Today’s question is from a newlywed wife who is struggling with how sexual intimacy has gone thus far in her marriage. Her husband has an extremely high drive, but it’s the way he makes his advances that seems to be the biggest issue at the moment. Read on.
We both waited until marriage to have sex — which made it for somewhat of a painful honeymoon, since my husband was under the assumption we’d have sex every day for 2 weeks. It wasn’t the best way to start out a marriage, given the frustrations and lack of understanding.
My husband is the super-high drive spouse whose love language is physical touch; whereas I am the low drive spouse who feels appreciated and loved through words of affirmation and quality time…
A majority of mornings I wake up to my husband trying to put his thing in between my legs and get in my vagina from behind. It hurts. A lot. And is such an unpleasant way to wake up, especially for someone who is not a morning person. I can’t count the number of times I’ve explained this to him. He just doesn’t seem to listen or care. I understand that men have high levels of testosterone levels in the morning and can wake up aroused, but shouldn’t a husband be respectful of his wife’s body? I don’t climb on top of him in the middle of the night while he is sleeping and start riding him when I want to have sex. Perhaps I should?
I am very mindful that denying my husband of sex can be extremely detrimental to our marriage. If I don’t engage in sex at his desire, it quickly leads to resentment, emotional distance and eventually hurtful words. There are plenty of times in the morning when he tries to come from behind and I’ll ask him if he could enter from the front because it’s less painful. But even that makes me cringe and do everything in my power to not cry and feel as though I’m being raped, as he thrusts full force in and out… all the while I’m trying to figure out how I am going to make it out the door in time to get to work.
A few months ago we sought counsel from our pre-marriage counselors. As well, I have looked into possibly seeking a MFT counselor with the way things are going. However, I would be grateful for any advice, wisdom or recommended resources that you’d be able to share to get over this hurdle!
I’ve been called a frank woman at times. I’m going to now live up to that reputation.
OF COURSE THIS IS NOT OKAY!!! Yes, he should respect your body. You are not his sex receptacle, you’re his wife! And you also get say in how your sexual intimacy looks and feels. This husband probably has no idea what he’s doing, but honestly I just want to smack him upside the head, jiggle something loose, and hope that sense enters his over-driven brain. Because noooo! Just no.
Okay, I got that out, so now I’m going to calmly go through the issues I see in this question.
Dealing with his high-drive. I’ve written before that, at the moment, I’m the higher-drive spouse in my marriage. I understand how intense and urgent sexual desire can feel, but it is not imperative that a spouse immediately fulfill that longing. Even if you compare it to something life-giving like food or water, we all know that we can skip a meal or stay thirsty for a bit without damage.
Higher-drive spouses absolutely need to be appreciated, validated, and sexually satisfied in their marriages. However, their drive doesn’t give them license to force or pressure their spouse into sexual activity. Sex as God designed should be a mutually engaging experience.
So that means that a lower-drive spouse may need to work a bit harder to make sexual intimacy a priority, prepare themselves mentally and physically for sex, and choose to engage and even let the pleasurable sensations follow that decision (and not vice versa). But a higher-drive husband has responsibilities as well — namely to treat his lower-drive mate with great care.
From a practical standpoint, I suggest you talk to your husband about frequency of sexual intimacy and how you want to participate more in the experience. Let him know that you want to prioritize sex, but you need input on what that looks like. Sometimes it helps to schedule sex, so that a higher-drive spouse can relax knowing it’s right around the corner and the lower-drive spouse can have a heads-up to prepare their mind and body.
Denying sex once isn’t “depriving” your spouse of sex. I am pleased this wife understands the importance of not shutting off her body to her husband: “I am very mindful that denying my husband of sex can be extremely detrimental to our marriage.” However, I do not buy the line of reasoning that says you can never say no to your spouse when it comes to the marriage bed.
I think many Christians have had 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 used like a cattle brand, searing its harshest interpretation into our brains. The passage says:
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.
Okay, so we can’t deprive each other. But what does that mean? If I miss a meal, am I literally deprived of food? I don’t think so. I just have to wait. Now if I can’t eat for days, we have a genuine problem. We have absolutely no biblical standing to refuse our spouses over and over the sexual intimacy God intended for them, and us, to have. (Also see Sheila Gregoire’s fabulous article on the meaning of this scripture.)
However, there can be good reasons to delay sexual intimacy, like recovering from a health issue or needing that time to take care of something more urgent (family care?). Notice that I said delay and not deprive. If you say no, which is one option to a spouse’s advances, then be willing to suggest another time. I’ve referred to that as rain check sex. Then, you’re not saying no; you’re saying not now.
It is just fine to say to your husband, “Not this morning,” when he tries to put “his thing” in between your legs and get in. That is not denial. It is requesting greater respect than he’s showing. Because your body is both yours and his, but his body is both his and yours. Right now, he’s acting like both bodies are his possession. And that doesn’t reflect what the Bible says about marriage and intimacy.
Sex is becoming (or has become) a bad experience for you. From your email, I glean that your husband is not giving your feelings and opinions sufficient weight. In fact, his actions are making something God intended to be beautiful and connecting into a harsh and divisive act. You have to speak up about this!
Sweetheart, God wants you to enjoy the sexual experience. He created sex for you too. And having a penis shoved into you with no warning and no lubrication flat out hurts. He may have had erroneous assumptions prior to marriage about sexual frequency, but he apparently also has erroneous assumptions about how your body and his body work together. If he doesn’t know, someone has to teach him — and that someone is you.
Away from the bedroom, talk to him about how your body works and what would help you get in the mood. Explain honestly that he is hurting your body and your heart. He likely doesn’t understand the full consequences of what he’s doing. Indeed, he may have received bad teaching that wives aren’t supposed to ever deprive their husbands but you can’t expect them to enjoy it as much and sex is clearly for the husband. Au contraire! If you read Song of Songs together, you’ll see how mutual the marriage bed can and should be.
Tell him you must have foreplay and lubrication before he can enter. Period. I don’t think that’s negotiable, because without it you’ll likely experience pain, soreness, even abrasions and a greater tendency for infections. Explain that you want to learn to enjoy intercourse with him and you both need time to explore what that looks like. Ask or show him what you would like.
For most husbands, once he experiences how he can use his hands and his body to turn you on, he will experience pleasure that will encourage him to continue that practice. Many husbands report that seeing their wives in ecstasy, especially an orgasm, makes them feel terrific. Your man can be incredibly potent in the bedroom by paying attention to your needs and fulfilling your sexual desires.
Seeing a counselor. If this isn’t resolved quickly, yes, you should see a counselor. Find a Christian counselor who will listen to your concerns. If your husband will go with you, that would be best. If he won’t, go alone and get ideas that will nurture your marriage and resolve the sexual intimacy problems.
Respecting yourself. You asked whether a husband should respect his wife’s body. Yes. But you should respect your own body as well. Embrace that you are more than a tool to meet a man’s sexual needs — you are rather the beautiful wife of your Christian husband who wants to engage in sexual intimacy that provides pleasure and deeper meaning to your relationship.
In moments you’re not sure about your choices, try to consider how God would view what’s happening. Would He approve of a spouse shutting down and refusing their spouse sex all the time? Of course not. But would He condone a husband thrusting himself into his unprepared and weeping wife? Of course not.
You absolutely have a responsibility to pursue sexual intimacy with your husband. But you needn’t ignore your worth before God to do it. Speak up and advocate for the long-term health your marriage. You two need to address this problem, because your sex life does not currently reflect all that God longs for you to have in your marriage.
God can redeem any situation, and your sexual intimacy is just waiting for His redemption.