We believe that sex is a beautiful, God-given desire that can bring a husband and wife together in oneness. We also believe sex is a thermometer that measures the depth of the relationship—its presence or absence often indicates the level of commitment and intimacy in other areas of your marriage.

For sex to be truly satisfying to both partners, each has to risk being totally open and vulnerable to the other. Each person in the marriage should feel needed, wanted, accepted and loved sacrificially. And one of the keys to building this type of relationship is understanding the general differences between men and women in how they view sex. These differences cause certain expectations on the part of men and women that often lead to misunderstanding, frustration, and disappointment.

The chart that follows is a general guide to the differences between men and women in this area. Obviously, this chart is not absolute comparison—it compares the general tendencies and differences between men and women and how they view sex.


  • Respect
  • Admiration
  • Physically
  • Needed
  • Understanding
  • Love
  • Not to be put down
  • Emotionally needed
  • Time

Differences in Sexuality
ORIENTATIONPhysical Compartmentalized Physical oneness Variety Sex is high priorityRelational Wholistic Emotional oneness Security Other priorities may be higher
STIMULATIONSight Smell Body centeredTouch Attitudes Actions Words Person-centered
SEXUAL RESPONSEAcyclical Quick excitement Initiates (usually) Difficult to distractCyclical Slow excitement Responder (usually) Easily distracted
ORGASMPropagation of species Shorter more intense Physically oriented Orgasm usually needed for satisfactionPropagation of oneness Longer, more in depth Emotionally-oriented Satisfaction often possible without orgasm

How much of what you read in this chart is true of your own sexual relationship with your spouse? When we read through information like this, we are reminded of how God takes a man and woman with such different needs and uses those differences to complement each other—to create a “one flesh” relationship.

Most men tend to focus on the physical aspects of a relationship. They are stimulated, drawn, captivated by the sight of their wife. They get excited or at least interested quickly by visual or physical stimulation. Most men can be ready for physical intimacy in minutes. Once sexual release is in the forefront of his mind, it becomes dominant in his focus. Men at this point are ready to move ahead with the process of seeking sexual release through intercourse.

Generally, men put a much higher priority on sex than women do, and women have a different orientation that demands a different approach. A woman is more oriented to the relationship. A man wants physical oneness; the woman desires emotional oneness. Sight, smell, and the body stimulate a man. Touch, attitudes, actions, words, and the whole person stimulate the woman.

A man needs respect, admiration, to be needed physically, and respect. The woman needs understanding, love, to be needed emotionally, and time to warm up to the sexual act.

The man’s sexual response is acyclical, which means any time, anywhere. The woman’s response is cyclical, which means she goes through times when she is more interested in sex than others. A man responds sexually by getting excited quickly, while the woman is much slower. During sex, a man is single-minded, while his wife might be easily distracted wondering about the children, the doors, the noise outside, or other minor things going on around them.

The last major difference is the release or orgasm. Most of the time a man’s sexual release will be relatively short, intense, and intensely physical. This should not trouble a wife; God made your husband this way. You see, this intensity was not meant to impede a relationship, but to enhance and strengthen it. One result of this powerful sexual release is a sense of closeness that a husband feels toward his wife. Even if he does not express it, God has put it in his very nature. He is drawn to his wife in a way that meets this most personal of needs.

Husbands will create conflict in a relationship when they focus on the physical side of sex and forget that the woman needs the relationship. And wives often fail to understand how a man’s self-image is vitally linked to his sexuality. Many wives express that they are offended because their husbands are such sexual creatures. This attitude communicates rejection to a man. To ignore his sexual needs, to resist his initiation of sex, or merely to tolerate his advances is to tear at the heart of his self-esteem. We encourage you to pray together about your sexual relationship. Pray for yourselves, that you each will be selfless. Ask God to give you the wisdom and strength to meet each other’s needs. The Holy Spirit can guide you and lead you to be a better lover. Now you may say, “the Holy Spirit wants to help me be a better lover?” Absolutely!

Husbands, I would encourage you to pray aloud for your wife during the “afterglow”—after you have shared in love together. What finer moment than to say, “Lord Jesus, thank you for this woman you’ve given me. Thank you for what we have just enjoyed together, thank you for her, thank you for her love, and thank you for her trust in me as a man.” That’s got to make your wife feel nourished, cherished, and loved which is what this is all about.

Sexual response for you and your spouse is a learned experience. God wants you to learn together how to please each other and experience this incredible act of oneness that He reserved for marriage.

Even if you have been uninformed of the differences between men and women, and have experienced some pain as a result, God can and will redeem this aspect of your marriage as you seek Him and apply His truth to your lives. Commit yourselves to learn God’s ways and plan for marriage and your sexual relationship.

Copyright 2003, by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved. Portions of this article were adapted from Staying Close, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, 2003, Thomas Nelson Publishers.