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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461 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. He’s trying to manipulate you and guilt you into sex. Try the Love Dare. Once the relationship improves a side effect is satisfying intimacy.

      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.

      1. I have no clue how people can be intimate (have sex) with someone they are not in love with. Intimacy and love are inexorably intertwined. Sex is not the most important thing in a marriage – until there is no sex.

      2. Eric you wrote something that I sometimes wonder about, quote, “I also can’t understand how sex is equated with love.”

        I know, me too and I am a female. I am baffled about that too, and excuse my expression here, but how is it that mutually stimulating each others genitals is equated to love?????

      3. Sex is a need. With that logic is companionship a need? Why would a husband need to be there emotionally for his wife? She won’t die without it. Come on; if sex is a need for one it’s important for both.

    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. Ivan from Russia, you are direct about how you feel in your post. You wrote of this woman friend, quote, “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.”

      I don’t assume you have not told her by beeing VERY clear with her that you are not interested in a sexual relationship with her but only in friend relationship. If you have not been direct with her, as you are here, tell her you are not interested in a sexual relationship. If she is insinuating that means she is hopeful and needs to be informed of your intentions so she knows where she stands. It is the considerate thing to do.

    4. I think your take on this is insulting. Why are people equating sex to love because it’s arrogant to assume you are the arbiter of what does and does not equate love in a relationship. Sex IS animalistic and primitive as in the same way fear and anger are; it’s our animalistic nature to procreate. The closeness comes from performing the act with someone you care deeply about because no matter how anyone tries to frame it it is the divine act of creating life.

      I need sex as an affirmation that all I do for my wife is enough that she will let me into the most private aspect of her life. She is under no obligation to oblige; a free woman all her own but plenty of research has shown that men communicate and receive affirmation, love, and affection through physical acts and there is no more loving physical embrace than making love to the person you love the most. I respect your personal view but you put it out there that yours is the only correct one by your language in the message. I hope you can as well respect mine.

  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.

      1. Dear “Jill” or whatever your name is (because we see you’ve commented here under different names), we don’t answer every single comment that is posted. We acknowledge that we are not all-knowing. Only God is. Sometimes we answer when we believe we should, and we don’t if we don’t believe we are supposed to. This is Marriage Missions… not the Steve and Cindy Show. Not all the advice given here can help everyone. It’s not a “one size fits all” situation. We continually tell people to pray, read, glean through the info–using what they believe God would have them, and don’t use what won’t work for their marriage.

        However, we encourage you to start your own marriage ministry to help encourage those who are married. There are so many hurting spouses out there. It breaks our hearts. We know what it is like to be in this broken place. Please pray about it. I’m serious here. Perhaps you can do this better than us. Or perhaps you can help those we can’t. Maybe God will lead you to do so. And if you do, please let us know so perhaps we can link to it.

        It’s easy to criticize, but if you have a good marriage and you have things that you can pass along to others, because of your successful experience, you may prayerfully consider turning your criticism into prayer, and then into action to help those you believe aren’t being helped. Again, pray about it.

        1. Mmm, I am often confused at how you choose to answer the comments you do though. I do understand that you cannot answer all of them especially as these threads remain open and active for years. No, my talents don’t lie in marriage advice even though we have a good marriage. The only advice I would give is to be very, very careful where they go to get it. Ultimately, the decision how to deal with a problem lies with the individual couple.

  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.

    1. I cannot comprehend people who will put in 40+ hours for an employer they hate, spend hours doing housework that could wait, while refusing to care for the most important person in their life. How could you not want to share yourself with your spouse? How could you not want to make your spouse happy and strengthen your marital bonds doing something that is free and should neither hurt nor take too much of your time?

      1. I’m going to try to explain it to you the way I did to my husband. Imagine if a certain hole in your body was used by someone else for their own pleasure. They invade this hole regularly regardless if you are wanting them to and everyone and everything (scriptures) say this act is so very important to your marriage. But sometimes it causes pain for days afterwards. Imagine developing a hemorrhoid for days after each penetration. And the penetration is solely for their pleasure. You’ve told them that you don’t feel like it and that it hurts you for days, but they still want it daily. Would you feel like they loved you or just the hole you have that gives them pleasure? How long before you would absolutely hate anything to do with this invasion of your body by this other person for their pleasure?

        1. Daphne, I’ve been praying about what to write to you in response since you wrote the comment you did under this article. This is such a delicate subject and of course, very personal. You see, years ago I might have written what you told your husband. Sex was very painful for me too. It was painful emotionally (because of sexual abuse from my past) and sometimes painful physically. But I came to the point that I knew I needed to do something about making love to my husband. I did a lot of praying, reading, talking to a doctor, etc… and thankfully, I have a whole different perspective on all of this.

          Since reading your comment I’ve been sad for you and for your husband. Marital sex is not about inserting a penis in a hole. It’s about oneness. And it’s about generously expressing love to each other in ways you cannot express it with any other human being. I came across the following quotes that expresses what I’d like to say to you (in much better ways than I can articulate). I’ll say something at the end about the physical pain you mentioned in your comment. But please prayerfully read this part first.

          – “Sex is about physical touch, to be sure, but it’s about far more than physical touch. It’s about what is going on inside us. Developing a fulfilling sex life means I concern myself more with bringing generosity to bed than bringing washboard abdomens…” (Gary Thomas)

          – “We must make a choice regarding sexual expression. We will either utilize it as a deviant, destructive power or we will harness its potential to keep love alive and vibrant in our marriage relationships.” (Bill & Pam Farrel)

          – “We have to fight against taking our sexual responsibilities for granted. On the day we marry, we gain a monopoly. Our spouse commits to have sexual relations with no one else. Regardless of whether we act thoughtfully, creatively, or selfishly in bed, they receive only what we provide. Without any competitions, some of us, quite frankly, simply stop making an effort. Do I want to bless her, or take her for granted? Do I want to be a generous, enthusiastic lover, or a miser reluctantly doling out occasional ‘favors’? When the Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:4 to keep the marriage bed ‘pure,’ the application goes far beyond avoiding physical acts of immorality to include inner virtue.” (Gary Thomas)

          – “Clearly, just as we want our husbands to love us in the way we need to be loved, our men want the same. And sex is a huge part of making them feel loved. … “The question is asked: Isn’t sex just a primal, biological urge that he really should be able to do without? Well… no. For your husband, sex is more than just a physical need. Lack of sex is as emotionally serious to him as, say, his sudden silence would be to you, were he simply to stop communicating with you. It is just as wounding to him, just as much a legitimate grievance —and just as dangerous to your marriage.” (Shaunti Feldhahn)

          Here’s what Shaunti Feldhahn’s husband wrote in his book: “Men are powerfully driven by the emotional need to feel desired by our wives, and we filter everything through that grid: Do I feel desired and not desired by my wife? If we feel our wife truly wants us sexually, we feel confident, powerful, alive, and loved. If we don’t, we feel depressed, angry, and alone. And this goes way beyond the amount of sex we’re having.” (Jeff Feldhahn)

          – “So much of who your husband is lies in his sexuality, and when you constantly refuse his advances, you might as well be refusing all of him. God gave you the gift of sex to bring you together. Don’t use it a a leverage against each other. Determine in your heart to make it a blessing and not a weapon.” (Julie Anne Fidler) And that goes for the husband as well as the wife. If your husband would have written, I would have told him that.

          – “Women: sexual intimacy tells a man that you care about him and him only; it’s how he feels special. It is to men what chocolate, diamonds, peaceful homes, and memorable vacations are to you. Our days, like yours, are often arduous; sex is where we feel that all of our sacrifice is worth it, appreciated, and noticed. Sexual intimacy freely given somehow stabilizes our universe. It’s our action to your words, our shelter from the storms of life; you are the safest harbor in which we’ll ever make port. Sex is also the sharpest, most jagged knife in our back when it’s not given or, worse, given without passion, focus, and interest. We can tell. Our pain is far more nuanced than you realize.” (Paul Coughlin)

          Here is something else that Gary Thomas (quoted in the beginning) wrote: “Whether it’s the wife or husband who feels denied, one thing is almost always true: Whoever wants sex the least tends to have the most power in bed, because he or she possesses the absolute power of denial. And the old adage, ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is particularly true in the bedroom.

          “If you’re the spouse who holds the power, you’re going to be tested spiritually. Will you use that power generously, or to manipulate? Will you use that power to demonstrate kindness, or to pay back your spouse for perceived slights?

          “The apostle John tells us how Jesus used power. He tells us that while ‘Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power’ (John 13:3), instead of abusing that power, Jesus got up from the meal, wrapped a towel around his waist, and washed his disciples’ feet, becoming a servant. Two of those feet, by the way, belonged to Judas—the man who was even then plotting to betray him. Yet Jesus still loved Judas in a very physical way, taking his perhaps smelly and certainly dusty feet into his lap and washing them with his own hands.

          “The sexual relationship within marriage gives us a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth, to become generous and kind like Christ even in the face of others’ unkindness. When we have power over another and we use that power responsibly, appropriately, and benevolently, whether they deserve it or not, we grow in Christ, we become more like God, and we reflect the fact that we were made to love God by serving others.” (From the article, “Will We or Won’t We?”) Here is the link to this article, https://www.todayschristianwoman.com/articles/2008/september/8.30.html

          The reason I’m giving you the link to the article is that it also addresses the ways in which a husband can be and should be generous. You may want to read this with your husband and talk about it. Tell him you don’t want lovemaking to be problematic for either of you and thought this article might be a good catalyst for trying to work through some of your problems. And then try to be kind when you talk together about this. “Speak the truth in love” as the Bible says, motivated by love, not by pride, or any other less generous attitude. I hope he wants to work with you on his part, just as I hope for you to do the same.

          As for your physical problems when you’re intimate with your husband, here is a link to an article that may give a few insights that I put together that addresses this subject: https://marriagemissions.com/painful-intercourse/. Also, you can go onto the Internet and just put “painful intercourse” into your search engine and you will find a lot of different results to read through that could be helpful.

          I realize that I’m assuming a lot here. I’m assuming that you’re a Christian and want to approach this issue from that stance. I’m assuming this because you came onto this Christian web site. If that is not your stance, I’m sorry if I offended you; and I mean that sincerely. I never want to do that. But again, this is a Christian web site and that is how we approach issues that are brought up. I also am assuming that you would want help to resolve this problem that is causing distance between you and your husband. That is why I addressed several different aspects to this problem. I hope they can help.

          Also, there is a great web site that deals with married women’s issues–especially about sexual ones. It is the web site for Sheila Wray Gregoire, who has written several books on married sexual issues. I’d encourage you to visit her web site, look around, and put “painful intercourse” into the search feature. You’ll find several links to different articles to read. You can put other search terms in, as well that are relevant to your marriage. Here is the link: https://tolovehonorandvacuum.com.

          I hope this helps Daphne–I truly do. Our marriage has risen to new heights that I never thought could happen when I became a student of my husband and of marriage, and of issues that were troubling our marriage. And now my husband has that curiosity, as well. Our marriage is doing great, our intimate life is wonderful, and I hope you and your husband get to that place too.

          1. You do realize that most of your links to Sheila’s old website don’t work. The articles written after 2018 have been wiped from her archives because she no longer teaches what you still teach. I doubt she’d be too happy being linked to a rambling reply which is too long and doesn’t make sense.

          2. Tanya (or whatever your name is, because you keep coming into this web site under other names), please note that this article does not even mention Sheila’s name. You seem focused on making the point over and over again about Sheila even when she has not written the article. So, whether or not she would “approve” it doesn’t matter. She is not involved here.

          3. I agree with Tanya. She’s referring to your long comment above here when you quote lots of sources that frame sex in an unhealthy manner (especially that one that twists the woman struggling with desiring sex into a power struggle with her having the power! Such a typical passive-aggressive response from a guy! Rather than focusing on the marriage problems that are causing the lack of desire, it’s just still all the woman’s fault and she just needs to deal with it because sex is this absolute life and death need for the man – no comment about how men survive whose wives are chronically ill and cannot have sex, or for single men, or for widowed men…). But anyway, I was thinking, wow, Sheila Wray Gregoire would be having a field day with these dangerous quotes! And then you mentioned Sheila and her website! Eek! According to Tanya here, Sheila used to be in more agreement with you – I don’t know anything about that, but I can tell you that she would not support most of those quotes in your comment!

  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! That’s 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 to me and I need to pray and ask God why my wife isn’t 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’s 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.

    1. My heart cries for you Paul, and for your wife. You are both losing out on the special bonding of loving each other well in so many ways. I pray the Lord opens your wife’s eyes (like He did with me) that denying you this type of loving action is ushering in sin in so many ways. I pray for you that God helps you NOT to believe the lie that because you hurt so badly, solutions to do what you shouldn’t, are acceptable. They are not. Yes, this is so very difficult, but please don’t heap sin upon sin. Ask yourself the question, “What would God have me do?” (And don’t project sinful actions into His answer.)

      For some reason God allows certain things to come into our lives (either through circumstances or sin committed by others) that seem unbearable for us to bear. But we have to. All I know is that He can redeem even the worst of things in different ways as we look to, and lean into Him for the strength, guidance, and the help we need so we don’t resort to sinning. Again, I’m so sorry that you are in this place. I pray strength for you and revelation for your wife.

  9. Final step; get ready to be left, or cheated on. I mean, I don’t even know why you would care if you’re not going to do it; what do you care?

    1. Your comment makes sense to many people, but is that ultimately what God would have us do? Would He tell us to contribute to one spouse’s sin by adding our own sinful actions onto this difficult situation too? Yes, this isn’t fair in any way. The denying spouse is not showing love and compassion to their hurting marriage partner. But this also doesn’t give us a pass to sin in a different way, as well. Just saying…

      1. I totally agree with you Cindy that 2 wrongs don’t make something right and that it is not very Christian like. However, sometimes drastic measures have to be taken and divorce is sometimes the result, as it was in my case. I refused to cheat, though I had opportunities, so I divorced my wife. Interestingly, within a short period, she began playing house with our son’s baseball coach. This confirmed to me the denial of sex was about me personally, despite her claims to the contrary. Also interesting was my suggestion for several years to get counseling which she poo poohed until I told her I was leaving. Then she suggested that counseling might help. Sadly, too little, too late.

  10. What’s the next step when you’ve had dozens and dozens of conversations about the lack of sex in your marriage and your wife still just “pats you on the head” and says, “oh, you’ll be all right” and nothing ever changes? Virtually every time I try to initiate, this is the response. When the subject is brought up, she says she just doesn’t want to and that I need to get over it. I’ve asked about counseling and she refuses to go. I love my wife but this issue will eventually cause this marriage to end.

    1. Hi West. You have done the right thing by making your needs known even on multiple occasions. Being denied in such a way is patronizing and cruel. I’ve had to deal with similar in the past. Ultimately, God is the judge and no one else. Lay it out before him. Could someone that acts in such a way really be a believer? My personal suggestion is not to make yourself a martyr or place a yolk upon yourself of celibacy unless it is being given to you by the Lord. I spent years being denied and manipulated. The only other option is to be willing to walk away. Let it be known it’s non-negotiable and no apologies. Be 100% confident. Don’t compromise for bones being thrown your way in appeasement. I prayed about it to God and now I’m married to someone that does not limit in this fashion. What a blessing!

    2. So sorry West, that you have come to this place in your marriage. For years I was clueless as to my husband’s sexual needs. I kind of had the same attitude as your wife. But I thank God that my husband and God did not give up on me–despite the mental anguish I put my husband through. I’m so, so sorry I put him through what I did. I wish I could change that, but I can’t. All I can do is love him well from this point on. (And I am.)

      As far as what you can do, I’m not sure. Are you loving her well in other areas of your married life? Are you making sure she knows you love her and care for her, and show it by your words and actions? That is the first important step. Make sure you are treating your bride as Christ would have you. And then, are you having your “talks” about wanting to make love to her during non-sexual, non-combative times when neither one of you is tired, hungry, or angry? Sometimes it’s wise to talk about important issues at non-needy times. We’re more open to talking and listening. It’s worth a try.

      If you have done this countless times then I’d try to seek help myself, first. The ministry of Focus on the Family has counselors on staff. They won’t do extensive counseling with you, but they will direct you to the best help if you need more than they can give you. I encourage you to reach out to them for direction. You can find their web site at focusonthefamily.com. They have a tab on the top of their web site that says, “Get help”. If you’ve tried everything else and it’s not working, why not see if they can help you? It’s better than allowing “this marriage to end.”

      As I said before, I’m glad my husband didn’t give up on us because of my clueless behavior. We would have missed out on so many wonderful, loving years together. I’m glad he kept persevering until I finally woke up. I pray your wife wakes up too. You sound like a good guy. If she won’t get counseling, go for it yourself and see if you can be guided into another approach to this issue that will help you both. I hope you will.

  11. “…Without sex a marriage will eventually break down…” not true in many (if not most) cases.

    1. I have been finding it difficult to get close to my husband. I don’t feel like I used to about him. What should I do?

  12. There are several reasons I am not interested in sex. One, he has had an orgasm every single time (100%) with penetration (sexual intercourse). I have never (0%) ever had an orgasm with sexual intercourse. The ‘act’ works for him, and not for me. After over 15 years of marriage, I have come to resent that.

    I can have an orgasm and enjoy that aspect of it as much as my husband. But the female orgasm does not take place with penetration. The area that requires stimulation is 3 inches away/forward and outside of the V.

    As a matter of fact, with penetration only, myself as the majority of females, feel insufficient stimulation to achieve an orgasm.

    It’s very odd that popular culture misrepresents that physiological fact time and time again. That was an eye-opening fact, the unfortunate illusion I actually believed before marriage, that a female orgasm occurs with v-penetration. Boy was I surprised how wrong I was.

    So over the early years of my marriage I tried to figure out how that was the message so many males and females believed. It turns out, such things like movies and social pressure seem to keep that false narrative alive.

    The other reason I tend to avoid sex is not only because female orgasm does not occur with v-penetration/intercourse, but because of the way my husband treats me in a disrespectful manner or speaks angrily to me when I don’t deserve it.

    We all do this but what causes the breakdown is when I try to address it with him he gaslights me. For example, the other day at the gym I turned on the fan that I was trying to position to face my direction to keep me cool while I lifted weights. He angrily snapped at me and said, “I don’t want that on me!” He shouted it it loud and hateful, angrily and in front of everybody. He thought I was doing it for him (cause it’s all about him obviously).

    I replied to him that I am trying to turn it towards me. It was a very large cumbersome fan, about 4 feet large with the wheels kind of frozen. I am a somewhat small woman so it was taking some effort to shift the direction of the fan.

    When I told him not to speak to me in the manner he did and when I explained I was doing it to cool myself off, he acted like it was okay for him to speak to me in that way by not checking himself/not taking that behavior back.

    I understand he not wanting the fan on himself but for him to speak to me in that manner at all, AND in front of the other gym customers, AND without even determining what I was doing first, just really hit home with how narcissistic he sounded.

    Also, I have noticed something about him time and time again. He is really nice to me in the days before trying to have sex with me and right after we have sex, he goes back to his inconsiderate, dismissive, disrespectful behavior.

    Also, when I try to bring up the issue, I don’t call him names or label him. I just say, it bothered me that you spoke to me in that way, that he did so in front of others and he didn’t even try to figure out what I was doing before he did that.

    Rather than hearing what I say and being responsible for his behavior, he goes off on tangents not even related to the concerns I express to him. He does this to put the blame back on me and to justify his angry behavior towards me. He does not take responsibility for his behavior.

    THIS is where I lose my feeling of intimacy with him, because instead of being someone I can trust to be my confidant, the person I go to, which is a big part of intimacy; he is my enemy and I need to protect myself from him. So how can I be physically intimate with an enemy?

  13. I read the entire article and I agree. However, my husband and I divorced several years ago and reconciled 2 years ago. However, I honestly thought everything was going to get better. It has not. He’s verybally abusive and refuses counseling. What should I do? I am currently separated from him although we just sleep separately.

  14. To build on “Check Your History”: the wife should consider if her husband himself is part of that abuse. If a man is disrespectful and *entitled* even in small ways towards her body and person, this does great damage to the trust two people should have.

    I speak from experience. I was constantly groped and coerced and guilted and endured obvious pain for years by an entitled man who treated my body like an object and my requests for respect and boundaries as a joke that interfered with meeting his needs. I wanted to have a healthy sex life when we got married but our sex life died the death of a thousand cuts that culminated in him outright sexually assaulting me, which sunk the ship.

    This might shock some men, but angrily pressuring your wife for sex has the opposite effect and doesn’t give you what you really need, which is an enthusiastic partner. I am now divorced and have done a lot of work to be more in touch with my needs for safety. I listen to my body and I am certain that a not-small number of Christian wives who struggle with intimacy are subconsciously dealing with trust issues with their husbands, in a household where consent is not a part of the equation, but they don’t have the words to express what feels wrong, so they soldier on through years of terrible obligation sex, coupled with depression and anxiety each time he wants some action.

    And to be clear, this is not the case in every sexless marriage. But when it is, some men are just ignorant and some are malicious but the damage is the same. The difference is one can be fixed, and the other can’t. We just assume that wives with intimacy issues are married to poor, suffering, innocent husbands who just want to love their wives. Many, sure, but some women are just not safe and their bodies know they aren’t but their minds are caught up in all the self-blame from years of messaging in church that refuses to let them ask for something better. Women have needs, too.

  15. Hello, I am having a lot of health issues at the moment. I just found out that I’ve got a aneurysm at the back of my head and got a cavemo at the front of my head as well, and am going through the change and I have gone off sex. Can my husband divorce me on these grounds or what?