Your wife does desire you. It’s just that her kind of desire looks and works very differently than yours.
A Men Only Monday post
If you are like many husbands, you probably frequently feel undesirable to your wife, especially when she doesn’t seem interested in sex. In most cases, however, that actually isn’t true.
Her Desire Is Different Than Yours
Dr. Douglas Rosenau, in his book Celebration of Sex, explains that what we often attribute to lack of desire, actually comes from differences in the nature of desire as typically found in men and women.
Sometimes the problem is not inhibited or blocked desire, but actually understanding various types of desire with their gender differences. Assertive desire is more typical of male desire, while receptive desire is more typical of female desire. Often couples believe both partners should crave and seek out sex with their partner (assertive desire). An interesting observation on assertive desire is that the partner may have already been thinking about sex and often comes to the lovemaking ready to go. This type of desire initiates and seeks out sexual adventure and connection with more of a physical drive.
Attraction, Desire, and Arousal
For you, as a guy, attraction equals desire. If you have one, you have the other. For the 75-80% of wives who have a lower desire level than their husbands, however, it isn’t necessarily so.
Your wife may admire you, respect you, appreciate you as a husband and father and even think you are hot. All these give her reasons to be attracted to you, but they don’t necessarily trigger physical desire. For most women, despite what you see in the movies, attraction does not equate to desire – at least not the kind of assertive desire you typically feel. Receptive desire doesn’t work that way. Rosenau says,
Many wives are relieved to find out that being open to sex, enjoying the closeness it can bring, and getting involved after initiation (receptive desire) is more typical of women. Sexual thoughts and arousal may come to the wife [while] engaging in lovemaking, with an internal response of ‘I wasn’t thinking of sex tonight but, wow, this was a good idea.’
It Doesn’t Mean What You Think
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the lack of expressed desire from your wife means that you just aren’t attractive enough. In For Men Only, author Jeff Feldhahn, puts it this way:
I know we guys think that if we were desirable enough, sex would be spontaneous because your wife couldn’t keep her hands off you. No such luck. If she is like most women and wired for receptive desire, even with the wonderful dinner date you planned, the flowers you brought home, or your thoughtfulness in doing the dishes so she could get to bed earlier – all that by itself doesn’t mean she’s thinking about sex.
Maybe you saw the Mr. Clean ad during Super Bowl LI yesterday.
If you can’t see the video, here is the YouTube link.
Despite the message from the advertiser, “You gotta love a guy who cleans,” it’s just not true that your wife will jump you if you clean something. It’s not even true that if you are as buff as the cartoon figure in the ad that you’ll instantly trigger a desire for sex in your wife. The actual truth in the message of the ad, as my wife had to point out to me because I’m a guy, is that a woman with receptive desire will respond to a guy who is flirty, playful and confident enough to be a little forward without being crass.
How Can You Help Her?
In a survey they did for the For Men Only book, Feldhahn found that 82% of wives would prefer to have a sex drive that matched their husband’s drive. So in most cases, your wife wants to want to. But unlike how it is for you, there are dozens of interfering forces, any one of which can derail her desire for sex. Things like too much unfinished laundry, her mother’s health, the kids’ lunches needing to be packed, her boss getting mad at her that day, her menstrual cycle, or just being tired will put the brakes on desire.
So as an assertive desire husband of a receptive desire wife, your job is to figure out what will help get her foot off the brake and on the accelerator of sexual interest and desire. Ask, “What can I do that would help get you in a more sexual frame of mind?” Or maybe, “How can I make it easier for you and me to enjoy a sexual connection later?”
In asking such questions, make sure you convey that your motivation isn’t simply to get more sex, though that may be a byproduct. Your motivation is a stronger relationship built on the deep and unique kind of intimacy found in your sexual connection with each other.
It’s important to understand that your wife’s sexual desire works very differently than your own. Just because her desire is different than yours, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Work together to learn the intricacies of her sexual wiring, and discover together how to foster a deeper sexual connection. For the sake of your marriage, it’s well worth the effort!
7 thoughts on “She Really Does Desire You”
I’m not a guy, I’m the wife. I think my husband and I are reversed. I’ve always had a high desire for him, and he has a very low desire for me. This has caused me to struggle with feelings of inadequacy, ugliness, and even repulsiveness for many years. I’ve never had the experience of knowing what it feels like to be desired. It still makes me feel ugly and unworthy.
However, although my husband doesn’t find me attractive enough or desireable enough to initiate sex, he will often participate willingly if I initiate sex. I always figured he was just “giving in” out of a sense of duty and/or pity.
For many years, before I knew any better, I just initiated sex. Like, every time. Then I started reading blogs about marriage, and to my horror, I realized that in most marriages the husband does most of the initiating. In fact, many blogs suggest wives initiate once in a while as a “treat” for their husbands. I decided to back off, and eventually stopped initiating altogether. Our sex life slowed almost to a crawl. Sadly, he didn’t seem to mind. In fact, I imagine he was relieved that I was no longer pursuing him so often.
Only very recently did I learn about the whole “assertive vs receptive desire” thing. Although it still makes me feel like a loser to know that we appear to be “backwards”, at least it provides some kind of explanation. I imagine if my husband found me more sexually attractive, we’d be more like normal couples. I would love it if for just one day I could know what it’s like to be sexually desired by my husband. I get so upset when I hear women complain about how often their husbands pursue them. I would love to have that “problem.”
It’s interesting – in many ways he is everything a good husband should be. He’s a hard worker, he calls me from work, he tells me he loves me multiple times a day. He’s just not that interested in me sexually. He says that isn’t so, that he is interested – but his actions (or lack thereof) prove otherwise. And so I find myself wondering if he does indeed have receptive desire. It still stinks, because it makes me feel like much, much, much less of a woman and much less deserving of his love.
Sorry for chiming in on a “man only” post, but this was an interesting, albeit painful, topic.
B – I’m really glad you chimed in.
I understand your pain, but I want you and other women in your situation to know that somewhere around 1 in 4 women find themselves in a similar “higher-drive” situation. Although you might be in the minority, you are not at all alone.
The popular stereotype of high-drive, sex-crazy husbands is just that: a stereotype. Sadly it leaves too many wives feeling inadequate, unattractive and undesired.
I want to encourge you that what I convey to husbands in this post applies equally to higher-drive wives. Don’t give up! Help your husband understand that sexual intimacy is a critical dimension of your relationship. It’s a unique bond that only the two of you can share.
Lower-drive husbands, due in part to the stereotypes I mentioned, can feel shame over their “receptive desire” wiring. I suggest that the two of you have a conversation about your differences in sexual wiring and talk about how you can come together on this. It will take some vulnerability on both your parts, but it is well worth getting real with each other and finding a plan forward that works for you both.
Don’t lose heart! I encourage you to do some reading on the topic of higher-drive wives. There are lots of good resources out there.
I have assertive desire (I am the wife), but I also have receptive desire…and oddly enough, my sexual pleasure skyrockets when my receptive desire is utilized. There is just something so sheet-clenching sexy about my husband being assertive and making love to me.
This was great! I knew it, I just knew there was a difference in this regard, now I finally have terminology for it!
“The actual truth in the message of the ad, as my wife had to point out to me because I’m a guy, is that a woman with receptive desire will respond to a guy who is flirty, playful and confident enough to be a little forward without being crass.” THANK YOU … It’s NOT the housework, but his rugged aggressive confidence!!
(kind of a hot commercial 😉 )
Thanks Robyn, I’m glad you found this helpful.My wife will appreciate you confirming her analysis of the commercial.
I appreciate the insights bit consider mr skeptical that there are that many wives who long to have assertive desire. My own experience is that is a fig leaf for laziness. I bought into it for awhile. No more.
Goldtop – Thanks for sharing your perspective. I agree that there are definitely cases where a wife can use the “I’m not wired that way” as an excuse not to make an effort in the sexual relationship, as seems to be true in your case. Often times, though not in every case, a wife ceasing to put anything into the sexual relationship can come from issues in other dimensions of the relationship (i.e. unmet needs, past trauma, emotional distance, etc.).
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