When men complain that their wives don't respond to their amorous advances, chances are they are approaching them as husbands rather than as admirers. They make the mistake of thinking that a wife wants primarily to be loved, when in fact she principally wants to be desired, not just loved and taken care of.
Women are not looking just for love in a marriage; they are primarily looking for lust. A woman wants to be wanted, needs to be needed, desires to be desired. A woman does not go into marriage principally to be loved; she goes into marriage to be lusted after, to be desired, to feel that there's a man who has a magnetic attraction for her. It's an easy point to prove. If a woman wanted primarily to be loved, why would she ever leave the comfort of the parental home? No one's ever going to love her more than her parents. Her parents are never going to divorce her. Her parents are going to love her unconditionally. She doesn't have to dress up for them; she doesn't have to impress them. They love her no matter what she does. If you want to be loved, you stay at home.
So why is it that by the time she's a teenager her parents have to threaten her to be at home? When her parents tell her she's the prettiest girl in her class she just rolls her eyes. She doesn't believe them. They're not objective; they're just saying that because they're her parents. But when a man says that to a girl it must mean that she's special, she's unique. Her parents can give her love but they can't give her what she really wants, which is to be chosen.
This is what a woman thirsts to hear more than anything: "I desire you. I want to be physical with you. Your beauty is overwhelming to me. I cannot control myself around you. I find myself thinking about you constantly and I have to have you - I don't care what the consequences are. I don't care if we don't go to sleep tonight and we have to get the kids to school in the morning; there are no physical considerations that can suppress my desire for you." That's what women want and need to hear; that's what will melt a woman, because it taps into her core desire. A husband who approaches a woman without wooing her is not likely to get much of a response, because he hasn't addressed her core need.
Some men are troubled in this area by what's called the Madonna/whore complex. The essence of this mindset is that some men can only see their wives as one or the other. The Madonna can't be the whore. The woman who is the mother of your children is someone with whom you can't express your full sexuality; you can't tell her your deepest erotic fantasies - she might find you sick or think there's something wrong with you. Besides, the Madonna is sanctified; she's above sexuality.
Interestingly, I often see this attitude that it's objectifying and degrading to your wife to lust after her in men who prior to marriage were womanizers. They are reacting against previous actions and a lifestyle that led to their own self-loathing. They got tired of their own behavior, which they could not be proud of. A relationship researcher once wrote that men date the women to whom they're deeply attracted but when it comes time to settling down, they marry women they are compatible with and not as attracted to. This obviously has real consequences for a healthy marriage: it sometimes creates a bifurcation where your wife is the Madonna and you find a mistress on the side.
The man who sees his wife and their relationship that way misses the deepest understanding of his wife. She has a side of her that wants to be treated as a woman with no other considerations at all. She is just waiting and pining and aching to be lusted after.
The American wife is currently living through a sexual famine. Her erotic needs are scarcely addressed. Married to a husband who often dozes in front of the television and stumbles into bed after she is already asleep, her options are often pitiful. She can either choose to have an affair, which she is loath to do, or go quietly into the dark, empty, lonely night, which makes her old before her time.
How many married women look in the mirror and wonder where their passion went? How many look back to their single years when they really felt alive, when they knew sexual yearning and erotic hunger? And how many question how their once-fiery libidos could have been so thoroughly extinguished? What happened to these women?
Marriage happened, that's what. Their husbands happened. And most husbands don't treat their wives with the passion and desire that Christian Grey has for Anastasia in Fifty Shades of Grey.
One of the most erroneous ideas about marriage is that husbands want sexually adventurous wives, wild seductresses with powerful libidos. The truth, however counterintuitive, is that the average man wants a safe and domesticated partner who shores up his fragile ego rather than a sexually voracious woman who will challenge him to take possession of her.
Many husbands subconsciously snuff out their wives' libidos. They sexually extinguish their women, all but guaranteeing that the men themselves will have to turn to porn, affairs, or fantasy for their own erotic thrills. A man complains that his wife is no longer interested in sex, all the while transforming her from a woman into a maid and from a mistress and lover into the mother of his children.
Make no mistake. They don't mean to do this. It happens by osmosis. But it's real nonetheless. Modern women are losing the sensuality of womanhood. They are relegated to the roles of caretaker, wage earner, housekeeper, and waitress. Wives are burdened with fatigue, boredom, and a listless inability to experience pleasure or satisfaction. This is the story of women without fire. Women who do not light up, who do not burn with passion, desire, or sensuality. It is the story of women who have been reduced to function and consumption. Women without soul.
In a tragic twist of paradox, the grand extinguisher is often the wife's own husband. Financial instability, moral uncertainty, consumerism, and shifts in the essence of masculinity have led husbands to exchange the untamed sensuality of a woman for the predictable safety of a functional wife. In an attempt to maintain control over an uncontrollable world, the husband's need for order, predictability, and a sense of competence has been displaced onto his wife and he has reduced and contained her in an attempt to forestall his fear of confusion and inferiority. The result is a wife who meets his basic functional needs but whom he finds fundamentally uninteresting.
The wife is trapped in a double bind. If she acquiesces to what her husband wants of her, she becomes unappealing to him and a shell of her true self. There is little room for her to express her authentic sensuality. There is little room for her to flourish, explore, or self-actualize. Why pursue beauty? Why pursue wit, insight, creativity, personal sensuality? Is she forced to choose between marriage and selfhood?
The individual psyche of the woman is particularly important to her expression of sensuality. To be desirable, to desire, she must be separate from her husband. She must have a sense of herself. She must know, at a visceral level, the presence and power of her beauty. Too much familiarity, too much functionality is antithetical to the decadence of pleasure. A woman wants to be wanted. She wants to be longed for, lusted after, and fantasized about.
She wants not just kosher love but especially kosher lust.
Shmuley Boteach, "America's Rabbi," whom The Washington Post calls 'the most famous Rabbi in America' is the international best-selling author of 30 books and has just published Kosher Lust. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.