A varied sexual menu is a win-win situation.

Many times, I hear women say that they prefer to have sex in a particular way or that they have a preference for one position over the other.

Sometimes, it really is just a preference, where you like it one way more than another way. Other times, though, the word “preference” is code for “I don’t want to even try it.”

When you say you have a preference for sex in a certain way, what does that really mean? Have you worked to learn to tolerate it? Have you given it a real chance to become something you enjoy?

What does it even mean to have a preference for one sexual activity over another?


We can all understand preferences when it comes to food.

When I was a young child, I ate a strawberry when I had an upset stomach. I vomited, and from then on, the very idea of a strawberry made my stomach feel queasy.

Years later, someone gave me a bowl of pink ice cream. I ate it and liked it. When I found out it was strawberry ice cream, I was in disbelief. “No, it can’t be strawberry. I don’t like strawberry, but I liked this.” I couldn’t comprehend that what I had believed about my dislike of strawberries might not be true.

I still think of myself as not really liking strawberries. I will occasionally put strawberries on my plate without really thinking, only to look at them quizzically later, wondering why I’d put them there. And then I’ll take a bite, thinking how delicious it is and wondering why I don’t eat strawberries more often. It isn’t a food I think about. While I enjoy it when I’m eating it, it almost never occurs to me to choose strawberries when there are other fruits and berries available.


I hated fish when I was a child. My mom did her best to prepare it in a way I could tolerate, but it was my least favorite dinner. I would always ask for the smallest piece, douse it with some kind of sauce (I discovered that I could tolerate fish if I had 1000 Island dressing poured all over it), and pinch my nose while swallowing. Oh, how I hated fish, even in the form of fish sticks.

When I was at my friend’s house when I was in college, her mom had prepared fish for dinner, and out of politeness, I ate it. I was stunned. Not only did I not hate it, I actually kind of liked it. I began to order fish sometimes when I was at restaurants. I didn’t learn how to cook fish on my own, but it became a special treat I when I went out to eat.

Several years ago, I was out to eat with my parents. As I often do at restaurants, I ordered fish. My mom’s jaw dropped. As the primary witness to all my childhood drama about fish, she wasn’t even sure she’d heard me right. After a childhood of hating fish, I now liked it enough to choose it among many other choices.


I have an aversion to olives. Black or green, I can’t stand to be near them. I don’t like the way they look or smell. In fact, if they are part of a relish tray, I sometimes won’t even risk any of the other foods on the tray in case they’d come into touch with olives. Yes, it’s ridiculous, but I really can’t stand them.

Still, I force myself to try every so often. A couple times a year, I’ll see if I can stand to smell an olive without turning up my nose. After years of effort, I can now tolerate a few small pieces of black olive on a pizza. I am making almost no progress with green olives. Yesterday, my husband dropped one on the floor. I forced myself to pick it up with my bare hands. I held it about a foot from my nose to see if I could tolerate the smell. Nope. I threw it out and washed my hands with scented soap.

With a great deal of effort and time, I have learned to be somewhat more tolerant of black olives. Green olives are still a work in progress. I would be perfectly happy to never see an olive again.

A Change of Taste

When I was young, I would have said that I had an aversion to all three of these foods. Strawberries, fish, and olives simply did not belong in my presence.

However, I don’t have that same set of aversions as I once did. I now enjoy strawberries when I accidentally eat them. When I am at a restaurant, I have a preference for fish. I still dislike olives (a lot), but I can tolerate being in their presence even though I’d prefer not to be.

Our tastes can change over time. With frequent exposure, we can learn to tolerate something or even enjoy it. We may never come to prefer it over other things, but we can learn to dislike it less.

The same thing can happen with our preferences for sexual activity. Our tastes can change. We can learn to tolerate something that we at first don’t like. We may even come to really enjoy it.

Healthy and joyful sexual intimacy should not be limited to just what one spouse wants. Fortunately, we can learn to love things that at first we don’t like at all.

 ~ ~ ~

In other posts, I’ve encouraged women to step outside their comfort zones (see the comfort zone series linked on this page), try to honor their husbands’ requests for new sexual activities, and understand the sense of adventure that many men have. (See this, this, and this at The XY Code.)

There are some things we can do to expand our preferences.

  • Try to grow. There may be some things we strongly dislike even as an idea. Our dislike is an opportunity for growth. (This post gives you some strategies for understanding and addressing various sexual activities.) Actively work on losing your dislike. Understand your feelings about it, learn about the act, and give it a try sometimes.
  • Don’t judge an activity by one experience. The first time you try something, it might be rather awkward. You might be more focused on the mechanics of the activity than on the sensations. Give yourself a chance to get comfortable enough with the activity that you have a chance to really know whether or not you like it.
  • Try it different ways. While I wouldn’t recommend adding 1000 Island salad dressing to your marriage bed like I did to my fish, it might be that you need attempt several different approaches to figure out what works well. Adjust the position or the pressure. Try it with an artificial lube, or with a different one than you normally use. Try different kinds of touch. Find out how different approaches make it feel different. Use it as foreplay rather than the main event.
  • Try again later. If there is an act you dislike, revisit it every year or so. Your body changes over time, and you may have a very different experience now than you did when you first tried something ten years ago. I doubt that I will ever like olives, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try them every now and then.
  • Decide to live with tolerance. If you don’t like a particular sexual activity that your husband loves but you can tolerate it, then in a spirit of generosity and act of love, offer it to your husband sometimes. There is one particular activity that Big Guy loves and I don’t particularly care for. However, I can tolerate it. So sometimes I suggest it—and the next time we’re together, I might ask for something I have a strong preference for that he doesn’t enjoy as much.

The Bible says . . .

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:4

Sometimes a woman will point out that her husband has just as much responsibility to accommodate her preferences  for fairly limited sexual activity as she has in meeting her husband’s. This is true–but focusing on what we are entitled to isn’t the best approach. (I’ve written about this in regard to 1 Corinthians 13 here.)

A husband should accommodate his wife’s preferences—and she should accommodate his. Both spouses should approach their sexual relationship with an attitude of generosity rather than selfishness. Your preferences matter—and so do your husband’s.

A varied sexual menu allows both spouses to experience their preferences from time to time. It’s a win-win situation.

12 Thoughts on “Of Strawberries, Fish, and Olives: A Matter of Preference

  1. The olive thing is too funny. I didn’t even realize they have a smell. But I love olives of all kinds. 🙂

  2. Christina and I can’t stand olives….I’ll be honest, we’re not tryingto get over it. It’s bad, because one of my best friends and his wife can’t contemplate foods like pizza and subs without them…we end up politely declining pizza a lot when we’re together. They know we hate olives, but it either never occurs to them that you can order it without them, or its so unbelievable to them they forget over time. They don’t do it on purpose.

    I feel like there is some parallel there to sex…but my brain is too fuzzy to draw the lines…something about the difference between high and low drive spouses. Maybe someone else can connect the dots.

    • It isn’t so much that I am really trying to get over the whole olive thing. It’s more like I’m checking to see if I got over it while I wasn’t paying any attention. My husband likes olives, and I know he would be happy if he could have them on his pizza more.

      I’m always glad to know of other olive dislikers in the world. 🙂

      • Same here on the olives, including my husband liking them. Most of the time he’s pretty content to order pizza with toppings that I like (pineapple, onion, sometimes green pepper), or order olives only on half the pizza. When I make pizza at home, I put sliced olives on his half of it. I don’t particularly like handling them, but I do it for him. Sometimes it’s more convenient to order a specialty pizza that happens to have olives on it, and I just pick the olives off (and sometimes he eats my olives too). We did that just tonight, in fact.

        I have no idea how olive oil can be so nice for cooking and dressings while fresh olives are so yucky. I haven’t made much progress toward liking olives either, except for bruschetta, which I rather like if the olive bits aren’t too big and there’s enough tomato to balance the flavors.

  3. Great post, but it doesn’t quite answer a question I have. I am willing and eager to accommodate my husband’s preferences, but I am the more adventerous spouse. To him, oral sex giving and receiving, is olives. We’ve discussed it, argued over it, etc, and fact is he hates it. I, on the other hand, LOVE OS. It’s not just chocolate, it’s more like coffee…in the grand scheme of things, not a basic food need, but most would argue that it is a necessity to enjoy their day. He simply won’t bend. I wamt to respect his preference…I can imagine it is very hard to do something one feels so.strongly an aversion to…and we’ve worked on.alternatives so I can greatly enjoy sex without it, but the loss is real.

    How does a spouse graciously deal with this situation, this loss?

    I spent a few years trying to get advice to get him to give it to me, but now I really just need to learn how to move on…not give up, but deal with the loss and the new dynamic of moving on in our marriage bed.

    • Yes, it is hard to do something you have an aversion to. Has your husband ever indicated a willingness to work on his own to understand why he feels so strongly as he does? He could work on this if he decided to. It may be that he carries pain or guilt related to oral sex (or his own thoughts about it), and facing that is just too hard. That is for him to work on, if he wants to.

      When I began my journey toward sexual intimacy, I went through a time of grief. (I wrote about it in this post.) Letting go of a specific desire requires a dying to self. Accepting that a specific desire will never be met is hard. Sometimes it can help to look at the big picture rather than focusing on the things we don’t have. If you are thinking a great deal about what you are not getting, it becomes difficult to see all the things you do have in your marriage. It is a real loss–but you cannot let that loss become so big that it rules your words, your actions, or your marriage.

      Being gracious about it may not be easy, but it is something you can choose to do. Act graciously, in deed and word, even when you don’t feel it. Over time, being gracious about it should become automatic and your heart may align with your actions eventually. If you have spent several years on a quest for persuading your husband to engage in oral sex with you, then it is likely to take some time to dismantle this boulder on your heart.

      Move on in your words and actions, and be vigilant about your thought life regarding the subject. Rejoice in the sexual intimacy that you do have. Every time you find yourself with a negative thought or a moment of grief, make a decision to not dwell on it. Find a Bible verse that has always encouraged you, and recite it to yourself (out loud, if necessary) when those moments come to you.

      It’s sort of a two-pronged thing: acknowledge that you are grieving a loss, but work to not let that grief drive your interactions with your husband.

  4. Olives suck.

  5. 40SomethingF on January 6, 2015 at 6:46 pm said:

    I really like your advice here. I love the idea of “trading” things that you don’t love but still can tolerate…over time, that can become something that enhances your sex life. Basically, imagine a conversation like this:

    “Oh, so you want THAT, eh? Well, then I’m getting THIS!”

    I’d urge reserving that for the most ultimate of desires that perhaps you or the other share but don’t mutually love, but it can work and make things so exciting!

  6. Charlie O on January 9, 2015 at 11:00 am said:

    I think that we need two things here: A little adulthood, and some love and goodwill. If you truly love someone, you put your own preferences aside and try to accommodate them. Real grownups do things that they do not like because they need to do them: dirty diapers, gunk in the drain,etc. Missionaries eat things that they consider unpleasant to avoid offending those that they are ministering to. Minister to your loved one!

  7. I look at additional intimate acts as a necessity in relationships. I do not receive anything “without my hard prompting” and wow, the absence screams in my ears constantly.
    It isn’t necessarily the act or task itself that I’m so overly interested in as much as I just absolutely require my wife to be a generous lover which she is FAR, far from.
    A generous lover is probably the number one fantasy of most people. If you’re good in bed then you’re generous and considerate.
    Like all foods, I just enjoy having it. There are some foods I do not enjoy but I’d say that I eat just about anything even if I really don’t care for it.
    Olives are a favorite of mine and I used to hate them when I was a child.
    Fish tacos are a huge fav. (certain places).
    Strawberries are my most fav food EVER!!!

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