There are a few primary reasons why couples find themselves outside the norm in their sexual relationship. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of individual differences, and other times it can be attributed to a dysfunction that you may be able to address. Unfortunately, in some cases there are more menacing reasons couples struggle with this issue. Let’s look first at normal differences between individuals before we address dysfunctions and other issues.

Don’t confuse ‘average’ with ‘normal’

The next time you’re in a large group of families, pay attention to the height of men and women who are married to each other. You’ll notice that in most cases, the man is taller than his wife. The average height for an Australian an is 175.6 cm, while the average Australian woman is 161.8 cm.. However, you’ll find a few couples that defy the odds, with the wife being taller than her husband. Does this mean that there is something wrong with this couple? Average means that many will be taller and many will be shorter. So, what if a 170 cm tall woman falls in love with a 165 cm tall man?

Are they weird or abnormal? Certainly not. They both fall within the normal ranges of height, but they don’t represent the average coupling.

The same principle applies to sexuality. If the average married man desires sex every three days, there will be normal men who have both higher and lower sex drives. Likewise, if the average woman desires sex once a week, the bell curve will include women with both higher and lower natural sexual desire.

The first step on the journey to communication and healing is to revisit this concept of normal sexuality. Both research and society’s representations help form our perceptions of what’s normal. Based on what you see on television, hear people talk about, and read in women’s magazines, you may conclude that you and your husband are sexually abnormal because you don’t fit the stereotypes. But don’t confuse what is "average" with what is "normal." Although in the average marriage, men desire sex more often than their wives, there are very normal marriages in which the opposite is true. Be careful not to get hung up on what everyone else seems to be doing in their bedrooms. The only thing that matters is assuring that you and your husband work toward intimacy and fulfillment in your own bedroom. Standards such as how often the average man or woman wants sex are really irrelevant and may become a destructive measuring stick. Your relationship with your husband is what it is. What your friend, your neighbour, or the rest of the country is doing should have little bearing on how your marriage works.

If this explanation describes you and your husband, healing begins when you embrace the fact that there is nothing wrong with your marriage. Like the woman married to a shorter man, although you don’t reflect the average couple, you are perfectly normal. Resist the urge to blame your husband or entertain feelings of inadequacy. Every couple has a unique sexual relationship. Accept yours for what it is and enjoy working toward wholeness as a couple. You can have a very fulfilling sex life even though you may not be functioning like the average married couple.

© 2009 Juli Slattery. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Excerpted from No More Headaches, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Dr. Julianna Slattery

Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, author and the co-founder of Authentic Intimacy, a ministry dedicated to reclaiming God’s design for sexuality. In addition to speaking, she hosts the weekly podcast Java with Juli. In 2020, Juli launched Sexual Discipleship®, an online platform to equip Christian leaders for gospel-centred conversations about sexual issues. Juli served at Focus on the Family from 2008 to 2012 as a writer, teacher and co-host of the Focus on the Family Broadcast.

She’s the author of 12 books, including God, Sex, & Your Marriage; Rethinking Sexuality; and Sex & the Single Girl. She and her husband live in Akron, Ohio, and have three grown sons.

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