The Christian Couple’s Guide When He’s Not Up To It

The sexually higher-drive woman/lower-drive man dynamic in marriage is often painfully overlooked, especially in evangelical resources. To all the couples in this situation, know that you are seen and not alone.

My husband and I have joked for years that if we ever wrote a sex book, we would call it Viagra®, Vibrators, and Vulvas: The Christian Couple’s Guide When He’s Not Up To It. But that plan was always in the hypothetical future, some day when we’d “arrived” sexually, once the kids were out of the house, and we were old and didn’t care what anybody else thought about us anymore. We’re still enjoying the kids in the house, and I don’t think we’ll ever “arrive” sexually, but we’re approaching the other milestone quicker than I expected. The reality is, we’re not experienced enough to write that book, and it’s not a book I ever really want to write, but I sure do wish someone had written such a book for my younger self. These last few years have brought me to a place where I want to share our journey so that other couples with a higher-drive woman/lower-drive man dynamic in their relationship know that they are seen and not alone.

When it comes to married sex with my man, I’m the higher-drive woman. That’s a very dangerous thing to declare in most white evangelical spaces. Both in the church and the culture at large, we have a long history of portraying women two-dimensionally as either virginal and pure or sexual and dangerous. 

Ever heard of nymphomania? How about satyriasis?

Heard a sermon on Potiphar’s Wife? How about “Beware the Amnon’s!”?

It’s embedded in our language. We have many common words and phrases that shame and reflect fear of female sexuality that do not have a commonly used similar term for men: whore, slut, nymphomaniac, and femme fatale to name a few. The male equivalent of the female term nymphomania – a clinical disorder marked by compulsive sexual behavior—is satyriasis. Ever heard of it? Because our society doesn’t believe compulsive male sexual behavior is a clinical disorder, most people don’t know there’s a term for it, but I’m guessing most of us have heard about nymphomaniacs. Christians are no better. Can you come up with a male equivalent Christian euphemism for Jezebel or Potiphar’s Wife? When was the last time you heard a person preach, “Beware the Amnon’s!”? Women are taught from a young age that their sexuality is dangerous.

Paradoxically, in addition to being shamed for being too sexual, women are taught that our power and worth lies in our sexiness and our ability to seduce. Our culture’s obsession with “Is she hot or not?” exemplifies the trend to value a woman by her sexiness. In the most recent popular book on married sex in white evangelical culture, the male co-author writes, ““[Wives’ breasts] give an influence over their husbands that can reset any power imbalances that that occur because of other issues. Many young women have learned how one quick flash of their breasts can change the climate in the room like nothing else ever will” (Thomas, Married Sex, 13). Women are dually taught that their “power” and worth lies in their ability to seduce, and also that good girls are virginal and should not behave like a slutty nymphomaniac. Women are caught in a web of shame between these two dueling dynamics in our culture–shamed for being sexy and shamed for not being sexy enough—and our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies bear the wounds.

Contrastingly, there are sexual words we use for men that do not have a similar, widely used equivalent for women. Think about the words impotent and emasculate and the many contexts outside of the clinical ones in which those terms are employed. Seriously, think of some of the ways you might employ those words in a non-clinical setting. We almost always mean to shame when we use such terms outside of their clinical definitions. What are we implying? In short, a man’s worth is determined by his sexual prowess. Labels like playboy and casanova for the male do not carry the shaming weight of the feminine terms whore or slut, because we believe a man’s worth and “power” is found in his sexual conquest.

Christian resources are notorious for assuming these caricatures of male and female sexuality, and even worse, teaching that they are by God’s design. Therefore, it can be unsettling, to put it mildly, when a married couple discovers that she has the “higher” drive, and he has the “lower” drive. As the higher-drive wife, I never once found our situation helpfully addressed in any of the Christian marriage sex books I pored over in my teens and twenties. My “favorite” advice came when I was casually flipping through a friend’s copy of Mark Driscoll’s Porn-Again Christian:

Question: My wife wants sex more than I do, what should I do?

Answer: Don’t tell your buddies or they will mock you incessantly for the rest of your life after staring at you blankly without blinking for about an hour in total silence. Do have sex with your wife as often as she likes and thank God. (24)

How pastoral. I can’t express how much it hurt at the time when a celebrated pastor took the issue that was tearing my marriage apart and made it the butt of a joke. To be honest, I can’t completely blame most of the popular Christian marriage authors for their lack of understanding around the complexity of male and female sexuality. (There are many ways people don’t fit the narrowly defined masculine and feminine boxes of white evangelical culture, but for this post, I will specifically be addressing the heterosexual higher-drive female/lower-drive male dynamic in marriages that is harmfully overlooked in church spaces.) Men and women who fall outside the “normal” box are not eagerly rushing into their pastors’ offices for counseling. Most higher-drive women don’t forever want to be viewed as a dangerous slut by their pastor, while most Christian men don’t want to be seen as impotent or emasculated. The few friends I know who were brave enough to go to their pastor for advice were told to “have a date night” or “sleep naked” and shoved outside the office as quickly as possible.

Christian authors tend to treat higher-drive women and lower-drive men like exotic creatures from a foreign land never visited.

To make matters worse, the pastoral marriage advice often given not only doesn’t help, it harms. From the teachings I received growing up in the church, I felt like I was a freak. I felt like my husband was a freak. Even now, the most popular Christian books are still pushing the same harmful messaging: men need sex in a way that women will never understand. Popular marriage author Gary Thomas, in his latest book Married Sex writes, “We realize that many wives have a higher libido than their husbands, but to those of you who are married to men with a higher libido, the quantity of sexual activity has the potential to create either long-term gratitude or slow-simmering resentment” (61), and “So by God’s design, the husband’s generally stronger desire (we know there are exceptions) moves him to be sexually intimate with his wife”  (63). The author never once offers advice to women who are the higher-drive spouse, except to acknowledge that they are “exceptions,” and then moves on as quickly as he can. Christian authors tend to treat higher-drive women and lower-drive men like exotic creatures from a foreign land never visited. They’ve heard them referenced in other books, so they try to sound cultured by acknowledging their existence, but they don’t want to consider such dangerous creatures too seriously, because that would undermine their entire male-centric view of sex. 

My younger white evangelical sheltered self was a little nervous about googling the world-wide web for sex information, but one desperate, lonely night while I was crying myself to sleep on the couch believing something was wrong with me and my husband, I stumbled upon a Focus on the Family article by Juli Slattery addressing higher-drive women. It was the first time I discovered a Christian resource acknowledging my existence:

Although it doesn’t alleviate all of the pain and conflict, it helps couples to know that around 20 percent of marriages fall within this category. Both men and women are reluctant to share this struggle with others because it is so private and potentially humiliating. Because people don’t talk about it, couples in the “20 Percent Club” can begin to believe that they’re alone in the universe—that no one else could possibly relate to their struggle.

There wasn’t much helpful, practical advice in the article, but at least it acknowledged my existence. For years since, my husband and I have joked about belonging to the Twenty-Percent Club. Apparently, I’m not the only woman searching the internet for sex advice. In Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, Google data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz found, “There are two times as many complaints that a boyfriend won’t have sex than that a girlfriend won’t have sex. By far, the number one search complaint about a boyfriend is “My boyfriend won’t have sex with me” (83). In The Great Sex Rescue, Christian sex author Sheila Gregoire and her co-authors recently surveyed more than 20,000 married predominantly white evangelical women and found that 19.2% of the women surveyed reported higher libidos than their husbands. Interestingly, she also found that 22.3% of couples reported equal libidos (125). This means only 59% of women reported lower libidos than their husbands. My husband likes to point out that’s not even enough to get a bill through the Senate.

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m open to frank discussions about sex. (I was that girl in middle school teaching all my sheltered female friends how to insert a tampon correctly.) The more I’ve opened up about my marriage dynamics over the years, the more other women have shared their stories with me, and the more I’ve talked to other women, the angrier I’ve grown, because there’s a whole lot of women and men out there that don’t find themselves in our most popular evangelical resources on married sex. It’s a disgrace that such a significant portion of believers are left out in the cold when it comes to sex and marriage advice from trusted Christian resources.

Before continuing, let’s clarify some terms. When referring to preferences for sexual frequency, and I say, “higher-drive,” I am not necessarily meaning “high-drive,” and when I refer to “lower-drive,” I am not necessarily implying “low-drive.” A person can have a low drive, and still be the higher-drive spouse, and a person can have a high drive and still be the lower-drive spouse. Also, high-drive does not mean a person who desires sex above all things at all times and all places nor does low-drive imply that the person never desires sex. In fact, there will be days and times and seasons when the lower-drive spouse desires sex and the higher-drive spouse does not. Seasons of grief, busyness, babies, mental illness, physical illness, and more, can all change the dynamics of a couple’s sexual relationship. I have had several higher-drive females tell me that they became the lower-drive partner after menopause. I’ve also had lower-drive women tell me that they became the higher-drive partner after menopause. Men are commonly assumed to be the higher-drive spouse, but I suspect that if a woman of a higher-drive man who worships basketball walks into the living room wearing lingerie during the final ten minutes of the NCAA championship, and it’s a close game between his favorite team and their arch-enemy, and she requests he join her in the bedroom immediately, he’s going to choose the basketball game. An extreme example, I know, but hopefully you get my point. Sometimes the higher-drive spouse is not in the mood when their lower-drive spouse is in the mood.

Did God design women to be less sexual than men? Or do we live in a culture that shames women to behave like prudes?

While the libido gap between men and women does exist, it’s not as big as Christian resources would have you believe. I already discussed that I believe one reason is that Christian marriage counselors are often seeing a disproportionate amount of couples with the higher-drive male/lower-drive female dynamic because couples on the other side of the spectrum feel shame, have received bad advice in the past, and are afraid to share their “abnormal” marriage dynamics with others. I also believe Christian marriage authors tend to make the mistake of believing since this is “how it is” (all the couples they’re seeing have a higher-drive husband dynamic), they assume this is “how it’s meant to be.”

Though what generally arouses women may be different than what typically arouses men, I doubt that women are “designed” to desire sex any less than men. I want to tread very carefully here. One of the more common responses I get from others when I share that I’m the higher-drive spouse is that there must be something wrong with my husband. I know what they’re implying. Past Sexual Trauma. Domineering Mother. Pornography Habit. Secret Affair. Maybe, maybe not. Why do we always assume the worst when a man is lower-drive? Interestingly, when a female is lower-drive, no one assumes there is something “wrong,” even though her lower libido might very well be a product of cultural conditioning and past sexual trauma. Also, the nature or nurture argument can harm and miss the point. Who we are as adults is a complex mix of both, and to a certain point, they’re inoperably conjoined. We can grow in understanding how a person’s past informs their present while also embracing the mystery that each individual person bears the image of God and is a unique combination of genes AND life experiences:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16, emphasis mine

[I want to emphasize God never ordains us to sin or others to sin against us (James 1:13-15). He is never the source of our pain, but he can take our pain and create beauty from the ashes (Isaiah 61:3).]

Both through nature and nurture, each person is uniquely created, and we should expect variance and overlap in male and female desire. Studies show there are significant overlaps on the libido spectrum between heterosexual male and female desire. Based on statistics from Sheila Gregoire’s survey of predominantly white evangelical women, this chart below shows the current approximate overlap between men and women.

While the survey does show that more marriages have a higher-drive male/lower-drive female dynamic, I wonder if this is a byproduct of our culture. As I discussed earlier, we tend to applaud straight men with high libidos and shame all female sexual desire. Personally, I believe these cultural dynamics play into the skewed libido percentages between men and women. I recently wrote an article The Prude or Slut Conundrum in Evangelical Spaces exploring the ways I believe women are often nurtured to have lower desire. In short, across the world, women experience sexual shaming, abuse, lower rates of orgasm during sex, and additionally, in conservative religious groups, women are taught to have obligatory sex or their husband will cheat, which has been found to lower female libido. Perhaps in a more perfect world where women’s’ sexuality and agency is celebrated, protected, respected, and couples always pursued mutually satisfying love-making together, the overlap between men and women would look much more like…

I know this is speculative, but also, nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly state or implicitly imply that men are designed to be higher-drive than women. In fact, the Bible assumes female desire (1Cor 7:5, SS 1:2), but our culture still assumes that something is wrong with the man when he is lower-drive. Perhaps though, he married a woman whose natural sexual desire hasn’t been dampened by the rampant misogyny in our culture. My husband and I have discussed this frequently. Here are some of his thoughts:

Christians often interpret Proverbs 22:6 in the positive light: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (KJV), exhorting us to raise our children in God-honoring ways, so that our children will follow the Lord as they grow into adulthood and beyond. However, what if we made the mistake of training our children wrongly, specifically as it relates to sex? What if our marriages are reaping the negative consequences of this poor instruction, and as the proverb implies, it is a difficult path to change? Christian culture has absurdly embraced Freudian1 concepts of male and female sexuality, instead of the biblical concepts of mutual male and female pleasure. There is no verse anywhere in Scripture indicating or even implying that men’s sexual desire or libido is stronger (or more frequent) than women’s. In fact, Scripture is clear that both the husband and wife in a marriage should not deprive one another – “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5, NIV). This verse recognizes that both husband and wife have sexual desire for each other, and in no way implies that man’s desire is stronger (or should be stronger) than his wife’s. While it recognizes that sexual temptation is real, it does not attribute this to just the man, or just the woman, but to both – recognizing both male and female sexual desire. In another counter to our “traditional” Christian thinking that women don’t desire sex, look at Song of Songs, chapter 1, where the woman opens the entire book with the words: “And the woman consented to the king out of compassion, and did not deprive him of her love”. Oh wait – it doesn’t say that at all! Here’s what it really says: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine” (SS 1:2) and “Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (SS 1:4). The entire book opens with an expression of the woman’s desire, depicted beautifully, with urgency and passion!

1. See Ian Kerner, Ph.D., She Comes First (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), pages 33-39.

The Bible assumes female desire.
1 Corinthians 7:5, Song of Songs 1:2

Again, I want to be very careful here. While it’s helpful to understand how our past informs our present, it doesn’t necessarily change the reality of the present. As I already stated, the nature/nurture debate can miss the point. Every adult has been formed by a unique combination of genes and life experiences that, in many ways, are inoperably conjoined. How we got here isn’t always as important as where we are. One of the beautiful promises of marriage is to come “as you are” – to be fully known and fully loved “as is”. However, the reality is, whether you’re the higher-drive spouse or the lower-drive spouse, no person’s desires are ever perfectly met by their spouse in any marriage, nor should they be. As a Christian, this is why I love the message of the cross. For one, no person on earth will ever perfectly love another person “as is,” but God does: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28, NIV). Secondly, the glory of the gospel is not only that God fully knows us and fully loves us as we are, but he also takes, if we are willing, all the threads of our lives—the good and the bad, both those caused by us and done to us—and weaves them into the most beautiful of tapestries: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). This transformation occurs as we begin to understand and reciprocate God’s deep love for us, and then extend that love to our neighbor. I find hope knowing I’m loved not only as I am, but also that there’s hope for me to better love others, including my spouse. If you are in an abusive situation, please know that it is loving to remove yourself from abuse and seek outside help. Thankfully, the more we understand our own sin and the sins committed against us, and repent, forgive, and lay them at the foot of the cross, the less sexual trauma, lies, and brokenness we will pass on to those near to us and down to the next generation after us.

Viagra®, Vibrators, and Vulvas, Oh My!

Now for the practical stuff. To be clear, my husband and I are not sex experts, and we have not arrived. The primary thing we fight about in our marriage is SEX. Every other argument pales in comparison. I’d like to think we’ve learned a few things along the way, and here’s a random list of all the things we’ve found helpful.

You are unique. Your spouse is unique. Which means your marriage is unique. No other marriage has your exact dynamics. There’s LOTS of sex advice out there. Be wary, both of bad advice and the danger of envy. This includes all advice offered below. When something works for another couple, but not for you, rejoice with them and move on. Figure out what works for your unique marriage.

Studying Scripture. In another article, Sexual Healing in the Song of Songs, I share specific ways I found sexual healing in Scripture as a woman raised in a Christian culture that overwhelming focuses on male sexual desire.

Intimacy does not equal intercourse. Intimacy is necessary for a healthy marriage, intercourse is not. The marriage bed must be a safe place for both parties. A safe place for the wife to admit that she likes and wants sex and a safe place for the husband to feel that demands are not being made of him. And the same the other way.

Fulfillment. No person’s desires are ever perfectly met by their spouse in any marriage, and you will make you and your spouse miserable if you expect them to fulfill you in every way.

Communication. Communicate. Communicate…..Communicate. My husband insists this includes the direct, verbal sort. I know Ursula taught us we have our looks, our pretty face, and to never underestimate the importance of body language. But she was, well, a witch. Sex is notoriously difficult for couples to talk about, and communication is often a big hurdle to a mutually satisfying sex life. This means learning to talk directly about the when’s, what’s, where’s and how’s together (you can assume the “who”). In bed and out of bed, let your partner know what feels good, great, bad, terrible, and mediocre. It also means learning to talk about your feelings. Are you feeling anxious, horny, disappointed, pressured? In Restoring the Pleasure, licensed sex counselors Clifford and Joyce Penner teach, “Talking, which is a left brain function, brings the feelings from the right brain, where you have little control over them to the verbal left brain. Therefore, expressing your concerns….moves your anxious thoughts to the left brain, where they are in your control” (236). Talking about sex together does not come easily to most couples, but it is critical that you learn. The Penner’s book has excellent conversation starters. Also, the internet is full of resources. I googled “How to talk about sex” and this was the first hit: 9 Questions to Ask Your Partner About Sex and Intimacy. Find a resource that is helpful for you and your spouse and learn how to communicate about sex.

Counseling. You knew it was going to be on the list, didn’t you? We all are a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some of our baggage is because of our own selfish choices, and some of it’s because of the selfish choices of others. You’re deceiving yourself if you believe you are above counseling. I was a campus pastor for five years. My job was to tell other people they needed counseling. My husband dragged me kicking and screaming to the counselor’s office. (Yes, you read that right.) I’m so grateful. I honestly don’t know that our counselor said much that we didn’t already know, but having a third-party to hold us accountable to change some of the bad habits we’d spent over a decade cementing was super helpful.

Not all counselors are created equal. It can be a little overwhelming, but ask around and do a little research. Make sure you end up with someone who has the credentials and experience specific to your area of need. (And if your first pick is not a good fit, try again.) This is most likely not your pastor. I was raised evangelical. We asked for a Christian counselor. We ended up with a woman who had never heard of the Penner’s, swore “by the gods,” and recommended books by a Buddhist monk and Esther Perel. (None of these things are necessarily bad, just certainly not evangelical.) I didn’t follow all of her advice, but I still thank God regularly for that woman. She was such a blessing to us. When I confessed that I like sex more frequently than my husband, she clapped her hands giddily, and exclaimed, “How wonderful!” I don’t think I can every fully express in words how much healing happened in my soul on that day. I have a sad suspicion that if we had ended up with a “biblical” counselor, we might not have had such a positive counseling experience.

If your marriage is in trouble, and your spouse won’t go with you, go alone. If either spouse is extremely high-drive or extremely low-drive, it’s likely (not definite) that there are underlying factors at play, and a good therapist might be able to help work through some of the root causes. Also, it’s important to differentiate between higher/lower drive and abusive behavior. If your spouse is using sex on a regular basis in an intentionally manipulative manner, either by demanding or denying, please seek outside help. If you’re not in an abusive situation, while I still highly recommend counseling, I understand that it can be time and cost prohibitive for some couples, which brings me to…

Resources. There’s a lot of bad Christian resources out there, so be careful. If you pick up a book that is harming instead of helping, toss it. I generally stopped reading Christian resources a while ago, but there are two I know of that I would recommend. If you have been influenced by white evangelical culture, I highly recommend Sheila Gregoire’s The Great Sex Rescue, subtitled The Lies You’ve Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended. Enough said. She also has a website full of helpful resources. Before we were ready to seek out a counselor, my husband and I found Clifford and Joyce Penner’s Restoring the Pleasure extremely helpful. They made this book specifically for people that might not make it to their office. I don’t fully endorse all the authors’ beliefs and the book’s organization is a little clumsy, but the practical drills and activities to help partners grow in communication and physical pleasuring are excellent. The physical activities are designed to take the pressure off intercourse and orgasm and help couples relearn how to give and receive pleasure. My husband and I still pick random activities out of the book as a way to kick off the evening.

And don’t be afraid to branch out to non-Christian resources. It can actually be a lot easier to separate the wheat from the chaff reading a resource outside your bubble than one from inside your bubble. You’ve already absorbed the crazy from your bubble. Sometimes it’s easier to recognize other people’s crazy.

Frequency. Numbers are tricky, and too much focus on them can be harmful. Some people thrive on schedules, some people hate them. Sheila Gregorie and her team found once a week to be the average for marital health (for a high-drive spouse though, this might feel excruciating), and I think the general consensus among marriage counselors is couples that are coming together sexually less than once a month on a regular basis are usually in dangerous territory. Keep in mind, the frequency of sex in your marriage is not the defining metric of the health of your marriage. The most important way to know if your frequency is healthy for your unique marriage is… communication. (Notice a theme here?) Both the higher-drive spouse and the lower-drive spouse should lovingly be concerned for the other, and this will probably involve compromise. The goal is always to be moving towards mutually satisfying intimacy.

Compromise. Your spouse may never [place x, y, or z sexual fantasy here]. Accept it. Mourn it. Move on. Your spouse bears the image of an infinite God. There’s almost endless ways to grow in intimacy together.

Viagra® and watermelon juice are not equals. Trust me. I know as a culture we’ve been moving towards organic, but in this particular scenario, I highly recommend the chemicals. I can’t find the original source, but I recall once reading someone calling erectile disfunction America’s best kept secret. A doctor will not be surprised by your visit. One of the more vicious things about ED is that it might begin with a short-term physical or mental cause, but it can quickly (de)escalate into performance anxiety. In sex, the mental affects the physical, and the physical affects the mental. Being able to address the physical helps to take some pressure off of the mental. Please grow in pleasuring each other in all sorts of ways, but remember, Viagra® is a friend. (Sildenafil is the off-brand friend, but it doesn’t start with a “v”.)

Vibrators can be for some women what Viagra® can be for men. I think because our culture centers sex around male ejaculation, vibrators can feel a bit more taboo, but they’re your friend too. As a culture, we’ve never questioned a woman wearing lingerie for the man’s pleasure. Don’t be afraid to use a vibrator to achieve sexual intimacy and satisfaction together.

Vulvas. One of the tragic mistakes we’ve made as a culture is to define love-making by male penetration and ejaculation. (Thanks a lot, Freud.) Even our tendency to incorrectly use the term vagina for the female genitals reflect this tragedy. Vagina comes from the Latin word meaning “sheath” (as in for a sword) and only describes one part of the vulva. The vulva includes the external parts of the female genital organs comprising the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vestibule of the vagina, bulb of the vestibule, and Bartholin’s glands – much more encompassing of the female sexual experience than simply a place to sheath a penis. A woman can reach orgasm without penetration. Though intimacy, not orgasm, is always the goal in love-making, a man can lovingly choose to bring his wife to climax if she so desires, even if they don’t (or can’t) have intercourse.

Expectations. A lot of the problems couples experience is caused by the lies we believe about ourselves and our spouse. You’ve probably both been taught to believe your whole life that all that men ever think about is sex. Men have been taught to believe that their worth lies in their sexual performance and women have been taught that to be good is to be virginal and that their worth lies in sexual seduction. It can be very disorienting when that’s not your narrative, and often leads couples to suspect that something is wrong. Recognize how your own insecurities work against you and seek to continually grow in intimacy. For couples in the twenty-percent club, one of the biggest hurdles can be the woman learning to ask for sex and accepting their husband’s generosity. There is no shame if a husband chooses to bring his wife to climax and he himself does not desire orgasm. A spouse should never demand sex, but they should be able to safely share their desires. Again, remember that both spouses will have unmet desires. Grow in grace for one another.

Masturbation. There might be a place for masturbation. I know this is probably one of the more controversial topics within Christian circles. Sex is not a need like food or sleep. (In fact, believing sex is a need enables predatory, addictive, and abusive behaviors.) Both men and women that are the higher-drive spouse often share that it feels like their emotions can be oddly intertwined with sexual release. Sometimes taking care of the physical side through masturbation enables the higher-drive spouse to be more emotionally connected to their spouse and can remove pressure for both in love-making. Intimacy is always the goal. I believe it should only be done with the other spouse’s consent, and in a way that furthers intimacy. It can even be done while together, which can be a very intimate way to trust one another. Like I originally said, each relationship is unique. Each couple will have different triggers and different boundaries, different likes and dislikes, different strengths and different problem areas. For some couples, there are reasons this would be harmful, but I do think it should be a more talked about option in Christian spaces. Masturbation is a potential tool to move towards intimacy, and like sex, never something to be insisted upon or required — there are many other ways to pursue intimacy together. If this is not an option for you and your spouse for any reason, remember that…

Sex is not a need (like food or sleep) even in marriage. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-3) and God will never allow more temptation than you can bear (1 Cor 10:13). Sometimes life is hard.

Benadryl® is a friend too. For those nights when your spouse isn’t in the mood and you’re tossin’ ‘n turnin’, Benadryl. Please use with care – I added Benadryl to the list after I originally posted this article because it could be dangerous for some – but if I’m going to be honest about things we’ve learned along the way… Benadryl is a friend. (Diphenhydramine is the off-brand friend.) Alternative options include jumping jacks, a cold shower, and spider solitaire.

Laugh and Cry together. I don’t know if you’ve caught on by now, but over the years, my husband and I have learned to laugh about being “exceptions” and sometimes we still cry about it too. Actually, I do most of the crying, but he’s taken a few lessons from Dolly Parton over the years and learned how to give his woman a helping hand:

We can’t always both be right
We sometimes disagree
But you’ve got the right to speak your mind
An’ it’s the same with me
When the anger’s at an end
And you want inside my arms again
All you have to do to make it right is just

Touch your woman
Touch your woman
Everything’s gonna be alright
Touch your woman
Touch your woman
Let me know, let me know everything’s alright

There are times when I should be strong
When I’m awfully weak
When the sudden blows of life have brought me to my knees
Woman needs a helpin’ hand
Needs someone to understand
Needs the man she loves to help her stand, so

Touch your woman
Touch your woman
Everything’s gonna be alright
Touch your woman
Touch your woman
Let me know, let me know everything’s alright

And when the busy day is done
You lay by my side
You know exactly what it takes to keep me satisfied
You know exactly what I need and I always go to sleep in peace
Thanking God that you belong to me, so

Touch your woman
Touch your woman
Everything’s gonna be alright
Touch your woman
Touch your woman
Let me know, let me know everything’s alright

Related post: The Prude or Slut Conundrum in Evangelical Spaces
Did God design women to be less sexual than men? Or do we live in a culture that shames women to behave like prudes?

Title image is The Soul of the Rose, by John William Waterhouse.