Today’s question is from a husband frustrated with his marriage’s lack of intimacy. His wife’s frustrated too, but they can’t seem to see eye-to-eye on what next . . . and the marriage is suffering. Here’s his question:
My wife has been complaining about the lack of intimacy for many years- rightfully so. I am to blame because I have not had a healthy sex drive for many years. I want to rekindle the flame, and have suggested that we rearrange the furniture in the living room so that we can sit next to each other so that I can make physical contact with her and kiss and fondle her. She is now refusing to allow that, because she is saying that she is feeling mad, frustrated and love is dying in her for me.
I also want to encourage changing the scenery and would like to buy us sexy bedroom robes and high heels for her to lounge in. To me, intimacy starts by physically being close to her and by seeing her in sexy clothes or even as little clothes as possible. I also want to suggest that she get in the shower with me, which we have never done before. I am afraid she is going to turn me down on all these suggestions because of how she is feeling right now. I can’t get myself into the state of mind of wanting to have sex if my sexual fluids have not been lubed up.
She has never initiated sex, not do I expect her to ever start now. She complains about the lack of it and says she has a high sex drive. So how do I get myself out of this vicious circle? Please help me out. I want to save our marriage.
When someone poses a question, I address that person. If the wife wrote me, I might have some things to say to her, but this question is from the husband — and, while spouses can influence one another, you can only change you. With that in mind, what should the husband do?
Dude, your whole email is about what would get you revvin’. And I get it, I really do. I think that’s important information for your wife to have and consider. But NOT NOW. You’re in a tangled thicket of marital discord, and that is not the place from which any reasonable wife says to herself, “Hey, I know what I want! I want him to go straight to fondling me on the couch, I’ll dress in sexy lingerie and high heels for him, and I want to shower up his naked man-goods. Oh boy, I can’t wait!”
Think about it: You’re upset because you’re not getting what you want from your marriage, and it’s making it very difficult for you to engage in sexual intimacy with her. She‘s upset because she‘s not getting what she wants from her marriage, and it’s making it very difficult for her to engage in sexual intimacy with you. Since you can’t make her meet your desires, why not shift your focus to meeting hers? Not only is this likely to have a better chance of success, check these out:
“…remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (Acts 20:35b).
“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 2:3-4).
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15).
“A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water” (Proverbs 11:25, NRSV).
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5, NLT).
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).
I could go on. Obviously, the Bible is chock-full of admonition and encouragement to love and serve others — and that’s especially important in our marriages, where we have a greater opportunity and obligation.
Therefore, I’d encourage you to hold off on requesting what you want until you’ve first given her the chance to express why she is struggling with physical intimacy and you’ve given it your best shot to meet her reasonable needs and desires. Is this hard stuff? Oh yeah. We are so primed to be aware of what we are not getting and what we want that it’s incredibly difficult to shove that aside, listen to your spouse, and focus on their pain, their concerns, their hopes.
Which is why I also think you need to pray. Not that sort of prayer that asks the Lord to change her, but to empower you to be the husband you want to be, the confidant she needs, the faithful protector of her heart and her body. Honestly, sometimes my prayers are me gritting my teeth, looking to heaven, and saying, “I can’t do this anymore. Help. Me.” I think God’s okay with that, and He shows up in those moments of need.
How can you find out what’s going on with her? I encourage you also read my posts on How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse and 3 Barriers to Communicating with Your Spouse about Sex. It might take some time to break through and see real progress, but you’re right — the current situation is untenable, something’s gotta change. Sexual intimacy is important for your marriage. But you can take positive steps toward being the most loving husband you can be, and you might be surprised in the long run at the way a wife softens when her husband creates an atmosphere of emotional safety and genuine care.
First, rekindle her flame. Then you can ask her to rekindle yours — although I suspect it might be rekindled at that point too. There’s something about loving someone actively and extravagantly that makes you love them all the more.
What’s your advice on rekindling your spouse’s flame, your own, or the fires of the marriage itself?