One of the best things about having this blog is hearing from couples who are in various stages of figuring out God’s gift of sexuality for their marriage. Some have celebratory stories, some have heartbreaking ones, and some are in between. I pray for all of them.
But themes also emerge from the comments I receive and the conversations I have. One common thread is the spouse who stops asking for sex.
The story goes something like this: One spouse has a higher drive (HD), and the other spouse has a lesser drive (LD). Spouse HD asks, pursues, begs, pleads, prays, asks, wonders . . . and finally stops. Spouse LD, meanwhile, feels frustrated, cajoled, annoyed, resentful . . . and finally relieved.
LD is glad that the constant demands for sex have finally ceased. LD figures that HD got the message that having sex once a week — or once a month or whatever — is more than sufficient for their marriage. LD believes that HD has matured to the point of not acting like a horny teenager or a silly newlywed. Now they are in a calmer stage of their marriage, no longer arguing about when the next sexual encounter will be or why his/her libido isn’t as strong. Surely, this is much better — not arguing about sex all the time.
The rest of that story I often hear from those HD spouses — usually husbands, but sometimes wives — is that they stopped pursuing sex because they are so pained by the personal rejection. Having put themselves out there over and over again and done everything they can think of to appeal to their spouse and have the kind of intimacy they desperately desire, they can’t stand the thought of setting themselves up for more refusal.
Has the desire to be physically intimate disappeared? No. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It still lingers like a hungry person waiting to be fed. But instead of reaching out with both hands, that hungry sex drive cowers in a corner and waits to be called to the table.
When your spouse stops asking, it doesn’t mean he has stopped wanting. (Or she.) It means that he (or she) has given up. And giving up on an important aspect of your relationship is never good for the whole marriage.
Of course we should sacrifice selfishness and petty complaints that don’t really matter to the health of our marriage. But wanting to express and grow our affection for one another in physical union isn’t selfish or petty. In fact, spouses don’t stop asking for sex only to avoid the hurt, but oftentimes to avoid conflict in their marriage. They sacrifice their sexual desire for the sake of peace.
But that “peace” is shaky. It’s not real.
One of the worst things to see in a couple whose marriage is on the rocks is a spouse who shows no interest in arguing through anything. Their unwillingness to deal with issues indicates that they have disengaged from the relationship, that they no longer believe the marriage can be saved.
Your spouse may have stopped asking for sex because he/she believes your sex life cannot be saved.
I know differently. God can redeem your marital intimacy. I know it from the Word of God. I know it from personal experience. I know it from the testimony of others. It is result of the Gospel saturating our lives (see The Gospel in the Bedroom).
If your spouse has stopped asking, and you are relieved because you don’t really want to have sex anyway, reconsider that approach. Your spouse likely still desires you. His sex drive is still hungry and needs to be fed.
It’s not about physical release. If that was all it was, your spouse could have taken care of it himself without bothering you. The reason he continued to bother you was that you were what he wanted, not just sex.
It may be a struggle to figure out why you are not interested, to deal with the physical or emotional issues preventing you from enjoying that kind of intimacy. It may be uncomfortable and make you feel vulnerable. It may take time.
But don’t let your spouse give up . . . on you, your sex life, your marriage. See his desire for you as a good thing, a God-given thing.
I belong to my beloved,
and his desire is for me.
Song of Songs 7:10
Maybe it’s your turn to ask him: “Can we work on our sex life?”
That question could be the beginning of you two growing your physical intimacy into the beautiful experience God wants you to have in your marriage.