Thursday, January 24, 2008

Do you know what makes him happy?

For twenty-two years I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to change my man. At one time or other, I’ve gotten Dennis to change his hair, change the way he dressed, and hey, I even eradicated some of the Okie out of the way he talked. I got him to see himself as a college man when he would have been content to work at the grocery store a few more years.

But along the way, I found a few things impossible to change about him. I’ve accepted that this is The Way It Is. My marriage has never been better because of it.

I have a whole list, but today I’m going just going to tackle one, because, well, because I seriously underestimated its importance to my man and oh, how I wish someone had told me as a young married woman.

Yep, you guessed it: Sex

It took me about fifteen years of trying to make his drive go away correspond to mine, to finally come to terms with the fact that this is a genuine need, not a selfish frivolity, to my husband (This time - perhaps not coincidentally - encompassed our first four kids and seven years of parenthood).

As it has been said (was it Tommy Nelson?), Sex is to men what affection is to women.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider that statement. An affectionless marriage would make me wither up and die, because affection is a genuine need for me. I need the hand-holding, the hugs, and the common courtesies. It boggles my brain, but a mans’s sex need must be met. If not within the healthy confines of marriage, it will be met elsewhere, starting through fantasy of some sort, which generally leads down the path of greater sin.

We had a conversation once that scared the pants off me: Dennis said, “When our sex life is good, it helps me stay faithful to you.” I’ve never once worried about him being faithful, but that moment made me realize even good, Christian husbands and fathers have to work to keep their minds pure. It was a wakeup call.

Notice he did not say, “When you keep the house clean,” or “When you have dinner waiting for me.” He didn’t even say, “When the kids are well-behaved.” No, the number one reason men’s minds go south is because their number one need is not being met at home.

This is a tender subject for me but I’m going to plow through it anyway. We’ve had times, especially, but not limited to when the kids were all small, that things reached crisis proportions in this department. I already wrote about our disastrous tenth anniversary night, and I’m sad to say, there were others.

Thankfully, I have a husband who talks to me. When I’ve gotten self-focused, and when I’ve completely neglected this important part of who he is, he comes to me. We get back on track.

You might not be so lucky, however. But I will tell you, even if your husband is not talking to you about this, please be assured that this topic is never far from the surface of his mind. As the research says, something like every seven seconds, it’s on his mind!

After that conversation with Dennis, I suddenly pictured him - the father of my children, the quintessential family man - at work, surrounded by smartly dressed women who think my husband is funny and attractive. How easy it would be to be tempted. Tempted to fantasize. Tempted to work later, or tempted not to come home at all. Not because his wife isn't a good housekeeper or mother, but because his wife may or may not be interested in him physically.

Ladies, we have to overcome our reticence to talk about subjects that make us uncomfortable. Our marriages depend on it.

I guarantee, if you talked to your husband and told him you wanted to make changes in the way your home operates so you can make this a priority, you would have his undivided attention and his unfailing support. Dennis is oh-so-helpful getting kids to bed when he knows there is something waiting for him later!

It’s rather cute, and if it keeps him wanting to come home to me for the next twenty years, I’m going to invest all I can into making it happen!

I’d like to challenge you: Ask God what specific changes you can make so that a great love life can be a priority in your marriage.

A good resource for you:

Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex, by Linda Dillow


Mary Ann said...

Thank you for this great post. I would never have the guts to write about this *hush hush* topic on my blog. Way to go! Thanks for the reminder of how important sex really is. Life with two under 20 months makes sex anywhere not near where it should be on my list of priorities. I think I'll look for that book you linked to. Btw, I found your blog via Megan-Sorta Crunchy. I am enjoying your posts. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

For the sake of anominity I am not posting my name.

As a wife of over 10 years I started out looking down on, if you will, men who had affairs and women who stayed. "how desperate is she?! She doesn't deserve that. What a CREEP!"

However, six years into my own marriage we had two small children, I was involved in the children's ministry at our church, and he had a demanding 60+ hours a week job. I did not make sex a priority NOR did he make helping me around the house a priority--for each of us those are the express ways we feel loved. So the less he helped the more I withheld.

Then it happened. She entered the picture. She was a lower level associate that began training for promotion under my husband. She was 6 years younger with a perfect childless body and lots of time to listen.

My christian husband had an affair *Gasp*. Four months after it began, he lost his job, his status in the company, I was close to delivering our third and in poor health, and we nearly fell apart.

I wresteld with staying. Though on many days, when the anger was overwhelming, I am sure my husband wished I would have left. I truly made it hell for him. And he took every abuse (and beleive me in moments of rage I let loose on him) and every insult I hurled at him. Part of me wanted HIM to walk out--to run to her--to complete the pattern so I could justly say HE did this to ME.

I cried out to God asking WHY He allowed this to happen to us when we were both attending church both serving. I asked for vengance so many times on the other woman.

My thought process was not straight during that time.

Yet God would not release me from my marriage. And I am not suggesting what one should do in a similar situation, I am simply sharing my story.

We worked through those rough times. I learned that while his actions WERE NOT my fault, I was neglecting my husband. We have both admitted equally neglecting the other, making it easy for either one or both of us to turn to someone else.

Christian marriages are not immune. But God can and does forgive, and He can and does restore. Almost seven years later, we have learned to listen to one another's needs. And I take his cries seriously. I don't blow them off becuase he did not help with the dishes--although he has learned to do those things more regularly. And gladly does them more regularly when I glady meet his needs. Often times I don't even have to ask. Almost seven years later God has restored my husbands career to him and he is quickly becoming an assest in his current company, and getting compensated for his experience.

While I wish this on NO ONE and wish that it had never happened to us, I am thankful that the Lord allowed the scales to fall off of my eyes before my marriage WAS over. I am thankful for all the ways He grew me during this time, and I am thankful that He restored my love and trust in my husband.

Please know that sex is very important to your husband. My husband told me that withholding sex from him was like him wthholding conversation from me.

Pray about ways you can show him you love him and then pray God would give you the desire to follow through, because I never stopped loving my husband, but so many times with other priorities I had no desire. However, good intentions did not make him feel loved--actions did. And I pray you would know the joy that it took us 13+ years to find.

Dimple Queen said...

Ok since you posted on this topic, then I feel that I can leave this comment I started to leave on the previous post.

Every part of your marriage takes a lot of work and the stuff that happens in the "bedroom" is no different. We all know this story very well. Our dear hubby's sex drive is much stronger than ours and we are to somehow match up to that so that he can be satisfied.

Magic potion (I wish we had), but we don't. I have found though that a lot of what these women are talking about....spending time in prayer, together and seperate..not letting your guard down...TALKING to him.... Those are some things I think would be in that "potion".

I have had a conversation with hubby similiar to the one that Katherine had with her dear Dennis. One where he told me that when our sex life is good then he feels good about us and is way less tempted to "look" in another direction. But when his needs are not being met he feels rejected. And in the middle of this conversation I was not very wise and told him I couldn't believe that he felt that way....but then I stopped and thought about it a while. If he never held my hand, or talked sweetly to me, or showed me the affection that I need, then I would feel like I was beeing neglected and rejected....RIGHT!!

With young children and busy, busy lives many of us wonder....WHEN do we have the time???? and sometimes you just have to MAKE that time and there is nothing wrong with "scheduling" it a matter of fact, my hubby kind of enjoys that! (just don't let that "scheduled" time be the only time!)

Well, not to put mental pictures in your head, but...

Here we have Parents Night Out at the church one Friday night of the month from 5:30 to 10:30. On that Friday night, we might go to dinner, or to a movie, but we usually only do one of those, then we go home! We use this time to have some uninterrupted "time together". Sometimes I leave school during my conference period and we meet at home....if you are a stay at home mommy, then talk to one of your girlfriends and have them take the kids for an hour while you and hubby "reconnect" then do the same for her and hers. Don't be embarrassed, she is more than likely in the same spot you are!

I hope that was not too much information!

Elspeth said...

This was a post that I needed to read. Being almost 6 months pregnant (feeling FAT!), chasing an 18 month old, and chaufering around 3 middle schoolers means that I am exhausted at the end of the day. Truthfully, I'm pretty good at making sure that I don't let long stretches go by without intimacy because my husband is the strong, silent type who wouldn't complain. Again, thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I wish that I wouldn't feel so alone in my pain. I have the exact opposite in my marriage. I feel like I am dying inside. My husband has never really been "interested" it is always me approaching him. The affection I seek only comes with sex and it's been 2 months. I do not relate to all my friends when they say, "he always wants it" etc. On the flip side my husband feels out of it with his friends as well. I am praying for my marriage.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post--and also thanks to the anonymous poster who left the second comment. It brought tears to my eyes bec. I could so easily see how it could happen to my marriage. My husband does more than his share when he walks through the door from work and I act like it's such an imposition when he suggests sex. This is something I've been praying about for several months. Although it has gotten more enjoyable for me when we get around to it, I still have very little desire. Of course, I blame this all on being tired and then have tons of guilt for not fulfillig his needs. Thanks so much for sharing. It helps to know I'm not alone.

Lizz @ Yes, and So is My Heart said...

Thanks for writing about this. We've been married six years and will be having our third baby next week. I needed the reminder that it is a need for my husband. He does a wonderful job of meeting the kids and my needs. I should be pleased to do the same. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Elise @A Path Made Straight said...

Oh brave, brave Katherine! :)
Thank you so much for posting about this from your perspective- I know it will help so many!

I am blessed with a husband who will communicate on his own with me as well. A couple of years ago, when we were struggling yet again with me "just not thinking about it as much as he does", he said, "Look, I really only need it _____ many times a week, and that would be so great!" The number surprised me- in a good way- and it's been our habit ever since. Whether I feel like it or not.

Just knowing that it is enough for him to feel close to me, to not be tempted, and seeing the very obvious ways our marriage has been strengthened by this is more than enough.

Thank you again for confirming this with me- and encouraging all of us! You're wonderful.

And to the Anonymous who expressed the pain she feels for the opposite problem, I've lifted you before the Lord- I pray He will reveal Himself mightily, and show you the way in which you should walk. (((hugs)))

Laura said...

Wow. I will be praying for some of these ladies. It is so easy to forget, or get busy, or want it all to be fair. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. Or you help with dishes, I'll have sex.

God intended us to be one. Communication is key and isolation is a relationship killer. Keep the lines of sex and talking open ladies. Take care of your self and get ready everyday so you greet him all put together. I know with little ones, that is hard. But he has been with put together women all day. Remind him why he comes home!!
Blessing Katherine! I'm enjoying these posts!!

Aimee said...

My husband says "sex isn't what makes him happy"...that it's "me" that makes him happy. He never wants to have sex just for the sake of having sex...if he doesn't feel connected to me and that I don't want sex, then he doesn't want it either. He says that he wants oneness with me not my body. He's not a super saint or anything...we almost lost our marriage a few years ago and didn't see each other for 8 months...he said that during that time he realized that he wanted ME not what I could give him. Now that I don't feel all kinds of pressure or fear, I now willingly have sex out of love for him. Freedom in a relationship sets us free to give out of cheerfulness and not compulsion. Fear of his adultery is (in my opinion) a terrible way to live....he and I don't think sex is a need b/c then what do single men do? What did Jesus do? Needs are things that we cannot live,water, relationships.
I have also learned (as he has) not to use bargaining (trading doing dishes for sex) or using sex as a weapon (withholding to teach him a lesson or manipulate). Before we have sex, we always talk about our relationship, are honest, forgive, and pray together...that makes for the best sex on the planet b/c now you are ONE in heart and body....that makes my blush thinking about it :)

Anonymous said...

Katherine - such an important post!
I just left this qoute on another blog, but it's worth repeating.

A wise woman said:

"Men, give your wife your heart, and she'll give you your body."

"And women, give your husband your body and he'll give you his heart."

I know it's not always as simple as this, but there is truth to it.

Chris from Canada

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent reminder . . . it is so easy to let things go in that department when you are so overwhelmed by raising children, and LIFE. I read about your "family vacation" and 10th anniversary, and you inspired me to slip a little something pretty into my suitcase when we all head off tomorrow for a ski trip. ;) Another great book I would highly recommend on this topic is The Proper Care and Feeding of a Husband by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Loved it!


Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

There are some wonderful comments here, which follow your insightful post.

All I have to add is this:

You rock, Katherine. Thank you so much for ministering to mothers and wives like you do, right here on a blog. You rock.

Unknown said...

Oh I love Tommy Nelson. I listen to his sermons on podcasts. The entire Song of Solomon podcast is also available to download free on itunes. I have it downloaded, but haven't listened to it.

Anyway--I agree with what you say. I think it's great that you are willing to step out as the mentor that you are to so many and breach this topic.

I've learned one thing. If my hubby and I hit a rough patch--maybe just over a specific issue such as overspending one day or a dumb mistake I've made--and he feels "connected" in the way you describe, it is so much easier to deal with.

To be fair, I am much more forgiving about his dumb mistakes when I feel connected to him in whatever way as well.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Wow, I want to thank each of you for transparently sharing. My purpose in sharing our story is to get the conversation started, and to let you know you are not alone. I'll be praying for each of you, even for those who did not feel comfortable sharing in such a public forum.

Whether you call it a "need" or a "drive" or simply a "desire" is really not the issue; the fact is that this is still a huge issue that trips up many marriages. We don't have to be motivated by fear of adultery, but we do want to be wise as to how God created our husbands =)

I love the way the anonymous commenter summed it up: God can and does forgive, and He can and does restore. Wherever you are in this journey, that is our hope.

Keep your comments coming!


Anonymous said...

Dear Aimee, it is wonderful that you have such openess in your marriage, but not everyone is so lucky. We do what we are taught--if we do not see communication in other relationships in our lives sometimes it is hard to communicate with the one closest to us no matter how much we love them. And I disagree, sex is a need, for MOST men. The bible also tells us "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but we have one that has been tempted in EVERYWAY, just as we are, yet He was without sin." Hebrews 4:15Are we to beleive that it meant every way BUT sexually? It sounds as if your husband is an exception. Just as the anonymous poster is an exception to most women. But in some ways I can relate to what you shared. If my husband feels as though I am simply giving into his needs he loses interest. He wants me completely, mind, body, and spirit. That is why porn is so attractive--in a mans eyes the woman on the screen, or the phone, or in the magazine is ALWAYS intersted, she never rejects him. It is a battle, in fact there is a book about it called Every Man's battle, it is by a Christian author. There is also another great book called For Women Only what you need to know about the inner lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn. Both deal with the fact that for MOST marriages this IS a hurdle. I am glad that you and your spouse do not have to deal with it, but pray that the Lord would make you sensitive to see the struggle for others.

Also, for all the women who say they just don't FEEL it, Do not beat yourself up for that. If you are a new mom it takes your body's hormone levels quite sometime to return to normal after having a baby and this is IF you don't nurse--then it takes a bit longer. Also, if you still feel as if there is no drive talk to your doctor about your pill, maybe you can get on a lower dose. The hormone in your pill can squash desire too. But talk about it. Don't live in your own guilt built chamber, remember God created sex too, and if He created it He intends for us to enjoy it.

Kay in Texas

Beck said...

This is such a brave post!
I have some comments but realize that I'm too shy to say them. I'll just say that this was great, Katherine.

Anonymous said...

I know this is something I have only figured out within the last year- mostly after reading a couple of books on marriage. We have 2 children, ages 3 and 1, and it is so EASY to put us last, but we have realized we have to put our marriage first, as opposed to stressing ourselves to the limit to make memories for our children (driving 8 hours to go to the beach, for example- they really do NOT care!).

I heard a sermon on the radio once by the Scottish guy- I cannot remember his name (Alastair Beg, maybe?)- that suggested, or actually, said you just have to do this- especially with small children- get away once per quarter with just your husband/wife. This has been something we have actually tried to do, but has been difficult due to our lack of planning. However, when you do get away, you are able to reconnect, and see each other as you are, not as Mommy and Dada. Not to mention, as a SAHM, it really gives me something to look forward to- all of that time without interruptions, and really time to focus on him, and him on me.

To the anonymous poster who has the "opposite" problem with her husband: I can empathize with what you are going through. We had that situation for a while, and it actually turned out to be some depression my husband was dealing with that we did not recognize as such for a long time (as I was dealing with some depression myself- we were a mess over here:))

Kathryn, thank you so much- this is so important to talk about. It is an important part of deepening our marriages that I don't think women generally think about as very important. Oh, the things I wish someone had told me 6 years ago before I got married!


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Katherine. Though we don't have exactly the same situation as the commenter above who feels different and alone, I know what she means. Mine doesn't line up with what's accepted about "all men" either.

Have you seen the Beth/Amanda Moore blog today? =)


Andrea said...

Thanks for bringing up this touchy subject. (ok, i couldn't resist the pun!)

Seriously, it needs to be talked about. Women need to encourage and yes, prod, each other to be *more* in the bedroom!! It is important.

We have been studying in my women's small group the book "The Excellent Wife". This very subject has convicted me to make more of an effort in this area with my husband. Martha Peace says we should "satiate" our husbands in this area. Now go look up the definition of "satiate". You will be challenged!

Great thoughts and encouragement.

Becca~CapturingSimpleJoys said...

Love this post. It has taken me a long time to figure this out-and I'm still working on how truly fundamental sex is to my husband. Sometimes as women it's our role to give first. When our husbands are satisfied sexually they are more willing to lend a helping hand at home. Another thing I keep in mind is that my husband isn't a mind reader. I KNOW what his biggest need is but for him sometimes what I need can change from day to day-take the trash out, put the kids to bed, all manner of things like that day to day are a help. He needs me to give him a heads up and verbally tell him what I need and want. He is always willing but sometimes is just clueless. We've had the hardest times when I want him to just somehow know what I'm thinking. I've found my openess with my needs and my willingness to meet his #! need make for smoother sailing. He also has gotten better at anticipating what I need.

Anonymous said...

Another great book is Sheet Music by Kevin Leman. Enjoy!! Thanks for the great reminder to us all on what makes the men in our lives tick. I'm ever-so grateful for the husband that God gave me. He is a gift. Melanie in Oregon

Kimberly said...

Great post, Katherine~! My hubby would kill me if I mentioned his sex drive on my blog! 8)

Queen to my 3 Boys said...

It astounds me as well that it is a 'need', like affection is a 'need' to me. It's real. Thank you for the post. I need to go upstairs now and *ahem* give my man some o' my time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to everyone for being so transparent. I was convicted of my sin in this area when I studied Martha Peace's book The Excellent Wife. I apologized to my husband and asked for his forgiveness, but unfortunately he said it was too late. He moved out of our bedroom a few months later. It's been nearly two years since we've been "together," and there's no physical relationship of any kind. We don't have children, just live like roommates now. He won't agree to counseling. I continue to wait on God, knowing that He has the plan for our life and marriage, and knowing that it is His will that our marriage glorifies Him. I pray all day, every day that He would change both of us, growing us closer to Him and thus closer together. I covet your prayers as well.

Aimee said...

Kay (and others), I am sorry that I seemed insensitive in my's hard in writing to convey tone. I am actually VERY sensitive in this area and get upset when Christian women beat themselves up in this area. I have a precious Christian friend whose relationship with her husband has been nothing but sex and sexual demands and she has given and given and given and it produced no intimacy only greater demands (she is another exception to the general rule, but one that is close to my heart and painful). She followed all the Christian woman books for years and held a tremendous overresponibility for whether he got into porn or adultery. She through counseling learned to start saying 'No" in this area and draw boundaries b/c there was no relationship or intimacy. She was just a slave of sorts. Now he is forced to talk, communicate and get some help b/c she has stopped a lot enabling of his flesh. His problem is a heart problem and she needed to allow him to stop getting "sexual needs" met for him to see that his deepest need is relational and deep loneliness and needs to be met foremost from the Lord.
I believe that sex should be a reflection of intimacy we already have in our's not "for the man"'s for both of us and for our marriage and oneness. It's an outward picture of our inward unity and oneness. If we aren't connected in spirit, then how can we really connect in our bodies? I think we need to work on intimacy with our husbands more than we do our sex lives...I believe sex will naturally follow intimacy. These are just thoughts off the top of my head meant to FREE relationships...not give extra burdens.
And my husband struggled deeply for years and was involved in porn from a young age...but realized through years of our continual communication that his deepest need was oneness. This wasn't always with him...we are reaping some fruit in the past year from 10 years of dialogue and communication. That's why I say invest in communication, gentle honesty, commitment, and building relational intimacy's not easy and hasn't been. And I never ever ever wanted sex, and my desire is growing and growing and growing to match his as we are slowing becoming more intimate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this post Katherine! I read it last night actually and haven't been able to get it out of my mind since. That's when I decided to comment and tell you how much I appreciated the reminder. My man isn't quite as verbal as yours, so most of the time I have to read between the lines. But what you wrote really gave me more perspective. Thank you so much!!!
Blessings to you!

kittyhox said...

I think it's a darn shame that they've come up with Viagra for men, when most of the time it is we women who could use a little help in the libido department! Especially the first six months after having a baby.

I totally agree with everything you've shared. It took me a few years to figure out that while my husband appreciates a clean house or wonderful meal, the surest (and easiest) way to keep him happy is, well, you know.

I definitely think most neglected people find comfort in their fantasy life or by connecting emotionally with someone, outside of the marriage. While I can't guard my husband's heart and mind for him I can sure do my best to keep his attentions focused where I want them. On ME!

And have you noticed with men that it takes SO little to make them happy? Jeesh.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I found your site via your sister's...
Such a great post...I am nearing my 22nd year of marriage and I could have written this post...and it is an area that has weighed on my heart and mind heavily lately...I think in some ways it requires going to the Lord about it...asking that your mind be renewed and heart opened. At times I think it is very much like a discipline...most people don't want to exercise or clean their house but after 5 are glad you did and the after effect of being healthier, a clean home...and coming together in intimacy has huge gains to both people. That may be a bit basic but I think it has some truth...a while ago I read For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and it speaks to the power of saying "no" to our husbands and how devastating it is to their identity and their thoughts about our love for them...really brought it home to me...because in the grand scheme of a is such a small percentage of time but has a huge "payout"...

Thanks for your boldness and I agree I wish I had a clue as a young bride...

Lisa said...

Oh Katherine, it is this type of post, which I believe really is a form of ministering, that makes me hope you never think of leaving the blog world.
I am 13 years into marriage and loved, and needed to hear this advice. It is so true. I now feel as though I owe my wonderful husband an apology and a sincere talk.
My heart goes out to all of the other commenters and it is so reassuring to not feel alone with this personal struggle.
Week after week, I read your posts and I always leave inspired to be a better wife and mother. Thank you.

Jenn @ Knee-Deep in Munchkin Land said...

Wow! What a wonderful response to your post. I love that women were so open, honest, and vulnerable on here. You were very brave and I commend you for it.

It is SO easy to let that aspect of our marriage fall by the wayside because, heck, I'm tired at the end of the day! But this was just what I needed, a good kick in the rear end. And Andrea, thank you for the word "satiate". That definitely is a challenge!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Katherine,
I am a single mum and have been so for 7 years, I still believe sex for me will only occur in marriage and this is still a long way off cause God has not brought another man and may not do so for many years until He sees fit..and sometimes I look at beautiful christian marriages and think they are blessed, these women have sex on tap, I did not think it could be such a struggle. I hope you can realise the blessing that it is to be able to share intimacy with your husbands - I do all the child rearing - and do not have a man chasing me at the end of the day wanting to be close - telling me how he adores me - count your blessings in this area because it is a very precious gift

Anonymous said...

Great post! It took me years before I realized how important sex was to my dh. Another great resource is Love and Respect by Eggrich.

Unknown said...

What a wonderful blog post. I love that you go so deep on your blog. I am still on Sea Monkeys and Double Dipping sorry to say. Anyway, I really appreciate the authenticity of your blog and no need to be blushing or red in the face because you rock. I am going to link to your post on Sunday, if that is ok with you. Thank you again. I would love to hear how anonymous pulled through those hard times. How does your heart not become so hard that you just want out?

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honesty and wisdom. I thoroughly enjoy your posts!