QUESTION: “Your book [Love Your Husband/ Love Yourself] mainly deals with wives who are denying their husbands of sex. What if it’s the other way around and the husband has a lower drive than the wife?”
ANSWER: The Bible teaches that the husband has a responsibility to the wife in this area, just as surely as the wife has a responsibility to the husband. (See 1 Corinthians 7:2-5) Each is completely dependent upon the other, as we are given no other righteous alternative for experiencing sexual fulfillment other than with one’s own spouse (thus God’s command that neither is to deprive the other).
That’s why I think the frequency with which a couple has sex should really be determined by whichever spouse has the stronger drive. I suggest you discuss the matter with your husband and remind him of your complete dependence upon his active cooperation. You might also read this post, as it has other suggestions for a wife whose husband seems disinterested in sex.
Although it is more common for the man to have the stronger drive, I’ve heard from many, many wives for whom the roles are reversed. It is an agonizing place to be.
If something were to change and I found myself in that situation, I wouldn’t hesitate to discuss it with my husband. Depending on how that talk went, I would probably get a doctor and/or counselor involved, as well.
And since, in our case, a sudden disinterest in sex would be a huge departure from his thirty-year norm, once I ruled out any health concerns or other legitimate causes, I would likely be asking some tough questions about masturbation, pornography, and/or adultery.
A frank discussion about those topics might be in order, even if there hasn’t been an abrupt change in your husband’s interest in intimacy. Although there are definitely some physical things that will affect a man’s libido — low testosterone, depression, anxiety, fatigue, alcohol, drugs, and certain prescription meds, to name just a few — there is a big difference between a man with a low sex drive and a man with a high sex drive who is getting his needs met elsewhere.
Not everyone can afford counselling. The answer often given to this is “…you can’t afford not to…”. The worst advice ever. If people say they can’t afford it, then they can’t afford it!
Jennifer Flanders says
You are right. Professional counseling can be pricey. But prayer is free. Not only does God promise to give wisdom to those who ask (James 1:5), but also promises to supply all our needs (Phil. 4:19). So I would start there. But I would also pray God would send one or two mature, trustworthy friends who could provide Biblical guidance. Pray for and seek out older, Titus 2 kind of women mentors at church and draw from their store of wisdom and experience. Such friendships can be even more beneficial than paid professionals in getting to the real root of our problems.
I say counseling is about the best way to address a problem like this (speaking from experience)!! My husband has always had a lower sex drive than I have and it declined as the years went by. After 6 years of waiting on my husband to want to have sex with me, I decided that the only way to resolve the issue was to get a divorce. Thankfully some sweet friends urged us to get counseling. We were fortunate that our church had an agreement with a local faith based counselor and offered a discount on services. It is much easier to discuss sensitive topics with a mediator in the room!! Unfortunately I also think that it is something that needs to be ongoing which is not always a financial possibility. The counseling we went through did get us back on track as far as our marriage and this year we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary (YAY). However after the honeymoon of sex, we could use another counseling session to revive our relationship in that area (hence the reason I said therapy should be ongoing).
This is a topic that should be addressed more often and in more detail. It is very difficult to find good info out there to help woman in this position. SO thank you for being willing to step out in faith and blog about such a sensitive subject!! 🙂
Jennifer Flanders says
Congratulations on 30 years of marriage! That’s a great testimonial on the benefits of Christian counseling for getting through the rough patches. I wish more churches offered that service.
roger L martin says
I think these and related problems are very common – one way or another – the couple will have to learn how to deal with these problems. Is it easy? Not in the least — and what if they can’t afford counseling, or medical help? When we get older of course our bodies change, than we are dealing with other things here, ED or Menopause – lower sex drives or even worse – the desire to have sex with one partner but the other not interested – all of these things can challenge a marriage and our fidelity in marriage – it may take more than faith and time to solve these problems – some may never go away – how do we find other ways to love and build our relationship any way? These and related problems may again test our resolve to be faithful in the marriage. In short, I think love and faith can find a way – IF we are willing to work towards that end!
it is indeed a delicate subject
Um, no. I was excited when I saw that you had blogged about this because it’s something my husband and I are dealing with. Very disappointed with your answer. You can’t just shove a bible in your husbands face and say “Look, it says you have to!” AND you can’t automatically assume that he has a porn addiction or is being unfaithful if there isn’t a medical reason (& btw most men are offended when you suggest he go to the Dr. for these issues). Why is it such a different standard for a man with a low sex drive? If you were speaking of a woman, you would not imply she were getting her needs met elsewhere.
After years of dealing with a husband who has a lower sex drive, I have learned what not to do… I just wish I could find a real answer of how to handle the situation without making him feel attacked or like less of a man. It is a delicate subject, and he doesn’t like talking about it… bringing it up actually makes it worse.
Jennifer Flanders says
I’m sorry, Annie. As somebody who has never had to deal with this very frustrating and demoralizing problem herself, I’m obviously theorizing here.
I can certainly see how discussing this matter with one’s husband could potentially make the situation worse, at least in the short run. My earlier post on disinterested husbands offers some non-confrontational ways to approach the problem, but it seems to me that if the problem persists, an honest, heart-to-heart about the situation would be in order and might open the door to a long-term solution, even if such a discussion were initially difficult and uncomfortable for either or both parties.
When I first started researching this topic a decade ago, statistics estimated the wife has a stronger drive than her husband in about 15% of marriages. I was a little shocked to see a more recent study peg that number at 40%. While I have no problem believing that some men are genuinely less interested in sex than the women they married, I have a hard time believing that explanation fully accounts for the problem in all these cases, especially considering we’ve seen such a growth in pornography consumption over the same time period.
Do all men with a low sex drive struggle with porn addiction? Of course not. I did not say that, nor do I believe it. But many men — both married and single — do struggle with porn, only to later discover that the fantasy to which they’ve become so addicted has robbed them of their ability to enjoy real sex with a real wife, regardless of how willing she is or how strongly she desires intimacy with him. (That’s why I firmly believe in open communication about pornography, both with our husbands and our sons.)
As for my having a different standard for husbands than for wives, you are right… and wrong.
You are right that I would not automatically assume a disinterested wife was getting her sexual needs met elsewhere. Rather, I would assume she was just being selfish But this would also be an unfair generalization, as there might very well be a physical explanation for her low libido (including oral contraceptive use and/or taking antidepressants, both which have repeatedly been shown to adversely affect a woman’s sex drive).
But you are wrong to imply that my straight-off-the-bat advice would be any different for wives than for husbands: if anything, I would be even more likely to shove a Bible in a woman’s face and say, “Look, it says here you have to!” In fact, my first book combined both knee-jerk reactions, noting the Scriptural injunctions, but appealing to our selfish nature as well by essentially saying, “Yes, the Bible commands it, but look at all the ways you yourself will benefit — physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and psychologically — when you do things God’s way.”