Q&A with J: How Can My Groom Turn His Sex Drive Back On?

Today’s question comes from two different readers who contacted me with similar situations. Both are newlywed wives who haven’t had the sexual intimacy they expected to have after they tied the knot. Here’s the first one:

It has been one month since we got married and we still haven’t had sex. He told me last night that he was nervous almost to the point of tears because we have always been taught not to have sex before marriage, and now it’s all of a sudden okay. He said it’s like a Wall is there that he can’t get through. What should we do? How do i help him? He feels bad because i want to and he can’t, and i feel bad because i don’t want him to feel pressured. I just don’t know what to do.

And the second:

I recently got married and waited until marriage. My now husband wasn’t a virgin before but waited with me. The sex has been less frequent and passionate than I had expected and last night he revealed to me that because he had to ”turn it off” for the last 2 years to stay strong for me that he has a hard time turning it back on. I feel really sad about it and kind of mad too. I’m trying to not take it personally but I never thought I’d have to ask for sex or even be turned down in the first month of marriage. I’m trying to be patient and pray about it. Any suggestions on what to do?

Blog post title + photo of bride & groom sitting on bed

There are differences, in that one groom has never had sex, while the other had it previously but waited with his bride until they got married. But both gentlemen are having a terrible time awakening their libido after keeping their sexual feelings in check for so long.

It’s admirable that they waited, just as we are commanded to do, but sometimes our message about premarital purity encourages people to simply repress their sexual feelings. Repression here is “a process by which unacceptable desires or impulses are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious” (Merriam-Webster). Our libidos aren’t really gone, but we stamp them down so hard, it’s difficult for them to get back up when the right time arrives. (See also When Your Groom Is Anxious about Sex).

But I don’t see where the Bible teaches repression of our sexuality. Rather, we can acknowledge our sexuality and exert self-control: “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6). Look at Jacob, who worked for seven years to marry Rachel. He kept his behavior in check, but he didn’t deny what he eventually desired, even saying to his father-in-law at the end of those long years: “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her” (Genesis 29:21). Can’t get much clearer than that.

Even 1 Corinthians 7:9 says to singles: “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” In other words, control your sexual desires outside of marriage, and if you can’t do that, get hitched. It’s a nod that God made us as sexual beings, a fact we cannot and should not ignore.

God made us as sexual beings, a fact we cannot and should not ignore. Click To Tweet

Teaching repression of our sexuality can result in situations like these where it’s hard to turn your libido back on, even when you’re in the right framework for sexual intimacy (marriage).

But to the question: How can you awaken his libido after it’s lain dormant for a while? How can he get past that hump of repressing his sexuality?

Give yourselves grace.

It stinks not to get to make love on your wedding night. Many couples look forward to that experience. But plenty of couples actually don’t have sex right away, due to physical issues, time constraints, or even Aunt Flo visiting at the most inopportune time. But one of the perks of sex in marriage is you have a lifetime to get to know one another physically and experience all kinds of sexual pleasure and intimacy.

Let’s imagine that you make love once a week (it should be more, but go with me here), and you’re married for forty years (more than reasonable, given the average age of marriage and life span in the U.S.). At that rate, you’ll have sex 2,080 times. Two thousand eighty times. So even if you miss out some at the beginning, you’ve got plenty of time to figure this out and still have lots and lots of sex. Point being: Relax. Give yourselves some grace and time to work things out.

Talk about the baggage.

We all bring baggage into our marriages—some toting in a toiletries bag of issues and others dragging a massive trunk behind them. But make no mistake: We’ve all absorbed bad ideas about sexual intimacy. Erroneous messages surround us, both in the secular world and, sadly, the Church. All kinds of messages soak in, and we can find them hard to shake once married.

So talk about it with each other. Be honest about your expectations and concerns, and then listen to his. Let him know that whatever he says, you won’t judge it harshly. Once you’ve admitted what’s going on, challenge each of your internal beliefs and see which ones hold up to God’s Word. For example:

  • “Sex is dirty.” No, sex can be twisted and misused, but sex itself was created by God and “everything God created is good” (1 Timothy 4:4).
  • “Enjoying sex too much is ‘indulging the flesh.'” No, that’s not what “the flesh” means. Rather, Galatians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Those are all sins, but sex with your wife is not a sin and thus not on the list.
  • “Men are supposed to have the higher libido.” No, you can’t find that in the Bible either. Read through Song of Songs, and you’ll see that sexual feelings abound in both husband and wife. Sometimes one more than the other, but it shifts from her to him, him to her.

Bringing your anxiety from the subconscious to the conscious level and then challenging those beliefs can help you work through the barriers preventing you from experiencing sexual intimacy.

Focus on romance and foreplay.

In three different places, Song of Songs says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). That presumes that you can arouse or awaken love when it’s time—that is, in marriage.

Focus on that word arouse, and make that your goal for now. Not orgasm, not penetration, not even erection necessarily, but arousing the sensations that eventually lead to all of those things. I firmly believe that couples don’t spend enough time exploring one another’s bodies and discovering what arouses them. But the knowledge you gain through this process will be beneficial throughout your marriage.

Get a great book with ideas on what to do, so you can try out different activities. You know, like this one, which I highly recommend:

Click to buy or find out more!

Take the pressure off, and give yourselves, and especially him, permission to enjoy touch, exploration, and romance. Let your husband know that he doesn’t have to “perform”—that this can be an opportunity to get to know one another and experience pleasurable feelings.

Use self-talk and encouragement.

When dealing with high anxiety or fear, psychologists often prescribe systematic desensitization. You can find many resources on how to apply this procedure, but it’s gradually exposing yourself to the anxiety-inducing stimuli and introducing a relaxation response at each stage. This principle works with sexual anxiety as well.

Let’s say you’re going through the foreplay mentioned above, and your husband becomes tense. You two can pause, and he can remind himself that sex is a gift from God, meant to provide intimacy in his marriage. You can encourage him as well, helping him relax. You two could even stop to pray for God’s comfort and courage to continue. When the tension has released enough—it may not release completely—you can get back into your groove.

Using desensitization techniques, he can likely progress a little farther each time, until intercourse is possible…and enjoyable. Another way to think of this is baby steps. Nothing says you must leap into intercourse on your wedding night, but marriage is the time when you get to build all kind of intimacy, including physical intimacy. Be willing to build slow, feeling good about each stage of progress.

If problems persist, see a doctor and/or a counselor. There’s nothing wrong with this taking some time, but you do want to be moving in the right direction—toward God-honoring, mutually satisfying sexual intimacy in your marriage.

21 thoughts on “Q&A with J: How Can My Groom Turn His Sex Drive Back On?

  1. Johanna Galyen

    My heart goes out to these men. The pressure that is put on the wedding night is unreal and very unrealistic.

    I still remember on my first night, my new husband and I got to the hotel. We checked in, went up to the room, walked in…and closed the door. We were alone in a room, without having a parent or a sister on the other side of the door….for the very.first.time.in.our.life. It was so weird. So yes, I can completely see why some couples struggle. They work so hard on being careful before the marriage, the safeguards don’t automatically turn off once the “I do’s” are said.

    Thank you for the mention of the systematic desensitization. Because whether it be a morbid fear about snakes, public speaking, or even intimacy this is a proven system to help overcome fears. I would also suggest planning a date night that is scheduled in advance, and plan for what will happen. While ultimately full penetration and orgasm is the goal (full consummation in marriage), it may need to be done in stages. So plan for just touching each other one night. Then touching the breasts and genitals the next date night and so on. That way, the man knows exactly what will happen and can have a sense of relief when that goal is reached.

    Reply
  2. Nikki

    I experience similar issues as a higher drive spouse with a husband who is rarely interested in sex. And by rarely interested, I’m talking once a month, if I’m lucky. To prevent myself from being unfaithful, even in my thoughts, I often have to “turn off” the sexual parts of myself. I struggle then, when he’s randomly in the mood, to be interested. I don’t know how to stay “on” for such long periods of time, with nothing to fuel the pilot light 🙁

    Reply
    1. philip

      Nikki thanks for sharing your situation. My wife is rarely interested in sex (twice a year at most.
      I have tried to “turn off” the sexual parts of me – with varying degrees of success!

      ‘Nothing to fuel the pilot light’ is a very good description!
      I also feel quite sad and shunned that my wife doesn’t want to have sex with me and is not interested in just laying and playing, foreplay or even ‘non demand’ touch such as massage.

      It is a daily challenge.

      Reply
  3. Stuart Tutt

    Very well handled J. This one statement really stuck out to me and I believe it is SO accurate…
    ” I firmly believe that couples don’t spend enough time exploring one another’s bodies and discovering what arouses them.”

    I applaud these young men for waiting! As both spouses do the above mentioned they will realize not only how much fun sex within marriage can be but it will build such an emotional and spiritual bond.

    Thanks for covering this.

    Reply
  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great coverage of an important topic.

    One important question to ask when a man’s libido has been suppressed is, “How was this accomplished?” Generally a major change like that is the result of a number of unseen modifications to thinking and self-image.

    Since my wife was kind of horrified by the things I’d been employed to do as a security contractor and wasn’t comfortable sharing a bed with me (I did violent stuff, but NOT abusive stuff, to be clear), I had to dampen down my sexuality quickly, to avoid resentment (for I could completely understand her point of view). I had to become a man with absolutely no sexual self-image; not lacking in warmth or compassion, but without the need for sexual intimacy.

    It wasn’t hard; cultivating the physical toughness and martial skills that I already had gave me a focus, and I developed the mentality of a warrior-monk (rather like Benkei, of medieval Japan). The vital element of spirituality enabled me to serve on as, I hope, a kind, loving, and attentive spouse.

    But I don’t think I could turn on desire again, under any circumstance (and my being terminally ill make it moot). It’s not that I disparage sex; it’s simply no longer within my frame of reference.

    But I still love my wife with all my heart, and always did.

    I have no idea whether this is helpful or not, but thought I would contribute, on chance that there might be something worthwhile.

    Reply
  5. Joseph T.

    This second story raises a red flag for me; It hints what might be some resentment :/ just my opinion though take it for what it’s worth. It sounds like there was tension early in the relationship that may have developed some pretty negative feelings around the topic. I just hope he’s not finding relief in other ways.

    Reply
  6. David

    Good points, especially don’t focus on getting to the orgasm – that can ruin sex at the best of times. You don’t have to go all the way every time. In this kind of situation it might be better to leave him wanting more.

    Once a man has it in his head that the woman does not want sex it is very hard to get that idea out of there – and the woman’s own protestations do not necessarily help.

    David

    Reply
  7. SLS

    Another thing I would add to your excellent advice J is for these couples to be around people (especially fellow Christians) who are marriage and sex positive.

    Iron sharpens iron. Having positive role models in this area will do them both a lot of good.

    How do you find people like that? Obviously people don’t wear banners that say “I love married sex” so you have to listen and be discerning. When sex is discussed what does the pastor, members of your Sunday School class, etc. say about it? Does what they say line up with what the Bible says?

    If a pastor or group leader is teaching negative messages about married sex (or only discusses pre-marital sex) you might want to consider joining another church or group.

    Reply
  8. Esther

    J, I think your mention of Jacob is really important. As you said he waited 7 years to get married and yet he doesn’t seem to have turned his desires off. You are right self control and repression are not the same thing. Quite a few Christians end up waiting a long time as singles before they get married and yet they don’t all end up with issues in this area. It is clear the first man has been given some bad teaching and it has affected him. The good thing is he recognises this and actually wants things to be different. If the spouse who has the issue expresses their love and desire to work on the problem to the patient spouse then although there is disappointment, there isn’t rejection. If you are both wanting to get to the same place, then in time, the Lord enabling, you’ll get there.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      I would love to hear advice from men who successfully waited a long time and made it intact to marriage with a healthy sexual outlook, or parents that feel they raised boys with a very healthy mindset sexually and didn’t have sex until marriage. I think this is something our society has forgotten. Also, should we make men wait so long to get married? It’s my understanding that traditionally people used to marry much younger, and that Jacob is an exception.

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        Joseph. Paul. Timothy. All adult men who remained unmarried for some time and appeared to have handled their sexuality well. So Jacob isn’t the only one.

        That said, I also know several young men who married as virgins and then experienced a healthy and holy outlook on sex. One young man came back to speak to the youth group and even said, “I never think, ‘I wish I’d had sex in high school.'” Because he and his wife were enjoying all the fruits of sex in marriage by God’s design. Is that as common a story as I wish? No, but it is possible. And for those who messed up at some point, it’s still possible to have God’s many blessings, because He is a God of redemption.

        Reply
        1. Brian

          It’s encouraging to hear of an example you personally saw, because I don’t know for sure of a single close friend who did, at least not completely. I wonder if there are any tips or support for young single men who want to remain sexually pure. By the way, when I say sexually pure I also mean free of porn. Porn is so widespread at this point with men it’s hard to imagine anyone who hasn’t been affected by it.

          Reply
  9. Rev Mike

    I could not imagine not having sex with my wife on our wedding night. It would be the most disappointing experience I could imagine. The reason I got married was to have sex with my wife and experience the intimacy that sex affords.

    I did not get married to be a roommate. I had lots of roommates inn college, and they were not what I wanted. We had a period of time in our marriage that we were sexless. I kept reading blogs about being more than roommates. I wanted that for my wife and I. So, I did something about it, and had sex with my wife.

    I would say to these men, satisfy your wife. Get on with it. You have a duty, a responsibility, a marriage commitment to have a sexual relationship with your wife. Your “I do” was to be exclusive with your wife. You do not want to have your wife looking elsewhere for their satisfaction and intimacy.

    Do the right thing!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Indeed, we do not marry to be roommates. But there is a difference between choosing not to have sex on your wedding night and being unable to, for whatever reason. To “get on with it” may require dealing with physical or emotional barriers preventing that from happening. Thankfully, in marriage we really do have some time, so if a couple is pursuing holy and healthy sex, it can get there.

      Oh, and I just have to say that statements like, “You do not want to have your wife looking elsewhere for their satisfaction and intimacy” can create fear that isn’t helpful to this process. If a spouse is struggling in the bedroom but pursuing sexual intimacy, a good spouse will come alongside them and work toward a better marriage together.

      Reply
      1. Rev Mike

        I see all the time from sex bloggers that a wife should not deny sex to her husband so that he will not be tempted to look elsewhere. (I Cor. 7:3)

        I think that goes both ways. Women have sexual desires that need to be met also. The husband should not deny that for his wife. She has the same temptations as a husband does. (I rarely, if ever, see that the wife may be tempted too.)

        Yes, it may be a physical or emotional problem that is keeping them in a sexless marriage. I still say, “get going on solving the problem.” There is a lot of help out there that was not there when I was first married.

        Being in a sexless marriage myself for many years, I took charge of my life and did something about it. I saw my doc, talked to my wife, explored options, talked to one sex blogger in particular, and it worked. We have the best sex of our life now.

        Reply
  10. Cassie A

    Wow! I really needed to hear and read this.

    I’ve been married for almost two years, but enjoying my (our) sexuality is still a huge struggle for me in our marriage, even two kids later. But I feel like this is a big part of why—this thing you mentioned called repression. I think my 30 years of singleness were honestly spent repressing and denying my sexuality. At the time I would have called it self-control, but like you said—I was really truly squashing it. The hard part I’m learning is to live in that place of healthy appreciation for my sexuality without ignoring it. AND figuring out what that means as I walk with my pre-teen daughter through some of these tricky topics that I never was allowed to bring up. Thank you for posting this. It’s definitely helped open my eyes to a couple of key things for walking in wholeness in this area!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Thank you for sharing. It’s brave to own where you are and make a decision to change things. May God bless your efforts! And especially to help your preteen daughter have a healthy view of sex. You might want to check out some of my posts on that (search bar up there?) or the Sex Chat for Christian Wives episodes we did with Sheila Gregoire on talking to your kids about sex: http://forchristianwives.com/episode-20-talking-with-our-kids-about-sex-with-sheila-gregoire-part-1/

      Reply
  11. Cassie A

    Ha! I never really listened to podcasts before I came across that one. Now I check every week to see if there is a new one from you ladies! I will look into Sheila’s resources for that, though; we have a couple of books about bodies changing and the mechanics of sex, but these deeper intricacies have been the harder parts to mentally/emotionally prepare for sharing (she hasn’t asked too many questions about that aspect anyway). It’s neat to realize that God is teaching me step by step my erroneous thinking, right when she is arriving at the next step, too (but with non-fear-based thinking). Thank you again!

    Reply

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