Friday Flashback: Bedroom Expectations

Let me note upfront I’m aware that in some marriages the genders are reversed. If you’re a man who is not meeting your wife’s sexual expectations, please take this to heart: you are hurting her deeply and wronging her horribly.

I think men’s sexual expectations are simple, and can be summed up as:

  • My wife will make a serious effort to meet my reasonable sexual needs.
  • I am inherently better qualified to judge my reasonable sexual needs than my wife is.

“Serious Effort” indicates a man is aware that “life happens”. There are times she really intends to do something, then got run over by a day out of control and ended up feeling unable to do what she honestly planned to do. No reasonable person has a problem with that. Likewise, no reasonable person thinks it’s acceptable for that to be the norm.Friday Flashback: Bedroom Expectations

The second expectation above is usually the sticking point – or at least it’s usually where the “battle” gets fought. No woman wants to see herself as selfish, unloving, uncaring, or cruel. The way to avoid that is to keep the issue from being what she does by invalidating; his expectations. It is, of course, ridiculous for any person to say they have a better understanding of another person’s sexual desires, but it’s still done by many, many women (and plenty of men).

Of course, some guys do have unreasonable expectations; they want some sex act that offends their wife, or they don’t care about her comfort or pleasure, or they expect her to be ready 24/7 no matter what. (“Can you stop throwing up for a while? I want sex.”) While this does happen, it’s not really that common, and any guy who does this is going to be a horrible husband in many ways. Any woman who claims her husband is only selfish when it comes to sex needs to think about how that sounds.

This is all fine, but what’s a guy to do about it? If she says his needs are unreasonable, what does he do? She may or may not honestly believe his expectations are unreasonable, but if she chooses to make that the point of engagement, what can he do?

One option is to call it what it is: invalidating your exceptions, needs, and feelings. You can then up the ante by saying “If you’re allowed to invalidate what I feel, then I guess I am allowed to invalidate what you feel, right?”

Will this work? If she has enough integrity, and if she has not been totally corrupted by societal lies, you just might get her to see how wrong it is for her to invalidate your sexuality.

A similar, less confrontational, option is to tell her it hurts you when she invalidates your feelings. Odds are she will say that’s not what she is doing – but then at least you have opened the subject.

[This post first appeared May 15, 2010.]

Image Credit: © mast3r; |
Shop AmazonShop to give links page
We’re donation supported Thanks for your help!
This post may contain affiliate links, see my disclosure for info.

16 Comments on “Friday Flashback: Bedroom Expectations

  1. Years ago when we went to counseling, my wife would actually argue with me about what it was that I wanted, which was in direct contradiction to what I had stated I wanted. She was more interested in validating her insecurities than she was in listening to what I had to say. The counselor asked her how she would feel if I started telling her that she really liked Indian Food (which she hates) more than Italian food (which she loves) and telling her that I knew better what she liked than she did.

  2. Years ago, we went to marriage counseling. It wasn’t the wife who shut me down when I wanted to talk about reasonable sexual expectations. It was the counselor. This was a licensed Christian Counselor with a degree from Dallas Seminary. And he got mad at me when I said I needed more sex than two or three times a year. He said very condescendingly that “sex is not a need, it is a desire.”

    I was stunned and had no reply. However, having thought seriously about it years later, I have come to the conclusion that 1) the counselor was an idiot, 2) I am not an idiot because, of course, I know I am not going to DIE without sex. 3) Nobody is going to die without a lot of things that are marital needs, like affection, communication, love, trust, etc. 4) No counselor who wants to retain his practice would ever scold a wife who says she “needs” more communication or “needs” more affection. Could you imagine having a counselor say to the wife, “You don’t need love and affection. You’re not going to DIE without them, after all”?

    For the last few years my libido has diminished with age and weight and my wife has expressed a lot of happiness that I wasn’t bothering her for sex as much as I used to. I started being a good husband, in her eyes. But then I went and screwed it up by getting testosterone replacement therapy. Now I am back to wanting sex again. I told her that I believed two or three times a year was an unhealthy and possibly sinful lack of sexual activity. Her response was that I was making sex too important. I told her that our counselor from years ago was an idiot and that there was no basis for her to say I was over-prioritizing sex given that most people believe a healthy sex life consists of at least once a week. I was willing to negotiate but she was not. Now I am contemplating ending the testosterone replacement therapy and going back to being a sexless eunuch. Otherwise known as a “good husband.”

    • @Mitch – I have never understood the whole “It’s not a need” thing. Your example on communication is exactly where I go with that. In my mind both communication and sex are necessary to have a good marriage, and that makes it a need for any couple who want a good marriage.

      Beyond that, calling it a need rather than a want does not change the fact it’s a problem that should be addressed so the marriage can be better. I can’t fathom a counsellor leaving such an obvious problem unaddressed.

      What makes things like this so horrible is it gives the spouse in the wrong cover. It’s aiding and abetting sinful behaviour.

      • I think the counselor must have had a pet peeve about husband’s who try to guilt their wives into having sex by using the “need” argument. But if a man even has to use this argument in the first place, it points to deeper problems of sexual and emotional disconnection in the marriage. Rather than dismiss my expression of need, the counselor should have used it has a starting point for a deeper discussion about justifiable sexual expectations and unjustifiable sexual expectations. He could have asked, “How frequently do you have sex?” Duh!

        That question alone would have led us down a completely different path. Perhaps he might have understood that my statement was a cry for help in restoring sex to its rightful and justifiable place in our marriage, rather than just being an afterthought or something that gets pushed into the periphery. But, alas, he decided instead to brush me off with a pointless argument that had the effect of shutting down the whole discussion. We ended the counseling several weeks later because we couldn’t afford any more. In the years after, I believe I am still paying the price in sexlessness because of that counselor’s obtuse response.

  3. My wife and I struggle with sex and have for a long time. She feels sex is a want, not a need. Shared this with her and her response was this:

    “An article written by a man to validate a mans desires…”

    “The article is very biased and will undoubtedly make any man feel justified with their thinking. That is it’s purpose. I think the author too is confused. Why would he change the word need to desires later.? They are not the same thing.”

    • Your wife’s statement is so familiar. It is a combination of arrogance, sexism, condescension, and deflection. She did choose, after all, to marry a MAN. The bottom line is this: You should not have to argue whether it is a want or a need. It is ultimately irrelevant. Sex is a right and obligation of the marriage covenant. Marriage is not a unilateral covenant. It is different from a contract in that God is involved. But it is like a contract in that it has obligations and rights. You say vows before getting married. If she can’t be persuaded by your need or desire, then perhaps you should tell her she is in breach of the marriage covenant and has betrayed her obligations.

      • Thank you both for your replies.

        It’s been a long battle. We’ve been married for almost 16 years and sex has been a struggle and source of tension throughout. For many years, we’d have sex once every month or two.

        We’ve now reached a point of weekly scheduled sex, every Saturday evening. That’s certainly much better than before and better than a lot of marriages so I feel like I can’t complain too much. However, it is very much duty/maintenance sex and purely physical in nature. Any and all requests for additional sex above and beyond Saturday nights are rebuffed (she has instead suggested I “just go in to the bathroom and jack off”). Any requests to change the schedule and move sex up in a given week, like from Saturday night to Friday night for example, are denied. If sex can’t happen on a Saturday night for any reason, then it is simply postponed to the next available night.

        When we have sex on Saturday nights, it feels empty. Foreplay is the same every time. The room is always dark. She doesn’t like to be touched, so it consists of me laying still on my back while she rubs my chest, arms, etc. until eventually making her way to my penis. At that point, she might be turned on enough to allow me to begin touching her. Otherwise, she doesn’t really want me really touching her body with my hands. Our sexual repertoire consists of 2-3 positions/choices.

        Once orgasm is achieved (she orgasms nearly every time), she gets immediately gets up, heads to the bathroom to clean up, then climbs back in to bed and turns on the TV. No cuddling or any further contact at that point until the following week.

        If tried to be clear to her what I feel my needs are. I’ve said they are sex a couple of times per week (on average, knowing that things will come up) and for her to be a more involved/enthusiastic participant. She feels I shouldn’t be placing high expectations on her like that. That guys don’t “need” sex that much and that I should be happy to get it once a week. She feels she’s already compromised enough.

        • RangerHub,

          It sounds like your hurting. I’m sorry. I’m happy things are improving for you.
          I’m a bit confused though. Being a female, I never came to the marriage bed already “turned on”. It took a lot of concentration and tuning in to what was happening and what I was feeling for me to become aroused enough to orgasm. From what I’ve read, a good many women have responsive desire and have to concentrate on arousal. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but my question is:
          Isn’t becoming aroused and orgasming an indication of involved/enthusiastic participation?

          Which leads me to my next question for Paul:

          What causes men to enter marriage expecting women to be “all about sex?” What makes them think women will want/need sex as much as they do? Are either one of those expectations unreasonable or unrealistic?

          • I don’t care if my wife is “all about sex.” I just care if she mentally understands how God designed her husband and seeks to meet my sexual needs as an act of love and submission. There is a good reason for a man (or woman) to expect regular and frequent sexual relations within marriage. It’s because God has commanded it and the marriage bed is the only moral place where that need can be met.

            Those are reasonable expectations and it is up to you to make those expectations realistic.

          • @Anonymous this time round – As to the first part of your comment, yes, most women do have a responsive desire. I’m dealing with that on Saturday. I’ve hit it a number of times before, but it’s an uphill battle against what culture tells us.

  4. @Anonymous this time round – Two things lead us to expect the woman we marry to be all about sex. 1) We generally assume people are like we are, and 2) media, especially porn, tells us this is how women are.

    • When I got married my assumption was that women resented male sexuality and I was responsible to convince my reluctant wife to have sex with me as a reward for being an awesome husband. And then, like a rat on a treadmill, i would have to continue to “earn privileged access to the marriage bed” by being “civilized, directed, and stimulated toward marital faithfulness” by the fact that my wife will freely give herself to me sexually only when I present myself as “worthy of her attention and desire.”*


    • The reason I asked these questions is because prior to marriage, I also expected myself to be “all about sex” and I expected to want and need sex as much as my husband “would”.

      I’m not sure where those expectations came from because I had never been “all about sex” prior to marriage. I was pretty sure sex would be so awesome I’d be all about it, all of the time once I got married. Fairytale anyone? It started out pretty hot and heavy until one day it just wasn’t.

      I had a good many pre-marriage sexual expectations. Most of which where invalidated by no one other than myself.
      Turns out, I assumed my sexuality would be expressed much like my husbands until one day I realized my feelings and desires and needs were nothing like my husbands.

      One day I was too tired to even think about sex but my husband was still interested. I thought, how can anyone want to have sex with a person who isn’t up for it? Naivety.
      One day, I didn’t want or need sex.
      One day, I realized I was getting nothing out of sex.

      My sexual expectations (of myself) – my sexual reality = major disappointment.

      What happened to my Fairytale?

      • @Anonymous this time round – It sounds like you were trying to live as something you are not, and it fell apart. You were a victim of the lie. If you and hubby understand the truth and work at it you can change things.

Leave a Reply to RickyB Cancel reply

%d bloggers like this: