One Truth About Marriage You Can’t Escape

“I want you to want me.”

This statement — or closely-echoed sentiments — is a foundational premise in marriage.

Think I’m crazy?

Have a conversation with any bride or groom moments before they stand in front of a pastor, priest or judge, and ask them if they want to be desired by the person they are about to marry.

Yeah, tell me everyone’s hands aren’t shooting up on that one.

Sift away the people whose nuptials are a mere facade, and you are left with the vast majority of us — people who stand at the altar in love with the person they are about to marry and who look forward to being desired by that person.

I would even go so far to say that we consider it such a given at the beginning of marriage — so woven into the fabric of what we envision marriage to be — that if you were indeed to ask brides and grooms the question, they would think you are ludicrous for even having to ask.

“Isn’t the answer obvious?” they would respond, possibly with a look of shock on their face.

We probably could argue that even in the arranged marriages prevalent in some cultures, a bride and groom still have a sense of wanting to be desired by the person to whom they are about to make a lifelong commitment.

“I want you to want me.”

Whether the words are ever spoken out loud, the essence of that statement hangs in the air at the start of every genuine marriage.

But as we all know, the road of good intentions eventually is cluttered with more than its fair share of detours and roadblocks.

The stuff of life begins to suck the life right out of the intensity of wanting.

One or both of the people who radiated with joy at the altar begin to haphazardly forget or blatantly disregard what it means to want and to be wanted.

And of course this whole aspect of wanting happens in the realm of companionship with our spouse, but this is a blog about sex, so for purposes here, I’m talking about wanting to be sexually desired by the person we married.

“I want you to want me. I want you to want to put your hands on me. I want you to want to share your body with me.”

Is it no wonder that when we come face-to-face with how genuinely difficult marriage is, sex becomes ironically fertile ground for the thoughts and actions we couldn’t fathom would ever have footing in our marriage — disdain, annoyance, contempt, pain, discouragement, manipulation.

Or, in some cases, neither spouse is bitter about the arrangement. They’ve simply agreed that sex is not essential, an “extra” of marriage they could both do without.

Regardless of the emotional framework underlying a marriage void of sex, when both spouses become indifferent, the marriage is reduced to mere roommate status. Two people “do” life in each other’s presence, but the sense of deep oneness that is possible in marriage is absent. They are missing out on the unique enrichment that sexual intimacy affords.

A more common scenario we marriage bloggers hear about is when one spouse wants to be wanted and the other spouse doesn’t have a similar desire and/or doesn’t value it in their spouse.

The marriage is characterized by resentment, anger, pain and isolation. The issue of sex — and the lack of being on the same page about it — begins to permeate the rest of the marriage.  As in the first scenario, we have two spouses who are missing out on the unique enrichment that happens through sexual intimacy.

I find it fascinating that it is not uncommon to hear some wives say “I just wish he wanted me for me” and some husbands say “I wish she wouldn’t just go through the motions during sex.” (Granted, sometimes the roles in this scenario are flipped and the wives want more sex, as my blog and others have pointed out lately).

Regardless of the specific circumstances within each marriage, we still can trace back to a wedding day where “I want you to want me” was considered a non-negotiable.

“I want you to want me.”

It is a truth about marriage we cannot escape.

Try as we may to deny it or say it doesn’t matter or allow it to become relegated to virtual non-existence, the truth still remains.  And in our actions and inactions — and in our thoughts and our words — as married couples we must choose if we will do the mature and loving thing and see that wanting to be desired sexually has genuine merit.

I’m not talking about neediness.  I’m not talking about relying upon our spouse for identity.

I’m talking about genuine physical desire for each other.  It is a desire that cannot be quenched by anyone else other than our spouse, at least not if we take our marriage vows seriously.

Personally, I think the anticipation that goes hand-in-hand with expressed desire — verbally and non-verbally — is some of the best foreplay around.  At least that seems to be the case in my house.

I love to be wanted by my husband. (From my very un-scientific and unorthodox polling methods, I’m fairly certain my husband likes to be wanted as well).

“I want you to want me.”

Look at that closely.

Wrestle with it if you must.

Do what you can to understand what it means within your marriage bed.

Mutually-valued physical desire has amazing potential, if you embrace it rather than relentlessly try to escape it.

Truth be told, it is a truth you can’t escape.  You stood at the altar wanting to be wanted.

Do you still want to be wanted?  Does your spouse?

Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

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22 thoughts on “One Truth About Marriage You Can’t Escape

  1. J (Anonymous) says:

    I think this is the underlying problem for wives who want sex and don’t get it from their husbands. They struggle with feeling undesired and undesirable. They want to be wanted.

    And it’s also the problem for husbands whose wives only have sex as a duty. Men want sex, but they also want that connection, that desire, that intensity of longing.

    I’m so glad you shed the light on this deep emotion that makes sex much more than two bodies intertwining in physical pleasure. Thanks, Julie!

  2. Amy says:

    My husband and I have a very healthy sex life but as I talk with more women I realize the reality is that most don’t. It’s sad to me. I actually hear less of “I want him to want me” and more of “why does he have to want me so much?”. Both have problems underlying. I have read “Intimacy Issues” two times and have been transformed by the book. Every woman should read it!

  3. JulieSibert says:

    Thank you for the comments J and Amy… I definitely agree that there are underlying issues in nearly every marriage where sex is not valued. Some of those issues can be major, some minor.

  4. Greg says:

    All too true! The health of their sexual relationship is mirrored in the seemingly ‘small details’ and body language between husband and wife even in public…how much eye contact do they make? Is the husband attentive and considerate toward his wife? Does he make jokes about her? Their tone of voice in talking to each other? Does she respect her husband? Do they hold hands or put their arms around each other? Genuine love will show up in all kinds of ways…

  5. Sasha says:

    I am engaged and my desire and attraction have truly died. I think this stemmed from what I view as our core incompatibility. The more I learned, the less I liked, and thus my attraction waned. I lost interest because I felt (and feel) no connection. It makes me sad. I have genuine caring, but no genuine wanting. There are 100 other things I can think of before wanting to have sex – with him or anyone else.

  6. JulieSibert says:

    Thank you for your comment Sasha. You mention that you are engaged… I know this may be difficult, but I encourage you to really address these issues before you proceed with getting married.

    If you have core incompatibilities, then it could be God is allowing you to experience reservations for a reason. Genuine caring is definitely an admirable and needed quality in a healthy marriage, but I sense from what you are sharing that you know in your heart that this may not be the right relationship for you.

    Please seek wise Christian counsel and share honestly with your fiance about these things you are struggling with. Also, if you are having sex now and you are not married, I encourage you to stop having sex (I know that may seem like no big deal because you don’t really want to have it anyway, but it’s more about aligning your actions with God’s Word).

    Regardless, though, it would be a huge red flag to me if you question your desire for this person you are considering pledging your life to. A lifetime is a very long time. Marriage is hard, but it is even more treacherous without a nurtured mutually-valued sex life.

  7. Dorothy S. Wilson says:

    I want you to want me seems to me a phrase that is immature. When a couple enters the marriage life, both should be emotional stable or the man should be more mature than the woman. When I was dating my husband before we got married, I was a bit childish at first and year past by i had evolved maturely. We live now happily because we understand each of our needs.Factors like emotional, sexual drives and needs are also an important factor to keep the marriage intact, communication should be there also from the start before you even got married and importantly God should be the center of your marriage.I understand that today there lots of temptation that can harm and destroys a family so start knowing the needs of your partner because maybe that will be the key to a better marriage.

  8. NM says:

    This speaks to my heart. It pains me to admit that I have hurt my husband deeply by not truly and deeply wanting him in many areas of our life, including sex. I am in the midst of changing that and pray that God can heal the wounds I have inflicted. Thanks for all the work u do at thus blog. It is very encouraging!

  9. uk Fred says:

    I beg to disagree, Dorothy S Wilson. Wanting to be wanted is not immature, unless you are in your early teenage years and simply worship your would-be beloved from afar. I cannot imagine any mature person thinking as they were getting married that they did not want their spouse to want them. Why bother to get married if you do not want your spouse to want you. In fact, if you do not want your spouse to want, I would suggest that you should not have gotten married in the first place, because you are condemning your spouse to a marriage of frustration. Yes, God should be the centre of your marriage, but witout desire for your spouse you should be celibate and spending all of your time worshipping God in some other work, not in marriage. I would go so far as to say that any married person who feels that wanting to be wanted by their spouse in immature does not have a sound grasp of the whole theology of marriage. I’m sorry if this sounds a little sharp, but I believe that this attitude is likely to damage marriages, not help them, and as such it needs to be called out.

  10. Tom says:

    “Regardless, though, it would be a huge red flag to me if you question your desire for this person you are considering pledging your life to. ”

    Indeed. Get out now – if not for your sake, for his. He deserves to be with someone who desires him.

  11. Jc says:

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to be wanted. That’s what I want, and I know that’s what my wife wants. We just tend to want each other in different ways, and those desires have to compete with daily routines which usually have frustrations woven into them. I want my wife to have the best possible husband and so I’m focusing my energies there. But I do want her on many levels – more than the physical aspects, but not to their exclusion, either. And I have to concede that I really do want her to have desires for me. I know she loves me, and I know that love could be stronger and deeper than it appears. There is no wrong in seeking a deeper level of desire from one’s spouse, to just know that someone that God has purposed for you truly… wants… you.

    This is a wonderfully thoughtful post. Thank you!

  12. Aaron McCall says:

    Love this post! I will be sharing it on my Facebook page and Twitter account.

    My wife and I were married for 9+ years before we began to really dig into the meaning of “I want you to want me.” Granted our sex life was never terrible, but at times it was more just part of the routine not a time to really connect and enjoy each other.

    Now at 12 years married our relationship (and sex life) is better than it has ever been, in no small part because of discovering that we both wanted the other to want us. We now make an effort to ensure that the busyness and the friction of daily life do not erode our passion for each other or eliminate the opportunities to truly know and be known.

  13. Jocelyn says:

    Amazing article. I’m definitely going to share. I want to be wanted and I know my husband does to. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be wanted by the person who should want to want you. 😉

  14. JulieSibert says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments! Always appreciate it when dialogue gets going!

    Blessings to you!

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  16. Luca says:

    It is so true what you said . Im a guy and im a very horny person but my wife has almost completely lost me. Im almost escaping with another woman. Its sad but its true. She has been aggressive etc and she is even fat now i still have sex with her sometimes but i feel like most of the times we are roomates….. If there is no “i want you physically,” there is nothing at the end we forgot our animal side…or society stupid rules made us forget….. Your post is so true

  17. Jim says:

    I want my wife to want me….this is so true. If I attempt to hug her, I want her to wiliingly put her arms around me, instead of just letting them hang straight down.
    And when we walk in public places, I want her to desire to walk at my side, and not 10 to 20 feet behind me. And if I want to hold her hand or put my arm around her in public, I want her to accept me, instead of quickly and violently pulling away from me. I can only wonder what the people behind us have thought of these actions.
    And in the bedroom I want to be wanted and desired sexually, instead of her just lying there and complaining and controlling the whole time, and just waiting for the whole chore to be done.

  18. Dave1 says:

    I can certainly see how I experience this desire to be wanted, so I think this can be applied to many if not most marriages. I think I would put one footnote or addition: we don’t all experience sexual desire in the same way. Occasionally I will see a comment from a husband who will “complain” that, while his wife is a willing and active participant in sex, she just never seems to want it the same way he does. Or a wife will ask how she can come to want sex in the same way her husband does. It seems that our picture of “normal sexual desire” is along the lines of the stereotypical male desire — spontaneous, urgent, physiological, maybe animalistic. I think that sometimes get this stereotype in our head as the “only” way to experience desire. This sometimes leads to unrealistic expectations and other potential problems. It is better to come to understand how you experience sexual desire, how your spouse experiences sexual desire, then use that as your framework/starting point for how to nurture and grow your sexual relationship.

    I’m sure I didn’t explain my thoughts very well, but I hope you kind of understand.

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  20. raya1sing says:

    This is my life in a nutshell. I am a woman who goes to the gym keeps my appearance bakes and cooks keeps up the house really there is nothing that my husband wants for that I do not do. & I have even asked him on several occasions is there any area I am lacking in? to which he always replies absolutely not but yet I’m sitting there so confused well if this is true then why do I feel so unwanted by you?the real killer is that in my previous relationship which wss practically like a marriage as long as I was with him it was quite the opposite. so of course I miss that man and romanticize the relationship.there is probably nothing that crushes a woman’s spirit or turns a bubbly fun woman into a shrew than when she doesn’t feel desired or even worse when she does everything possible and still feels constantly criticized Or picked at. should things stay the same I can’t possibly imagine staying after the kids leave I am a woman of faith so of course there’s always a chance for a miracle

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