When Sex Drives Don't "Match"

Let me share a GREAT article by John Piper called "How should a husband and wife manage having opposite sex-drives?"

He points to 1 Corinthians 7 and offers this commentary:
What that text says is, "Compete with each other about how to bring the other person joy, to maximize the other person's gladness and satisfaction." Now that does not solve the problems, but it gives you an orientation that is so wholesome and so helpful. 

It doesn't solve the problems because, if she says, "I'm too tired for sexual intercourse," and he is communicating, "It would be really nice right now," she should give and he should relent. That's the way it should be. His heart should be, "I'm not going to make you do this, no matter how strong I feel," and hers should be, "I'm here for you, no matter how tired I am." 

Now, how does that bring a solution? It's a matter of degrees, I think, and who at that moment is maybe the most sanctified. Who is experiencing the grace to yield?
I just think that we should preach hard to husbands, "Serve her. Don't manipulate or use her. Don't turn her into a manikin for masturbation. Don't treat her that way. She's a human. You want her all there. You don't want to use her. You want her there—there, enjoying you. That's the point of this: mutual consummation, psychologically, spiritually, and now expressed physically." And those are the best moments of all, when the physical event is the consummation of a spiritual, psychological whole event. 

I think we should be preaching to men, "Don't think of your wife as an instrument to be used for sexual satisfaction. Think of her as a whole person who has her own deep longings and desires. And you want to live in such a way as to draw her in."
Foreplay begins with whether you're washing the dishes or not. That's foreplay. If you help her wash the dishes after supper, if you help her clean up, if you serve this woman—this is about sex, right? Because if she has made a nice supper, and you finish it and go plop yourself on the couch and watch TV for three hours, getting red-hot sexually because you're watching 50 sexually-stimulating advertisements, and then at 10:30 say, "I'm ready!" she's not going to be ready! That's ridiculous. 

So what I'm saying is that spouses manage their different sex drives by loving each other like they love themselves. They should not be demanding, but should each try to serve the other. And they meet somewhere in the middle in a way that both of them perceive the other wants the good of the other. Neither feels used by the other.

YES, YES, YES!!! (And by the way, there's much more in the article... I'd encourage you to read the whole thing.)

This is yet another reason why I am so grateful for John Piper. He not only holds fast to the Word, and tells it like it is, but also makes it plain why God's ways really are the best ways and hold the very best things for us, in our lives and relationships.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm experiencing the portion of the article by John Piper that you posted as half totally right-on but half-not-right.

Preaching hard to husbands, "don't turn her into a manikin for masturbation" seems so compelling and so right on, and the language is so stark and bald.

Yet, I know that if my wife is feeling desirous (aka "frisky"), or if she is feeling desire for a release of sexual tension, or if sht is feeling sexually frustrated ..... I want to have compassion towards her and give to her sexually.

YES ... as a "stand-alone" experience. I want to be considerate and compassionate towards her even if in the moment what she really is feeling a need (or strong desire) for is a time of "physical" sexual pleasure and release.

Why would I not want to give to her lovingly, just for her personal pleasure, in such a case?

I'm making two points here combined in one:

(1) I don't agree with the idea that every moment of sexual sharing a couple experiences HAS to be or necessarily "should" be the pinnacle of psychological and spiritual oneness.

(I think people reading the article excerpt you posted could leap to that conclusion.)

I believe in couples giving "comfort sex"; for example, to give to my spouse expressly to gift my spouse with physical enjoyment and release. I believe this is in-bounds and maybe that it should play a regular part in a couple's sexual play and sharing.

I also believe in sex as an expression of commitment (renewal of marriage covenant) and sexual interaction as an expression of benevolent love (like in the Old testament when sexual intimacy was given as an emotional comfort to ones spouse ... 2 Samuel 12:24 is one example.)

I believe that sometimes lovemaking can be at that fantastic pinnacle of emotional and psychological and spiritual "connectedness" but I believe there are many other times that giving sexually to your own spouse is biblically right-on.

(2) I think this excerpt from John could contribute to stereotypes about men and women in a way that could breed negativity, and the quote itself does not bring attention to the GIVING part of sexual intimacy. When I read this, I almost immediately wish that John would preach hard to wives about understanding all the emotions and expression of a wife's love and acceptance wrapped up in intimacy given to their husbands. (And there are a number of sexually frustrated wives who wish that their husbands would GIVE who have posted here too.)

Yipes!: I think John is partially totally right, but I wonder if the quote might be *slightly* more wrong than right if it's taken as a stand-alone quote.

Mrs. Anna T said...

I like the point about "competing" with each other in pleasing each other. I know my husband wouldn't insist if I say, "I'm too tired" or "I'm not feeling well" - but he, on the other hand, knows that the chances for him to hear "I'm too tired" are very, very slim. This makes us both feel confident, loved and appreciated.

Anonymous said...

From Ann,

How refreshing!

darci said...

what a great quote..to compete with each other to please the other. :)
i JUST started reading two books by john piper..desiring God and 'when you don't desire God' how to fight for joy..so enjoying them. hope you had a good Christmas! :)

Marcia Wilwerding said...

What I have found is that, if I don't feel like it, and still relax and give in in a loving, giving way, I almost ALWAYS end up being mutually fulfilled. We ladies need it as much as the men do. We just don't always know it.

Anonymous said...

I largely agree with what Piper is saying.

At the same time, I am intrigued that he is able to promote the idea of spouses striving equally to please each other, and of husbands helping wives with household chores like washing dishes, without being accused of spouting worldly feminist nonsense.

Laurie B

Jess said...

I have found the very same thing to be true.

Piper (rather than me) preaching truth to men is the difference here. I get blasted sometimes for not telling men how to woo and bless their wives, but that is not my place as a woman, to teach men. So whether or not people get why I don't do it, I'm not going to start teaching men.

BUT-- if I see a godly man pointing out in a public way how husbands can love their wives as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her (which is a very biblical idea) AND how husbands and wives should biblically interact, then I can and will highlight that. As you see here.

There's no contradiction. The message is no different than any other marriage resource or article I've pointed to... the one delivering the message is the difference.

Young Christian Woman said...

I have to agree that when two people really do have each other's best interests in mind rather than their own, who "wins" is not really an issue, and either outcome is really okay with both of them.

A couple nights ago as we were going through the standard "Well, what do you want?" routine, I just said, "Can't one of us be selfish for a change?"

And then we had some fun.

(And just to make sure no one gets too jealous, he doesn't do dishes)

Anonymous said...

Jess, with all due respect, Piper's message is different from some of the other advice you've posted or linked to here.

Where others say keeping home is exclusively a woman's job, Piper says men can help build a satisfying marriage by helping out once in a while. There is nothing "Biblical" about saying men should help do the dishes--I'm sure that concept would have been quite foreign to people in Jesus' time (and in the Puritans' time).

I think it's a great idea, but Piper is clearly inserting some modern ideas about gender roles and household responsibilities into his advice for Christian men.

Where you and others have said a wife should resolve to say yes to her husband, always, no matter how tired she is, Piper is not saying that a true Christian wife always says yes to her husband's desire for intimacy. He is advocating a balance between the husband's and wife's desires, which is different from total submission by the wife.

Piper saying this stuff is obviously going to be much more effective than some secular feminist telling Christian men they should help out around the house and not always expect to get sex on demand.

His advice to men is not incompatible with your advice to women, but it sets up a different expectation. In effect, he is giving those Christian wives "permission" to say that some nights they are just too tired, and to ask their husbands to help more instead of berating themselves for not being submissive enough or not keeping a perfect home.

Laurie B

Jess said...

Actually, Laurie, that's just not it.

You're taking his advice to men to be to abdicate the women from any personal following of the Lord. If I were to take his advice to women: hers should be, "I'm here for you, no matter how tired I am." to be to abdicate the men from a personal following of the Lord in this area also, then it would probably look really absurd and wrong too.

Look, the husband should always graciously serve and love. Which is why you have comments in the NT like, "husbands, love your wives"... and why Paul made the connection to Christ as a servant as an example for husbands in this area. What does a servant DO, Laurie? Serves. Pretty plain, there. There's nothing about it that changes that the wife has been given the charge to keep home. But a loving, serving husband (like Luther, here, 500 years ago) is in no way unbiblical.

What would be unbiblical, Laurie, would be for me to start posting to men about their role as husbands. Christ has already done that. Paul has already done that. Luther has already done that. Piper has already done that. You are misrepresenting what Christianity and a God-honoring marriage looks like.

The message to wives is this: respect. serve. follow. love. honor.

The message to husbands is this:
love. serve. protect. give yourself up for. lead.

There is no contradiction... it is the way of Christ... for each person to serve and love completely, regardless of what the other person does. But the beauty of the Christian marriage is that it's not just 50/50... not some sort of arrangement where she gets the laundry and he gets the dishes. Instead, they each (as Piper says) compete for the joy of the other. They give themselves up to serve the other. It's a beautiful thing.

Just because I only write to women doesn't mean that there isn't a bigger picture that my portion fits into.

Oh, P.S.-- What you've said here: "In effect, he is giving those Christian wives "permission" to say that some nights they are just too tired, and to ask their husbands to help more" simply isn't true. She's to love and respect and honor and serve regardless. He's to serve and love and protect and honor regardless. Him not doing his part doesn't get her out of it, like some sort of greasy car salesman's deal, nor does her not doing her part get him out of his part. Each one, as a follower of Christ, must have the attitude of Christ (as a humble servant), regardless of the other.

Anonymous said...

After marrying, my wife told me that she could neither receive from me nor give to me in an marital "eros" love kind of way. She told me that that was just "who she is." (This reminded me a lot of the position taken by people who engage in same-sex relationships.)

We were not depriving one another by mutual agreement for prayer and fasting, for a short time, and then coming back together again. Instead, one of us was starving the other. There really was not any kind of sense of partnership or love in what was happening - at all.

I believed that lovingly being willing to defer from sexual intimacy for an evening should not be distorted into creation of a marriage with no marital love.

I asked my wife to pursue steps towards healing such as Christian therapy which she was uninterested in and refused to pursue. I asked about compromise and trying to figure out a workable relationship and she said that meeting in the middle was not possible. She would not behave in affectionate ways or express any male/female desire or affection for me at all. I received insults because I do not have a gift of celibacy. There were indications that she was relying on me to be a "godly husband" in order to permit her to act this way towards me indefinitely.

In this situation I believed that serving as a husband, and talking with my wife and telling her that I believed our marriage was very sick were consistent with one another.

This extreme situation gave me a lot to think and pray about.

For example, I do believe there were very, very deep psychological problems involved. How can I possibly avoid being "demanding" but also talk with my wife about the deeply serious failure in our relationship? As a spouse, would "illness" mean I simply live with her choices without confronting them? At times she tried to say she was not making any "choices," but her behavior suggested otherwise and evidenced *many* choices in her attitudes and beliefs. Do I treat this in the same way that I would treat a medical illness such as severely crippled spouse, or would I treat this as a moral issue because of her refusal to pursue health for herself and the marriage?

In this experience, I learned that "sex starts in the kitchen with washing dishes" can have some serious pitfalls to it. One of them is to start using intimacy as a "reward" for our spouse doing what we want them to do .... or withholding as a punishment because we didn't get some dish-washing we wanted. Typically the spouse with less need for sexual togetherness would be in the danger zone for engaging in this kind of manipulation.

In my experience, another 'pitfall' of the dish-washing approach is to lay it on a spouse so heavily that this makes him feel he has to work for your love! The result: "Why don't you want to be intimate with me because you love me and want me? Why don't you want to be intimate with me because you feel attracted to me and enjoy me?" they might start to ask. Being on the receiving end of the message that "you have to work in order for me to give love to you" can be an awful thing.

Also in my "journey," I met one Christ-professing woman who related that many of her "Christian" girlfriends would talk about how they planned on stopping intimacy with their husbands as soon as they had the number of children they wanted. I was very deeply saddened to hear this.

I'll close this note with a paraphrase from a book that seems very relevant to the discussion and interesting. Sorry I don't recall it word for word and maybe I could return with the actual text. It might seem really controversial to some people, but here goes:

"Although women might like to take the moral high ground, a woman's desire to feel warmed up to sexual intimacy with emotional sharing is not any more righteous than a husband's desire to feel warmed up to intimacy by her wearing appealing lingerie. They both are personal desires. When you're in a marriage eventually your relationship is going to need to involve giving."

Please do not interpret that I was depriving my wife of emotional intimacy! I eagerly desired to be close to her emotionally, but once married she quickly retreated from emotional connection also and "pushed away" loving behavior and attempts to cultivate warmth in the relationship as something unwanted.

The book was written by a woman Christian psychologist and is titled "Finding the Hero in Your Husband." I think perhaps a twinge or two of secular psychology may find its way into the book but I believe the book overall has some other interesting and potentially helpful things to say.


Shannon said...

I just have to say thank you for posting this, Jess. It has really helped me to want to please my husband. So THANK YOU! :) (and now, please excuse me - I'm going to go hide until I am no longer blushing because I just said that on the internet!)