In many marriages (but not all), sexual intimacy is very high on a husband’s list. In books like William Harley’s His Needs, Her Needs, sex is listed as the number one thing a husband needs in marriage. Many men would nod in agreement and tell their wives in so many words that they need sex; however, I’ve never known of a man dying because he didn’t have it.
I’ve heard Christian speakers say things like, “A woman should never say no to her husband’s sexual advances.” Talk about a guilt trip! Wives in this situation would naturally feel manipulated, with a cloud of guilt hovering over every initiation. If he needs sex and you’re the only one who can give it to him, sex becomes less romantic than cooking him dinner. You may feel like a “sex dispenser,” just there to meet your husband’s biological needs. Even if you once liked sex, all pleasure and anticipation has been drained out of it.
This is certainly not God’s design for sexuality in marriage. A couple who operates with this thinking is doomed to experience no “intimacy” in sexual intimacy. So how do we reconcile the “need” factor without sex becoming an on-demand obligation?
Is Sex Really A Need?
We have a strange relationship to the word need in our society. We claim to need everything from a cup of Starbucks to the most recent smartphone. In reality, we need very little to survive. Food, shelter, community, and family. However, there are other things we don’t need for survival but that are necessary to function in our world. For example, you don’t need a car . . . but you do. You won’t die without a car, but unless you live in a big city, it would be very difficult to navigate life without one. We also have emotional needs, like feeling loved and valued. While we won’t die without feeling loved, we also may not want to keep living.
Think of sex in a similar vein. No one needs sex, but a marriage needs sexual intimacy to thrive. Intimacy in the bedroom is directly correlated to overall marital happiness. When a couple regularly engages in sex, even their body chemistry is working to build a positive emotional connection.
In most marriages, the husband is the more constant reminder of the need for sex. Because he has more testosterone and his body is wired to respond sexually, it’s usually on his mind much more often than it’s on hers. In other marriages, the woman is unsatisfied if too many days go by without sex. God has wired our bodies to express the importance of sexual intimacy, whether it is the husband or wife who prompts the other.
Even God’s Word tells us that regular sex should be a priority in marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul says that both the husband and wife should meet each other’s sexual needs and should be having sex regularly (yes, that’s in the Bible!).
When your husband tells you he needs sex, he is really saying, “This is the primary way I know how to be close to you.” He may also be saying, “I need you to help me be a man of integrity. I want to focus on your body and being intimate with you. This helps me fight temptation.”
Beyond an Obligation
Most men not only want sex, they want their wives to enjoy it. It’s not enough to give him your body while the rest of you is mentally a thousand miles away. The most satisfied husband is the man who has a satisfied wife.
If you’ve fallen into the pattern of “checking the sex box” to meet your husband’s needs, it’s likely that neither of you feel sexually fulfilled. Your response to that statement might be, “You mean I have to like it too! Can’t I just fake it?” Instead of seeing this as even more of an obligation, step back and consider it as good news. Your husband isn’t fully satisfied just to have a physical release; he wants intimacy with you. He wants to build sexual memories with you and learn how to bring you great pleasure. This means that you are not just a sexual object to him. He wants you to be his lover—to have fun and explore each other.
In order to accept his invitation, you may need to switch gears mentally. Your sexual relationship will never be fulfilling if it is oriented only around your husband’s needs. Do you feel free to be sexual and to pursue your sexual pleasure in the bedroom? When was the last time you initiated sexually?
Here are three practical things you can do to engage meet your husband’s need while also awakening your own sexual drive.
1. Say No So You Can Say Yes
One of the beefs I have with the “never say no” policy is that it creates a dynamic in marriage in which sex revolves exclusively around a husband’s needs. While he desires a sexual encounter, she desires intimacy. What if we told a husband, “No matter how tired or distracted you are, never say no when your wife wants to talk or cuddle”? Would you really want talking to become an obligation for your husband? The goal is to have both you and your husband fulfilled and satisfied in intimacy. That takes communication, sensitivity, and compromise.
Instead of saying no, I’d encourage you to say “not now.” In other words, if you had sex right when your husband asks, you may be distracted, exhausted, or frustrated and not able to enjoy it. Even a willing wife will grow resentful with this pattern. When your husband initiates, give him a time within the next 24 hours when you will be ready to say yes. This gives you time to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally so that sex can be fulfilling to you too. It also teaches your husband to consider your needs instead of just communicating his.
2. Invest in Your Sex Life
Unless you have been blessed to have a high sex drive, experiencing sexual arousal and fulfillment takes some effort on your part. Your sexual appetite will be little to none unless you work on developing it. Don’t take the Fifty Shades of Grey shortcut. Instead, make a priority to work on building healthy intimacy with your husband.
When was the last time you bought something special for the bedroom? Or spent time planning a creative sexual date? When did you last pray about your sex life, asking God to show you how to enjoy intimacy with your husband?
If you are ready to invest in intimacy, I recommend the ten-week Bible study Passion Pursuit. It shows you how to make passion a priority in a way that honors your husband and God.
3. Shift Your Paradigm
I used to view my husband’s sex drive as a curse. My mental dialogue sounded like this: Not again! Didn’t we just do it? I’ve learned over the years to view my husband’s desire for me to be a gift rather than an obligation. This has been a major paradigm shift that has changed the atmosphere of our love life.
One day Mike asked me, “Aren’t you glad that I want to be with you all the time? Isn’t it a good thing that I desire you and want to be intimate with you?” I had to agree with him. If it weren’t for sexual intimacy, Mike might get lost in his own little world and be content for weeks without connecting with me. This one special part of our relationship causes him to think about me often. Our sex life makes our relationship different than every other relationship he has.
Instead of lamenting the fact that your husband needs sex, why not celebrate that your husband needs you!