Take a moment to consider what you’ve been told about how men “should” behave or what “normal” sex is. Do any of the following sentiments sound familiar?

  • Men have one-track minds. They are always ready to have sex, and their desire is unwavering.
  • Men will take advantage of almost any sexual opportunity that presents itself.
  • Men operate like a light switch: You can turn them on instantly.
  • Men have more intense sexual desires than women.
  • Men are like microwaves, and women are like slow cookers.
  • Men are supposed to be the sexual initiators.
  • Men’s desires are triggered by superficial visual and physical cues.
  • Sex for men is primarily about their own pleasure.
  • Wives—especially Christian wives—need to “do their duty” and fulfill their husbands’ needs whenever they want sex.
  • “Normal” sexual activity is at least once a week, if not more.
  • Sex that doesn’t end in an orgasm isn’t really good sex.
  • “Normal” men look at pornography, and it does not harm their marriages.

You can probably add a few more of your own. These worn-out clichés are so prevalent in our culture—even in our churches—that we reflexively accept them as true. I’ve heard both Christian and non- Christian comedians joke about these assumptions. Pastors and marriage-seminar presenters cite them straight from the podium as if they were factual. If I had a nickel (another cliché!) for every time I’ve heard one of these tired platitudes, I’d have retired long ago.

A sure giveaway that a statement is an assumption is the blatant—or sometimes underlying and unspoken—“shoulding” that happens: A man should be the pursuer. A wife should have the lower libido. Other word giveaways: must, need to, ought to, and supposed to.

What so many people fail to realize is that “shoulding” often equates to shaming. You’re my wife, so you must . . . You’re my husband, so you ought to . . . And because you aren’t doing what a godly spouse should, you supposedly aren’t a “real” man or woman. In other words, when I hear shoulds, I rarely hear grace.

As Christians, we can even twist Scripture into “shoulding.” Consider two passages that are sometimes used to manipulate:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Ephesians 5:22

Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7:5

When we separate these passages from grace, they can become weapons to shame or control our spouses. When separated from grace, both verses can take on a different dynamic. The Ephesians passage can become a selfish demand that suggests “Submit to me . . . as to the Lord.” However, demanded sex is not love. It does not show grace. Instead, it is coercive and potentially abusive. What the other spouse likely hears is You should submit to me in all things, including the bedroom.

Now that we’ve discussed some ways people can misuse Scripture, let’s unpack some popular myths about sex and desire.

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Myth 1: Men Are Always Ready to Have Sex

This is probably the greatest misconception we have embraced— that men are always ready and willing to have sex.

Nobody is always ready to have sex. Let me say that again so you can sit with it for a moment: Nobody is always ready to have sex. I would be terrified to undergo a serious surgery if I knew that my surgeon was just one thought away from wanting to have sex. “Scalpel,” he says to his medical assistant. And as he makes an incision, he thinks, Hmmm, too bad my wife isn’t here. I’m in the mood. It’s ridiculous.

Myth 2: Men Are Always in a Hurry

There are two common analogies associated with the myth that men always get turned on very quickly. One is that men are like microwaves—they “heat up” almost instantly—while women are more like slow cookers, in that they slowly simmer and need time to get warmed up.

The other analogy is that of a light switch. For men, this thinking goes, activating sexual desire is as simple and as rapid as the simple flip of a switch, whereas women are slower to engage, like a sliding dimmer switch.

But what if these scenarios are flipped? What if the woman in a marriage is the microwave or the light switch? What if neither spouse is “turned on” every time but instead both vary in their desire depending on the shifting seasons of life or the circumstances they find themselves in?

Myth 3: Men Should Always Be the Initiators

I get concerned when someone stands at a podium—many times holding a Bible—and proclaims certain spiritual messages that simply aren’t true. Or biblical. This is one of them: that men should be the initiators in the sexual relationship. I’ve heard countless Christian speakers insist that men should—should—pursue and conquer, because that’s how God made them.

But when we as women accept and believe this, and then when our husbands don’t pursue us as we’ve been told they’re supposed to, it’s only natural to become disheartened. We end up not having sex because we sit back and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. Then we either lose interest or, in our frustration, start blaming the man because we’re upset that we waited while he refused to get with the program.

Sure, men can be initiators. But so can women. And that’s a good thing. Just ask the Shulammite woman, Solomon’s wife in Song of Solomon. She did her share of pursuing her lover (see Song of Solomon 8:1-2).

Myth 4: Sex Should Be Frequent

Once a week can be normal. Once every other week can be normal. Three times a week can be normal. Daily can be normal. But why are we trying to achieve someone else’s ideal of “normal”? More important than achieving some arbitrary frequency standard is making time for each other and actively loving your spouse as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Myth 5: Sex Is for My Pleasure and Release

Yes, sex can provide an intensely pleasurable release. But what happens when it doesn’t? Does that mean the sex isn’t good? Physical release is just one aspect of the beautiful gift God has given to couples. Sex is also about connection and intimacy—with or with – out an orgasm. When we make it all about our pleasure and our release, we run the risk of making sex little more than a means to an end—to use the person we love as a means to get what we want.

That certainly isn’t God’s design for us in a sexual relationship. Think of sex in marriage as a gift. Husband and wife love each other. We pleasure each other. We enjoy each other. And, if sex is truly a gift, then we gift each other. If an orgasm results, that’s great. If it doesn’t, sex can still serve its intended purpose of connection, love, intimacy, touch, and, yes, service.

Myth 6: I Need a “Manly Man” Pursuing Me

What’s your perception of a “manly man”? Who in the Bible would you say fits that category?

David was a warrior. He triumphed over the mighty Goliath. Yet David was also a broken man. Let’s talk about sex here. If we’re going to be brutally honest, this king saw another man’s wife, lusted after her, then had her brought to his palace (see 2 Samuel 11:2-5). David had no problem violating Bathsheba’s sacred marital vow in order to sleep with her.

Let’s look at it another way: When you take a closer look, do you really want your husband to model his behavior after David’s?

How we visually and emotionally perceive the ideal godly husband today is often skewed by the belief that a man actually can somehow fulfill all our wishes, desires, and needs—and without us needing to utter a word! Not only can such a man essentially read our minds, he is also an amazing prayer warrior and leader. Unfortunately, adopting this perspective sets your real-world husband up for failure rather than success.

You don’t want your husband to emulate David’s many flaws, but instead to choose a very different and far healthier path.

I encourage you to question and evaluate these narratives you’ve been taught or told, because many of these misconceptions are rampant in our culture and in the church— and, perhaps, even in your own mind. If you’ve accepted these myths—that men are always ready and willing to have sex, that men are always in a hurry, that men should be the initiators, that normal couples have sex four times a week (or whatever frequency you’ve heard), that sex is all about release, and that your husband should be a manly man like King David—then it’s time to explore a different path. This path might go against what you’ve heard in the past, but that doesn’t somehow make your marriage sexually dysfunctional or less normal. In fact, there’s a good chance that reconsidering these misconceptions will help make your marriage less dysfunctional.

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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