The Way to A Man’s Heart is What?

I don’t hear it anymore, but when I was growing up “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” was a common phrase.

The Way to A Man's Heart is What?

The phrase originated in the 1800’s, a time when men didn’t cook and eating out was rather costly compared to eating at home. So yeah, a good home cooked meal was a treat for a single guy living on his own. But even with that in mind, I never thought the statement showed a good grasp of male geography. Maybe the way to a man’s heart is through his zipper!

Now wait, hear me out. I’m certainly not suggesting this as a way to acquire a husband, but once you’re married sex is an important part of a man’s relationship with his wife. Sex is the key to his heart. For men, sex is a major component of intimacy. Not the only part, but a large enough part he can’t feel intimate without it. Some women can feel close, loving and intimate without sex (and some can’t) but it’s exceptionally rare to find a man who is this way. What’s more, I’m sure most men are this way because it’s how God wired us.

Again, this doesn’t mean sex is all he wants from you, and it certainly doesn’t mean sex is all he needs to feel intimate. I’ve talked with men who started getting all the sex they wanted after years of limited sex. At first, they think everything is perfect. They act like a kid with an as-much-as-you-want-to-take pass to a toy store. But slowly, as their backlog of sexual hunger goes away, they find they want more. Sex is still great, and they still want it, but it’s not enough without other forms of intimacy. In fact, all the sex makes them hungry for other forms of intimacy. It takes months at the very least for this truth to float to the top of a man’s sexually fulfilled consciousness, but it’s very much the norm for it to happen.

So please, don’t misunderstand his obsession with sex. He may not see past his sex drive, but there’s more there. It’s the start, not the whole.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and food is nice, but…

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21 Comments on “The Way to A Man’s Heart is What?

  1. That’s me to a T. Now that our sex life is back on track, in quantity and quality, I actually look forward to times where we can talk (not a natural activity for me, usually). And all forms of intimacy flow together naturally, now that I’m sexually satisfied. Before, that became a barrier to all intimacy. Sex was non-existent, so I didn’t care much about other ways of being intimate, because the message the lack of sex gave me was that she didn’t want me. I see now that I was wrong about that, and I had to man up and break through to reconnect with her in her way first. Than the sex began again.

  2. “For men, sex is a major component of intimacy… Some women can feel close, loving and intimate without sex (and some can’t) but it’s exceptionally rare to find a man who is this way.” Given all the high-drive wives I hear from, I had to think about this statement and if/how it jives with those husbands who reject sex from their wives.

    But the more I considered your statement, the more I agree with you. I think sex is deeply connected to intimacy for men, but some husbands — for various reasons — are not engaging sexually with their wives. And they’re missing out on something that would make them feel more connected in their marriage. Sometimes we deny ourselves what God wants us to have and what would make our lives better, but it’s hard to see that when you’re in the midst of a low-drive season.
    J. Parker recently posted…Q&A with J: Why Doesn’t My Older Husband Want Sex?My Profile

    • J, our problem wasn’t one of sex drives that didn’t match up. It was high drive in me and zero drive in her. A lot of that came from past emotional and spiritual baggage, but a lot was from the mistaken idea present in many Christians’ minds that sex in marriage is somehow the least spiritual thing a Christian can do, so if you do it less or not at all, you’re somehow being more spiritual and closer to God. What a bunch of bull! But I think that’s more widespread than most would believe. It allows refusal and gatekeeping n both men and women, and it leaves the one being denied feeling guilty and unspiritual for desiring sexual intimacy. Thank God my wife and I have moved past that. We’re now dong a lot of catching up!?

      • @Bob, I feel like my situation is similar, but reversed. I’m the wife and I’m the one with the higher sex drive. And I’m pretty sure it’s not due to baggage, but the fact that I am neither attractive nor desireable to my husband (despite his kind words). Actions speak louder, and his actions say I am nowhere near appealing to him.

        Anyhow, I agree that as the denied spouse, not only do I feel old, ugly, repulsive, worthless, undesireable, a waste of space, unloveable, undeserving of any good thing, etc. – I also feel very guilty and unspiritual. For two reasons. One is because my own husband doesn’t want me even 1/10th as often as the men I read about desire their wives, and therefore I shouldn’t desire or feel like I deserve a good sex life (not pretty enough, smart enough, etc.) – but also because being a Christian I should be able to rest in God’s love and His love alone and not struggle with any of this, ever. So not only am I a bad, worthless wife, but I’m also doing a bad job of being a good Christian. So yeah, there’s a lot of guilt.

        I could pray that my story would end like yours, with healing and positivity, but I’m being real – I just crested the “40 year old” hill and am headed down the other side, so I’m pretty much too old and out of time. I wish I’d had all this info when I was young, then perhaps we could have worked this out while there was still time.

        • Don’t worry about the age. I’m almost 59 and my wife is almost 64 (love the older woman thing?). You may need to explore why his drive is so low. Is it mental, emotional, physical? Since it takes two to tango, you may have to ask yourself a really hard question: What will I do if my spouse will never have so with me again? This is different from CAN’T have sexagain for some physical reason. It’s the refusal. I had to decide: turn to porn and masturbation, have an affair, divorce? As a Christian man, those are not options. So. Had to decide that since I vowed “till death do us part” I would bear the burden with God’s help. Once I came to that decision, I soon found that God was working in her, too. I brought up the subject of sexual refusal, probably in a very inept way, but it got us talking. We found we both had a lot of baggage, but once the air cleared, sex resumed, better than ever. We’re like two newlyweds. In fact, our renewal really is sort of starting over.

          I understand your pain, and I hope you have someone to talk to. I didn’t. And I hope your story ends like ours did. But whatever happens, turn to Christ for your identity and worth. Even in the best marriages, if you look to your spouse only for validation and worth, you will be disappointed. Every human will fail you at some time. Only God is constant. I think that as one of the points of Paul’s recent post on GH about identity. That’s ultimately between you and God.

          I will commit to praying for you daily, and I hope to hear about some good changes. You’re in a dark place, but His grace is sufficient for any circumstances.

          • @Bobthemusicguy, this is possibly one of the most helpful replies I have ever read. Thank you! Thank you for taking the time to write it, and for offering to pray.

            I don’t have anyone to talk to, I wish I did. Maybe I should pray about that. Sometimes I wish my husband and I could meet a couple like you and your wife that we could talk to. Perhaps I should pray for God to send us someone like that.

            In my husband’s defense, oftentimes when I’m hurting and he notices, he will make an effort to make me feel loved (not usually sexually, more often with words, words, endless words. I’m an unusual woman in that I don’t really like words, I tend not to trust them). Anyhow, I guess I should stop focusing on wishing he were more interested in me sexually, and start appreciating that he does try to tell me he loves me.

            Most importantly, I do need to turn to Christ for my identity and worth. You’re right and I know it, but I need the reminder. Thank you.

        • @B I do not mean to make light of your pain, but feel I should point out, on behalf of all the over 40 readers here, that we are not “headed down the other side.” I was 55 when I began heading up the hill, so to speak, and have made significant progress.

          Seeing the way you describe yourself makes me remember a time when I was in a dark place. Counseling helped me immensely and one of the things I learned to watch out for was ruminating on negative, troubling thoughts.

          Imagine two women. One describes herself as old, ugly, repulsive, worthless, undesirable, a waste of space, unloveable, underserving of any good thing, guilty, unspiritual. Another describes herself as strong, healthy, blessed, gifted, insightful, compassionate, intelligent, industrious, resourceful, generous. Which one would most men find more attractive?

          I pray you soon find peace.

          • @IS, your reply is somewhat encouraging. I do feel so, very old, and out of time. Certainly to ever know true intimacy. So I guess it’s encouraging if others have healed at an older age.

            Secondly, I don’t go around verbally describing myself as repulsive, worthless, etc. I just feel that way. But I also don’t go around describing myself as strong, healthy, intelligent – for many reasons. I was taught growing up that thinking too highly of yourself and especially speaking positively of yourself is conceited, haughty, and very wrong. No one likes a braggart. Plus I don’t believe in talking yourself u as though you are better than you are.

            I have often considered counseling. But, I have a friend who goes to counseling (and she, like all of us, should own some responsibility for her own issues). Anyhow, she always talks about how wonderful her counselor is, and how he’s always telling her she’s right, and how badly others have wronged her, and how justified she is in all of her thoughts and feelings. No thanks. I’d rather be told the truth than pay someone to “fluff” me. That seems like it would be a grand waste of time. If I could find a counselor who is sincere, I’d consider it. But how to go about that? Ask around? Say “hey there, I have issues and I’m convinced my husband feels stuck with me. Know anyone who could help me with that?” No thank you, I’m not comfortable with being that open with people.

            Also, I suggested counseling for us as a couple and my husband was not fond of the idea. So there’s that.

            • @B A couple of thoughts here. I understand finding the right fit with a therapist may take a couple of tries. I found a good match at the get-go. I did get recommendations from a sibling and a close friend, and I completed a brief screening process with the director of the clinic. I think those steps helped me find a suitable therapist. She helped me own and articulate my part in the mess I was in as well as forgive myself and move on. She also helped me identify, express and release emotions around events that had shaped my self worth. Don’t get me wrong, I still have struggles, but I picked up some helpful tools and methods that I can use.

              I don’t go around bragging about myself verbally, but I think well of myself and that makes a very positive difference in how I interact with others. Loving and respecting others begins with loving and respecting ourselves. Thinking poorly of ourselves is disrespectful to God and to those who love us. If I think I’m old, ugly, worthless, undeserving, etc., I diminish God’s creation. And I think my husband must not be worth much or he wouldn’t have chosen a loser like me.

              I’m not advocating boastfulness or haughtiness. I’m encouraging you to embrace God’s gifts and use them to bless others.

    • @J. Parker – Excellent point!
      I suspect a part of it for many men is they are afraid of being intimate, which makes sex scary. A one night stand is not very intimate, so a guy who has intimacy problems can do that. But when he gets married and is supposed to have sex with someone he cares about sex become too intimate.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Sit, THEN TalkMy Profile

  3. Am I misinterpreting this article?

    We ask women to press past their flagging or non existent sex drives, ask them to overcome their physical issues with sex, ask them to get therapy for past sexual abuse, ask them to learn ways to ‘get in the mood’, etc… so that they can nurture their physical sexual intimacy with their husbands for the good of the marriage.

    But, we shouldn’t expect a husband to even realize that other forms of intimacy exist, the one’s the wife probably most needs to feel loved, until his sexually fulfilled consciousness finally wakes up? We can’t expect our husbands to ‘look past their sex drives’ and learn how to nurture other forms of intimacy for the good of the marriage until their primary need is met first?

    Please tell me I read this wrong.

    • @Jolie Here’s my take on it. Don’t want to put words into Paul’s mouth, but on this blog, he’s trying to explain the (sometimes odd) workings of the XY mind to all you delightful XX creatures. On his other blog, the Generous Husband, he frequently takes men to task (rightly) for not taking care of our wives’ needs before thinking about ours.

      With that in mind, I think that in any marriage having trouble (isn’t that all of us at some time), we end up with a face off over his/her needs and no one will budge on it. Not the best example of “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ,” is it? Philippians 2 calls us all to put each others’ need ahead of our own, then it gives the example of Christ who emptied Himself of all his rights and gave Himself sacrificially for us. Puts our sinful self-serving attitudes in a new light.

      From my own life, during the years of refusal and gatekeeping, all I could do is have a self pity party. “Poor Bob! He’s not getting any sex! He’s so neglected!” And that was true. But I had to be brought to my knees by God to realize that I wasn’t doing right by my wife very well myself. And someone had to make the first move. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not proud of making that first move. I think I must be especially dense or stubborn because it took so long. But I had to realize that I’m answerable to God first, then my wife. He gave me the grace to act, and lo and behold! I found He had been working on my wife as well.

      The bottom line of this is that only by God’s grace are any of us still married. When we see the assault on marriages by the non-Christian world, plus our own sinfulness and pride, we should be on our knees daily, thanking God that He gave each of us our spouse, that He has blessed us in our marriages and longs to bless us more. If we all put away our defensiveness and blaming of each other, and let God have His way, it can be amazing what He will do for us. I’m living proof!

    • @Jolie – I have said the things you mentioned over on The Generous Husband. In fact, I do it regularly. But telling women here to expect their husbands to do those things is no more helpful than telling men they should expect their wife to just start enjoying sex because he wants it.
      I try to offer each spouse things they have the power to change.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Better Date Nights: You Plan, She PicksMy Profile

  4. @Bobthemusicguy,

    Thank you for that.

    Perhaps we would all be better off approaching each other as a fellow human being and conveying Christ like human kindness towards each as opposed to approaching each other as ‘that person’ who is to fulfill my every need.

    • @jolie I am constantly reminded that my wife is also my sister in Christ. In all circumstances, Christians are called on to serve. I may not always FEEL like serving, but Jesus is my role model for obedience. A book my wife and I have been reading posits the following: What if my marriage is not primarily God’s way of making me happy, but His way of making me holy? If my primary passion in life is to be conformed to the image of Christ, then I can welcome tough times. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is not a pep talk to conquer the world. It’s Paul’s victory cry of being content in whatever circumstances he finds himself. That puts the meeting of needs in marriage in a better perspective. I pray all husbands and wives will find the joyful restoration my wife and I have received. But everyone is in a different place, and everyone is in God’s hands. Trust Him, obey him, and serve your spouse, leaving him or her in God’s hands.

  5. Years ago, when I got my married, my grandmother pulled me aside one day and said “There are two ways to a man’s heart, food and sex. Put the most effort here.” Now, anytime anyone gets engaged my husband tells me I need to share the same advice.
    Seeing your post title brought back the memory. It sweet now, but at the time how mortifying to have your grandmother tell you this!

    • Hi Henri! I share the sense of tenderness you feel now as you remember her comment. My grandmother was known for cuttin’ to the chase and saying things no one else would dare say, and I dearly loved her for that. Your grandmother’s statement reminds me of other comments I’ve heard or read:

      “If I’m not horny, make me a sandwich” and “We stayed married this long because I kept his stomach full and his [ahem…] empty.” We may hear “all he needs is a cook and a bed partner” instead of “without these elements in your relationship, he will find it difficult, perhaps impossible, to build intimacy with you.”

  6. BTW Paul, I get a kick out of the photo of the guy at the top of the post. It makes him look like either he can’t make up his mind about the stomach/sex choice, or else he’s getting worried about getting his stomach so “fulfilled” that he won’t be able to find his zipper. :(

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