Is it wrong that I don't want to have sexual intercourse as often as my husband does? Is my libido unhealthy or deficient? I try to accommodate him as often as I can, both out of love and a sense of duty, but there are times when I simply can't respond no matter how hard I try. We're both frustrated.
There's not necessarily anything wrong. Individuals can differ radically in terms of their sexual desires and interests. You aren't the only couple clashing over the question of how often they "should" have sex. The issue usually comes up when spouses' expectations about the frequency of intercourse don't match – a very common complaint.
Frequency and intensity of sexual activity can be a measure of the general health of a marriage, but there's no standard that applies to every couple. Factors like gender, individual expectations, developmental maturity as a couple, and cultural differences all come into the mix. These variables are especially evident in early marriage when a couple is still in the process of finding out where their own "normal" will land on the scale.
That said, it's important to add that sexual unresponsiveness may be considered unhealthy or dysfunctional in certain cases, depending on the physical condition and personal histories of the individuals involved. Without knowing a great deal more about you we can't even offer an educated guess as to the causes of your sexual difficulties. But we can tell you that those causes probably fall under one of the three following general categories.
First, sexual unresponsiveness in women is often psychological in origin, stemming from fear, anxiety, guilt, depression, conflict with one's mate, or feelings of inferiority. It may also be related to past sexual trauma. Did you experience any kind of sexual abuse as a child? Have you ever been a victim of rape? Were you or your husband sexually promiscuous prior to marriage? Have either of you ever been involved with pornography? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's possible that past experience is impacting your present ability to respond sexually within the context of marriage.
Second, your inability to respond to your husband may have something to do with physiological factors. For example, some women find intercourse painful due to insufficient lubrication, inadequate stimulation, infection, or some other physical cause. A chronic illness, certain medications, and some medical conditions can also greatly diminish sexual desire. Other physical factors may include hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, hypothyroidism, menopause, exhaustion, and childbirth. If you think your problem may be medical in origin, we highly recommend that you discuss your concerns with your physician.
Third, though it may come as a shock to him, it's possible that your husband is inhibiting your response himself. Whether he wants to admit it or not, his attitudes and behavior may be squelching your libido. A woman responds more easily and naturally to her husband's advances when she feels loved, valued, respected, secure, and relaxed. But if she senses that she's simply being used, her sexual passion almost inevitably dries up. The question to ask here is how does your husband relate to you outside the bedroom? Does he place your needs and concerns ahead of his own? Does he praise you, seek to build your self-image, and make himself available to serve in practical ways? If not, he's not only falling short of the biblical instruction to love his wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25) – he's also undercutting his own personal interest in healthy, mutually satisfying marital sex.
If any of this seems to ring true, we'd encourage you and your husband to seek out the help of a trained Christian counselor. Call us. Focus on the Family's Counseling staff can provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in sexual issues. Our counselors would also be more than happy to discuss your feelings with you over the phone.
Addressing a Wife's Lack of Sexual Desire: Dr. Michael Sytsma discusses differing levels of sexual desire in marriage and offers suggestions for how to care for each other by working on the issue.
Sex and Intimacy