When You Don’t Want Sex With Your Husband

Wife doesn't want to make love, is sad - Adobe Stock When you don’t want to have sex with your husband, what do you do? Maybe you can relate to the wife’s thoughts expressed below.

“I have already gotten settled in bed, wearing my flannel nightgown and reading my book. Now that you’re in the mood, I’m not sure I want to go to all the trouble…” (This is a paraphrase of Song of Songs 5:3,6)

Sometimes the well-worn excuse, “I’ve got a headache, honey,” is actually true. Just the thought of having sex makes your head hurt, and maybe your heart as well. It’s hard to feel amorous when you’re angry or disappointed, and it’s equally difficult to desire your husband sexually if you’re not attracted to him.

When You Don’t Want to Have Sex

Many women in difficult marriages lack a desire for sexual intimacy with their mates —and you don’t have to look far to understand why, at least in part. We’re all aware that women are wired differently than men when it comes to sex. While men often times are aroused by physical and visual stimuli, women usually need to feel affection and trust in order to be responsive to a man’s sexual advances. When a wife receives her husband during intercourse, she is, in a sense, allowing herself to be invaded by him —not just physically, but on emotional and spiritual levels, as well.

Feelings Make a Difference

Wives who feel loved and secure can welcome this invasion as an opportunity to experience intense intimacy and pleasure with their husbands. But wives who lack sexual desire or who feel animosity toward their husbands often experience sex as a violation rather than as loving communion.

Many women in difficult marriages find sex undesirable. So, if you have problems in this area, know that you’re in good company. Also know that you can take steps to have a more satisfying and healthy sexual relationship.

You may be surprised to learn that Scripture can shed some insight into why [wives] may be feeling resistant or resentful when it comes to lovemaking. In a well-known but often misrepresented passage about marriage, Paul writes, ‘The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise 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’ (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

What These Verses Do and Don’t Mean

These verses have been used to browbeat wives into feeling guilty for not wanting sex or for avoiding it. But notice that Paul doesn’t say a wife’s body belongs only to her spouse. It says it belongs also to her spouse. As ‘one flesh,’ a wife shares her body with her husband. Bible commentaries also point out that when Paul says we ‘belong’ to one another, he’s not just emphasizing our ownership rights over one another, but he’s also clarifying that our exclusive conjugal rights belong to each other —no outsiders allowed.

This passage does not teach that a wife (or husband, for that matter) should submit to sex whenever, wherever, and however our partner demands it, no matter how we feel. Rather, it teaches that since my husband’s body belongs to me, I should care about it enough to give it pleasure whenever I possibly can, and he likewise with my body. In the same way, since my husband’s body belongs to me, I should also be understanding and generous when it’s not “in the mood,” and he likewise with my body. The emphasis is on mutuality, not selfishness.

At first reading, this passage may also seem to teach that sex is a duty, a required act. But duty is better translated as sacred responsibility. Paul is advising couples to continue to have sex on a regular basis because sex is at the heart of our sacred oneness and helps to protect our fidelity. The intent of this duty isn’t that a wife complies with a husband’s selfish appetite for sex on demand or vice versa, but to fulfill her sacred obligation to meet her husband’s sexual needs, keep the marriage bed pure, and keep each other free of sexual temptation.

Another Passage

Let’s look at another passage. In Ephesians, husbands are told to love their wives “as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). “After all, no one ever hated his own body,” Paul writes, “but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (v.29). God describes a husband who loves his wife so much that he puts her needs as high on the chart as his own bodily needs! In regard to sex then, if a husband loves his wife this way, there’s no danger that he’ll mistreat her or take sexual advantage of her, because that would be like hating his own body.

In God’s ideal picture of marriage, if a wife wasn’t feeling up to sex, for whatever reason, the husband would honor and respect her feelings as if it were himself who wasn’t in the mood. If a husband doesn’t love his wife this way, he —not she —is sinning when he expects his wife to be available for intercourse on demand and without regard to her feelings.

Okay, so now we see that God didn’t intend for a wife to be a slave to her husband’s sexual needs. However, on the other extreme —saying that a wife has no responsibility or can shirk her obligation to nurture a healthy, ongoing sexual relationship —is equally wrong and unbiblical. A wife who regularly refuses to have sex or is only willing to be intimate with her husband on her terms is also acting selfishly. If you consistently rebuff your husband’s sexual advances and resent intercourse, you need to take active, positive steps toward restoring consistent and mutually satisfying lovemaking to your marriage.

Suggestions:

Here are some suggestions to start you on the path to discovery and change. For starters:

Tell your husband that you want to improve your lovemaking. And make sure he knows you’re actively pursuing positive changes. Assure him that you understand that you have a part in the sexual problems in your marriage. Be sure he knows that your goal is for both of you to be sexually satisfied.

Take a “Time Out” from Sex.

Paul said not to deny each other except for a time of prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). The reason for a sexual hiatus isn’t to avoid sex —it’s to pray and take active steps to bring about change. It’s not to stop resentment from building; it’s to bring healing so that resentment is no longer an issue. Talk about this with your husband. Tell him what you’re doing and why. If he knows the goal isn’t less sex, but more and better sex, he’ll likely feel less threatened by a time out. He may also be more willing to see a counselor together, read books together, or explore the problem. If he gets angry or refuses to respect your wishes, talk with a counselor. You need to gain wisdom and support for what you can do.

Educate yourself. 

There’s not enough room here to address the myriad of emotional and physical aspects of sexual dysfunction. There are plenty of good books available, however. One or both of you may have grown up with ideas or teachings about sex that are inhibiting you now. Some good Christian books include:

• Restoring the Pleasure by Clifford L. Penner and Joyce J. Penner

• Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus

• Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat.

Check Your History.

Could it be that past sexual relationships are interfering in your present one? Were you involved in sexual activities earlier in life that you left feeling resentful and used? If you have a history of any kind of abuse, chances are great that you need healing from these hurtful experiences before you will begin to have a healthy attitude about lovemaking. Since this is a complex issue, you should seek help form a professional as soon as possible.

Rule Out Physical Problems. 

Sometimes physical problems, such as hormone imbalances, inhibit a woman’s desire for sex. If your troubles have more to do with a lack of physical responsiveness than with emotional resistance, see a physician who specializes in sexual dysfunction. Explore the possible causes and solutions. You should also visit your doctor if you don’t experience orgasms, if you lack lubrication, if you find intercourse painful, or if you are on medications that might be interfering with your sexual drive.

Experiment with Being the Initiator.

In most cases where a wife is reluctant to have sex, the husband is the designated initiator. This can lead to an unhelpful pattern in which the problem only gets worse. Authors Clifford and Joyce Penner point out:

Because the wife doesn’t show her interest in being together sexually, the husband begins to believe she has no interest in him sexually. His insecurity is triggered by her apparent lack of interest. So he anxiously begins to initiate sex more often than he would want it if he were feeling sure of himself in relation to her. She feels pressured by his initiation, so she begins to avoid him or pull away sexually. The more he approaches, the more consistent is her avoidance. The more frequent her avoidance, the more anxious is his approach. It becomes a negative spiral.

Talk with your husband about waiting for sex until you approach him. Many men, once assured that sex will take place, aren’t put off by waiting for the wives to signal their readiness. If you are the initiator it may remove some of the feelings of pressure and duty you experience. Instead, it becomes something you are giving, versus something he is always approaching you to take.

Spell It Out for Him! 

“If [a wife] feels uncared for, she may believe the only interest her husband has in her is sex,” write the Penners. “He comes home from work, turns on the television, sits quietly at dinner, and watches television after dinner. Then at bedtime he becomes friendly —and her anger sizzles.”

Sound familiar? Tell your husband exactly what it takes to please you in bed. Let him know what makes you feel happy to be invited there. You’d be amazed how many men don’t realize that a wife needs to be courted during the day. She needs more interaction than giving it only five minutes before lovemaking. And chances are, it probably doesn’t take that much. It could be as simple as a midday phone call, kisses on the way out the door, a long hug when he gets home. Be specific about what you’d enjoy. List for him several small things he could do to help you be in the mood more often.

Consider Sexual Therapy.

For some couples, the road to a healthy sex life may require outside help. Often sexual therapy involves literally starting all over again with a clean slate. Couples typically follow a program that begin with nonsexual touching; over the course of weeks, homework assignments build back up to intercourse (Restoring the Pleasure contains a step-by-step program). If your husband is unwilling to see a counselor with you, consider seeking help alone. You’d be surprised how much progress you can make this way. A therapist may not only be able to help you deal with your own issues pertaining to sex, but may also help you find non-threatening ways to talk about them with your husband.

Be Honest About Turnoffs

It’s important to find a way to let your husband know what dampens your mood. For years, Catherine’s husband Jason had no idea she was repelled by the smell of a prescription lotion. When she mentioned it, he was hurt that she’d never been honest before. Now he never applies his bedtime dose of lotion until he’s sure they won’t be making love.

If it’s something he can change, let your husband know that while you accept and love him as he is, you’d think he were sexier if he could deal with this particular problem. If it’s not something he can change, the problem then becomes yours. In truth, your sexual responsiveness, if all else is well, shouldn’t be dampened by baldness, graying, or wrinkled skin. If they trouble you, you need to deal with your own thought patterns and values. Do what you can to try not to let them detract from lovemaking.

Never Give Up

Making changes in your sex life won’t necessarily come easily. Some changes might not come at all. However, never give up or relegate sex to the old days. A healthy sex life is foundational to every marriage. The Penners put it this way: “How important is sex in marriage? Here’s a simple answer. When sex is compared to an automobile, sex is to marriage what oil is to the combustion engine. At least a little oil necessary to keep the engine running —without sex, one’s marriage will eventually break down.”

Dear Lord,
Thank You for the gift of sex! I want to become more and more grateful for this miracle of oneness You created. Help me, I pray; to do everything in my power to make my love life with the husband. You gave me all that You would have it be. Restore our passion, revive our affections, and fill us with mercy and grace for one another. Amen.

The above part of this article came from the book, Lovers for Life: Strengthening and Preserving Your Marriage, published by Christian Publications, Inc. This book is a compilation of writings from over 30 different authors on the subject of marriage. Kenneth Musko is the compiler and Janet Dixon is the editor. Some of the contributing authors include: Gary Chapman, Kevin Leman, Cheri Fuller. Others are: Willard Harley Jr., Steve and Annie Chapman, and Bob and Yvonne Turnbull.

— IN ADDITION, TO HELP YOU WITH THIS ISSUE —

Paul Byerly, from The-generous-husband.com web site gives additional insightful information you might find helpful as you read:

SEX FOR HER —When She Resists or Limits Sex

Print Post

Filed under: Sexual Issues

Join the Discussion

Please observe the following guidelines:

  • Try to be as positive as possible when you make a comment.
  • If there is name-calling, or profane language, it will be deleted.
  • The same goes with hurtful comments targeted at belittling others; we won't post them.
  • Recommendations for people to divorce will be edited out–that's a decision between them and God, not us.
  • If you have a criticism, please make it constructive.
  • Be mindful that this is an international ministry where cultural differences need to be considered.
  • Please honor the fact this is a Christ-centered web site.

We review all comments before posting them to reduce spam and offensive content.

Comments

349 responses to “When You Don’t Want Sex With Your Husband

  1. At one time my wife had zero sex drive. Time passed, perimenopausal, then menopause, painful sex. Now she is on HRT, including testosterone; she wants it more now than when we were 1st married!

  2. I love my husband!!! I want to make that perfectly clear. We have been married for 40 years. The last 20 years have been difficult for me in the bedroom. I have not wanted to have sex for many of these years. I have also been ill for part of this time. But I have restored my health through diet, proper nutrition, exercise and vitamin and natural hormone replacement supplements/creams. In short I have scratched my way back to health through sheer determination and I have prevailed.

    I have recovered my sexual ability but not my desire. I’m having longer and better orgasms than I had in my 20’s. But I am not attracted to my husband physically anymore. I am in no way interested in pursuing others…I am only interested in my husband. The problem is that he is at least 50 to 60 pounds overweight (6’4 and 270 lbs.). I am probably 10 to 15 lbs. underweight (5’11 and 125 lbs.) I feel really mean and guilty for feeling this way.

    What should I do? We’ve had several talks over the years about what he might do but he is not the least bit interested. He says that then he would not be able to eat what he wants to eat and he continues to have two desserts whenever the opportunity arises. I am fed up with waiting for him to take action. I am very worried about his health!!!

    What should we do? His doctor has said he needs to lose weight but my husband does not listen. Yesterday I told him he is cut off until he loses at least 20 lbs. Now I feel even more guilty and mean. Please give me some feedback.

    1. Joan, I’ve been thinking about and praying about what to answer you concerning your plea for feedback. Needless to say, this is no “easy” problem to get beyond. It appears that your husband is either depressed, addicted to unhealthy eating–especially sugar, and/or is the type of person who has a type of Phlegmatic personality where he doesn’t see the same necessities for change like someone with a type 1 or Choleric personality type. I could be wrong here because I haven’t talked with him or with you. But whatever his reasonings, he is obviously not interested at this time in losing weight, or he sees it as too difficult a mountain to climb. There could be a whole lot of reasonings behind this. I’m not sure what they are.

      But whatever they are, I really don’t think that cutting him off from having sex with you is really going to work in the long run. First off, his losing 20 pounds could take months. That is a HUGE goal for someone who gets his continual comfort and/or pure enjoyment from food. It will seem too unattainable whenever his cravings nag at him. Plus, it’s not like quitting smoking. He has to eat, so it will be many, many times a day throughout the day, every day that he will be facing his cravings to fight against eating too much. Quitting eating too much and quitting having sex with our spouse are like comparing apples and oranges. They are completely different types of cravings. He will probably eventually resort to having sex with his hand, and/or getting into porn. Those “options” may seem more plausible than breaking his addiction to food. And then where will your attraction for him go from there? I think it will only get worse. So we go from not being attracted to him physically, to not being attracted to him physically or emotionally. I believe you would be causing more cracks (and even more serious ones) in the foundation of your marriage by trying to withhold sex from him as a “motivator” for his losing weight. It would hurt him and you and seriously hurt your relationship–maybe permanently.

      And then I have to say this. You don’t mention where you and your husband are spiritually, but this is a Christian web site, so I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the scripture in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 where we’re told: “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.” God has very good reasons for that, which He tells us to do, and not do. He knows the pull of this type of temptation and warns us to put each other in that place. It may make sense to us, but we’re playing with fire by going against what God tells us. Truthfully, I wouldn’t go there. I’d back up away from this one. I think you would damage your relationship too severely by sticking with this mandate.

      So what should you and your husband do? Well, one thing… first realize that he is not you. I greatly admire you for what you did in getting yourself healthy. I think it is GREAT that you did what you did! I’m thinking he admires you for this too. But that doesn’t mean that he has the same determinable spirit as you. The mountain he sees and the one he saw you just climb over just don’t look the same to him. He obviously needs to get motivated. His health (and your view of his appearance, and your sexual desire for him) depends upon it. But he just doesn’t have that gut-motivating determination to do what it takes to get to that healthier place at this point. And you can’t give that to him. Only HE can get himself to that place. Withholding sex for something like his losing weight (especially 20 pounds) will only heap more problems on top of the original problem you have at this point in time. That is my honest, prayerful opinion. I wouldn’t stick to that threat.

      I would work on my own outlook on this whole thing. I would purely approach it from a “concern for your health” standpoint. I wouldn’t feed or allow myself to entertain thoughts about how I am not attracted to him because of his outside appearance. I believe this will only chip away at your relationship more and more. I’d keep focusing on his inward qualities and when I start going there in how my eyes view him… I’d shut that down. I’d put my mind on other, more positive things. And then, when the lights are off, I’d concentrate on making love to, and pleasing my husband–the man I love, rather than the outward image of him. As you do so, as you said, you would find pleasure too because of your longer, better orgasms.

      I’ve heard it said that “whenever we make orgasm the goal of sex, we fail to experience godly sex. The ‘big O’ is not orgasm. The ‘big O’ is ONENESS. It’s not how great the bodies, or how great the orgasm. It’s that a loving experience you share with each other.” The orgasm and the euphoric feeling that accompanies it is a wonderful bonus. Don’t get me wrong. It’s GREAT! But don’t make that the most important focus of making love with your husband. Aim for oneness wherever you can in your marital relationship.

      My husband is a Type 1 diabetic (and has been for over 45 years). For several years he didn’t take good care of himself, as far as this was concerned. It was a constant struggle that caused problems in our marriage. I kept emphasizing how concerned I was for his health. We had young children. Plus, I didn’t want to lose him and I knew and know the problems that diabetes can bring–especially when it isn’t being handled in the way it should. Diabetes can get away from you really quickly, even if you do all the right things, let alone doing what you shouldn’t.

      I just kept emphasizing how much I love him and how his taking care of himself was a love gift back to me. I did (and still do) what I could (and can) to not bring things into the house that he shouldn’t eat–that, which would tempt him. It was healthier eating for all of us. Our meals were (and still are) nutritional and balanced. Exercise and healthy living is something that I made sure I brought into and modeled in our home. Plus, I prayed and prayed and prayed. I have continually worked on my own attitude on this. Eventually, Steve got it. Like a lightbulb was switched on, he started taking control of his own health. Since that point, he has been doing great on all aspects of his health. I am his partner in all of this, not the one who drags him into doing what he needs to do to be as healthy as a Type 1 diabetic can be. (Dragging doesn’t work… it just frustrates.) Sometimes I point out better eating choices, and I’m still careful in what I bring into the house, but I work not to shame, blame, and get too negative about it.

      Again, it comes down to the fact that we can’t change our husbands. They have to do the changing. We can encourage, pray for, support, do our part in partnering with them and keeping our own eating and health habits in line, but we can’t drag them into changing. And again, do what you can to NOT feed how you view your spouse’s outward appearance. Keep the lights off and don’t touch his stomach or other areas of his body that can turn you off mentally. But make love to your husband as the man you love for who he is inside. Perhaps, eventually, he will work on the outside. I hope he does for both of your sakes. But that’s the best advice I believe I can give you. Don’t throw out a good man because he is heavier in weight than he should be. You’ll both lose, if your relationship is reduced to outward appearances.