Several years ago, a friend of mine shared a very tender part of her heart with me. She was deeply concerned because she desired sexual intimacy more frequently than her husband did. He often didn’t respond to her advances and he definitely did not initiate. This caused my friend deep pain because she felt rejected and undesirable. The situation even left her wondering, What is wrong with me and my marriage?
As a wife, you may feel like my friend who lives with the realization that she has the greater desire for sex in her marriage relationship. As you’ve embraced this reality, you may have even asked yourself, What’s wrong with me? Am I abnormal? or maybe, What’s wrong with my husband?
Although the stereotypical norm focuses on men having a greater drive for physical intimacy, Dr. Michael Sytsma found in his studies that 20 percent of women have a higher sex drive than their husband. So I can assure you that you are not alone in this struggle.
Between cultural assumptions, valid research and even Scriptural teachings, there can be many misunderstandings around sex that lead women with a higher sex drive to feel abnormal. Whether a wife believes that her husband should always initiate or she assumes that he thinks about sex numerous times a day, she can set herself up for disappointment and uncertainty when it comes to sexual intimacy.
Women who do not understand why their husband isn’t initiating sex can often personalize it and struggle emotionally. Although they may simply be one of the couples that doesn’t fit into the “stereotype,” discovering possible reasons for a husband’s lower sex drive can soften a wife’s heart and allow her to approach him with empathy and understanding.
So, where to begin?
Have a conversation
Spend some time reflecting on how you have reacted to his lack of sexual interest. Consider the following questions:
- Do you struggle with feelings of rejection?
- Have you assumed there must be something wrong with you?
- Are you frustrated and angry about his lack of initiation?
- Do you reject him in return?
- Have you tried talking about sex in the midst of fighting about it?
It’s important to note that the already tense scenario in your relationship may have become more intense, especially if this issue has gone unaddressed for a long period of time. Regardless, making assumptions about what is going on in your relationship and drawing false conclusions about him (or you) will not get you anywhere but stuck.
Many couples find it difficult to discuss issues related to sexual intimacy. Due to the tender nature of the topic and the emotional vulnerability required, it can be an off-limits category of conversation for some couples. I encourage you to start by having an honest conversation with your husband.
So, address this issue with your husband in a way that you seek to understand him at the same time you take responsibility for how you may have responded poorly. This is not to minimize your feelings, but perhaps both of you might feel misunderstood. Commit to staying calm as you connect in conversation because this will give you the greatest chance of actually hearing from your man.
Discover the Truth
For many wives dealing with this issue, their greatest fears can lead to avoiding the conversation in hopes of not discovering that their husband is addicted to pornography, masturbating excessively or seeking sex outside of their marriage. Sadly, these scenarios can be the cause of a lower sex drive or lack of initiating within the marriage. However, this is not always the case. Other causes for your husband’s low sex drive may include:
- hormonal imbalances
- emotional or sexual trauma
- a season of high-level stress
- medical issues such as thyroid disease or obesity
- lack of balance between work and home life
- personality differences
- fear of performing poorly
- fear of rejection if he initiates
- low testosterone
- grief or depression
Discovering what is really going on should alleviate some of your fears. It may even permit you and your husband to get on the same page regarding sexual intimacy. It is essential to gain a deeper understanding because one or both of you may be drawing inaccurate conclusions about what is going on.
Continue to Pursue Intimacy
As the two of you address barriers to truly enjoying the gift of sexual intimacy in your marriage, it may be helpful to enlist the help of licensed a Christian counselor — especially if it’s difficult for you and your husband to discuss challenges in the bedroom.
Keep in mind, too, that your sexual relationship may change through the different seasons of marriage: the newlywed stage, raising children, high stress times, seasons of conflict or even the rise of health issues. Even if you have been the spouse with the greater sex drive, that can change. Therefore, be intentional about responding to your husband with kindness and care. You want to treat your spouse just as you desire to be treated.
Recognize that the Lord cares about all areas of your marriage, including your sexual intimacy. Turn to Him and talk to Him about the challenges you are facing. Remember that God, not man, created marriage, and He is with you both.
Erin Smalley is a co-author of The Wholehearted Wife and serves as the program manager of marriage ministries at Focus on the Family.