When She Has the Stronger Sex Drive; Part One

When She Has the Stronger Sex Drive; Part One

Ladies, if YOU are the one with the stronger sex drive, here’s expert hope and help!

Hi everyone. I’m thrilled to share a series of three important guest articles by nationally-recognized sex therapist Dr. Michael Sytsma, offering hope, encouragement, and direction to wives who have a stronger sexual drive than their husbands – a situation that probably happens in one of five marriages. Because much of my research centers around the more common situation in which the man has the stronger desire for sex, many women with higher libidos have told me they are confused and frustrated by the lack of good information for their situation.  

So I turned to a group I’ve partnered with for many years in researching and writing my books. Building Intimate Marriages is an exceptional resource for online articles and counseling for issues of sexual intimacy, and its founder and director, Dr. Michael Sytsma, is the author of the three thorough and helpful articles in this series. If you are a woman with a stronger sex drive, I hope what you read encourages you to persevere in your pursuit of pleasure and sexual intimacy in your marriage!

— Shaunti

When She Has the Stronger Sex Drive_A series ofarticles for high desire wives-4When She Has the Stronger Sex Drive; Part One.

By Dr. Michael Sytsma

Conflict over sexual desire and frequency is the most common sexual issue causing distress in couples today. The age-old stereotype, of course, is that the husband wants sex all the time but the wife isn’t interested. Increasingly, though, we hear from wives who are trying to figure out what it means when they are the high-desire spouse and the husband doesn’t seem to want it as often. These women want to know what on earth is going on and what to do.

Ladies, while you can’t change your husband, there is a path you can start down that can help remove the conflict related to sexual desire within your marriage – and bring hope for a great mutual connection.

But are you ready for the hard truth?  As with many worthwhile changes, the first stage begins with you.  So the focus of this Part One article is this:

Prepare Yourself Before Addressing it with Him

Conflict over sexual desire is often really difficult for couples to work through, especially since many don’t have the critical tools they need.  Since you must understand each other to make progress, the most important tool is good communication. So….how are you at that?  If you personally can’t talk about finances, in-laws, or parenting without getting defensive, shutting down, or blowing up, it is unlikely you will be able to talk about the emotional topic of sexual intimacy without doing the same. If you need to, first seek some help learning good, solid communication skills.

Next, prepare yourself to address this well. Keep in mind that beautiful flowers grow when we have provided the proper soil, nutrients, and moisture. Similarly, here are three critical steps you can work on to build a great environment for addressing this important topic with your husband.

Step # 1. Embrace Your Feelings, But Monitor Them Too

We are all created with the desire to be pursued and wanted, especially by our spouse. When that doesn’t happen, it is normal to feel wounded. When the one closest to us doesn’t want to connect sexually, it is normal to feel hurt, concerned, and confused. Your fears are energized and begin to conjure up scary reasons he might not want to have sex. This can cause some people to get completely bogged down in anxiety and fear; they can feel just plain stuck, or they can totally freak out.

I tell husbands in these situations that they need to allow their wives to be human. I warn them that if they don’t pursue their wives sexually, and if they turn them down when pursued, it is only normal for the wife to have normal, and typically negative, human reactions. The only way not to have those is to not care. And if she reaches that point — where she no longer cares— the marriage is potentially moving into the terminal illness stage and needs immediate assistance.

That said, though: Wives should not give full license to those negative emotions.  That will not be helpful!  It is human to want to blow up, cave in, or run away when we feel a negative emotion, but allowing such reactions will almost always make the problem worse. When your hurt turns into an attack on your husband, that does not make you more desirable. I have worked with many husbands who, because of how their wives reacted when they didn’t desire to connect sexually, began to avoid sex altogether, even when they did have the desire. That can escalate into a pattern of avoidance that can be difficult to break.

Rather than blowing up, caving in, or running away (even subtly), I encourage wives to center themselves. Recognize the hurt, but manage it well. This allows you to lean into him and do the next steps. This is tough work and can be an exercise in true selflessness.  (I work in a lot of church settings, and in that context we acknowledge this is also true discipleship.)

Part of being centered is acknowledging both who you are – and whether you have your own issues to address.  I have worked with a number of wives who have a particularly high drive –and some who are actual sex addicts. If that might be you, I urge you to meet with a qualified female sexual addictions specialist for an assessment and a plan to address the issue. Now, if you simply have a particularly high level of sexual desire, it is important to own it. It isn’t a bad or wrong thing. It may just be how you are wired, and it will be important to accept that about yourself. Being the high-desire spouse means your husband might not be able to keep up, which brings us to the next recommendation.

Step # 2. Double-Check Your Expectations

It is easy for us to get caught up in cultural stereotypes and expect our spouses to behave that way…. like the idea that men are always craving sex. While this may be true for many men, it is far from true for all men. Additionally, men aren’t always as simple as they are made out to be. The idea that men are testosterone-driven, desire-driven, and need sex frequently, is not typically true — especially as men age.

It is true that testosterone activates the part of the brain that focuses on sexual objects and has sexual thoughts. At a young age, many men must work diligently to discipline this part of the brain. Some men learn the skill quickly and become fairly disciplined in their sexuality. Others learn to repress (shut off) that part of who they are and may have difficulty turning it back on in the appropriate context, such as marital sex.  Or physical issues like aging can cause a decrease in testosterone and result in a drop in the intensity of sexual thoughts.  There are many issues that may result in a husband who doesn’t fit the stereotype of always wanting sex.

While sexual drive is generally quite resilient in most men, we are affected by more than just testosterone. Male sexual drive can be affected by a host of external factors. A husband who is under a lot of stress, not sleeping well, not eating well, not exercising, or is generally out of balance, may totally lose interest in sex. While the male stereotype is, “If I only have a little energy left, I want to go out having sex,” I only see that in jest, or in a small percentage of husbands. To me it makes more sense that God would design our bodies in such a way that, if we are too stressed or out of balance, our bodies would lose interest in sexual relations. If a man is barely keeping his head above water in life, his body might simply move sexual desire off the table completely.

Besides testosterone, men also pursue sex for the rush and the connection. These too can be affected by a host of things that result in him having lower sexual drive. Most importantly: if he is feeling criticized, disrespected, or demeaned by you it might be very difficult for him to want sex. Pressure to perform, a lack of desire to connect, or the loss of the rush for any number of reasons can also lower his sexual interest.

The reality is that many men experience times when they lose interest in sex for any of a variety of reasons. This is normal. If you, as his wife, don’t expect this occasionally, you might allow your hurt, fear, or confusion to reinforce your inaccurate expectations. The result is rarely helpful in raising his desire to be sensual and intimate with you. I’ve worked with many couples going through a season where the husband has low desire.  Often, in the wife’s fear-based anger, she attacks the husband and his manhood (“What’s wrong with you? Real men want sex.”). This attack cuts to the core of the husband’s confidence as a male and often totally disrupts sexual desire in the marriage, turning a temporary situation into a true problem.

Research consistently tells us that in any culture or subculture, husbands have the higher sexual drive in about 80 percent of marriages. While this is a clear majority, it does mean that the wife has the higher sexual drive in one of five couples.  That is not a tiny number.  So realize: It is possible that nothing is wrong with you or your husband, and that you just happen to be one of those couples. Expecting to be one of the 80 percent when you are actually one of the 20 percent can put undue pressure on your spouse, yourself, and your marriage. Again, it is fine if you wish you weren’t one of the 20 percent, but it is equally important to recognize that you might be.

Now, does that mean you’re simply supposed to accept that you have a mismatch and “live with” the challenging and negative feelings that come with it? Not at all. You might need to accept that you are the high desire spouse in your marriage, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it, or that you need to live with hurt, fear, and confusion. We’ll touch on this more in Part Two, but the bottom line is that there is a lot you can do to address the problem – but there’s also a lot you can do to address your feelings.  Take charge of your emotions, so they do not take charge of you.

Another area in which high-desire wives might have unrealistic expectations is in how frequently sex will happen. Some wives simply believe that his desire “should” always be higher than hers– no matter what hers is. The reality, however, is that most individuals (meaning both husbands and wives) report they would like sex more frequently than it happens. So the problem isn’t always the natural desire itself: it’s that other things get in the way of desire, such as fatigue, work, distraction, and fear — to name a few.

His lack of desire might still seem like a problem to you, but before moving forward, try to check your expectations about what his desire should be, and what sex should look like as a couple.

Step #3. Monitor Your “Attributions” (For Example: Don’t Assume You Know Why His Desire is Low)

Typically, when a wife comes into my office concerned about her husband’s lack of sexual desire she tells me she is afraid he is attracted to men, is getting his sexual needs fulfilled elsewhere, or is no longer attracted to her body. We call these explanations of someone else’s behavior attributions. We view their behavior and attribute certain explanations to it. Our attributions can be accurate or inaccurate. Attributions can be positive and can affirm the marriage, or they can be negative and destructive.

My doctoral research focused on desire discrepancy in married couples. My findings showed that the greatest source of pain in couples was not based on who had the higher or lower desire. In essence, the high-desire spouse’s level of desire was not the cause of the distress, and the low level of the low-desire spouse caused only a small amount of marital distress. Further, the greatest predictor of distress related to sexual desire in marriage was not the distance between the high and low spouse’s level of desire. The greatest predictor of distress was in the attribution of the high desire spouse.

Practically, what that means is that if you are the high desire spouse in your marriage, what you think about your husband’s low desire is far more important than his actual desire level, in predicting pain in your marriage. Occasionally I find that the wife’s worst fear about her husband’s low sex drive is true, but typically the reason is far more benign. In their hurt, fear, and confusion, many wives lock in on a negative attribution and don’t take the time to explore what might really be going on. They keep driving down the wrong road, demanding that their husband fix something that is not the core problem.

Thankfully, once you’re mindful of the attribution trap, you can easily avoid it.  Especially as you begin a good process for understanding where he is coming from — which is what we will cover in Part Two.

*

Read Part Two of this three-part series offering hope, encouragement, and direction to wives who have a stronger sexual drive than their husbands.

Dr. Michael Sytsma has been working with couples in a variety of capacities since 1987. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia, a Certified Sex Therapist, and a Certified Sexual Addictions Specialist. He is also an ordained minister with The Wesleyan Church and has served as a staff pastor for churches with attendance from 30 to over 1000. Michael and Karen have been married since 1985 and have two sons, Josiah and Caleb.

33 Comments

  1. John says:

    This must be an urban legend. I have never ever heard of a woman having a stronger sex drive than a man. Must be an incredible anomaly. I would be thrilled if my wife had the slightest interest in sex. Not so much.

    • Laurie says:

      Not an urban legend! I’ve been married for more than 13 years and I have always had a stronger sex drive than my husband. I think women don’t talk about it as much. Some of that has something to do with the fact that many of us with a stronger sex drive assume that there must be something wrong with us or our husbands since they don’t desire us they way “society” implies they should. If you are familiar with the 5 love languages then you’ll know that one of those is touch, which for whatever reason, has always been mine. I respond very strongly to my husband’s touch but it’s not always and actually not often overt, as we have small children.

    • Rachel says:

      Sadly, it’s not as uncommon as most people are led to believe. I have been married to my husband for less than 2 years and have yet to spark any real desire in him. I am 23. I work out every day, I cook, I dress to impress and attempt to initiate every night. The majority of the time my efforts are fruitless.
      We have had many conversations about the issue but they never seem to result in any action. Unfortunately, there is little in the ways of counselling on the situation. Every blog I have read is directed as the wife to respond to her husbands sexual advances. Every rejection chips away a little more every day.

  2. Loretta says:

    This is NOT an urban legend. It is true and I’m so thankful someone is finally addressing the issue! I am one of those 1 in 5 women who desires six more than my husband. I keep thinking something is wrong with me when I attend conferences and hear that men want sex sll the time! My husband rarely initiated it. He responds to me, but I began having all the doubts from above and thought that something was wrong with either me or my husband! I look forward to reading more! It is a problem for us in our marriage( and no, I’m not a sexual addict…. Just desire it more within our marriage with my husband) Thabk you for addressing this!

    Realizing for the 1st time in 12 years of marriage, I’m not alone!

  3. SarahTN says:

    Not true, I have a higher sex drive then my husband.

  4. Amanda says:

    Loretta,

    I could have written your entire post. Right down to th number of years married. I would love to chat and support each other. Look me up on FB Amanda Lloyd in Hawaii.

    Amanda

  5. BoonevillePhil says:

    This has practically described the past 18 years.

  6. DrSytsma says:

    Thanks ladies for your comments. I work with lots of women in your place and hear the mix of emotions. I hope this series gives some hope and encouragement. Thanks to Shaunti for addressing it.

  7. ThankfulWife says:

    Wow thank you so much for writing this. I was thinking that something was wrong with me. I love being with my hubby just thought i was turning into a pest! I feel more prepared to manage it all now with the guidance and a little relieved to know that I am part of the 1 in 5 and there is a biblical and community out there for me too. God bless you.

  8. txgeorgiapeach says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I too am among the few who desire it more than my husband. It wasn’t that way when we first got married-he wanted it just as much as I did-but after I got pregnant with our youngest, it changed and he stopped wanting it all together. We weren’t intimate for 11months! And now it’s only once every 3 months. I can’t wait to read the next 2 parts.

  9. Julie Sibert says:

    Great post! I met Dr Sytsma years ago and think his insights are so needed. Spot on!

    As I blog and speak about sexual intimacy in marriage, I hear from quite a few wives who have a higher sex drive. I have a page on my site full of posts specifically on this. I’ve added this post to that page:

    http://www.intimacyinmarriage.com/resources/wives-who-want-more-sex-and-arent-getting-it/

    Thank you Shaunti for having Dr Sytsma kick off this series!

  10. John says:

    These men should kiss the ground these women walk on. I know this is very antidotal but every male friend I have could only dream of having a wife with a strong sex drive. I only thought they were like mythical creatures. These guys are so very fortunate. Sex in my marriage is earned and is hard, hard work. I have to beg and plead for the one time a month I get it. She is rarely into it but she feels I’ve earned it. My wife controls when and how we have sex every single time, no exceptions. She is always in control.

    • DrSytsma says:

      John – your last 5 sentences described quite well what many of these wives experience and how they feel.

    • Amanda says:

      Wow! John I feel the exact was about sex with my husband. Sometimes it feels like pulling teeth to get him interested. Very different from the first 3 years of our marriage. Once I made a comment about guys wishing they had a wife as interested in sex as I was. He simply laughed it off. Being constantly rejected by your spouse takes a toll after 12 years. We have had many conversations about the issue, but his interest level never changes.

  11. Shel says:

    This is so typical of one of your posts . When the man has the higher drive , you go on and on about why and how his needs should be met because that’s how he is wired . How he needs it to feel affirmed , respected unconditionally , etc . Now that the woman has the higher drive in this story , you are finding reasons why she shouldn’t be accommodated . Why is every post leaning the same way ? What year is this ???

    • DrSytsma says:

      Shel – My apologies. I wrote this article to the women, not to the husbands. When I speak to the husbands in these relationships I challenge them to sort through the issues you will see in part three and step up to the plate in their marriage. Wives, in these relationships, have limited power in challenging her husband to connect in the frequency and manner she desires (I challenge for far more than “accommodating” each other). For women who feel affirmed, respected, and cherished through sex, seeking to connect with her in that way is part of his responsibility.

  12. Loretta says:

    I did not take your articles as a stance that I needed to lower my sex drive as a wife. I took them simply as an explanation of the 1 in 5 women that have a higher sex drive than their husbands and some reasons for why this might be and some possible solutions to work together towards a more fulfilling sex life with both partners.
    For me, it really is a huge blessing to know that I am not alone! I really began thinking that my husband was getting his needs met elsewhere. We’ve had many conversations about it. He’s always assured me this was not the case and I don’t think it is. After reading part 3 of the series, my husband is one who works 65-70 hours a week and then comes home to help me with the 3 kids and then often continues to work from home. He has even shared this with me in that he just doesn’t think of it and is so stressed from work. He is also hyper focused ( which is great when he does think of sex with me!) so is thinking about work or how to provide for us. I believed him, but didn’t realize there were actually other men out there too like this! You always only hear of the men who can think about or perform sex at the drop of a hat! Just knowing that my husband and I are normal is 1/2 the battle! Sure, we need to discuss and work on things, but I don’t feel like I am so undesirable anymore….it will be easier for me to really take to heart now when my husband says he does enjoy Sex with me and does find me attractive etc. it was hard for me to believe him before reading this! Again thank you Dr. Systma and to Shaunti for addressing this!

  13. roxanne says:

    Wish it weren’t true but women can have a higher drive. In our first 5 years I felt I was denied the level of activity I wanted but after 20 years I have settled that this is the way it is. it is OK to have 3 or 4 times a year. We don’t suffer for it we have a great marriage and love between us. Sex isn’t everything when there are so many wonderful things to respect and love in the other person.

  14. Rkoonce says:

    I have had a higher sex drive since I became sexual active at 14. I think the only time my sex drive turned into nothing was when I was pregnant with my son, but now it seems like my husband doesn’t want to touch me and is a chore for him :/ he is active duty military so I know his job is stressful but he can go weeks without holding my hand,touching my hair and even kissing me and he will be sitting across from me.he has a nonexistent sex drive and he is only 21 🙁

  15. Tiffany says:

    Great post! This helps me realize a few of things.
    1. I am not alone
    2. There isn’t anything wrong with me for having a higher drive than my husband.
    3. There isn’t anything wrong with my husband for having a lower drive.
    4. Grace wins every time!

    Good stuff!!

  16. Amy says:

    Wonderfully written article! I am blessed to be in a marriage where my husband and I have (for the most part) equal sex drives. I counsel many women whose sex drives are stronger than their husbands though and they struggle with how to deal with it. It’s amazing sometimes the unnecessary shame they feel because they think they aren’t “wired” right.

  17. Shelly says:

    I too have a high sex drive! My high sex drive has gotten higher and higher as I have gotten older. My husband is very understanding of it and I am also understanding that he has a lower sex drive than me but if I want it or if he wants it we give it to each other! No we don’t feel like it’s a job! We love that intimacy between each other and I have had to be understanding and selfless in the times that I want it and he’s super tired or stressed out! Sometimes we have to put aside our own needs for the needs of our spouse!

  18. Lovetobemrs says:

    How does masturbation fit into this mix? I would prefer sex 2-3 times per week instead of 2-3 times per month. My husband dedicates a lot of time to his hobbies (cycling 4-6 days a week for 3 hours at a time) which leaves me feeling unimportant and undesirable. He tells me I can’t compare one to the other. Then occasionally I find out he has self gratified which enforces those feelings even more. 13 years of this….it becomes difficult not to seek out attention elsewhere simply for reaffirmation that his lack of interest is not because I’m not attractive.

  19. Roxyy says:

    I wish I would have read this article a few months ago. My husband of 25 years has always had low sex drive compare to me, as we grew older we have had our low and high points and have had many conversations about it, I feel like nothing ever changes. I feel more frustrated with the years and neglected by his little need of having intimacy with me. I can relate to “Lovetobemrs” where at some points of my life I looked elsewhere to find reaffirmation towards myself. But I still find it difficult for a man not to need sex at least once a month in my case it’s every three months. Am I asking for too much? Am I been insensitive? I just don’t know anymore.

  20. Kj says:

    Lovetobemrs same here. Very awful for the self-esteem. I rarely turn my husband down so imagine my hurt and shock when I found him masturbating while I was sitting out in the couch and he didn’t even attempt it with me.

  21. Charlie's Angel says:

    My husband has a low sex drive. But then again he also has thyroid problems. His doc says that can cause low sex drive. He’s 50, I’m 36. I have a MUCH higher sex drive than him. He tells me he’s still attracted to me but doesn’t like me always asking for sex. That kinda threw me off, and yes it’s frustrating because I’m a sexual being. Basically, I have to wait for him to initiate any sex. Sometimes I have to wait weeks, sometimes months…

    • DrSytsma says:

      Jackie/Kate/Farrah (whichever of Charlie’s Angels – or at 36 I guess you would be one of the new ones)

      Sorry for where you are in marriage. Yes, thyroid issues can dampen sexual drive, but he can still desire to because it’s good for the marriage and healthy. (Besides the fact that he agreed to it at the altar.) I would encourage you to keep talking about this as a couple. It’s fine for him to ask you not to “always” ask for sex, but for a married couple, it is perfectly ok for you to ask. Work on finding an asking frequency he will agree to. For example: What would he like as a goal? It is common for low desire men to state their “goal” is to have sex about once a week (though it often doesn’t play out that frequent). If that’s what he picks, ask if you can initiate if it goes past a week without sex. Or – simply see if you can ask every week or 10 days. The problem with just waiting for him is it’s easy for resentment to grow. Not a good plan and it doesn’t seem to be working for you. So…back to the coffee table to see if you can agree on a plan that might work better.

  22. Ruth says:

    John, I’m not sure if it would be helpful for you and your wife, but you may want to check out the Authentic Intimacy website by Linda Dillow and Dr Juli Slattery. They were featured on focus on the family and their concepts have been a huge help for me as a wife.

  23. Shalisa says:

    Rachel, you are not alone girlfriend!! Your story hits home with me because I have only been married 2.5 years and am in a similar boat. I eat healthy, workout frequently, am very active and fit, and yet my husband’s sex drive has always been lower than mine. I have had many frustrated conversations with him about this but in hindsight know I hurt him by the way I shared with him my hurts and frustrations. Instead of loving him while I shared my heart, my words were cutting and degrading to him as a man. He is absolutely wonderful at loving me…just not in pursuing me in the sexual ways I desired and thought he should as a husband. (I will admit, I had countless EXPECTATIONS about how men should be in marriage from TV, movies, and even friends and family!)
    Unfortunately my husband had deep wounds from his past of insecurities in himself. My words only resurfaced those insecurities and since he is an avoider when dealing with conflict, and a pleaser, he never shared with me how much the way I shared my disappointment was hurting him.
    We are in a much better place now, and with the help of an incredible counselor, and by the Grace of our wonderful Savior, our relationship has been growing in beautiful ways!!
    I’m not a sex addict either, I just love the intimate connection I get to have with my best friend, my husband. And I love the pursuit from him, that’s why it was so difficult to explain to him how I wanted him to pursue me sexually for me feel desired and beautiful.
    It’s crazy what can surface in just 2 years of marriage, but that’s what marriage is all about. Learning each other, how to love each other in ways that each other desires, and becoming more like Jesus through it all. That’s what marriage is all about…glorifying God! And when we learn how to communicate in all areas, including sexually, marriage can be incredible again, even after years of hurt and confusion!!
    All you ladies are so awesome!! Thank you for being so open and transparent, it is so wonderful knowing we aren’t alone!! Blessings to each of you!! And thank you Dr. SYTSMA for taking time and investing so much into writing these wonderful articles!!

  24. casandra says:

    I also had the same problem as a woman had strong sex libido more than my husband.I loved my husband very much but i wished i could have two husbands !!
    After all man cannot cope with a woman’s needs ….when he is done that is end of story…go to sleep….is the same as eating if one likes the dish and wants seconds….well….maybe next month???? sad situation….hahah

  25. NMmom says:

    I have always had the higher sex drive, too. After years of being rejected 90% of the times I’ve tried to initiate sex, I’ve given up. It’s been over 2 years now. Yes, over 2 years. I am to the point where I just no longer desire it and I’m not sure I’m even want to have sex with him anymore. I’m probably in that “terminal illness” phase. We’ve been married almost 10 years. Pray for us, please.

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