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

  1. Does cheating means anything in marriage? One can decide not to have sex with her husband, but on the following day be found having sex with another man.

    1. It means everything. Why marry if you throw faithfulness out the window? So sorry you have been put in this place. May the Lord help you to approach all of this wisely and may He open the eyes of your wife so she sees how grievously she hurt you and God and comes to the place where she repents in sorrow. And may you find comfort as you lean into the Lord for comfort and help in all that you are trying to deal with right now after being hurt so deeply. Our hearts are with you.

  2. What’s wrong with simply not being in the mood to have sex?! Geesh. I am woman of God. I love and value my relationship with God. I center my life around Christ. At least, that is my every day goal. I’m intentional about that.

    I love my husband, but sometimes I just don’t want to have sex. Not because I’m too tired. Not because there is deeper issue. Not because my marriage is difficult. Not because I’m physically hurt. I just don’t want to at the moment. That should never be a problem. Now, if this is the norm, then by all means, dig a little deeper and figure out why.

    But when a woman expresses that she isn’t in the mood, she is immediately met with disdain and Bible scriptures. Lol. It’s weird.

    If I can’t say, “I’m just not in the mood right now” without being met with scripture and “wise counsel”, then that, for me, is a problem. I am not a robot. I am a human. I don’t need a reason to not want to have sex.

    1. That’s not a problem; we all go through those times–women and men. But when it is a perpetual problem, then something is wrong. Some spouses will drag out that “I’m not in the mood” clause for months and months, even year after year.

      We give each other grace during those occasional times. I’ll say, “I’m sorry; I just can’t right now–just not in the mood, but maybe tomorrow.” We were talking with a counselor friend and his wife one time and we all agreed that if one spouse “doesn’t feel like it” for some reason, it then becomes that spouse’s responsibility to make sure to make the approach sometime soon afterward. Both spouses should be considerate of one another’s needs. It becomes sinful when one spouse continually says no to the other spouse. How is that supposed to grow love and intimacy between them? And how does it speak to the fact that you are living out the scripture where you are to “regard others as more important than yourself?” (Philippians 2:3)

      1. I agree, Cindy. Thank you for clearing that up.

        Yesterday evening, my small women’s group met and this was the topic of discussion. I just find it odd that some women were met with disdain for simply not wanting to have sex at a particular time. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to ever have sex with her husband. We did a google search and your blog came up – along with several others giving the same advice/responses. I guess we were all looking at it one way (from the point of it to be ok to say, “not tonight babe..”). If it’s an ongoing thing, work needs to be done to figure out why so that “why” can be uprooted and dealt with.

        My small group has taught me that many women (specifically speaking about women because I interact with them daily) have complex relationships with sex and it has a lot to do with trauma, learned behavior, expectations, and other negative aspects.

        I personally believe that God wants us to enjoy sex with our husbands, but the therapist in me also knows that for some? It’s going to take work and it’s going ti be difficult. There will be breakdowns, breakthroughs, and even setbacks, but it is possible to having a fulfilling and fun and sex life within marriage.

        Thank you again for your reply! And not for getting snarky with me. I don’t usually comment on blogs because have you seen comment sections across the internet?! Yikes!

    2. If you have children and one of them is hungry and asks for food, do you respond “I’m not in the mood to make you any food right now.”? If your employer calls and says, “I have a need for you to handle xyz right away” do you respond, “I am not in the mood right now”? What would be the repercussions to saying such things to an employer? Now if you jump at those requests and fulfill them, but put off being intimate with your spouse, how should the denied spouse interpret the refusal? Likely the spouse will feel less important than making the kids food or the employer’s wants.

      The passage from the Bible about abstaining from intimacy for prayer says specifically that this decision has to be a MUTUAL one. One spouse cannot just unilaterally decide to become celibate. The verse also says it should only be for a short time lest you fall into sin. What is a short time? Days, Weeks, Months, Years?

      When you marry someone you give up some rights to your body. That is part of marriage. If that type of contract is not acceptable then do not get married. It is unfair to the other person who is pledging the same. To not respond in charity to legitimate requests for intimacy, even when not in the mood, is truly a violation of the marriage covenant. If one party can decide to remove or ignore parts of their vows, then why should they be upset if the other party also ignores parts of their vows? If sex is refused, ignored, avoided with their spouse why should the refusing spouse be upset if the other spouse seeks that intimacy elsewhere? Both spouses are violating their vow to make their bodies available to the other on an exclusive basis.

      1. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Being denied sex by a spouse does not mean God is ok with the suffering spouse seeking gratification elsewhere. Being tempted isn’t a sin, but giving in to temptation is.

        The rebuffed spouse needs to show grace and ask why their husband or wife is struggling to be intimate. If each spouse loves and respects the other as much as they love and care for themselves, neither will cheat or use manipulation to guilt the other into giving in. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies to marital intimacy as well. I wish everyone the best.

  3. Gidike, it means the husband was not fullfilling her emotional or physical needs- remembering that femals are also human.