If you are married, the founders of Family Life, Dennis and Barbara Rainey, have a command of God for you to consider: “In the Song of Solomon, God enters the bridal chamber, where the newlyweds lay entwined in each other’s arms. He raises his hand over them and blesses them. His benediction urges them to feast on the joy of their sexual union. ‘Eat friends: drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.’” (Simply Romantic Nights.) God wants husbands and wives to drink deeply and frequently of the refreshing waters of their partner’s sexuality. But most of us, whose marriages have lasted beyond the honeymoon stage, have found that sustaining romantic and sexual passion has been a lot harder than we ever thought it would be, especially because our wives are NOT wired the way WE are. This episode looks for biblical clues to understanding how and why a woman’s view of romance and sex is so different than her husband’s.
Christian counselors Les and Leslie Parrott have discovered that both the quantity and quality of sex in marriage are central to a good overall relationship. “In one survey on the importance of sex for marriage, the results were compelling: Couples who rated their sex lives positively also rated their marriages positively, and those who rated their sex lives negatively, rated their marriages negatively as well. In other words, if coupes report that sex is unimportant to them, it is very likely that they view their entire marriage as unhappy. (Eight Little Things That Might Make a Big Difference in Your Marriage.)
Another Christian counselor, Dr. Kevin Leman, encourages couples,
“A fulfilling sex life is one of the most powerful marital glues a couple can have…The kind of sex I’m talking about takes a little work and a lot of forethought—but the dividends it pays are more than worth the effort. If your husband is sexually fulfilled, he’ll do anything for you. He’ll take a bullet, he’ll race a train, he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure you’re okay. And, men, if your wife knows that you view sex as a special gift to give her; if you can make her feel things she’s never felt before; and if you will learn to become a selfless, sensitive, and competent lover she’ll purr like a kitten and melt in your arms” (Sheet Music).
Last week, we noted from Genesis 2 that marriage is the joining of two LIVES—therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the joining of two BODIES—and they shall become one flesh. In the next verse, God discloses his purpose for marriage: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Marriage is given as the one safe arena where husband and wife are naked, body and soul—laid bare and vulnerable to each other. God wants us to proactively pursue loving intimacy of heart through conversation and loving intimacy of body through sex. We know that the Bible condemns joining bodies without also joining lives in marriage (I Thes 4:3). But it also condemns joining lives in marriage without joining bodies in sex (1 Cor 7:3). Both are foundational for marriage.
Non-biblical influences have caused Christians at times to devalue sex. One woman put it, “Because I want to be godly, I can’t allow myself to be too earthly—and sex is definitely earthly. I allow myself to experience a little pleasure—but only so much. If I got really carried away it would be too fleshly” (Dillow and Pintus, Intimate Issues). Sadly, this woman’s attitude towards getting carried away is exactly the opposite of God’s! God says to husbands, Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. He commands godly men to regularly get drunk with their wives on sexual pleasure! In fact, fulfilling the sexual desires of your marriage partner is so important to God that he commands couples, The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another…so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This text makes it every married Christian’s responsibility to make sure his or her partner’s sexual desires do not go unfulfilled.
Tragically, the church and Christian counselors have largely neglected this teaching. We observed last week that 83% of wives say their husbands don’t know how to meet their need for emotional intimacy. In a different study, the same percentage—83% of husbands said that their wives didn’t understand their need for sexual intimacy (Hart, The Sexual Man). Many wives build resentment towards their husbands because “men only one want thing: sex.” Equally resentful, men want to shout, “Yes! That’s the way I’m made by God; why do you condemn me for that? I’m trying to stay pure and direct all that desire towards you as God commands me to.” Through our struggle, my wife and I have discovered that there is great power to overcome resentment and stop demanding that our mate’s sex drive be like ours—in discovering and celebrating how different God designed our spouses’ sexuality to be.
DESIGNED TO BE DIFFERENT
Just as last week, we went back to the creation account of Adam and Eve to understand Eve’s need for heart intimacy, we return to this account to see how their difference in sexual desire flow from the differences in their design.
A. Adam is created for the ground, from the ground, given a name that means ground, tasked to work the ground, and his sin brings a curse upon the ground.
- Adam’s innate orientation is toward the physical world.
- So, why should it surprise us that Adam’s sexual desire is triggered through physical sight. Sight of the naked, female, physical body does it; no relationship with the person inside the body is necessary (which our wives find horrifying). “The sheer biological power of sexual desire in a male is largely focused on the physical body of an attractive female.” (James Dobson, What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women).
- His sexual appetite comes from his physical body: Dobson continues:
When sexual response is blocked, males experience an accumulating physiological pressure, which demands release. The prostate gland, a small sac containing semen, gradually fills to capacity; as it reaches this maximum level, hormonal influences sensitize the man to all sexual stimuli. Whereas a particular woman would otherwise be of little interest to him, he is now eroticized in her presence (or in front of naked women on screens) when he is in a state of deprivation…She should recognize that his desire is dictated by definite biochemical forces within his body, and if she loves him, she will seek to satisfy those needs as meaningfully and as regularly as possible.
- For men physical, sexual release in orgasm opens men’s hearts and floods their soul with feelings of love for their wives. Everyone knows that wives need to feel in love in order to want to make love. But fewer realize that a man needs to make love in order to feel in love. A man’s physical orgasm is the pathway to him to feeling again how precious she is to him.
B. Now let’s consider how different is God’s designed of Eve and how much sense it makes that her sexual desires are so different from Adam’s. Eve is NOT made from the physical ground but from a PERSON, Adam. She is designed for relationship. She is made for the man, given a name that means “out of the man,” assigned to assist the man, and her sin brings a curse upon her relationship with the man.
- Eve is created with an innate orientation towards relationships.
- It shouldn’t surprise us that being designed for a relationship with her husband, her desire for sex grows out of the closeness of her relationship with him. Christian counselor Barbara Rossberg says to men, “Men, your sex drive is connected to your eyes. You become aroused visually. Your wife’s sex drive is connected to her heart; she is aroused only after she feels emotional closeness and harmony” (The Five Love Needs of Men and Women.)
- Women’s sexual desires arise from being relationally attracted to the PERSON. “Their desire is usually focused on a particular individual whom they respect or admire. A woman is stimulated by the romantic aura that surrounds her man, and by his character and personality. She yields to the man who appeals to her emotionally as well as physically” (Dobson).
- A woman’s sex drive may be just as strong as her husbands. But she won’t FEEL the hunger for sex with a man until their relationship makes her FEEL warm affection, closeness, and care. The condition for her to feel her hunger for sex is that her relationship with him is making her feel closeness and love. One woman explains, “To a woman sex is not an event—its an environment, it’s not an act, it’s an atmosphere.” She needs to feel in love before her sex drive can surface causing her to want to make love.
So, the idea that masculine sexual hunger flows from his physical body, but feminine sexual hunger flows from how she feels about her relationship with the man is perfectly consistent with what God tells us about their creation in Genesis 2. This difference is also reinforced by looking at the love poem God has given to us in Song of Solomon, where we see this same pattern. Solomon’s sexual words to the Shulamite are almost all about the beauty of her physical body, which he longs for. Thirty-one verses express his attraction to the beauty of her physical body. Two verses express longing to enjoy a relationship with her. In contrast, in accord with her feminine design, the Shulamite devotes twenty-eight verses to expressing her longing to enjoy a relationship with her man and sixteen speak of her attraction to his physical body. He dreamed of her BODY. She dreamed mostly of a RELATIONSHIP with him and half as much of enjoying his BODY.
THE CHALLENGE TO EVERY CHRISTIAN HUSBAND AND WIFE
Misconnecting over our God-designed sexual differences can be extremely painful because sex is so closely related to our self-esteem. Truth be told, a man’s unrelenting sex drive is a real inconvenience to wives. It feels to a wife like her husband just wants to use her body to scratch his itch. More than one wife has been accused of not loving her husband because her desire for sex wasn’t keeping up with his. That is unfair. She’s not made to be able to turn on her sex drive at any moment. But from his point of view, his biological build-up of semen is not his fault; it is the way God designed him to drive him back into the arms of his wife where his need for heart intimacy (which he doesn't even know he has) is met as she surrounds him with her warm receptivity and love. Allowing sexual stimulation to always take him into his wife’s arms instead of to a screen or another woman is a great virtue in today’s eroticized world. Our designed differences can cause a lot of frustration, anger, and pain. Here are a few ways that Shanon Ethridge, author of Every Woman’s Battle points out.
- Men crave sexual intimacy. Women crave emotional intimacy.
- Men give love to get sex. Women give sex to get love.
- Men can disconnect body from mind, heart, and soul. Women’s body, mind, heart, and soul intricately connected.
- Men are stimulated by what they see, women don’t feel sexual hunger until they feel cared for and close to their husband.
- Men have a recurrent semen build up cycle. Women have a recurring need for conversation with their husbands.
- Men are vulnerable to unfaithfulness in the absence of sex. Women are vulnerable to unfaithfulness is the absence of emotional connection.
Why not consider inviting your wife to read the first part of this blog (or listen to the first part of the podcast) and then make a covenant together: We will try to respect the differences in our mate’s sexual and romantic desires because we value God’s perfect design of each other and schedule time for both conversation and lovemaking because pursuing both is God’s design to erase aloneness and experience loving intimacy.
ROMANCE: THE CONDITION WHICH ENABLES A WIFE TO FEEL SEXUAL DESIRE
One therapist writes, “Woman love great sex as much as men. The difference between a woman and a man is that she doesn’t feel her strong desire for sex until her need for love is first satisfied” (John Gray, Mars & Venus in the Bedroom). She needs first to feel loved, cherished, and desired. “When her heart is opened in this way her sexual center begins to open, and she feels a longing equal to or greater than what any man feels.” (Ibid). Men are easily sexually aroused by sight. But a wife doesn’t feel her sexual desire unless certain conditions are first met.
A. Avoid three conditions that bury her sexual desire for her husband.
- Not feeling close to him. When I return home to my wife after a week away, my body wants my wife’s body as soon as I walk in the door, especially since I’ve been fighting the temptation to look at something I shouldn’t. But I’ve learned that she needs an evening or day to reconnect her relationship with me emotionally before her sexual center wants to open to me.
- The pressures of her job, her family, and her home. Unlike men, whose desire for sex is physiologically produced and therefore always present, her desire for sex gets lost beneath the load of her responsibilities. It’s not that she doesn’t love her husband as much as he loves her. It’s that her sexual desire for him gets lost. When a woman feels temporarily relieved of her pressure to care for others, she can begin to feel her sexual desires. That is why one wife said to her husband, "Could we not make love with that full clothes basket in the room. That just makes me keep thinking about the laundry I need to do." Our wives can’t feel their sexual desires for us when their hearts are busy focusing on their other responsibilities.
- A tired body. James Dobson writes, “another sexual inhibitor, which husbands should understand, is fatigue. Physical exhaustion plays a significant part in women’s ability or inability to respond sexually. When she is tired, sex feels like an obligation rather than a pleasure" (Ibid). Although it is an obligation—spouses are not to deprive their mates of sexual fulfillment—it is wiser for us to pursue lovemaking when her body is rested. When she feels physically refreshed, she is much more likely to feel sexual desire for her husband instead of feeling like she has one more obligation to check off her "to do" list.
B. Create ROMANCE, which allows her to feel her sexual desire.
- Romancing her means finding out how her day went and listening for what is on her heart. Sharing her heart precedes her wanting to share her body. The Shulamite in Song of Songs shows her sexual desires intertwined with her friendship longing, His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend (5:16).
- Romancing her means lifting the weight of her responsibilities from her shoulders. Only when she stops feeling that weight will she be able to feel her sexual desire for you. That is why romantic weekends are so powerful. That is why on date night YOU take care of the details. YOU feed the kids. YOU line up the baby-sitter and if you're not going out but sex is planned for the night you say, “Honey, I’ll put the kids down. Why don’t you relax in a warm bubble bath?”
- Romancing her means making her feel cared for. Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus put it bluntly, “When she offers to help you organize your tool bench, it counts as an interruption. When you offer to vacuum the house, it counts as foreplay” (Simply Romantic Nights).
- Romancing her means treating her like a princess. One female said, “As long as he shows me that I'm special--no matter where we are or what we're doing--that's romance. (Sana and Miller, How to Romance the Woman You Love). Pamper her. Treat her like royalty!
- Romancing her means cherishing her. A few years ago, while speaking to a Mothers of Preschoolers group, I asked the wives, “What makes you feel most loved by your husband?” Their answer was, “feeling cherished.” What that translates into for us is making her feel treasured, highly prized, deeply appreciated, precious.
- Romancing her means helping her get into a romantic mood. Help her relax physically with a foot or back massage. Bring on the candles, flowers, little notes, and soft music. Also, although spontaneous sex is fine, it often helps wives “get in the mood” when they can mentally prepare for sex ahead of time. A woman knows her most powerful sex organ is her mind. (The above insights are derived from Gen 2, Eph 5, Prov 31, Song of Solomon 4-5 and alot of the writings of Christian counselors.)
C. Develop the skills of a good lover to increase her sexual desire (Song of Solomon 4-5).
- When it comes to arousal, men are microwaves, women are crockpots.
- Always touch her heart before you touch her body.
- Warm her heart through affectionate non-sexual hugs and kisses to her non-erogenous zones.
- Make her feel beautiful and desirable with words. I love your smile. I love the way you laugh. You look beautiful tonight. I love the smell of your hair. I love the touch of your smooth skin. You still have what it takes to light my fire.
- Gradually touch her erogenous zones, circling back to non-erogenous zones, then back to her more sexual parts. Listen for clues about what she likes.
- As her sexual engine gets revved up, she will want a rhythmic stroke.
- Wait until she invites you to enter her
After studying the feminine design from which a wife’s sexual desire for her husband flows, it makes great sense that feeling romance in her relationship with her husband is the condition her feminine nature requires in order to feel her sexual desires come alive. But, as every woman will tell you, romance means much more to a wife than getting her sexual engine running. In fact, after studying their survey results for writing the book, What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, James Dobson concluded: “If I had the power to communicate only one message to every family in America, I would specify the importance of romantic love to every aspect of feminine existence. It provides the foundation for a woman’s self-esteem, her joy in living, and her sexual responsiveness.”
For Further Prayerful Thought:
- What would you say to persuade a Christian brother and sister that married couples having a great sexual relationship is important to God?
- What are some of the ways that feminine sexual desire seems consistent with what God has revealed to us in Genesis 2 about how he has created woman?
- How would you use the fact that God created Adam to be ground focused and Eve to be relationally focused to explain why difference in sexual desires can create resentment in marriage?
- What stood out to you about how to romance a woman?