Sometimes after a long day, you just want to climb in bed and go to sleep… but your spouse has other ideas!

Differences in sexual desire are very normal. Usually, there is one high desire and one low desire spouse in a marriage – sometimes desires are equal, but not very often. Normally, the husband is a high desire and the wife low desire, but there is nothing wrong if it’s the other way around!

We want you to be aware of how these differences in desire can affect your marriage.

On a side note before we start; we are making the assumption that the difference in desire is NOT due to one or both spouses engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage, whether that’s masturbating to porn, or having an affair, and so on. Those are issues that need to be dealt with, but outside the scope of today’s post.

Gender Matters

Research indicates that men generally want sex more often than women and that they rate their own sex drive higher than women rate theirs. On an interesting note, men and women respond to initiations equally. The man just feels rejected more often because he initiates more. So some of the difference between genders is simply about perception.

Byers and Heinlein (1989), who performed the research above, also found that individuals with greater sexual satisfaction responded more positively to initiations. In other words, having higher quality sex leads to greater desire and arousability.

Here are five points that we want you to consider with regards to any differences in sexual desire in your marriage:

1. How is the quality of your relationship?

The amount of emotional intimacy going on in your relationship is a critical component, especially for the low desire spouse, as physical intimacy is an extension of emotional intimacy. Are you really connecting at that “heart” level?

Another thing we need to distinguish between is desire and arousability. Just because you don’t initiate a lot doesn’t mean you are not interested in sex. The ability to be fully sexually engaged can be just as strong in both spouses. The low desire spouse needs to allow himself or herself to be aroused and the higher desire spouse needs to realize that a rejection is not a personal slight.

A person may want sex because they are feeling close, but the inverse is also true. They can want to be close by having sex. As long as this “want” is coming from a place of fullness (think, overflow of the heart) rather than a place of neediness (to calm anxiety about the relationship), it is a healthy thing.

2. How is the quality of your sex?

Good sex leads to more sex. Are you sexually competent and skillful? Some of us were raised in a faith background that continually told us, “sex is bad”. Then we get married, and it’s hard to switch into “sex is good” mode!

We need to develop sexual competence – male and female! Have you had a real orgasm? What does it look like? How do you know if you’ve had one? It’s easier with men, but what does it take to bring her to orgasm?

There are good Christian resources out there – check out The Marriage Bed for help in this regard. This is a good, clean website that can help you develop greater sexual competence.

Make sure your sex is not a goal-oriented event. His or her release is not the goal – closeness and intimacy is! Neither spouse should feel used.

How you speak of your sex is also important. Don’t be critical of your spouse or your sex before, during or after the event.

What do you think about sex? Do you believe it is good? Has one spouse been abused or suffered sexual trauma? All these beliefs affect the quality of our sex.

And the last thing to think about with regards to the quality of sex is your beliefs about your own sexiness. In a Christian marriage done right, the only place you are sexy and seductive is within your marriage. We need to learn to allow ourselves to see ourselves as sexy in that context.

3. How is your health?

Self-care is so important. Good general health is as important as good sexual functioning. Also critical is positive sexual self-esteem. It will be extremely difficult to undress if you believe your body is ugly or that you don’t have the skills to please your spouse.

If things are not working, mechanically, there is help out there. There are disorders of both desire and arousal and there are qualified sex therapists that can help you work through both types of issues. Seek help and enjoy full sexual arousal rather than suffer in silence or miss out on this incredibly rich gift that God has given to marriage.

4. What role does gender play?

We already spoke about how gender matters and some of the differences between men and woman.

Think about desire over the human lifespan. In the short term, men are always ready to have sex. Yet, the more sex he has, the less he will push for it because he is more satisfied. In the long term of a man’s lifespan, his sexual desire fades and gradually decreases in later years.

On the other hand, a woman’s sexual desire in the short term is connected to her monthly cycle. Yet, in the long term, her sexual desire peaks in her 40-50’s and then slows down later on. Another difference between genders – the more a wife has quality sex, the more she wants it.

(Here’s a hint for men – if you want more sex, increase the quality and pleasure for your wife!)

5. What else is going on?

Life happens. The season of life you are in will greatly impact the level of sexual desire in a relationship. If there are babies in the house and one or both of you are up half the night, sex will be low on the priority list. Sleep will be higher! If you are caring for aging parents in the home, it may be draining energy that you might have once saved up for your spouse. We need to show ourselves—and each other—mercy during this phase of life.

Research also shows that if a wife has a full-time job, the number of sexual initiations in the marriage is lower.

This calls for us to be realistic and reasonable about matching our expectations with the season of life that we are in.

So yes, there are differences in sexual desire. Go through the five points as a couple and talk about the impact any might be having in your marriage today.

We want to wish you a wonderful new year, full of warm love, hot sex and romantic moments!

Image courtesy of Randal Cooper under the Creative Commons license.