Difficulties in a couple’s sex life often reflect deeper issues in their relationship.
By Dave Boehi
“I wish we would enjoy each other in bed more often, but my spouse rarely wants to make love. We have almost no sex life.”
When you just read that quote, did you assume that it was made by a man, or a woman? Conventional wisdom holds that husbands generally desire to have sex in their marriage more often than wives. But it appears that a growing number of marriages are experiencing the opposite problem, with wives frustrated that their husbands are uninterested in sexual relations.
Two years ago, in our monthly e-magazine, The Family Room, we ran an article by Barbara Rainey on “Why Sex Is So Important to Your Husband.” It remains the most-viewed article in the history of The Family Room, and it also attracted a few pointed responses from wives asking us to look at the opposite problem. So last month we did, with an article by Dennis Rainey on “Why Sex Is So Important to Your Wife.”
Once again the subject attracted a huge response from our readers. There was also a lively exchange in the comments section at the end of the article. It is evident that we struck a nerve with our readers:
Thank you for this article! I’m so sick of hearing sermons directed to women about how their husbands need physical intimacy. I am glad that someone recognizes the opposite problem. My husband has no idea how rejected and worthless I feel. I have spent many lonely nights crying myself to sleep over this.
I have talked to my husband many times about this, and he does nothing about it … I long to feel wanted and desired by the one I love but when he doesn’t show it, there are always others out there waiting to fill that place. When the one you love does not make the time to reach out and take the time to make love to you, it makes you feel rejected, unwanted, unloved, undesired, worthless, and leaves you very unsatisfied.
FINALLY an article that brings a major issue to the surface! … Many wives suffer silently over the rejection of their husbands. I’m just so happy to finally see FamilyLife saying it.
Most people have no idea how deep the sadness reaches when your husband does not want you and puts you on a shelf. When people pay you compliments it makes you want to throw up. Because everyone thinks you’re pretty but the one person you want to think so. This pain is the most soul rotting feeling I have ever known and I must know it alone.
It’s important to remember that studies show most married couples report a high level of satisfaction with their sex lives. But reading through the online comments from our readers reveals the despair that many couples feel over this issue. (Included in the comments were a number of e-mails from husbands asking why we didn’t address the opposite problem … sound familiar?)
Something else became evident in the stories told by readers: Their sexual dysfunction was usually not the cause of problems in their marriage, but the result of these problems. They illustrate a truth that is taught at our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways—that “sexual intimacy between husband and wife is a reflection of a couple’s oneness.”
In other words, difficulties in a couple’s sex life often reflect deeper issues in their relationship. Are they enjoying companionship together? Are they growing in spiritual intimacy? Is anything threatening their commitment to each other? Is there unresolved conflict?
Another issue that came up repeatedly in the comments was pornography. It is evident that porn plays a large role in the dysfunction experienced by many couples. As one wife wrote:
Being rejected deflates my sense of womanhood and femininity. It’s as if I’m not a person in his eyes. Our barricade to intimacy was his porn habit/addiction. Porn and masturbation do not help a man develop communication skills, nor a desire to give during sex. The other issue coming out of this is that a wife then has to guard her heart and body from other men. Without that protection of intimacy from her husband she needs, she’s left open and unprotected. Only by the grace of God was I able to resist temptation long enough to flee it. A man lost to this leaves his wife with a lonely battle. I love this man, but often I really want to be free of this lonely ache that makes me feel like his roommate but not his wife. It’s not about being unattractive, it’s about fantasy and reality crashing between our sheets.
There are, of course, no simple answers for situations like these. When a couple is experiencing lack of intimacy to this degree, they need to reach out beyond themselves for help. As Dennis Rainey writes, “Find a pastor, a counselor, or another godly man in whom you can confide. Do it for the sake of your marriage and family. Step out of the shadows of isolation and into the healing from the One who gives ‘every good and perfect gift’ (James 1:17).”
This article originally appeared in the March 23, 2009 issue of Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter. To subscribe free to Marriage Memo and other FamilyLife e-newsletters, click here. For the Marriage Memo archives, click here.