When a Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex

I’m going to approach this article a bit differently than others I’ve written because I feel a need to address both women and men on this matter, because it DOES matter. It’s a struggle, whether you’re the wife or the husband. Both feel very strongly about this part of their marriage.

I totally agree with something Dr Phil McGraw has said on his television program,

“Sex might not be everything but it registers higher (90 percent) on the ‘importance scale’ if it’s a source of frustration in your relationship. If your sex life is unfulfilled, it becomes a gigantic issue. On the other hand, couples that have satisfying sex lives rate sex at only 10 percent on the ‘importance scale.'” (From Ten Relationship Myths)

For both husband and wife, it’s a huge problem if they aren’t in agreement.

First, to the men who are struggling because their wife doesn’t respond to your approaches. I can’t even start to know the frustration you’re experiencing. I can guess, and I’ve listened to men (and my own husband) as they’ve voiced their anxiety and grief and utter angst over this issue, but not being a man, I don’t really understand it in the same way another man would.

So, when I came across a series of articles written by Paul Byerly (who along with his wife Lori, have a web site called The Marriage Bed —Paul also has web site called The Generous Husband), and I saw the value of what Paul has written, I determined to let him address this issue from a man’s perspective. So men, please read the following series of articles posted on The-generous-husband.com web site (and you may even want to question him about this matter):




And then Neil Black, on the web site, Power to Change, wrote the following articles, which you may find helpful:



I hope men find the above series of articles, from both Paul Byerly and Neil Black, helpful!

And for wives who are saying no to having sex with your husbands, I realize that this is a complex issue, as well. There are so many reasons why you may not want to make love to your husband with some of them being lack of desire, his cleanliness, his demanding, abusive, controlling ways, which turn you off when you consider having any loving, physical contact with him, pornography issues —either his or yours, where satisfaction is being achieved through false, sinful entertainment. We deal with many of those issues in other topics of this web site. Please search for them.

There’s also busyness, where you’re just plain too tired to make love to your husband because of the demands of children and job obligations, household chores, etc. Lori Byerly, of The-generous-wife.com wrote a blog on this, that you may find insightful (I sure did —probably because I have had to make similar decisions):


These issues are also addressed in other topics of this web site (with links provided to others). Please seek and you will find. It’s not that they will give instant answers, or every answer, but I believe you will find the inspiration and at least some help to make necessary changes so you save at least a part of your energy to connect with your marriage partner.

Also, there is the problem of past abuse from other men and how it may be haunting you today. When your husband touches you it sends off memory triggers, which remind you of the horrible hurt you went through earlier in life. It may also have stripped your desire to have even a loving husband touch you.

I can relate. I’ve been there and have worked through that extremely difficult situation. I write a bit about it in the article:


If this is what you are dealing with, there’s also a few other articles you may want to read:

SEXUAL OBSTACLES: Healing an Emotional Wound


There may be other issues, such as addictions (yours and/or his), and bitterness over marriage situations (we have articles on those issues on this web site, as well).

But whatever it is, please work on it. They say that “whoever wants sex the least has the most power in bed.” That seems to be true. If a lot of withholding is going on, there is a power struggle going on and the bedroom is “a lousy place for a battle of the will.”

I agree that there are seasons where we need to work on issues, pertaining to our sex life together, but when it drags on to more than a “season” then there are problems. The Bible tells us,

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and like-wise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

You had to have known that before you married that isn’t good to deprive one another. Being intimate and exclusive with each other is all part of being married. If you wanted to withhold having sex with your spouse, you shouldn’t have married.

Perhaps you have changed or your husband has changed in your libido or your desire in wanting to make love. Keep in mind that marriage is not all about you. This is a partnership. And just like your husband needs to work with you on compromises, you need to work with him on compromises too.

But be careful in how you do this. Don’t just lay there and let him have his way, while you pout and think, “just get it over with.” Ultimately, that won’t satisfy your husband (or you) either. Marriage is about giving. If you look in the Bible, you see throughout it, that we’re told it’s more blessed to give than to receive. We’re also told to serve one another, with a good heart. Jesus was our ultimate example in being a servant. As we’re told in Philippians 2 we’re to, “have this same attitude.

You know deep in your heart if you’re being difficult with your husband. You know deep in your heart if you’re asking more of him than you should —letting him know that he won’t get it from you. And yet you’re expecting him to be celibate because you also expect him to stay faithful in all ways.

Yes, he should stay faithful. That’s what God expects of him too. But if you are not being intimate with him if he wants and needs you, you’re putting temptation in front of him. You’re putting him in a corner where he can feel trapped. He can’t be intimate with you and yet he has needs. A life sentence of celibacy can be a frightening life for someone who needs that connection with the one he loves and has sexual desires that won’t quit plaguing him.

I have to admit that there have been times when I didn’t “want it” when my husband approached me. There was even a LONG period of time when I was dealing with past sexual issues where I denied my husband. I now know that I was wrong in what I did and what I expected of him. It’s not that I needed to meet his every need when I was hurting so deeply inside. But I was wrong in not getting the help that I needed so we didn’t stay stuck in that place for as long as we were.

My husband pleaded with me and I just looked the other way thinking, “he just needs to control himself. He should understand how painful this is for me.”

And yes, it wouldn’t have been too much for some of that to happen, where he could “control himself” for a period of time while I was in therapy. And yes, as my marital partner, he should understand (to a certain degree) how painful this was for me. But I took it way beyond reasonable. He COULDN’T understand. He had never been abused in that way. He couldn’t have known the depth of pain. And even if he tried to understand (which he did), I needed to get help so I could work through my issues and we could work together on ours so this wasn’t something I expected from him without an end in sight.

I was being unreasonable in my expectations of him. He married me in good faith that we would be marriage partners and I was withdrawing an important connection in that partnership. And whether it was because of past abuse or whatever, it was not reasonable for me to ask my husband to stay pure and yet not be with me either. I feel that is true in most every marriage.

If there are physical, emotional, or whatever reasons why you can’t get together, please work on them. Don’t deny your spouse and sentence him to a life without you or anyone else. He wants you and no one else. Please work on your issues.

If the reason you can’t be with him is because of physical pain or because of some other physical reason, then work with doctors on this. If it isn’t something that can be resolved (and you’re truthful —that it really can’t be resolved), then find other ways to satisfy him. But do it with a good attitude. And if you can’t do things in a “conventional” method because of physical limitations, then find ways to satisfy each other in other ways. Be creative. Keep in mind that the important thing is that you are together, man and wife, without any other human being involved (physically or visually). This is YOUR time to be together. Please don’t ask your husband to lead a celibate life if that is not what he desires.

As I admitted before, there was a long, long (unreasonably long) season where I pulled back from being intimate with my husband. Eventually, I woke up and realized that I had a good guy I was married to. He didn’t deserve to be another victim to what had happened to me in the past. I got help and we eventually came together and have loved on each other since.

But even so, even though my past is not an issue any longer, there have been a few dry spells where I haven’t wanted it as much as my husband has. The book, Sacred Sex: A Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage, written by Tim Alan Gardner, and the book, Intimate Issues: Twenty-One Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex, written by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus helped me. I now “get it” as far as understanding better the emotional and spiritual connection that comes from making love as husband and wife. It’s not ONLY physical connection (although that’s an important one —especially to the marital partner who needs it), but there is more to this whole thing than many people (especially most women) realize.

God showed me that when my husband needed to be close to me in that way, to try to never deny him. Sure there are some times when I fall to bed exhausted or I’m not feeling well, when he approaches me. But instead of totally denying him, I either offer a “quickie” or ask him if we can be together at another time (and then I make sure it’s soon). My husband is a reasonable man and that has worked for us.

And if it’s just because I don’t “feel like it” —even then, I offer the same. But most of the time, even if I don’t feel like it, I’ve learned to pray. I ask God to give me the desire. I know that there is a spiritual component mixed into the intimate time my husband and I have together.

I’ve had times where I’ve started out with NO desire to make love to my husband when he has needed it, but as I pray and concentrate on giving love to my husband —lavishing him with love that comes from a heart filled with the love of God, eventually, I’m totally into it. I’m enjoying loving my husband as much as he is in loving me. It becomes TOTALLY satisfying and enjoyable. I never knew that God would answer that type of prayer, but He sure does!

And here’s a quote from Sheila Wray Gregoire, that I ran across, that I though you may find helpful (I sure have):

“How often have you done this: you’re lying in bed, feeling guilty, wondering, ‘Is he expecting something tonight?’ And then your brain goes into overdrive. ‘Do I feel like it? I don’t know. Is he due? How many days has it been, anyway? If we start right this moment, how many hours of sleep will I still get?’ The silly thing is that if you had started in the beginning, you’d be asleep by now! We women often forget that our sex drives are primarily in our brains.

“Unlike for our husbands, arousal usually comes after you start making love, not before. But instead of jumping in, we tend to overanalyze things. Tonight, silence all those thoughts running through your head, and just decide, I am going to feel good, and I am going to feel close to my husband! If you’re mentally excited, your body tends to follow. So stop thinking so much, and start doing!”

I hope what I’m writing here helps in some way. I know that there are circumstances where we just don’t want it. And most husbands have those times too, but please make it your mission to work on whatever it is that is standing in the way of intimately connecting with your marriage partner in this important way.

I want to close with something that was written in the above mentioned book, Intimate Issues:

“Making the right decision is never easy but there are benefits to adopting the right attitude. When we choose to love selflessly, we honor God, we make our husbands happy, and we find more pleasure in our lovemaking.

“Dying to self is difficult, but it is necessary if you want to grow in godliness. Being godly means having a godly attitude. Godly attitudes result in godly actions, such as giving your body to your husband. This is easier if you surrender to God and allow His Spirit to work within you. ‘Nothing is impossible with God(Luke 1:37, NIV). He is able to give you desire where none existed before. He can help you exchange wrong thinking with godly thinking. He can cause you to enjoy deeper intimacy than you ever thought possible.

“God, I confess that I have not always appreciated Your gift of sex —or even wanted it. I have shunned You and withheld my body from my husband. Forgive me. I want to be a willing and creative lover —but it’s hard. Please stir up in me passion and desire for my husband. help me get my mind off myself to You and humbly ask that You behind now to work in me.”

This article was written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.


Filed under: Sexual Issues

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276 responses to “When a Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex

  1. Is sex really that important? And how is a good Christian girl supposed to learn how to please her husband? All those books demonstrating it are just another form of pornography…

    1. Hi Audrey, As a husband of 36 years, I would answer your first question with, “Yes, actually, it is that important.” for both the husband and the wife.

      Regarding your second question, I would say, that there is very good literature to be found which treat this difficult subject with Godly respect and accuracy. I recall the title “Intended for Pleasure” but I forget the author, and I have a book here with the title “Destined for Intimacy” (God’s beautiful blueprint for husband and wife) by Jane Hansen & Marie Powers. (I am translating the title from Dutch to English, sorry) This title could also read “Intended for Intimacy.” In general, honest open dialogue on a frequent basis, where each partner listens at least as much as that partner speaks, is always a positive thing :)

      I believe it is true that while women tend to be open to physical intimacy when other things are in place, such as verbal sharing, emotional connectedness, romantic outings, etc. for men it is the other way around- the men tend to be more open to verbal sharing, emotional connectedness, romantic outings, etc. when physical intimacy is regular and mutually positive.

      When the wife refuses physical intimacy too often, we men feel lonely, unloved, and vulnerable. This may sounds strange, but I can tell you it is true. Of course we men need to be cognizant of the mentrual cycle, the stressful day, a cold or headache, of course…..

      The following websites state this far better than I can. When I first viewed them, by reaction was, YES, very true!! See what you think?


      I hope this helps…. WP (Work in Progress)

    2. Yes, Audrey, sex really IS important, if it is important to one of you. Remember, you are marriage partners. You are not to approach marriage with a single mindset. It may not seem like it to you, or to others who don’t enjoy sex as much as their marital partners, that it’s important but it is. It’s like a type of glue that cements you together. Your question is a lot like my asking, “is talking together, holding hands, hugging, walking together and communicating really important in a marriage?” To that you would most likely say yes. That’s because that’s how you feel intimately connected to your husband. He is wired differently than you. To him, when you make love to him and express your pleasure in him, that is when he feels most intimately connected to you. It’s equivalent to the best talk ever that you would want to have with your husband.

      Here’s a video that I recommend you watch that may explain this a bit better: http://marriagemissions.com/wisdom-christian-wives-regarding-sex-sarah-eggerichs/. There are two books that may also explain this better than I can in this shortened format. One of them is the book, Sacred Sex: A Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage written by Tim Alan Gardner. It’s a great book that better explains the intimacy God intends us to experience as we join together as “one” physically. The other is Intimate Issues: Twenty-One Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex written by Linda Dillow. This book totally turned me around in my understanding of the importance of sex in marriage —both of these books, actually.

      You also ask, “how is a good Christian girl supposed to learn how to please her husband?” My answer is, when you marry, you stop being a girl and approach your marriage as a woman —one that is empowered by God to please her husband (as he is to please his wife), as led by God. Marriage isn’t for children —it’s for grown-ups.

      I don’t know if you are asking this as a married gal or one who is contemplating marriage. But that is my answer. The sexual side of marriage is very complex, just like the Bible says that marriage is a mystery. This side of marriage is mysterious, to say the least when you try to make sense of it. As a “Christian girl” you needed to not be intimate with the man you loved. But as a Christian married woman, you ask God to show you how to love your husband with your heart and your body. I would never recommend books that aren’t Christian, on the topic of sex because the world has perverted sexual issues. But those that are published for Christian spouses are more like text books on how to do it right, rather than the wrong way —man’s way, rather than God’s.

      It’s all good in the marriage bed… all sanctioned and sanctified, EXCEPT if one spouse or both brings any other person into the bed with them —whether physically, emotionally, or through images. (If one spouse is into pornographic stuff —images and videos that cause them to approach their love making in a perverted way, then there are problems, otherwise, go for it). The marriage bed is for exploration of a husband and wife with no one else involved. Whatever both of them agree upon is fine. ENJOY!!! Let down your inhibitions and unite with your marriage partner. If you’re having a difficult time with this then silently pray that God will help you to love your husband and enjoy the man He gave you. I’ve done that before and it’s amazing how God answers prayer in such a blessed way. You can feel closer to your spouse than ever before.

      We have a lot of things posted on this web site in the “Sexual Issues” topic that I encourage you to read along with the books I recommended. Ask God to help you to stop withholding yourself in the marriage bed, like you needed to do before marriage. Marital sex is “good” where the other is not what you’re supposed to do. Let go and enjoy your husband. I hope you can let yourself and you will. I pray that for you.

  2. I love sex, but I haven’t had sex with my husband in months. Part of the reason is that we have 2 little ones and they sleep in our bed. But also, my husband is so overweight and I’m pretty fit. It’s very important to me and I’ve expressed this to him, but he doesn’t do much about it. I am very resentful.

  3. I will never, under no circumstances have sex with my husband ever again. He is a complete jerk and I hate him. I only stay because I am biblically trapped!!!

    1. Marge, How is staying with him more biblically “right” than hating him? Do you pray for him? You are viewing him as your enemy and we’re told in the Bible NOT to hate, but to pray for our enemies. I hope you are. I don’t know how much of a “jerk” your husband is, but I can tell you that you are not doing God any favors by hating and yet staying. Please prayerfully consider this.

      I truly am sorry that your husband is not treating you in loving ways. He is told in the Bible to do so. But please don’t allow yourself to believe the lie that because you hurt so badly, solutions to do that, which you should not, is acceptable. It is not. It’s not acceptable for him, and it’s not acceptable for you, no matter what the other does. I pray the Lord will help you both in this mission.