In most healthy marriages, both the husband and wife enjoy physical intimacy. There was a time when women were taught to “endure” their husbands’ advances, but thankfully we have grown past that archaic mindset and into the realization that God designed sex in marriage to be pleasing to both spouses.
And yet, a lot of men still complain about their wives’ lack of interest in physical affection and sexual intimacy. What’s the problem? I have found that many men simply do not understand how they might influence this indifference or lack of desire.
As a psychologist, I have spoken a great deal with men and women on the subject of marital intimacy, so I hear both sides of the story. It is rare that someone’s marriage is affected by all ten of these turn-offs, but they are common enough that you might recognize yours in one or two of them.
If you want more affection and intimacy in your marriage here are ten turn-offs you should avoid:
1. Harsh words and a critical or dismissive tone of voice – Women view intimacy as a “whole person” relationship, so if your words make her feel bad, you can’t expect her to feel good about the sexual aspect of your relationship. Make sure that what you say reflects that you value and respect her.
2. Impatience with the kids and the inability to balance discipline with fun and affection – Women admire a man who is kind to their children but doesn’t let them misbehave. Women are turned off by a man who is harsh with their kids, and also by a man who won’t step up to his parenting responsibility.
3. Disinterest in meaningful conversation and pretending to listen – The old sitcoms used to show husbands reading the newspaper and mumbling, “Yes, dear” as their wives talked. They also showed those couples with separate beds! When a woman feels “heard” she feels loved and is much more likely to desire intimacy.
4. Unwillingness to consistently share domestic responsibilities – One of the complaints I hear from women is that they are exhausted and angry from carrying the whole load of housework. If your wife is telling you she is “too tired” for sex, there are ways you can help. Most women say they find their husbands very attractive when he is vacuuming or loading the dishwasher (the way she likes it done)… (without being asked)… (without complaining).
5. Physical touch that frequently turns sexual – A woman who is only touched when her husband wants sex feels like an object to be used. This makes her more likely to withdraw than to move closer to her husband. Affectionate, reassuring, comforting touch is a deep human need and should be given freely without expectation.
6. Derogatory remarks or “jokes” about her appearance, behavior or personality – You may not be hurt or insulted when one of your buddies makes a wisecrack about you, but your wife is much more sensitive. Most women I know are concerned about how they look or how they are perceived, and are deeply hurt when the man they love embarrasses or insults them. If you want your wife to feel good about you, always help her feel good about herself.
7. Doing a “double take” to look at another woman – Guys, to you, it’s just an innocent reaction, but if you think your wife doesn’t notice, you are wrong. You see it as a glance, but she may interpret it as your desire to be with someone else. The insecurity that breeds will nearly always pull your wife away from you instead of making her want to be close.
8. Flattering comments about another woman’s physical appearance – Even the most beautiful women admit that they feel uncomfortable, or even threatened, when their husbands talk about how attractive another woman is. Women tell me they often feel inadequate when they believe their husband is comparing them to someone else. Anything that steals a woman’s confidence decreases her desire for sex.
9. Not acknowledging and valuing her contribution to the family – Some husbands really don’t understand how much their wives do to keep the house and family running. Whether she is working for an income or picking up toys all day, when her efforts go unnoticed, she feels unappreciated. Remember, the two most romantic words in your relationship may be, “Thank you!”
10. Communicating a lack of commitment to the marriage and family – The foundation for real intimacy in marriage is trust. If your wife isn’t convinced that you are “all in” and that she can count on you to be there for her and your children, she may feel as if she is on her own. This is a turn off that can be devastating to your marriage.
Guys, whether you think these things seem like a big deal or not, I am quite certain that the woman in your life knows they are! If you want your wife to feel warm, responsive and affectionate toward you, her basic need for being cherished, appreciated, accepted, and respected must be met.
As you review the list of things not to do above, consider what you can do instead to reverse negative behaviors that might be cooling your wife’s passion. Genuine compliments, sincere praise, unwavering commitment and cheerful participation in family responsibilities can be very effective kindling to start the home fires glowing again.
We would appreciate hearing from both men and women on this topic. What do you think does the most damage to intimacy, and what do you think improves it? I came up with these ten things, but you may know ten more!
Live, Work and Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.