TO WIVES: Why Is Sex So Important?

What kinds of emotional needs does your sexual interest meet for your husband? In written survey comments and in my interviews, I noticed two parallel trends —the great benefits a fulfilling sex life creates in a man’s inner life and, conversely, the wounds created when lovemaking is reluctant or lacking.

Benefit #1: Fulfilling sex makes him feel loved and desired

Not surprisingly, the first thing surfaced from the survey comments was that having a regular, mutually enjoyed sex life was critical to the man’s feeling of being loved and desired. One eloquent plea captured it perfectly:

I wish that my wife understood that making a priority of meeting my intimacy needs is the loudest and clearest way she can say, “You are more important to me than anything else in the world.” It is a form of communication that speaks more forcefully, with less room for misinterpretation, than any other.

The reason why this message is needed is that many men —even those with close friendships —seem to live with a deep sense of loneliness that is quite foreign to us oh-so-relational women. And making love is the purest salve for that loneliness.

One man told me, “I feel like I go out into the ring every day and fight. It’s very lonely. That’s why, when the bell rings, I want my wife to be there for me.”

Another related that sentiment to the power of fulfilling sex. “A man really does feel isolated, even with his wife. But in making love, there is one other person in this world that you can be completely vulnerable with and be totally accepted and non-judged. It is a solace that goes very deep into the heart of a man.

This is one reason why some men may make advances at times that seem the furthest from sexual. One woman relayed a story about her husband wanting to make love after a funeral for a close relative. Making love was a comfort and a way of being wrapped in her love.

Benefit #2: Fulfilling sex gives him confidence

Your desire for him goes beyond making him feel wanted and loved. Your desire is a bedrock form of support that gives him power to face the rest of his daily life with a sense of confidence and well-being.

By now most of us have seen the television commercials for Viagra in which a man’s colleagues for friends repeatedly stop him and ask what’s “different” about him. New haircut? Been working out? Promotion? Nope, the man tells them all, with a little smile.

One man I interviewed brought up those ads. “Every man immediately understands what that commercial is saying —it’s all about guys feeling good about themselves. The ad portrays a truth that all men intuitively recognize. They’re more confident and alive when their sex life is working.”

Once my eyes were opened to this truth, I realized how often I’d heard the “man code” for this fact, but failed to understand it. When men had told me they “felt better” when they got more sex, I had just assumed they meant physically better.

But as one husband told me, “What happens in the bedroom really does affect how I feel the next day at the office.” Another wrote, “Sex is a release of a day-to-day pressures and seems to make everything else better.”

Wound #1: “If she doesn’t want to, I feel incredible rejection.”

As much as men want sex, most of them would rather go out and clip the hedges in the freezing rain than make love with a wife who appears to be responding out of duty. My husband, Jeff, explained: “The guy isn’t going to be rejected by the hedges. And that’s the issue. If she’s just responding because she has to, he’s being rejected by his wife.”

Again, keeping in mind that what he wants most is for you to desire him, try to see what he wants most is for you to desire him, try to see this rejection issue from the man’s point of view. If we agree, but don’t make an effort to get really engaged with the man we love, he hears us saying, “You’re incapable of turning me on even when you try, and I really don’t care about what matters deeply to you.” On the other hand if we don’t agree at all, but throw out the classic “Not tonight, dear,” he hears, “You’re so undesirable that you can’t compete with a pillow… and I really don’t care about what matters deeply to you.”

Although we might just be saying we don’t want sex at that point in time, he hears the much more painful message that we don’t want him.

Here’s what the men themselves said on the survey:

• “She doesn’t understand that I feel loved by sexual caressing, and if she doesn’t want to, I feel incredible rejection.”

• “When she says no, I feel that I am REJECTED, ‘No’ is not no to sex —as she might feel. It is no to me as I am. And I am vulnerable as I ask or initiate. It’s plain and simple rejection.”

• “She doesn’t understand how even her occasional dismissals make me feel less desirable. I can’t resist her. I wish that I, too, were irresistible. She says I am. But her ability to say no so easily makes it hard to believe.”

This feeling of personal rejection, and a sense that his wife doesn’t really desire him, tends to lead a man into darker waters.

Wound #2: your lack of desire can send him into depression.

If your sexual desire gives your husband a sense of well-being and confidence, you can understand why an ongoing perception that you don’t desire him would translate into a nagging lack of confidence, withdrawal, and depression.

The men I talked to scoffed at my tentative suggestion that a string of similar rejections wouldn’t necessarily mean that their wives were rejecting them as men. They warned that any woman sending those signals would undermine the loving environment she wants most because, as one man said, “She is going to have one depressed man on her hands.”

A man can’t just turn off the physical and emotional importance of sex, which is why its lack can be compared to the emotional pain you’d feel if your husband simply stopped talking to you. Consider the painful words of this truly deprived husband—words that other men, upon reading them, call “heartbreaking”:

We’ve been married for a long time. I deeply regret and resent the lack of intimacy of nearly any kind for the duration of our marriage. I feel rejected, ineligible, insignificant, lonely, isolated, and abandoned as a result. Not having the interaction I anticipated prior to marriage is like a treasure lost and irretrievable. It causes deep resentment and hurt within me. This in turn fosters anger and feelings of alienation.

…If you view sex as a purely physical need, it might indeed seem comparable to sleep. But once you realize that your man is actually saying, “This is essential to my feeling of being loved and desired by you, and is critical to counteract my stress, my fears, and my loneliness,” well… that suddenly puts it in a different category. So how might you respond?

First, know that you’re responding to a tender heart hiding behind all that testosterone. If at all possible, respond to his advances with your full emotional involvement, knowing that you’re touching his heart. But if responding physically seems out of the question, let your words be heart words—reassuring, affirming, adoring. Do everything in your power—using words and actions your husband understands—to keep those pangs of personal rejection from striking the man you love. Leave him in no doubt that you love to love him.

And remember, if you do respond physically but do it just to “meet his needs” without getting engaged, you’re not actually meeting his needs. In fact, you might as well send him out to clip the hedges. So enjoy God’s intimate gift, and make the most of it!

…I recognize that some women might very much wish that they could respond more wholeheartedly to their husband’s sexual needs, but feel stopped in their tracks for various personal reasons. I don’t want to add any more frustration. I do, however, want to encourage you to get the personal or professional help you need to move forward. The choice to pursue healing will be worth it, both for you and the man you love.

Make sex a priority

An excerpt from a Today’s Christian Woman article captures this issue—and provides an important challenge to change our thinking. The author starts by admitting that although her husband really wanted to make love more often, it “just wasn’t one of my priorities.” She then describes a subsequent revelation:

I felt what I did all day was meet other people’s needs. Whether it was caring for my children, working in ministry, or washing my husband’s clothes, by the end of the day I wanted to be done need-meeting. I wanted my pillow and a magazine. But God prompted me: “Are the ‘needs’ you meet for your husband the needs he wants met?”

If your daughters weren’t perfectly primped, he didn’t complain. If the kitchen floor needed mopping, he didn’t say a word. And if he didn’t have any socks to wear, he simply threw them in the washer himself.

I soon realized I regularly said “no” to the one thing he asked of me. I sure wasn’t making myself available to my husband by militantly adhering to my plan for the day… Would the world end if I didn’t get my tires rotated? I’d been focused on what I wanted to get done and what my children needed, I’d cut my husband out of the picture.

Are the many things that take our time and energy truly as important as this one? Now would be a good time to reevaluate priorities with the help of our husbands so they know that we are taking this seriously.

… Having heard from so many men on this, I would urge you: Don’t discount it. It’s more important to him—and to your relationship and therefore your own joy in marriage —than you can imagine.

Now that you understand the tender places in your husband’s heart, hopefully you have developed compassion for him and the way he is wired.


This article comes from the terrific book,  For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men -written by Shaunti Feldhahn, published by Multnomah. This is a GREAT book, which helps women learn what motivates men and their thought processes behind their actions (or non-actions). Shaunti had interviewed over 1000 men in researching this book. She reveals the findings of her research brought out so that women can better understand the men in their lives and better interact with them.

There’s also a For Women Only Discussion Guide available, written by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice, published by Multnomah. It’s designed to be used by book clubs, in small groups, or for having a one-on-one dialogue with the man of your life. Many women, after reading the For Women Only book may wonder, “What do I do with the info I’ve been given?” This discussion guide helps answer that question. It contains personal stories, questions, and situational case studies to help equip you to apply the truths you learn.

-ALSO-

There was a Revive Our Hearts radio broadcast series that aired a while ago where Nancy DeMoss interviewed Shaunti Feldhahn and Barbara Rainey on this same subject. We believe you would greatly benefit from reading the transcripts. To do so, click onto the Reviveourhearts.com links provided below to first listen to “What Do Men Need” (and then from there, go on to listen to “Words He Can Hear” and “Understanding His Needs” and then, “Delighting in Marriage”):

WHAT DO MEN NEED?

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528 responses to “TO WIVES: Why Is Sex So Important?

  1. This is a sexist article. Most men do not meet any of the emotional needs of woman and expect them to just so read their legs at the man’s wim. Sex is just a domineering motion. In fact most woman are abused in some form especially amongst Christian men. My pastor actually told me that I should be the doormat (in those exact words) no matter how my husband treats me I must respond correctly. I was having sex regularly with my husband and he was trying more and more deviant things on me. I then found out that he was into porn before I met him. He told me it was my fault even though it started before I met him. He also calls me derogatory terms such as a tart, whore and tells me I am stupid. He recenly just sent this article to me to prove why I ‘have to’ have sex. Well I refuse. Because men think everything revolves around their penis and their testosterone doesn’t mean we woman have to put up with it. It’s the oldest story that men tell woman that it makes them feel loved. Just another tool to manipulate woman into doing what they want. What about tge fact that woman not being expected to have sex or being seen as sex objects makes them feel loved. Oh I forgot woman where created for men so we must take what gets dished out. Well not this woman. He can go find some brainwashed woman to go sleep with.

    1. WOW! Just the fact that you throw all men in the same basket of being emotionally deviate and selfish shows how sexist your comment is. Yes, there are men like that. And yes, there are women who are tighter than a drum as far as horrible attitudes on sex, being selfish, as well. But not all men are this way and not all women are this way. I’m sorry this is your experience –truly. It shouldn’t be. But please beware of spreading your toxic talk. Get help to work through your bitterness –not spew it onto others poisoning their attitudes, as well.

        1. Very true Kellie… Of course the person abused needs to be recognized and valued! I am very sorry about this… terrible really. What Jessica has been subjected to is NOT OK… for sure not! As a man, I am embarrassed! I sincerely hope that Jessica finds a man more worthy of her. It’s true that many men do fall short in this area, simply because they don’t understand a woman’s viewpoint… To the women I would ask, “Help us men to understand you better!” Must be hard for you… sorry… coming from a man.

    2. Jessica, As a man… I am sincerely sorry that you have been subjected to such abuse. I am embarassed to read your words. I can understand your anger! Please also note that you need to manage your anger and get free from it… you will end up hurting yourself while the guilty men will know nothing of your anguish!! Please believe me when I tell you that not all men are like this. You do NOT have to take whatever the men dish out, and you do NOT have to put up with anything less than proper respect!

      As a Christian man I do NOT agree with your pastor’s advice. Scripture tells the MEN (not the women) to love their spouse (wife of course) as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her…” I would always check any advice given you against Scripture… and… I’m sincerely sorry for the nonsense to which you have been subjected. We on this site are all with you! Men and women! Hope you come back again… WP (Work on Progress)

  2. This seems awful. Sometimes I’m in the mood and he isn’t so I have to accept that. But this topic is inferring that women should be subservient to their husbands every whim and fancy. Albeit there may be issues from our menstrual flow pregnancy surgeries. If we say if we’re not in the mood tonight we’re considered cold and frigid disrespectful and sending our husbands into a deep depression. As women we there enough weight on our shoulders.

    I had a major live ripped off of my body and three days later my husband wished to make love to me. I was not in the mood not to mention the medicine tired me out. But according to the author if I was looking for for my husband he would suffer greatly even more so than I was. Making love also involves compassion and sincerity. What loser writes a whole article about how women should make love their husbands in a proper fashion. Thank God my husband isn’t demanding like that and what we have is mutual respect and love and compassion for each other and not demands and guilt for not being able to perform at the drop of a hat. Sex is a big part of life but is not the only part.

    1. Hi Madam M, As a man I can completely understand the point you make: “But this topic is inferring that women should be subservient to their husbands every whim and fancy,” which I would say is not quite true. Of course, any reasonable man would understand that during the menstrual cycle, or when she is very tired, etc. etc, the wife should be able to say “no” in a nice way without feeling guilty or pressured.

      While I agree with the content of the article as a man, I can see that this can place a lot of pressure on the women as you describe. What would make it easier for us men is to say “no” in such a way that we are confident that we are not being rejected, that you do find us physically desirable. This of course can be communicated during the times you are intimate. Be creative with us, Surprise us! Perhaps when you are tired or not in the mood, you would say, “no” with an arrangement for a date 1 or 2 days later, or whatever suits you both. Then, of course, please be sure to keep your arrangement. I thought the article expressed thoughts we have as men very well. The following is particularly true: “A man can’t just turn off the physical and emotional importance of sex, which is why its lack can be compared to the emotional pain you’d feel if your husband simply stopped talking to you.”

      While you may not understand this, please take it to heart and demonstrate that you care. Of course, the women should have the room and freedom to say “no” as described above. But if you go that extra mile, your man is far more able to be the husband you want him to be. And if you re empowering him in this way, you will be happier, and the two will feed each other in a positive way. WP (Work in Progress)

  3. Interesting! Not surprised! Astounding remarks through a man eyes, lack of communication plays a big key factor in making love and sharing your most taboo desires in having downright dirty raw sex, that both are comfortable with! Expressing what feels Good and exploring each other’s body, what or not turns you on! Great Sex, Awesome Sex! Explicit Sex or however you describe it is shared between two consenting adults willing to open up and discuss what feels right between the two of you!

  4. My wife has never in 68 (almost 69) years of marriage touched me in a sexual way. She has refused to let me perform any unusual sexual performances saying it isn’t the right thing to do. She has often made the statement that I can’t kiss and make normal love without having sex. So about 30 years ago I lost it with sex. I couldn’t get a climax for over 20 years then I got so I couldn’t get it hard to make an entry so for the past 10 years we haven’t touched one another, I gave up completely. I love my wife very much but their’s no sex. I’m not even sure we could have sex now, I don’t think I’m capable.

    1. Wow. :( So what now? Are you “happy” with this state of things? Have you tried to see if you ARE capable? Have you asked for outside help with this? You have nothing to lose!
      WP (Work in Progress)

  5. There is a whole lot of truth to this, more than you can fathom. I tried telling my wife that in so many words that, “It’s not going to be the end of the world if the floors don’t get cleaned one weekend,” for example. Sigh. As badly as I wanted to make love to my wife, she lost her desire for sex after having major abdominal surgery and having the last of her ovaries removed 11 years ago. We had sex maybe 4 times in the next 5 years and none after that. I massaged her feet and scratched her back, but she never really returned the intimacy. About 8 to 10 months ago I asked about maybe trying. It was then that she tells me that she never liked sex and that, “If want sex, go get a girlfriend.”

    I really had nothing to say. I was a virgin when I met her in my 30’s and didn’t have much confidence then. Now I’m in my 40’s and have even less and it isn’t even because I’m a slob or anything. I weight lift and run frequently even though I could lose 20 pounds.

    She got diagnosed with cancer and passed away a month ago and I dressed her, bathed her, and helped her as best I could through the nausea/vomiting and had to watch her decline and pass away despite the resentment I felt at being rejected and the resentment at being belittled. The belittling comments got worse as her health got worse and she felt worse and was in more pain. I know I have my issues also and I’m the first to admit that I’m far from perfection.

    But I read this article today and I just wanted to say and I’m somewhat crying as I type this. (1) I feel so guilty for feeling so resentful about not having my needs met and being belittled so much BEFORE she was diagnosed. I was in a different place after she was diagnosed as I turned into primary caregiver and tried to harden myself against hurtful comments. But the resentment was still there even if I didn’t show it or say anything.

    (2) This struck me. I don’t remember every single time she cleaned the floors or cooked, but I remember the last 3 times we made love 5 years ago and I remember the last 3 times love making was rejected and I remember the last time we talked about making love when she said, “I never liked sex,” and “If you want sex, go get a girlfriend.” That hurts to this day.

    1. Hello J, I am only just seeing this text now; I hope this reply is not too late. Wow! THAT is a hurful comment… Her pain seems to have been speaking here, more than she herself.

      You CAN be very proud of yourself for having shouldered a significant responsibility and carrying it through very well! I don’t think you should feel guilty for feeling resentful… this seems to me to be a very normal and predictable reaction! Your actions speak much louder than your thoughts, after all, you “changed gears” and became her primary caregiver!

      I have high respect for you J. I hope you see this reply. WP (Work in Progress)

    2. J, You are not alone. Much of my wife’s desire changed after our daughter was born. Fibroids, scarring, coupled thyroid issues; the girls have it tough. We are expected to be good soldiers and never ask Why? I feel selfish as she does try but her pain is real. Having gone through a myomectomy already, we are faced with a hysterectomy or hoping that the on set of menopause eases things. I am hopful, and try to focus on a better friendship, but man does it get lonely…I respect your character and how you fought the good fight to remain true, at such a great cost. I hope you have enough left in the tank to give yourself a chance to find what you have been missing.

  6. Good advice; this is all true. So tell us about the man that loves sex for all of those reasons is in physically great shape, works out in the gym but withdraws emotionally due to the fact he is functionally impotent even with pharmacueticals. How does the woman engage with the man that withdraws and becomes more and more depressed and lonely. She tries and quietly curls up into the fetal positions and feels nothing but pain at not being the man he was, physically and emotionally falling to pieces. Sex is critical to a strong unified bond between two people. It strengthens weak bonds and solidifies the tightest bonds. Two become one. When one withdraws … One becomes two. And that is sad.

    1. Hi John,
      A very difficult scenario to be sure. Psychologists and science and all our clever knowhow can only go so far, and no farther. You have described a situation which approaches this “line.” Beyond that, only God can effect a turn-around. There are many well documented cases of physical and mental / psychological healings which the doctors cannot explain. I myself am an example of the latter.

      While I agree with your comment that “sex is critical to a strong unified bond between two people,” and with your comments which follow, I would disagree with replacing the work “critical” with the word “essential.” It is also known that some people marry even though one is terminally ill… or a terminal, or debilitating illness strikes one partner. Sex is physically out of the question. Yet some of these couples have a bond which is rare, wonderful and beautiful.

      God said, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” (Matthew 19 v26) and “All things are possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9 v23)
      WP (Work in Progress)

      1. John, Understand that pharma, cannot make friends better friends. Neither can sex for that matter.
        The oneness you speak of is about a common chord, the bonds that led to intimacy. Love’s essence is the odd chemistry of our positive and negative traits somehow coming together and creating something that is more than the sum of all our parts.

        As men, we depend not just on sex, but more of the cohesive nature of that bond. Time and nature, constantly remind us that what man puts together will be tested. It is rare that a relationship can keep all its bonding properties intact without a touch of Grace and Mercy. Tune in to the bonds. Your partner will probably see the change and feel the draw. Remember sex is not the goal it is the benefit.

  7. I happen to be in a marriage where my husband doesn’t listen to understand but listens to respond. And frankly speaking he doesn’t have the faintest idea how much damage that does. Ironically he always wants to be understood all the time. In fact you have to comply because for him you have no right to think and your opinions don’t count. In situations where you are constantly hurt by the words and lack of thoughtfulness from your partner how can sex be enjoyed. I just find myself giving in out of duty but my heart is far away. If it were to be a relationship I would have walked away a long time ago. Sometimes I feel trapped and all I can do is pray. If only he had the faintest idea the psychological battle I go through to go on with the marriage and stay true to him…it hurts but I guess am in this for life.

    1. J, You are not alone. Much of my wife’s desire changed after our daughter was born. Fibroids, scarring, coupled with thyroid issues, the girls have it tough. We are expected to be good soldiers and never ask Why?

      I feel selfish as she does try but her pain is real. Having gone through a myomectomy already, we are faced with a hysterectomy or hoping that the onset of menopause eases things. I am hopful, and try to focus on a better friendship, but man does it get lonely… I respect your character and how you fought the good fight to remain true, at such a great cost. I hope you have enough left in the tank to give yourself a chance to find what you have been missing.

  8. I have a question about this. When a woman’s emotional needs are not met and she feels unloved, unwanted and taken for granted, so do you think that affects the desire to meet someone else’s needs when your needs are not being met themselves? My issue is that my husband feels unloved, and unwanted because he has a high sexual drive. I love sex my drive is not as high as his, but a lot of the times there’s no emotions outside of sex like holding hands, flirting, a kiss goodbye, a kiss good morning, and the overall feeling of being wanted and loved by that person other than sex.

    I know that sex is a very important aspect of a relationship and marriage but it’s not everything and it’s not all about just what the man needs to feel confident. The woman also needs to feel confident. So how does that come in effect or how do you handle that kind of situation when you’re butting heads with your partner because of two different issues?

    1. Hi Jenn, Your point is well taken! Of course your husband needs to understand your needs for “holding hands, flirting, a kiss goodbye, a kiss good morning,” and other non-sexual cues that tell you he loves and wants you. Men just have a harder time with this than women I am sorry to say. We are wired differently. Not and excuse!! Just a fact. (I am a husband married 36 years with 2 adult children.)

      As a husband, I can say that when you express your need and want for the non sexual cues in a non-accusing way, and then perhaps initiate as a surprise to him… he will get it more clearly that meeting your needs means a good time for him!! What do you think? Here are a few websites which speak very well to this very common issue. I hope these help! :)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ep2MAx95m20
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFPajbFhSOc
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-9cIZbOr_w
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpqHnk6Dh0U

      Cheers, Take care… WP (Work in Progress)

  9. This is a great article. I wish I had never read the comments. I love my wife tremendously and while we don’t have sex (her choice), I pray that I never make her feel the way many women feel who have left comments here. I know my feelings are immaterial. I go to work and provide a nice life style for a wife and family that has no appreciation for me. Most days, I just wish that the Lord would call me home.

    1. Joe, keep praying for your wife. She may wake up… I did. I denied Steve (except occasionally) for years until God opened my eyes through some godly teachings addressing this matter, and others concerning the disrespectful way I was treating him, unaware of the harm. We now are closer than ever. How I love and honor this man! Please know that just because things are one way now, it doesn’t mean that it will have to stay that way forever. Many times things can change for the better. As we pray, God works behind the scenes in mysterious ways. And as we lean into Him and His ways, we grow and become better people in the process.

      I want you to know that I’m proud of you for the faithful ways that you are trying to serve your family. You never know where that faithfulness, and where your prayers will lead. Hang in there. Pray for other commenters that need help, as well. God DOES care.

  10. I think it is not just about men, both sex suffer from sexual rejection. Don’t overlook the important message of the article just because the author failed to address the other sex. It helps people realise the psychological aspect of sexual rejection. However, I think the root cause of it must be found first, by communication or even involving a therapist. When the problem persists, ultimately you have to decide whether it is time to go, or find alternative ways that both parties can accept to solve the issue.