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When Sex Is at the Bottom of Your List

Marriage has taught me how different I am sexually from my husband.
By Barbara Rainey

Editor’s Note: As her daughters began their married lives, Barbara Rainey wanted to share some of the lessons she learned throughout her own marriage as well as those gleaned from years of ministry to couples. In these heartfelt, insightful letters that eventually evolved into the book Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, she answers the tough questions and addresses the realities of marriage. Enjoy this excerpt from the book and visit for more information.


This is a little embarrassing. Okay, a lot embarrassing. But please tell me that sex is more than I think it is. It's fine. Don't get me wrong. But the initial passion has pretty much cooled off, we have all the kids we want, and honestly, sex seems like the last thing on my list of needs because I am tired ALL THE TIME!

Dear Daughters,

Boy, do I understand you. Dennis always said he'd be a millionaire if he had a dollar bill for all the times I said how tired I was! And sex was at the bottom of my to-do list more times than not.

We missed each other often. Making sense of our sexual differences sometimes felt like we were from two different solar systems, not just Venus and Mars. I totally get that time and energy is a huge challenge on this front!

First, a quick sweet story about your grandma: While we were shopping for something to wear for my wedding night, my mother gave me two very brief pieces of advice about sex. As I was trying on a beautiful white eyelet nightgown, she said, "He'll like you much better naked, you know." Then she added, "It gets better with time."

She was right about both. While sex can seem automatic and even easy in the beginning, especially since it is so hard to control passion before marriage, becoming great lovers for life is a decades-long learning experience.

Think of a young oak sapling, just planted. Then consider that same tree as it matures over the course of the changing seasons—the satisfying shade it provides in summer, the glorious color in autumn, the strength of its limbs through a bitter winter, the continued growth come spring. It helps to remember an oak tree takes decades to mature. And so do our marriages. So work to be patient with one another, okay?

We're different sexually

When you girls got married, I remember preparing mentally, thinking through what I wanted to say about sex in marriage. One topic I tried to explain is how different we are sexually as male and female.

In the early months of my marriage, I thought it was only a physical difference. Sex was a relatively simple experience for us. At least it was until we began to encounter some surprisingly distinct differences. Like so many women before me, I discovered that we could have an argument, and he could immediately set that aside and be interested. Or that he didn't need any conversation before being ready. Or that we would be in the middle of lovemaking and he wouldn't hear the crash just outside our apartment walls!

And yes, it is true that not all men are exactly the same. But from the beginning men were designed by God to think about sex more often and in a more focused way than women. It's the ability to compartmentalize.

Even though I've learned a lot about living with a man, I still find myself caught off guard at times by our gender differences. The combination of chromosomes that makes an embryo a boy or a girl keeps us male and female for life on a cellular level. And it never changes.

Think about this with me for a second. Most couples would say they have much in common; their basic emotions, education levels, and beliefs can be the same. But for me as a woman, knowing what it is like to be my husband, a man—to crawl inside his skin and feel what he feels—is not possible. I will never think like a man; I will always view the world through estrogen-shaded feminine lenses, while he will always have a testosterone-fueled male view on life.

Pleasure without commitment

An epiphany for me came from George Gilder in his book, Men and Marriage: "Unless they have an enduring relationship with a woman—a relationship that affords them sexual confidence—men will accept almost any convenient sexual offer. The existence of a semi-illegal, multibillion-dollar pornography market, almost entirely male-oriented, speaks of the difference in sexual character between men and women."

Women are designed to be the stabilizing force in the lives of men. Far from being insignificant, we are instead supremely important. Without the stabilizing commitment of women in marriage, men are more likely to live like barbarians, wandering impulsively through life, fighting, competing, and chasing after power they might not even be able to define.

Sadly, today many young men are enjoying the pleasure of marriage without the commitment or responsibility because many young women are too willing to cohabitate instead of demanding a marriage proposal by their refusal to have sex outside of marriage. So there might be a temporary stability created in these unmarried couples who live together, but it will not last or produce healthy relationships.

Your dad often said to me, "Women are powerful," but every time he said it, I never quite comprehended his meaning until I read Men and Marriage. Understanding this male/female difference has helped me to make sense of my deep, life-altering responsibility to my husband to help him feel like the man God created him to be. And that includes my being willing to learn what says love to him, and his being willing to learn what says love to me.

Our needs and desires are sometimes vastly dissimilar, but we have worked together to both compromise and take risks. It is supremely important that you hear this conclusion I came to understand: If I love him, I won't view his biological sexual differences disapprovingly. This is a very practical way you as a wife can and must show him respect. If you belittle or shame his male sexuality; any other attempts at showing respect will feel hollow to him.

As the two of us had conversations about sex and our divergent perspectives in those early years, seeking to know one another better, I caught glimpses of what it must be like to be a man. It was a continual revelation. I felt compassion for him and more motivation to care for him. But within days of each conversation, I returned to viewing life as a woman.

Truth is not a magic wand that changes a woman's sex drive into a man's, but it does help correct our misguided thinking. Still, a thousand conversations will not revolutionize my design or his.

He knows my heart is for him

We have come to a place after decades of marriage where we understand we will never view sexual intimacy in the same way. For many years we thought cultural conditioning created our differences, but I believe now that male/female differences are God-designed for a purpose. I do not feel a sexual need for him the same way he does for me.

Hear me clearly on this: I do need him. But I feel that need uniquely as a woman, needing not a physical release as men do, but an emotional filling—the rebonding and reconnection that comes from reaffirming our commitment through sex. There are times when I'm just not in the mood—we girls are emotional beings, right? And at those times we mutually agree to delay making love until the next night (and sometimes we opt for a quicker method to meet his physical need) but regardless, I make sure he knows I am not rejecting him. Why? Because he needs to know I respect his need and personhood as a man. He can feel dismissed and therefore disrespected, so I have learned to protect him by what I say and don't say.

Over time we have proven we are for each other. He knows my heart is for him. And he appreciates that my heart must be as wooed as my body. Still, there are times I request being together because I've missed him, and I feel it, not physically as he does, but emotionally. We are different, and it is good.

Thanking God for the genius of His design even when I can't appreciate the wonder,


Taken from Letters to My Daughters. Copyright © 2016 by Barbara Rainey. Published by Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

More From Barbara

These beautiful accents for your home were created by Barbara Rainey. Click on the images below to purchase or visit to view the entire holiday and home collection from FamilyLife.

we still do   shield

Celebrate your vows with our "We Still Do" pillow.


Proclaim the truth of Psalm 28:7 in your home.

Meet the Author: Barbara Rainey

Barbara Rainey is a wife, mother of six adult children (plus three sons-in-law and two daughters-in-law), and "Mimi" to nineteen grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1971. She and her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1972, are co-founders of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru that is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Barbara has published articles on family-related topics and is the author of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and When Christmas Came.  She speaks at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences and is a frequent guest on FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated, daily radio program.  She and Dennis are the coauthors of several books, including Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, Starting Your Marriage Right, Moments Together for Couples, The New Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, Parenting Today's Adolescent, Rekindling the Romance, and Moments with You. She co-authored A Mother's Legacy with her daughter, Ashley Rainey Escue and joined Dennis and their children Rebecca and Samuel on the book So You're About To Be A Teenager. Barbara has also co-authored Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest, with close friend Susan Yates, and A Symphony in the Dark, written with her daughter, Rebecca Rainey Mutz. And Barbara has written a series focusing on character traits for families, including the titles Growing Together in Gratitude, Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Truth.

Having faithfully served alongside Dennis for more than 30 years, both in ministry and at home, Barbara has recently launched a new endeavor called Ever Thine Home™.  This new line of products, including Christ centered ornaments for Christmas, teaching tools for Lent and Easter, and beautiful additions for your home for thanksgiving and year round makes it easy to express faith at home in a way that is both biblical and beautiful.  Her heart for Ever Thine Home is based on the familiar Old Testament instruction:

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9, ESV)

You can read more about Barbara's work at

Find Barbara online on:
Twitter @BarbaraRainey and Facebook



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