On-Demand Sex Won’t Meet Your Husband’s Needs


In conservative Christianity’s ongoing campaign to convince women they’re primarily sex objects, we’ve all heard that a husband needs on-demand sex, and it’s a Christian wife’s duty to give it to him — even when she doesn’t feel like it.

Someone gave me this advice when I was a newlywed. It rubbed me the wrong way then, when I knew nothing about married sex, and it rubs me the wrong way now, as I know a little bit more than nothing about married sex.

It threw more guilt and pressure on the already overwhelming amount of baggage I was carrying in regards to sex. The times I felt chastened enough to follow this advice ended in an unsexy mess of tears and anxiety.

I could write a whole post on the damage this teaching does and/or can do to women, but I also oppose this teaching because on-demand sex that ignores the wife’s feelings isn’t even the best way to meet a husband’s deepest needs.

The premise of on-demand sexual gratification for hubby is two-fold: (1) men need sex (at least in a way women do not), and (2) there are no real, legitimate reasons for a wife to decline satisfying his needs.

In all the time I spent in purity culture, the focus of sex was intimacy, the physical uniting of two souls into one flesh. That’s why we didn’t sleep around. Sex wasn’t just a biological function. It helped facilitate something deeper, something spiritual, even.

But then you read the advice for married ladies, and that beautiful vision of intimacy turns out to be a crass hoax. In reality, sex is about keeping your husband’s animal drives at bay so he doesn’t get frustrated and cheat on you.

It’s put more delicately than that, of course — something about sex being the primary way men experience intimacy, etc. — but the practical advice boils down to about as much:

Wear make-up every day so that you’re just as pretty as all the other women he meets out in the world.

Keep up your figure — you wouldn’t want his eyes wandering to thinner women.

Never say no to sex, or he’ll start looking elsewhere.

We can debate whether sex is all men’s or some men’s primary way of experiencing intimacy. It’s fine if it is. And even if it isn’t, sex should be a priority in marriage.

But this way of talking about sex and men’s needs ignores the ultimate need of everybody, male or female, husband or wife — we all need intimacy, oneness, and connection with another.

Sex should be a priority in marriage because intimacy is the goal.

Since intimacy is the goal, there is more to it than a man releasing his sexual appetite whenever he wants to at the wife’s expense.

When sex becomes the main goal, other aspects of intimacy will suffer (like emotional connection with a wife who doesn’t want sex that night — for starters). When sex is the main goal, it is completely possible for a husband to end up treating his wife like a sex object. When sex is the main goal, it is completely possible for the husband to be oblivious to what’s going on in his wife’s heart and mind, wrecking their marital intimacy.

When sex is the main goal, what a wife feels, wants, or needs mean nothing as long as she pleasures her husband.

But when intimacy is the main goal, what a wife feels, wants, or needs is just as critical as what her husband feels, wants, and needs. The process of understanding and reconciling those wants and needs when they’re at odds brings about a measure of intimacy needed for a healthy marriage to function.

Newsflash: there are real, legitimate reasons why a woman might not want to have sex. Always. Whether she says no one night or whether she says no frequently, there is a reason.

The problem with the marriage is not that she won’t have sex but why she won’t have sex.*

Even on a purely pragmatic level, the best sex happens when a wife wants to have sex, enjoys having sex, and knows how have good sex. Doesn’t that sound a million times better than on-demand sex with a wife grinning through her gritted teeth? Why doesn’t it ever occur to these older married women pushing this idea of on-demand sex to tell women to pay attention to and work through their reservations, rather than stuffing it all down night after night?

I think it never occurs to them, because it’s almost assumed that women don’t really want sex — at least not as much as men do. (Lies! And tragedy.) And I think they assume that women don’t really want sex, because they don’t understand how women’s sexuality often works.

Emily Nagoski, in her book Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, discusses how misleading the idea of the “sex drive” is. Men (stereo)typically are ready for sex at the drop of a hat (or likely before), so we label their sex drive as “high.” Women (stereo)typically aren’t rarin’ to go for sex 24/7, so we label their sex drive as “low.” Because men’s high sex drive was used almost a baseline for desirable sexuality, women’s sexuality was misunderstood or outright dismissed as unimportant.

Research now explodes the idea of a “sex drive.” Instead, every individual has a sexual accelerator and a sexual brake that work in tandem to produce individuals with traditionally understood “high” or “low” sex drive tendencies. 

Some people have extremely sensitive accelerators — all kinds of things turn them on with little encouragement necessary — while some people have more stubborn accelerators that need lots of coaxing to get started. Some people have extremely sensitive brakes — almost anything can screech their sexual inclinations to a halt — while some people’s brakes hardly ever engage.

As Nagoski emphasizes, absolutely nothing is wrong with any combination of sensitivities or lack thereof. They’re all “normal.” If you’re dissatisfied with your sex life, however, there are ways to work with your natural proclivities — to ease up on the brakes and tap those accelerators. And that’s through changing the context.

This is the key to great, frequent sex — not trying to force your sexuality to happen on call, but to understand what sort of context you need for your combination of brake and accelerator.

A brake can be anything — stress, housework, trauma, lack of emotional intimacy, exhaustion, even negative experiences with sex like feeling forced to perform on-demand. Husband and wife need to work together to create a context that eliminates those things — the husband takes on more housework, the wife drops that extra commitment, the husband gives his wife the freedom to say, “no, not tonight,” the wife goes to therapy.

An accelerator is something like a scent, a place, a time of day, the light levels — anything that consistently turns you on. Husband and wife need to work together to create that environment.

This is intimacy. Not the free reign of the husband’s sex drive, but the mutual understanding of what makes the other person tick, the deep involvement in each other’s lives, the connection so tight that it easily leads to the physical level as well.

That’s what’s going to make a satisfying sex life. And even if a satisfying sex life is your husband’s deepest need, paying attention to and meeting your own needs is what’s ultimately going to meet his.

*I’m aware that sexless marriages exist, sometimes even after the problem has been diagnosed. I don’t presume to speak for those severe cases, and I grieve with those trapped in such a marriage.

78 thoughts on “On-Demand Sex Won’t Meet Your Husband’s Needs

  1. Abigail

    This is very well-put! I’ve never been in a relationship, so my vantage point for this issue is very different. However, I share the general distaste for many older women’s advice about sexuality. Books, talks, and personal advice geared towards women are often very suspect and hurtful, but instead of just getting angry about this, I try to feel sympathy for previous generations who struggled in this area, were taught not to talk about it, did not have good resources, and are passing on the skewed advice that “worked” for them.

    One thing I would add to your post is that many men claim that they honestly don’t want wives performing on-demand. Although I am not claiming to present a universal truth, I have heard and read from many different sources that it’s frustrating to a man when his wife is “grinning through her gritted teeth,” because this is even greater perceived rejection than “no, not tonight.” Men also care about intimacy, so if they don’t feel desired and wanted, it’s hurtful. Sort of like how a wife would feel if her husband said, “well, I don’t find you attractive, but I’ll put up with you because I have to.” No one wants a marriage like that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bailey Steger

      That’s a good point too, Abigail! Unfortunately, the solution women give to this problem (“no husband wants a woman doing it with through gritted teeth”) is to repress your feelings even further and always be happy — to do it cheerfully, even if you don’t want to. But I still fail to see how this satisfies a man who would want his wife to desire him??? I wonder how many men actually read and approve of this marriage advice!


      • JustHereToTalk

        Hi I’m a guy and for the most part I approve with this marriage advice. I don’t want my wife to be pretending to be enjoying sex I get so much out of her actually enjoying it. Also this whole idea that men are always the high drive spouse is a fake. Sometimes I want it more other times she wants it more. We both have had to say no a time or two for various reason and I have had sex a few times when I was exhausted but I knew my wife really needed it and once I got started generally I woke up and enjoyed it. Communication is key in this area.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Kirsten

      Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
      I have struggled with this message for so long and have been unable to fully put into words what it is about it that doesn’t sit well with me. Thank you for this. It needs to change.


  2. Lauren

    Golly, I am so happy you wrote this!

    In my own experience, women can be guilty of pressuring their spouse for on-demand sex, too. I know there’s been several times when I felt more, um, accelerated than hubby felt. In many cases, I think I was seeking affirmation and intimacy for myself, which is obviously not the most loving or productive approach.

    A physical relationship is incredibly delicate and vulnerable and powerful, and I’m amazed at how it so closely mirrors our emotional relationship. Part of me tends to want to control the whole thing, and force important connections to happen. Reading your post here reminded me that true intimacy is the goal, and it must be encouraged and fostered together.

    It’s amazing to me, incidentally, how often I realize that proactivity is key in any meaningful relationship. Finding and facilitating our “brakes and accelerators” (such a fantastic metaphor) requires intentionality. Marriage is probably the most intentional relationship someone can have. But I know in my case, it’s important to consistently reach out in all my relationships, whether that’s with family, friends, or my husband.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kristin H.

    Great post. And as someone who’s getting married this fall, I’d love to see more marriage themed posts. Particularly ones that deal with sex, just because that’s one aspect of marriage that I’m more nervous about! (And there’s only so much research one can do about that before hand, ha.)


    • Bailey Steger

      Haha! I feel I ought to wary of writing about marriage and sex because I’m relatively new to it, but I’ll take that into consideration. ;) Congrats on your upcoming marriage!!!!


    • Leigh McKay

      Kristen, I do like the website To Love, Honor, and Vacuum for a Christian woman’s perspective on good sex. It’s more complementarian in some regards, but I’ve found several of her articles helpful.

      Liked by 1 person

    • sydeliza

      I can’t recommend the book referenced in the article, “Come as You Are” enough! If you feel nervous about sex (which is totally understandable) then doing some reading and having a lot of dialogue with your partner is key. And buy that book!! My husband and I both read it and the impact it’s had can’t be understated!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Leah

    This is soooo good! We need teaching like this in the Church. You speak the truth. I think one reason why so many older women teach on demand sex is because they don’t know any better. Perhaps they haven’t been given the opportunity to explore their own sexuality and desires. Perhaps they have never given themselves the permission to consider themselves in their own life. They think they are pleasing God by being a sexual martyr. Very sad!


  5. M&M

    Older women teach this? How about big-name Christian “counseling” and “pastoring” men?

    I went to a one-day Five Love Languages marriage conference with the hubby (now ex-). Before the midday break, the speaker hawked his book about the reasons why men should get sex at the drop of a hat. His point? Gotta keep them entertained to keep them from straying – which I think is insulting to men. This paints men as no more than thoughtless, lecherous beasts on the prowl with no loyalty, honor, sense of fidelity, or integrity.

    The book also focused on points like women should keep themselves worldly attractive, and women need to be even more willing and even “adventurous” beyond their levels of comfort or even physical tolerance. At the end of the day, we had to stand up and face our spouses and vow (vow!) to work on our marriage, dismiss out own needs in favor of the other’s desires, and in the women’s side of the vows, vow to keep ourselves attractive, willing, and to drop our boundaries and joyfully agree to do whatever, whenever sexually. I was vowing all this to a man steeped in porn, perversion, who enjoyed sadistic cruelty, but clean-cut on the outside to everyone else. I can still hear him grinning and saying, “Pastor says you gotta do it, you gotta do it.”
    So, so many male big-name pastors and ‘christian’ book writers hawk this view as well.


    • Bailey Steger

      Oh, my gosh. That is sickening. I am so, so glad you’re out of that relationship, and I am angry for you that people who ought to have known better perpetrated such an awful situation.


  6. DFJones

    A relationship, marriage or otherwise, is a dance and no one is leading… or both people are leading…Either way it takes communication and compromising, not pleasing one partner because of their animal desires. Both people are animals and all animals NEED things.


  7. Roxanne Bright

    I was really enjoying this article until I got to the part where you said “the wife goes to therapy”. Am I reading this right? Are you suggesting that if a wife doesn’t desire sex, for whatever reason, that there is something wrong with her psychologically? Please enlighten me if I’m wrong.


    • Bailey Steger

      Oh, no, no, no! I meant to suggest that sometimes women have deeper issues to worth through regarding their own sexuality and would benefit from counseling. I had to do that. You don’t have to be broken to go to counseling; counseling is just a great way to help work out some baggage in your life. And that was just an example of something a wife *could* do on her end to improve her sex life (a man could do it as well, of course, or they could go together!).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rachel Allen

        I am a woman, and the high drive spouse on my marriage. My husband had 0 desire, u til therapy! You don’t have to have “something wrong with you psychologically” to go to therapy. That is yet another stereotype and misconception our culture has made about what therapy is and does. Knowing why you think what you do and being able to trace back to why you’re feeling the way you are is a powerful tool the most successful people know. So thankful my husband learned it!


  8. ydubya

    While overall, this is a great article, I find it interesting that you continue the stereotype that it is the woman who will be the one who says no to sex, or has a “low” sex drive. There are many marriages where the man has little interest in sex. There’s various reasons for this, but when a woman has been told her whole life that men need sex, then a husband’s lack of interest can be devastating. On the other hand, if both in the marriage are able to work through their disparity in desires and expectations (I will not say “need,” because we do not “need” sex), and truly understand and accept one another, then even the “sexless” marriage can be happy and full of intimacy. We all know sex ≠ intimacy. It is not necessary to grieve for those “trapped” in such a marriage, *if* the couple is able to come to terms with their own selves and why they got married in the first place.


    • Bailey Steger

      I did make a comment about how it’s odd and sad that all of this marriage advice seems to assume women have no interest in sex. I didn’t elaborate on it much, because my purpose was to specifically address this particular harmful teaching.

      I certainly agree with you that not all men want sex at the drop of a hat! I’ve had to hear “nope, not tonight,” and that was hard to work through particularly because I’d heard all my life that guys wanted sex 24/7.

      And you’re right — a consensually sexless marriage isn’t a “trap.” I was thinking specifically of both men and women who *are* trapped in such a marriage, involuntarily, and have to grieve that. I personally think sex should still be a big part of marriage, and even if a sexless marriage can be arranged satisfactorily, there is still something missing.


  9. Link Austin

    Your views here are quite twisted and naive. You mention “older women” pushing this idea. Don’t you think experience is helpful over your youthful gut reaction? Don’t you think if this was a bad idea that the older women would have figured that out? No, it’s the opposite! Many of them tried it your way, had miserable, stingy marriages, and finally-in desperation and with God’s leading-found a better way. They are now incredibly happy in their marriages-not “gritting their teeth.” I know this because as a marriage counselor I have seen this firsthand many times. It might also be worth looking at the Bible (1 Corinthians 7). Long ago God advocated for this generous attitude in marriage. In fact, He commanded it…but that probably doesn’t sit well either. No worries, there are plenty of other commands to the husband in how he is to treat his wife. Both husband and wife win when you head God’s word over worldly, poorly researched philosophies and there is a benefit to obeying the Word even if your husband doesn’t. Your gain, his loss! Be generous in your love! It works miracles. Now, on a very serious level, we know how broken our world is, and that many people enter marriage damaged sexually. Any person who struggles being properly sexual in marriage should seek counseling for their own good and for their partner.


    • Bailey Steger

      Actually, many older women tried this and got severely damaged in the process. I tried this and was severely damaged in the process. I’m in contact with lots of older women who all vehemently oppose this false extrapolation of 1 Corinthians 7. I might be young, but I’ve listened to enough older women, done enough study, and experienced enough in my own life to call out toxic or potentially toxic behaviors.

      We all believe in giving generous love. We all believe in not depriving our husbands unnecessarily. We all know that sometimes you’re not in the mood but you give it a try anyway and it ends up great. We *also* know that women have legitimate reasons for not wanting sex, and those reasons are important to understand, listen to, and work through, with the goal being a great fulfilling sex life for both.

      Why, as a marriage counselor, are you so opposed to the idea of taking a wife’s reservations, feelings, wants, and needs into consideration? What’s so threatening about that?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      Further, that passage in 1 Corinthians 7 is addressing people who thought sex was wrong and they should be celibate even within marriage in order to please God — not a husband or a wife who is exhausted or sick or traumatized and doesn’t want sex that night. A whole philosophy of “sex is sinful, married people shouldn’t have sex” is extremely damaging, and Paul was rightly speaking out against that dualism. But one night without getting the sexy time you want will not hurt you. I promise. My husband and I have said “no” to each other on numerous legitimate occasions, and we are still alive and well.

      If I were a marriage counselor interested in following the Bible, I would be much angrier at the twisted and naive idea that men should get sex whenever they want, regardless of what their wife wants, instead of laying down their lives and putting their wife’s needs ahead of their own, according to Ephesians 5.

      Liked by 2 people

    • gemmaem

      I agree that relationships are better when both partners are generous to one another. One of the things I love about my husband is that he is a safe person to be generous to: he reciprocates with equal generosity, he listens to me and cares about what I want, and he would never take my willingness to give one thing as a reason to pressure me into giving something that would cause me pain or discomfort.

      The problems with framing generosity to your spouse as “women, have sex on demand” are manifold. First of all, by framing sex as something men want and women give, it promotes a model of generosity where women are expected to be giving in bed, but the idea that men could also be giving in bed is rarely even considered and it’s sometimes not even clear to people that this is possible. Second, it frames the generous gift of sexual intimacy as if it were a husband’s right, something to be demanded rather than appreciated. Third, it fails to appreciate that being generous is not that same as agreeing to every demand without question. True, sustainable generosity is only possible when it is allowed to have limits; caring for others works best when we can also care for ourselves.

      We don’t need relationships that consist of a woman who is not allowed to have limits and a man who gets what he wants, when he wants it. We need relationships where both people involved are able to be both generous and safe.


      • Mike Stearns

        Yea, I agree with a lot of the framing problem mentioned here. Appreciation is more about spontaneous harmony and balance rather than satisfying demands. Your identities are supposed to be woven together as a married couple, and making love is supposed to feel like a tapestry finally coming together. The experience isn’t about satisfying what you want as much as it’s about celebrating who you are.

        Intimacy is supposed to feel like a climax to a story. It’s not about rights or demands. It’s about blending together after things made romantic sense over time. Your generosity leads to it because you’re both contributing to writing that story together. That’s why you’re in love after all – you anticipate that you two have an indefinite future in what you write.


      • Lea

        “but the idea that men could also be giving in bed is rarely even considered”

        This seems to never come up in this type of teaching and it drives me batty! I think it comes from both entitlement and a misunderstanding/fear of the female sex drive. The teaching should be much more balanced.


  10. Barbaria

    This couldn’t be written any better! I am not a Christian but unfortunately have come across this “on-demand sex” advice, and honestly, it makes me feel vomit. It actually turns off my interest in marital sex, so I am really trying to ignore these crazy Christian-medieval stereotypical archetypes out of our marriage life :)
    Thank you for a great post and I am happy to discover new and interesting blog :)


  11. Phaedra

    I don’t mind having sex when I am not in the mood. I have been very stressed out with health issues with a parent. I can’t relax enough to enjoy but I love to make him feel good. I think this works because he respects me and wants to please me. Just another season of life I have to get through!


  12. richardjalba

    Damn, I’ve been on Reader looking for a post that legitimately interests me. And here it is.

    I agree, women shouldn’t have sex if they don’t want to. Of course we all know that leads to a struggle at the man’s end. Whether he takes the denial of sex as permission to look elsewhere is up to him.

    But as you said, women (I’m assuming from church influence) are told to look pretty and be obedient. And that can work to keep a man attracted to her. But what does *he* do to keep her attracted to him? Is he maintaining his physical well-being too?

    Like you said, there’s accelerators and brakes. Maybe she needs more foreplay. Or maybe she needs ‘foreplay’ that’s outside of sex – he can do the laundry or wash the dishes or something.

    Whatever it is, relationships need both partners to work with each other. And yes, sex is crucial to a relationship. I remember reading somewhere that relationships that had less companionship, yet still had sex, were still happier than vice versa.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      Exactly! These “teachings” are ALWAYS one-side — I have never seen someone teaching a “godly husband” how to defer his desires when his wife says no, not tonight.

      Which is absolutely ludicrous because, as you said, relationships take two.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lea

        “These “teachings” are ALWAYS one-side — I have never seen someone teaching a “godly husband” how to defer his desires when his wife says no, not tonight.”

        And I haven’t seen a lot of these men talking about how to please their wives in bed either. Like you said, if she isn’t interested there might be a reason!


      • Aemi

        Wow, this makes me so thankful for my church. When we were getting married, our pastor told my husband, “Remember, in a Christian marriage, the wife always comes first.”
        Except I’m not sure that’s how he spelled it. :D


  13. Daphne

    This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I’ve been married since Oct 2016 and we have had sex every night except a few times when he’s been out of town or if we were in a terrible fuss.
    On those nights, he would toss & turn and keep me up trying to talk every time this would happen.
    I’ve realized it’s just easier for me to “do it” because of the way he responds. It’s exhausting. And, I know it’s not right but I cannot talk with him about it.
    I have also had a UTI on & off since we got married. A week ago it turned into a kidney infection and put me in the hospital. Because of the pain from this I haven’t felt like having sex. He told me that he needed sex and this is causing him to masturbate & think of other women.
    I haven’t said anything to him about that comment because I don’t know what or how to address it. But, now I feel really insecure.


    • Bailey Steger

      Oh, Daphne. My heart breaks for you. This is not right — none of it. I have so many thoughts but feel a public comment thread isn’t the place. I hope you have some wise friends and/or a counselor to help you work through this, but if you ever need to talk, feel free to email me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bridget

      Your whole situation sounds terrible and heartbreaking. What hurtful, manipulative, passive-aggressive behavior from a grown man that claims to love you! Sorry, had to get that out of the way.

      About the chronic UTI: is he washing off before sex? The germ-fighting capabilities of women’s vaginas vary. If you think about everything men touch during the day (gas pumps, ATM buttons, door handles etc) and the fact they typically don’t wash their hands before they pee, the germ-carrying potential of their “equipment” is frightening. I’m surprised we all don’t have chronic UTIs, to be honest.


    • Hopestill

      Daphne, your husband’s behavior is abusive. Coerced sex is abuse. There is nothing wrong with seeking help from people specifically trained in aiding people who are dealing with the type of issue that you’re dealing with.
      You don’t have to make any decisions now, you don’t have to tell anyone who knows you personally or anyone that you aren’t 100% sure you can trust, but I’m just going to copy/paste a few hotlines you could call & articles you could read, if you feel that would be helpful to you. I’m putting a few different ones, because I don’t know you’re personal situation. I’m not saying that you need these or assuming anything about what you’re experiencing in your marriage. Just putting these out there.
      Lastly, I just want to say that your health is being negatively effected by this, both physically & emotionally, & that it’s ok to leave.



  14. Rae Poynter

    As someone in a really great marriage, the lack of communication displayed in this kind of “sex-on-demand” dynamic is both sad and baffling to me. My husband and I are super open to talking about anything, including how we’re feeling about sex, and the communication makes all the difference. Unfortunately so much of the conventional conservative marriage advice is built upon assuming things about your spouse based on their gender and never really communicating with each other as individuals. Added to that is all the stigma and fear about sex that makes it hard for people to even have honest talks with their own spouse about the subject. When we had pre-marriage counseling at our former non-denom church, the pastor wanted my fiance and I to have our sessions about sex separately…we said no. If you can’t even talk with your fiance about sex, you’re setting yourself up for a struggling marriage.


  15. Allison Caylor

    The key, I think, is that both spouses are confident they *can* give a loving, gentle “no” without communicating rejection or experiencing criticism. In that context, the choice to give sex when you don’t really feel like it is actually a choice, actually a gift. And there’s a time for that: for me, it was the last 2-3 months of pregnancy, when big enjoyment was basically an impossibility, even though I didn’t have any physical or emotional reasons to avoid it. At some point, though, I realized that I had started trying to pretend I was more willing/excited than I was. I was a bit horrified and I now consciously try to always be honest about how I’m feeling. Still, I am really glad for all the times of connection and encouragement I experienced because I laid aside myself and enjoyed giving to him. But that’s just one specific, temporary situation. Like you said, if either spouse consistently doesn’t “feel like it,” it’s time to study those breaks and accelerators or go to counseling or whatever it takes to get both thrilled about being together.

    Anyway, the combination I’ve tried for is complete oppenness + honesty, with a spirit of giving and not just getting. But I’m learning, too, how important it is to my husband that he be giving to me, and not just taking, so if I’m too tired or upset or something, it’s worth it for both of us for me to say, “I’d enjoy this more another time.” Same for him, too! It’s always worth waiting until the right time. Buuuut there are times when each of us has given to the other when we’ve been discouraged or lonely or whatever. It’s all about balance. :)


    • Bailey Steger

      That’s such a balanced view! There are absolutely times and/or seasons to give without getting much, but the difference between that and on-demand sex is, like you said, the ability to say no, the ability for your spouse to accept the no, and the ability of both to work through whatever issue is causing that no.


  16. Tricia Miller Melton

    This is an excellent article. My husband and I have been married over 33 years and have always had a wonderful sex life! Before our wedding, my mother-in-law gave my husband the book “The Act of Marriage” which focuses on how to bring pleasure to your spouse. My husband has always put my needs first, and he only wants sex if I do. It gives him the MOST pleasure to bring me pleasure. Sometime we laugh because we’ll each be saying, “No, I want to know what YOU want tonight…” ;) I feel very loved when he understands when I’m too exhausted. He feels very loved and desired when I initiate physical intimacy. In our 33 years, we have faced all sorts of situations: exhaustion, feeling ‘down’ (especially after the death of each of our parents or during difficult work situations), physical hurdles after childbirth (one time lasting over 3 years!) and many others. I find, quite often, sex is a reflection of the relationship itself. It can really only be GREAT when both are truly interested in loving and serving one another.


    • Bailey Steger

      I love hearing from long marriages with great sex lives! Thanks so much for sharing. In my limited experience, I think you’re so right that sex is often a reflection of the relationship itself.


    • Allison Caylor

      I love this! So encouraging to hear from many years of intimacy. We also read “The Act of Marriage,” and while it may not be exactly right for engaged couples (it’s a little too much like a textbook) it did give us the information and attitude to work toward abundant mutual pleasure.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. matt

    I like to put it this way, am i allowed to not wash the dishes when I dont feel like it, or not do the laundry, not buy you flowers, not show you i love you because it is messy for me. Is it ok for me to check out and not be with you or refuse to do what you have asked me to. If the answers is yes than you dont need to read this. But if you think marriage is about doing what you dont want to do everyday to provide happiness, love, caring and strength for your partner than when it comes to sex, a woman should be there for her husband. Now i know this has been abused and that clearly is not my intent in writing this. If it is abused than the husband clearly does not care for his wife. But in a marriage where both people are trying to love each other the best they can, you should be able to get over feeling tired, sad etc.


    • Bailey Steger

      Yes, you’re not allowed! Marriage shouldn’t be a drudgery or a chore or a checklist. If that’s the case, something is wrong, something needs to be worked through, and the couple supports each other while the one who is suffering recovers. It’s not about “getting over” anything. It’s about “working through” things. That’s the huge, huge difference between my perspective and yours.


  18. Mike Stearns

    The article reads like common sense but doesn’t really elaborate on intimacy enough. That’s the real problem a lot of marriages have. They get the common sense part about what not to do, but they don’t know what else to do… so they relapse into what’s not common sense.

    One thing I will say is intimacy should be anything but practical. It’s supposed to be artistic. It’s supposed to be creative, sensual, passionate, symbolic, sublime, memorable, etc. Sometimes, it’s easier to imagine this from the perspective of imagining you’ve had tons of experience and have developed tolerance for what’s physically sensational. What would it take to invigorate your feelings from there?

    The conclusion you realize is that it’s the little things that count and you take things slow while beating around the bush. It’s kind of like how when you make love with your partner, you don’t dive right into their privates. You tease around the edges first to build suspense and anticipation. By the time you’re married, your foreplay should be more forthcoming though. It’s not about the threat of withdrawal, but about the indulgence of how high you can take things. Your partner isn’t afraid of you anymore and will trust you not to get carried away if you’re upfront about your desire. Just take your time and let the fire gradually ignite.

    The advantage of doing this before you have tons of experience is you’re not compensating for being desensitized. Instead, you’re elevating your sensitivities to make the most of them. For example, if you blindfold your partner and use feathers on one’s body with scented candles in the room and playing steamy music, it makes things exciting instead of satisfying. If you catch your partner in the shower and lift one’s arms while saying to close one’s eyes as you wash every bit of one’s body and whispering naughty little nothing’s in one’s ears while kissing, it gets things going faster instead of just getting things going.

    All of this said, this is where traditional gender roles really come from because unfortunately, women actually enjoy making love more than men (which is scientifically true as well since women have more pleasure spots and sensors on their bodies, they can climax repeatedly, and the social/mental/emotional side if trained enough can make them climax even without being physically engaged). A good male lover will make a woman totally enthralled while a good female lover will at best make a man excited. Initially, yes, a man has to make a woman emotionally enticed, but once she’s comfortable, a woman has to do many more things outside of the bedroom to give the relationship emotional balance. If she doesn’t, then the man in the relationship will feel swindled even if he doesn’t admit it. After all, men are expected to have thick skins instead of being complainers. They become afraid that if they admit the truth, then they’ll seem pathetic instead of being a reliable anchor in the relationship.


  19. gemmaem

    Just putting in a word for the asexual folks — there are people of all genders who don’t want sex, and who could have a very happy sexless marriage for which no-one need grieve. They’re a small minority, but I know they feel sad when they see people acting like they don’t exist, so I thought I’d mention it.


  20. dolphinswithmohawks

    All that “on demand” stuff is crazy. A frat house mentality painted over with the high gloss paint of religious “respectability”, is still a frat house mentality. These guys treat women as property, not human beings. Oh so hypocritical.


  21. pamelaparizo

    I think there needs to be some understanding of male sexuality and what sex means to men. I was married for nearly 40 years and did not get it. I highly recommend Dr. Julianna Slattery’s book No More Headaches which explains why sex is so important to men and what it means to them. Whether or not you are Christian, it can help to understand that men see sex as love, and that it helps them to express their emotions. i think if women could get this, it would save marriages.


  22. mohit tiwari

    Ok, I agree with people about marital rape and really care their opinions but i want to ask a simple question. If a couple doesn’t indulge in regular sex(not meant everyday,or on periods.) without any serious issue for a long time like 1 month and more, then why it is not considered as harassment of men because he is not the one who don’t want sex ,he is also expecting something from the relationship and the bitter truth is that those who do arrange marriage their major reason is sex, and one last thing that if u don’t want to adjust and want to live with the person who understands you completely with whom you don’t need to adjust then just grew up some nuts and said no to arrange marriage and find the right person for u.


    • Bailey Steger

      On the contrary, I think it’s problematic if couples aren’t regularly having sex, particularly if one spouse (whether husband or wife) wants it and the other doesn’t. I know from personal experience that it’s extremely frustrating to want and expect sex in a marriage, and it can do incredible damage if sex is withheld without reason or without an end in sight. I’m simply saying the solution isn’t guilting the wife into having sex when she doesn’t want it; it’s understanding WHY she doesn’t want sex and supporting her as she addresses that personal issue (whether it’s as elaborate as going to counseling or as simple as needing a good night’s sleep).


  23. Anne

    Hi Bailey, I know I’m commenting on an old thread but I just found your website and I’m just blown away by your down-to-earth intelligence. I have a very similar spiritual trajectory to yours. Anyway, back to sex :) I know from experience that if I force myself to “give in” to unwanted sex, I will feel resentment and anger towards my sweet husband that can last for a while. When he finds out why I’m acting that way, he is usually devastated and embarrassed. He doesn’t want sex THAT bad, to the point that it would make me feel used and miserable.
    Now I’ll point out, after being married 10 years, that there’s a difference between reluctantly giving in, as in “hurry up and get it over with”, and not being in the mood but making an effort to get into it.
    In the first scenario, sex will probably hurt because you’re not turned on or ready for it. If a man is not turned on he physically can’t have sex, why should women have to? Without any intimacy there, I don’t see it as very different than a man masturbating.
    In the second scenario, one spouse might admit that they’re feeling tired or down, so the initiating spouse will work to create the right atmosphere to get the other spouse there. Perhaps a massage, a bath, special lighting, music, or making out without the pressure of sex. Just saying nice things about each other and stroking each other’s hair often works for me. Whatever makes you feel intimate (and ultimately horny). It takes more work than just telling your husband to go ahead and get it over with, but ultimately it’s more respectful of him. He’s not an animal.
    I’ll add that going too long without sex should be a warning sign that something in your connection is off, sometimes it’s just busy-ness getting in the way, and time should be carved out to slow down and appreciate each other again.
    In a great marriage, there is no room for “smiling with gritted teeth”. It’s damaging to your intimacy and God doesn’t give out awards for suffering.


    • Bailey Steger

      I hope everybody stops to read your comment, Anne! Wow. Your point about men not being able to have sex if they’re not turned on, so why should women? — golden. I never thought about it that way. And your distinction between “reluctantly giving in just to get it over with” and “admitting tiredness but open to allowing your spouse to get you turned on” — that’s another thing I didn’t really distinguish in my mind. It’s not respectful to anyone, like you said, to have sex just to get it over with. That’s using your spouse and treating sex as something less than intimacy.

      Anyways, I’ll definitely be chewing on your thoughts all day!! Thanks so much for writing!


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