Picture a bridge. You’re on one side, your husband is on the other. In the middle? The issue of sex. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been viewing his sexual need as mostly physical – important, yes, but probably also optional. By comparison, when you’ve been tugged on by little hands all day, your need for sleep can seem both important and immediately necessary. And, yes, if you view sex as a purely physical need, it might indeed seem comparable to sleep. But once you realize that your man is actually saying, “This is essential to my feeling of being loved and desired by you, and is critical to counteract my stress, my fears, and my loneliness,” well… that suddenly puts it in a different category. So how might you respond?
I can’t tell how often I heard a man’s not-at-all-veiled appeal for his wife to not only desire him but to do something about it. Although every intimate relationship has its own story, here are 5 ways to bridge the sex gap.
1. Choose to love him in the way he needs.
First, know that you’re responding to a tender heart hiding behind all that testosterone. If at all possible, respond to his advances with your full emotional involvement, knowing that you’re touching his heart. But if responding physically seems out of the question, let your words be heart words – reassuring, affirming, adoring. Do everything in your power – using words and actions he understands – to keep those pangs of personal rejection from striking the man you love. Leave your husband in no doubt that you love to love him.
And remember, if you do respond physically but do it just to “meet his needs” without getting engaged, you’re not actually meeting his needs. In fact, you might as well send him out to clip the hedges. So enjoy God’s intimate gift, and make the most of it!
2. Get involved… and have more fun, too.
I discovered that many men love the secret knowledge of having a wife that is sexually motivated. A few years ago, I overheard a thirty-year-old single friend telling Jeff what he wanted in a wife. “I want a wife who is a model of virtue-Godly, faithful, and always kind to others.” A grin crept onto his face. “But when I get her home…!” Now some of us may laugh at that and think that being a “wildcat” is a bit beyond us. Not so say the men. All that means, they say, is a wife who makes the first move once in a while and who brings all her attention and passion for her man to bed with her. Do that, and watch your husband light up with delight.
3. If you need help, get it.
I recognize that some women might very much wish that they could respond more wholeheartedly to their husbands’ sexual needs, but feel stopped in their tracks for various personal reasons. I don’t want to add any more frustration. I do, however, want to encourage you to get the personal or professional help you need to move forward. The choice to pursue healing will be worth it, both for you and the man you love.
Are the needs you are meeting for your husband the needs he wants met? If our daughters weren’t perfectly primped, he didn’t complain. If the kitchen floor needed mopping, he didn’t say a word. And if he didn’t have any socks to wear, he simply threw them in the washer himself. I soon realized I regularly said “no” to the one thing he asked of me. I sure wasn’t making myself available to my husband by militantly adhering to my plan for the day…. Would the world end if I didn’t get my tires rotated? I’d been so focused on what I wanted to get done and what my children needed, I’d cut my hubby out of the picture.
Are the many other things that take our time and energy truly as important as this one? Now would be a good time to reevaluate priorities with the help of our husbands so that we know that we are taking this seriously.
5. Getting those “love signals” right.
In closing, I thought it would be encouraging to look in on how one average husband and wife handled this issue. Mark and Anne had a good marriage in general. They had been married fifteen years when Mark noticed their sex life starting to wane. Anne was not responding the way she used to, was just not as interested, too busy, too tired. They didn’t stop making love, but as Mark says, “It just seemed to be less of a priority for her.”
Mark is a businessman, and he sometimes works long hours, which used to be a source of grief for Anne. Years earlier she had sat down with him and explained that it wasn’t so much the hours that hurt her, but that he didn’t come home when he said he would. She told him that he was a great husband, but that this one thing made her feel very uncared-for. She told him that his willingness to tell her a realistic time when he’d be home and stick to it was— for her—one of the most important signals of his love. Mark understood and that became a priority for him.
Now, years later, Mark sat down with Anne and told her that he was concerned about the drop-off in their sex life. He drew a parallel to Anne’s need for him to be home when promised. He said, “I could be a great husband but not do this one thing that is really important to you, and I’d still fail at making you feel loved. Having sex like we used to, having you be responsive to me, is the same thing for me.”
Anne had never understood it that way, and it was important for her to hear that she could be a great wife, but if she didn’t respond to her husband’s sexual desires—one of his most important “love signals”—she’d still fail at making him feel loved. As Mark now says, “It clicked for her, and that changed everything.”
Has your husband been sending you signals?
Has your husband been sending you signals that he is unhappy about your responsiveness to him? It’s possible that he may wish he could explain this to you, but doesn’t know how. Or maybe he’s tried, but you’ve discounted the importance of his request.
Having heard from so many men on this, I would urge you: Don’t discount it. It is more important to him—and your relationship and therefore your own joy in marriage—than you can imagine.
Now that you understand the tender places in your husband’s heart, hopefully, you have developed compassion for him and the way he is wired. Let’s take that compassion and understanding with us as we examine the next area of his inner life.
Tell us! How are you and your husband navigating this sensitive subject?