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Sexuality and Marital Intimacy

Women Need to Feel Desired; Men Need to Feel Competent

Another gender factor is the different psychological needs that are played out in the sexual relationship. Women have a never-ending need to feel attractive and desired. Unfortunately, this often traps them in the issue I was addressing in the previous section: objectifying themselves, minimizing their own sexuality and focusing on being a desired object by their husbands.

The reality is that women who are in touch with their sexuality, literally and figuratively, are really the masters of the bedroom! They can control and shape the sexual relationship because of their longer state of arousal. Most men, secretly or openly, are aroused by women who take a dominant role in their sexual relationship. Women are not used to this and often experience it negatively because they have been socially conditioned to be the “chased” rather than the “chasee.” They associate the male as initiator with their own sense of being desirable. Just turn your husband on and you’ll quickly enjoy a sense of being desired!

Men carry the burden of sexual competence. Men have to get an erection and keep it long enough to satisfy their partner. This performance anxiety is a major issue. Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation are very common problems. The former can now be more easily addressed with medication and the latter with proven strategies. The key is for men to be comfortable dealing with these issues. For men who are functionally okay, the key to feeling like a successful sexual partner, as stated earlier, is to put your wife’s needs first. Focus on her arousal, on being affectionate, on a reasonable period of foreplay, and on bringing her to orgasm first – if you follow those rules you will have a very happy partner and feel like a very competent lover.

A common problem for women, especially with newborns and very young children, is sleep deprivation and loss of libido. It is important not to believe that you have no need for sex; just that you feel too exhausted to think about it! So when baby naps, try a bubble bath and a vibrator to reawaken your sexuality as well as experiencing some incredible stress relief and a re-energizing.

Differences in Libido

A major challenge can be when couples have a natural significant difference in their level of sexual desire. Some individuals have very high sex drives and desire sex constantly while others have very low levels of need and are quite content with infrequent sex. Most of us fall somewhere in between and are usually close enough in libido levels to feel satisfied with the alleged average of about 1.5 times per week. But when partners have very different levels of need (and sometimes it is difficult to separate physiological need from level of attraction – there is such a thing as the “chemistry” of love), that presents a real challenge.

Like any other relationship issue, the solution lies in finding compromises that can create a win-win situation. Just don’t go outside the relationship, even with consent, to fill unmet needs and think that won’t harm the marriage. However, masturbation can play an important part in providing some relief, especially when “toys” or videos are mutually agreeable as ways to make it fun for the higher-need partner. The key is not to make either partner feel abnormal or wrong in being who they are.

Sexuality and Marital Intimacy

Kalman Heller, PhD

Dr. Kalman Heller is a retired psychologist who ran a successful private practice. He previously wrote a monthly column for a local newspaper, and later took his "ParenTalk" column online. This article is reprinted from his online column with his permission.

APA Reference
Heller, K. (2018). Sexuality and Marital Intimacy. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.