If You Make Just One Change, . . .

Emotion and relationship are at the heart of your husband’s sexual desire.

When we think of men talking about sex, the notion of locker room talk typically comes to mind: sexual details, guffaws, high fives, and the like.

At a retreat last month, I had the privilege of listening to five men—real and decent marriage-minded Christian husbands—talk about sex.

There were no crude comments. There were no high-fiving or waggling eyebrows or “I got me some of that” happening—and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just because I was present.

When these five men talked about sex, they spoke of two things: emotion and relationship.

~~~

For years, Big Guy asked me to change my attitude about sex. He begged me to say no less frequently and to be more involved when I said yes. He would tell me that the reason he made such a big deal out of sex was because he wanted intimacy.

I never knew what to say.

I want intimacy, too! I would shout in my head. It’s because we don’t have real intimacy that I don’t want to have sex with you. How can you not know that? Why on earth do you think that sex will make a bit of difference in intimacy?

Since he obviously (in my mind) didn’t understand what intimacy was, I believed he was using the word “intimacy” as a euphemism for the physical pleasure of sexual release.

Why should I bother changing my attitude about sex when all he’s trying to do is manipulate me into having sex?

I was so wrong.

~~~

I’m frequently asked what I now know about sex that I wish I’d understood earlier in my marriage.

My answer is always the same:

I wish I had understood the emotional aspect of sex for my husband.

Emotional connection for most men happens differently than it does for most women—not because men are wrong or shallow, and not because they have one-track minds. It isn’t a choice, and it isn’t something they can change.

Sex provides emotional connection for most men because of their biology. Oxytocin, the hormone associated with human bonding, is most present in men during sex. (See Why Sex? at OysterBed7 for a wonderful explanation.)

Having sex with me gave Big Guy a big dose of oxytocin and helped him feel connected to me. Sex was the very thing that helped my husband feel emotionally close to me.

~~~

While the physical pleasure of sex with me was wonderful (if I do say so myself), Big Guy didn’t need me in order to experience an orgasm. He could take care of that on his own (and I often wished he would do just that and leave me alone).

What he couldn’t do on his own was feel emotionally close to me.

Because my husband experienced emotional connection primarily through sex (due to the oxytocin) and because I was the only one he was having sex with, when I  constantly said no to sex, I left him to feel emotionally isolated. And then I wondered why he was so surly all the time.

Like some other wives, I often felt like my husband valued me only for sex–for the physical pleasure of the orgasm he experienced with me. I didn’t understand that the physical pleasure of orgasm was all tied into the release of oxytocin.

The physical experience of sex connected his heart to mine.

His sexual desire for me was both physical and emotional. He wanted me with all of who he was, not just with his penis.

He valued sex because he wanted to feel close to me.

~~~

If your husband has expressed dissatisfaction with your sex life, I want to encourage you to hear the heart of what he is saying to you. Listen deeply.

If your husband is generally a decent guy, it’s likely that there is more than meets the eye to his sexual desire. Beneath the “I’m horny,” “I need to have an orgasm,” and groping lies something else. More than his physical desire for sexual release is an even deeper longing to feel close to you.

Your husband longs to feel close to you.

He wants emotional connection and relationship. With you.

~~~

Your husband may be asking you to make some changes, and I know how overwhelming and annoying that is. I heard the same request for years.

If you’re willing to change only one thing, please make it this: choose to believe that your husband’s sexual desire for you is because he craves emotional intimacy, connection, and a relationship with you.

Emotion and relationship.

They’re at the heart of your husband’s sexual desire.

Don’t believe me? Listen to the men tell you for themselves. They speak for so many other husbands—maybe even yours.

Emotion and relationship are at the heart of your husband’s sexual desire. Click To Tweet

Edited to add:

Thanks so much to the five men who shared their hearts with our podcast listeners:

Image credit | Christianpics.co

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13 Comments on “If You Make Just One Change, . . .”

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! I wish I could remember where I read on a Christian man’s blog ( he also and his wife blog about Christian couples needs.) Anyway He said that a husband having sexual relations with his wife recharges him emotionally just like a cell phone needs to be recharged. That helped me to understand what happens emotionally with a husband. It helped me to be much more sensitive and understanding to my husband’s sexual needs. Thank you for the podcast of the men. I learned a lot. I really look forward to seeing your posts each week. I feel like you understand me, where I’ve been and where I’m going! It is getting better! Thank you so much for being so open!

    1. Your wife is absolutely right about that. I hope she figured that out long before I did!

      Thanks so much for being part of the conversation, Scott. Your comment reminded me that I forgot to say who was part of the conversation and link to your blogs! Oops. I’ll add that in today.

  2. So what’s a wife to do when she finally understood and made the changes a few years ago, but the husband still doesn’t want to meet her emotional needs in the way that she needs most?

    1. That is a difficult situation, Abbie.

      I have two responses to that, and they are going to seem contradictory.

      My first response is that we should be making changes because we believe it is the right thing to do–not because we want our husbands to change. My experience was that it took several years before my husband began to make a concerted effort to meet my emotional needs in a way that I needed him to. During that time, I really felt like I was dying to self. I grieved. (I wrote about that in this post.) I believe God calls me to love my husband even when he doesn’t deserve it (and that’s probably when my husband needs my love the most).

      In many cases, it takes the husband a long time to heal from his own hurt. Sexual refusal and gatekeeping hurt most men quite deeply. It hurts them in the deepest areas of their hearts. My resistance to sex wasn’t very extreme, and my husband is not a grudge holder. Once he recognized what I’d been doing and I asked for his forgiveness, he granted it whole-heartedly. I know that this isn’t the case for a lot of husbands. Men with different personalities, insecurities, experiences with refusal, and so on often face a much bigger challenge than my husband did. I would say that it took my husband around three years before he was able to think in terms of making any changes of his own. For another man, it might take much longer than that before he healed and rebuilt trust in his wife enough to be willing to do what he should do.

      Several husbands have shared with me that their healing didn’t truly begin until their wives acknowledged that they’d been wrong and asked for their forgiveness. If you haven’t done that yet, it might be a good place to start.

      Also, be certain that your unmet emotional needs are appropriately placed. Are you expecting things from him that you should be seeking from God? If so, that is an area where you should do some work.

      My second response is that it is perfectly reasonable for us to lovingly confront our husbands in their lack of effort. I’ve had plenty of times when I’ve had to point out to my husband what he is doing (or not doing) and tell him that it isn’t okay. I’ve worked to be very clear about what I need from him, even to the point of saying, “I need fifteen minutes with you every day that doesn’t involve sleep, sex, or screens.” I’ve let him know when I am struggling. I’ve said, “My old thoughts and habits are coming to the surface again. I know it is on my shoulders to work on that, but you should be aware that it is happening because how you interact with me can make it either easier or harder for me.” When I see my husband’s old thought patterns emerge, I will remind him that things are different now and that a comment or action is no longer appropriate.

      I don’t think it is okay to use sex as a reward or punishment. However, I do think it is fair to say to a husband, “I’m feeling emotionally worn out right now and would appreciate it if you would do [x] for me. I am willing to have sex, and I will do my best to fully participate. My preference would be to put it off until later and spend some time helping me feel close to you again so sex is easier for me.”

      Unfortunately, some men become so bitter from a wife’s sexual refusal that they sometimes want their wives to suffer. While I understand that this comes from a place of pain, it isn’t okay.

      Together, what these responses say is to make sure your heart is right and to understand what your husband has been experiencing. If you haven’t done so already, apologize, help your husband see that you have repented, and ask for forgiveness. Be clear about your needs, and be honest with your husband about what you are feeling. That is all within your power to do.

      If after six more months (and daily prayer for your husband’s healing), you aren’t seeing any change, I would recommend pastoral or professional counseling (not that you need to wait until then, just that at that point you need some intervention).

      Working on ourselves often results in a change from our husbands–but it may not (or it may not go far enough). It can be tempting to suffer in silence, feeling like we don’t deserve better because of how much we hurt our husbands for however long–but when we have repented, we walk free. We no longer need to carry the chains of the past along with us. We are God’s beloved daughters, and He wants us to experience the fullness of intimacy with our husbands. If you’ve done what is within your power to do, then it’s time to call your husband to be a better version of himself.

  3. My husband has had an addiction to lust and pornography for 40 years. Sex was never about connecting with me. It wasn’t even about me. Heck – I wasn’t even there in his mind. He has begun recovery and I see huge changes in his heart and his relationship with God. He says he’s learning that the connection with me is far better than what he used to desire. I want so much to believe that he is connecting with me now. But I’m having trouble letting myself be vulnerable. I hope that in time, I can let my head and heart enjoy what God intended for a husband & wife without always being afraid.

    1. Unfortunately, porn use (especially to a level that might be considered addiction) causes a huge interruption in intimacy. I’m so glad that your husband is making some changes and that he is seeing the value of feeling connected with you.

      Trust takes time to rebuild. You might want to take a look at this post. Although I was not dealing with recovering from a husband’s pornography use, I found that as I encountered (and sometimes created) small opportunities to trust, that helped me be better able to learn to trust in the bigger things.

      It’s okay for you to take time to heal. I will pray for you.

  4. This is beautiful. As we’ve just celebrated our first anniversary, this is a topic we are still talking about A LOT. I remember exactly the way you describe it in this article: “He doesn’t even know what intimacy is…” Thank you for spelling it out in a way that is clear and helpful!!!

  5. Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Such a wonderful post Chris!

    We, as men do not want just sex. We want it all…the connection, the feelings, the love, the physical closeness, and the willingness of our spouse to enjoy making love.

    Thanks for sharing this!

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