What I Wish He Knew . . .

What do you want your husband to understand about your emotional and sexual needs?

The bible tells our husbands to live with us in an understanding way:

You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7

As much as I think my husband should automatically understand me and know what my needs are, I’ve had to learn to communicate with him and accept that he is not a mind-reader.

I’d like to invite you to think about your emotional and sexual needs in your marriage. What do you want your husband to understand about you? How have you communicated these needs to your husband?

I’ve written quite a bit to encourage you to better understand your husband and his emotional and sexual needs. Loving our husbands requires us to know what helps them most feel loved.

There are things I wish I’d truly understood about Big Guy:

  • His need for a good sexual relationship with me was truly about all levels of intimacy and not just about a physical release.
  • Sex was the pathway to emotional connection between the two of us.
  • Disagreeing with him in front of the kids affected him much more deeply than I will ever truly understand.
  • He felt that my sexual rejection of him was a rejection of his whole self and made him feel very unloved.

Had I truly understood these things, it would have been easier for me to understand that his complaints about our sex life were an expression of his desire to deeply know me and to be deeply known and accepted by me—in the bedroom and beyond.

As much as I wish I’d understood my husband better, I also know that there are some things it would have been good for him to understand about me. These things reflect what I wanted my husband to desire about me and say nothing about what other women want. (Not all women feel the same way–so husbands, if you’re reading this, don’t assume any of it applies to your wife. Instead, let it guide you in knowing what questions to ask your wife about what she wants you to understand about her.)

  • When I get affection and emotional connection only during sex, it makes me feel that sex is the only value I have to you.
  • When you accept my “no” to your request for sex, I feel like I’m not even worth the effort to pursue me. I need to know that I’m worth your effort. I want you to make me want it—and when you don’t try, I feel like I don’t matter. Added: I want to clarify this since I worded it poorly. I do not mean that I wanted my husband to have sex with me despite my no. That would not have been okay and it would have damaged our relationship. It’s more that I wanted him to question and challenge my no–to ask me again, to woo me, and to help me develop the desire. I wanted him to help me push through my resistance and work through my feelings. I didn’t want him to ignore my no as much as help me change it into a yes.
  • When I ask you to tell you what you love about me, what I really mean is to tell me how I make your life better and make your heart feel whole. I want you to tell me what you see that is special about me. I don’t want to know which body parts you like best.
  • Telling me that you want me to fully participate but then falling asleep without making sure I’m satisfied tells me that you want me to participate only because it makes sex hotter for you. It tells me that it’s only your own pleasure that matters.
  • It’s hard enough for me to say what I want sexually. When you disregard what I say, it tells me that there’s little point in saying anything the next time. A request to spend more time above my neck isn’t a delaying tactic; it’s an invitation to help my mind and body be able to engage with you sexually.
  • On a related note, when I say slow, I mean way slower than what you’re doing, no matter how much you want to move on to the next thing.
  • Being held and caressed with no sexual touch makes me feel cherished in ways I didn’t even know I needed. Please do more of that. For the rest of our lives. Please.

My journey of sexual growth has included becoming more aware of my own needs, communicating them to my husband, and learning how to let him know when one of these areas isn’t working so well. Although we’ve addressed most of the things on this list, some of them are still works in progress.

I’d love you to use the comment section to share what you wish your husband understood about your emotional and sexual needs.

What would you have liked your husband to understand about your needs in the past? What would you still like him to understand?

What you have done successfully to communicate these needs to him? What struggles do you still face? How can other readers and I encourage you? How can we pray for you?

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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40 Comments on “What I Wish He Knew . . .”

  1. You wrote, “When you accept my “no” to your request for sex, I feel like I’m not even worth the effort to pursue me. I need to know that I’m worth your effort. I want you to make me want it—and when you don’t try, I feel like I don’t matter.”

    Could you, to use a ‘church’ term, unpack this a little? When my wife says “no” she means “No, I do not want to have sex; I (don’t want to OR am: tired, stressed, not in the mood or [fill in the blank with any number of alternate excuses]).
    Of course you need to be able to read your spouse, but “no” doesn’t mean “maybe”. Pursuing my wife after she’s said “no” is about as endearing to her as being tickled when she doesn’t want to be tickled.

    1. I know this has absolutely no logic to it. When I would say no, it always meant no–I was tired, my mind was still on something else I’d been doing, I felt disconnected, or whatever. However, I wanted my husband to help me cross the bridge from where I was to where I felt I could have sex. I wanted my husband to work to change my no to a yes–because for me, no usually meant not yet more than no. My second no meant no, but my first no meant I wasn’t sure yet.

      Note that this is me speaking for me alone. I know other women who also want their husbands to push through and lead them to a point of desire. Other women are deeply hurt if their husbands question or push at all. This was what I wanted my husband to understand about me.

      1. Yeah, when I say no, I feel guilty if he pursues the line of inquiry so it is certainly an individual preference for the scenario. John, maybe this is a situation in which it may be worth asking your wife what she wants you to do.

        Chris, thank you for this post. This is something I really need to work on.

        1. Understanding this about myself was difficult. I didn’t like that I felt that way, after all.

          Regarding the guilt, though . . . guilt is sometimes a sign that we are doing something differently than we should be. Of course, when I feel guilty, that’s the last thing I want to think about. 🙂

      2. To add to what Chris said. Sometimes I want to be pursued, to know that I am loved and desired. I want to be romanced and flirted with so I can transition from mom to wife. I want to be treated tenderly and not feel like sex is another thing on a to do list. In those moments I want him to ask again, to give me little kisses and seduce me. But other times I really am too tired, I need time to myself to recharge myself. In those times when he asked again and again it gets irritating. So maybe you could find out which mood she is in. Does she need to feel desired and romanced or does she need to recharge with some alone time?

  2. This is just such great advice and insight to both sides of communication in a marriage. I think you speak of what many wives feel and what many husbands do in fact need- in regards to their physical need for love!

    I know my husband and I are very honest with how we are feeling, and he is patient when I’m just not in the mood at all… which I try to almost always turn around for him- but some nights when I’m not well, or had a long day he totally understands and we plan the next night with much anticipation!!

    I often am well aware of when he needs his physical connection with me, and I try to honor it and in doing so, I am truly receiving that love just as much! It just takes pushing myself to stretch beyond my own needs and tasks for the evening to fill his love tank- but inevitably I always come away with the realization of how much I get from the bonding and intimacy too!

    1. When both spouses are good-willed and try to meet the other’s needs, a marriage can thrive. I have found that when I stretch beyond my needs, I come away feeling very blessed indeed!

  3. I strongly believe “no” means “no”

    We have been ingrained (especially men by women) with this since pre-school not to mention many cases where a pursuing spouse has faced legal action.

    Our “no” is supposed to men “no” and our “yes”, “yes”. That “no” is a “safety word” that should not be diluted with a “sometimes maybe”

    You truly don’t mean no, then don’t say “no.” Say “not just right now, check in an hour” or “If you make it worth my while,” or “I’m not really in the mood, but you can try to convince me.”

    I never want to be in the position of having barged over my bride’s wishes if she truly meant “no”.

    In the heat of the moment, that “no” “safety word” can be the only thing standing between a couple and tragedy.

    Hope I’m not ranting too much.

    1. You’re absolutely right. It was unfair of me to not be truthful with my husband, and that is one of the things I addressed early on.

      To be clear–my desire for pursuit was for him to woo me, not to take me as I protested. It would not have been barging over my wishes if he helped me change what those wishes were. It also wouldn’t have been about pressuring me; rather, it would have been helping me press through.

      I am grateful that he honored the words I spoke even though they did not truly reflect my desires.

      1. I sometimes think it might be too much fiction. You know, hero has to “overpower” his woman, who really does want him after all.

        I really wish they’d stop making that kind of stuff, but I guess we know who’s in charge of that in this world.

        We men should really know how to initiate better. I have had the best success with hints in the morning, with follow-ups during the day. When her “special time” comes up in the evenings, I ask if she has a little “extra time” for me if I see she still has energy left.

        Mostly she doesn’t, but I know she still needs time to realize I won’t go back to the way I was. Just wish it could be a quicker process. Each rejection still stings, but I do know she needs me to keep asking.

        1. I totally second the part about men needing to learn how to initiate better. Most of us are horrible at it. We initiate how we would like to be pursued, NOT how our wives would! It has taken my wife years to convince me that “Hey! You wanna?” isn’t the most romantic or effective way to persuade her to drop what she is doing, transition from “accomplish” to “seduce” and be intimate with me.

          To the other point, “no” meaning “no”: I believe if we husbands were more proficient at the initiation phase, “no” truly could mean “no”, because most of our current “no”s would actually be “yes”s if we would take the time to help our wives clear away all the things standing in the way of them transitioning from homemaker/business woman/mother/other in to passionate lover. If we pursued our wives the way they desire to be pursued, we would never have to wonder if their “no” meant “try harder”. Give her everything you have right up front, and if it is still a “no”, at least you have demonstrated your love in a way she can receive (and remember tomorrow night when its a “yes). You really can’t lose in the long run.

        2. Yeah, the answer to “ya wanna?” is never “yeah” around here. In times of our marriage when the wooing was done all the time as part of the day-to-day interactions between us, a “no” was usually avoided.

        3. So true. I wish I had learned early on how incredibly different optimal initiation looks for to my wife, in contrast to how it looks to me.

          I appreciate blogs like this that do a great job of bridging that gap, or at least provide a conversation piece for initiating dialogue so that both spouses can express what initiation should be. I know you encourage wives to make it easy on us husbands, so to speak, by explaining (with uncanny accuracy) the way we are wired; but I still fully believe it is up to us husbands to learn how to truly pursue our wives.

          In following our Christ example, He didn’t wait for us to make it easy for Him; He came in to our world and laid down His life for us, expecting nothing in return. What a world of difference it would make if we husbands could learn to do the same.

          Boy, I got carried away there, sorry for the rant!

        4. I rant all the time! 🙂

          It doesn’t come through here because I am writing to women about what they can do to make change in their marriages, but I think men need to do just as much work. Sometimes I hear from women whose husbands have used my posts to justify their own grumpiness, disinterest in making any effort, and expectations of change. These guys need to be doing a better job of being good husbands and not just waiting around until they think their wives have earned a good marriage through their own efforts. (See? I can rant, too.)

          We all need to be following Christ’s example.

        5. Well, it’s your blog, you’re SUPPOSED to rant! I don’t have ranting rights. But I digress…

          And I guess that is what inspires my rants, I see how much truth you are pouring out to the wives, who are obviously your target audience, and yet there is also another side to the coin that I’m afraid most husbands (myself chief among them) have missed or are still missing. Hopefully comments like mine, and those from other diligent husband followers of your blog will poke a pin hole in the balloons of husbands who beat their wives over the emotional head with your posts saying “See, why can’t you be like that!”. We’ve got way too much of our own work to be doing to have any time to point at our wives!

          End rant, I won’t do it again, I promise.

        6. I sometimes think it might be too much fiction. You know, hero has to “overpower” his woman, who really does want him after all.

          A lot of my wrong expectations did come out of reading too many romance novels, although overpowering isn’t what I was getting at here.

  4. What would you have liked your husband to understand about your needs in the past?

    My avoidance of sex was not about hurting him but about protecting myself. Sex did not make me feel loved. I felt used and very, very unsafe. I didn’t understand he wanted me; I thought I was just a receptacle.

    What would you still like him to understand?

    Saying he likes my pants is not the same as looking into my eyes and telling me I’m beautiful. I NEED to hear the “B” word and hear it often, perhaps 3 times as often as he needs sex.

    What you have done successfully to communicate these needs to him?

    I have told him about these feelings. We have made some progress, but I hear more from others (men in my workplace) than I do from him about my beauty.

    What struggles do you still face?

    When the old feelings about sex resurface, I sometimes struggle to identify the trigger or source.

    How can other readers and I encourage you? How can we pray for you?

    I sense I am afraid to be “all in.” Suppose I tear down all the barriers and have no inhibitions in the bedroom and it still feels disturbing. Then I will have done all I can and will have failed.

    Is sex supposed to make us feel loved and safe? Or do we enjoy sex BECAUSE we already feel loved and safe?

  5. Regarding “no” meaning “no” – when husband says “do you wanna” and wife says “no”, I hear her saying she’s not feeling arousal or desire at the moment. She could elaborate by explaining she WANTS to “wanna” and needs some help getting there.

    This would probably work for me: Hubby brushes hair from my face, looks into my eyes, kisses me tenderly (forehead, nose, lips). “You are so beautiful, I can’t get you out of my mind. I’ve been dreaming of you all day and I long to caress and embrace you. I want to make you feel loved and cherished. I adore you!”

    When he says “do you wanna” or grabs my breast or other parts, that may very well be what he means to communicate, but it is difficult to hear.

    1. Now that my husband and I have a better relationship and understanding of each other, there are times when I’ll respond to a grope with, “Can you try that with words that will make me swoon?” It’s playful now, whereas in the past it would have come across as controlling. When I need help getting to a point of wanting, it’s my responsibility to tell my husband and not his responsibility to guess. It is difficult to hear the intended message sometimes.

      1. I may just be grateful for the groping. If I ask in a playful tone, I’m likely to get a silly response. Once my husband unintentionally caressed my cheek (face) with his hand and I was moved to tears. I told him how much that meant to me and that I would love to be touched that way often. He did it a few times, but in a way that made fun of me. Maybe he felt I was being controlling. At least I did my part by asking.

        1. “is sex supposed to make us feel loved and safe? Or do we enjoy sex BECAUSE we already feel loved and safe?”

          I once read something like this: Men and women go through 2 phases. Catching and keeping. The “bait-and-switch” feelings are completely true.

          Women “put out” much easier and frequently than usual during their catching phase in attempts to get a suitable mate. Once a good candidate is found, they go into keeping mode. After a relationship becomes stable and the woman is in keeping mode, her responses to the male depend on how secure she feels. This is to produce offspring in an environment where they can be raised successfully. If the male cannot make her feel secure, she basically rejects him and goes back into catching mode to find another. Biologically speaking, women are extremely difficult to get pregnant, requiring an astronomically large number of encounters to be successful, so this catch-keep cycle can take place before conception.

          Biologically speaking, for the male you *are* a receptacle. And, simply speaking, if he cannot get unrestricted access to it, he will not reproduce. Hence catching mode for the man is to do what is needed to get that relationship going, then go into keeping mode where he provides for the woman, keeps her safe, and keeps her away from other males. If the woman restricts his access, the man rejects her and goes back to catching mode.

          God created us with the ability and responsibility to overcome this basic biological model, basically overriding it with the requirement to abstain from premarital sex. But those instincts are still there, subtly pulling our strings in the backgound. And they have not changed, while society has. As survival became easier, what women feel is “security” changed as well. Your man does not have to go out and risk his life to kill a wild boar–you get in the car, drive to the supermarket, and buy a pack of bacon. Don’t even *need* the man to bring home the bacon anymore. So, while not excusing anything, please have some mercy on us: Our instincts is to go kill a boar.

          It is not easy for us to understand that what you really need instead of killing a boar is for us to use our softest touch to raise your chin so we can look into your eyes and whisper how much we love you. Because, correct me if I’m wrong, but I have never heard a woman say she “feels loved but not safe” or “safe but not loved.”

  6. Men are taught no means no. If we continue, we risk being charged with rape at worst or a jerk at best.

    I do not understand why wife seems to have the man always have to EARN sex. This proves to him that she does not want him. He has to earn it no different than he has to earn money at work. That alone is rejection to the max.

    1. Just to clarify, by “accept my no to your request for sex,” I do not mean to proceed anyway. I mean to approach me again. That’s all. I will need to clarify that in the post.

      I’ve been trying to think through what was going through my head when I used to expect my husband to earn sex. I guess because sex didn’t mean so much to me, it didn’t occur to me that my husband would feel it as deeply as he did.

      1. I wonder if the idea of earning sex is because, we felt like it cost us something to give it, so shouldn’t it cost him something to get it?

        Sounds very crass, but if you started having sex to earn love (pre-marriage) then it makes sense. Sex was a transaction and that’s what you know.
        Viewing sex in marriage as something that a isn’t earned requires a complete overhaul in thinking. Many of us never had any guidance in how to do that.

        Also, if you happened to not be a believer, or someone that knows what the bible says about sex in marriage who could expect you to know that how you’re thinking about it is wrong?

        There are many broken and hurting people out there and we all need Jesus.


  7. @Hopefully Helpful

    “I have never heard a woman say she “feels loved but not safe” or “safe but not loved.”

    A woman can believe her husband loves her and at the same time NOT trust him to not hurt her. I am speaking of emotional safety here. As far as financial security, that is an area where I feel safe because I am not dependent on my husband. So you are correct that I don’t need him to go out and kill the wild boar. I do need him to address his addiction, manage his health, and keep his eyes and sexual thoughts on me. Those are the elements that help me feel safe emotionally, which carries over into the bedroom.

    “It is not easy for us to understand that what you really need instead of killing a boar is for us to use our softest touch to raise your chin so we can look into your eyes and whisper how much we love you.”

    And that is why I TOLD him how much that kind of caress means to me. I can only voice my true feelings, I cannot control his response.

  8. @IntimacySeeker:

    You are bandying semantics to the point of splitting hairs. Either you feel safe or you do not, and the one human you are supposed to feel ***completely*** safe with is your spouse.
    Men are very keen to sensing when to go into fight mode, and he will sense from you your insecurity, know it is aimed at him, and it will hurt him. How would you feel if you were getting constant “vibes” from him that he does not trust you?
    I constantly told my bride how much I loved her, how beautiful she is, how I feel about her, what I want, etc.
    All she heard was “he wants sex,” “he wants to control me,” “he’s making excuses.”
    I had to change *how* I was saying it.
    He is *your* husband. You know him best than anyone else in the world, and he is more than just a “man,” he is an individual.
    It took me a year of constant study, prayer and emotional pain to find out to truly communicate with my wife. Then eight months of patient, humiliating, self-denying, heart-wrenching pain to let the message sink in. But I got through. Now I am trying to heal my own wounds with very little help from my bride who will still not believe or comprehend how deeply she has (and still does) hurt me unless I drive the point through, which, as patronizing as it may sound, I know she isn’t ready to handle yet.

    Faith in God, humility in prayer, honest examination of your goals are all key.

    1. What you perceive as splitting hairs is a sincere attempt to answer your question about what wives want.

      I have felt the same way as she describes–knowing that my husband loves me but not feeling emotionally safe. There is a real difference for many women. The fact that we *should* feel completely safe with a spouse doesn’t mean that we *do*.

      It sounds to me like IntimacySeeker is already doing what you suggest in your last sentence it’s good advice. We need to work on ourselves and be authentic about our sexual and emotional needs. About three years after I’d been doing that, I began to see my husband start to venture into his own growth. It took time for him to feel safe enough to trust me to let me see that.

  9. Exactly, my point, Chris. What I, a *male*, perceives as splitting hairs.

    It took me a long time to see and learn and burn that into my head. But I want IntimacySeeker to see the male perspective. We do *not* separate them (I will not say cannot, because we can learn to do it).

    Call it “Understanding Cavemen 101”

  10. HopefullyHelpful, it’s great that you are trying to understand, which is more than most would do! Sorry, if that sounds cynical. But it’s great that you are trying!!!

    Here is an example: I know logically that my husband loves me. He is kind to me as a general rule, will change the oil in the car, mow the lawn, doesn’t look at other women, etc – things he sees as “love”. But I don’t “feel” loved necessarily because those things don’t mean much to me when what I genuinely need emotionally is overlooked. Meanwhile, he breaks promises because he just changes his mind and then criticizes me when that makes me upset because those promises were important to me. He has not taken me on a date for years. He laughs when I’m scared about something that he sees as silly. He calls me names and then laughs about it, then calls me over-sensitive when I say it was hurtful. So does he love me? Yes. Do I feel emotionally safe? No. He could buy me flowers every day and I wouldn’t feel emotionally safe. And I know he is not trying to be a jerk intentionally. But when he wants sex, it’s very hard to just tell myself that he loves me and then get on with what he wants.

    1. Anything that diminishes or dismisses my concerns or feelings makes feel emotionally unsafe. I wouldn’t be feeling emotionally safe with what you describe, either–even though I would know in my mind that I am loved.

      1. Thank you for the validation. 🙂 It’s hard in marriage to understand that we need to give the other person what matters to them, even if it makes no sense to us.

        1. So true. My poor wife had to deal with this from me for years. When they talk about “love languages”, they literally mean “forms of communication”. What it took me so long to realize is that I was repeatedly and emphatically telling my wife “I love you!” in (what was to her) a remote dialect of Sanskrit. Sure, I was expressing my love, but if it’s not in a form she can interpret as love, what good am I doing really? I expressed love in the only language I understood: the language I received it in. That didn’t do a whole lot for making my wife FEEL loved. Oh, she knew in her head that I loved her, but let me tell you: once I communicated it in a way that reached her heart, it’s like the world of marriage opened up to us. Poor gal had to put up with much less than she deserved for years though. Your husband will come around, we men are just a bit slow on the uptake 🙂

  11. @Leah:
    Only problem with being understanding: There is a LOT to understand. And your spouse *never* understands how hard it is sometimes to be understanding.
    That is where God comes in. Without his strength I wouldn’t be able to do it.

  12. Michael, you cracked me up with the Sanskrit comment. So true.

    HopefullyHelpful, you’re right! I wish there was a bigger font size for your word “LOT”. 🙂 I don’t believe I will ever understand my spouse, maybe I should say to try to understand what he needs. I think that’s possible (I hope).

  13. ‘No’ is a little easier to accept when you hear ‘yes’ more than once every month or so. As for attempting to change a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’, in my marriage that is perceived as being demeaning, nagging, disrespectful, etc.

    1. In my marriage, too, it was a fine line in many respects. I would have seen continued pursuit as demeaning, nagging, and disrespectful. Oddly, though, it still mattered to me that he wanted me enough that he didn’t want to give up.

      1. That is what makes it so hard for a refused. What we need to realize (and not give up on) is that our spouses (male and female) need to be “pursued”, even while they are denying us the “catch”. Look at it as that old adage “It’s not whether you win or lose; it’s how you play the game.” For Christians, there is a lot of Truth there.

        Sometimes we do this just through stubbornness, but sometimes we realize this and keep trying even in the face of constant kicks in the ****. Because just “giving up” *WILL* be noticed by our spouse and just compound whatever problem there is.

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