by Chris Ownby
My Spouse Wants More Sex Than I Do was first published here on FirstThings.org
I probably drive a little faster than my wife is sometimes comfortable with (and she’s not afraid to let me know). On the other hand, she is more cautious on the road (and I don’t dare say anything from the passenger seat).
My wife is definitely a beach person. I’m much more of a woods-and-lake kind of person.
I binge on books. My wife binges on Netflix.
Differences are often what makes marriage interesting. But there’s one difference that often shows up in marriages that causes all kinds of awkwardness, quarrels, and misunderstandings.
That’s right: pizza toppings.
Just kidding. The answer is sex. And more specifically, sex drives. More often than not, one person wants it more than the other. And many couples struggle to find an answer to this marital difference that seems to be as old as time.
What do you do when your sex drives aren’t in sync?
Marriage therapist and author Dr. Pat Love (yes, that’s her real name!) provides some insight into this question in her book Hot Monogamy.
She introduces the concept of people who are either “sexy body” or “sexy brain” kind of people. Chances are, if there is a difference in sex drive in a relationship, then one person is more of a “sexy brain” while the other is more of a “sexy body.”
“Sexy Body”/”Sexy Brain”
“Sexy body” people have a body that’s always ready for sex. They typically desire sex on a daily basis. Even when stressed out, they can easily be aroused, and sex even makes them feel better when in a state of stress or anxiety. “Sexy body” folks can even desire sex with their spouse in the middle of being upset with them.
This is all a complete mystery to “sexy brain” people. And it’s easy to label those “sexy body” people as horn-dogs. But before we begin throwing labels around, it’s important to remember that, for “sexy body” people, sex is a way they feel the closest to their spouse. It’s how they connect on both a physical and emotional level. It’s a major pathway through which they experience love.
“Sexy brain” people, obviously, are a bit different. It’s difficult for them to be sexually aroused if they are feeling stress, anxiety, or fatigue. And for many people, this equals the majority of the time. And if they are upset at their spouse, well, chances are nil that anyone is going to experience any kind of hanky-panky.
“Sexy body” often people don’t understand this at all, and quickly jump to the conclusion that their spouse is prudish, frigid, or just plain abnormal. But not so fast. “Sexy brain” people simply have to feel a sense of connection, security, and calm in order to be more open to physical intimacy. Emotional engagement with their spouse is a prerequisite for desiring sex.
This does not mean that “sexy brain” people don’t enjoy sex. In fact, they do. However, clearing the to-do list, getting enough rest, and feeling an emotional attachment to their spouse makes sex easier to desire and more enjoyable. “Sexy brain” people are still, well, sexy.
What “sexy body” people need to remember
- Understand that your “sexy brain” spouse is perfectly normal in how they think about sex; it’s just different from you, and differences aren’t bad.
- Be reasonable with your expectations. Let’s be real: you could be up for sex every time your spouse changes their socks. But this simply isn’t how your spouse operates, nor should they be pressured to operate that way. (As a matter of fact, the more “sexy brain” people are pressured to have sex, the less they want to have sex. The pressure equals stress, and stress equals no sex.)
- Learn about your spouse’s preconditions for being in the mood. How can you connect with your spouse emotionally? How can you help alleviate stress for them? And can you do these things in a way that’s sincere and not because you want to have more sex?
What “sexy brain” people need to remember
- You have to make time for sex. Physical intimacy is an important part of the marriage relationship. Therefore, taking care of yourself means not allowing stress to become an overwhelming factor in your life. You maybe even ask for help in order to alleviate some stress and be sure you get sufficient rest. This helps in making sex more enjoyable for you.
- Understand that if you consistently say no to your “sexy body” spouse, it causes them to wonder if they are unattractive to you. A “sexy body” person needs to know that their spouse still thinks they’re hot stuff. And when you show them they are (at least to you), then it makes a huge difference in their esteem and confidence. Not to mention, it makes the connection between you as a couple stronger.
- Ask yourself, what is it your partner does that is a real turn-on? Sometimes the stress and fatigue you feel blur the attraction you actually have for your spouse. They are blockades to getting turned on. Asking this question can bring what it is about your spouse that gets your blood pumping back into clarity.
Finally, think about this: the needs of “sexy brain” and “sexy body” people actually can work together to become more in sync with each other’s sex drives.
Here’s what I mean. When a “sexy brain” person lets their “sexy body” spouse know they are desirable, attractive, and sexy (either by telling them or showing them by being more open to having sex), they might find the pressure to have sex is toned down.
And when the “sexy body” person is sincerely intentional about connecting on an emotional level frequently, they may find that their “sexy brain” mate is more easily aroused and able enjoy sex more.
Wins all around.
The key is to talk.
Communicate about your differences. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Seek to understand what makes them a “sexy brain” or a “sexy body” kind of person. Become a student of your spouse. You just may find that your differences bring you closer together, and you can begin to work on other marital questions like what toppings you’re going to order on your pizza.
First Things First, based in Chattanooga, TN is dedicated to helping others create happy, healthy, thriving relationships. Their website, www.FirstThings.org, contains expert resources that make your relationships grow stronger.
For those of you who want to do a little more reading on this topic, and particularly for those of you who like to Geek out with research and statistical analysis, check out the article, "What Do Couples Do When One Wants Sex and the Other Doesn't" at UncoveringIntimacy.com. This author conducted a survey of couples regarding frequency of sex, which desired it more, how sexually generous and adventuresome each partner was, and a lot more. Then he broke down the results in a blog post found here:
by Ben Jones
Don’t Kick the Dog was first published on GreatFamilies.net on July 15, 2020.
Have you ever heard the story about the man who went to work, got yelled at by his boss for something he didn't do, made a mistake that caused him to lose an important account, took a phone call from his wife in which she told him the dishwasher was broken and would cost a thousand dollars to replace, and spent an hour in traffic which was backed up for no apparent reason?
Do you know what this man did once he got home? ... He kicked the dog. That’s right, poor Bowser got it right in the ribs because his owner had a terrible, terrible day!
You may not be a dog-kicker, but I’ll bet you have some common objects or people who experience the release of your stress at the end of a rough day. This is called displacement in the field of psychology. Displacement is the expression of our negative feelings to a less-threatening person or thing.
How often have I, as the father of four children, snapped at one (or all!) of my children for just being a silly kid because I have an internal mess I am dealing with? I have often not taken care of my child’s heart, in large part because I have not taken care of mine. Or, better said, I have not let my heart be taken care of.
What can be done? Being an adult, being a parent, being a spouse is HARD! Nurturing children well in the midst of this struggle is impossible … in our own strength. Someone may say, “I need to lean more on the Lord and His strength.” As a fellow believer I would say, “Yes, of course!” But as a therapist I would also ask, “What does it mean to lean on the Lord?”
I heard it said recently that what emotions do for us physiologically is prepare our bodies for action. If our bodies do not take the action suggested by the emotion, it gets stored in our body as stress. What did the dog-kicking man feel when he was accused of something he did not do? Likely anger. What did he feel when he made a mistake? Likely regret and shame. What did he feel when sitting in traffic? Likely helplessness and frustration.
Conscious awareness that he felt these things would have helped him consider appropriate actions. He could have confronted his boss. He could have made a phone call to the account he lost, owning his mistake and taking steps to remedy the situation. These actions would surely have helped relieve some of the stress and may have made his dog-kick a little softer.
Often, however, we do not have an opportunity to take tangible steps to remedy a stress-inducing problem (see the traffic example above). We find ourselves powerless. In these moments it is very helpful to simply name what we are feeling. In my work as a therapist it truly does bring some relief to clients to just name what they are experiencing and express it.
This is even MORE effective at lowering stress when we can name it with another person, especially when that person is able to empathize with you and join you in the hardship. If you are forced to live in a dungeon, it is awfully nice to have a friend in the dungeon with you!
Often, however, we are unable to phone a friend. This is where the real, actual, living Heavenly Father meets us in our real, actual, living struggle. Psalm 46 tells us “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Do we believe that? Do we know that he is very present with us, especially when we are struggling?
What did Peter mean when he wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7)? It requires a measure of humility to say to the living God, “This is too much for me to handle, I am overwhelmed, anxious, and angry, please help me.”
Once again, if we are able to actually name what we are feeling to another person, it will help us with our internal stress. Our Heavenly Father delights to hear from us, like any good father would his children!
May we all learn to cast our burdens on people who are safe and welcoming, as well as on our loving Heavenly Father. I don’t want to ever again harm my children, my spouse, or even my poor dog because I have kept all my stress to myself. And when I inevitably neglect to share my burdens well and hurt someone I love, I hope I cast that burden on the Lord as well!
Ben Jones is the director of the Barnabas Center – Triad and is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. His wife Amy, an amazing woman, stays home with their four children ages 9, 7, 5, and 2. Ben can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
How to Back Your Empathy with Action was first posted here on SYMBIS.com on June 24, 2020. Visit SYMBIS.com for other great resources for your marriage.
Here is a great article by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott to help us understand and express empathy in our marriages. But you can also replace references to 'your partner' and 'our spouses' with the word, 'others.' The insights shared below can help all of us connect more deeply and care more intentionally with those around us who need to be heard and understood. See what you think ...
How to Back Your Empathy with Action
Empathy is more than just taking an internal walk in your partner’s shoes. Instead, real empathy requires action. Without action, empathy won’t go very far in your relationship. As James D. Parker said, “Empathy alone matters little if we fail to act.”
Empathy is transformative. It helps us see, hear, and understand one another like nothing else. And, when properly cultivated, it inspires action. We must back our empathy with action if we want to show our spouses how much we truly love them.
So how can we back our empathy with action? Let’s dive in.
1. SET ASIDE YOUR AGENDA.
We have to set aside our agenda in order to cultivate true empathy. That means listening to understand your spouse, rather than listening to reply. It also means setting aside your natural desire to get the upper hand in a debate or a fight.
When we’re driven by agenda, we’re unable to fully hear what our spouse has to say. Their true heart is lost in our desire to prove our point, and we’re unable to truly see them. And if we’re blinded by our own wants and desires, we won’t really be able to show them love or take a willing walk in their shoes.
If you really want to back your empathy with action, then setting aside your agenda is the essential first step to doing so. Simply noticing your spouse’s emotions or feeling with your spouse is internal to you. If your agenda drives the interaction, then that’s where your empathy comes to a screeching halt.
Once you’re able to truly act in your spouse’s best interest, that’s when your empathy becomes externalized and leads to positive change for both of you.
2. BE RECEPTIVE AND PERCEPTIVE TO YOUR SPOUSE’S NEEDS AND EXPERIENCES.
Now that your agenda isn’t standing between your empathy and your action, it’s time to make things happen. Here are some of the habits you can put into practice in order to back your empathy with action:
• Listen to understand your spouse
• Visualize yourself in their shoes
• Notice your spouse’s actions, reactions, and responses
• Work to better anticipate their needs
• Try to fulfill those needs before he or she needs to ask you
• Feel emotions with your spouse
• When you know what your spouse needs, act to help them right away
Action is the first step we can take in demonstrating empathy. Without action, empathy becomes a tool we use to manipulate our spouse. As long as we internalize our empathy and only use it when it benefits us, it can’t help our spouse in any way. The key is turning empathy into outward action.
Trading places with your spouse truly begins to pay off when you act with empathy. Like Bertha von Suttner said, “After the verb ‘to love,’ ‘to help’ is the most beautiful verb in the world.”
3. SHOW YOUR SPOUSE HOW MUCH YOU REALLY CARE.
Care is the ultimate demonstration of empathy. We like to say that care can easily go unnoticed until it’s gone from a relationship. Once it’s gone, though–and once spouses have stopped caring about one another–the relationship is headed for destruction.
It’s impossible to have a functional marriage, let alone a happy one, without care. We show our care by being present for our spouses, acting in empathy for them, and letting them know they make a positive difference in our lives.
Care is directly tied to empathy, so let your spouse know how much you care for them through your words and the things you do for them. Even better, work together to demonstrate mutual care for one another. The intentional action of acting on your empathy will pay dividends in your relationship in both the short and long terms.
Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott created the SYMBIS Assessment to help engaged and newly married couples prepare for lifelong love and marriage. The SYMBIS+ Assessment was then developed for use with couples who have been married several years. These relationship assessments are used by many of the marriage mentor couples in our area. Click here for a list of churches in our area with trained mentor couples and the types of mentoring available.