By Aileen Challies
(Editor’s Note: Over the next few Thursday’s we will feature articles related to sexual intimacy. Today is the first post of our series. Please note that there will be a variety of perspectives shared within this series.)
A couple of years ago I read a book by Sharon Jaynes called Becoming the Woman of His Dreams. In her research Jaynes surveyed and interviewed hundreds of men in her search to understand the qualities men desire in a wife. You won’t be surprised to hear that sexual fulfillment was at the top of the list (like we didn’t see that one coming, right?). This leads her to call sex the superglue that holds a marriage together. Here are a couple of examples of what men said about their sex lives. “What is the one thing I wish my wife understood better about me and what I long for? The need for her to be more sexual. I wish she’d be more creative and enthusiastic about it. I wish sex would be more fun and more of a priority in our marriage.” “The woman of my dreams would want sex as much as I do. I don’t think women really have a concept of how ‘wired’ for sex men are. It can’t make sense to them, not exactly sure why myself. It seems petty, but it’s real.” Her research showed what I think we already know or at least suspected: for your husband, sexual fulfillment is not a want but a need that arises from the very core of who he is.
In my discussions with other married women I’ve seen clearly that sex, for many couples, is the one thing they fight about most (It’s not just us!). At least from some wives perspective, it usually comes down to a pretty simple fact: she simply doesn’t understand why sex is so important to her husband. Because she doesn’t understand, she continues to see it from her perspective and dismisses sex as unimportant, an annoyance, a chore, perhaps an occasional indulgence. She gives herself to him every now and again, hoping it will get hubby off her case for a couple of days, but she does so out of obligation or duty, not delight. Can you identify with this? I think most women can, at least at times.
But if Jaynes is right and sex truly is the superglue that holds a marriage together, we, as wives, need to get it right, don’t we? We need to make sure that we are not eroding our marriages from within because we can’t or won’t understand sex.
What Does He Really Want?
Is your husband’s sex drive something that is purely physical, his body telling him that he just needs a release and that your body is the way to get it? Or is his sex drive in some way connected to you, a need that can only be filled by the spiritual and physical intimacy of making love to you? The message always seems mixed in the female mind. Does my husband want me or does he just want my body? We hear of men who, even though they’re married, look at porn and masturbate and we think, “That solves it! It’s all about the release.” And somehow we really do believe it is that simple. From what I’ve learned as I’ve talked to other women, from what I’ve learned as I’ve responded to emails Tim has received, I can see that a lot of women struggle with this. Just what does my husband really want?
Today’s wife has good reason to believe that sex is no deeper than the physical and that her husband wants and needs her only to meet his urgent needs. All around us society screams this message—that sex within marriage, sex designed as mutual pleasure from husband to wife and wife to husband—is the relic of another age. Instead it tells us that sex is actually nothing too special. It is just the release of pent-up hormones, an enjoyable act that can be shared with just about anyone with little ill effect. Many wives bring to marriage these messages from society, from movies and books, from parents, from previous relationships. The worst part is that your own husband may confirm the bad messages by taking what he can get, settling for your body in those times that you refuse to give him all of you. He rolls over and goes to sleep unfulfilled, convinced that he cannot arouse you or please you. Meanwhile, you roll over feeling used, confirmed in your suspicion that he is a pervert who is just after your body. The vicious circle commences and grows with both husband and wife contributing to it.
You may have never looked at pornography and you may not have a long and extensive sexual history. But still, you have absorbed messages that are causing you to withdraw your heart from your husband. You believe lies and allow these lies to shape your marriage. Thankfully truth trumps error like spades trumps diamonds (it does, doesn’t it?). So let’s bring some truth to the error.
First off, a good sex life takes work; most people are surprised to learn that it takes skill and practice. Sex is something that seems like it should come very naturally, but often it does not. It can take a long time for the act to be mutually pleasurable for both parties. You first have to learn about one another and you have to learn about yourself. If a woman comes into marriage a virgin, she may have many misconceptions about the wedding night. She goes into that evening expecting fireworks and may come out wondering what on earth is wrong with her. This can continue for weeks, months, years even. During this time, women can begin to believe that all the husband wants is her body. He is being fulfilled and may seem satisfied with the way things are going. Bitterness and discontent grow and sex becomes a battle. Eventually most couples hit their stride, but it is possible that damage has already been done.
All of You
The fact is that your husband wants both the physical release and the relational intimacy he finds in your arms. He wants you, body, soul and spirit and he wants to give you his body, soul and spirit. He needs you to be willing to both give and receive. The physical desire he feels is a kind of trigger to remind your husband to seek this connection with you. It is a reminder and motivator to him that he needs to pursue you. You must not allow yourself to separate the physical urge from all the rest. God designed your husband to need this physical release. He provided you, the wife, as the one who can and should provide the means for that release. And he provided the act of making love so that it becomes about far more than just the physical act.
And aren’t you glad for this, that God made it about so much more than just forcing you to give him some instinctual physical release? We are far more than animals here. In the act of making love you and your husband are knit together, body-to-body, soul-to-soul. The Bible calls it “becoming one”—a perfect word picture. This is why sex as a mere physical act, one divorced from the heart and mind, does not deliver what it may claim to offer. It leaves you feeling used. It leaves your husband feeling incomplete, knowing that you have not truly given yourself to him. You can fulfill an obligation to bring about the release but he may still not experience the emotional and spiritual engagement that is so important to your marriage. For that to happen, you need to offer him more than your body. You need to offer him your body, your soul, your mind, your acceptance. This is what makes sex so intimate and makes you so vulnerable in it. You need to offer up all you are, all you’ve got.
This may be hard to believe, but even more than your man wants sexual fulfillment, he wants you to be sexually fulfilled. He wants emotionally to see how much you enjoy what only he can give you. If he fails to do so he feels inadequate. If he knows that you are not enjoying sex but are only trying to placate him, he will not be truly fulfilled. He does not want to be a consumer but a lover. That is an important distinction. Placid participation is not enough.
And right there, I understand that we have come to a difficult issue. How do you turn something on that seemly doesn’t want to be turned on? And what if your husband is just really bad at pressing the right buttons (and maybe really good at pressing all the wrong ones)? What if you’ve been nursing a baby all day and tucking kids into bed all evening and then he gives you the look—that look? If we as women are honest with ourselves, we’ll have to admit that so often we choose not to participate. We, unlike our male counterparts, have a great deal of mental control over our sexual nature. When we are not in the mood we are not in the mood, right? End of story. But I wonder, if we let our mental guards down, if we looked beyond ourselves and served our husbands as we know God wants us to, maybe we would find that things would work out a whole lot better.
So what does your husband want? He wants you—all of you. And his body gives him the reminder to keep pursuing you and to keep making love to you. Do not allow yourself to see his sex drive as something that is animalistic or gross or unholy. It is given to him by the God who does not make mistakes. It must be given for our good. It is a blessing to be appreciated, not a curse to be rejected.
Harry Schaumburg, in his book Undefiled, says this (this quote is so good—make sure you read it carefully!), “The drive to be sexual is more than simply a desire for pleasure or excitement. The sex drive is really a longing for closeness—in both sexes. Don’t be fooled by false messages or even personal experience: men want closeness too. Every man that I have counseled who made his wife a sexual object, therefore giving the impression that all he wanted was sexual pleasure, has admitted—often with tears—that what he really wanted was closeness. This revelation was unbelievable to the wives who heard their husbands say that. In may seem unbelievable to you too—but it’s true.”
Think about what you do to show your husband you love him. Maybe you are a stay-at-home mom and you show your love by making his lunch in the morning and making sure you meet him at the door with a kiss when he comes home. Maybe he is the type who loves physical affection so you make sure to rub his shoulders or back in the evening. You know the things you do to express your love and affection.
Now understand that sex is probably the most meaningful way in which he shows you that he loves you; and it is the most powerful way in which he wants you to show how much you love him. Sex is every man’s love language! If you want to be a wife that serves and builds up your husband, regular, joyful sex will be a part of your relationship to him. So I guess we arrive at the obvious conclusion: have sex, have it often, and serve your husband freely and joyfully in this manner. You will have a stronger marriage to show for it. And, think on this: every marriage counselor is likely to agree that if the sex life is good, the marriage is good. Rarely do you see a bad marriage with a good sex life. It’s almost like sex is…superglue.
Aileen Challies is a mother to three children, a wife to Tim, an occasional and reluctant writer, and a member of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Canada.
A version of this article first appeared at www.challies.com.
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