As already said here, there are three important ingredients to a successful marriage:
- connection of the flesh
- connection of the souls
- connection of the spirit
Today I’ll be looking at the importance of PHYSICAL CONNECTION.
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
I will not discuss the blessings of sex, but rather look at its importance (how and why men and women bond differently); discuss why couples grow tired of each other sexually, and finally suggest ways of guarding against just that.
The past couple of years, especially since the feminist movement and the focus on women’s rights, have been an incredible disservice to marriages, as they have caused women (and wives in particular) to be selfish and self-focused. It is now all about “What women want and what women need” disregarding what their husbands want and need. Women have also always subconsciously believed to be the ones who know it all and are naturally good at relationships; so, should there be a problem, it is most probably the man’s fault. He needs to learn. He needs to change. But what women are really saying is that he should learn to relate to them the way they themselves relate to him. This, naturally, does not work, because men are naturally different! They are differently built and have very different needs. Just as wives want to be loved and supported by their husbands, husbands want to be respected and accepted by their wives.
Now, how does all this relate to physical intimacy?
This is beautifully explained in the article titled Sex & Intimacy, which can be found here. I’ll share a few excerpts:
Understanding His Sexuality
According to a poll of 150 Christian married men, 83 percent stated that they don’t believe that women understand a man’s sex drive. Husbands feel alone with their secrets and desires; they are at a loss about how to communicate this to their wives. For many men, their attempts to bridge the gap have been met with disinterest or even disdain.
From the female perspective, male sexuality is often viewed as a sordid desire. It seems to represent the worst of masculinity — passion without love, drive without self-control, sensuality without sensitivity. I’ve talked to more than one wife who would rather pretend that her husband’s sexuality just didn’t exist. At best, women tend to compartmentalize their husbands’ sexuality.
Sex Is A Physical Need
One of the biggest differences between you and your husband is the fact that he experiences sex as a legitimate physical need. Just as your body tells you when you’re hungry, thirsty, or tired, your husband’s body tells him when he needs a sexual release. Your husband’s sexual desire is impacted by what’s around him but is determined by biological factors, specifically the presence of testosterone in his body.
Immediately after sexual release, men are physically satisfied. But as their sexual clock ticks on, sexual thoughts become more prevalent, and they are more easily aroused. The physical need for sexual release intensifies as sperm builds in the testicles. The body continues to produce and store sperm, although sperm production fluctuates based on levels of testosterone and the frequency of sexual release.
As women, we don’t experience the physiological drive for sex in this same way. There is no buildup that demands release. Instead, hormonal fluctuations drive our sexuality. Female sexual hormones are largely determined by two factors: the female reproductive cycle (menstruation, ovulation, pregnancy, menopause, etc.) and a part of the brain called the hypothalamus.
A woman’s sexual desire is far more connected to emotions than her husband’s sex drive is. A man can experience sexual arousal apart from any emotional attachment. He can look at a naked woman and feel intense physical desire for her, while at the same time he may be completely devoted to and in love with his wife. For most women, this just doesn’t compute. A fundamental difference in the wiring of male and female sexuality is that men can separate sex from a relationship while for a woman, the two are usually intertwined.
Sex Is An Emotional Need
Shaunti Feldhahn’s best-selling book For Women Only underscores the fact that sex has a deep emotional impact on men. Feldhahn interviewed several hundred married men about different aspects of marriage. Not surprisingly, sex dominated their expressed needs and desires. Perhaps the unexpected twist to Feldhahn’s findings was the men’s feelings behind their sexuality. The vast majority of men indicated that being sexually fulfilled in marriage significantly impacted their confidence and their masculinity. Seventy-seven percent agreed with this statement: “If my wife was an interested and motivated sex partner, it would give me a greater sense of well-being and satisfaction with life.”
A man’s ability to perform sexually, to arouse and please his wife, is central to his confidence as a man. The impact ripples into practically every other area of his life.
Think of the word impotent. Although we use it as a term to describe the inability of a man to achieve an erection, the broader meaning speaks volumes. Impotent literally means “unable to take effective action; helpless or powerless.” A man who feels like a failure sexually, feels impotent — helpless and powerless — in all areas of his life.
A man can have sex with his wife every day of the week and still feel emotionally rejected by her. Having his wife just go through the motions isn’t enough. Again, he longs to know that he is pleasing her and that she is sexually interested in him.
Sex Is A Relational Need
Just like sexual drive, the warm feelings of connectedness, trust, and bonding that we associate with good relationships are also impacted by brain chemistry. Oxytocin is often called the “cuddle hormone.” The presence of this hormone causes people to feel bonded to each other and experience relationships as emotionally gratifying and positive. Both men and women have oxytocin in their bodies. However, the presence of estrogen in a woman’s body makes the impact of oxytocin much more powerful. This partly explains why women are far more likely than men to seek emotional intimacy in their relationships.
In women, levels of oxytocin skyrocket during labor and breastfeeding, encouraging the maternal behaviors and bonding so powerfully experienced in new moms. The only time levels of oxytocin significantly increase in men is right after orgasm. (Women’s oxytocin levels spike after orgasm as well.)
Have you ever noticed that your husband seems to treat you differently after sex? He’s more attentive (perhaps after a brief nap), more affectionate, and more appreciative? This isn’t just your imagination. He is biologically wired to bond with you after sex. He literally feels emotionally closer to you after orgasm — and that’s not just a line!
The lack of regular sex is a significant barrier to emotional connectedness and intimacy for men. Likewise, sex is perhaps the most powerful force bonding a man emotionally and relationally to his wife. Beyond just the act of having sex, sharing and embracing your husband’s sexuality is perhaps the most powerful way to build the intimacy you so desire in your marriage. How can you truly be connected with him if you ignore or minimize the one aspect of his life that dominates him physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally?
Your Husbands Sex Drive Is God’s Gift To You
We often look at a man’s sexual desire as a weak link or an Achilles’ heel. As with Samson or David, the promise of fleeting pleasure has the power to strip him of all that he values in life. However, what can be a source of evil can also be a force of great good. Just as twisted women are able to pull men into sin, virtuous women can use the influence of sex to call men to morality, love, and godliness.
No amount of nagging, pleading, talking, or counseling can grab your husband’s attention the way his sexual desire for you can. Just look at advertising. No approach is used more frequently or more successfully than sex appeal. Why aren’t you using it in your marriage?
To The Wife (to-be)
Although there are quite a few women with an increased sex drive (due to numerous factors which will not be discussed now), I think it fair to say that a man’s libido is generally (much) higher than that of his female counterpart. And while a woman normally craves a strong emotional connection with her husband, she fails to understand the importance of sexual intimacy that helps build the emotional one she so much desires. She does not see that fulfilling sex makes her husband feel loved and desired.
I have read in a handful of books and papers (you all know I read a lot) that stepping out of the house, equals stepping into a (boxing)ring for a man. He steps into the world, warding off evils, defending his name and honour, submitting to other heads, providing for his own, “being a man”.. and he does that all by himself. “It’s a lonely world out there” but he does it anyway. Now, when he comes home, he often even feels very isolated from his wife, but when he makes love, there is one person in this world you can be completely vulnerable with, can feel totally accepted and non-judged. It is a solace that goes very deep into the man’s heart.
It follows then (and makes perfect sense) how a man would see his wife’s refusal to be sexually intimate, as a personal rejection of him. As a natural result of this feeling of rejection, his confidence- both within and without the home- decreases. That men with a healthy sex-life are naturally more happy and confident, is no rumour. It is all about feeling good about himself, it is about his Ego, his manliness. If he does not feel “the man” at home, he will struggle with his persona outside the home too. Just as him ignoring your emotional needs (yes, I being general here) ministers all sorts of horrible and unloving things to you, so does your refusal to build sexual intimacy scream “rejection” to him.
I am in no wise supporting infidelity, but should a man continuously feel rejected, he may eventually decide to go looking for “acceptance and admiration” outside.
Concluding this section, I’d like to make reference to a question a friend of mine once asked me,
Why do women act like they are doing us a favour when having sex with us? Like they’re not gaining anything from it.?
This is a true saying and gives rise to a number of considerations. I will address them here:
To The Husband (to-be)
Understand that your wife’s sexual needs are directly related to how she views and feels about the relationship. While men are able to typically compartmentalize things and issues, for women they are always related, inter-twined, affecting one another. If she is unhappy at work, stressed with the children, unable to finish tasks on time, or feels misunderstood, this will affect her desire to have sex! While you might be able to shut your eyes to it and have sex anyway, she will dislike your unaffected and nonchalant attitude towards her struggles. She might eventually be willing to have sex, yet make it quite obvious she does not desire it.
Sexual intimacy does not result in this kind of coitus, as- like every other emotional need- it is only enjoyed when both participants respond to is enthusiastically.
There are ways of increasing a woman’s libido too. A common alternative has been testosterone complements, as these hormones are very prevalent in men and only scarcely in women, and are chiefly responsible for the difference between male and female sexual desire. This, however, does not go to the core of the matter!
A sure way of getting her to be more desirous of physical intimacy, is to mind the little things! She can’t make it to the store after picking up the kids from school? Offer to get the groceries. She has complained about a particular thing not working properly around the house? Take the initiative and sort it out! She has kindly asked you to consider a particular thing that might not necessarily be of great importance to you but is reasonable enough and does not lay a burden on you financially, be willing to do it! Be involved, show interests in the mundane, be supportive, give her a listening ear, real undivided attention.. and she will desire you physically. Once her emotional needs are met and she does not feel taken for granted, she will respond to (or even initiate) physical closeness.
How To Improve on Sexual Intimacy
- Make it a priority!
Many women- and most especially working mothers- have come to view sex as “just another chore”. They do not find much pleasure in it, as their bodies are worn out, the to-do-list incomplete, and their desires dampened. Understanding the importance of physical intimacy and his needs especially, be determined to see it as a way of bonding, rather than a ritual that needs to be completed. What exactly could be more important than sharing your body with the one you call yours?
Men, understand that romance for a woman does not start in the bedroom. It’s in the little things you do. The way you look at her, hug her, kiss her, tell her you love her, check up on her during the day, leave little gifts or notes here and there, consider her feelings and desires, go out of your way to do something kind, listen attentively when she speaks. All these things minister to her emotional needs. Having her emotional needs met is a safe way of getting your needs met too. Women enjoy sex, they just need to know their (more important needs) are important to him too.
- Make an effort!
It’s amazing how meticulous women are about their appearances while single, but couldn’t care less about them once married. It usually happens gradually, unconsciously. Women need to remember men are sight-oriented. What he sees turns him on. Make an effort to look good. Dress up! Get some nice lingerie. Learn the art of seduction! Remember, he lives in a society bombarded by sexual messages. He sees women dress provocatively, seductively all the time and most probably works very hard on exercising self-control. Having an attractive wife who doesn’t let herself go can be a tremendous encouragement to him. Don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for him.Men, understand that although a woman might not be as sight-oriented as you are, she will still appreciate a man who looks well after his health and himself. But even more than that will she appreciate you noticing the little effort she has put in looking good for you. Is it a new hair-cut, or a new dress? Her make-up or her lingerie? Noticed it? Comment on it! She’ll be sure to appreciate. Woman wants to look and feel good for herself, yes; but she will derive much more pleasure from knowing she looks good to her man too. It’s in the little things. They might not be obviously sexual to you, but they make a difference to her. Be a bit more appreciative, and you’ll get much more- while begging less.
- Be open-minded and creative!
Not all techniques work or all couples, but find what works for you.. and add to it! We might have our favourite foods, but we don’t want to eat them on a daily basis. It gets boring. Same goes for sexual intercourse. Be creative, think outside the box. Explore your partner, find out what makes him/her tick. Discuss preferences. Be open and honest, not critical. Give each other time, support, and encouragement. Communicate openly and build trust, it will be all the more satisfying. Be a student to your partner’s sexual desires. Agree to not engage in any activity one is particularly averse to. Respect your partners sexual limits, or find out why these exist all-together. Ask God to change you if necessary.
There are many resources out there that can help you improve in that regard. Doing the Kegel exercise can- no, will– make a whole lot of difference, as can placing a pillow here and there. I’ll obviously not be too graphic or detailed here, but be creative and explore anyway! There is no shame involved.
In conclusion, let us remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians, saying
The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time.. (1 Cor. 7: 4-5)
Marriage is a union in which we choose to put our partner’s needs before ours, knowing and trusting they will do the same. It is both a duty and responsibility a married couple owes to each other. Read more on this here.
It might not be easy, but it is that simple.
Love will make it work.