I’m back at it again — answering readers’ questions from my Q&A with J at HHH post. Today’s topic is about the approach that a husband takes toward his wife as he pursues, or doesn’t pursue, his wife sexually.
Here’s the question from an anonymous commenter:
I’d love a post on the fact that an overly “beta” husband is a real libido killer in most wives (or at least this one!!!). Our society, and especially the church, seems to groom men to be so sensitive and attentive and egalitarian in their approach with us. Don’t get me wrong–I love all the kitchen help and back rubs and love I get from my honey. But I want to feel like he is stronger than I am, that I can have a bad day and be bossy and he will stop me, he will push back when I go too far, he will be tough enough to stand up to me without backing down.
I don’t know if this makes sense, but I guess I’m asking if I’m crazy for wishing my husband didn’t cater so much to me? That he would aggressively tease me during the day, and that night say, “Take your clothes off, because I am not sleeping till we have made love…and I want you to Xxxx…” rather than try to be snuggly and pet on me and hint around and be all hesitant. Am I weird? I’m so grateful I’m not married to a brick who doesn’t care what I feel, but I’m so eager and willing to follow, if he would just be more…manly?? about it.
And don’t get me wrong. We have a great marriage and lots of sex, prob 4-5 times a week. He leads in lots of areas, and I just can’t understand why he gets so hesitant when I haven’t turned him down for sex in years and enjoy it a lot.
Am I unwittingly doing or saying something to cause this?
This was a particularly interesting topic since my husband recently read some study showing that a majority of women fantasize about being “taken” sexually. (I cannot find the source he originally saw or I would cite it here.)
Then there is the current reading trend toward sexy and erotic romances which often include a more aggressive (if not outright dominant) male love interest. I won’t go into that topic here (it’s been well-covered by several fellow marriage bloggers). However, while I do not believe that women are attracted to being dominated in some of the ways these books describe, I wonder if such stories tap into many women’s deeper desire for men to take the lead in the relationship.
Indeed, I found plenty of research and reports indicating that a top sexual fantasy for females is to be sexually ravished. Let’s be incredibly clear here: This is NOT talking about rape. Emotionally healthy women do not fantasize about being forced to have sex. However, wives often enjoy the notion that their husbands are stronger and more assertive in personality than they are and then experiencing that intensity in the bedroom.
It’s true of much of the animal kingdom and the human species: The alpha male is appealing.
As an aside, I feel for men out there. You guys get mixed messages all day long. You are supposed to be strong but not aggressive, leading but not dominating, romantic but not sappy, sexual but not sex-crazy. You’re supposed to know what we feel before we say it and say what you feel even when you don’t know. Now you’re supposed to ravage your wife, but not pressure her for sex? Good gracious! How’s a hubby to walk the tightrope here?
Rhett & Scarlett from Gone with the Wind
That said, I pretty much agree with the commenter above. Beta husbands are not all that attractive. Scarlett O’Hara might have thought she wanted Ashley Wilkes, but she — and every gal in the theater — knew that Rhett Butler was the catch in Gone with the Wind.
So how do we wives bring out the Rhett in our men? Every man has a tiger in him somewhere. We want to bring out that roar without bringing out the teeth.
I consulted with a man on this post. My husband said, “She should tell him to take her.” Wow, Honey. How profound. Admittedly, my husband believes that women can best communicate with men at all times by using as few words as possible, getting to the point, and, if possible, drawing a diagram. His advice is a good start, though. So we’ll begin there.
Talk to your husband about what you like. If you haven’t shared what you like in the bedroom, approaching the topic may be as awkward as that first foray onto the junior high gym dance floor with the guy you had a huge crush on way back then. But you didn’t die from that, did you? You can survive this too.
Don’t talk about what you want while in the bedroom or even close to the time of the act. Find a different place, a different time, and make sure it’s private and relaxed for the both of you. Then throw out there what you love about your husband’s lovemaking. Don’t describe it in a Marilyn Monroe tone that gets his engine revving and checks his brain out. Instead, be conversational. For instance: “The other day when you kissed my neck for a while, I loved that” or “I was thinking about how crazy my body gets when you watch me undress” or whatever. Let him respond. Maybe you can both share things you already like.
Stroke his manhood by honestly expressing what you enjoy about the way he makes you feel in your relationship and in the bedroom.
Share your fantasies. Then suggest what you might want to try. “Sometimes I wish you would be more assertive — you know, like telling me what you want or turning me in the direction you desire.” Think about how you want to say this part. Don’t describe the person you want your husband to be; give him an action to try. Since we gals are confusing at times with what we want, husbands can be hesitant to “be more assertive” without knowing what you mean by that. What if he doesn’t do it right? He’ll feel worse than before! But if he knows that you want to try X, Y and Z, he knows what “assertive” (and not aggressive) looks like to you.
Be clear about this for yourself too. In the question, the commenter did this with the wish that hubby would say, “Take your clothes off, because I am not sleeping till we have made love…and I want you to Xxxx…” I don’t know what “Xxxx” is, but I bet she does. Define what you want as specifically as possible. Yes, you’re looking for an attitude, but you can likely come up with specific actions that express that — like your husband shutting up your whining session with a well-planted kiss or interrupting your get-ready-for-bed routine and undressing you himself. Figure out what would make you feel like he’s taking the lead and being the man and then tell him.
Set up a plan. Try to come up with a time you’ll give it a shot. It can be a specific time like “Let’s try that tonight after the kids go to bed, lover” or more general “I want to be with you in this way sometime next week.” However, I recommend a deadline of sorts here. You don’t want this conversation to fizzle and two weeks later, he’s lost that boldness from your words and feels awkward again. If you want him to take the lead, you could say, “Sometime in this next week, honey, I want you to initiate and try this. Whenever you choose, I promise that I will go along.”
Encourage his manliness. When your husband does engage in manly, sexy behaviors, reward him with positive words or expressions of pleasure, touch and physical stimulation, and/or returning the favor with sexual or merely kind gestures. What do I mean by all of that? Examples:
When he exerts decision-making: Let him know you appreciate his wisdom and courage. Follow him where he leads. Give him your trust and respect. You can help him feel like a man by treating him like the man you know he can be.
When he makes a move on you: Don’t push him away. If you can’t engage at that moment, tell him what the obstacle is (“I have to get this casserole done and take it over to the sick neighbor,” etc.) and suggest another time in the near future. Accept the offer. Then explain that his initiation turned you on.
During lovemaking: Express your enjoyment! Whether this is gasping, moaning, or yelling, “Superman!” right in the middle, make a guy feel awesome. I am NOT saying to fake orgasm. Do not fake orgasm. But express genuine pleasure. If he does something particularly nice, tell him. “Ooh, I like when you do that” doesn’t take much effort to say but goes a long way toward making a hubby feel like he’s potent in the bedroom.
Post-coitus: “You made my body shiver all over.” “You are an amazing lover.” “I am going to be thinking about that all weekend long.” What guy wouldn’t want to hear that? Or go into the bathroom and prepare a warm, wet washcloth for him to clean up afterward. Get him a drink from the kitchen. Yes, I know you’re not his maid; these are merely small acts of service that express love and appreciation.
A few more creative ideas: When he’s not around, slap on your sappiest smile, snap a photo, and then text or email it to him with a message like, “This is what my face does every time I think about last night.” Tuck a pair of your panties into his briefcase or glove compartment (you’d better know he’ll be the only one around when it’s discovered, though) and add a note like, “Guess what I’m not wearing.” Write a note on his bathroom mirror with a permanent marker (it comes off with alcohol) saying something like, “You’re my bedroom hero!” or “I’m Team Hubby.”
Don’t criticize him. I feel the need to remind the ladies out there that the worst thing to do to a guy is get him naked and then insult him. Would you want that? So telling your man he isn’t man enough for you in the bedroom isn’t going to help your marital intimacy! It’s going to make him far less likely to feel that necessary emotional security so that he can assert his manliness with you in the bedroom and expect to be accepted for who he is.
Thus, avoid telling your husband:
- What you haven’t liked in the past. He hears: You were doing it wrong.
- What you saw or heard or read about someone else doing. He hears: You’re not as good as he is.
- That you aren’t satisfied. He hears: You aren’t good enough.
- That you won’t be happy unless he “mans up.” He hears: You better get it right or else.
Who could perform under that pressure?
You have to find some way to maintain an encouraging, supportive, safe atmosphere so that you both feel free to express yourselves and come to a mutually satisfying experience.
Why this all might work. You may recognize two psychology things happening here. One, the Sandwich Technique. This is where you ask for something different or an improvement by sandwiching the request (meat) between positive comments (bread). It’s Bread (love what you’re doing), then Meat (wish we could try X), then Bread again (let’s give it a go/you were awesome).
Two, Behavioral Modification. I’m not treating your hubby like Pavlov’s dog, but trying a new behavior and having a good experience tends to reinforce the behavior and increase the likelihood that it will be repeated. Over time, your perspective of the situation changes such that if you exercise enough and get tight abs, eventually you enjoy exercising (or so I’ve heard). In this case, if hubby has a good experience with taking charge in the bedroom, he becomes more likely to take charge in the bedroom in the future and then feels like a take-charge kind of guy. It becomes a reinforcement loop.
A note for hubbies. Despite my ongoing attempts to understand your breed, I don’t know what it’s like to be a man. Not fully. However, when I read a recent post from the blog The Art of Manliness, my initial thought was, “How can I get every man to read this article?” Here it is: Want to Feel Like a Man? Then Act Like One. If you want to be the Alpha Male in the bedroom, act like one. Be sure you understand the biblical definition of a “real man,” of course. Do not treat your wife like your doormat or your sex toy. That’s not real manhood. Paul Byerly over at The Generous Husband does a good job as well of giving tips for what a godly husband looks like. There are other sources for biblical advice as well.
“Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.”
Song of Songs 1:4
Note: In the first rendition of this post, I used the word “forceful” a few times. As I stewed over the post, I decided that word “forceful” does not best convey my meaning. So I have replaced it with “assertive,” which I think better describes the approach wives often desire from their husbands. My apologies if I communicated a message I did not intend. Blessings!