My Thoughts on Love and Respect: Part 2

This week, I’m addressing a specific book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs by Emerson Eggerichs. Though published back in 2004, it has stirred up quite a bit of controversy this year in some marriage circles. If you haven’t yet, please go back and read the first part of this 3-part series on the book. In that post, I cover the book’s general premise and whether Eggerichs advocates abuse.

Today, let’s talk more about how love and respect impact each other and gender roles as Eggerichs sees them.

The Crazy Cycle

Perhaps the best contribution of Eggerichs’s Love & Respect is his concept of the “the Crazy Cycle.” His formulation is “without love from him, she reacts without respect; without respect from her, he reacts without love. Around and around it goes” (16).

Whether it’s about love or respect or something else, dysfunctional couples do tend to feed off each other in negative ways. I saw this in my own marriage when my husband and I had extreme conflict years ago: I wanted to keep talking until the problem was resolved, while he wanted to stop talking when he became emotionally flooded. In my mind, he didn’t love me enough to keep at it until we were okay. In his mind, I didn’t respect who he was and his need for a break from the tension. The more I pursued, the more he withdrew; the more he withdrew, the more I pursued; and on and on.

So yeah, Crazy Cycle. And I’ve heard how it happens to other couples—differences in emotional needs (or sexual desires) and consequent misunderstandings result in a spiral of tension and conflict. Before you know it, you’re caught in the vortex and can’t seem to find your way out.

Eggerichs says that either of you can break that cycle, by understanding your spouse’s need and continuing to love or respect. But his perspective is that we’ve all received that message to keep loving, thus feeding women’s emotional needs, while we’ve missed the message to keep respecting, thus ignoring men’s emotional needs.

If you’re a well-meaning spouse, however, one would hope you’d apply the part you need to hear to yourself (whether it’s love or respect) and not be pointing fingers just at wives. (See Who Are You Praying to Change in Your Marriage?)

Are Men and Women That Different?

Scripture recognizes, and even espouses, that men and women are different. Just consider the first two chapters, in which you find:

  • “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27); and
  • “But for Adam no suitable helper was found….Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man” (Genesis 2:20, 22).

We’re not the same, or God wouldn’t have felt the need to create man and woman in a complementary relationship.

However, Eggerichs doesn’t simply state that we’re different, but different in a specific way: that husbands need respect, wives need love. (This premise is discussed at length in the first post in this series.) He goes on to assert that a man’s natural tendency is to respect, while a woman’s natural tendency is to love. “The Lord has created a woman to love. Her whole approach to nurture, her sensitivity, love, and compassion are all part of her very nature….[God’s] not going to command her to agape her husband when He created her to do that in the first place” (40). Is that true?

Well, the Bible shows plenty of times when men neglected to give women the attention they deserved, and husbands are specifically instructed to be gentle: “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” (1 Peter 3:7a).

Meanwhile, I find it hard to argue against the notion that wives can lash out with disrespect in a way that hits hard for husbands when several Proverbs have some version of “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (21:9; more examples here).

Here’s some research Eggerichs cites as well:

  • Prominent marriage author Shaunti Feldhahn commissioned a study in which 400 men were asked if they had to choose, would they rather endure: “a) to be left alone and unloved in the world; b) to feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone”? And 74% of men said they’d rather be alone and unloved (52, For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men).
  • The Gottman Institute (originally focused on marriage research) states that 85% of stonewallers (neglect/shutting down) are male (60, 5 Things Men Can Do to Strengthen Their Relationship).
  • Eggerichs reports on his blog having asked 7,000 spouses: “When you are in a conflict with your spouse or significant other, do you feel unloved at that moment or disrespected? In response, 83 percent of the men said they feel disrespected and 72 percent of the women said they feel unloved.” (Though I could not quickly find specifics about how the survey was conducted.)

However, as a wife who would have answered that I’d prefer to be left alone and unloved in the world rather than feel inadequate and disrespected by everyone, I know these descriptions not true across the board.

Wondering about this love-respect balance, Dr. Shauna Springer reported a survey she did of 1200 highly educated, accomplished women, asking that same question. Among this selective sample, 65% reported that they would rather feel alone and unloved than disrespected and inadequate. Apparently, I’m not alone among women.

Moreover, in Gottman’s original 1999 book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he states that based on an eight-year study of 130 newlywed couples, “men who allow their wives to influence them have happier marriages….Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner, there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct (100). In that same chapter, he directly addresses the issue of roles: “I am not advocating a spiritual belief system about the roles of men and women. Our research has included couples who believe the man should be the head of the family as well as couples who hold egalitarian viewpoints. In both kinds of marriages, emotionally intelligent husbands have figured out the one big thing: how to convey honor and respect” (102).

Eggerichs himself agrees that wives need respect (see How a Wife Can Feel Loved But Disrespected), but his book is written in such a way that non-majority wives and husbands won’t see themselves well in these pages. He mostly takes the view that love is for wives and respect is for husbands, and even though we need both, we will view them from our love or respect lens according to gender.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Proverbs 31:30-31
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Speaking of Gender Roles

The first part of Love & Respect covers the “missing piece” of respect for husbands; the Crazy Cycle that happens when we feed off each other negatively; and why each gender’s emotional need should be met in marriage. By and large, I actually think it’s a good message and an angle many couples hadn’t heard before. As I’ve said, the information about the Crazy Cycle was especially helpful to my own marriage when we were struggling and attended a marriage retreat based on Eggerichs’s Love and Respect video course.

However, big portions of the latter half of the book read like a marriage manual from a bygone era. Eggerichs draws conclusions about how husbands can love their wives and how wives can respect their husbands that match historical or cultural understandings of marital roles more than biblical ones.

Here’s a quick sampling of statements that felt like a skewed view of men and women:

  • “A man has much more ability control his reactions. His blood pressure may be going through the roof, but he can keep it under wraps” (125).
  • Speaking to husbands about why should be thankful for their wives’ sensitivity: “Her sensitivity enables her to stay up all night with the kids when they are sick. Her sensitivity is what drives her to wait on you hand and foot when you’re down with the flu, moaning, groaning, and wanting another Excedrin” (129).
  • “Remember, the husband is the Christ figure; the woman is the church figure. And as a church places its burden on Christ, a wife wants to place her burdens on her husband. Even if she can’t articulate it in these words, your wife thinks of you as that burden bearer—as having those big shoulders” (134).
  • “As the husband, you tie your self-image into who you are in the field—that is, in work, in accomplishments, in conquests. Your wife, however, ties her self-worth into who she is in the family” (159).
  • “Since childhood, your wife dreamed of the wedding day as she played dress-up and sang, ‘Here Comes the Bride!'” (160).
  • “But in terms of a man’s self-image, he needs to be the chairman; he needs to drive” (172).
  • “Grant your husband authority, as Scripture describes it, and things are much more likely to fall into place. If you try to undermine his authority or subtly rebel against it, the Crazy Cycle will spring to life” (201).
  • “The problem many women have today—including Christian wives—is that they want to be treated like a princess, but deep down they resist treating their husbands like the king” (186).

That last one is just odd. King and princess indicate a father-daughter relationship, not a husband-wife. If I treat my hubby like a king, I better be treated like a queen!

Now, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is nearing 70 years old, so some of this could be a generation gap. After all, my mother was the one who stayed up all night with us sick kids and waited on my dad when he was down with the flu. But my husband has taken care of our sick kids, and he’s waited more on me when I was sick or on bedrest. Moreover, I have far more opportunities to experience work or accomplishments that boost my self-image than my grandmother or mother had, but my daughter-in-law has even more than me. (Not to mention that childhood me dreamed of being a detective, a dragon slayer, or that queen—but never a bride.)

Still, some of those statements sell wives short in a way that I don’t see Jesus doing with the women of His time. This isn’t about the egalitarian versus complementarian debate (I’m personally closer to the latter anyway), but rather an accurate view of men and women.

Summing Up

Giving love and respect, understanding that Crazy Cycle, and recognizing we’re not the same—whether that’s gender, personality, background, or something else—are all worthwhile efforts in marriage. But when it comes to specifics, some of Eggerichs’s statements feel lopsided and/or outdated. At the very least, his book would benefit from an updated edition based on real couples today.

My Thoughts on Love & Respect: Part 1

This week, I’m doing something different—sharing my thoughts on an issue I’ve been asked about. If you came here to get sex tips for your bedroom or address a sexless marriage or enjoy something funny about this whole sexy thing, here are a few other posts you can go read:

But recently, there has been some controversy in marriage circles and conversations about a particular book and what it teaches. That book is Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs written by Emerson Eggerichs. The core question has been whether the book encourages maltreatment and abuse of women. But the discussion also touched on whether the book defines sex in terms of a physical need for husbands and an obligation for wives.

While I’d read Love & Respect many years ago (and taken the video course at a marriage retreat), I decided to read the book again. Not with the hope of finding or not finding proof of the accusations, but with as open a mind as I could have.

Following is part one of my conclusions, with two other parts coming later in the week. Someone else might have a different take, but where I make a point, I try to back it up with an excerpt from Love & Respect, along with the page number where the quote can be found. I also expand on my own perspectives that differ from the author.

The Missing Piece

Eggerichs begins with the premise that the importance of love in marriage has been well-covered in churches and marriage classes. “For the past forty years, the American church has preached unconditional love. I preached it for many years in my own church, as I remained clueless about the importance of unconditional respect” (48). The addition of respect as part of the marriage relationship is his unique selling proposition; that is, what differentiates this book from other marriage books (27).

Given this initial premise, Eggerichs focuses more on wives giving their husbands respect, since that’s the part he believes has been neglected. “Yes, love is vital, especially for the wife, but what we have missed is the husband’s need for respect” (11). Understandable, but the next sentence is this: “This book is about how the wife can fulfill her need to be loved by giving her husband what he needs—respect” (11). That’s a bothersome statement, as it seems to place the burden for making a marriage work on the woman respecting her husband.

To be fair, he includes plenty on husbands needing to love their wives and how men can assume the responsibility to make a marriage work better. The “Crazy Cycle” Eggerichs describes even begins with the husband’s part: “Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love—ad nauseum” (25).

He also points out that either spouse can, and should, go first in giving the love or respect their mate needs: “Taking the role of the mature mate and moving first may be risky, but it is powerful” (73), and “In your marriage, be the first to ‘seek peace and pursue it’ (1 Peter 3:11)” (73).

Defining Differences by Gender

Eggerichs’s approach rests on a core belief that love isn’t enough, or that love to a man is better spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T (174). This viewpoint hinges on the final verse of the Ephesians 5:21-33 section on husbands and wives: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Eggerichs focuses on how the husband is commanded to love his wife, but rather commanding the wife to love her husband, she is told to respect him.

You can believe or not believe his premise. Eggerichs goes into how he pursued that interpretation, considered its various angles, weighed it against the struggling couples he counseled, and looked at research on this topic.

For myself, I believe the premise in part. That is, adding respect to the conversation about marriage is important, and overall men seem more concerned about receiving respect and women about receiving love (more on that in the next post).

However, we have other scriptures in the Bible that tell us to love and respect each other without regard to gender:

  • “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
  • “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
  • “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

There are also verses instructing husbands to respect their wives and wives to love their husbands:

  • 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).
  • “Then [the older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4, and yes, that instance of love is phileo rather than agape).

While Eggerichs agrees husbands also need love and wives need respect, he emphasizes the opposite so much that readers can forget that we all desire love and respect and are commanded to give it.

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Unconditional Love & Unconditional Respect

Eggerichs uses the terms unconditional love and unconditional respect a lot. Here’s an example of his view:

“My thought process went something like this: ‘A husband is to obey the command to love even if the wife does not obey the command to respect, and a wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey the command to love.’ So far, so good. Then I reasoned further: ‘A husband is even called to love a disrespectful wife, and a wife is called to respect an unloving husband.’ There is no justification for a husband to say, ‘I will love my wife after she respects me’ nor for a wife to say, ‘I will respect my husband after he loves me'” (23).

He thus lays out how unconditional love and unconditional respect are keys to a godly marriage and how expressing them can heal your relationship and open up the feelings of love or respect you’ve been missing from your spouse.

But here’s where I’m going to get really unpopular. I’ve come to detest that word unconditional. I can discuss my theology on it another time, but practically speaking, that word has been used like a mallet on people, pressuring them to put up with things God never intended us to put up with. We use God as our example, but even if there are no conditions to His love, God most certainly laid out expectations in commands and followed up with bad consequences if you don’t get with the program.

We are called to extravagant love, far beyond what we usually display, given our selfish nature. But what happened when someone displayed ongoing hate toward our Father? When they hardened their heart again and again? Look at the biblical record, and you’ll see that God didn’t stick around interminably; sometimes, He walked away.

Can He come back? Sure, He did that too. But at times he “hid his face” from those who pursued evil and would not listen. And in a way, isn’t that love too? To set reasonable conditions in the relationship, walk away if they’re not being met, and pray that your absence causes a change of heart.

So this call to unconditional love and unconditional respect can be problematic in practice. While I recognize we shouldn’t have to earn love and respect, because we’ll never deserve it enough, we should have reasonable expectations in our marriage of good treatment.

It is from those relationships, where things are reasonably good, that Eggerichs’s advice is best understood. For those without good will, a call for unconditional love or respect can become manipulation at best and abuse at worst. (See Are You in an Abusive or Destructive Marriage?)

But Does Eggerichs Advocate Abuse?

In short, no. Eggerichs addresses the importance of having two good-willed people in a marriage, using that phrase “good-willed” more than 30 times. For instance: “What do I mean by good-willed people’? Simply that both of these people love each other a great deal. They do not mean real harm; they do not intend real evil toward one another. They are hurt and angry, but they still care deeply for one another” (39). That’s the audience he’s writing to.

Eggerichs also recognizes abuse of women throughout history. “Over the centuries, men have used Scripture in ignorant, abusive, and even evil ways. They have justified all kinds of terrible treatment of women, all in the name of ‘the Bible says so.’ But the Bible doesn’t say so. It says something much different from what is claimed by chauvinists” (184).

That said, he does believe in the what he calls “biblical hierarchy”; that is, a woman placing herself under the headship of her husband, while her husband takes up the responsibility to love and protect her. And one might presume he’s fielded questions in the past about that belief and abuse: “Will the concept of biblical hierarchy lead to abuse? Will a man take advantage of being the head of the family by putting down and even abusing his wife and children?” (186).

He answers: “Yes, this is possible, but because it is possible does not mean a woman should refuse to allow her husband to be the head. If a husband is evil-willed, the abuse will happen anyway, no matter what the family structure is. Any hierarchical role given to him has nothing to do with the abuse. The evil-willed man always treats those around him abusively” (186). Eggerichs then goes on to talk about the importance of a good-willed husband who accepts his duty to love and protect his family, not selfishly use his position over others to mistreat them.

Now, the gender-role continuum ranges from patriarchy through complementarianism (hard, moderate, soft) and egalitarianism to feminism/matriarchy, and some Christians assert that more patriarchal systems create an environment where abuse is not addressed properly. Believe me, I take that concern seriously. But I also don’t think you’ll convince another Christian to surrender their view by saying it can be abused. After all, so many things God created for good can be twisted for evil.

We have to engage in conversations about what God actually said and our resulting theology and ultimately decide for ourselves what we believe about gender roles in the church and in marriage. That theological debate is beyond the purview of my blog (hint, hint: don’t leave a long comment about it).

Regardless, any and all marriages need church resources that will honestly and effectively address abuse. No wife should go to a church leader with the heavy news that she’s being abused in her marriage and be told to simply submit to her husband more.

No wife should go to a church leader with the heavy news that she's being abused in her marriage and be told to simply submit to her husband more. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Back to Eggerichs’s view: “When a man acts in this way [doing something illegal, wrong, evil, abusive, dishonest, unethical], he is not a good-willed husband, and he forfeits his right to be head and to be followed. A wife’s submission to God takes precedence over her submission to her husband. She is not to sin against Christ in order to defer to her husband” (196).

Wrapping Up

Next time, we’ll get into more about gender roles, how Eggerichs views their impact on marriage, and whether his views lead to problematic outcomes. And in the third and final installment, we’ll tackle his chapter on sex.

Other recent takes on Love & Respect:
Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work – To Love Honor & Vacuum
Don’t Study the Counterfeits – The Generous Husband
Respect: A Dirty Word? – The Curmudgeonly Librarian

Don’t Miss Your Last Chance to Sign Up for Our Webinar

Just a quick post to remind you that This Is It. Our Sex Chat for Christian Wives podcast is hosting its first webinar for wives on Understanding Your Sex Drive tomorrow at 7:30 pm eastern. You must register, so that we can provide you the link to attend.

What Will We Cover?

We’ll address sexual interest generally, woman’s anatomy, external factors that impact sex drive, and actions to employ during sex. Be assured that we will speak to both wives with lower sexual interest and greater sexual interest than their husbands!

Beyond that, it’s a chance to see the podcast hosts in action—the way we see each other when we record our podcast episodes. Four faces on the screen, sharing in turn, conversing about ideas, and making each other laugh.

How Much Does It Cost?

It’s only $5 to join us! Just think of all the things that cost you more than five dollars—a Chick-Fil-A meal, a tube of lipstick, a pair of socks. Why not make a small investment that could pay big dividends for the sexual intimacy in your marriage?

What If You Can’t Attend on Thursday?

Sign up anyway, and we’ll provide you a link to watch the webinar later.

Can You Submit a Question?

Yes. Once you’ve signed up for the webinar, we’ll provide instructions on how to submit a question. We’ll have a Q&A section to address as many questions as we can.

How Do I Sign Up?

Click the image above or the button below, and you’ll be taken to the registration page for our webinar. While you’re there, check out the other two webinars we’ll be offering. You can sign up for one, two, or all three (with the third one for husbands).

What about “Breast Sex”?

Don’t know what “breast sex” is? It’s a term used to describe the husband rubbing his penis between his wife’s breasts. It might lead to ejaculation, or it could just be for the arousing experience itself, but it’s a sexual activity some couples enjoy.

Why does breast sex excite husbands?

This just in, ladies: Men like breasts. Oh wait, you already knew that? Of course you did.

And the fabulous things about hubbies is they like their wife’s breasts, no matter how small, big, odd-shaped, or gravity-ridden they are. Yes, there are exceptions, and those men need to get a clue. But by and large, I hear over and over from husbands that they are big fans of the breasts that appear on the woman they chose and love, their beautiful wife.

Know what else men like? They own penises. No, it’s true! Just ask 100 random men—actually never do this, it’s a really bad idea—and perhaps 99-100% will say their penis is one of their favorite body parts.

So breast sex pairs TWO of a hubby’s favorites: his own penis and his wife’s breasts. To which many men reading this say, “What’s not to like?!”

Actually, from what I understand, men enjoy both the sensation and the visual of their penis making contact with their wife’s breasts. Some men can reach climax, others have breast sex as foreplay, but it is appealing to a number of husbands.

As Proverbs 5:19 says: “May her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.”

Why does breast sex appeal to wives?

Why would a wife enjoy this? Some wives may enjoy feeling her husband’s penis rubbing against her. But since the area between a woman’s breasts is not nearly as sensitive as other areas of the breast, such as the areola and nipple, the physical sensation is likely more enjoyable to him than her.

However, a wife can feel appreciated and confident when she sees the effect her breasts have on her husband. She may relish her ability to turn him on this way and witness his excitement.

While this is not a reference to breast sex in the Bible, the Song of Songs wife says in 1:13: ” My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh resting between my breasts.” This wife savors the idea of her husband enjoying her breasts.

What if you have smaller breasts?

Let me pause here and address you ladies who don’t have much in the way of cleavage. One might assume a man would enjoy breast sex only when his penis is surrounded by breast tissue, thus mimicking the feel of the vagina closing in around him. As one clever commenter in my closed Facebook group asked: “So if the woman is, ahem, less endowed, wouldn’t it basically be *breastbone* sex?”

But several husbands there spoke up in favor of breast sex with their smaller chested wives, saying it’s still quite enjoyable for them without substantial cleavage. Maybe it’s just the idea of his penis being right there by her breasts or the friction itself, but they like it.

So if you’re not well-endowed, your husband may adore the idea of breast sex with you. Because it’s you and your breasts he wants.

How can you have great breast sex?

Start with foreplay.

Rather than going straight for the breast sex, spend some time getting her aroused. Why? Because sexual stimulation can cause increased breast sensitivity, nipple erection, and a slight increase in the size of her breasts as blood flows to that area. All of these make the experience more enjoyable for the wife while giving you both a little more to work with.

Choose a good position.

You should make good contact between his penis and the space between your breasts. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • With wife lying down, have hubby straddle her waist, lean over, and thrust between her breasts.
  • With hubby standing, have the wife kneel in front of him, positioning her breasts on either side of his penis.

Christian Friendly Sex Positions also has a section of positions with breast access where you can find other options that might work for you.

Use lubricant.

You want some friction, but not too much. His thrusting should be smooth, so consider adding personal lubricant. To find one that works for you, check out 5 Tips for Choosing Personal Lubricant. Apply the lubricant liberally on his penis and/or your breasts. Keep it handy, in case you need to add more.

Make your cleavage count.

Whatever size breasts you have, you can squeeze them together to provide more pressure against his penis. For larger-breasted women, use your hands to push your breasts together. For smaller-breasted women, use your upper arms to pull them together.

Your husband can also assist, using his hands to nudge your breasts into position. But hubbies reading this, be gentle! Whether large- or small-breasted, all women’s breasts have a lot of nerve endings and can be sensitive.

Include your hand.

If your husbands wants a tighter feel, place your palm over his penis, forming a triangle of your breasts and hand. That will provide full contact around his penis, giving a little friction and helping him reach climax.

Add your mouth.

When your husband thrusts up, you can touch or lick the head of his penis with your mouth and tongue. You likely won’t be able to do more oral sex than that. And even that may be a stretch on your neck, shoulders, and chin. But you may be able to at least add some mouth action as he nears climax, taking his arousal up just a notch. And you may enjoy the heady feeling of that impact on him as well.

Be willing to finish another way.

Successful breast sex doesn’t mean he climaxes; it means you both enjoyed the experience. Breast sex can be the main event, or it can be foreplay for the main event. If he or you want to finish another way, go for it!

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For more great tips on how to have sizzling sex, check out this book for wives!

What does the Bible say?

One last issue I want to cover. Apparently, breast sex is featured in pornography, and that makes some uncomfortable with its practice in marriage. However, breast sex precedes today’s pornography, and besides, intercourse is also in porn and we don’t exclude that. What makes pornography problematic is the treatment of people in the scenes (which includes some highly inadvisable activities) and the selfish focus of the viewer. So the question should be: Is breast sex harmful? Degrading? Objectifying? Entirely selfish?

For most married couples, the answer to these questions is no. Rather, it’s a husband enjoying this aspect of his wife’s body, her enjoying the effect her body has on him, and both of them experiencing sexual pleasure. It could be considered more one-sided for the husband, but then so would be manual play for her or oral sex for either them. Sometimes, we provide our mate pleasure not because they’re selfish, but because we want to bless them.

I’m reminded again of how God created a wife’s breasts to be part of sexual pleasure for him and her:

How beautiful you are and how pleasing,
    my love, with your delights!
Your stature is like that of the palm,
    and your breasts like clusters of fruit.
I said, “I will climb the palm tree;
    I will take hold of its fruit.”

~ Song of Songs 7:6-8

So enjoy the delights God has gifted us in the marriage bed. And if breast sex is one of them, I hope these tips help!

The Secret Sex Lives of Real Wives

I shouldn’t be surprised that one of my closest friends lives over a thousand miles away and I’ve only spent a few days face-to-face with her. After all, my own grandmother married her pen pal, whom she’d only met once before they got engaged.

But it’s a bit different in the internet age, in that I met Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife through blogging channels and got to know her through comments and Facebook messages. Together, we then hatched the idea of a roundtable podcast, invited Gaye of Calm.Healthy.Sexy. and Bonny of OysterBed7 to join us, and deepened our connection through Skype chats and podcast recordings. We finally got together in person last fall and did it again this past April.

What really seals our friendship is our similar personalities and shared mission to promote godly, intimate, and satisfying sex in marriages. So what a pleasure today to have my good friend Chris with us to share her thoughts on the secret sex lives of real wives. Take it away, Chris!

The Bible very clearly tells us that God created men and women differently.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Not only do men’s and women’s bodies look different, their sexual response is different too.

I’m going to let you in on a secret about that.

This is God’s design.

A Male Paradigm

Our differences are part of God’s design—yet we seem to think our sexuality and sexual response should work the same way in either sex. More often than not, we look at male sexuality and assume it should be like that for all of us, women included.

This male paradigm of sexual response tells us several things:

  • Orgasm is reached after only a few minutes of sexual stimulation.
  • Even if you’re tired or stressed, sex should be easy.
  • Intercourse is the way to have an orgasm.

For most men (not all), this is pretty much the way sexual response works.

For women? Not so much.

What About Women?

For most women, sexuality looks very different from what we see in men—but far too often this is such a secret that we ourselves don’t know how our sexual response works.

We learn about sex from our parents, our schools, our churches, and popular culture.

We’re taught about how our bodies will change during puberty. We may learn the basics of sexual mechanics (although even that instruction presumes that arousal has already taken place). Some of us have learned from our churches that boys think about sex a lot.

It’s rare to find a woman who arrives at adulthood with information about female sexual response.

It’s rare to find a woman who arrives at adulthood with information about female sexual response. – Chris Taylor via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Without accurate information about women’s sexuality, we assume that our sexual response should look like a man’s—and when it doesn’t, we easily can feel defective or broken or think it means we have a low sex drive or sexual dysfunction.

A woman’s sexual response has nothing to do with whether she has more or less sexual interest than her husband does. A wife with a higher drive than her husband has a female sexual response, just as a lower-drive woman does.

On our podcast, we’ve often talked about how sad it is that we were married and sexual for so long without understanding our own sexual response. I’ve heard from many women who’ve read my blog and say how relieved they are to learn that they are completely normal.

Secrets of Female Sexuality (and Tips for Husbands)

Female sexuality is shrouded in mystery—and it shouldn’t be. Today I’m going to lift the veil and reveal some things that shouldn’t be secret at all.

Unfortunately, our husbands might be even more in the dark as we are about our sexuality. So for each of the secrets below, I want to include a tip to help husbands make the most of that aspect of female sexual response.

1. Orgasm requires time.

Women require an average of 20 minutes to reach climax, which means that although some women need less time, some will need quite a bit more.

Instead of thinking it is taking you a long time, tell yourself that it takes how much time it takes—and that your sexual pleasure is worthy of both your time and your husband’s.

Tip for husbands

In Song of Songs 6:2-3, we see a husband who takes his time browsing in his wife’s garden. So guys? Take your time to browse. Slow waaaaaaayyyyyyy down. (See J’s The One Sex Tip I Give Husbands Over and Over.) Don’t be in a rush to get to a happy ending. Enjoy the journey of your wife’s body.

2. Sexuality is contextual.

Research into women’s sexual desire and response* shows that women are influenced by many factors that seem to have nothing to do with sex: their emotional state, current life stresses, dysfunction in her family of origin, physical and mental health, self-image, general level of intimacy and connection in non-sexual aspects of her relationship with her husband, and more.

So ladies? Take care of that context. Tend to your health. Learn to deal with stress. Work on intimacy outside the bedroom. Taking care of yourself helps your sex life.

Tip for husbands

Make it easier for your wife to take care of herself. Take on some of the mental and physical responsibilities of caring for your home and children. Create space for her to do things that help her feel good about herself. Encourage her to seek healing of old emotional wounds. Be intentional about fostering non-sexual intimacy in your marriage. The Bible tells you in 1 Peter 3:7 to live with your wife in an understanding way. Let that understanding come with support and encouragement.

3. Intercourse is not the most effective means to reach orgasm.

Only about 30% of women achieve climax through intercourse. Most women find that manual or oral stimulation have the best chance for leading to orgasm.

Many couples find that it works best for her to experience orgasm in some way first. Then they proceed to intercourse and his orgasm. Talk with your husband about what kinds of touching and kissing you like, and when. If you like to be aroused through kissing and your husband’s hands first and then proceed to oral sex, be sure to communicate that to your husband.

Tip for husbands

Learn the kinds of touch that are most helpful and pleasurable for your wife. Be sure to check out this great post at Awaken Love about how to touch your wife.

No More Secrets

Women, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Our sexuality works the way it does because God created us in this way.

If it takes you a while to achieve climax, if you find that you are easily affected by other things in your life, or if you need something other than intercourse to help you experience an orgasm, know this:

You are not broken. You are not lesser than. You are not defective or dysfunctional.

The secret is out: You are a woman.

To learn more about your sexual response, check out the upcoming Sex Chat for Christian Wives webinar series. Two of our webinars about your sexual response—one webinar for you and one for your husband.

If you’d like to talk with other women about women’s sexual desire and response, I’d love to have you join my new Honeycomb & Spice community for Christian wives.

Chris Taylor encourages women to enjoy sexual intimacy in their marriages at The Forgiven Wife, on the Sex Chat for Christian Wives podcast, and in the Honeycomb & Spice community for Christian wives.

She lives with her husband in southeastern Wisconsin where she enjoys Wisconsin weather even in the winter.

*Basson, R., et al. (2003). Definitions of women’s sexual dysfunction reconsidered: advocating expansion and revision. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 24, 221-229.
Basson, R. (2002). Women’s sexual desire—disordered or misunderstood? Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28, 17-28.
Brotto., L., Heiman, J., & Tolman, D. (2009). Narratives of desire in mid-age women with and without arousal difficulties. Journal of Sex Research, 46 (5), 387-398.
Goldhammer, D., & McCabe, M. (2011). A qualititative exploration of the meaning and experience of sexual desire among partnered women. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 20 (1-2), 19-29.