Has your spouse ever told you "You seem to want sex all the time”? Or perhaps you hear "I wish we could be intimate more often"? Regardless if you’ve been married three weeks or three decades, comments like these are incredibly common. The technical term for this tension is "drive discrepancy." Drive discrepancy is where one spouse's desired frequency of sex does not align with the actual frequency. It’s where each spouse has different expectations about their sex life.
If left unaddressed, drive discrepancy can become a huge source of frustration in marriage. My wife and I experienced this first-hand. Throughout our 36 years of marriage, there were several seasons where one of us had a higher sex drive than the other. While these times were difficult, it was also these seasons that taught us much about growing in sexual intimacy and oneness. If you'd like to hear more about how it played out, listen to us share our story. We learned a lot on this journey and discovered four principles that we found helpful for encouraging couples in similar situations:
It is important that you learn how to talk honestly with your spouse on the topic of sex. The conversation might be awkward at first, however, if you are struggling sexually (even if you cannot articulate "why") you need to communicate that to your spouse. Beyond just discussing struggles, learning to communicate about sex will also help enhance your sex life. Communicating freely lets you inform your spouse about what you enjoy sexually and how to best please one another.
By not discussing sex, you increase the chance for misunderstanding and deny your spouse a chance to carry your burdens (Galatians 6:2). When your spouse communicates something to you, resist the temptation to negatively interpret and let insecurities drive your reaction. Listen to their point of view. You might be surprised at how often you are reluctant to discuss this topic, yet your spouse was thinking almost the exact same thing!
As you initiate conversations about sex, try to have an open mind and be compassionate. Know that every time you discuss sex, it will make the conversation easier the next time.
This principle is primarily for the spouse with the higher sex drive. Remember that pressuring your spouse for sex is never a good idea. Rather than looking only to your own interest, seek instead to mutually serve one another (Philippians 2:3-4). Pressuring your spouse is not serving them; it is serving yourself.
As the spouse with the higher sex drive, if you find yourself frustrated, express those frustrations to God. Ask him to change your heart. Ask him to change your needs and align your desires with those of your spouse. Allowing him to work in you will shift your focus away from your own needs.
This principle is primarily for the spouse with the lower sex drive, as they are usually the one controlling how often sex occurs. If this is the case, pray that you might be a servant to your spouse (Mark 10:42-44). Remember that your spouse does not have another sexual outlet. You are who God intends to satisfy the sexual needs of your spouse.
When we marry, we give our bodies to our spouse as a gift (1 Cor 7:3-5), and it is important not to take that gift back. Even when the demands of life get hard, like when you are worn out from work and sex is the last thing on your mind, you must still seek to serve your spouse.
If you are fighting the temptation to withhold sex from your spouse, remember the words of 2 Corinthians 10:5. When you surrender your negative or discouraged thoughts to God, he can replace them with a desire to serve your spouse and make sex work. If you are still apprehensive, consider scheduling time to be intimate so you can both plan for it. And if intercourse is not an option, remember there are other ways you can be sexually intimate.
It may be wise to share your struggles with a small group of friends. For many, this sounds ridiculous at first! However, welcoming other trusted, same-gender believers into the conversation and sharing honestly with them can be an incredible help (Prov 15:22).
Especially for those with the lower sex drive, it would serve your spouse to consider whether there is something affecting your sex drive. After doing so, it is important to share this with your spouse. Because this process can be so complicated, it helps to have others around who can help advise you on next steps. Some of the common issues that affect sex drive are:
To put the principles above even more simply, you can combine "Don't Pressure" and "Don't Withhold" into one key principle: serve one another. If you communicate with your spouse, serve one another, and share with trusted friends, then you will be better equipped to tackle the challenges of sex drive discrepancy.
Finally, even by applying these principles it may take some time for your sex life to find a comfortable spot. That's why you need friends around you to encourage you during any tough times. Most of all, remember that God will not leave or forsake you (Deut. 31:6). Sex is one of the greatest gifts He gives you in marriage and He wants you to enjoy that gift!