Tag Archives: mismatched sex drives

Should You Track the Frequency of Sex in Your Marriage?

How often do you have sex? It’s a question some spouses can easily answer, and some not so easily.

If you read my short story, “After the Baby,” in Behind Closed Doors: Five Marriage Stories, the main character is a husband who knows exactly how long it’s been since he and his wife made love. Because it’s been too long. And I get that in comments and emails from time to time — a spouse who can state with absolute accuracy how many times they’ve had sex with their mate in the last month or year.

Yet maybe we think we know, and don’t. Spouses are not always on the same page about how often sex is happening in their marriage.

I found it interesting that Jimmy Kimmel Live has grabbed couples off the street and asked how many times they’d had sex in the last month. Check out one clip from the show:

One couple matched each other’s answers, but the other didn’t. Why the discrepancy?

It made me think about the suggestion I’ve heard that a spouse track how often they make love in their marriage. Is this a good idea?

Calendar being marked with a pencil

I used to think probably not. Because this practice is often suggested by someone who thinks they’re not getting enough, and they’re basically looking for evidence (translation: ammunition) to make the case that they’re being cheated.

But I then I decided to test it out myself. Unbeknownst to my husband (Hi, love! Are you reading this?), I marked on my calendar the days we made love for about a month. And you know what? It was more often than I thought it would be.

As the higher-drive spouse right now in our marriage, maybe I was a little more focused on when it wasn’t happening than when it was. And isn’t that really a bit short-sighted? Perhaps even selfish?

Now that I have a better sense of our routine, I can relax a little more. Yes, I sometimes want a higher frequency of sexual intimacy, but we’re doing pretty well. And putting those instances on the calendar, I could connect what might have gotten in the way of us making love or, better yet, what made it a good time to make love.

My general conclusion was that loaded calendar days kept us from connecting in many ways, including physically, while quality time together often ended with lovemaking. Hardly a stunning revelation, but it was helpful to see in my own life.

If you can approach tracking the frequency as an interesting experiment, perhaps it would be worthwhile to see how often you’re making love. I suspect what would happen is what occurred in the video. Some couples would find that they’re having sex about as often as they thought, and then they can decide whether that’s enough for their marriage or if they need to make some calendar changes.

Other spouses will discover a discrepancy — probably because lower-drive spouses think they’re doing it more often than they are, and higher-drive spouses think they’re doing it less often than they are. For this second couple, it could be eye-opening to discover the truth of what’s happening in your relationship. And it might pinpoint an attitudinal or behavioral change you need to make for the wellbeing of your marriage.

Having actual data could help you avoid making unfounded accusations about what’s happening in your sex life. After all, one of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). And let’s face it: Some spouses have falsely accused their spouse of pursuing more or giving less sex than they actually are. If you’re tracking to uncover the truth, maybe this idea would work for you.

Have you ever tracked the frequency of sex in your marriage? Were you surprised by the results? Do you consider this a good or a bad idea?

Related Post: How Often Should You Have Sex?

Do You Personalize Sexual Rejection?

To those who get sexually rejected by your husband: Hearing no hurts.

I get it. Some of you hear a no now and again, and some of you hear it a lot. But either way, you experience a strong desire to be physically and emotionally connected to your beloved, you approach your spouse with high hopes, and you get brushed off — your longings left unfulfilled.

But something often happens next. You ask yourself why.Do You Personalize Rejection?

Why does your hubby not respond to your sexual advances? Why do other husbands seem to want their wives but your husband doesn’t? Why isn’t your beauty the kind that stops traffic, or at least makes your husband look up from his TV show? Why does he say he’s too tired or too busy or too fill-in-the-blank? Is that really the reason, or could it be something else?

Given how quickly our female minds jump from one thing to another, it could be mere moments before you settle in on what you’re sure must be the truth: He just doesn’t want you.

Not only this time, but generally speaking. You believe there’s something wrong with you or your relationship or your beauty or your worthiness or … And the list goes on. We personalize the rejection.

I’ve talked before about the many reasons why a lower-drive husband might not be as interested in sex as you (and sometimes he) would like him to be. They include such issues as low testosterone, depression, sexual baggage, porn habits — even from his past — that make it hard to respond properly to in-person arousal, and the heavy burden of stress. Just getting older can also decrease a man’s sense of urgency for sexual interaction; believe it or not, some older men might choose sleep over sex from time to time.

But when we personalize that rejection, we don’t see those factors. A wife ends up feeling like her husband isn’t saying no merely to sex, but to her. And not because of some issue within him, but because he’s rejecting her personally. When that’s probably not what’s going on.

Why do we do this? Maybe for one of the following reasons.

Women are relationship problem-solvers. Men are often seen as the problem-solvers — the ones who, when you explain a problem, skip right over sympathy or commiseration to “how can this be fixed?” That stereotype holds some truth, especially when the problem is well-defined.

However, when it comes to relationships, I think women are more likely to be problem-solvers. When we see something amiss, we jump in to assuage hurt feelings, correct misunderstandings, resolve differences, and mend the cracks. We don’t like cracks in our relational bonds, and we try to putty over those as fast as possible.

Being rejected sexually feels like a relationship crack. And if we can’t fix our husband, the immediate place we go to is fixing ourselves. Clearly — a wife thinks — I must be the problem, and if only I can fix that… Fixing ourselves is within our sphere of control.

So we try to do better, look better, be better. And, while I believe in becoming your best self, this can veer off into becoming someone who isn’t you. That is, you minimize your value, your desires, your beauty — trying to become someone you think your husband wants.

When most of the time, his lack of drive isn’t about that. And he already has who he wants — you.

Women are constant comparers. If I had a nickel for every time a woman in my midst compared herself to another woman’s homemaking, mothering, or appearance, I wouldn’t be writing this blog right now — I’d be sipping a paper-umbrella-decorated drink on the beach of my private island. Wives are constantly measuring how we’re doing by checking in on how other women are doing, and then drawing (often erroneous) conclusions.

So what happens when you hear how often other wives are getting “hit on” by their husbands? When the messages you’re getting are that “all husbands want is sex,” but that’s not your experience? When it feels like all other husbands are raring to go at the snap of a bra opening, and that’s not happening in your marital bedroom?

You look at those wives … you look at yourself … and you decide there’s something wrong with you. What else could be happening? Well, a lot of things actually. But it’s easy to ignore all the other reasons for a difference in sex drives and personalize that rejection. You can end up thinking if all those husbands are chasing after their wives, then your husband must simply be unhappy with the wife he chose.

But that’s rarely the issue. More often, it’s something going on inside him. And playing the comparison game isn’t helping your situation.

Men are bad communicators. Okay, not all of you guys. I promise I’m not trying to be mean here. But from the female perspective, you guys can be hard to figure out because you often don’t tell us what’s going on inside you!

Now I live a house of three men. Typical answers to “how are you feeling?” include hungry, tired, stressed. To me, those aren’t feelings. Feelings are discouraged, grieving, depressed, sullen, heartsick — and those all just describe sad. If you listen long enough, I can also give you full description of where I feel this sadness in my body, why I think it’s there, and metaphors or similes to describe what I’m feeling (“It’s like I’m tethered to the ground”). Look, I know some of that is because I’m a writer, but some of it is because I’m a woman. We express our thoughts and feelings!

Sure, plenty of marriages contradict this pattern, but it’s not uncommon for a guy to keep his feelings close to his chest, or even be unable to define or describe what’s happening inside him. So when he doesn’t have a high sex drive, what’s he supposed to say? He likely says as little as possible, because most guys don’t like to talk about their bad emotions.

So wives fill in the gaps, imagining what he’s really thinking. Even figuring the only reason he isn’t saying something is because it’s bad and about us. So yeah, it’s not just poor communication of some husbands, but also the overactive imagination of some wives.

But what if the explanation “I’m tired” or “I need to finish this job for work” really is the reason? What if you’ve complicated the whole thing because, as a woman, you wouldn’t have communicated it that way?

Honestly, ladies, men are fairly simple. If he says, “I think you’re sexy, but I’m not up for it tonight,” what he probably means is, “I think you’re sexy, but I’m not up for it tonight.” No, really. I didn’t believe it at first either, but further investigation has led me to conclude that men are not lying. They really can say in 15 words or less everything they’re actually thinking. And if they’re feeling more than that, they need time to process and figure out how to express it.

So if the rejection isn’t personal, how can you stop believing that a no to sex indicates some flaw in you?

Ask yourself some questions and really think about your answers. It’s easy to react with your default settings, but consider an alternative perspective.

  1. What if the reason he gives me really is the reason? To fix a problem, you have to diagnose it correctly. If you expend a lot of effort thinking the problem is you, you’re expending effort in the wrong area. Instead, you could be helping to resolve the actual issue.
  2. Would he behave this way if he was married to someone else? I’m not trying to get you to imagine him married to someone else, but this one helped me with other issues in my marriage that I once thought were personal. Instead, I realized he’d be doing what he was doing no matter who he lived with, so it clearly wasn’t personal.
  3. What if he’s frustrated too? One reason you don’t hear more from low-drive husbands is that they’re often frustrated that they aren’t like those other husbands they hear about too. They wonder what’s wrong with them, and might even feel bad for not being able to sexually satisfy their wives. A little compassion for a husband in this situation can help you both deal with the real issues at hand.
  4. How would I feel if he took personally those times when I did something he didn’t like that wasn’t about him? You can personalize almost anything in marriage, like believing that him leaving the toilet seat up is an intentional disregard for your health and safety. (It’s not.) Most of us can remember a time when we were just in a bad mood that had to do with work, kids, hormones, whatever … and he thought it was a slight against him. But it wasn’t. Remember how that irritated you more? Don’t do that to your man regarding his sex drive.
  5. What could I do to be more positive and encouraging of sexual intimacy in our marriage? Hint: Personalizing rejection isn’t positive or encouraging. Being a safe place to talk, addressing real issues in your marriage, and seeking help when you need it is positive and encouraging. Remind yourself that yes, he is tired, stressed, and/or dealing with physical issues. Choose to believe him when he says that he still finds you attractive and loves you. Look for more conducive times and ways to approach him with sexual advances.

This is one instance when “it’s not you, it’s me” is usually true. But in marriage, me becomes we. So instead of spending your time personalizing the rejection, try to identify the real issue and tackle it together. Many couples with mismatched sex drives have figured it out, but only by being one another’s support.

Q&A with J: Why Did God Make Sex So Hard Sometimes?

Today’s reader question is a short one, with a longer answer.

I had (what I hope is) a quick question. I’ve read that for men, arousal tends to follow desire, whereas for women, desire tends to follow arousal.

Do we have any thoughts on why God created things this way, assuming it was not by accident?

Q&A with J: Why Did God Make Sex So Hard Sometimes?

My first thought is that God has quite the sense of humor. Not only do we have to get naked and get into these awkward positions to have sex, we have to figure out the one we love and all those ways they’re different from us. We plan for our sexual intimacy to look like a passionate love scene from a romance novel, and sometimes it ends up feeling more like putting together an IKEA bookshelf unit with no assembly instructions. (Not that I read the instructions anyway.)

It reminds me of this Yiddish proverb: We plan, God laughs.

We plan, God laughs.

However, God did not design us this way just to have a great big belly laugh, especially not at our expense. He is generous and wise, and I think He created such differences for a higher purpose.

That higher purpose is to make us more like Jesus. Yep, I really believe that.

It’s true that for many husbands, arousal follows desire. He wants sex; then sees, thinks about, or touches you; and bam! he’s ready to go. Yet for many wives, desire follows arousal. Which is why some wives feel they don’t have a sex drive, but if they choose to engage and become aroused . . . their libido kicks in. One way isn’t better than the other; they’re just different. Getting you both on the same page to feel arousal and desire together can be a challenge.

But if husband and wife approach sexual intimacy and satisfaction differently, then they must display traits characteristic of Jesus to get in harmony and experience the best in their marriage. The Bible says that’s how we should conduct ourselves in our relationships with each other, including marriage:

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

The passage following (Philippians 2:6-11) is quite possibly a hymn sung in the early church about Jesus’ humility and servant-mindedness as he left the throne of Heaven, became a servant on earth all the way to the cross, and was then exalted by God to the highest place — where He belongs.

And the verses before this one tell us about several Christ-like characteristics we should pursue:

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:1-4).

Did you see those traits? Tenderness, compassion, like-mindedness, love, unselfishness, humility, consideration of others.

I can’t assume my husband will approach sexuality the same way I do, so I have to make an effort to understand him, honor him, arouse him, and satisfy him. And he should make that effort for me. As we display that kind of tenderness, compassion, love, etc., we become less selfish and more like Christ.

Our sexual intimacy better mirrors the relationship we Christians have to our bridegroom, Jesus. We understand more about our spouse, but we also understand more about Christ and the loving, intimate relationship He wants with us.

I’m not saying that you can never pursue your own pleasure in the marriage bed. Jesus fed others, but he also ate and drank plenty, including at supper at people’s houseswedding celebrations, and a dinner in his honor. It’s okay to want the good stuff for yourself, but you must also attend to what your spouse needs.

God making us different forces that equation.

But it acts like a cycle too, where honoring one another’s different sexuality brings us more pleasure in the end anyway. Satisfying one another becomes satisfying for ourselves. I know that in the throes of ecstasy, when my husband is rockin’ my world with a capital R-O-C-K, I feel especially motivated to turn him on even more. Turning him on, turns me on. Turning me on, turns him on.

Sex often doesn’t start that way. It can be a choice one spouse makes to engage and allow their arousal to follow — often the wife, but it can be the husband who has less independent sex drive. And that higher-drive spouse — often the husband but not necessarily — needs to be patient and considerate of their beloved’s need to warm up more slowly.

Your mismatch in drives and arousal could be a big problem, but they could simply be a difference — a difference that pushes us toward being like Christ. Even in the marital bedroom.

So I don’t think God’s trying to make sex harder for us. He’s trying to make us better for one another and more like Him. Our calling is to embrace the sex drive we have or can cultivate and trust His generosity.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

Q&A: Will Frequent Yeses Turn My Husband into a Sex Maniac?

Welcome to the Summer of Q&A with J! The first question I’m tackling today addresses giving your husband the green light for frequent sex. If you let him know you’ll say yes when he initiates, will you be stuck with more sex than you can handle? Read on.

Q&A: Will Frequent Yeses Turn My Husband into a Sex Maniac?“[I]n offering sex to my husband every day, sometimes more than once a day, I have turned him into a sex maniac, I think.  He told me that he and his late wife, with whom he had a very good marriage…went through periods…when they only had sex once or twice a year, and that even as newlyweds, it was only once or twice a week.  Supposedly if you offer your husband sex every day, this dissipates his fear that he won’t ‘get any’, so his demand goes down.  No, just the reverse, daily sex and multiple daily sex has become the norm.  Just recently we slowed down to maybe five days a week.

“I’m ok with this — for myself, I’m not so crazy about sex, but I love having that experience with my husband — but, as both of us are devout people, I wonder if it’s such a good thing for him.  I know it’s good for his health and good for our marriage, but I wonder if awakening so much desire is really a good thing, spiritually.  I talk to him about it, because he is surprised by this too, but he doesn’t feel it has any bearing on faith or spirituality…

“On the one hand I am concerned about turning my husband into a sex maniac but on the other hand I can’t help but be flattered.”

I see two major issues in this reader’s question.

“Supposedly if you offer your husband sex every day, this dissipates his fear that he won’t ‘get any’, so his demand goes down.”

I suspect this is true, but not over the short-term. When a higher-drive spouse has longed for sex but hasn’t gotten to experience it fully, an invitation to partake at will can result in a bit of overindulgence. Why? For some, it feels like this just can’t be. They worry this offer is too good to be true, so they must get as much as possible now, just in case, or they test the waters to confirm it’s real and not a pinch-me-awake dream.

Also, imagine you’ve been wanting and waiting for something for a long time. When you finally get the go-ahead, you can go a bit crazy. Think about young kids and Christmas, the first visitors to an amusement park or concert, or even “Black Friday.” If you’ve camped outside Wal-Mart since midnight waiting for the deep-discounted holiday shopping to begin, when 4 a.m. arrives and the attendant throws open those doors . . . you might sprint into and through that store with the fervor of a Cheetah on Red Bull.

But I’ve been shopping on Black Friday afternoon, and it’s not bad. After the initial hype, things ease into a typical holiday shopping crowd. I’d expect the same to happen in a marriage. Once you throw open those bedroom doors to your husband (or wife), they might be extra-eager to soak up all the intimacy they can get. Over time, however, things will likely settle a bit. Will they settle to the same level you might want? Maybe, maybe not. Your higher-drive honey may always want more than you’d order up, but you probably won’t be inundated with Energizer-bunny levels of sexual intimacy.

“I know it’s good for his health and good for our marriage, but I wonder if awakening so much desire is really a good thing, spiritually.”

On one hand, how could it possibly be bad to awaken sexual desire in your marriage and enjoy God’s gift of physical intimacy? Isn’t it living into God’s design to enjoy frequent sex together?

Some believe because sex is physical, it’s somehow “lesser-than” in the spiritual realm. Yet many Spirit-filled activities have a physical component. Consider Matthew 25:34-36: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Jesus counts all these things, very physical manifestations of love, as righteousness. Sex as God designed is a physical expression of agape love to your mate. And because God is so loving, He made it physically pleasurable.

However, there is another side to this. The Bible says sex can get in the way of focusing on your faith at times. Why else would it say…?

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” —1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (emphasis added)

Refraining from sex here is clearly a set period of time, agreed upon by both spouses, and for a specific purpose. It can be good to abstain from sexual relations for a short period to dedicate yourself to prayer—as one might fast from food for the same reason. It’s not the thing itself (food/sex) that is a problem, but removing potential distractions can foster one-on-one time with God. Day-to-day, however, there’s no indication frequent sex itself interferes with spirituality.

Still, sex could mess up your spiritual life if it continually competes with God for your attention. Exodus 20:3 says:  “You shall have no other gods before me.” Anything can become a “god” to you, meaning you place it above the real Father in Heaven. Jesus also said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). If one’s focus becomes all about sex, sex, and more sex—so that your heart is there and not with God and your spouse—then yeah, that’s a red-flag issue.

In the case of this specific reader, I suggest she hang in there, because the frequency will probably go down a little bit more. (Although 4-5 times a week sounds good to me.) She doesn’t have to say yes every single time to be honoring God and her husband with sexual intimacy. But she can. As long as you are prioritizing God above all and otherwise devoting yourselves to your faith, get it on as often as you’d like. And thank God for the goodies when you’re done!

3 Things Higher-Drive Spouses Long For

You might think the three things higher-drive spouses long for are sex, sex, and sex. But while I’m certain higher-drive husbands and wives would like greater frequency of sexual intimacy in marriage, I truly believe they want more. So here are three other, very important things higher-drive spouses long for.

couple sitting on bed, facing away from each other + blog post title

1. Recognition that their sex drive isn’t bad. When you want physical intimacy a lot, and your spouse doesn’t, you can get the feeling your sex drive is a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s just a feeling you have that you want sex more than you want to want it. And other times, it’s expressed by your mate with statements like, “Stop being so selfish,” or questions like, “Why do you want sex all the time?” — usually accompanied by a haughty tone and a sneer.

Rather than embracing your libido, you start to feel less-than, in your eyes and/or your spouse’s. And that’s a horrible thing to feel about something that should be considered a gift from God.

What does the higher-drive spouse want? Recognition from their spouse that this sex drive isn’t bad. It’s not inherently selfish or evil or disgusting. A strong desire to make love with your covenant mate is a beautiful thing.

2. Understanding that sex isn’t just about sex. Sure, I know some people who are completely into the physical side of sex and don’t understand the deeper implications. But I hear from many, many more higher-drive spouses who want sex not simply for physical satisfaction, but because it makes them feel connected, loved, and intimate with their spouse. If it was only about physical release — being candid here — the higher-drive spouse could take care of things on their own.

Instead, that husband or wife seeking more sex doesn’t see their mate as a mere tool for achieving a goal. No way! For them, it isn’t just about sex — it’s about so much more. Even if words fail them and they seem to default to talking about the sex itself, if you could dig deep and tease out what’s really happening, sex is powerfully meaningful.

They want the physical pleasure, but they want the whole package — physical, recreational, emotional, spiritual. And more than anything, the higher drive spouse wants to feel the love of their mate.

3. Commitment to try. The mismatch in drives can be frustrating, but what really hurts is a mate unwilling to even try. It pains the heart of someone longing to show love in the bedroom to be rebuffed and refused constantly, with no hope in sight of anything ever changing. What would help a lot is a simple commitment to try — try to talk about it, try to see another point of view, try to get in the mood, try to change things up a little now and then, try enjoying yourself in bed.

Most higher-drive spouses don’t expect an immediate turnaround in their less-willing mate. While it would be great to come home one day and find their lover with bedroom eyes, little on their body, and rip-raring to go, that’s not their expectation or intent. Rather, they long for the lower-drive spouse to love them enough to try to understand and meet their needs — just as you should each be doing in other areas of marriage. The higher-drive spouse isn’t looking for a quick change, but rather a long-term commitment to invest in sexual intimacy.

If you’re the higher-drive spouse, do you long for these things? And what else? If you’re the lower-drive spouse, in what way do you struggle with the desires or expectations of your higher-drive mate?