Q&A with J: Sexual Wants Vs. Needs

Let’s talk about needs and desires. It’s the subject of a question from one of my readers, a husband who told me about a discussion he had with his wife. He’d expressed what he thought was a sexual need, but she did not see it that way.

His email then came to the crux of the question below:

Ultimately, the bigger issue – I think – that our conversation brought up was the question of what is a need verses what is a desire. They are so close, but yet subtly different; for me fulfillment of needs nurtures me at the core, the other doesn’t effect me emotionally if it does not come to fruition. I personally can think of sexual/intimate activity that I need on a regular basis; and there are other activities that I think are fun, exciting, erotic, and amazing — but I don’t *need* them, but definitely like them. So — how do we determine our needs (even as they change!) verses our desires (even as these change too! — and maybe become needs?) and how do we effectively fill those needs for each other when we don’t see it the same way.

Blog title + WANTS and NEEDS on balance scale

I’m going to say something really unpopular, but here I go anyway: You don’t even need sex.

For a marriage and sex blogger, that seems like a crazy thing to proclaim. I mean, why would I spend so much time trying to convince wives, and couples, to nurture the sexual intimacy in their marriage if they don’t really need it anyway? Am I wasting my time?

By no means! I believe deeply in the significance of sacred and sizzling sex in the marriage bed. I’ve even said it’s inaccurate to call sex “the icing on the cake,” when it’s actually an ingredient — an important one.

However, I remember taking the popular His Needs/Her Needs marriage course, which has been revamped and is now presented as Marriage Helper. While there was a lot of good that came from that experience, I was always bothered by the potential of one spouse looking at the other and declaring about anything they want, “This is my emotional need. Now meet it.” Indeed, that wasn’t the core message of the course, but there was the potential for misuse.

After all, the first definition of need in Merriam-Webster is: “necessary duty.” Ugh, who wants to have a marriage filled with “necessary duty”? Of course we have obligations, but what we really desire is partnership, companionship, intimacy.

However, a couple of definitions down, we get: “a physiological or psychological requirement for the well-being of an organism.” Okay, that sounds more like it. And I would then agree that sex is a requirement for the well-being of the marriage.

Sex is a requirement for the well-being of the marriage. Click To Tweet

But when you talk to your spouse, which definition of need are they hearing: You owe me? or This is good for our marriage? I fear too many spouses hear the former.

And in truth, I don’t think you need any sexual activity in particular or even sex itself. That is, we don’t individually need to have sex. Yes, I know it’s listed on Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs:

Pic credit: Wikimedia commons, Factoryjoe

But it’s not like food or water or shelter from harsh elements. You can survive without sex. So proclaiming that you have a need for some particular sexual activity can come across as exaggerated, or even melodramatic.

Besides, if you look back at Maslow’s Hierarchy, you’ll see that “sexual intimacy” is listed in the Love/Belonging category. So even if sexual release is a need, in marriage we’re aiming for sexual intimacy. That’s what God wants us to have.

I’m really drawing from my own life and marriage on this one. Years ago, when things were rough in our relationship, I thought I needed a lot of stuff my husband wasn’t giving me. And I wondered: Why isn’t he listening? Doesn’t he care about my needs? Doesn’t he want to meet my needs and show me love?

I look back at that wife and want to say, “Oh, get over yourself.” Had I shifted to expressing my wants, longings, and desires and then taking care to figure out and meet his wants, longings, and desires, I’d have been in a way better place.

The truth is that all my actual needs are met with basic physical care and safety and salvation through Jesus Christ. Everything else resides in Perksville.

All my needs are met with basic physical care and safety and salvation through Jesus Christ. Click To Tweet

Thankfully, we have a generous God who wants your marriage bed to be squarely in the neighborhood of Perksville, Population 2. But if you express what you want sexually as a want, as a longing for greater sexual intimacy with your spouse, can you see that you might actually feel more grateful and encouraged and excited when your mate obliges?

I’m not saying that sex isn’t a need for your marriage. It clearly should be a part of your relationship, an important part, and neglecting one another’s desires can negatively impact the well-being of your marriage.

But it’s not a need for you. Or me. Or any individual.

So getting back to the original question of how to determine whether something is a need or a desire … I don’t know that it really matters. At least when you’re trying to ask for or convince your spouse to do something sexually. Using “I need this” language isn’t likely to get the response you want.

A better approach is “I desire you,” followed by what you want and how that makes you feel more connected to your beloved. Some acts will make you feel more connected, and some less so. And that distinction you can also express.

You could even use a How Important Is This to Me/You/Our Marriage? scale. Imagine a 1 being Not At All and a 10 being Makes Me Feel One Flesh. Then you can each rank on that scale how much you want, desire, long for a particular activity. That gets the message across to your spouse.

And if you want to use the word need — and it’s not a bad word at all! — then use it about your marriage. “Our marriage needs more attention to sexual intimacy. Our marriage needs more sexual frequency. Our marriage needs more pleasure.”

Because I agree that your marriage wants and needs sex. But as for you, and me, and everyone else individually? Maybe we should get over ourselves. We can live without, though we are blessed that God wants us to live abundantly — even in the marriage bed.

48 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Sexual Wants Vs. Needs

  1. John

    I wished you could walk a day in a man’s shoes, and say sex isn’t a need. I’m not going to say every man, but most men would probably agree, sex is a need! I think you maybe confusing needs for requirements, but I could very well be wrong.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I get it. I understand that it feels like a need. But is it really? Must you have sex to survive? I’m merely saying that when you look at your wife and say, “I need sex,” it likely doesn’t come across the way you intend.

      And frankly, I’ve heard from a lot of wives who are sick of feeling pressured to meet their husband’s sexual “need.” When really, truly, it’s about sexual intimacy between husband and wife. That’s a far easier/better sell. Because most wives long to feel close to their husbands, and saying, “This makes him feel loved and close to you,” makes a much better impression.

      Reply
    2. E

      I’m not sure if you are a Christian or not John, but as this is a Christian marriage blog, I thought this scripture might be appropriate:
      8Now to the unmarried and widows I say this: It is good for them to remain unmarried, as I am. 9But if they cannot control themselves, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
      – Corinthians 7

      Now, I’m only a ‘baby Christian’, so I could be getting this completely wrong, but to me, that looks like sex isn’t a ‘need’, because otherwise the bible isn’t going to recommend anyone not getting married!

      I really like J’s definition in the post: men (or an individual) doesn’t ‘need’ sex, but a marriage does.

      Reply
  2. danny

    I think sex should be in marriage…. At least once a WK…I’m married but wife doesn’t want to do sex….why would marry a woman if she didn’t want sex….it’s hard to be married and wife doesn’t fill her husband needs….I feel part of reason a lot of divorce is no sex.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Yes, of course she should be willing to have sex. That is a significant part of marriage. But I can say from the other side that wives (especially Christian wives) have often been told they essentially must “put out” to meet their husband’s needs. And that makes it seem like sex is about her schlepping into the bedroom, lifting up her nightgown, and giving her husband a physical release. Obviously, this is not what she wants, what you want, or what your marriage needs.

      If I could speak with your wife, I would emphasize how integral sex is to making a husband feel loved, how God desires both husband and wife to experience physical pleasure and connection, how spouses are to share their bodies freely with one another (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), how having enthusiastic sex can improve the relationship and the commitment you have to one another, how sex in marriage is God’s design. That’s the message I definitely want to send.

      Reply
  3. Jess

    If I took this attitude towards sex into our marriage, my husband would be deeply hurt and disrespected. We are both high drive, but there was a time when my drive was completely gone. I vividly remember the pain he went threw during that time. Sex is absolutely a need not just for him, but for me as well. I know without a doubt how desperately I have needed sex as well, whether for the emotional connection or a physical release. Hubby has learned that if I am being especially cranky or difficult, it’s time for sex. There is truth here that a husband does not get to make his wife feel like she has to meet his needs out of obligation. On that we do agree. It is that you chose to make that point by invalidating the need completely that I find troubling.
    Jess

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Well, of course you shouldn’t look at your spouse and say, “You don’t need sex.” I’m just trying to be very clear about this issue of need vs. want. Without sex, your marriage isn’t going to be great, you will feel something missing, you will not be as connected as you could be, and you might well feel high physical tension. However, that doesn’t mean that we literally need sex to survive. And all too often, that’s the way a spouse communicates to his/her mate about the lack of something they desire, which makes the point less convincing.

      All that said, if you and your spouse agree it’s a need, and that isn’t a point of contention at all, marvelous! You both see how much your marriage needs sexual intimacy to be all that God intended it to be.

      I don’t believe my post is “invaliding the need,” but rather re-characterizing it. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  4. Tony

    I think there is a reason the qualifier “emotional” was placed on the need.

    Sure, if we go all Maslo on it. (Brings back memories of 1983 as an ROTC cadet) it’s not going to be the same a food, shelter, etc.

    However, for the life of a romantic relationship, I’d say it’s one of the very foundations.

    Few marriages are going to be healthy, let alone survive if one or both partners are not getting their needs met.

    If you’ve looked at His Needs/Her Needs, you recognize that Dr Harley puts sex in a special category. Any of these other needs can be met by individuals or through platonic relationships.

    In marriage, the only legitimate source of sexual satisfaction is your spouse. Or at least I should say the only person who can legitimately provide that satisfaction is your spouse. Affairs, secret self-gratification really just help destroy the already unhealthy relationship when there is a lack of sex.

    Sex is kinda special. The rules God places on sex are there to keep the relationship healthy. Going around those rules only weakens the relationship.

    That means that selfish refusal is just as bad as going out and having an affair to get your needs met.

    Refusing sex can be as much of a selfish demand as demanding sex with no consideration of your spouse.

    I think the key fault in all of this is selfish. Both refusal and demands can be selfish.

    Reply
  5. ANW

    I love this! I totally understand the heart of your message, J! If sex were truly a need then there could never be any people living lives of celibacy.
    We had to abstain from sex for most of my second pregnancy as I was on bed rest. Guess what? We both survived! It was a long 8 months, especially since we are normally 2-3 times/week, but neither of us died.
    Thanks for your no nonsense approach to this topic!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thanks. Eight months is a looooong time. For one of my pregnancies, we had to abstain for 4-5 months. We also survived. 😉

      But of course, we want sexual intimacy, if at all possible, to be part of our relationship, for ourselves and for the health of the marriage. And you clearly want that for yours as well. Blessings!

      Reply
  6. Brent

    Context is everything. The definition chosen by you to unpack is perfect for this context; The psychological or physiological requirement for well being. In this context we are talking about the survival or nurturing or pysiological well being of a marriage relationship, and the psychological well-being of the participants in that relationship. By the “well-being” definition, you (J) have pointed out, that without sex and by extension sexual activities, the well-being of the individuals as well as the marriage relationship will not be maintained, or in a healthy state of well being. So, I think it’s important that we keep the context in perspective and the context is the well being of the marriage relationship and the participants in that relationship. By taking the context of this question to the survival of human life we are equally being as overdramatic as a husband saying “I need a French kiss or i’ll die!” 🙂 … I want to add more but I am short on time … ( posted with voice to text please excuse any typos)

    Reply
    1. Brent

      Ok … adding more … I’ve really lost my train of thought … but … the core of the “rest of the story” was that I wanted to express how much your thoughts on the topic at hand are appreciated!
      The perspective on approaching your spouse, expressing love, conveying a desire, or need, without raising a wall of defense or sending a message of “you owe me” is extremely valuable.
      So, in short, just simply — Thank you!

      Reply
  7. Crissy

    I actually really appreciate this post. In my marriage it’s the other way around. I am the high-drive spouse and am the one wanting a lot more variety in our sex life, whereas my husband doesn’t seem to want anything to change. He’s perfectly content with “vanilla,” missionary-position sex all the time (with little to no foreplay), which usually only lasts a couple of minutes and of course does nothing for me. I’m always left feeling unsatisfied and frustrated and I’ve tried so many times to express my “need” for more, but it always ends in a fight. He’s actually told me that my desires are disgusting to him (even though I’m positive they’re in NO way outrageous or weird). I’m completely at a loss. I’m going to use your advice here to see if it helps.

    Reply
  8. John

    If, in your blog post, you can replace the word “sex” with “conversation” or “communication” or “sharing feelings” or “kindness”, or “kissing” or “holding hands” or “snuggling” and have everything you said still be true, then yes, I agree, sex isn’t a need.

    Just imagine the bru-ha-ha if you did a post about the above list not being a need for wives. I think you’d have a revolt on your hands.

    But I disagree with you. Just like conversation, communication, sharing feelings, kindness, kissing, snuggling, etc, etc,etc are “needs”, so is sex.

    what kind of sex, how much, how long, or other kinds of activity – that can be discussed. But sex? Yes, its a need.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I believe it much of it is true when you replace that word. Kindness is a virtue, so it’s not quite like the others, but I’m not going to die without conversation or kissing. And I don’t mind telling wives that either. Because likewise, saying, “I need you to listen while I talk” doesn’t quite have the same punch as “I feel loved when you listen to me.” It’s a perk, but a fabulous perk! One that absolutely should be part of marriage.

      Yes, I know this is semantics. But ultimately my message is to get across that if you feel like you have an unmet need in your marriage, it’s probably best to explain why that action or activity makes you feel more loved, enhances your marriage, and/or reflects the covenant bond God wants you to have. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
    2. Sarah M

      Yes, I think your marriage absolutely needs those things, and your marriage will die without them. But you will not. I think that’s what this post was getting at.

      Reply
      1. anthony innerd

        No, I have heard that during my relationship. As love contains all the things J courageously has blogged on here, I still feel you die a little bit inside without intimacy in the ways J discusses. Though I have not died literally, I have been under attack from the enemy many times. In a man’s life, the media etc is every day attacking in many forms and shapes. I am constantly in a WAR – Warfare and Revelation. This blog by J is helping me how to breakthrough in the warfare and find the revelation. I am no different to any other, but feel if your relationship is well then your intimacy with God follows greater.
        After all he made us to be like him.

        Reply
  9. P

    You did such a good job with this post. We live in a time when a lot of things are categorized as needs that are really desires. My husband and I waited for marriage to have sex – I was 28, he was 32. He would be the first to tell you that sex is really great- but it is not a need. He didn’t die without it all of those years. My grandparents were married for 72 years, and they would have said that they didn’t have many needs. They had a farm, and knew what true needs were, and had a beautiful marriage. My grandfather used to say to his kids – “You’re old enough not to let your wants hurt you-”
    Sex is certainly a very important aspect of a marriage, and both husband and wife should strive to love each other and have sex often – but I agree that it is not a need.

    Reply
  10. Bobthemusicguy

    Let’s look at this in two ways: physical need and psychological/emotional/spiritual need.
    Physiologically, my need for sexual release is based on the fact that my body continuously produced fluids that result in a physical pressure that needs to be relieved. It’s somewhat similar to what I remember from many years ago when my wife was nursing our first son. She said that her breasts would swell as the milk came in for a feeding. I can’t imagine what that feels like, just as a woman can’t imagine what the pressure a man senses feels like. Would either of us die if the pressure is not relieved? Absolutely not. But it is the way God made us. It is a physical need, but not like eating or breathing or drinking. But even there, isn’t it nice that God gave us a beautiful creation where we can meet even those basic requirements in ways that are pleasant, even amazing.

    Now as to the other, biological life is not the same as biological well-being, much less spiritual, emotional, and psychological well-being. When I was refused sexually for four years and severely limited for about 20 years before that, it took a huge toll on me. Psychologically, I doubted my manhood and sometimes my sanity. Emotionally, I totally dried up. Spiritually, I had a bullseye on me for Satan’s attacks. And it was terrible relationally. In God’s mercy, He has healed all that, but why go through hell if you don’t have to?

    What I had to learn was that what I thought was mainly a physical need was really an emotional, spiritual, mental, and relational need. I think that is the main point of your blog post, and I think husbands and wives both need to analyze this to see how they word their requests for sex, or anything else for that matter.

    One of my wife’s love languages is quality time, especially in meaningful conversation. I delight in meeting that need, even though it doesn’t come naturally to me. But if she made me feel like I was a word machine to meet her need, instead of really wanting to communicate with me and build our relationship, I would feel used. I don’t merely desire or need sex with my wife. I desire HER sexually.

    I think one comparison that might help is the plight of Russian orphans that I once read about. As babies, they were fed, clothed, and sheltered. But they were never held, rocked, played with, etc. They didn’t die, but they didn’t THRIVE. My marriage has been through survival mode. I want it to thrive, not merely survive.

    Reply
  11. H

    It may not be a need but without it, why be married at all? I was dumb enough to fall for the “wait until marriage” trap. It was drilled into me from childhood and I was led to believe that it made sex in marriage soooo much better. I waited for nothing. I live in a nearly sexless marriage and have for all 8+ years of it. We have no children due to the extremely infrequent sex. My wife just doesn’t like sex no matter what we try. She never has and has no interest in trying new things to make it better. I am now stuck in a lonely and depressing relationship with no options for happiness. I regret even asking her to marry me. I feel like I have thrown my life away. It’s hard finding a reason to get up in the morning anymore other than to fulfill my obligation to provide for her. If sexual intimacy isn’t a need then why do I struggle to feel alive without it?

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      There is so much heartbreak in your comment. Yes, of course, sex should be part of marriage.

      But I’d challenge you to ask what’s really going on with your wife. Her marriage isn’t thriving either. And obviously, she has some deep-seated issues that need to be addressed. Of I wish I could talk to her, but maybe you can broach the subject in a way that lets her know what sex means to you and how much you desire intimacy with her. I know it seems hopeless right now, but I also know marriages that have come back from the gallows, so to speak. Praying for you.

      (And statistically, sex is definitely better in marriage. But that’s not really the point. I suspect if your marriage grew into amazing sexual intimacy, you’d change your mind on that statement.)

      Reply
      1. H

        For the most part, I would argue that she is happy with the way things are. She gets to maintain a lifestyle that she couldn’t do alone without doing anything she doesn’t want to. I have been miserable for years and nothing has changed. I have tried writing letters to her but she either doesn’t believe my words or doesn’t care enough to listen. I have asked her to read marriage books with me (Christian authors) but she says she doesn’t have the time to read them. She has time for Netflix and Facebook though. She claims to be a Christian but hasn’t opened a Bible to my knowledge ever. She has what she wants and has no incentive to change. We both work but I do all the cooking, dishes, and laundry. I took on those tasks because she always used them as an excuse since she was too tired for intimacy. Now she just fills that time with other avoidance tactics. I can’t get through to her no matter what or how I try. I can’t even leave her if I wanted to because her excessive wants and lack of restraint have us so far in debt that I would lose everything and have to move back in with one of my divorced parents. This is not the person she portrayed herself to be when we were dating. I feel like I’m the victim of a bait and switch scheme.

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          Do y’all attend a church together? I’m wondering because you don’t mention it, and a faith community might open you up to some possible avenues of assistance.

          Reply
    2. Bobthemusicguy

      H, I fully understand all of your pain. And it is physical pain to some degree, but it is emotional and mental torture. Brother, I’ve been there (well over 20 years worth), but I want to encourage you and hold out hope for you and your wife. I came through, and I pray you will too.

      Part of the pain stems from the bright expectations we bring into marriage. Most churches do a lousy job of teaching Christians about sex in marriage. J and others like her are helping change that. But when the sad reality hits, the burden feels like it’s too much to bear. You don’t die, but you wish you could. But as a believer, you can’t kill yourself, and you know God hates divorce, so you chug along in despair. Some can’t do even that and do end up divorcing or taking their own lives.

      I recommend a book titled Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. His premise is that God’s main purpose in marriage is not to make you happy, but to make you holy. I think that’s true, because the overarching principle for any Christian is to be conformed to the image of Christ. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or pleasant, just that our driving force is the Holy Spirit forming Christ in us.

      Read this book with your wife, or if she won’t, by yourself. I found it transforming. And I realized that I had a lot of changing and refocusing to do. Or rather, have done to me by God. I fond that while He was working on me, He was also working on my wife. We found that, even with all the pain and struggles and the ways we had hurt each other, our marriage was stronger than either of us thought . At the very least, we had stayed together. That counts for something. And the bond was deeper than we realized.

      And the sex resumed, better than ever. Partly because she had learned that opening her body to me was a form of servanthood, in imitation of Christ. And I found that sex isn’t primarily about physical release but about intimacy of relationship. It’s not a “need” of my body so much as it is a need of my heart.

      J’s original post has more to do, I think, with couples who have sexual relations but need some better understanding of sex as a part of the bigger picture of a marriage. For those, like you, who are in a sexless marriage, I know you feel imprisoned and desperate. You’re not anywhere near ready for this post. You have much more fundamental issues to deal with. But turn to God completely in this matter and see if there are fellow believers you can talk to personally and lean on. I wish I had a way of communicating with you privately. But I know God can raise up someone who can be a real support. I will keep you in my prayers.

      Reply
    3. H

      Thank you both for your prayers. I appreciate the thought of knowing someone hears me. Writers like J and so many others are helping to bring attention to this topic. So many people will benefit from the positive message. Hopefully things will get better. If nothing else, I will at least try to hold on to hope.

      Reply
    4. Jess.S

      Hi H,

      That’s incredible sad to read. I really do pray that things improve in your marriage. I do think that although marriages might not be able to thrive without sexual intimacy, you as an individual can thrive without sexual intimacy even within a sexless marriage. Do the work to improve you marriage, try and be the best husband you can be, but the rest is out of your control. If people couldn’t thrive without sex, celibate singles would all be miserable, and I know for a fact that is not the case. Some of the most contented people I know are celibate. Placing all your hopes of fulfillment and contentment and happiness in another fallible, sinful human being is a dangerous thing, but I really hope you find peace, even if your situation doesn’t change any time soon.

      J.S

      Reply
  12. Sarah M

    Every time I hear the word “need”, I find myself asking, “to what end?” I’ve decided recently that the word need really should be followed with a “so that…” Every need has a purpose – a want that it is fulfilling. I need food so that I will stay alive. I need sexual intimacy so that I can maintain my marriage relationship. I need new clothes so that I can be hip and trendy. Staying alive, maintaining my marriage relationship and being hip and trendy are all wants. And they each have needs associated with attaining them.

    Reply
  13. Becky

    If you are married, you may not physically die due to a lack of sexual intimacy — however, you may not feeling like living either. And if you don’t feel like living, then your marriage relationship has a higher chance of falling apart.

    Reply
  14. Beth

    Everyone getting upset with J about the wording – she isn’t trying to convince you that sex isn’t as important as you think. She’s trying to give you a different mindset so you ultimately have more and better sex!

    Reply
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  16. M

    I think this is a fabulous blog post. Great job communicating this tricky subject! I’m sure you’ve gotten your fair share of misunderstandings. But I get it and I agree wholeheartedly. Awesome!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thank you, M.

      (And now, because “M”, I’m totally picturing you as Judi Dench behind a large, executive desk, looking all wise and spy-ish. 😉 )

      Reply
  17. Jess.S

    I liked this article, although it seems to be a little contentious! It’s a reminder while that sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, it’s not the end all, be all. I think in over-correcting past church teachings of sex as something unspeakable, some Christians today have defied sex (and by extension, marriage) as the most important thing in life. Jesus, Paul and many of the early saints didn’t seem to think so! Food for thought!

    Reply
  18. Paul Byerly

    My answer to the wants vs needs issue is simple: Do you want to meet just their needs, or do you also want to meet their wants? I don’t see how love can only care about needs. And this goes for anything, not just sex!

    Reply
    1. Brent

      Paul your comment sparked the same notion many ask while dating: “How far can we go?” when the question is really “What can we get away with?”. This is a slight twist that may be asked by a spouse that holds back from fully committing to interdependence: “What is the minimum I can do?”.

      Funny how, with respect to sexual intimacy, many couples try to “maximize” what is done before marriage, but after marriage an individual spouse tries to “minimize” what they do.

      Reply
      1. Lisa

        I disagree. I don’t think spouses TRY to minimize what they do after marriage. I think there tends to be a lot more giving in the dating relationship than in the early years of marriage. Then each person starts to feel neglected and they withdraw as the only way they know how to manage such a situation. Vulnerability ceases. The higher drive spouse feels cheated, the lower drive (or receptive drive spouse) feels cheated, too.

        Reply
  19. B.W

    I really think this article undervalues the need for sex. It is true that you don’t physically die. Yes your heart keeps beating. All very true. Like many HD spouses we have gone through periods of intimacy that were awesome and periods that were frustrating. I will argue all day long that a vast majority (there is always exceptions,) of marriages will die if the need for sex goes unfulfilled. They may stay together despite the resentment and hurt and many will divorce but the marriage is effectively dead. You are really getting into semantics when you (j) say it is not a need. You have probably received letters or emails from hundreds of spouses relaying that their marriage is dead or dying from a lack or intimacy and sex. Do you tell them it is not a need? This is a blog about marriage not one about the physical health. Sex is a NEED for a healthy marriage. To say otherwise is complete BS.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      So the context of this question was a husband wanting to express that something he wished to have was a sexual need in his marriage. And I wanted people to step back and see that it is a need for a marriage, but not an individual. So expressing what you want as “I need it” is unlikely to have the effect you desire. It can feel like cornering your spouse and demanding something you think you’re owed. Maybe I didn’t make that clear enough. (Although I certainly tried.)

      However, I think a lot of people are reading, “Sex isn’t a need,” and having a reaction against that statement. But the big picture view of this post is that yes, you should be having sex in your marriage! Lots and lots of great, intimate sex, because that is necessary for the well-being of your relationship.

      Thanks for reading and engaging!

      Reply
      1. Brent

        Sometimes — I have to read your posts twice … three times … maybe even a forth, to really “get” what I think your message is. I am sure it is because — 1) a knee jerk reaction (what the heck! — you’ve got to be kidding! I CANT believe she just said that!) — Then the adrenaline is pumping and the brain doesn’t really get past that hyper reaction. 2) I may WANT to here a reply that resembles MY thoughts, so I shut out, and don’t immediately absorb the different perspective — I hate to say something as strong as “I get defensive” since the intensity is different, but that is the mode. I am sure there are other reasons for reading two and three times, but ultimately I find that when my mind is in a different place with each read, I get something different, or a broader understanding — kind of like reading any text meant to educate and inform; sometimes it just needs to be read multiple times to “get” the authors point, despite the quality of the writing.

        So, having a summary, or a reply that points back to the original article, is awesome as it may encourage a second, or third read in order to “get” what your getting at.

        Reply
  20. K

    J, first I understand the point you were making and agree with it. We “need” to be very careful how we approach our spouses with things especially when it comes to sex. Often times, our language interferes with getting our true message across and that ultimately hurts both parties and possibly the marriage.

    As far as the need vs. want debate, I have given this much thought over the last few years. Everything I say is based on my experience of having lived in a sexless marriage for over 2 decades and now still in the process of coming out on the other side. Here are some of my thoughts.

    1. Marriage is not defined by sex. It is possible to have a great marriage without sex. However, a marriage will never be everything it can without sex. Many people will say strong sexless marriages are not the norm. I agree, but believe this more about mindsets and belief systems than it is about lack of sex.

    2. We do owe sex to our spouses. Few of us want obligation sex. We want our spouse to desire sex with us as much as we do with them. But, the bottom line is God intends for marriage to involve sex. Sex is something we owe our spouses because it was part of the promise/covenant we made when we married them. I never promised to wash my husband’s clothes or do other chores nor he to me, but we did promise to have sex in front of God, our family and friends. There was no question sex was part of the commitment we made to each other.

    While I believe this, I do think we have to be careful about having an attitude of “you owe me”. I agree with you, J, that in most cases saying “you owe me sex” will not help the situation.

    3. Sex contributes to our mental health. We may not die without sex, but we are certainly able to function better with it. This is definitely true for people who want sex, but I believe it also true for many people who think they don’t want or need sex. Sex helps with stress and it makes us nicer people in much the same way as eating does. Think about what happens when your blood sugar drops. You don’t function well and you are not very nice until you eat something and your blood sugar stabilizes. Sexual frustration has very similar effects.

    4. Once we marry, we become one with our spouse. So, if a marriage needs sex to be all it can be so do the individuals within the marriage. A need for the marriage is a need for the individuals within the marriage. I’m not talking about particular sex acts here. Just sex.

    In my case, telling my husband I needed sex was finally how I got through to him. It wasn’t quite that simplistic nor do I believe it would work in most cases of refusal, but it was what finally got my husband’s attention. Realizing I wanted and needed sex was what he needed to hear. He didn’t believe we/he/I needed sex at the time he was refusing. Now, he believes sex is a need.

    Reply
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