Continue with us in the 5 Sex Needs Challenge!
How is tending to your wife’s spiritual side a sexual need? Women all over the country have told us the same thing: "When my husband takes the lead spiritually, by praying, reading his Bible, and going to church, I am drawn to him on a deep level. It makes me feel so secure that I am eager to give myself fully to him."
Women are so serious about spiritual intimacy with their husbands that 58% ranked it as a top sex need. If you think it's just our survey respondents who feel spiritual things affect what goes on in the bedroom, take a look at a survey conducted by the National Marriage Project, located at Rutgers University. Prominent family experts David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead reexamined the institution of marriage in America. In 2001, Gallup collected the data for the National Marriage Project to study, which included interviews from 1,003 adults who ranged in age from 20 to 29. The results indicate that emotional and spiritual connection rank far above other needs, including financial stability, in forming a romantic partnership. Nearly 81% of the women interviewed reported that it is more important to have a husband who can communicate about his deepest feelings than it is to have a husband who earns a good living. An overwhelming majority (94%) believe that a spouse should be a soulmate first and foremost.
What does that information tell us? Women want a man who can connect to the deepest part of them – the spiritual part.
In Making Love Last Forever, Gary Smalley writes about finding the power to keep loving: "Why is the spiritual journey so important? Marriage researchers are finding a correlation between one's spiritual journey and one's satisfaction in marriage. Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, and Susan Blumberg report that religion has a favorable impact on marriage. They write that religious couples 'are less likely to divorce…show somewhat higher levels of satisfaction…lower levels of conflict about current issues…and higher levels of commitment.'" Similarly, marriage expert Nick Stinnett found that one characteristic common to most happy marriages and families was an active, shared faith in God.
If you want to release deep passion in your wife, then get serious about connecting with her spiritually.
What Is Spiritual Intimacy?
You will experience deep spiritual intimacy when you have a mutual, heartfelt desire to be close to God, when you seek God's direction for your marriage – even for your sex life. Spiritual intimacy means that in the midst of conflict, you honor and respect each other. You don't put each other down in an attempt to win; you think about how God would want you to act in the situation. You become united together through prayer. You unite under biblical principles for your lives and marriage. You actively invite God into every aspect of your marriage, including sex.
A wife deeply desires to pursue God with her husband. She wants to have spiritual conversations, to read the Bible together, and to pray together. A wife is attracted to her husband when he provides spiritual leadership.
God designed the husband to be the spiritual leader in the marriage. And your wife really wants to see you succeed in that. When you spiritually lead your wife, she feels encouraged to trust you more. When a husband and wife build their marriage on the foundational commitment to pursue God above all, they are able to share fears, anxieties, joys, and dreams. They are free to experience transparent honesty, knowing that they love each other unconditionally and that neither will ever walk away.
How to Meet your Wife's Need for Spiritual Intimacy
Pick a few of the following suggestions, and begin the process of meeting your wife’s need for spiritual intimacy.
1. Ask your wife what she needs. The best way to start meeting your wife’s needs is to ask her how she would like you to build spiritual intimacy with her. Don't let her give general answers. Probe exactly what she means. If she says, "I want you to be the spiritual leader in our marriage," ask her what that looks like to her on a daily, practical level. Then begin to follow her requests.
2. Be honest about your awkward feelings. In the Reader’s Digest article "How Honest Are Couples, Really?" The author reported the results of a poll showing that men wish they could talk about deeper matters than sports or money – but they don't know how. Nearly a third of the men wished they could talk openly with their wives about spiritual matters. Marriage researcher John Gottman commented on this finding: "That really impressed me. It underscores the meaning of how we live, what we value. It's hard for men to talk about that."
If you are uncomfortable talking about spiritual things, start slowly. One great way to start is for each of you to share the history of your spiritual life. Use the following questions to discover more about your partner’s faith:
• What did your parents believe about God, Jesus, church, prayer, and the Bible?
• How and where did you first learn about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? At what age?
• What questions about Faith did you have as a child and teenager? Who gave you the answers?
• If you could ask God any questions now, what would they be?
• When you were a child, did anyone you looked up to as a Christian disappointment you? If so, how has that influenced you as an adult?
• How have difficult times affected your faith?
3. Pray for your wife. More than anything else – more than flowers, candy, candlelit dinners, or gifts – your wife needs you to be her "soul protector." Pray for her throughout the day. Pray for her struggles and her dreams. Ask God to show you ways to meet her needs.
4. Pray with your wife. Praying together is probably the strongest knot that binds a couple.
5. Encourage your wife spiritually. To get started, complete these four statements together:
• You could help me grow in my faith by…
• I feel most comfortable praying with you when we…
• We could grow together in our faith if we…
• We could serve God together by…
6. Focus on your wife's spiritual strengths. When you see her make a difficult decision based on her convictions, affirm and encourage her. When you are drawn to God because of her, let her know.
7. Practice forgiveness. When you and your wife have an argument or when she has hurt or frustrated you in some way, know that any unresolved offense can block all kinds of intimacy – emotional, physical, and spiritual. When you sense a wall between you and your spouse, something is wrong. Take responsibility for your wrongs. Ask for forgiveness. And when your wife does the same, choose to forgive her. (Check out our book, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage, for in-depth help in this area.)
For Men: Initiation
In an earlier post, when we discussed a husband’s need for his wife to respond, we said that her resistance to his sexual advances affects his confidence and his view of himself. If a wife’s responsiveness strengthens her husband's self-esteem, think about what her initiating sex will say to him. The men who responded to our survey thought about what it would say. Nearly 61% of them rank a wife's initiation as a top sexual need.
Men enjoy spontaneity. That statement is so important for wives to understand that it bears repeating: Men love spontaneity. A husband needs his wife to initiate so he knows he's not the only one who cares about their sex life. When she initiates sex, he realizes that she cares about his needs, loves him, and thinks about him. Her initiation allows him to take a break from initiating – and the fear of her lack of response – and enjoy a spontaneous sexual encounter. A wife's initiation relieves him of the pressure of starting the process of sexual intimacy.
When a wife tells her husband how much she cares for him, his self-esteem is bolstered. But when she pursues him sexually, he feels on top of the world. He says to himself, she wants me! He wants to shout to the world: "She still finds me attractive!"
And isn't that what you want in your marriage – a husband who is joyful, deeply satisfied, protected, and completed? Fulfill your husband's fantasy: To be desired and pursued by you.
Kevin Lehman writes, "It is very emotionally fulfilling for a man to have a wife who is interested in him sexually. A man is external. If you want a man to feel wanted and needed, words won't cut it; you need to pursue him sexually."
At a recent conference Suzanne told us, "If initiation is important to Greg, then I've been blind to this area in our marriage. I enjoy sex. I like to respond to him. A couple of times when we were alone at a business convention, I initiated sex, and it blew his socks off. He walked around with a twinkle in his eye that reminded me of our first year of marriage. But I thought it was a 'vacation thing.' Now I realize that I'm sending him the message that sex is important to me only if he wants it, not if I want him. I'm starting to see that he would really be honored if I set the stage for sex by flirting and drawing him in."
Of all the sex needs, initiation seems to be the most difficult for many wives to practice. As we discussed in a previous post, most women don't regularly think about sex, so it doesn't occur to them to initiate something that isn't on their minds. But when women do think about sex, many figure that being responsive is good enough. In fact, some women think initiation is more a luxury than a necessary part of marriage. Well, they're wrong.
How to Meet Your Husband's Need for Initiation
Wives, be willing to step out of your comfort zone and become a sexual initiator in your marriage. Here are some ideas to get you started in meeting your husband's need for initiation.
1. Remember your husband is a sexual being. Honor your husband by taking seriously his need for sex with you. Consider it a joy and privilege to be the one God has chosen to satisfy those needs.
2. View yourself as a sexual being. "I consider myself a loving person. I love to cuddle, listen, and spend time with my husband," says Dana. "I even love romance. But I don't consider myself a sexual person. It takes effort to make me feel sexy; it doesn't come naturally." Although some women are more aware of their sexuality than others, most women do not often think on a sexual level. But when we ask women, "When you are rested, when your husband has connected to you emotionally and spiritually and you feel safe, do you feel sexy?" most women respond yes.
3. Refuse to buy into myths about sex. Women often believe that they must be in the mood to initiate sex. Here is how Clifford and Joyce Penner respond to that myth: "In real life, the more preparation, anticipation, talking, guiding and scheduling you put into your sexual times with each other the better they likely will be. If you wait for some mysterious erotic energy to grab you before you have sex, you may not be having sex very often."
4. Keep sex vibrant in your marriage. Many women think there's nothing they can do to increase or maintain their sexual desire – it just comes and goes. But remember that sex begins in the mind. Start thinking about sex. Plan for it. Mark it on your private calendar. Initiate sex with your husband at least a couple of times each month. Save energy for sex. Pray about it, asking God to give you a desire to initiate with your husband.
5. Pay attention to your body's sexual responses. Ask God to help you recognize sexual thoughts and desires more. Even a flicker can be a great jumping-off point. Take advantage of your increased sexual urge during your hormonal cycle. A study published in Human Reproduction states: "Researchers speculate that a woman's libido may rise during ovulation or that her sexual attractiveness to partners may increase. It could also be that intercourse accelerates ovulation."
6. Become more adventuresome. One of the biggest reasons women don't initiate is because they are nervous and afraid. Their fears say, I don't know what I'm doing. It will be awkward and embarrassing. He'll laugh at me and reject me. He does it better; it's not natural for me. Women who aren't sexually adventurous like to stick with what works. But practice will make it more natural and less awkward. Stepping out on a limb to please your husband will demonstrate your love for him. Even if it's awkward for you at first, your husband will feel honored and loved if you make the effort.
7. Practice. What's the old cliché? If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Your husband is not going to laugh at you or reject you for breaking out of the routine to spice up your love life. Hardly. He'll most likely cheer you on. Sex therapists say that the more a couple have sex, the more they enjoy it. The more they enjoy it, the more they do it. Part of getting it right is enjoying sex along the way. Have fun! It's an adventure. Take the risk.