“I was never in the mood, and I didn’t know how to get there. I wanted to have that closeness with my husband, but just didn’t know how to get my body to want it.”
“I’m just not a sexual person. I don’t ever feel sexy.”
These are some of the comments that illustrate common complaints from women who would like to be more “into” intimacy with their husbands, but just don’t feel like they are ever in the mood, or that they even have the capacity to be in the mood. While these feelings especially afflict wives, some husbands experience low sexual desire as well.
Feeling amorous and sexy is a state of mind that many women must learn to nurture. For many, sex begins in the mind. It is a mental decision (though often subconscious) that initially permits them to engage in lovemaking rather than it being an automatic reaction to some kind of visual or sexual stimuli. Understanding this intimate mental wiring in women is vital for them to develop a more amorous state of mind.
One of the big sexual differences between husbands and wives is that women often need some warm-up to mentally and emotionally prepare themselves for lovemaking before their body can respond. This is why we often hear the assertion that sex begins at breakfast. (For most women sex actually begins the moment the previous lovemaking experience ends.) But women don’t have to wait until the opportunity presents itself to begin to warm up to the idea of intimacy with their husbands.
Women can be proactive in developing their sexuality by generating sexual thoughts and feelings in preparation for intimate occasions. Feeding her mind with intimate, romantic thoughts about her husband, and letting those emotions begin to stir her heart can help a woman feel more sexy and amorous as a person. Feelings follow thought, not the other way around.
Sometimes hearing a song on the radio or seeing a handsome person can cause a flicker of romantic thoughts toward one’s spouse that if welcomed and encouraged can provide fuel to the potential desire that awaits. When watching a romantic movie where intimate emotions are stirred, women can learn to mentally catalog that feeling for recall at another time.
The counsel so often given to control or inhibit sexual thoughts and feelings may be helpful for men, who often struggle with controlling their sexuality, but is often counterproductive for many women, who often struggle to awaken and free their sexuality. Each individual needs to identify his or her challenges regarding sex, and take the necessary steps to overcome their weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
One of the common roadblocks to awakening one’s amorous desires is the incorrect belief that sex is universally “questionable,” or is somehow unrighteous and wrong. We all need to know that sexuality is good and of God. Grounded in this worthy belief, women can then welcome sexual thoughts and feelings toward their spouse, as they seek to cultivate a state of mental arousal or readiness for expressing their intimate feelings of love and admiration.
If sex begins at breakfast, then not only do men need to be aware of that fact, but women also can take advantage of their opportunity throughout the day to notice, awaken, savor and nourish desire for their spouse. Women can create these passionate feelings rather than sit around waiting for them to magically appear. Loving one’s spouse thus becomes a priority of time and effort, rather than something we wish we felt.
One wife shared the following development in her and her husband’s sexual relationship. She said:
I have found that flirting with my husband can be so much fun, and very helpful to me in cultivating my own sexual feelings towards him. I used to hate it when he’d try to flirt with me, or be sexual toward me in any way outside the bedroom. But now that has changed. It has become a frequent joke for me to say, ‘Hey babe, you wanna get lucky?!’ At first my husband would look at me like with this surprised — almost unbelieving look that said, ‘Are you kidding me? Are you really serious? Now don’t kid me!’ Over time his response developed into a simple, ‘Yeah. Sure, I wanna get lucky.’ He got even wiser when he began to say, “I already am!” I especially love to throw in the offer when there is no chance of follow through … just to torment him … like on the way to church or right after we’ve already been intimate. This playfulness has made our relationship so much fun and helps me keep my intimate fires flickering throughout the day.
Another help in awakening one’s desire for his or her spouse is accepting the divinity of their innate sexuality. Particularly within religious communities, female sexuality, even within marriage, is rarely endorsed or celebrated. Thus it is not surprising that few women have awakened and developed their sexuality to the degree God has intended, and to the degree that a successful and fulfilling marriage requires.
It’s not like there are classes for wives on how to be sexy, nor are parents very helpful in preparing their young adults to embrace their sexuality within marriage. The media may portray plenty of examples of superficial sexuality, but it lacks the grounded understanding of the goodness of sexuality and of sexual desire expressed only within the ordained bounds of marriage.
Accepting one’s sexuality as ordained of God is crucial, in order to embrace sexual thoughts and emotions as good and wholesome. Feeling sexy toward one’s spouse must be seen as wonderfully good and something to be nourished, rather than as something to be ashamed of.
Feeling sexy comes from within. Sexuality has more to do with the relationship you have with your self than even the relationship you have with your spouse. Feeling amorous or sexy, as a person, is the kind of feeling that says “I like who I am, and I’m happy to share it with you.”
Feeling genuinely sexy means you like and accept yourself — complete with flaws and imperfections. It doesn’t matter your size, shape or looks. Personal development is more important than one’s appearance in creating truly meaningful and passionate sex. Dr. David Schnarch often states, “Cellulite and sexual potential are highly correlated” (Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, 78). Liking yourself is your best aphrodisiac!
Allowing yourself to feel sexy from the inside out is no small feat. But it’s not about losing weight or changing your hair or getting new clothes. Those things can be helpful, but those things alone won’t cut it! Many picture perfect people struggle with sexual desire. One’s looks are no guarantee that they feel sexy. It’s about reprogramming how you think and feel about yourself, and how you think and feel about sex.
Anyone can feel sexy and amorous toward their spouse if they decide they want to. We know that successful people aren’t necessarily the smartest, best looking or luckiest people. They are the ones who decide they want something, and go for it until they get it. Developing sexual desire toward your spouse is no different. It’s a decision you can make and cultivate.
Changing yourself on the inside is a more permanent kind of sexy that doesn’t depend on others.
You already like yourself, so you are not so affected by others’ opinions. When you are secure within yourself, you are also less needy of your spouse’s approval and attention, which makes you less affected by their moods or anxieties. This allows you to bring to the relationship a solid self rather than a shaky or reactionary self.
Changing the way we see sexual desire can also make it easier for many to feel sexy. Sexual desire is commonly viewed as an animalistic hormonal drive for the act of sex itself, as a means of relieving tensions, or obtaining sexual pleasure. While this is part of human sexual motivation it comes from the part of the brain where the most basic level of human function originates (see Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, 132-137).
Through personal and mental development we can access our agency, which is an advanced function of the brain’s executive decision-making abilities, and cultivate our intimate desires rather than be victim of our hormones. Human sexual potential is so much greater than a base instinct to “have sex.” We have the capacity to mature sexually and experience sex as more meaningful, personal and intimate with a deeper and richer intent.
We can learn to feel sexy because we want to want our spouse, not just because we want to want sex. This mental switch from a behavior to a person can change the nature of sexual desire. It’s about being amorous toward your spouse not just ready for sex. This shift in thinking can help enliven one’s sexual feelings, allowing amorous desire for one’s spouse to be the focus. When the object of our desire is our spouse rather than a behavior, it is easier to keep the flicker of desire lit — ready to ignite when the moment is right.
Being in the mood or feeling sexy as a person, is not something one has to wait around hoping to someday feel. It is something they can choose to cultivate. This was the experience of one woman who overcame her thoughts and feelings that were inhibiting her intimate desires for her husband. She wrote, “I’m learning how to control my thoughts, and instead of thinking, “I’m not in the mood,” I can decide to improve my relationship with my husband by showing him how much I love and desire him.
Learning to accept one’s sexuality, as well as accepting sex itself as wholesome within marriage, and of God is necessary for all husbands and wives. Those who struggle with low sexual desire can learn to be more attentive to and cultivate their sexual thoughts and feelings, creating an awakening of one’s God-given sexuality. Sexual desire and expression is vital in any marriage. It can bless your life in so many ways, and help build the kind of marriage that one would want throughout eternity.
Schnarch, David. Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.
Laura M. Brotherson, CFLE, is a marriage and family life educator certified by the National Council on Family Relations, and is the author of a groundbreaking book on physical intimacy and marital ONEness entitled, And They Were Not Ashamed – Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment. For more information visit www.StrengtheningMarriage.com. Laura welcomes your comments at Laura@StrengtheningMarriage.com.