I wish my spouse wanted sex as much as I do

February 26, 2018

At some point in the counseling process I talk sex with just about every couple I counsel. Sex tends to be one of those hot topics that prompts couples to initially seek counseling and often they come ready to talk about it – or the lack of it – in their relationship. But even when they don’t, it’s still something we usually cover. Why? Because I believe sex is that important in a marriage.

Most of the time, both spouses will agree that sex is important. Beyond that however, agreement is often hard to come by. More times than not I hear something along the lines of “I wish my spouse wanted sex as often as I do.” Or, “I wish my spouse would initiate sex more”. Or even “I want my spouse to desire me.”

Here’s the thing, it’s rare (as in really rare) that I find a couple who shares the same level of sexual desire. Instead, what I find to be most typical, is one spouse has a significantly higher sex drive than the other, which causes frustration and resentment for both of them. Though not always the case, more often than not, it’s the husband with the higher drive. I’ll talk more about the exceptions to this generalization in another post, but for now, I hope you’ll hear me out.

Let’s Talk Hollywood

The media has significantly influenced our sexual expectations. Specifically, they have “masculinized” sex. What does this mean? It means Hollywood portrays sex according to how a male views and experiences sex, and they give women these same masculine characteristics. It’s generally a testosterone-heavy experience. The woman is visually stimulated and shown to be the aggressive pursuer. And, the sex is always a spontaneous desire. How real-world is that?

Not very.

The truth is men and women are wired differently. This includes how we are wired for sex. Most of us know this and yet we don’t always know what it means from a sexual desire standpoint.

Let’s Talk Biology

For women, it is important to understand men are driven primarily by one hormone – testosterone. And it’s always on! A woman’s hormonal chemistry is very different and often absent of – at least initially – that high arousal or what Milan and Kay Yerkovich, authors of How We Love, refer to as the “Panting Factor”.

A study by Rosemary Basson, MB, FRCP showed that whereas men have a spontaneous desire for sex, women have a more responsive desire. A woman’s desire for sex usually comes much later in the sexual experience than a man’s. Her reaction is in response to her partner’s sexual desire rather than a spontaneous ignition of her own libido. She may want the emotional and physical closeness with her partner, but lacks the sexual arousal and desire a man has at even the first thought of sex.

''Whereas men have a spontaneous desire for sex, women have a more responsive desire.'' Click To Tweet

To compare the sexual experience by gender to a NASCAR race, men are generally at the starting line with the car in gear, ready to put the pedal to the metal. Women, on the other hand, may start the race with their car in neutral and take a few laps to get up to full speed. Not very Hollywood, is it?

Let’s Talk Real-World

So does this mean most women never want sex? No. Don’t enjoy sex? Of course not. Does it mean a husband should never expect his wife to initiate? Again, of course not.

What it does mean however, is that a couple who strives to understand their partner’s pre-wiring is better able to carry realistic expectations into the bedroom and therefore enjoy the encounters more.

If both spouses can accept that a woman’s desire is often responsive, I’ve found it to be a bedroom game-changer that can relieve both the disappointment and pressure one or both spouses may feel related to their sexual relationship.

Negotiating Sex

What I teach my clients is to negotiate their sex life, to talk about sex openly and honestly. Yes, I said negotiate. No, it doesn’t look like what you see in the movies folks, but it works. What doesn’t work is non-verbal guessing games where both parties assume what the other person does or does not want. Guessing just breeds disappointment and unrealistic expectations.

With good negotiation, a wife can be open to a sexual encounter because she loves her partner and desires the emotional closeness it brings. She can also initiate a sexual experience because she understands her husband’s desire and knows that after a few minutes her desire will likely match his, and together they can enjoy the encounter.

A husband can recognize that his wife may not initially be feeling the passion and desire that he is feeling, but can negotiate a time when she is open to an encounter and the emotional closeness it can bring.

A Mutually Satisfying Sex Life

A mutually satisfying sex life is possible even when partners have vastly different levels of desire. It takes work though. And if you are a couple that is not used to communicating openly about difficult and sensitive topics, chances are negotiating sex is going to be a real struggle. That’s where we can help you get started and actually teach you how to do it. Whether that’s in person or over the phone, you can start down the path now by scheduling a free 15-minute Discovery Call or simply calling us.

You may also like:

Why Your Spouse Won’t Do Couples Therapy

Why Your Spouse Won’t Do Couples Therapy

Why Your Spouse Won’t Do Couples Therapy January 12, 2021Are you wishing your spouse would go to therapy with you? If so, you aren’t alone! I saw a statistic recently that said 90% of couples that will divorce, will do so without having ever talked to a marriage...


  1. Joconna

    The key phrase being ” the husband CAN”….but sadly, he WON’T.

    • Kim Bowen

      Hi Joconna, it does take both parties to full realize the sexual potential of the relationship. If the relationship is important to you though, I encourage you to do your part and speak up boldly and respectfully, asking for what you need in the relationship. We can help you with this. Warmly, Kim

  2. Jack

    Random thoughts on a good piece.

    Sex was a huge stumbling block for a long time in our 35+ year marriage, which was littered with a lot of other issues (such as very low levels of differentiation [being solid individuals ourselves and accepting the other as a separate individual] and very high levels of conflict avoidance).

    I am more motivated to seek sex than my wife, but having run right up to the cliff on this and a few other issues, I have realized that I need to back up and really take a hard look inside and stop blaming my wife or expecting that if she would change herself our marriage would suddenly be magical.

    I’ve had to ask what sex means to me – why am I seeking sex? The answers were not great. An awful lot had to do with shoring up my image of myself rather than being a solid person who was seeking to receive, and to give, pleasure.

    I’ve also had to ask what scripts am I running on sex? Where did the expectation that I was responsible for her arousal and pleasure come from? Where did the belief that it wasn’t sex, or at least was bad sex, if we didn’t both have an orgasm? Did I really need to consider myself a failure if she wasn’t hot, wet and screaming? Was it her fault if I wasn’t? What would things be like if we just get skin to skin as long-term committed friends and lovers and see what happens, without being attached to some script?

    Hard stuff because there’s so much baggage on this wagon.

    • Kim Bowen

      Hi Jack, Yours is truly one of the most thoughtful, insightful comments I’ve ever had posted to one of my blogs. Clearly you’ve done a lot of learning and soul searching during your years of marriage. Differentiation work is something near and dear to my heart and such an important piece of the work the other therapists and I do here at The Marriage Place. It’s so easy for each us to get to focused on our spouse and overlook our own part in the relationship. It IS hard stuff. But it can be rewarding hard stuff. Thank you for taking the time to share this with me. Please keep in touch. Warmly, Kim

  3. Dan

    I am a former sex addict, it was online porn for me for years in secret and created a separation from my wife whom I love and desire, but could not be relied on to perform all the way through. It hurt us both and it hurt me to see her in pain and I couldn’t be honest or stop it. It eventually came to a head where I admitted what I had been doing in private and we separated for several months. We have since reunited however I am still struggling to become erect and also to maintain an erection at least half the time we try to be intimate. It is causing trust issues between us. I have stopped masturbating and stopped watching porn and fantasizing. But with these issues still being persistent I am not believed as having changed. I now feel scared of sex, my performance in particular. I love my wife, I think she’s sexy and all I want out of sex is to be with her and for us both to feel good together. I dislike not being believed, as well as not being able to perform. She feels like we’re going backwards in our relationship. I’m not sure what to do. I’m not sure how to stop being self negative and to stop feeling insecure about sex. I also can’t afford a therapist often enough to be effective in our relationship. Please help.

    • Kim Bowen

      Hi, Dan, I just sent you an email and would be happy to get you connected with one of my marriage coaches. Warmly, Kim

  4. Robyn

    hi thankyou for your information, my husband and i have been seperated for 9 months, not by my choice, we had been married for 32 years, im dying on the inside, and really not coping well. one of the issues was lack of sex, he blames me as he does with everything, he work very hard truck driving, sleeps through the day, and works at night. comes weeekends he cant go to bed early as his body clock has been trained that way because of his work hours, however, when i tried to initiate sex and say come to bed, he would decline and sit up watching tv until 12midnight or later, i go to bed earlier as i get really exhausted with autoimmune diseases and cant work. i feel its a no win situation. and yet he complains there was never any sex, i wanted it just as much as him, but other things were more important.

    • Kim Bowen

      Hi Robyn. Conflicting schedules is something that I hear pretty frequently when couples talk about not being able to connect in the bedroom. My answer to that always centers around being intentional and proactive. Discuss with each other your want & need for sex and then schedule it. Plan ahead! It may not look like the movies to schedule it like you would a dentist appointment, but trust me! There can be something sexy and exciting about seeing it calendared and getting to anticipate it. I hope you and your husband can work things out too. If you’d like to talk to a coach, I hope you’ll call my office and set up a free consultation. Kim

  5. Janet

    This post is massively uninformed. It is common for wives to want sex more than their husbands. When this happens, not only do men feel inadequate and women unwanted, both feel shame because their situation isn’t even on the radar of therapists like The Marriage Place. Wow.

    • Kim Bowen

      Hey Janet, thanks for taking the time to share your feedback. You are correct – there are absolutely relationships where it’s the female that wants sex more frequently. In fact, studies have shown it to be about 30% of the time – with 70% of the time it being the man in the relationship. I chose to address the higher percentage situation in this first post because, quite frankly, it’s the scenario I see most frequently in my practice as well. But it doesn’t mean that it’s ALWAYS the male…. When the woman is the partner with the higher sex drive, frequently – but not always – it’s a woman with a vacillator love style married to an avoider man (referencing Milan & Kay Yerkovich’s work here) and the withholding of sex becomes a control move for the man. Porn addiction or use (current or prior), Low T, and other factors also are common components of the scenario you reference. All of these are very much on my radar and as I mentioned in this blog, I look forward to writing a future blog on this very topic. Warmly, Kim