21 Aug 2014-
Throughout their eight years of marriage, Cheryl and Desmond had enjoyed being part of a close-knit group of couples they had met during their college years. Because of the longevity of their relationships and how they had together experienced each stage of young-adult life, the couples in Cheryl and Desmond’s group shared openly with one another.
Sometimes, when the women got together for social time, their conversations alluded to sex. All of them griped about how their husbands constantly wanted sex. They joked about creative ways to say, “Not now, honey.”
Although Cheryl chuckled and pretended to share their experiences, these conversations created a deep sense of inadequacy and shame. She could never tell her friends that she longed for the day when Matt would sexually pursue her or even respond to her requests for sexual intimacy. Surely, there must be something repulsive about her.
The ’20 Percent Club’
Of all the hidden sexual secrets that couples carry, one of the most painful is this reversal of sexual stereotypes. Almost all marriages go through periods when the man has a lower sex drive than his wife. Stress at work, depression, grieving, a physical illness, or extreme tension in your marriage can each radically decrease your husband’s interest in sex. While these periods are disconcerting or frustrating, they pale in comparison to the pain and conflict caused when this is a couple’s consistent pattern of sexual intimacy.
Although it doesn’t alleviate all of the pain and conflict, it helps couples to know that around 20 percent of marriages fall within this category. Because people don’t talk about it, couples in the “20 Percent Club” can begin to believe that they’re alone in the universe—that no one else could possibly relate to their struggle.
A primary challenge for you if you fall within this group is the shame and blame that’s often attached to your sex life. As a wife, you may wonder what’s wrong with you and why your husband seems to not be attracted to you. Along with those feelings and doubts, you may also wonder if your sex drive is abnormal. If the average wife seems bent on avoiding sex, is there something wrong with you if you actually crave it?
Other days, you probably shift from shame to blame, feeling angry with your husband for his seeming inability or unwillingness to meet your needs for love, affirmation, and sexual fulfillment. His disinterest feels like a total rejection of who you are as a wife and a woman.
To make matters worse, your husband may be dealing with wounds just as deep as yours. While you long for affection and affirmation, he yearns to be a competent husband. From the time he was a young adolescent, he has been programmed to believe that masculinity equals sexual conquest and that real men can perform in bed. Although he may not be able to articulate it, he likely feels deep shame and inadequacy rooted in his inability to perform on demand.
So, here you are, both feeling incredible shame and inadequacy. How can you reassure him when you are the one reeling from rejection? Likewise, how can he comfort you when your pain is rooted in something apparently “wrong” with him?
One of the keys to growing beyond the frustration you now feel is learning to accept the many ways your husband is likely showing you love.
Here are a couple of suggestions that may be of help:
Accept What He Offers
Learn to accept the many ways your husband is likely showing you love. Many of the women I’ve met with who identify themselves with the 20 Percent Club describe their husbands as very loving and attentive in ways other than their sexuality. These husbands may be generous with words of affirmation or acts of service. If your husband tells you you’re beautiful or that he’s crazy about you, believe him. As you recognize the ways that he serves and affirms you, encourage him. Additionally, encourage forms of physical affection that don’t involve the pressure of sexual intercourse, such as back rubs, holding hands, playful touching, and hugging.
Learn to Compromise
Whenever one person wants sex more often than the other, the obvious answer is to compromise. The person with a higher sex drive may have sex less often than he would like, and the person with the lower sex drive may have sex more often than she feels the need to. The compromise is based on mutual love and care. However, a woman can have sex even if she’s not into it. A man can’t. He can’t feign excitement or have a quickie just to meet her needs if he’s not aroused.
One way around this is to broaden your definition of sex by being creative. How can you experience a sexual release with him outside of intercourse? Remember that you’re still engaged in marital intimacy even if it doesn’t involve what you typically think of as sex. There is no shame in wanting intimacy with your husband more often. And there is no shame in encouraging him to seek other ways to please you.
Growing Closer Through the Challenges
In almost every marriage, either the husband or the wife feels sexually unfulfilled, at least at some level. What probably makes your situation more difficult are your expectations which might be based on what everyone else seems to be doing, as well as cultural stereotypes. This expectation of having your husband pursue you is likely a huge barrier to accepting your sexual relationship for what it is and growing closer to your husband through this challenge.
Remember that sex isn’t love, but it is designed to be an expression of love. The most mature expression of love in your marriage is embracing your husband simply for who he is without demands and expectations. In fact, it is through your disappointment and lingering needs that your love is stretched to encompass more than self-fulfilment. Your lack of fulfilment can foster a deeper love in your heart for your husband.
This article was published with permission from Focus on the Family Malaysia. For more information, please visit or contact us.
6-2 Jalan Bersatu 13/4, 46200 Petaling Jaya
Check out our Marriage Campaign! Visit us at www.marriedforloveforlife.my
Focus on the Family 90-second audio program is aired over TRAXX FM at 8.15 a.m. and 6.45pm every Monday to Friday
| Share the Good News |