Earlier this week, I shared responses from higher-drive wives asked what they feel about the lack of frequency and/or quality of sex in their marriage. Today, I want to share their responses to a different question.
From a research standpoint, these answers aren’t as useful, because they involve conjecture. While we can express what we’re feeling, it’s more difficult to know what someone else is feeling — unless they tell you.
Even so, the responses are eye-opening and likely accurate. They represent what I’ve researched and heard from sexually disinterested spouses.
Take the vow
Once again, let’s make a promise that:
I will not use this post to feed my resentment or anger, but rather to grieve through my own situation and sympathize with others. Moreover, I will not use this post to challenge or berate my spouse.
I’m sharing all this, in hopes that we will recognize how a big gap in sex drive can take an emotional toll on both the higher drive spouse and the sexually disinterested spouse. Indeed, a mismatch in drives is the #1 sexual problem reported by couples.A mismatch in drives is the #1 sexual problem reported by couples. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
That gap isn’t a problem if you can negotiate the differences, use the opportunity to display empathy and generosity toward one another, and pursue regular sexual intimacy for your marriage. It may be that one of you gets less than their ideal and the other participates more than their ideal, but couples who’ve worked through the mismatch report overall satisfaction with their sex life.
Where it becomes a problem is when the gap is enough that one feels deprived and the other feels pressured or inadequate, two words that show up in the 45 emotions my respondents named.
Without further ado…
Here’s the list
Question: What primary emotion do you believe your HUSBAND feels knowing that you want higher frequency/quality of sex than he is currently giving?
Failure (like a failure)
Tainted (by porn use)
By and large, the most common statement from these higher drives wives was something like “he feels like less of a man.” The emotion named was emasculated. (See A Letter to the Low Drive Husband.)
That’s not what you’d hear about sexually disinterested wives, but the other emotions listed above apply — like burdened, obligated, resentful, and sad.
But aren’t sexually disinterested spouses obligated?
Sometimes a husband or wife (usually husband) writes me with the request that I demand their spouse have sex with them. Because after all, “they’re commanded to do so in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.” I then point out that this passage is about mutuality not selfishness, that their situation is not easy on their spouse either (see emotions list!), and that you get a lot more lovin’ when you approach your spouse with love! Agape love specifically.
We need to put ourselves in the other’s shoes and imagine the situation from that angle.
- What if having sex made you feel desirable and cherished, but your spouse refused to have it with you?
- What if you received little pleasure from sex, but your spouse demanded it regularly?
- What if you became moody and sad during sexual dry spells in your marriage?
- What if your spouse seemed to only meet your emotional needs when they wanted sex?
- What if you felt your spouse’s lack of desire indicated that you were “less than” —less than attractive, less than worthy, less than loved?
- What if you didn’t want sex because of your bad past experiences, but you didn’t know how to tell your spouse?
- What if…
I don’t know your marriage’s “what if,” but all too often we don’t know for our marriage. We haven’t asked how our spouse feels about the situation. Or we asked, got a shallow answer, and stopped pursuing more. Or we got an answer but didn’t like the answer or didn’t let sink in and elicit empathy.
What’s the solution?
Here’s where my SEO and book sales would go up if I said: YOU CAN SOLVE THE SEXUAL DESIRE GAP IN YOUR MARRIAGE WITH THESE 5 EASY STEPS! And then I outlined the steps and made them sound quick and doable like a Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days commercial. Fortunately — or unfortunately for my pocketbook — I’m much more interested in telling you the truth.
The truth is that the solution depends on:
Your specific situation
Is the sexual disinterest due to relational problems? Medical issues? Past abuse? Something else? Is the HD spouse reasonable in their expectations? Pressuring for unwanted activities? Using porn? Something else?
The specifics of why there’s such a big gap matter. A proper diagnosis is needed for proper treatment.
Your and your spouse’s willingness
One spouse can have great influence and encouragement for a marriage to get on track. But eventually, you both have to be willing to work on your sexual intimacy.
You simply cannot make your spouse do something they don’t want to do. (If you do, that’s called abuse, by the way.) That said, you making changes could push things in the right direction.
Your understanding of God’s design
If you believe myths about sex, you’ll prescribe the wrong solutions and not get anywhere. Or your gains will be short-lived. (See our podcast episodes on Lies Women Believe: Part 1 and Part 2, Myths from Pop Culture.)
With the foundation of the Word of God and the truths about sex as God intended it, however, you can begin to see what a loving response would be to your particular situation. Moreover, you’ll know what you’re aiming for and the benefits of having that level of intimacy with your spouse.
Access to necessary or useful resources can make a big difference. For instance, if a sexually disinterested spouse experienced childhood abuse, being able to see a trauma counselor could be the most important piece for building fresh intimacy. Likewise for porn recovery programs, Christian counseling or sex therapy, or a medical specialist to address physical issues.
Many couples don’t require that level of intervention. Rather, they need resources like mine, that help you understand God’s design, communicate more effectively, and experience greater pleasure in your marriage bed. Or they can use my resources to supplement those other interventions.
Take the first step
Regardless, the first step is talking to your spouse about the gap in sexual desire. For those who say they’ve talked about it a whole lot already, I suggest you clear the air and start over. That is, tell your spouse you know it’s been a point of contention and the topic makes both of you tense, but you want to start over and really understand their viewpoint better.
And then … do that. Ask questions and spend more time listening than talking. My book, Pillow Talk, can help with that, but you may need to introduce the conversation on your own before getting your spouse on board with going through my (fabulous) book. (You can download a sample here to see and share with your spouse what it’s like.)
Now that I think about it, maybe your first step should be prayer, followed by opening up that conversation. As I write this, I’m saying a prayer for you — that you can address the big gap in desire in marriage, listen and show empathy, and figure out what the next step should be.
And I pray that that many more couples will begin to describe their sexual gap with emotions like optimistic, hopeful, contented, and loved.
As the sexually disinterested spouse, did you relate to any of this list of emotions? If you’re the higher drive spouse, did any of those emotions surprise you?