Tag Archives: married sex

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 Dynamic Marriage. 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.

A Prayer for Your Sexual Intimacy

When I started this series on Praying More for your marriage and your sexual intimacy, I admitted that I didn’t know exactly what it would look like. How would have a whole year of blog posts about praying? But God kept nudging me that this was the direction to take, so I stepped out in faith. Okay, okay, I shuffled out in faith, but I’m lengthening my strides week by week.

Today I have this strong sense that I just need to write a prayer. One that you and I can both say for our marriages and our marriage beds. I hope you’ll join me.

A Prayer for Your Sexual Intimacy with PRAY in the background

Dear Heavenly Father,

I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I got married. Yes, of course, I prepared in some ways, and even tried to figure out some things ahead of time about what sex would look like in our marriage. But, as You know, Lord, it’s different going through the experience and dealing with my unique husband. Also, I couldn’t have foreseen the seasons we’d go through — times when sex was good, and times when sex was a struggle.

I want to bring my concerns, my hurt, my longings all before You and lay them at Your feet. I cast all my anxieties on You because I know You care for me (1 Peter 5:7). Guide me to the path I should take and teach me Your way (Psalm 25:9).

Now let’s start with this body You gave me. It’s an amazing creation, able to accomplish so much automatically and at my will. I thank you for all the workings of my body that allow me to go through my days and do what I need to do. But when it comes to sex, it’s not always been an easy road. At times, getting aroused with my husband can be difficult, and at other times, my body is ready to go when there isn’t a chance in the world that we can have sex. How fair is that?! Orgasms can be like my best friend, eager to hang out with me, or my nemesis, avoiding me at every turn. I don’t adore every inch of my appearance, my body does weird things in certain angles (like why is my stomach hanging down like that? — blech), and flexibility feels like a thing of the past.

I need to see myself how You see me, how You designed my body, and how You blessed me to be with my husband. I also need more understanding of my body and how to help it cooperate with the sexual intimacy I need and want to have in my marriage. Help me to identify real issues that need addressing through medical assistance or counseling or exercise, and to have the purposefulness and persistence to follow through. Place before me the right resources to deal with those concerns.

Help me to feel beautiful. Give both me and my husband an acceptance and appreciation of my body’s own sexuality and help us learn how I can experience both pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed.

My God, I also struggle with my background. I brought baggage into my marriage — teachings about sex that weren’t in line with Your Word, experiences that colored my perception of sexuality, and labels that I carried in my mind about myself and about men. Please wash away all the debris and replace it with truth.

Help me step by step to replace the negative self-talk in my mind with messages that align with Your design for sex in my marriage. Help me to demolish every argument and pretension against Your will for my marriage bed, to take captive of every thought and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Transform my mind so that I will know Your will for me, even in the bedroom (Romans 12:2).

You are a God who heals, so I also pray that You will heal any rifts between me and my husband. It is indeed good and pleasant when Your people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1). Where my husband and I do not see eye-to-eye on sexual intimacy, I pray that we can move toward unity. Help us to listen to one another, to communicate about difficult issues, and to make the personal changes we need to make to find common ground.

And this weekend, today, even now, I pray that you’ll open up my heart and my body to taking even one step in the right direction. While I long for a Red Sea moment, when You perform some great miracle that makes my marriage and marriage bed a perfect reflection of Your design, I recognize that more of my Christian life is walking faithfully with You. With Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path, showing me only the bit of road ahead that I need to see (Psalm 119:105). Help me take my next step in the right direction, and the one after that, and the one after that. Until I am striding along on the road You want me to be on, and my husband and I are moving toward greater intimacy and more honor to You, our Father.

Lord, what I haven’t said here, You already know. Where I don’t know what to pray, the Spirit intercedes for me (Romans 8:26). You are, and will always be, my Savior.

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Q&A with J: Should I Skype Sex with My Husband?

When I first read the following question, I thought surely I’d answered it before. But while I could find a post about sexting your spouse, I couldn’t find one specifically about having “Skype sex.” So I’m tackling it today.

My husband works away from home (over seas) for up to six months at a time. Obviously, this means that we are unable to be intimate during the time that he is away (fireworks when he’s home). We have started to use skype for “skype sex”. I’m not terribly comfortable with it because I’ve been told so many times that masturbation is wrong. However, I also know that it is time spent with my husband, keeping our marriage strong. It doesnt involve anyone else and were doing it together.

I guess what I am asking is, should there be shame here? I’m so torn.

Q&A with J- Should I Skype Sex with My Husband- woman on bed with tablet

I’ve written about masturbation before, and I won’t be able to do as thorough a treatment of that topic here. So let me first point out those posts that deal specifically with masturbation:

Two Wives & Candid Conversation about Masturbation

More Candid Conversation about Masturbation

Masturbation: Hands On or Hands Off?

Q&A with J: “Is It Okay for Him to Please Himself While Thinking of Me?”

Summarizing what I’ve said before, masturbation is not biblically wrong, it’s fine in the marriage when mutual engagement is part of the sex act, and masturbation should not take sexual energy away from your spouse.

Of course, excessive masturbation or touching yourself while looking at or picturing others are problems. If that’s happening in a marriage, it needs to stop.

It is indeed quicker and easier for most people to reach orgasm using their own hands, because we have a feedback loop for what feels good and can immediately adjust. If you get overly used to that form of sexual satisfaction, it can be difficult to be patient and adaptable in the presence of your beloved to make things happen. Because it takes more communication and connection to have your husband bring you to climax, or vice versa. However, it’s ultimately more fulfilling.

What you’re describing, though, isn’t solo masturbation. It’s mutual. You’re engaging together as much as possible, while at different ends of the Earth. If you were in the same room, you’d be jumping each other’s bones and setting off those fireworks. But time and distance are preventing that from happening.

To my mind, here are the choices:

  • You shut down sexually for six months. Now, I’ve actually heard of military husbands who prefer not to stoke their sexuality at all while away from their wives, because they feel it’s even harder to be reminded of what they are missing. But that’s not most spouses I hear from. And it requires a great deal of willpower.
  • You feel all those sexual urges and do zip about them. This is difficult, but it can be done. For those in this scenario, my post for singles about what to do with sexual desire that can’t be satisfied might be helpful.
  • You take of your own business. This is the solo masturbation option, where you let your sexual desires build and build until you finally release the tension. You might flirt, sext, imagine, and express your sexual love, but you don’t act on it together. You take care of that buildup separately.
  • You engage in mutual masturbation. Which is the course your husband clearly wants to take, and that you’ve agreed to at times. It’s a way to be as sexual with one another as you can, while still many miles away from one another.

I don’t believe any of these choices is expressly wrong. Rather, they each could cause you to grow closer or to grow further apart, depending on who you each are and your relationship. And that’s the measure.

You state yourself: “However, I also know that it is time spent with my husband, keeping our marriage strong. It doesnt involve anyone else and were doing it together.

It sounds like you know the answer then. Engaging in this activity, as awkward as it might seem at first or to some, seems to be strengthening your marriage.

So why do you feel shame?

  • Because there is a prevalent view that masturbation is always wrong. Which I address in the above posts. I think you can relax on that one and make your test for this activity the principles of Galatians 5:22-23 (the Fruit of the Spirit) and 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (the Love Chapter).
  • Because it’s awkward to touch yourself. If touching yourself hasn’t been a part of your sexual encounters while together, it can feel really odd to do it here. It’s a bit self-indulgent, and your hand certainly feels different from his. The truth is the only way to get over this is to get through it. That is, do almost anything more times and you’ll get more comfortable with it. It won’t ever feel like his hand, but if he feels a part of the experience, you’re not just selfishly getting yourself off.
  • Because you’re in front of a camera. I’m well-aware that some women get paid to do this on the internet, and that’s clearly wrong. So you might feel this weird sense that maybe you’re like those gals, feeding a voyeuristic turn-on for the guy on the other end of the phone call. But this is your husband, and you’re engaging in sexual activity entirely within the confines of marriage. Would it be wrong if that camera was a window? It’s the same principle, so maybe think of it that way.
  • Because it’s going over the phone lines. Or internet lines. Or however all that technology works. And this is where I get the most concerned. Probably because I still don’t entirely understand how my light bulb turns on, much less all the ins and outs of Skyping. Is there any possibility that someone else could tap in or that any of that imagery gets saved somewhere in the vast world of internet data? I felt like I should research this, but then I decided that instead of spending hours running down rabbit trails to figure all that out … I’d ask my tech-savvy readers. I know you’re out there. Will you please either warn us or explain why there is no cause for worry? I expect to see you in the comments. Thank you.

One final thought: If you don’t want to have Skype sex with your husband, you don’t have to. While everything I’ve said (with the exception of the technology question, which someone else will answer) show that I don’t consider this a problem, it still isn’t something a spouse should demand in a long-distance season of marriage.

It’s legitimately okay to say you feel so extremely uncomfortable that you need to find another way to deal with your sexual desires. Because it isn’t straight-out sex, so I don’t think you’re depriving your husband if you don’t engage (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-5). It’s the physical separation itself that’s causing the absence of sex.

But given your situation — six months apart! — you might want to give long-distance sexting or Skype sex a shot. It might help you both hang on until you can be back in one another’s arms and in your literal marriage bed.

Are You Listening to What Your Spouse Says about Sex?

I’ll be honest: I’m sitting here on the Sunday after the United States inauguration and feeling sick and tired of the news, my Facebook feed, and people I know and love from both sides of the aisle being at constant odds with each other. In our politically charged atmosphere, some have become so hypersensitive that you can barely say anything without being misinterpreted, challenged, and even maligned. And yes, from both sides of political opinion. Seeing such large-scale conflict is rankling and stressful.

But you can turn off the TV, stay off Facebook, pop in a movie or a TV show, read a book, take a bubble bath, etc. to get away from all that rancor for a while. You can’t do that with the conflict in your marriage over sexual intimacy.

When it comes to the subject of sex, some marriages reside in an emotionally charged atmosphere where one or both of you are so hypersensitive that the other can barely say anything without being misinterpreted, challenged, and even maligned. On this smaller scale, the conflict reaches beyond stressful. It’s painful.

And you can’t escape. Because the sexuality in your marriage is an important piece that deserves attention, resolution, and nurturing. So you keep bringing up the subject and facing the same issues again and again and again.

Maybe the current stalemates in our political arena could illuminate some thoughts about resolving conflict regarding your marriage bed. Because you know what’s often missing from those political conversations I’ve seen? Listening.

Open-eared, open-minded, open-hearted listening.

Are You Listening to What Your Spouse Says about Sex? with ear icon

Dr. Gary Smalley, a marriage counselor and author, wrote about the importance of creating a safe environment for communication: “When your spouse feels safe, he is naturally inclined to relax and open his heart.” (See this Focus on the Family article.) When we’re dealing with a contentious issue, we anticipate getting criticized or stonewalled so we’re far less likely to speak honestly and find ways to move forward. It’s only when we feel safe to express our thoughts, feelings, and concerns that we can open up fully.

Whatever the issues surrounding your marriage bed, finding out what they actually are would surely be an important step. You can badger your reluctant spouse from now until the era of Buck Rogers to have more sex, demand less sex, pay attention to your orgasm, fulfill your fantasy, etc., and you’ll likely make little progress unless you find out why they don’t want to do what you think is such a great idea.

Very often, there is history, baggage, a deeper story behind your spouse’s resistance. Until you dig deeper and fix the underlying problems, you’ll still be in conflict.

Why not try listening?

Like really listening.

No, like shut up and listen.

No, shut up your brain, not just your mouth, and listen.

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. You might not agree with what your spouse says, but wouldn’t it be a great idea to better understand where he’s coming from? To at least get a sense of how he started at A and arrived at B?

You might even find out that you agree more than you thought.

How do you start these conversations? The ones where you actually let your spouse have a bit of monologue?

Don’t preach. Don’t explain. Don’t demand. Don’t push.

Ask a question. Listen to the answer. Ask a follow-up question. Listen to the answer. Ask another question. Listen to the answer. Ask for clarification. Listen to the answer.

Go away and mull it over.

Is this near impossible? For people like me, and many of you, yeah. It’s tough. Dare I say painful? You might have to burrow your teeth into your tongue so deep you leave gouges. But you were already in pain about your sex life anyway, so better to have a few tongue wounds and some progress in the bedroom.

Is this a single conversation? Probably not. It took years to mess up your sex life. No, really. Maybe it didn’t even happen with you there, but rather something that happened to your husband or wife before you even met them. But the deep-seated perspectives and approaches took a while to establish, so they won’t loosen up in a day.

Is this really the remedy? It’s part of the cure. If you two can’t communicate about sex at all, how are supposed to have fabulous sexual intimacy? I know couples who improved their sex lives a lot by one person taking positive steps, but I don’t know of a single couple who ended up with a fulfilling sex life that doesn’t communicate about it. At some point, they started talking honestly about their sexual intimacy.

We’re often eager to share with our spouse what we think about our sexual intimacy. But you might well need to change your approach and become more eager to understand what your beloved thinks about your sexual intimacy. Which means you need to ask the question: Am I listening to what my spouse says about sex?

If you aren’t, take the emotional earplugs out and create a safe environment for your spouse to say what they need to say. It may not be pleasant at first, but it will hopefully help you figure out where to go from here.

And be sure to pray for your unity.

Q&A with J: How Do I Express What I Want in Bed?

Last week, we talked some about difficulty reaching orgasm, and we’re back at it again today. But it’s a different issue with this wife, who needs some specific tips. Read on:

Do you have any tips for communicating with your husband during intercourse? Hubby and I have been married less than two years, and with most of that entailing some pretty serious physical issues, let’s just say orgasms for me have been hard to come by. We’re finally getting back on track, but still struggling with getting me “across the finish line.” I know we’re supposed to give our husbands in-the-moment feedback, but I literally can’t even figure out how to use words to describe what I want! And what words I can come up with, just the act of thinking and then speaking completely derails any momentum we had going, so end up either frustrated or bored trying to figure out how quickly I can wrap things up! I have tried guiding hubby’s hands but that ends up being more awkward and cumbersome than trying to speak! We talk outside of the bedroom, and I still have a hard time conveying specifically what I might want. And when I tell DH to try changing things up or experimenting a little, he seems to just go back to exactly what he’s used to doing! i love my husband dearly, but it’s like if I don’t give him point by point (by point by point by point) instructions he will always default to the same non-effective thing. Is it really completely my job to completely figure out and explain everything? (If you say yes I’ll believe you J 🙂 any tips for us?

Fessing up, I think communicating verbally during sex is one of the most awkward things I’ve done. Have you ever watched a lovemaking scene on-screen where someone said, “Hold on, I need you to move your hand a little to the left. Okay, there. Softer”? No. No, you have not. What do the scripts say? “I love you,” “You’re beautiful,” “You’re my soul mate,” etc.

And that’s all great. But sometimes you’re right in the throes of passion and intensity is building, and you know — just know — that if he could touch you differently, just a bit, you’d plunge into the orgasm pool with a great big aaaaah. So how do you help him know what brings you the greatest pleasure?

Let’s start with the last question this reader asked: Is it really completely my job to completely figure out and explain everything? No, it’s not. Ideally, you figure out together what works best for you. For instance, even though I’ve encouraged women to explore their own sexual organs to see what feels good so they can then translate that knowledge into the marriage bed, your hand and his hand feel different. So you still have some discovery to do together.

This is actually pretty cool, the way God designed sex. Rather than viewing it as an obstacle, it’s an opportunity take a guided tour of your spouse’s body and explore this amazing territory. What happens when I touch you like this? Do you like it when I kiss you here? How about here? What are your most sensitive places? How can I stir your sensuality and satisfy your senses? What can I do to take you over the edge?

So how do you do experiment and find out what works? Because that’s the first step. You can’t tell somehow what you like if you’ve had no experience with what you like. And it sounds like you two are doing this in the midst of making love. Maybe you need to step back, put intercourse on the back burner for a bit, and actually have a session of exploration, experimentation, and experience.

When you’re not focused on having intercourse or reaching an orgasm, you can slow down, take your time, and see what feels good. If you can swing it, it might be worth you stripping down but him leaving on his clothes, so that the focus is totally on you and your pleasure. Do this once, twice, or a few times, and it might be rather eye-opening for you both.

But even when you’re in the middle of exploration or foreplay, how do you know what you want? Do you really want more pressure or less? To be touched higher or lower? To have him go slower or faster? This is a mindfulness exercise for us women. We have to be very focused on what’s happening with our bodies. We have to mentally concentrate on the sensations we’re feeling and then think, What might feel even better?

It’s often very intentional at first. You purposefully set out to think about what you’re feeling, what might feel good, ask for that, then adjust — moment by moment, touch by touch. But it’s like learning anything else: after a while, you get better and know more quickly and intuitively what you like. Also, most husbands begin to read their wives better, recognizing certain kinds of tension in her body or sounds she’s making indicate greater pleasure.

But what words do you use? It depends somewhat on your own communication style. But, like you, I’ve found that forming words during lovemaking can be difficult at times. So I think a limited vocabulary can help in getting what you want. Keep it to single words and short phrases you can quickly get out and he can quickly respond to. Like softer, harder, faster, slower, up, down, deeper, etc.

Mind you, you might have to use opposite words in a row. Like if you say harder and he gets too rough, you’ll need to say softer to get him to back off little. By the way, hubbies, this is not a critique of your sexual performance. We’re actually more impressed with your lovemaking when you’re willing to listen to our suggestions and help us figure out how we can experience the most pleasure. Good lovers listen and learn.

Good lovers listen and learn. Click To Tweet

What about your momentum? Yeah, it’s interrupted. Once again … at first. When you start talking during lovemaking, it feels awkward and can disrupt your flow. But trust the process. Just because you’re playing scales now doesn’t mean you won’t be mastering Bach tomorrow. In fact, you have to play the scales first.

So let it be awkward. Even be playful about it. Faster, slower, there — yeah, baby [insert giggle here]. Feeling free enough to be a little off-kilter in the moment with your spouse increases intimacy. Because you’re sharing in this discovery, these private moments, and your eventual success.

One final thought: It’s okay to add yourself to this mix. I have encouraged wives to simply move his hand where you want it (hard to ignore that signal). But you can also put your own hand where you want to be touched and say here. Or even take over the direct stimulation, so that he can do something else that arouses you — and together, you bring yourself to climax. Not only is that okay, some husbands find it exciting to see their wives touch themselves. It shows them how into it she is.

I believe you can make this work and experience intimate lovemaking and amazing climaxes. May God bless your efforts!