Hot, Holy & Humorous

Are You a High-Maintenance Lover?

In one of my favorite movies ever, When Harry Met Sally, this scene defined well the concept of being low or high maintenance:

Yet here’s the thing: I don’t think we’re all low or all high maintenance. It’s possible to be low maintenance in some areas and high in others.

For instance, in my marriage I am low-maintenance in the romance department. My husband doesn’t have to woo me a whole bunch and I’m proactive in letting him know what kind of romance I need.

Meanwhile, I’m more high-maintenance in the listening department. Because I talk a lot, and he has to be willing to hear me out while I ramble. (Poor guy.) I’m even a ranter at times, requiring him to dig through my blah-blah-blah to get to the point. (Again, poor guy.)

I could name his low-maintenance and high-maintenance areas, but since Spock won’t necessarily admit the latter one and I want my day with him to go well, I’ll refrain from posting that publicly on my blog.

But I’m sure you and your spouse could do the same exercise: naming your high-maintenance and low-maintenance areas for each other. How about if you tried that same thing about how you are in the marital bedroom?

Blog post title + couple in bed arguing

Because I’m just going to say it: Some of you are high-maintenance in the marriage bed. Really. High. Maintenance.

Some of you are high-maintenance in the marriage bed. Share on X

And like Sally up there, you may not realize it. You may think you’re low maintenance but you’re high maintenance. You might even make the case: “Well, I just want it the way I want it.”

Except that, when it comes to sex, your spouse shouldn’t be like your personal waiter having to fill your complicated menu order.

Let’s take an honest look at how we approach sex in our marriage. How many hoops does your mate have to jump through to get your participation in the marriage bed? Here are some common high-maintenance requests:

  • You can’t make love until all of the day’s chores are done, the kids are fully asleep, and you’ve got your to-do list made for tomorrow.
  • The lights must be out, or the room at least in extremely low light, because heaven forbid your husband see you naked.
  • You don’t want to take extra time to get your spouse all the way to climax, because that takes too long.
  • You have a short window in which sex must happen, because the rest of the time you’re exhausted and not “in the mood.”
  • You want your spouse to perform a specific sexual act, and you’re resentful if you don’t get it.
  • You can’t have sex if there’s any chance whatsoever that your child might hear a peep of what you’re doing.

I bet others could add to my list of examples.

But what I’m talking about is getting so persnickety about how sex must unfold that it’s hard to know when would actually be a good time for you to relax and make love.

Now, if it isn’t good for you, I’m not saying to just do it anyway. God’s plan is for you to enjoy the sexual intimacy in your marriage as well. That’s one reason I wrote Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, to help you become more confident and excited in the bedroom, and I included a chapter on achieving orgasm — because your pleasure matters.

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But the status of quo of “meet my demands or no sex” isn’t tenable for very long. It creates resentment for your spouse and keeps you from pursuing this blessing God longs for you to have.

Whatever the obstacle is — whatever unreasonable demand you’re making — take steps to address it. If you struggle with body image so that turning on the lights is a horrifying thought, check out my Feel Beautiful series or our Sex Chat for Christian Wives episode on Body Image. If you’re rarely, if ever, “in the mood,” check out Sheila Gregoire’s low libido course.

The answer isn’t to simply stay in high maintenance mode, but rather to work on sex in your marriage becoming more maintainable.

And if you’re married to a high-maintenance lover, it’s tempting to start catering to every little request just so you can “get some” already. But the better question is “how can I make this experience one s/he’ll want to repeat?”

Whether you’re the more demanding spouse or married to one, put some effort into transforming high-maintenance into high satisfaction. For both of you.

Same image as above, sized for Pinterest

16 thoughts on “Are You a High-Maintenance Lover?”

  1. I appreciate that you distinguish between high and low-maintenance “areas” and don’t classify people as being “high” or “low” maintenance in-general. I’ve always bristled at that first classification as I seem to have a different concept of what this means than most people. I was once called “high-maintenance” (not by my husband, but by a co-worker) because I’m a coffee snob and a food snob; and I also work out most days and take care to look presentable before I leave the house. But for me “high-maintenance” implies that I’m a whiny, needy person who needs constant company, input and reassurance – e.g,, unable to do for myself (like make my own high-end coffee), expecting my husband to call me 6 times a day, going to the restroom only with friends, and so on. On the contrary, I’ve always done things for and by myself; and if anything I take care of my husband and volunteer to help others.

    Maybe some take “high-maintenance” to mean a person who is selective and has high standards, which I suppose isn’t so bad. But I was shocked the first time someone called me this and I still don’t consider it a compliment. However this article makes me consider that even if I’m not “high-maintenance” in general (by my definition) I likely do have areas with higher hurdles and more hoops to jump through than others.

    1. For me, high maintenance boils down to what happens if you can’t easily get what you want. If you start demanding your own way or trying to force others to accommodate you, you’re high maintenance. If you can let things go and adapt, you’re low maintenance.

  2. Yikes—I’m high maintenance! Time to do some personal readjusting. Thanks for revealing a blind spot in my life!

  3. Wow…my spouse exhibits some of the listed signs of high maintenance lover. I never thought of this because my spouse is low maintenance in other areas of my spouse’s life. Thank you for your insights…they are helpful.

  4. I like the distinction you make between certain areas of our lives, and that nobody is always one way all the time. Even within those areas, there may be times that we’re more low maintenance, when we’re usually on the “higher maintenance” end, and vice versa. I think too, that we need to be very careful about labeling others or even ourselves, as Terry points out. For instance, I have often had a reputation for being a “quiet” man. Not always!! I did appreciate that someone my wife knows that I just met had the impression of me as “a man of few words”. That’s somewhat more specific. We all have our likes and dislikes.

    In our marriage, I’m happy to say I think we’re both more “low maintenance” than we used to be, and not just about sex. In fact, I think what you say, though it especially applies to sex and marriage, really applies to any other relationship, whether at work, friendship, or other. As for sex, part of it may be that we’re both a little older and wiser, not a young couple anymore, except at heart. Though I would want to quash another stereotype about sex drive diminishing with age. Again, not as much as some may think.

  5. I know this is an older post, but I’ve been busy and am catching up on some blog reading. I have to say, i appreciate your consistently biblical any loving perspective so much!

    It surprises me to see “kids must be asleep, chores done, to do list written” on your list of high maintenance. It seems the most common advice to low libido spouses is to make sure their work is out of the way, so they aren’t just laying there thinking about it, to eliminate distractions/possible interruptions (in my case that would be one of my for children) and to talk stuff put first, get stuff off your mind, etc (which again, for me, means figure out what I’ve done today and what remains for tomorrow). Maybe I don’t see this as high maintenance because my husband and I are both that way? We always wrap up our house chores before bed, always secure all the kids (there have been a handful of times when we attempted sex without the children sleeping and we both hated it – but our kids are only five and younger, so that might contribute), and we always spend a solid 30-60 minutes in bed together talking about our day/tomorrow’s plans. And that’s typically when other stuff happens 😉 I’ll be considering this, tho, and see if this pattern is keeping us from intimacy more than I realize.

    1. Oh, I don’t think there’s a problem if you’re both geared that way. The problem comes when you can’t engage before a long list of to-dos is done such that your spouse feels like everything has to be just so for him/her to have a chance at sex. Does that clarify?

  6. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I’m about to address the question of; how do you want me to love you because my efforts aren’t resulting in the love I want from her. My wife is definitely high maintenance when it comes to sexual intimacy. She will spend an hour or a few watching recorded shows in the evenings ‘winding down.’ At bedtime her todo list has to be checked off and tomorrow’s made, e-mail checked, Facebook checked, Instagram checked. I lay there in wait rarely talking because I’m delaying her routine of checking off the list. I tend to the kitchen, picking up the living room, making sure the little one is bathed and the older kids are in bed by 9pm. I too want to live in a clean house and ease her mind of needing to do one more thing keeping us apart so I don’t complain about household chores. What bothers me is sex doesn’t happen unless she’s in the mood and even then I’m almost at the point I’m not that excited about it because I’ve wanted for so long and been met with uninterest. Neglect and having to have all your ducks in a row before sex can happen really cheapens the whole experience.

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  8. Some of the high maintenance stuff is knee-jerk, some is selfishness, and some is a lack of consideration of others. However, at some point it exhibits a lack of love for the other person. He/she wants what they want/how they want it/when they want it. Is that love??? Just asking! Deliberately showing love to the other person because we love them and want to please them is transformative. It really is.

  9. This is about perfectionism in the bedroom, isn’t it?

    Early on in our marriage, my husband told me that my ‘lady-parts’ are ‘not beautiful but not ugly’. He also disliked the taste of me during oral sex (which we tried just once). I could take the comment about oral sex, but the comments around how I looked ‘down there’ was such a blow to my self-esteem, already struggling from years of knowing I wasn’t a beautiful person, and years of struggling with pain during intercourse. He told me though that everything else about me is beautiful, though not perfect.

    This was at least ten years ago. For years I had sex with him in a darkened room because of these comments. Only recently after years of him assuring me that I’m beautiful, I’ve started having sex with the light on…

    I would love him to spend time pleasuring me manually, and started having the conversation with him, however it triggered the memory of his previous comments about how my parts looked ‘down there’. We had the conversation again last night about them and unfortunately he is still of the same opinion (they are not beautiful but not ugly either). Oral sex is still a no-no because of my taste (as per the one attempt years ago). He doesn’t see why I am so upset about his comments on my visual appearance. He says those parts are all about ‘function’ not beauty, and they function perfectly well. He is happy to manually massage me but the thought of placing myself in such a vulnerable revealing position to his undelighted gaze for this to happen is leaving me cringing, and I don’t know that the experience would be positive for me.

    My heart longs for my whole body, imperfect as it is, to be delighted in, to be beautiful. Is that such a bad thing to wish for? Is that me being a perfectionist?

    My husband is really the most caring man in the world, and as might be obvious from this post, he is a perfectionist. So… two perfectionists, who wins?

    1. Frankly, I think you had a reasonable response to his comments. I totally understand why you would be hurt and unwilling to fully engage.

      As for the taste issue, I don’t really know what to say on that one. Except that all of my research on this topic shows that healthy living is the best way to improve taste: good diet, drinking plenty of water, limited alcohol, no smoking. But as for how your parts look? Hubs and I have talked about how we don’t genitalia are attractive per se, but they are appealing. Not beautiful so much as fascinating in how they work and experience pleasure. I wonder if that’s what your husband means?

      1. Thanks for your response. Appreciate how any question can be asked here. Re visual appearance, i don’t *think* hubby means appealing either, but I will float that by him in case I have misunderstood. Re taste, back then I was NOT eating very healthily – I have been now for years, so in theory I should taste a lot better now!! Don’t know if he’s game enough to give it another go though…

  10. “meet my demands or no sex”


    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.

    And if that was not clear enough, St Paul states it differently in multiple ways:

    1. But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. I.e. have sex to prevent sexual immorality, hence whenever there’s a need.
    2. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. I.e. you have a mutual duty to give your spouse sex, a DUTY, i.e. a JOB
    3. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent. I.e. only if you BOTH agree you can NOT have sex. This is logically the same as: if one of you wants sex, HAVE sex.
    4. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I.e. having sex is the NORMAL way of living, and should ONLY be interrupted for a SHORT time.

    1. Yes, I agree. But surely you think Rain Check Sex is okay, right? And Sheila Gregoire wrote a good post on what “deprive” really means. I think what’s stressed in these Scriptures is the mutuality of sexual intimacy in a marriage: both to engage and to take a break. It’s that same mutuality that we see with the married couple in Song of Songs, where both desire sexual connection.

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