sex in marriage

Is Sex in Marriage a Need or Desire?

Several years ago, I wrote an article called Dangerous Lies That Lead To Infidelity. One of the lies is “I have sexual needs.” I compared sex and food. Without food, we would die, so food is clearly a need. Whereas, without sex, we don’t die. Therefore, sex is not a need, but a desire. Many people took exception to this argument and strongly voiced their opinions in the comment section. Several also suggested that I had contradicted famous relational experts. A lively debate ensued. I’ll admit that my logic over-simplified the complexity of the role sex plays in a marriage.

Since then, I’ve thought more about sex in marriage and what it means, to see if my opinion has changed. At risk of kicking the hornets’ nest (again), I thought I should revisit this subject and share where I have landed. I’m not suggesting that my point of view is the absolute truth. I’m sharing my observations and inviting you into the conversation. My hope is to engage in a respectful dialogue that will make us better husbands and lead to stronger marriages. So, here we go: is sex a need or a desire?

Sex is a desire for the individual.

I’m still not comfortable calling sex a need for individuals, especially just for men. I’ve received plenty of feedback from women who desire more sex in their marriage than their husbands. Do men typically desire sex more than women? Yes. And I agree with 99 percent of Dr. Willard Harley’s book, His Needs, Her Needs (He is one of the experts who readers said I contradicted.). Harley describes sexual fulfillment as a need for men. The only word I have a hard time with in his book is “need.” I think it’s too strong. It states that sex is something I must have. This type of thinking is dangerous. It unintentionally gives justification for unfulfilled spouses to pursue outlets of sexual gratification outside the marriage, such as porn, self-satisfaction, or extramarital affairs. If my “need” is not met with my spouse, I’ll get it met somewhere else.   

Sex should be treated as a need.

However, before spouses with lower sex drives start thinking you’re off the hook, I want to make a couple more points. Although I think sex is a desire for an individual and not a need, I do believe it should be treated as a need. The most loving act a spouse can do is put the desires of the other ahead of his or her own. It’s like trying to speak your spouse’s love language. If you want to have a healthy marriage filled with passion and love, the best way to do that is through sacrificial love. Does that mean you have to say yes to sex all the time? No. But recognize that sex is an important way your spouse receives love and an avenue by which he or she feels closer to you.

Sex is a need for a married couple.

Sex definitely is an important and necessary component of a strong and lasting marriage. Finally, I’ll say this. While I don’t believe sex is a need for an individual man or woman, I do believe it is a need for a vibrant marriage. There isn’t an exact number of times you should have sex in order to have a healthy relationship, in my opinion (each couple is different). However, I’ve seen too many marriages end and one of the first causes mentioned is the lack of sex. Sure, a lack of sex wasn’t the only problem. But sex definitely is an important and necessary component of a strong and lasting marriage. It may require discipline and sacrifice (for some), but do it regularly.

Sound off: Do you think sex is a need or a desire?

Huddle up with your spouse and discuss this question.