This Is How Love Acts

I recently answered this question on Quora:

Do you feel used or cheated if your girlfriend or wife only has sex when she’s in the mood (which is not as often as you’d like to have sex)?

This Is How Love Acts

It seems to me this is, or should be, a much more general question. So I answered it in a more general way:

Would I feel cheated if my wife only did what she wants and never did anything for me just because she loves me? Of course I would! That’s not love; it’s one person using another for their own needs without giving back.

Love is all about caring for someone else. It means what is important to them is important to you. It means sometimes sacrificing to give them what they want, need, or enjoy. Sometimes it means going out when you want to stay home, or it might mean staying home when you want to go out. It means going to a movie or a restaurant that wouldn’t be your first (or second, or third) choice. It means having a conversation when you don’t want to. It means massaging their sore shoulders when you’re dead tired. And sometimes it means having sex, as enthusiastically as you can, even when you have no interest in sex.

And here’s the big thing: real love sets priorities based on the feelings, thoughts, and needs of the person they love. So if sex, or anything else, is really important to your spouse, then you make a point of doing that thing regularly.

If both spouses are halfway good at applying this kind of love the couple will have a great relationship. If either fails at this, the relationship will be far less than it could be.

What about you? Is there anywhere you’re failing to give your wife what she wants because you don’t care about that thing?

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18 Comments on “This Is How Love Acts

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with you. I’ve been seeing a growing idea that if a woman has sex anytime she isn’t overly enthusiastic that it’s tantamount to a kind of rape, even in marriage. This is something that teenagers and young 20 somethings are being taught and I can only imagine the struggles some couples will endure because of it.

    • It also leads to a lot of needless rejection when someone is making an honest effort and it leads to resentment on both sides. I’ve even seen arguments that the other partner has to want sex in exactly the same way and exactly the same reasons for it to be legit, or it’s not worth it. (Like, my husband and I can’t like the same restaurant for different reasons?) That’s a horrible, selfish, and demanding way to look at it.

      • That’s definitely the opposite of love. I’d really like to know what the reasoning is behind this thought process? Is it the thought that sex just isn’t important? Is it that sex is so important that doing it any way but the absolute “ideal” conditions is immoral?

        • I’ve seen this a lot on the Deadbedrooms subreddit. Some wife will try to initiate sex, but she’s not “horny” and so the husband turns her down and then complains about how she’s never horny. Or the wife is very responsive to sex or schedules sex, but she doesn’t spontaneously initiate, so the husband starts turning her down because if she *really* wanted it, she would initiate.

          It’s certainly not a morality issue (that is not a morally conscious subreddit!), but I think it points to either selfishness or immaturity or both. The feeling of the husband is usually that somehow perceiving or treating sex differently means that his wife doesn’t really want him.

          • That’s so stupid it makes my brain explode.

            So wait. A complains they don’t have enough sex. B initiates, but A turns B down because B isn’t “enthusiastic enough”.

            Are these people for real? That’s like gate-keeping and emotional blackmail(?), manipulation(?) rolled onto a burrito of self-destructive stupidity.

          • @sunny-dee – I’ve written about that. “If you turn down an offer you are not being refused.” I can understand it not being all you want it to be, but rejecting an attempt is just insulting, and that can only make it worse.
            There is a valid issue in this, but some guys get their knickers in a knot and just make it worse.
            BTW, coincidentally (really) this is my XY topic for tomorrow.

        • @Brian,
          I’ve seen husbands comment that when their spouse is ‘willing’ but not ‘desirous’ it isn’t as satisfying.
          It’s like drinking decaf coffee when what you want/need is the caffeine.
          They don’t want unwanted sex. They want to be wanted. Being wanted is a feel good thing. Feeling accommodated, not so much.

          I find having “enthusiastic” sex with my husband very difficult at times, primarily because I don’t get much out of sex myself. It makes it much easier that he is appreciative of my efforts.
          He in turn, shows great patience listening to me talk about some issue that bothers me over and over and over again. I thank him profusely for his tolerance.

          • Jolie, I absolutely hate sex that was unenthusiastic, and if my physical and emotional need for it hadn’t been so strong, I might have gotten to the point of refusing to initiate. At one point I was pretty much there, and I would rather use porn to try to fulfill that need. Of course porn never did, but it definitely wears on a man to always have to initiate, to never get any indication that you are wanted sexually, to always fight for sex only to be told “we’ll see how I feel later” or “not tonight”. When you do all that only to have to do all the work in bed and have her just lay there in the missionary position, I can see how men would consider it not worth the effort. I’m certainly not saying it’s right, but I can empathize if that’s what we’re talking about.

            This is why porn is so alluring to men. Women think it’s because of the attractiveness of the women. It’s almost entirely not that at all. Porn is a fantasy that the woman is “all in” for the sexual encounter. She wants you so much that she will do anything to please you, and to be pleased by you. So, I would imagine a vast majority of the men refusing sex to thier wives are using porn as a substitute. I’ve heard statistics that 10-40% of marriages have the wife as the “higher drive” spouse, and I always think “hogwash”. The vast majority of of those instances he just doesn’t want to have sex with her because he’s getting his needs filled another way (porn).

            • “Porn is a fantasy that the woman is “all in” for the sexual encounter. She wants you so much that she will do anything to please you, and to be pleased by you.”
              May we put an emphasis on the word “fantasy”?
              I think porn has ruined many people’s sex lives, primarily due to the fantasy vs. reality syndrome.

              There are a good many wives who are willing to be sexually intimate with their husbands on a regular basis because they love their husbands not because they need or want sex for themselves. Isn’t that a good thing?

              To me, ‘unenthusiastic’ equates to ‘less passionate’ not to ‘begrudgingly’.
              I will also add, if sex is painful, it’s hard to get real enthusiastic about it at times.
              If your husband has ED and you have to do all the work, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about it at times. That doesn’t mean you can’t engage lovingly.

              I call foul on the “vast majority of those instances he just doesn’t want to have sex with her because he’s getting his needs filled another way (porn)”. Some men ( in reality) have low sex drives.

              • I used to think it was a complete fantasy for a woman to be that way, because my wife wasn’t. I’ve learned that not all women are reluctant and neither is my wife now. In fact she’s as close to the attitude of one of those fantasy girls now as I could ever hope.

                As for some men having lower drives, of course that’s true. I just don’t think it’s as high as 10% of marriages. I don’t have data to back that up so I could be wrong.

  2. Selfishness is the opposite of Love. When selfishness enters a relationship, love disappears.

  3. I feel used when I get “friend-zoned” by my own spouse, ie she wants emotional support and fulfillment from me without sex. She feels used when I want constant sex without emotional connection. If we were dating, she would not withhold sex because that would cause me to look elsewhere, and I would not withhold honest affection and connection because that would cause her to look for it elsewhere.

  4. You have made me think (for several days) with this one. A couple of reactions for better or for worse.

    The introspection at the end. I am sure there are things I could be more generous with. Heck, there are probably things I don’t do (or do do) out of spite — because, you know, she deserves what she gets. A big part of why I follow your blog, Paul, is because I want to be a Generous Husband (TM), but I ain’t there, yet.

    Perhaps because it is fresh on my mind, but the question and response reminded me of this old essay that I first read a couple of months ago: Quick recap for those who don’t want to follow the link, guy is dating girl, sleeping with her (if all you can see is the unmarried part of the relationship, you are missing what I see), she says that she sometimes has sex even when she doesn’t want to, and he asks “…what seemed the only possible question: ‘Are you trying to tell me that I raped you?'” With all of the stuff over the last few years about sexual assault and consent (especially those preaching “positive consent”), that struck close to home. I so want to believe the answer you gave — that there are places in relationships where it is acceptable and even laudable to do things we don’t want or not do things we want to do. It often seems that we are okay when it involves something outside the bedroom. But, once it starts to involve sex, then it becomes something different. I don’t know what to make of it all.

    Following up on the previous paragraph, I had an interesting thought. In early Christianity (somewhere near about St. Augustine, it seems), the church got into its collective head that sexuality is something to be feared and hated and despised because God didn’t like sexuality (except as a necessary evil for perpetuating the species). In our Godless society, we need a new reason to fear and hate our sexuality — so we argue for making all sex potential forms of assault. We still hate and fear sex, but for different reasons. Is there any hope for ever coming to a healthy relationship to our sexuality?

    • The site, “The Good Men Project” is a feminist man hating organization, and very little of value comes from them at all. Thier basic premise is that men are flawed and bad and need to be fixed. Now, of course they are right in a way because all humans are flawed and sinful, but that isn’t what they believe. They more or less believe men are bad and women are good. This article is a great example of the kind of thing they push.

      • I suppose that could be true. In your first comment here, you bemoaned how others like GMP are teaching this sort of stuff to our youth. I think that “ad hominem” type dismissals (based solely on who wrote the essay or where it got published) that don’t engage the actual points being raised are not going to help us counter these teachings when presented to the next generation. It seems to me that there is a discussion here about consent, generosity, desire, and negotiating sexual differences that could be better understood.

    • @MrShorty – Many are unable to have a calm, mature discussion about sex. As long as that is the case, we will have all kinds of anger, fear, exaggeration, and so on.

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