! And with the help of male bloggers like you, Paul, and J on the women’s side we are learning so much good stuff to enhance our relationship.

This is a sampling of what I’ve seen on my blog and others. I have had a glimpse of the pain of rejection. I know some husbands and wives experience far more. But don’t relinquish hope.

More and more Christians are speaking up about godly sex in marriage. As this movement of reclaiming sexuality as God designed it spreads, more lower-drive spouses will hear the message, take it to heart, and discover a reawakening in their marriage.

Rejection hurts. But healing happens.

Continue to pray. Continue to hope. Continue to love.

8 thoughts on “I Am the Higher Drive Spouse (or Yes, Rejection Hurts)

  1. Larry B

    Thanks J for addressing this topic thoroughly in your recent essays. This scenario is present in many marriages and can be a serious source of conflict and emotional pain. But it does not need to be so. The spouses can work together as you suggest so that needs for love and affection and sexual pleasure are met.

    It is also the case, as you pointd out, that the higher drive and the lower drive spouses can change over time and the roles be reversed.

  2. Paul Byerly

    J – Brilliant post!

    There is another issue that is often a part of #2, especially when the wife is the lower drive spouse. There is a common opinion out there that men are “over sexed” and that their sex drive is primarily selfishness. They do not need sex, and most of their want is childish. If a woman buys into this lie, it is easy to see saying no as reasonable, and maybe even see it as right. Of course this is often mostly justification for her selfishness, but I think some women who are not being selfish buy into the lie.

  3. Anonymous

    J, I can not get enough of your blog posts right now. A friend of mine shared your blog with me when my marriage hit crisis mode when my husband finally shut down after being rejected for so many years of our marriage. It took that crisis for me to wake up. And while I am happy to be awake, I am so sad at the same time. I can honestly say that I just didn’t know. I didn’t know what I was doing to my husband by not engaging in a healthy, fun, enjoyable, desire filled sex life. And now that I realize what it has done to him and the deep rejection and hurt that it caused, I am so sad for the years that have been lost that I can’t make up. I am SOOO thankful for this site because I feel it is what God used to open my eyes. I have a really big uphill battle in front of me to win back my husband’s trust and desire, but when I read your post, it gives me hope that it can happen. I know I can’t fix the broken years that are lost, but I trying to remain hopeful that there can and will be a better future ahead. I wanted to pass this along to you so that you know that you make a difference in marriages. I am sure you have saved many other marriages as well, but I wanted you to specifically know that you have saved mine. Thank you again for your wisdom on this topic.

    1. J

      Can we hug and cry now? That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

      However, I think the credit goes to YOU for changing your attitude and actions and to GOD for “opening your eyes.” I suspect that after a while, you and your husband will be so happy with your newfound intimaacy, a new norm will be established and the regrets will fade.

  4. Pingback: My Spouse Has Little or No Desire for Sex : Marriage Missions International

  5. Deborah

    I have come to a point in my life where I absolutely hate sex. Sex has meant hurt, abuse and rejection to me . I’ve been molested as a child, raped as a teen, permiscuos as and adult and unfaithful in marriage years ago and now rejected by my husband I’m done!

    1. J Post author

      Well, no wonder you feel done. Sex has not been a positive factor in your life. Believe me, that’s not what God designed sex to be. His vision is entirely different from your experience, and I’m so sorry that you have been hurt by what He intended to be a blessing for your marriage. I’ve compared this to a baseball bat. If a child grew up with an abusive parent hitting him with a baseball bat, he’d know what a bat was, but he’d never have experienced its true purpose and the joy it can bring when used properly. It isn’t until he stands at home base, a ball crosses the plate, and he sends it sailing through the air with a flick of the bat that he understands. But it would be understandably difficult to even get the kid to pick up the bat and take a swing. After all, from his experience, a baseball bat has only ever brought heartache.

      Still, don’t give up on God’s gift. Take a break. Think about where you’ve been and where you want to be regarding sexual intimacy. I suspect you haven’t truly given up anyway, or you wouldn’t be here on my blog and leaving this comment. You likely long for something better, something truer, something beautiful and intimate. And please seek counseling for the molestation and rape. That leaves a painful mark on a child and colors how sex is seen in so many ways. Seek healing. Seek support.

      May God heal you. Blessings.

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