Help for Sexual Desire Difference in Marriage

Tish Hedger, MA, LPC

Every couple has questions about sexual desire difference at some point. So often, one spouse experiences more frequent desire for sex than their husband or wife. Navigating desire difference can be very tricky. Sexual connection becomes burdensome, like a chore or obligation. You may feel false guilt or resentment towards your spouse. This dynamic can cause great distress in the relationship with feelings of anxiety, hurt and isolation. In this article I will share some tips as you navigate this very common but difficult challenge

In This Article

  1. Change the Goal 
  2. Understand Yourself
  3. Be Friends
  4. Communication
  5. Non-Sexual Touch
  6. Treatment for Sexual Disorders

About the Author

This article is based on scientific evidence and clinical experience, written by a licensed professional and fact-checked by experts.

Tish Hedger MA, PLPC is a professional counselor specializing in marriage counseling, sex therapy, anxiety, and depression treatment. You can schedule an appointment with Tish for online counseling or in-person at our Kansas City, Missouri counseling center.

Watch this video on YouTube.

Help for Sexual Desire Difference in Marriage

Every couple has questions about sexual desire difference at some point. So often, one spouse experiences more frequent desire for sex than their husband or wife. Culture often portrays men as always having the higher desire. Although this is often true it is not always the case. There are many wives who have a higher desire than their spouse.

What I have to say about low desire applies to both genders, but I am going to speak using language to women since that represents 80% of those who will be lower desire.

Navigating desire difference can be very tricky. Wives, you may feel sex is demanded from you or there is no satisfying your husband’s desire. Sexual connection becomes burdensome, like a chore or obligation.  You may feel false guilt or resentment towards your spouse. This might leave you wondering:

  • “What is wrong with me?
  • “Why don’t I desire sex more?” or
  • “They are always wanting more sex. It is never enough.”

Husbands, you may feel rejection or frustration and wonder:

  • “Why doesn’t my spouse desire me like I desire them?” and
  • “Why don’t they want me?”

This dynamic can cause great distress in the relationship with feelings of anxiety, hurt and isolation.

Here are some tips as you navigate this very common but difficult challenge. 

Change the Goal

Change the goal of sex from orgasm to connection. View times of sexual connection as investing into the sexual intimacy bank account of the relationship. Anytime you show up to this intimate space you are making an investment into the sexual connection of your relationship. Pressure to reach a certain goal every time can bring pressure and performance anxiety that interrupts the emotional safety and sense of playfulness required to connect.

Understand Yourself

It is important to understand the difference in Initiating Desire and Responsive Desire. We can often think of sexual desire (felt mental and emotional want) coming before sexual arousal (the body’s physical arousal response). Initiating desire is when there is felt mental and emotional desire and physical arousal simultaneously. Initiating desire feels ready to engage right now. Responsive desire is a willingness to lean into connection with the purpose of pulling one’s mind, heart, and body into a space where desire can grow.

You may think “That was not on my radar at all. But I am open to the possibility.” Wives, it is important to proceed only when feeling neutral or positive about sex. You should never force yourself to engage when active negative emotion or feelings are present. This can cause a harmful pairing between negative emotion and sexuality.

Typically women need to feel emotionally connected to engage sexually while men feel a very strong emotional connection after sex. This has to do with oxytocin, a very powerful hormone released in the body in response to touch between bonded mates. Typically women need oxytocin in their bodies to feel sexual desire and men experience a massive increase of oxytocin as a result of sex with their spouse.  Men experience up to 400 times the amount of oxytocin in their bodies after sex than women do.

Tips:

Husbands, when you are initiating it is helpful to let the relational connection drive the sexual connection. Usually starting the pace slow is helpful for women. Use eye contact, relational sharing through talking, and slow tender kisses and touches. This can help her to connect physically, mentally and emotionally with both desire and arousal.

Wives notice that your sexual desire (mental and emotional want) often comes after sexual arousal (body sensations of desire). Starting slow and tender is especially helpful for your feminine sexuality and how your body is wired. So husbands, let your intensity and pace lag behind hers.

Be Friends

Invest in building and maintaining a strong and deep friendship. Spend time together having fun, going on adventures, and relaxing together. Explore a new town or part of the city together, go hiking or kayaking, find ways to be creative together, enjoy beauty together and be light hearted together. Making time for friendship is necessary in maintaining connection. Discipline your relationship to be in rhythms of spending time together that make this possible.

Communication

Daily Communication:

Make time to share your heart with each other. Creating space for, “How am I? How are you? How are we?” Share your worries, victories, and daily interactions and happenings. This creates an opportunity to deepen your understanding of each other. Over time you begin to hold a map of your spouse’s internal world in your heart and mind. This builds a sense of knowing and being known that is a key component of intimacy.

Talk about Sex:

Talking about sex starts with great questions.  Here is a list:

  • How is it going?
  • How are you feeling?
  • What is going well?
  • What would you like to grow in as a couple?
  • Are there any barriers?
  • Is there anxiety present or hurt that needs to be addressed?
  • How can we grow sexually together and strengthen our relationship even more?

Next, invest in learning with one another:
Read books together out loud and discuss what you are learning. Identifying and sharing your own sexual accelerators and brakes with your spouse is helpful. Common accelerators are: Tidy environment, a freshly showered spouse, enhancing the atmosphere with candles/music/etc. Also, starting with conversation, eye contact and non sexual touch is helpful. Common brakes are: fatigue, stress, messy atmosphere, conflict in the relationship, a spouse not freshly showered, etc.

Ask yourself and notice, What makes me feel sexy? What are the things that help pull my mind from distraction and my body from stress so I can be present with my spouse?

Learn to Fight:

If there is a pattern of unresolved conflict in the relationship this will erode connection and friendship and quench sexual desire very quickly. Conflict has great potential to bring growth and even greater intimacy. But to achieve intimacy may require growth. It is possible for conflict to bring relational strength as we reach out and respond to each other from our hearts with our real hurts and feelings. Read books, talk to mentors, or seek professional marital communication growth with a therapist or in a workshop.

Give Non-Sexual Touch Every Day

Give touch every day that is not meant to lead to foreplay. Build touch around coming and going, create touch rituals of saying hello and goodbye. Linger in hugs for at least 30 seconds. This gives your bodies a chance to release oxytocin, the bonding hormone that is released when you touch and are face to face with your spouse. Oxytocin brings a powerful sense of closeness and bond. Hold hands in the car and cuddle on the couch. If you feel the desire for touch ask for it, “Will you hug me? Will you cuddle me on the couch?” If your spouse sends out a bid for touch, respond even if it feels uncomfortable. It likely feels uncomfortable because it is unfamiliar. If it feels awkward at first just talk about this. Be willing to be in the awkward to together as you build something new.  Perhaps tender non sexual touch is something new to you and your spouse. It is a vital part of a healthy and thriving relationship. It is a key aspect that paves the way for sexual touch and connection.

Get Treatment for Sexual Disorders

Sometimes there are sexual challenges that may require help from professionals. If you are experiencing a sexual disorder it is important to talk to your doctor and seek help from appropriate specialists. If you are suffering from a sexual disorder it can feel very overwhelming and isolating. If you can, talk to your spouse about what you are experiencing. Sexual disorders can include pain during sex, difficulties in achieving orgasm, difficulties maintaining an erection, and sexual desire aversion. If you have negative feelings about sex that bring fear, despair or anxiety there is a chance you might me experiencing a sexual disorder. You can talk to one of My Counselor’s trained sex therapists. You do not have to suffer alone, there is help.

In Conclusion:

God created sex good. He wired you for connection, and marriage is the the most intimate demonstration of this capacity for connection on earth. Sex embodies God’s good design in creating humans for connection. Sex can be a one of a kind refuge that you and your spouse build and share together, a place we get to experience mutual pleasure. Sex is meant to bring the wonder, joy and comfort of oneness with your spouse. Sex is designated for marriage alone because it is a way we echo the vows of our covenant with both body and soul.  ‘I am yours and no one else’s. I choose to give myself to you in a way I don’t give to anyone else. And I joyfully receive you in a way that I don’t receive anyone else. I choose oneness with you again and..forever.’

Resources

If you would like good resources but don’t know where to start here are two very good resources to read aloud together as a couple.

Married Guys Guide to Great Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner
AND
Enjoy! The Gift of Sexual Pleasure for Women by Clifford and Joyce Penner

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