In parts 1 and 2, we discussed a key difference in men and women’s approaches toward sex. Though both desire and need sex, we need to understand a wife’s interpretation of sex through the love lens and the husband’s interpretation of sex through the respect grid. I take this position because God commands the husband to love his wife in Ephesians 5:33 (C.O.U.P.L.E.) and commands a wife to respect her husband in that same verse (C.H.A.I.R.S.). (Please read parts 1 and 2 of this 3-part blog series for a more complete explanation of C.O.U.P.L.E. and C.H.A.I.R.S.)
Every married couple that is concerned about their sexual intimacy needs to answer the following with honesty and accuracy.
For the husband:Is my wife feeling unloved? Why? Is it related to sex? Am I acting unloving toward her on a daily basis so that her sexual feelings toward me have shut down? Have I either pushed myself on her sexually or deprived her sexually and she feels unloved?
For the wife:Is my husband feeling disrespected? Why? Is it related to sex? Have I disrespected him, and now he is disinterested in sex? Or, have I pushed him away sexually, which felt disrespectful to him?
Every husband must understand his wife’s sexual being and respond to her in ways that feel loving to her. Every wife must understand her husband’s sexual makeup and respond to him in a manner that feels respectful to him.
It makes no sense for a husband to be unloving as a way to gain respect and get his way in all matters of sex. Nor is it prudent for a wife to be disrespectful as her method of gaining love and getting her way sexually. Unholy means do not achieve worthy ends.
Given we are committed to doing the loving and respectful thing toward our spouse, let’s consider what 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 tells us about mutuality and equality in marital sex. There we learn that we have mutual sexual needs but we also have equal responsibility and equal say about meeting those needs, and therefore God requires us to come to a win-win agreement.
Hear 1 Corinthians 7:2-4 in the Message translation:
Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality—the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out.
Because 1 Corinthians 7:1–5 requires a husband and wife to never deprive the other of their sexual needs, this understanding is vital for a mutually satisfying sex life. Both husband and wife have a holy duty to meet the need and desire for sex in the other. However, just because they have mutual needs and desires for each other does not mean that they have the same mindset in meeting these sexual needs. There are key differences that a loving husband and a respectful wife must be aware of in order to have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship.
One, because we have mutual sexual needs and desires does not mean we are sexually aroused in the same way: he tends to be more visually oriented and she is less visually oriented. For instance, generally speaking, a husband can be aroused quickly by watching his wife take off her clothes and step into a glass shower to wash her hair. Nothing else is needed prior to that in order for him to become sexually aroused for her.
But when the situation is reversed, arousal does not commonly happen for the woman putting her makeup on in front of the bathroom mirror while behind her, her husband disrobes and steps into the shower. Though wives certainly get excited about their husband’s body, most respond sexually on the heels of a romantic evening where they talked and connected emotionally, and then he gave her a back rub. Foreplay to a wife is more about love and romance than just visual, sexual stimulation. Love best stimulates her sensuality because it best stimulates her heart.
A husband’s physical affection toward his wife that is only driven by his visual stimulation will solicit this reaction from a wife: “You only want me for one thing.” When a wife does not feel like she is his special princess—the love of his life—and he aggressively moves toward her to have sex, rarely does she feel good about the relationship or the sex, if they have sex. This dynamic can cause stress and bring on a headache. The exception is with the wife who has been deprived sexually for an inordinate amount of time. She is delighted that he pursues her sexually but not at the point where she questions his love.
How easy though to make the male out to be a lustful brute given the wife has required him to have eyes only for her and when he does, she pushes him away. His visualization is a blessing and a challenge, just as her orientation can be a blessing and a challenge.
Are there exceptions on this visualization concept? Always.
However, unless and until we know the gender sexual differences related to visualization, some of us will have unnecessary marital flare-ups because we will honestly misunderstand why one pushes the other away.
Bottom line, a helpful metaphor is this: he can be more like a microwave whereas she is more like a slow cooker. Neither are wrong, just different.
Two, because we have mutual sexual needs and desires does not mean we arrive at sexual intimacy the same way: he is more compartmentalized and she is more integrated.Some refer to men as compartmentalized personalities. For instance, a man can get into an argument with his wife, drop it and forget it, but then want sex. He can put his negative emotions in a compartment and have sex, and gladly so (except on the heels of her contempt for him). To him, sex can make things right between them and he is good to go, even feeling emotionally close to her.
Unfortunately, compartmentalizing sex, as most men can do, makes sex appear to be a stand-alone act apart from a heart-to-heart connection, which leaves most wives feeling empty. It’s important to note, however, that to most husbands, this does not feel empty. He feels intimately connected to her through sex with the woman he loves. However, to sexually arouse and satisfy a wife, a husband must love her heart in ways that are meaningful to her. She must feel secure that he loves her unconditionally.
Most wives cannot put their hurt emotions in a compartment and then have meaningful sex. And if she can compartmentalize, she really doesn’t want to. Rarely does sex resolve the issue when in her world two people need to talk about the issue, express sorrow, seek forgiveness, and feel reconciled. After all of that, then and only then might she be ready for sexual intimacy.
Having said this, because a husband is more compartmentalized does not make him bad, just different. Therefore, a wife can open up the compartment of his heart and affections by first meeting his need for sexual intimacy.
Some refer to women as integrated personalities. She is more integrated when it comes to her mind, body, emotions, and spirit. These dimensions are more connected, so when her husband quenches her soul with his harshness and unloving attitude, she has little interest in sex at that moment. As an integrated personality, what upsets a wife in her spirit must be talked about before she wishes to engage him sexually. A wife wants to be turned on sexually, but stuffing her upset doesn’t work. When her husband hurts her, he needs to genuinely say, “I am sorry, will you forgive me?” and assure her he won’t do that again. This frees her to be aroused sexually later on that evening. When her spirit feels healed, then her body and emotions are best stimulated sexually, leading to sexual satisfaction.
She assumes her husband understands this about her (has she not told him numerous times?) and knows this is why she asserts so firmly her need for him to be loving. She needs to know that all is okay between them, and to feel connected heart to heart. When he loves her this way, it frees her body and emotions to respond, initiate, and enjoy on the sexual sphere. When this does not transpire, she feels deprived.
So yes, husbands and wives certainly have mutual needs and desires for sex, but “mutual” definitely does not mean “same.” We are stimulated and satisfied in different ways.
- Emerson wrote, “Unless and until we know the gender sexual differences [in our different paths to sexual arousal], we will have unnecessary marital flare-ups.” Have you had flare-ups and arguments concerning sex related to his not recognizing the longer approach to sexual arousal that she desires?
- Men can compartmentalize, while women prefer not to, as integrated personalities. Does different mean wrong in this case? How have you and your spouse worked through your differences concerning how you approach sexual intimacy?
- Wives, what does “foreplay” early on in the day look like to you, which is likely to lead to you wishing to express yourself sexually to your husband later? Have you ever shared that with him? If so, how did he respond? If not, will you do that this week?
- Husbands, your wife is not a microwave like you when it comes to sex, but is more of a slow cooker. Instead of trying to change that, what will you do to embrace that difference and increase sexual fulfillment for both of you?
- Are you committed to the marriage bed being a place of mutuality, both satisfying the other sexually?