The 111 answers I received reveal a lot about how a spouse regularly rejected in marriage feels.
Of course we’re not talking about the occasional no or not-now answers that are entirely reasonable within the course of a marriage! Rather, these are emotions experienced by spouses who see a pattern of sexual refusal or disinterest from their spouse.
Instead of writing a lot about their responses, I simply want to share the list of emotions, in hopes that:
Frustrated, higher drive spouses will recognize they are not alone.
Refusing or gatekeeping spouses (not just lower drive, which is normal) can see how emotional sex is for the HD spouse.
One caveat, though: We higher drive spouses will now raise our hands and promise the following:
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 for not giving me sex.
Later this week, I will share what those same HD wives believe their LD husbands feel about their situation. Because a big gap in sex drives affects both spouses emotionally. And it’s important to also consider the feelings our spouse is experiencing.
Question: What primary emotion do you feel as a result of not getting the frequency and/or quality of sex you desire in your marriage?
Jealous (of others)
Don’t Give Up
Those are heavy words to process. But I want to leave off with the encouragement that many couples who’ve been in this place found their way up and out. We hear success stories in that higher drive wife group too, as sexual intimacy in marriages begins to improve with love, intentionality, prayer, and perseverance. The road isn’t always easy, but it’s a path worth taking.
As the higher drive spouse, do you relate to any of these emotions? If you’ve been a reluctant sexual partner in your marriage, did any of these emotions surprise you?
Long ago, I installed Google alerts, a service that culls content for the user according to given parameters. In my case, I asked for phrases like “sex research” and “higher drive wife.” And for nearly two years, I’ve gotten daily emails with links to relevant articles—as well as a lot of irrelevant articles because false positives happen a lot.
As I’ve been going through them, I decided to summarize some of the more interesting ones; particularly those that don’t warrant a full blog post. So here we go!
Embrace New Experiences
This isn’t about new sexual experiences, though you can have those too. Rather, a study of long-term couples published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that when each partner had an opportunity to have novel experiences or develop new skills/perspectives, they had more sex and reported greater satisfaction with sexual intimacy.
The researchers called these “self-expanding activities” and noted the benefits continue. “The benefits of self-expansion for relationship satisfaction are sustained over time, and…effects cannot be attributed solely to increases in positive affect, time spent interacting with the partner or closeness during the activity.”
So go out on the town. Take that trip. Enroll in a class. Explore local nature. Do a Bible study together. Read my Pillow Talk book. Find something where you can learn together and embrace new experiences!
Ruhr University researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 couples about their personalities and their sex lives. For personality, they used the Big Five Framework that measures extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. One trait in particular was correlated to fewer sexual problems and higher sexual satisfaction: Conscientiousness.
The correlation was even higher for women whose male partners were conscientious. “Men who are thorough and dutiful may feel the need to satisfy their partner sexually, which may in turn lead to better sexual function of their partners.” Gotta love that word thorough!
Conscientiousness people are described as organized, reliable, and ambitious. They tend to be intentional and to plan, as in scheduling sex. They take time to get it right. How are you faring on conscientiousness? Need to up your game?
Hey, I want to be honest about the research out there, and if I’ve seen one article, I’ve seen 12 saying mild cannabis use is linked to higher sexual frequency. But notice first the word mild and then ask why this result occurred. Hmm, let’s see… What a shocker that studies showed a substance that relaxes you relates to more willingness to have sex! (And every frat party attendee ever says, “No duh.”)
I included this point because because I want to accurately represent current research, while also showing how we must ask good questions about the results. If cannabis usage is related to more sex, you still have to ask: Should I do cannabis? My recommendation is no, because we have other ways to get that relaxing effect that don’t have some of the drawbacks of cannabis. For example, cannabis may well lower sperm count and affect embryos fertilized from that sperm.
As Christians we need to ask about what we put in our bodies and whether it’s good for us. I plan to stay away from the cannabis. Although I enjoy a glass of wine sometimes—something I figure Jesus would be okay with, given that wedding miracle He performed.
Note: CBD oil is not the same. These cannabis studies are essentially about marijuana.
Believe in Your Body
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of a positive body image, both for women and for men. We should embrace our inherent beauty for our own’s sake and to honor the Creator who crafted it. But research also shows it’s good for your sex life.
In a review of research literature, a study’s authors concluded that “women who are more satisfied with their appearance tend to initiate sex more often and report more orgasms during sex, while both men and women with a better body image tend to be more comfortable discussing sexual topics with a partner.” We also know that communication with your partner about physical intimacy increases sexual satisfaction. So for both genders, body image matters.
I know, I know—easier said than done. But if you’re not feeling great about your body today, take a step in the right direction. Find one thing about your body you’re grateful for—appearance, function, or health-wise. Write it down and read it several times over the next week. Then choose a relevant memory verse to meditate over. I’m a fan of Psalm 149:14: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Next week, do the same thing but with a different trait. And on and on. Begin to believe in the body you have and share with your spouse.
In a study commissioned by a mattress company of 2,000 couples, researchers found those who made their bed had more sex per week (3 times/week) than those who didn’t (2 times/week). And even if you’re not a bed-maker yourself, if your spouse is, it’s a good idea to go with flow on this one. Why? Because 42% of bed-makers consider it a turn-off for their partner to leave the sheets untucked.
Mind you, the bed-makers were also found to be high-maintenance, but if you already married that person, too late. You’re in for a penny, in for a pound. Make that bed and maybe you can add another sexual encounter to your week!
I have several drafted, but not quite ready, posts in my queue, and I have every intention of getting to them all. But I’ve been focused recently on dealing with comments and emails, catching up on reading others’ blog posts and articles, and going through research about sexuality. And frankly, I feel a little burned out at the moment.
Don’t worry—I’m not quitting marriage ministry! Hot, Holy & Humorous will be here for a looooong time, if I have anything to say about it. 🙂
But here’s what I mean. Burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” (Merriam-Webster). And I do lack emotional strength or motivation sometimes, because I get stressed or frustrated with some of what I hear out there about sex in marriage!
So today, since I owe y’all a post anyway, I’m going to lay it all out there and tell you what gets me burned out on marriage ministry.
There’s always been gender bashing—men complaining about women, women complaining about men. We don’t totally understand each other, and yet we have to live together. So like siblings, we find it easy to blame and complain about the other.
To be fair, I’ve sighed or rolled my eyes about such things as “man flu.” But always in jest and with a sense that we gals have our own stuff too. But the humorous point out of differences is not what I’m talking about.
Example of such humor:
Rather, real gender bashing seems to have ramped up lately, particularly in Christian circles! Either all the problems of the world are the patriarchy or they fall at the feet of those nasty feminists. Good gravy, y’all! Have you not heard that evil was here on earth before man and woman were in conflict? Satan slipped into that garden in the form of a serpent (literally or figuratively, take your pick) and tempted humankind to sin.
Of course there are men who promote the patriarchy and angry feminists who attack men, but the vast majority of men and women around you aren’t them. So stop falling for the manosphere’s and angry-feminists’ hoopla and look at what God says. No, no, not that one verse they pulled out to support their position, but the whole of God’s Word. What does God say? ” In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Stop the gender bashing already. We need to learn to live with these other people with the kindness and respect humans made in God’s image deserve.
This is my tell it like it is post, so I’m just going to say it: Some of you are more invested in being a martyr than making your marriage better. If you’ve been complaining about the same thing over and over and over, and nothing ever changes, you might be a martyr.
I’ve witnessed caring, support, terrific advice, and action items given to someone struggling with the sexual intimacy in their marriage and that person rebuffing all or nearly all of it. They usually give reasons why all that won’t work with their scenario, but at the end of the day, that’s often bunk. They just don’t want to do the right thing or the hard thing to make the situation better. (Admittedly, now and then, leaving the marriage is the best decision, and that’s an incredibly tough choice.)
Ask yourself what you really want when you come to a blog like mine. Do you want ideas to make things better? Or do you secretly wish someone would tell you that you’re right, that you’ve been sorely mistreated, that have every right to be angry? And you may be correct, but what has that gotten you?
If you’re steeped in resentment and bitterness about where your marriage or the sex in your marriage is, write down ten things you’ve tried to do about it. Put the paper away, come back in a few days, and read the list. Be honest: Are all the things basically the same thing? For instance, talking to her, pointing out Scripture, over and over. Did you give those efforts long enough to work? Even if it’s 90% of your spouse’s fault, do you listen to advice on where you need to change?
I hedged on what to call this category, but I think it’s accurate, since hedonism is the belief that pleasure and the pursuit of happiness are the highest goal in life. Now apply that to the marriage bed, and you get what I hear and see: Spouses and couples chasing the sexual high.
Look, I’ve written extensively about how to make sex more pleasurable and exciting. I’ve got lots of tips here and in my books for spicing up your sex life! But at the core of everything I say is God’s design for intimacy between husband and wife.
Yet that doesn’t seem to be the goal for an increasing number of Christians anymore, or even some Christian sex authors frankly. Rather, you can find information on every kind of kink out there, with some Christian saying it’s the thing that will make your marriage bed sing! Whether it’s:
anal sex (a risky practice that has increased in frequency with the use of porn and erotica)
sex toys that mimic body parts (I can’t tell you how many women I’ve heard from that want or use a dildo, but would they be as excited if their husband wanted to use a vaginal sleeve?)
exhibitionism (having sex in public, or sharing the specifics of your sex life with others, as if you’re aroused at the thought of others reading it)
Or some other fringe practice. We need to be careful not to put pleasure ahead of all other considerations. God calls us to treat our bodies and others with honor, gentleness, and kindness. Pleasure is absolutely good in the marriage bed, but it must remain in the context of agape love and covenant intimacy.
I like debate. Raised by a father who enjoyed the back-and-forth of ideas, I was the child who took to it and remained at the dinner table with him to discuss deep topics and debate theological issues. I continued that practice with others in college and can recall many conversations, particularly with men, in which I verbally sparred over politics, religion, and philosophy. These discussions helped me hone my own viewpoint and sometimes changed my mind.
But what I like individually isn’t the same as what’s good for my ministry and my readers. All too often, I get comments or emails where someone takes me task for a statement I made or asks me a follow-up question on a particular, and while it’s an interesting idea and I might engage if we were sitting at a restaurant table over coffee, it’s not relevant to the primary point or what people need to hear.
Example: If I just spent 900 words explaining to wives that men are not pigs after all, and some dude comes on and leaves a comment arguing one point in a way that smacks of yeah, men are pigs, I’m not approving that comment! I feel bad sometimes about it, when they’ve written 900 words themselves and I know that took some time and effort, but this blog ain’t just about you! Nor is my email inbox or my Facebook page. It is about you, but not just about you.
If you want to debate something from my blog, ask whether your comment will be constructive and whether it’s primary or petty. And if you’re just going to argue no matter what, ask yourself if you wouldn’t rather use your time more productively. Because you’re exhausting the rest of us. Seriously.
I hemmed and hawed about including this one at all, because it’s my problem really. But it is causing me some burnout moments, so here we go.
I hate selling you stuff. I mean, I love offering you fantastic resources, telling you about my books and podcast webinars, encouraging you to use what’s available to improve the sexual intimacy in your marriage! But I hate selling. I always end up feeling like “Professor” Harold Hill from The Music Manor a snake oil salesman, even though my products are definitely not snake oil.
But the reality is that people don’t buy a product or service unless they’re convinced they should get it. And that convincing—which can be called marketing or selling, depending on how it happens—is increasingly a huge part of being an author and speaker.
Blatant sales pitch below!
Truth is, I make very little money from what I do. I’ve joked about it before, but I honestly would be better off working as a toll booth operator. And I’ve heard all the encouragement about how one should be in ministry and/or the creative arts for other rewards. But no one tells the surgeon who saves lives that should be enough; they get a paycheck. (And no, I’m not comparing what I do to surgeons who save lives! That would be preposterous. I was simply going for the most exaggerated version and showing they get paid too.)
So my burnout conundrum is always: How can get people to buy my resources, which I believe in 100%, without constantly doing sales pitches? A close corollary would be: How can I make enough money to continue doing this ministry, when my family needs me to bring in a higher and more consistent income? I don’t know the answer, but if you have ideas, I’m willing to listen.
The other thing that’s burned me out is my own schedule, but that’s on me. I’ve had an unusual year, with my older son getting married, releasing four books (only one with HHH), and 19 trips on my calendar. Don’t feel too bad for me, though, because one of those trips is an upcoming Caribbean cruise in November that I got for a steal! Still, it’s all sapped my energy somewhat.
Fair is fair. Are you feeling burned out? What’s sapping your energy?
Once again, I’m sharing a few other places where you can find me sharing about God’s design for sex in marriage! I hope you’ll check these out.
Sex Chat for Christian Wives
On our latest podcast episode on Sex Chat for Christian Wives, we discussed female sexual health. Yep, that’s right—we gals need to take care of the lady bits, and we candidly talk about why and how.
Click below to listen and see show notes too!
To Love Honor and Vacuum
A little while back, Sheila Wray Gregoire contacted me and several other female marriage bloggers about putting together a collaborative post on what male teachers about sex need to know—as in things that often aren’t covered as well as they should be. I jumped at the chance to include my thoughts on higher drive wives.
Click below to read the post that appeared last week!
This one is not new, but I’ve been trying to catch up and clear out my email inbox and came across this link again. And you know what? Regardless of anything else that ever happens or doesn’t happen in my life, I can always say that I was quoted in Rolling Stone! Not on my thoughts on rock-and-roll, though I suppose one could refer to sex as rocking and rolling. 😉
May your weekend be extra hot, holy & humorous! Thanks for reading and subscribing.
A wife recently wrote to me saying that she’d had my book, Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples, on her list of things to check out for a while. But she thought it was just a book of topics to talk about and getting over the weirdness of saying words like “sex” and “naked,” whereas she wanted to go deeper.
Once she downloaded the sample, this wife was amazed how much information and communication the book included. She purchased her copy right away and thanked me several times over.
Yep, notes like those are really awesome! But her statement also gave me a V8 moment. (And those of you who don’t know that a V8 moment is suddenly realizing something you should have thought of before, you’re making me feel old.)
Why had I never shared a sample chapter on my blog?!
You can download a sample through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with a few chapters to try it, but I wanted to give my fabulous subscribers and readers a freebie here!
The introduction to Pillow Talk is a guide on how to use the book. But right after that comes a chapter titled Ground Rules. Since it begins, “Whatever you do, don’t skip this chapter,” let me at least summarize what I said there.
Each conversation chapter consists five sections:
Introduction—a single paragraph introducing the topic.
Ask and Listen—three questions to ask of your spouse and then listen to their answers.
Read and Consider—scripture to read together and thoughts on that passage.
Touch and Pray—an invitation to hold hands or embrace and pray over what you’ve discussed and learned.
Go and Do—two activity options to help you apply what you’ve learned.
That second section, Ask and Listen, is where we can fall prey to misunderstanding our spouse, insisting on our perspective, and wading into arguments. To avoid that happening, follow some ground rules.
First, choose a good time and place. Pick a time when both of you can focus and don’t feel too tense, as well as a location that seems neutral and isn’t loaded with distractions.
When it’s your turn to answer.
Be honest and vulnerable. “There is no great gain in intimacy without vulnerability and authenticity.”
Consider how you express your concerns. How you express something matters as much as what you express.
Keep your requests reasonable. For example, don’t demand a strip tease if your wife won’t undress until it’s dark. Ask for progress that can reasonably happen.
Stay calm. Easier said than done, but the book has more tips on how to maintain a cool head.
Seek clarification. If you don’t understand or something feels like an attack, probe a little. Your spouse may not be saying what you think.
Accept their feelings. Just because you don’t or wouldn’t feel the same way doesn’t make your spouse’s feelings invalid. Even if their feelings are based on error, that doesn’t make them illegitimate.
Think through their answers. It’s tempting to react quickly, but let your spouse’s words sink in and mull over your response before you speak.
Each of these points is further explained in the book, but those are the basic guidelines.
The first chapter of Pillow Talk is about praying for your sex life. While I believe in the importance of starting there, I’m actually sharing chapter two below, because I think it’s more representative of the book as a whole. Also, this conversation could really help some couples open their eyes to their similarities and differences regarding sexual intimacy in their marriage.
Below is Chapter Two: What We Learned About Sex. Or click the button for a downloadable version you can print out.
How we grew up hearing and thinking about sex can make a big imprint on our perspective later in life. Unfortunately, few Christians report having received thorough, positive, Scripture-based instruction about sexuality. How has what you learned impacted your sexual intimacy?
Ask and Listen
What’s your earliest memory of sex? When did you learn about it, and what did you learn?
What messages about sex did you get from your parents, mentors, and the church as you grew up?
What, if anything, that you learned about sex as a child has negatively affected your view of physical intimacy now?
Read and Consider
Read together Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
God’s pronouncement to the Israelites in this passage involved teaching the children who God was, what He had done for His people, and how they should honor Him by living according to His commands. This foundational education was to be an ongoing practice, saturating their daily existence.
Within the law of Moses, they were expected to follow commands about sex which showed God’s desire for it to remain holy and mutually satisfying in marriage. But many of us weren’t taught what God’s design for sex really was. Instead, our parents and church leaders were silent, ignorant, or negative. Often they hadn’t received godly instruction themselves and didn’t know how to teach us.
It’s not too late to learn. God’s Word can still teach you what it means to experience intimate, meaningful, and pleasurable sex as God intended in the covenant bond of marriage.
Touch and Pray
Holy Father, You are the creator of sex, the designer of pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed. But we have struggled with messages that make it difficult for us to fully embrace the gift You long for us to enjoy. Help us to align our understanding with Yours. [Pray specifically for the issues you brought up in your conversation.] In Jesus’ blessed name, Amen.
Go and Do
1. Take a sheet of paper and make two columns. On the left side, write down underlying messages about sex that you got from the teaching you received. Those can be anything from “sex is good in marriage” to “only bad girls want sex” or “sex is for the man.” In the right-hand column, counter any negative messages with your growing understanding of what God says about sexual intimacy. You don’t have to believe these yet, but record what you think is the right answer. Finally, put a star by those erroneous messages you struggle with most.
2. Trade lists. Yes, this is a vulnerable exercise. But let your spouse see where you’re struggling, so they can help and pray for you. In turn, promise to help and pray for your spouse.