Man and wife's feet in bed together. What do you want when you want sex?

You are more than a biological creature. You are an integrated whole–physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual. That’s why for human beings sex can never be “just sex.” Some of the difficulty comes when you think it’s sex you want but you’re really after something more. It’s helpful to consider, what is it you really want when you want sex?

Let’s not discount the physical sex drive you may experience. God created you with sex organs and sex hormones. But sex is not like food or water; you can live without experiencing it. (Yes, you really can!) Remember that Jesus, the most Fully Alive whole human being ever to walk this earth never was married, never had sex.

Part of you knows sex is about more than biology. If simply having a sexual release was the whole point, why are you as a husband so dissatisfied if your wife “gives” you “pity sex?” Why is your heart unsettled, troubled, or devastated after watching porn? Are your fights over sex really about having an orgasm?

I have occasionally (facetiously) said to someone, if all you’re after is a biological sexual release go hire someone selling their body, or force your spouse to have sex. And porn is readily available.

But as wrong as those things are, the deeper point is that they never satisfy because sex is never “just sex.” And that brings us back to the question, What are you really looking for when you want sex with your spouse?

Matters of the Heart

Physical intimacy as God intended it between husband and wife is a beautiful gift. He intended it to be a picture, a physical earthly demonstration, of the complete intimacy He experiences within Himself and that He desires to have with us.

That’s why this is about much more than biology; it’s about matters of the heart. Every part of you is connected to your sexuality. The only way sex in marriage becomes lifegiving is when all parts of you are engaged. Sex without that becomes life-taking, empty, even soul-destroying.

Here are some of the things you may really be wanting when you want sex with your spouse.

To Be Wanted 

Some spouses have told me that pity sex is worse than none at all. A husband or wife simply going through the motions of intercourse when their heart is miles away can leave you more deflated than you felt before. Even if your body felt aroused and experienced an orgasm your soul feels empty.

Husbands and wives both tell me they feel rejected when their spouse isn’t interested in physical intimacy. You want to be wanted, to sense that your spouse truly desires you, all of you. Being wanted nourishes something in you that heals, that counteracts the negative messages the world continually throws your way. “The person who knows me best finds me desirable” is powerful fuel for your soul.

And by the way, isn’t that the way God feels about us? He wants us to seek Him, to desire Him.


As much as we humans love to hide, we also crave connection. Our hearts know that we cannot fully thrive alone. You can have biological sex without connection, but it’s never truly satisfying. There are also other ways to connect. But the one-flesh experience of marriage as God intended includes this most profound sense of connection to another human being that only comes with intercourse. The hormones your brain experiences with physical intimacy create a significant sense of bonding and connection.

Most men, when they desire connection to their wives, will make a bid for sex. Most women, on the other hand, will only be open to physical intimacy when they already have a sense of connection. Understanding this craving for connection explains a lot of marriage conflict. And it’s also why it’s so important for both husband and wife to seek your spouse’s heart.


Good married sex becomes increasingly a source of comfort. It’s one of the more common benefits of sex that older couples express. This includes both intercourse and all the rest of it; the tender physical touching, holding, and caressing that can be a part of both foreplay and afterglow.

Comfort is the sense that someone else is with me, supporting and bonding with me regardless of sadness, limitations, or even physical or emotional pain. Don’t allow sex to bring more physical or psychological pain; deal with that. But sex also can soothe pain; the hormones released help your body feel relief and your mind feel calm and peace.

Play and Joy

The need to experience play and joy are part of how we are made in the image of God. Excitement and fun are valid and frequent parts of what you may be wanting when you desire sex. Play and joy nourish our human souls. Of course there are other ways to play as a couple, but sex should be among them.

Flirt with each other. Teasing during foreplay can be very arousing. (NOT teasing that demeans in any way.) Good married sex should include times when you try new things, laugh at what doesn’t go quite “right,” and lovingly and tenderly play with each other’s bodies. The memories you make in truly making love to each other can be some of those you treasure most.


God created you with the need, desire, and capacity for intimacy. To be truly seen and known. Many people say “intimacy” when they might say “sex.” And that speaks to perhaps the deepest desire you may have. But remember that you cannot experience true intimacy by only taking the clothes off your body; the coverings need to come off your mind and heart as well.

True intimacy between husband and wife doesn’t happen quickly or automatically. It’s the experience of Eden that we hunger to recapture; “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). Sex that builds true intimacy is much more than the coming together of two bodies in intercourse; it’s the coming together of two persons in body, mind, and soul.

And isn’t that what you’re really desiring when you want sex? That kind of intimacy is worth the life-long pursuit it will require.

Your Turn: Have you taken time to consider what you really want when you want sex with your spouse? What specific part of your desire are you most aware of?   Leave a comment below.

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