Libido, Sexual Desire, and Food

Hokkaido is the northernmost island of Japan. It’s kind of like the Montana of Japan. It’s rural and has very long, cold, and snowy winters. I spent two years there as a volunteer missionary sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was one of the very best and also most challenging & growing experiences of my life as a young adult. I fell in love with the Japanese people, language and culture. 

I even learned to like sushi and sashimi! Let me tell you how that miracle happened 🙂 

One particular cold & snowy January day my missionary companion and I were trying to meet with people in a remote part of our area and we were not getting anywhere. We were discouraged and depressed. We were frozen. Our only comfort was a dinner appointment at 8pm with a member of our congregation.

We had a hard time finding their house in the dark. They lived at the top of a snow-covered hill. After dredging up the snow, we knocked on the door. They invited us into their warm home and right there, on their dinner table, was…. you guessed it; sushi and sashimi! A delicacy for them, and the food I had been avoiding. 

This humble family went out of their way to prepare a gourmet dinner to share with us that I’m sure was a sacrifice for them. It would have been so rude to decline. And I was so cold and hungry and tired that at that moment the sushi tasted soooo delicious and the sashimi in the right sauce wasn’t so bad! The hospitality and feeling of acceptance after a day of rejection was so very welcome! From that day on, I no longer had a problem with sushi and have even come to enjoy it.

When it comes to sexual desire, there’s a lot we can learn from our stomachs. Hey, we’ve eaten food our whole lives!

Here are 10 lessons I’ve learned about sexual desire from food.

  1. Feeling Hungry Keeps You Alive

You know what it’s like to be hungry. It’s your body telling you something’s missing. If you put off the hunger feelings for a little while, those hunger feelings intensify. If you don’t eat, you get cranky or sometimes even hangry. Once you eat, you can focus on other vital tasks again. 

Sex can feel like that too. Although sex isn’t necessary for survival like food and water, sex is there for pleasure, connection, and fun…. to help a marriage thrive. Just like when you’re hungry and all the time all you can think about is food, you’re going to overly preoccupied with when you’re going to have sex again when you feel sexual hunger all the time.

  1. People have different appetites (but don’t get upset about it)

Some people have big appetites. Others have small appetites. 

I bet you have your favorite foods, just as your spouse does. You probably know some picky eaters that will only eat Kraft mac-n-cheese, while others enjoy a wide variety of dishes. 

Some people, when they go out to eat, order the same dish every time. Others try a different dish every time. 

Do you get upset that your spouse has a smaller appetite than you do? No! Do you wonder if something’s wrong with your spouse if he or she has a bigger appetite than you most of the time? Not at all!

And appetites change over time too. We tried to help our kids be less picky eaters, so we went vegetarian for most of our meals in our home a while ago. Our kids (and me) have learned to like a wider variety of vegetables and grains we would otherwise not eat.

So let me ask,

Do you flip out and get angry with your spouse when you’re hungry but your spouse isn’t? No! Do you feel bad when your spouse wants air-fried Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Reduction and you don’t? No! Or if they want the same Mac-n-cheese again? No! We also don’t beat ourselves up if our spouse isn’t into Sushi.

It’s actually okay and normal if your spouse has different sexual appetites than you do.

In every marriage, there is a higher desire and a lower desire spouse when it comes to sex. It’s a law of the universe and completely normal. And it isn’t a problem until you turn it into a problem.  

Most fights about sex in marriage are around differences in libido. It’s unlikely you’ll both have the exact same sexual appetites. You won’t like exactly the same things. You won’t want exactly the same amounts. 

For the higher desire spouse: If you are sexually hungry more often than your spouse is, that’s okay. It doesn’t say anything bad about you or your spouse. It doesn’t mean your spouse loves you less or isn’t as invested in the marriage. It just means you have a bigger appetite than he or she does. It means your spouse just isn’t hungry yet. How you choose to handle these differences in appetites though can either bring you two closer together or drive you apart.

  1. Some People Aren’t Hungry Until They’re Served Delicious Food.

In my college days, I could put away a lot of food without gaining any weight. I had a high metabolism I guess. I was ready to eat a full meal on a moment’s notice. Sometimes I would have a full breakfast and a full lunch back to back. 

Sexual hunger can be like that for some people. They metabolize sexual cues quickly. For instance, seeing my wife walk out of the shower can get me interested in sex in an instant – I metabolize that cue very quickly! This sexual desire pattern could be called “spontaneous desire.”

On the other hand, when my wife sees me walk out of the shower, it doesn’t have the same effect on her… and it has little to do with my good looks!

You might know those who actually don’t feel hungry very often. They’re on the go, busy with important things and only realize they’re hungry once they slow down enough to think about it. 

But when you lay out a delicious meal with foods they like, such as a Thanksgiving feast with buttered rolls, a fresh cooked turkey that smells amazing, and all the fixings, they realize that they could be interested in some food. They take a bite and say, “oh yeah, I like that. Give me more of that!” and “I didn’t realize I was hungry until I started eating!”

Sexual hunger is also like that for many people. They don’t feel sexual hunger until they find themselves in a sexual situation. It’s not that they don’t like sex. It’s just that they don’t think about it until they realize what’s being offered is great. Their desire is more responsive.

If you’re married to a responsive desire spouse, you might feel frustrated as to why they don’t initiate sex as often as you would like. The reality is they just don’t think about it until they’re in a sexual context. So if you’re waiting for a spouse with responsive desire to initiate sex, it can be a long wait. And that can feel demoralizing. This isn’t to say the responsive desire spouse can decide to initiate more often.

Instead, the higher desire spouse can be the one to remember for the couple when it’s time to head off to the bedroom. Neither husband or wife needs to be upset when only one spouse initiates , so long as both enjoy sex once it starts. Sometimes that biological alarm clock that one of them has can be a blessing, not a curse.

Speaking of alarm clocks, others like to schedule sex. This may seem too calculated for passion, but scheduled sex can work for couples with large differences in sexual hunger. “Hot date night” seems better than letting a spouse starve. Knowing there is a meal coming up helps the hungry endure while the lower desire spouse can work up an appetite anticipating the upcoming sexual feast.

  1. What About Meal Prep?

It’s easy to forget how much goes into preparing for sex, especially if you don’t have that big of an appetite for sex. 

There’s more to eating than just feeding yourself. You have to create a grocery list. You need to go shopping for the food. Then you need to cook and prepare the meal. You need to set the table. After dinner there are dishes to do and other clean-up.

Even when eating out, you need to decide what you feel like eating, where you want to go, how long you’ll need to wait, if you’ll need a babysitter, dine-in or do take-out. And then you need to decide what you want from the menu. 

Seeing that sex is multi-dimensional and has more to do with just the sexual encounter will help the lower or more responsive desire spouse feel more seen and understood. 

One thing in my marriage I’m personally trying to get better at is to help with my wife’s mental load. The mental load is this never-ending to do list of things that constantly occupy her mind. The hard part for me (as a husband) is that she sees things I don’t see. It’s invisible to me. In the past it’s been hard for me to know what to do to help out. It felt like guessing.

Recently she’s been tackling her mental load by putting a little more structure into her life and invited me to help. She’s put more things on our shared Google calendar to make the invisible more visible. She’s come up with a meal plan where we eat the same meals on the same days of the week for a month. It helps make shopping and deciding what’s for dinner a million times easier.

The lower desire partner can enlist the help of their spouse to work together as a team to make sex better for both of them… to make sure both people are getting fed well sexually

  1. Working Up An Appetite

A month ago my wife and I went on a getaway, just the two of us, for a weekend. We went on a gorgeous and challenging 8 mile hike. We were pretty hungry afterwards and went to a restaurant for dinner based on a high number of positive Google reviews. It turned out to be a very fancy restaurant.

The restaurant was all about the dining experience. You can tell that the chefs cared just as much about presentation as they did the flavor. It was a multi-course meal. The dishes were small and brought out in intervals. We savored each bite and shared what we got with each other. We were pleasantly surprised how filling and enjoyable the experience was, even if the portions weren’t very large!

What can you do to work up an appetite? Does exercise, reading, connecting with friends and family, or getting things done help you get an appetite for sex? Does taking a bath, reading a book, or going through the Intimately Us app help?

Do small appetizers as foreplay help you prepare for sex? Sometimes we don’t feel worthy of food or the attention that we get at a fancy restaurant. The same can be true for sex. We need to realize we’re worth the attention and pampering.

If the sex you’re having now in your marriage isn’t good, honestly address it. Have sex you know you’ll like and enjoy, it will help you want to get in the mood for it more often.

  1. Watch out for an unhealthy approach to food

Some people suppress their sexual hunger, afraid to let their spouse know that they’re hungry. They can also be afraid or anxious about the fact that they’re hungry, as if there’s shame in sexual hunger – mistakenly thinking that “good people shouldn’t have sexual urges”. They’re afraid of what their spouse or others might think of them for having hunger. So they work to suppress their hunger. This suppression isn’t healthy for the individual or the marriage. They let themselves go sexually anorexic thinking it’s a virtue to do so. Or they binge and purge – by taking their sexual hunger into darkness and secrecy – like hiding in the pantry and stuffing their face with brownies and ice cream, hoping their spouse doesn’t catch them… And feeling really bad afterwards.

On the other extreme, some people feel entitled that their hunger for sex must be met on their schedule, any time, any where, and with the foods that they demand, with little consideration of their spouse’s appetite. They expect their spouse to prepare the meal just as they like it, and eat with them every time they have the urge. These people are hard to live with… and burn out their cook. A lack of consideration and sense of entitlement can’t be sustained for long without consequences. And immoderate eating isn’t healthy either.

  1. Communicating Hunger Honestly

It’s your responsibility to express your sexual hunger if your spouse doesn’t know. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, and you’re not doing your marriage any favors by not expressing your sexual hunger.

A considerate spouse will communicate sexual hunger honestly AND seek to feed his or her spouse’s hunger. That being said, just because a husband or a wife fails to be sexually considerate doesn’t entitle you to sex. Sexuality is a gift to be shared, never a right to be demanded. Just as being hungry for food doesn’t entitle you to eat whatever you want whenever you want. 

I believe the very best marriages are partnership marriages with husbands and wives as equals. The very best marriages are intimate friendships. I also believe once you’re married you’ve agreed to have an exclusive sexual relationship. Sex is essential for the marriage to thrive. 

Denying a spouse’s sexual hunger as a form of control or punishment is cruel. Withholding from the hungry when one has a full pantry reminds me of Mr. Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

When a married couple is open and honest about their sexual hunger, it’s easier for both to be fed properly. Open communication is essential or spouses naturally assume the other may share the same hunger pangs. It’s also important to be honest about sexual hunger, or trust breaks down. Finding empty ice cream cartons and brownie crumbs after your spouse claimed he or she wasn’t hungry doesn’t bode well.

  1. When Your Spouse Is Hungry But It Isn’t Dinner Time Yet

Sometimes your spouse is hungry but you’re not ready for a full meal yourself or it’s a bad time to eat. If your spouse is hungry and wants to eat, that doesn’t mean your spouse is selfish. That doesn’t mean your spouse is more loving or more committed to the marriage because they want sex more than you do. All it means is your spouse is hungry. 

Even if you are not hungry, your spouse may need to eat. This is when a sexual snack might help you get by rather than a full meal. Quickies can be the granola bars of a marriage to tide you over until something more nourishing can be shared. Just don’t rely on ONLY granola bars as the food in your diet.

Some couples do live where their spouse only gets the leftovers. For instance, and forgive the stereotype, she might pour all her energy into the kids and give her husband what little energy she has left. He might pour his attention and energy into career building, and give what little leftovers he has to his wife.

If you rely on only leftovers for your meals, you’re going to run out of food… and frankly some leftovers don’t taste very good either.

  1. Why we want to eat also matters.

I know of some people that have a big sexual appetite motivated by reasons other than intimacy, love, pleasure, and connection with their spouse. They look to sex as reassurance or to escape from feelings of comfort when they’re stressed. It’s like eating when you’re upset or stressed. They make their spouse their stress ball, and it’s unkind.

For the hungry person that wants their spouse to feed them sexually so that they feel good about themselves, it’s tempting to think you’re entitled to sex to pressure your spouse to perform a duty to relieve your anxiety. 

I want to emphasize that no one is entitled to sex, even in marriage.

First of all, there is no sexual debt ever. Nobody owes sex to anyone. Second, taking something that’s not offered to you is theft. Third, any effort to cash in a sexual debt to buy a loving, passionate experience will backfire. Duty sex is a chore. Duty sex kills desire. If we were to feign constant starvation, our spouses would sooner or later dread cooking. Exaggerating sexual hunger to gain sympathy or control is a form of unrighteous dominion.

Some people deliberately repress their own sexual hunger. Suppressing sexual hunger when it would bless a spouse is no virtue. Libido denial may be a way to withhold full commitment to a marriage. 

  1. Up Your Cooking Skills

When we were newly married Emily and I made an effort to up our cooking skills. Sometimes we made the effort to make a special meal just for the other because we knew they’d love it. Other times we made a meal and it was a total flop – and something we still laugh about today!

Sex is like that too. You sometimes will make the effort to prepare a sexual experiencefor your spouse. And sometimes sex is just a flop and a dud! And that’s OK.

But you can get better at sex. The Intimately Us app, books, and other resources can teach you how to get better at bringing pleasure to yourself and your spouse. There’s always more to learn and new things to explore sexually.

Imagine going through the effort to make a special meal for your spouse, and they turn their nose up at it. They don’t appreciate it. If every time we made a meal our spouse pretended not to be interested in food, it would hurt us. We all have the sexual need to be needed. Be grateful for the effort that goes into sex.

  1. Expanding Your Palate

Over the years my wife and I have learned to like new foods. Sometimes they’re more acquired tastes that take time to develop.

The creative options for sexual connection are limitless. It’s like going to a buffet with all kinds of foods and desserts available to you. As you return to this buffet often, you may want to try different foods once in a while. The key here is to try it. You don’t have to like it at first or at all. But there’s something meaningful about being willing to try a food your spouse says is good. Who knows, you might like it!

Having a wider palate of foods you can eat gives you more options to be creative. With a wider variety of foods you know you can enjoy, you can experience more richness of flavors and textures and get more out of your dining experiences.

Thinking about sexual hunger in terms of food hunger makes it easier to share sexuality without upsetting a spouse or becoming upset.

I want to encourage you to honestly discuss the differences you have in your sexual appetites. Learn how to be a good partner and feed each other sexually, according to your appetites.

That cold and hungry night in Hokkaido taught me that meals lovingly and carefully prepared, even if it wasn’t the food I would have picked at first, could open my possibilities to enjoying more things in life. I learned to accept what’s offered with a grateful heart. I learned that I can learn to like a food, especially coupled with the right sauce. I learned that I can work up an appetite too. And all of these lessons taught me that sex can be great in a myriad of different ways.

<h3>Dan Purcell</h3>

Dan Purcell

Dan and his wife Emily Purcell are the founders of Get Your Marriage On! Their marriage went through a bit of a renaissance a few years ago and wanted to share what they learned with other couples. They created a fun & sexy bedroom game app called Intimately Us that has been downloaded over 300,000. They put on events and retreats for couples.Dan is the host of the Get Your Marriage On! podcast. Dan is a Life Coach that coaches other couples and individuals on how to have a great marriage, deeper intimacy, and fulfilling sex life.Dan and Emily have been married for over 18 years and have 6 kids. Dan loves cracking dad jokes, running marathons, planning the next creative date night with his sweetheart, and enjoys the magnificent outdoors around their St George home.

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