When You Don’t Want Sex With Your Husband

Wife doesn't want sex - 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 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 When You Don’t Want Sex

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 when they don’t want sex or avoid 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. 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 a husband) should submit to sex whenever, wherever, and however our partner demands it. Rather, it teaches that since my husband’s body belongs to me I should care enough to give it pleasure whenever I possibly can. And he is to do likewise with my body. In the same way, my husband’s body belongs to me. I should also be understanding and generous when it’s not “in the mood.” And he is to do 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. That is because sex is at the heart of our sacred oneness. It 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. The intent is for her to fulfill her sacred obligation to meet her husband’s sexual needs. It is to 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, 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.

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 When You Don’t Want Sex:

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.

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. Additionally, 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, or if you lack lubrication. Also visit a doctor 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. That causes her anger to sizzle.”

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 If You Continually Don’t Want Sex.

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.”

Here is a prayer you can use as an outline:

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.

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.


Paul Byerly, from The-generous-husband.com web site gives insightful information for you to read:

SEX FOR HER —When She Resists or Limits Sex

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Filed under: Sexual Issues

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

  1. Do you think when the husband constantly say things about your attitude, negative things about your family, the way you dress, always accusing you of looking at other men, and accuses you of wanting attention from other men can have an effect of not having a desire of going to the husband for sex?

    1. Yes, Sherry it definitely can cause you to want not have any type of intimacy with your husband. I hope you are telling him that. But I encourage you to pray about the best timing for telling him this and the best way to do this. If you use it as a weapon then he will get defensive (as you probably feel defensive emotionally) and then you are both just going back and forth continuing to hurt each other. Someone needs to be the hero here and start on a healthier path so reconciliation is possible.

      Pray and ask God to reveal to you and help you NOT to add to the problem but to help your marriage relationship get to a better place. And ask God to talk to your husband’s heart on all of these issues too so he will stop adding to the problem, and help your marriage relationship get to a place where you will want to get closer to him in loving ways as his marriage partner.

      I don’t know you or your husband. There are obviously a lot of other individual issues and marital problems going on besides just sex. It’s easy to read between the lines here. You both need to find ways to be friends instead of foes and communicate with each other in healthier ways. That’s what you promised in your wedding vows. When you do this, intimacy will follow. It won’t lead… it will follow. We have a lot of articles on this web site that can help with communication problems and other issues. We hope you’ll look around and start there.

    2. When we first got married, I wanted to have sex with my husband a lot. But many times he rejected me; I was overweight and my self esteem was very low. On top of that I felt like he didn’t like me that much. That caused me to resent him and have anger against him. I still love him very much and years later I lost all the weight and I feel confident. I forgave him and moved on.

      Now after 8 years he wants to have sex all the time; he’s getting testosterone shots that have boosted his sex desire. But not me; I got used to having sex like once a week now. He says I don’t desire to be with him and complains about me not initiating sex anymore and doesn’t understand why. I don’t even know why I don’t feel like having sex so much. I enjoy it when we do but don’t want to do it as often. It bothers me and I feel pressure to do it.

      Can you tell me what you think is happening? I love my husband and we are both Christians. He says that I don’t like him that much. Please help. Thanks.

      1. Thank you Esther, for letting us know. We pray the Lord blesses your marriage abundantly as you lean into Him to help you to live as God would have you. “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5)

  2. I have just skimmed a few articles on the internet regarding this matter and I am insulted as I see that all of them make of sex the center of their lives, so primitive they are, even stating that it is a need as if they could not live without it.

    I don’t need it, and I am a male, very much straight, and I bike 200 kms a week. I met a woman about a year ago, and never had interest in having sex with her. She is not attractive at all but I enjoy her company and walks and her cooking. Now she is more and more often insinuating that she wants sex. She can have it wherever she wants; I don’t care, but not with me.

    The reason I am not interested in sex is because I am more interested in intellectual stuff and political activism. I regard sex as primitive, animalistic, and short lived. What is the point of it? For what? To get a headache right afterwards? I could understand the sacrifice if you are aiming to have children, but, other than that, for what?

    I could understand also that instinct for sex in primitive people (most people), but what I find ridiculous is when people talk about sex for love or even the expression “making love.” I regard it as ridiculously sentimentally mawkish. I can’t see how anyone can relate sex to love.

    My father lived a life without sex for 50 years after his marriage was annulled. I never saw him craving for sex, or talking about things like that. He liked soccer, walking and taking care of his dog. He was strict and conservative and I admire his stance. Also, truly Catholic priests don’t engage in sex and they don’t suffer like people seemingly do if they can’t get it.

    1. I can sort of relate to you. I feel insulted when people tell me sex is a need. Individuals won’t die without it, and its super unclear when they say mental health will be impacted. Like does it mean they’ll be unhappy or something? It sounds super needy and they could always find some other source of Joy.
      I also can’t understand how sex is equated with love. It’s more equated with lust.

    2. When you consider that almost ALL of these marriage and sex advice sites are from America, I am beginning to think that sex for us Europeans is not the frenzied, be all and end all subject it seems to be for them. There seems to be a national obsession with sex in the States.

  3. If one of those options is hormone replacement therapy, then, no she doesn’t have to commit to it. It should be entirely her choice, and her husband should be willing to accept it. Emotionally blackmailing her by asking whether she ‘loves him enough’ is not acceptable. This would likely send her in the opposite direction.

  4. I spent years trying to ‘want’ sex with my ex husband. I really tried just about everything, bought all the books etc etc. I tried to get in the mood, tried to ‘feel’ sexual and aroused every day for years. It got to the point where I never thought about anything else. It became all consuming and I felt that I couldn’t enjoy or concentrate on anything else until I got this sorted out.

    I lost interest in life, tried to follow any advice I could find, nothing worked, nothing. I felt so sorry for my husband who seemed resigned to have a wife who tried to be enthusiastic, but didn’t convey anything other than ‘going through the motions’. The guilt piled on and on until it wrecked our marriage and we divorced. I just think that maybe some people aren’t meant for sex and shouldn’t get married.

    1. Sorry Anne, When you 2 dated, was there any touching or sex between you? You do have a good point about the “I just think that maybe some people aren’t meant for sex and shouldn’t get married.”

      1. I have lost trust in my husband due to his cycle of porn. He doesn’t tell me when he stumbles, his mood changes, he becomes disconnected, rude, and complacent. Always late and doesn’t prioritize tasks. I’m also a full time mother and pregnant. Mother’s day was a week ago and I, as usual, did not feel appreciated. No flowers, nothing, even though I have communicated these simple gestures go a long way for me. I feel I have sacrificed so much of who I am to be a Stay At Home Mom and homemaker, but feel betrayed from infidelity of porn viewing and underappriciated. I feel anxious and pressured about sex. Those scriptures are quoted to me as a way to make me have sex and now I feel so much resentment.

  5. It is tough to turn your feelings around, as a wife, when your husband has repeatedly behaved selfishly in your long marriage together. He didn’t take care for his health issues, which put me in the position of having to take care of him, as a result. And, he hasn’t been much of a partner in managing our household or finances, largely doing only what he wanted, with little concern of the repercussions. And now, his health has deteriorated, possibly the result of the lack of care for himself over the years.

    Ephesians 5:25 comes to mind: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” it’s difficult to get past all of the above when you don’t feel like your lives have much reflected this verse.

  6. I really love my husband but I don’t trust him; he sleeps outside and I feel like he’s playing with my feelings. Sometimes when I tell him I’m not feeling well or I’m on my period he thinks I’m lying to him. Sex must be done everyday and it breaks my heart that he doesn’t understand how much I love him. 💔

  7. We didn’t have sex till we married. Early on I learned it was mostly about what he wanted. My preferences were never particularly important. Early on I was told he had to have it 3 x’s a week. That was the mantra for 18 years. It didn’t matter that 10 weeks after our daughter was born I was effectively castrated due to ovarian cancer. No desire by him to research and see what that did to me physically. Just still the marital requirement of 3 x a week.

    I work a full time job, keep the house, cook all the meals, care for the kids, and run all the errands. He has helped with household chores. And don’t fail in your marital duties of giving him sex and keeping him happy by pleasuring him 3 x’s a week. Can you see how this just became one more thing required of me? One more job to perform?

    After 18 years of marriage he had an affair with someone 19 years younger than me. With intense marriage counseling, we survived that episode. He has learned a little. We now have sex 1 time a week. But I am finally at a point in life where I can start dealing with the trauma of being molested by 8 men growing up, 2 of them Pastors. Rape.

    I love my husband, other than the trauma of feeling raped once a week, we have a decent relationship. Now. Been married for 24 years now. I don’t know what to do about this. Now that we are getting older, he is wanting to take testosterone suppliments so his muscles will get bigger. Not because his count is low, but because he is aging naturally and his muscles are more wiry and not as large as they used to be.

    This causes me so much anxiety. I cry every week. But do it anyway because I love him and I don’t want him to feel unloved or rejected. But how to reconcile that sex feels like rape after being told I gotta have it 3 x a week for 18 years and all our history. And now being in a group trying to work through this complex PTSD and Trauma. Sex makes me want to sob. I have no answers. And sensate exercises? He told the therapist 5 years ago it took too long. 20 minutes of non-sexual touch took too long to make your wife comfortable with your touch. Needless to say we never did it and there is still no ease in me accepting his touch. I have no answers only pain and despair.

  8. I am a husband of over 35 years. I met my bride in high school and have been on the marriage “roller coaster” for quite some time. The ONLY reason we have not killed each other or gotten divorced is JESUS! thats it, plain and simple. I continue to struggle with rejection from my wife, pornography and feelings of loneliness. There is also a wonderful side of our marriage that is greater than the no sex or very little sex (once every 4-6 weeks). I made a vow before God and will not leave my wife. She is the lamb God entrusted me with and I need to pray and ask God why isn’t my wife desiring me. We have had hundreds of talks and I have told her to please just let me look at her and touch myself. That all I want and desire is her and not porn or another woman. I have always had a strong sex drive and have become very frustrated sexually. I cry out to God ‘Why did you make me like this?”. I don’t ever want to question God for his ways are higher than mine but He already knows whats on my heart, so I might as well come clean. I love you Jesus, and I love you honey. I just don’t understand why you deny US the sexual bond that no one can take away from us but us. Hard for me to avoid temptation when you feel constantly lonely and rejected.