Today’s question is a doozy. It’s from a wife whose husband is rather insistent about his especially high sex drive:
What do you recommend for wives who do not become aroused during love making? My husband has a very high sex drive. He wants it every night and would like it several times a night not just once. We have been married almost 40 years. I [used] to enjoy sex but in the last 10 years I have found it impossible to become aroused. We still have sex even though he knows I get nothing out of it. I am just going through the motions. I try to keep him happy. I spoke with my Doctor but he didn’t have any suggestions as to why this happened. I am beginning to feel used because my husband doesn’t seem to care as long as his needs are met and on his days off hounds me for sex all day long even if we had sex the night before. If I give in, he then starts in a couple of hours later wanting sex again. It seems the more sex he has the more he wants. I am at the end of my rope. I want him to be happy but I don’t know how much more I can take.
Honestly, my first reaction was: Of course, you’re not aroused during lovemaking! You’re exhausted, honey. And he’s not considering your needs and desires.
Upon further thought, my second reaction was the same. But let’s break this down further. Because that thought — true as it may be — doesn’t lead to solutions.
His extra-high sex drive. One of the tough things when you’re dealing with an issue that feels off in your sexual intimacy is knowing what’s normal. You think to yourself, Is this how it should be? If you get your information from media (please, don’t), you’d think that everyone is either having sex constantly or that they experience a complete death of their sex lives upon saying “I do.” Neither of those scenarios is anywhere close to true. But you’re hardly going to take up your own research study and ask around about everyone else’s sex lives until you have a statistically significant sample and then draw conclusions about what’s healthy and normal.
But I’d read a lot on this subject, so let me assure you that a husband at his age who expects several times a day is atypical. Yes, men can continue with high libidos well into their elder years. But by this time, the desire is not usually as frequent and urgent. I wouldn’t be asking simply why your body isn’t aroused, I’d want to know why his body is on overdrive. For instance, is he on testosterone supplements and needs his medication adjusted?
It may not have a physical/hormonal cause, but I’d sit down with my hubby and explain that, while I respect his desire for frequent sexual intimacy, several times a day is just more than you can handle and more than men of his age typically want. Ask why he thinks his sex drive is so strong, and talk about ways he can release some of that pent-up feeling that doesn’t involve more sex than your body can take. I’m not talking about masturbation, but rather physical activity or meditation or a hobby that gives him something to do. If you think there could be a physical component, ask him to see a doctor and request to go with him for support and understanding.
You’re his wife, not his sex service. You say, “I am beginning to feel used.” I immediately wondered why you’d only just begun to feel that way. It sounds like he’s treating you as his sex service, more than his wife. Healthy sexual intimacy in marriage isn’t about either one of you being at the other’s beck-and-call. It isn’t about relieving pent-up stress with a “fix.” It isn’t about one person’s pleasure to the neglect of the other person’s pleasure.
While you have an obligation in marriage to have sex with each other (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), you also have the right to set boundaries. I can’t remember who said this first, but that scripture has been explained something like this: Yes, your body belongs to him, but his body belongs to you. Thus, he might expect your body to be up for grabs one night, but you could turn around and say, “Fine, but your body will treat my body in this way.” Bluntly put, he has part ownership of your vagina, but you have part ownership of his penis. He doesn’t get free rein with his body parts to subjugate your body parts.
Now I believe that if he only wanted a physical release, he knows he could take care of that on his own. He does want you, because he’s not simply pursuing sex, but sex with you. However, he may think that you’re not supposed to be as into this as he is, and thus it’s okay to treat your body the way he’s treating you. And it’s just not okay.
I hope you’ve explained calmly but firmly how his constant advances make you feel. If not, sit him down and talk about the kind of intimacy you desire for your marriage. Talk about that verse in the Bible and what it should mean in your marriage. Open up the Song of Songs and read together — seeing how mutual the sexual pleasure was for this married couple.
If he responds, great! If he doesn’t get it, set some boundaries. You don’t have to say yes every single time he proposes sex. And you can make suggestions back to him, like “I need time to mentally and physically prepare” or “Can we reschedule until the morning when I’m feeling better?” If he starts treating you like your his personal love doll, you can stop things right there and say, “I want to cooperate and enjoy this, but you have to respect me as a person and how I feel.” Be aware that when you set boundaries with someone, you will likely get some pushback — because you’re changing how things work — but if you can calmly stick with it, you can get the point across over time and alter the pattern of behavior.
Your arousal and satisfaction matters.Twice you said how you want him to be happy, and that’s great. Oftentimes that’s where we need to start with improving our sexual intimacy — a desire to give our spouse delight. But sex in marriage isn’t about one spouse being happy. God intended sexual intimacy to be a mutually satisfying experience.
You say: “We still have sex even though he knows I get nothing out of it. I am just going through the motions.” And your initial question was: “What do you recommend for wives who do not become aroused during love making?” I recommend you speak up and ask for what you need in the marital bedroom.
You say that you used to enjoy sex, so you know what arousal and enjoyment feel like. But you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling because your arousal and enjoyment has not been prioritized in your marriage. Your husband obviously has no problem requesting (again and again) for what he wants in the bedroom. There’s nothing wrong with you advocating for your sexual pleasure.
“Honey, I’m open to making love tonight, but I cannot just go through the motions. I want to feel pleasure in your arms. I need you to slow down tonight and help me feel truly aroused before we begin intercourse.”
“I remember enjoying sex so much in the past, and I want to enjoy it again with you. Can we please work on helping me climax? I think that would increase my enjoyment a lot.”
“I want you to be happy with our sex life together, but I’m not happy with the lack of pleasure I feel. I need your help to get my body back in the game. I promise we can make love later, but for now, can we focus on what makes my body aroused enough to crave sex with you?”
You should also feel free to speak up in the moment with comments on what feels good, where you’d prefer he move his hand, what sexual position you’d like to try, etc. Take charge sometimes so you can learn what you like and he can see that you’re trying to get involved but you won’t settle anymore for sex not feeling good.
Get your own body checked out. Usually, I start with this one. But given your story, I think the more likely cause of your lack of sexual responsiveness is the dynamics in your marriage. However, it’s worth asking your doctor again if everything’s going the way it should. We ladies can have issues as we age, especially with dryness. Make sure your hormones are balanced and your vaginal walls are secreting properly. If your doctor waves it aside, be a little more insistent. Tell him this is causing issues in your marriage, and you want to know without a doubt that everything is fully functional.
As you can see, a lot of what I say here equates to being your own advocate. I believe God intended you to have a beautiful experience in the bedroom as well. While we should absolutely serve one another in our marriage beds, sometimes the balance shifts so drastically, the neglected spouse needs to speak up. I think that’s where you are in your marriage, and I pray that you find the godly wisdom, the right words, and the loving actions needed to make healthy changes in your sexual intimacy.