A Common Sexual Communication Struggle and What to Do About it

Beautiful young woman looking depressedCan you identify with the below scenario?

Husband really wants sex. Wife realizes this, and either responds to his initiation or initiates on her own. The sexual experience is actually quite good for both of them.

The next morning, still buoyed enthusiastically by the previous night’s sexual intimacy, he walks into the kitchen and wraps his arms around her waist and kisses her neck.   She immediately stiffens and thinks to herself (or says out loud), “It’s never enough, is it? We just had sex and now you want more!”

Certainly some of the variables may look slightly different, but you get the gist of the scenario, right?

The reason I share this is because I occasionally hear from husbands who are completely dumbfounded that a wife would react this way.  He is feeling deeply connected to her and is surprised — possibly even hurt or angered — that she doesn’t receive his affection as an affirmation of his love.

She, on the other hand, is annoyed.

His display of affection is a signal that her value is only in what she provides sexually — and that he wants a lot more of sex, not of her. (I’m not saying this is the signal he is sending.  I’m saying it’s the signal she is getting).

Interestingly, what I hear from some wives is that the above scenario is one of the reasons they DON’T initiate more often.  It’s the infamous, “If I give him a little, he’ll just want it all the time. So I’m not going to give that often.”

If ever there was a moment when miscommunication takes a toll on intimacy, it is in situations exactly like this.

Sadly, this scenario is common in some marriages, maybe even your own. The encounter repeats itself over and over, causing distance and resentment rather than connection and endearment.

So, what’s the solution?   Here are some ideas:

1. Stop making negative assumptions about your spouse’s intentions.

Ahhh, easier said than done.  But it can be incredibly helpful if you both can talk about sex and what sex means in your marriage.

Part of that communication has to be transparency.

Husbands, she will likely let her guard down a little if when you do that hug and kiss after all the great sex the night before, you simultaneously say something along the lines of, “I really love you and I’m grateful you’re my wife.  I just wanted you to know that.”

Wives, if he shares transparently like this, oh my goodness… relax a bit, okay?

And if you are feeling overwhelmed about how often he wants sex or if frequency is a common battle, then be honest and maturely address it, with the goal of solution and connection not selfish agendas.

“Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed about our different levels of desire.  It’s not that I don’t want sex.  I want us to find a frequency level that we both enjoy. Can we talk about that?”

2. Start thinking the best about your spouse’s intentions.

If you as a wife are annoyed that your husband wants you sexually and is particularly drawn to you after having bonded with you sexually, have you humbly tried to see the best in his intentions?

I mean, think about the number of husbands out there who are having affairs or masturbating to pornography or reveling in a co-worker’s flirtatious innuendoes.  No, I’m not saying those husbands aren’t accountable and responsible for their actions, because they definitely are.

What I’m saying is that you married your husband under the pretense — biblical and otherwise — that he would have sexual feelings and sexual encounters with you only.

So, here he is… wanting you only… and you are annoyed by that?  Do you see the irony?

Start thinking the best about his intentions, because if his intention is exclusive and God-honoring sex with the woman he married, he sounds like a keeper.

3. Start being more physically affectionate on a consistent basis with your clothes on.

Miscommunication often happens because in some marriages, physical affection with clothes on happens only in close proximity to when sex last happened (or when a husband wants it to happen).

It’s no wonder so many wives start to view all physical affection as sexual affection.

But this doesn’t have to be the case.  As a couple, if you both become more physically affectionate within the course of your daily life, you likely will have an easier time recognizing and receiving sexual affection.

For great ideas on physical touch, please check out this post on a new site by Ryan and Cassie called True Agape.

Genuine and intentional physical affection — everything from hand holding to a kiss to a shoulder rub to a playful embrace — can provide great reassurance and affirmation to the marriage.

Physical affection that is not solely sexual in nature is good for you individually and for you as a couple. While clothed, touch each other with love and endearment and you’ll soon discover what a positive difference it makes in your marriage overall. (And honestly, what a positive difference it makes in your bed).

If there is sexual miscommunication happening in your marriage, are there steps you can take today to bring about a positive change?

Copyright 2013, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

16 thoughts on “A Common Sexual Communication Struggle and What to Do About it

  1. Larry B says:

    Yes, physical affection is good for the spouses during the day. If physical affection is only shared during sex, the couple is missing out on a simple and easy way to make their marriage more joyful and maintain a closeness with each other.

    Spouses really ought to get over using sex as a weapon by withholding it. That surely harms their marriage bond.

    Great point you raise, Julie, about the different levels of desire. Spouses ought to talk honestly about that to find a win-win compromise. The level of desire can change over time. A wife who presently does not have as much desire as her husband, may later find her desire has grown – it is not necessarily a static thing. (And, in some marriages, it is the wife who has the higher drive.) It is not that uncommon these days for a wife to please her husband, when he desires sex and she is not up to it or not interested at that time, by giving him oral sex in a loving way (there is a shared intimacy).

  2. Aimee says:

    My husband and I are always sexually affectionate outside of the bedroom. We are always touching and verbalizing our affection and love for one another. It is SO important in keeping that fire and connection alive. Being playful makes our intimacy in the bedroom that much more intense.

    I was married to an abusive man for twenty years and I can totally relate to the feelings described above when he would come up behind me. Yet when he came up behind me it was not to lovingly hug and kiss me, it was to grope me and if I didn’t respond like he wanted he told me how frigid I was.

    But my current husband loves to come up behind me while I’m cooking and give me a hug and kiss my neck and tell me how beautiful I am and how much he loves me. There is no “agenda” on his part and honestly, I would gladly get carried away to the bedroom…or perhaps just get carried away right there in the kitchen! 😉

    Ladies, stop refusing and start loving. If you truly are in a healthy, loving marriage, being sexual with your husband should be a very important part of your relationship. We women are made just as sexual as our husbands and there is nothing wrong with letting our sexual side come out and play! 😀

  3. Gaye @CalmHealthySexy says:

    Great reminders. So much comes down to communication, doesn’t it? If something our spouse is doing is irritating or angering us, we need to figure out why and communicate it. For example, I have learned to remind my husband that I need non-sexual touching (we call it NST) sometimes. He just doesn’t think of it on his own – clearly “physical touch” is not his love language! When I mention what I need, he is happy to provide it. If I didn’t understand and express that need, I would probably be angry that he wasn’t meeting my needs.

  4. Bonny Pearl says:

    Great post! #3 is the key for me. Consistency of affection, not just after-the-act-affection, made all else fall into place. Plus, adding affectionate words is the cherry on top! Love this encouragement toward transparency.

  5. Greg says:

    @ Aimee: “But my current husband loves to come up behind me while I’m cooking and give me a hug and kiss my neck and tell me how beautiful I am and how much he loves me. There is no “agenda” on his part…”

    LOVE that kind of affection from the heart, and without any agenda(s)! Good for him–honestly, that’s the kind of attentiveness I want to have and model one day.

  6. Aimee says:

    @Greg – I think it’s important to learn your spouse’s love language and fortunately, my husband and I speak the same ones…physical touch, quality time and for me, words of affirmation. So my husband knows that I love, love, love him to touch me…hand holding, his hand on my thigh while we sit side by side, his arm around my shoulders and lots of hugs! And he pays attention to always compliment me, tell me how beautiful I am and thank me for making his lunch every day.
    So, although physical touch may not be everyone’s love language, spouses still need to make some non-sexual touch a part of every day. It keeps that connection and just lets each other know you love and desire them, in and out of the bedroom.

    And for me, even if there were an “agenda” on my husband’s part I would be very happy about that too. And honestly, I often hope there is a little more to the hug since we are limited on how often we can be intimate due to his work hours. 😉

  7. Kurmudge says:

    I have trouble understanding this. Why is it bad, irritating, and interruption if he gives his wife a hug in the kitchen? During the day?

    And (gasp)- suppose he actually wished they could pause the workaday humdrum of everyday life and spend 15 minutes at the one thing that historically distinguished marriage from every other cordial relationship?

    As long as both of them take care of their duties- making a living, taking care of kids, maintenance of the living spaces, etc.- why is affection at any time an improper interruption?

    A person like this wife deserves to be single, the way she more or less prefers to live. Perhaps some time spent like that would let her (or it could be a “him” as well) understand the alternatives.

  8. PJ says:

    @ Kurmudge,
    You know how men are always saying, “We men are not like you women.”

    Well guess what? “Women are not like men.” We are not consumed with sex as you all are. It is not on our list of to dos. We just do it because you all need it. We enjoy the cuddling, touching, hugging, and kissing.

    Also, when a woman is already tired and standing at the sink or stove, in the kitchen preparing a meal, she is more than likely, cussing you under her breath, mad because you are feeling frisky and she is worn out and frustrated. She is thinking to herself, “I wish he would cook and clean sometimes.” “This marriage thing is harder on me the woman.” And you men claim, you do not understand why we are not ready to jump into bed with you all. Something is wrong with men, if they don’t have a clue as to why she does not respond so sexually.

    Hey men, try changing a tire and changing the oil in the car, and your wife comes up to you wanting to talk and be chatty as we so often do. Men, you know how angry you all would get, especially with all that angry testosterone. Tell the truth.

    Your wife is human. God has directed husbands to live wih their wives with understanding. Stop scolding and lecturing wives. I look forward to a man writing an article to men and scolding them.

    Because it seems that everytime you look around there is another woman who has decided to start a blog to scold and belittle wives through these long drawn out articles that go on and on and on. It is so sad.

    The men are laughing at us women for being so stupid and allowing ourselves to be brainwashed. You see men support each other no matter what. They never write blogs to scold other men. They stand united. Women are catty and cruel to each other and it is proven in these anti blogs.

  9. anon says:

    I am apalled that there are wives who feel this way. I would love it if my husband and I had more mutually satisfying sex! Would love to pause the day and just bask in our sexuality. Stop throwing the gift of sex back in your husband’s and God’s face. Get over yourself and rebuke the lies of the enemy. Realize how blessed you really are! If you don’t want your husband, there are women out there begging God for a man like him.

  10. JulieSibert says:

    @PJ… wow, you sound really angry.

    I’m not trying to scold or belittle wives. I think you missed the intent of my blog and the general tone of my site overall.

  11. Aimee says:

    @ PJ – I’m sorry that you are struggling in your marriage, at least it sounds that way. And I apologize if I have misinterpreted what you wrote.

    But I do disagree with a few things you wrote.
    Not all men are “consumed” with sex nor are they all filled with “angry” testosterone.
    And some women actually do have sex on their “to-do list” and not all women cuss their husbands under their breath and are silently mad at them for not pitching in.

    God did design sex within marriage and when two people are in a healthy relationship it can be a beautiful, connecting element that further strengthens the bond they have.

    I lived for 20 years of my life with a man that I did come to hate and resent for the abusive treatment he gave not only me but our two sons. And sex? It was nothing more than for his benefit, done on his terms with no thought whatsoever for my pleasure. That was my “problem” as he once told me.
    Did I curse him under my breath? Yes. Was I mad at him? Yes. Did I try to communicate with him? Yes, but it was fruitless as he was always right and I was always wrong.

    But I see now that not all men are like that. I have been remarried for almost 2 years to a man that is caring, loving and more than willing to help not only when I ask, but often even when I don’t. He does not get angry for me if I come out to chat with him while he works on the car, he actually loves it!
    And I do not curse him under my breath nor am silently mad at him when he comes up to me in the kitchen and puts his arms around me. I embrace him back and delight in his love and desire for me.

    For us women it is common to hold things in and not ask for help. I know I at times feel like my husband should just be able to read my body language or know that the dishes need to be washed, the trash taken out or whatever. And actually, not all men see it, why? Not sure when it seems so obvious. LOL But I think most men are more than willing to do those things if we simply ask.
    Men aren’t good at reading body language or guessing what was are thinking. They may see that we are upset about something, but instead of making them guess or them getting frustrated and walking away, we as women need to learn to open up more and simply say what is on our minds, simply ask for help when we need it and simply let them know if need be that if they would help with dinner and the cleanup we would have more energy and time to be intimate later.

    Anyway, I don’t believe Julie’s intent or that of other women is to belittle or scold other women. Her blog is about helping women understand sexuality within marriage as God designed it and to help women who are struggling in their marriages or with their own sexual desires.


  12. Kurmudge says:

    PJ, it really sounds like you need a handyman rather than a husband. I hurt for you- and I’m glad my wife doesn’t reject affection except when she is putting on eye make-up.

    I stand by everything I said- even more so, as I get old and think of how time erodes opportunity.

  13. Jim says:

    I have read all the comments here, and it is encouraging to see most commenters support Biblical sexual intimacy in marriage. I wish my church leaders would openly say some verses in support of marriage occasionally from the pulpit on Sundays or in adult education class, because I have not heard anything in 10 years. It seems like the topic of sex is a big taboo at church, unless they say that the singles should save it all until they get married.
    @anon – i appreciate your comment about if a wife does not want her husband, then many other women are begging God for a good man like him. Wow, I wish you could talk with my wife about what she is missing in life, and ask her why she married me in the first place.
    Some things have improved in the past 2 months, but in her selfishness she prefers to be left alone so she can watch TV all alone for many hours at a time. She has not attended church at all with me and our child. Recently she claimed “sex is not a part of marriage”, and she finds it disgusting if I say anatomical terms such as breasts, penis, vagina, clitoris, etc, even in the privacy of our own house. We have not eaten a meal together in the house since over 10 years.
    And now she finds French kissing to be disgusting and unsanitary, but she used to enjoy that over 5 years ago. She shuts me down so fast if I propose various sexual activities, even as basic as a handjob on me, on the grounds that “those things are what prostitutes do, and i am not a whore.” Many times she has told me to go find another woman to satisfy my needs. And no female breast can hang toward me for my pleasure, because she says “I am not a cow.” And if a wife tries to control every motion I do in the bedroom, and complain constantly, then it sometimes is easier to just quit trying, and say “what’s the use to this?” In the past she has enjoyed orgasms, but now she says she does not need them. She gets mad if I even say the word orgasm.
    But I notice she watches handsome men on TV, but most of all she prefers to watch violent domestic abuse shows on LMN. I tell her we should not bring violence into our house. Once she said “you can never have too much violence.” I make prints of certain articles and comments from these Christian Marriage blogs for her to read, but she does not like to read them, saying “those things are just about putting pressure on me.”
    @PJ – i feel sorry for your situation. Why did you get married ? Don’t you want to improve your marriage and live a happier life.
    I welome any constructive comments. Thanks.

  14. Els says:

    I’ve been with my husband for a few years now and noticed our sex drive were complete opposites. When I finally decided to end things I git pregnant and have felt trapped ever since. He is a nice loyal bloke abd I know I am lucky to have him and this lovely life he’s given me but the problem with our sex life just seems to have no resolution. I’ve gone from emotional disengagement to resentment to coming very close to starting an affair. Since the opportunity of the affair came up I’ve really been putting an effort into making our relationship as lovely as it was when we dated but the sex is simply unsatisfactory. I’m a lesbian, started dating guys because of my religious background my dads a pastor and would’ve so disappointed if he found out. I need sex, I’m such a sexual experimental person and I feel like I’m suffocating. Worse thing is he knows his only excuse is he is embarrassed. I’m so frustrated so tired of porn and vibrators and he keeps going on about a second child. I hv everything but my sex life is frustrating, I need more. Am I a bad woman ??

  15. Russel Brown says:

    I am always dumbfounded to say the least when i read articles & comments. “We just do it because you all need it.” Oh i don’t think you should be married at all, well not to a man anyway. How bizarre to marry someone & despise their natural sexual God given urges, which you agreed to share yourselves with each other as part of most traditional marriage ceremonies. So do you not want your husband to be attentive & to want you? Where must he rather take his sexual urges if they offend you?? Of course you demand that he is 100% faithful…… but you are not fulfilling your end of the bargain when you keep thinking of his urges in a negative way. How absolutely bizarre, you didn’t marry another woman, you knowingly & willingly married a man!!

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