Have you ever, knowingly or unknowingly, sent your husband the message that you think he is inadequate?

In the more than twenty years I’ve spent working with engaged and married couples, I’ve noticed that any perceived message of inadequacy can create a vacuum that hinders emotional connection and can drain sexual desire out of a man in a nanosecond.

Your husband is not a superhero. He doesn’t have the physical prowess of Superman, nor is he emotionally bulletproof. Yet many portrayals in the movies, on television, and even on social media depict an unrealistic standard of masculinity regarding how men are supposed to look on the outside and feel on the inside. This false picture only adds to the typical man’s insecurities, especially when we mistakenly believe he should have no insecurities at all.

What if your husband’s physique is, say, distinctly average? He might not admit it, but he’s likely just as self-conscious about his body as you are about yours. He might be incredibly thin, somewhat thicker in the middle, or shorter than you, but part of him still wants you to think he’s the sexiest man alive. (Depending on his background and influences, he might already feel pressure to know how to use all the tools in the garage, repair the broken railing and hang drywall, plus change the oil in your car. And let’s not forget the pressure he feels to be the most caring and sensitive lover— completely in tune with you whenever you have even a tinge of desire for him.)

Compare the expectations your husband faces with society’s skewed standards of femininity. Are we perpetuating an unreasonable standard of masculinity? Are we setting our husbands up for failure by failing to see them through God’s eyes? Remember that your husband is only human, and he wants a wife beside him to help carry the burdens of life. When we step in as his helper (see Genesis 2:18), we draw our husband’s heart, body, and energy toward us. If you don’t do this, he might feel as though it’s you against him, and when he perceives that from you, he will often withdraw sexually. It’s time to erase from your mind the outline of the perfect sexual man—the guy who causes emotional bullets to bounce off his chest— because that shape is not the image of a loving, godly man.

It is perfectly okay to be a loving, godly man who enjoys a little bit more cuddle and a little less sex. The problem occurs when the husband only wants to cuddle and the wife is hoping for more. The key word here is hoping instead of verbalizing. Many women struggle to verbalize their needs, particularly sexual needs. They often share with me, “If my husband were in tune with me, he would know my needs.” Once again, we run the risk of expecting husbands to add mind reading to their list of superpowers. I’ve never yet met a husband who is able to “just know.”

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It doesn’t help matters when a husband’s thought processes feed into his insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. He begins to question his manliness. Perhaps he begins to think, She can’t possibly love me if . . .

  • I’m not muscular.
  • I don’t have a 32-inch waist.
  • I don’t have handyman skills.
  • I’m not pursuing her enough sexually.
  • I don’t know exactly how and when she needs help.
  • I’m not able to read her desire signals.
  • I should be a better father.
  • I should be better at managing the finances.

Notice the similarities at the beginning of each thought: I’m not, I don’t, and I should. These feelings can leave him experiencing shame. Remember that your husband’s heart is not capable of deflecting emotional bullets. In fact, it might be more tender than you ever imagined. And when an emotional bullet does pierce his heart, that’s when you might notice decreased sexual desire, isolation, impatience, or even anger directed your way. That’s what happens when messages of shame or not good enough are internalized.

When attempting to understand insecurities regarding self-esteem, as well as the impact of media on self-image, we first need to recognize that most of the information on this topic has traditionally focused on women. Yet research is emerging that points to male struggles with eating disorders, anabolic steroid use, and body image concerns (see “A Review of Research on Men’s Body Image and Drive for Muscularity,” in The Psychology of Men and Masculinities). More men nowadays are stepping forward to share their pain and struggles.

According to Viren Swami, a professor of social psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, “It’s estimated that between 30% and 40% of men are anxious about their weight and that up to 85% are dissatisfied with their muscularity. Many men desire a lean and muscular physique—which is often seen as synonymous with masculinity.” Males begin to perceive numerous physical flaws starting in adolescence. These perceptions often carry through to anxieties about intimacy and sexual performance with a wife.

Do we understand his feelings of pride? Not an unbiblical pride, but pride in his accomplishments and in working hard for us and for the family. Do we understand the joy he experiences when he sees his wife smile with pride at him? And how often do we tell him that he’s amazing?

Husbands need affirmation too. Let him know that he is your loving, good, and godly husband. Genuinely consider believing that he’s trying, really trying. Not perfectly, of course, but he’s your husband, not your Savior. We all fall short every day, but that shouldn’t keep you from telling him how much you value and appreciate him.

Adapted from I Want Him to Want Me by Sheri Mueller, Copyright © 2024 Sheri Mueller, Used with Permission, Published. by Focus on the Family.






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