In a recent post, I gave three cheers and a hooray to good-willed husbands who want the best for their wives and marriage. But not every husband who wants the best for their wife and marriage is living up to that goal. Numerous challenges—from past wounds to current confusion, from personal selfishness to relational conflict—can keep a man from being the husband he wants to be.
And then there’s the issue of being a good lover. What does that mean for a husband pursuing his wife’s heart and his marriage’s health? Not to mention holiness for all involved.
Setting the Foundation
Let’s start with being a good husband. In many Christian circles, men and women hear a lot about specific biblical commands to husbands and wives. If someone wants to know what a good spouse looks like, we head to Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and/or 1 Peter 3.
But before we get to what it means to be a good husband, we should ask what it means to be a good person. A husband’s (or wife’s) calling begins not with the verses about marriage but with attitudes like those expressed in Philippians 2:5-8:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
And with love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
Passages that show us how to treat one another underlie any other passage about how husbands and wives should relate within marriage. It’s with that foundation that we can better read specifics like:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.Ephesians 5:25-28
Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.Colossians 3:19
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.1 Peter 3:7
Having set a good foundation, let’s talk about loving your wife sexually.
Learning Your Wife’s World
I spend a lot of time these days encouraging wives and husbands to stop assuming things about each other and instead ask what s/he feels, thinks, believes, wants, enjoys, and aspires to. We often think we know our spouse better than we actually do.
We have this tendency to think If I did X, it would mean I thought/felt Y and then conclude it’s the same for our spouse—when it’s not. Maybe doing X means Z for them! You married someone different from you for a reason. As it’s been said: “If two people alike get married, one of you is unnecessary.” This should be a “two are better than one” partnership in which you complement one another.
Since you’re not the same, you should always be learning about your wife’s world. What is her daily life like? What does she wish you understood about her? How would she like your help or support? What does she find attractive about you? What does she find annoying about you? What keeps her awake at night? What does she find romantic?
And yes, what does she think, feel, and believe about her sexuality? What messages about sex has she heard through the years? Why is it hard for her to even discuss sex? What does sexual intimacy mean to her? Has she experienced sexual harassment, and how did that affect her view of men? Is there trauma in her past, and how does she wish you’d help her with that pain? What’s her favorite aspect of sex? How does she feel about having an orgasm?
There so much you can ask, because there’s so much to learn.
And even though you’ll never know your wife 100%—she doesn’t understand herself 100% either!—learning what your wife’s world is like can deepen your appreciation for who she is and your understanding of what she wants in your marriage and in the bedroom.
Studying Your Wife’s Body
As David Lee Roth sang, “My homework was never quite like this.” And yeah, you probably did miss some education, so it’s time to buckle down and become a studious husband.
Before you think this means she gets naked and you get busy, note that your wife has a lot of real estate that has nothing to do with her genitalia. Do you know where she likes to be caressed? How she likes you to hold her hand? What kind of snuggling she prefers?
No, everything doesn’t have to go her way, but you should explore touches you both enjoy. Since you already know what you like, you have to find out what she likes. Investing in nonsexual touch can make a big difference in how much and often she desires sexual touch. (See Episode 40: Her Erogenous Zones | Knowing Her Sexually.)
You may also need to learn more about female anatomy. In a survey of 2,000 Britons in 2017, 50% of men couldn’t correct label the vagina on a diagram. Young women weren’t much better, by the way. Oddly, the clitoris was the easiest to identify. Or thankfully, should wives say? It could benefit both of you to learn more about the mysteries and beauties of a woman’s genitalia.
To do that well, and without exposure to problematic content, consult a health-focused website or a Christian resource like our For Christian Wives webinar for husbands.
And if you’ve seen a fair amount of porn, you will likely have to unlearn whatever you gleaned there. What appears to arouse and satisfy women in porn is not what arouses and satisfies real women in real life. If you’re still watching porn—whether addiction, compulsion, habit, or casual use—it’s time to stop and get help if you need it.
Finally, take your time down there and with her breasts. Truly be a student of how her body responds, what gets her going and what stops her short, when she’s really ready for penetration (typically, vulva 2–3 times their regular size and plenty of lubrication), and what helps her reach orgasm. You’re the only one in the classroom, so make the hands-on learning last.
Listening to Your Wife’s Voice
In the good-willed husband category, I’ve encountered three types of men who haven’t fully listened to their wife in the bedroom:
- Those whose wives don’t know what they want or how to speak up for what they want. That is, the husband is eager to listen and please, but his wife is struggling to find her voice. (For those wives, start with this post: Wives, Your Voice Matters (in the Bedroom & Beyond).)
- Those who believe they’re supposed to know what a woman likes without having to ask. Requesting feedback and direction makes that husband feel inadequate. (Julie Sibert has written well about this issue; e.g., No One is Born Knowing How to Have Great Sex | Intimacy in Marriage.)
- Those who believe they already know what a woman likes—and may give their wife great pleasure—so they don’t invite instruction or listen to it when it comes.
The first issue of a wife not sharing what she wants or likes can be addressed by asking some of those questions mentioned above, going through my book Pillow Talk together, and/or encouraging her to listen to our podcast for wives, such as Episode 90: Getting Him to Touch You Where You Want.
As to the second concern of feeling inadequate, I have learned a lot about men in this regard. For one thing, you’re often judged in male community based on your mastery of a task. Saying “I don’t know what I’m doing” in presumably masculine areas like sports, fixing things, grilling meat, etc. could result in your social status being diminished. (Which is stupid, by the way, but I’ve seen enough of it to know it happens.) And what is more manly to some than arousing and satisfying a woman? You definitely don’t want to feel inadequate in that area.
Plus, you want to be your wife’s hero. More than one husband has become frustrated when he cannot get his wife to climax—even if it has little to nothing to do with him. But that feeling of inadequacy can run deep for a man when he longs to lead his wife to pleasure paradise.
But guess what? Most wives don’t even begin to judge you that way. In fact, one of the reasons we fell in love with you is because you listened to us. Hey, I still remember sitting on my husband’s couch, long before we got married, and the intent look on his face as I explained what I knew about church history (my bachelor’s degree focus).
When a husband invites his wife’s guidance, and then listens to that guidance, he communicates that he values her perspective and intimacy with her. Guys, that comes across as pretty heroic."When a husband invites his wife's guidance, and then listens to that guidance, he communicates that he values her perspective and intimacy with her." @hotholyhumorous How a Good Husband Can Be a Great Lover Click To Tweet
The third issue is husbands who believe they already know what a woman likes. What’s left to learn when you’re an expert, right?
Well, you may not be quite as expert as you think. Here’s why:
- Your wife’s responses and preferences change. What she loved at age 25 may not be what works when she’s 45. This is a lifetime course of learning.
- Romance and affection are a big part of physical intimacy for many wives. If you haven’t invested there, you’ve likely skipped some steps that could take your sex life from mediocre to marvelous.
- Any other women you based your skills on—previous partners or porn stars—are not your wife. She is an individual with her own history, sexuality, and desires.
- You may not understand how what your wife advises could possibly be what she really wants. It’s not what you envision as sexy, but if she says it’s sexy to her, you could roll with it and see what happens!
- Husbands tend to revert to their way of lovemaking. We all do, don’t we? But for men, that could mean you’re not giving her enough kissing, foreplay, cuddling after sex, or something else she wants.
- Orgasms don’t equal satisfaction for many wives. Yes, they can be awesome! But as my ministry partner, Chris Taylor, has pointed out, “Your wife’s orgasm does not mean she enjoyed sex.” But even if she truly enjoyed it, she might have missed the relational intimacy that makes sex something she treasures, desires, and seeks.
Communicate to your wife that you want to hear her voice in the bedroom; that her desires, preferences, and boundaries matter; and that you want her to enjoy sex as much as you do. (See also, Are You Listening to What Your Spouse Says about Sex?)
Becoming a Great Lover
Almost no one picks up a musical instrument and masters it quickly. So what makes us think we can become great lovers overnight? A woman is far more complex than a piano or a violin.
It may take time and effort to go from good to great. But with marriage, you have a covenant length of time to devote yourself to learning about your wife and building beautiful marital intimacy.
You will never arrive at “perfect lover.” But many a wife has told me how deeply she appreciates a husband’s willingness to please her and the sexual skills he developed over time. You’re a good husband; you can be a great lover.
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