When a Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex

No, I do not want, forget it - Pixabay

I’m going to approach this article a bit differently than others I’ve written. I feel a need to address both women and men on this matter, because it DOES matter. It’s a struggle, whether you’re the wife or the husband. Both feel very strongly about this part of their marriage. This article addresses the issue of when a wife doesn’t want to have sex. But it also addresses what it is like for the man to be refused.

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

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

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

First, to the men who are struggling because their wife doesn’t respond to your approaches.

I can’t even start to know the frustration you’re experiencing. It is truly frustrating. I’ve listened to men (and my own husband) as they’ve voiced their anxiety and grief and utter angst over this issue. However, because I’m not a man, I don’t really understand it in the same way another man would.

So, when I came across a series of articles written by Paul Byerly, and I saw the value of what Paul has written, I determined to let him address this issue from a man’s perspective. He and his wife Lori have a wet site called The Marriage Bed. Paul knows what he is talking about on this issue.

So men, please read the following series of articles posted on The-generous-husband.com web site (you may even want to question him about this matter):




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



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

For wives who do not want to have sex with their husbands:

I realize that this is a complex issue for the wife who is denying her husband, as well. There are so many reasons why you may not want to make love to your husband. Some of these reasons may be lack of desire, his cleanliness, his demanding, abusive, controlling ways, which turn you off when you consider having any physical contact with him. And then there are pornography issues —either his or yours. Satisfaction is being achieved through false, sinful entertainment. We deal with many of those issues in other topics of this web site. Please search for them.

There’s also busyness, where you’re too tired to make love to your husband because of the demands of children, job obligations, household chores, etc. Lori Byerly, of The Generous Wife web site wrote a blog on this, that you may find insightful. I sure did —probably because I have had to make similar decisions:


These issues are also addressed within other topics on this web site. Please seek and you will find. It’s not that they will give instant answers, or every answer; they won’t. But I believe you will find inspiration and at least some help to make changes that are needed in intimately connecting with your marriage partner.

Past Abuse Nightmares

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

I can relate. I’ve been there and have worked through that extremely difficult situation.

I write a bit about it in the article:


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

SEXUAL OBSTACLES: Healing an Emotional Wound


There may be other issues, such as addictions, and bitterness over marriage situations. Just so you know, we have articles on those issues on this web site, as well.

But whatever it is, please work on it.

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

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

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

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

Perhaps you have changed in your libido or your desire.

Keep in mind that marriage is not all about you. This is a partnership. And just like your husband needs to work with you on compromises, you need to work with him on compromises too.

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

You know deep in your heart if you’re being difficult with your husband. You also should know that you’re asking more of him than you should if you keep rejecting him sexually. And yet you’re expecting him to be celibate because you also expect him to stay faithful in all ways.

Yes, he should stay faithful.

That’s what God expects of him too. But if you are not being intimate with him if he wants and needs you, you’re putting temptation in front of him. You’re putting him in a corner where he can feel trapped. He can’t be intimate with you and yet he has needs. A life sentence of celibacy can be a frightening life for someone who needs that connection with the one he loves and wants. His sexual desires won’t quit plaguing him, just because you say no.

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

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

A Time for Everything

Yes, it wouldn’t have been too much to ask my husband to “control himself” for a period of time while I was in the depths of therapy. And yes, as my marital partner, he should understand (to a certain degree) how painful this was for me. But I took it way beyond reasonable. Steve really COULDN’T understand my reactions or the depth of my pain. And even if he tried to understand (which he did), I still needed professional help to work through my issues. And then we could work together on ours so this wasn’t something that would go on and on without an end in sight.

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

Work on your issues.

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

If the reason you can’t be with him is because of physical pain or because of some other physical reason, then work with doctors on this. If it truthfully can’t be medically resolved, then look for other ways to satisfy him. But do it with a good attitude. And if you can’t do things in a “conventional” method because of physical limitations, then find ways to satisfy each other in other ways. Be creative.

The important thing is that you are together, as a man and wife. Just don’t allow any other human being to be involved with both of you (either physically or visually), in your time together. This is YOUR time to be together. Please don’t ask your husband to lead a celibate life if that is not what he desires.

There was a long, long (unreasonably long) season where I pulled back from being intimate with my husband. Eventually, I woke up and realized that I had a good guy that I married. He didn’t deserve to be another victim to what had happened to me in the past. I sought for, and received the emotional help I needed to work through my issues. We eventually came together, and have loved on each other since.

Helpful Resources:

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

God showed me I am not to deny my husband when he needs to be close to me, whenever it is possible. Yes, some times I fall into bed exhausted or I’m not feeling well, and then it happens; he approaches me. But instead of totally denying him, I either offer a “quickie” or ask him if we can be together at another time. (And I make sure it’s soon.) My husband is a reasonable man and that has worked for us.

But what if you don’t feel like it?

If it’s just because I don’t “feel like it” —even then, I offer the same. But most of the time, even if I don’t feel like it, I’ve learned to pray. I ask God to give me the desire. There is a spiritual component involved, when my husband and I are intimate together.

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

Here’s a quote from Sheila Wray Gregoire to consider:

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

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

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

In closing:

Please prayerfully consider something that was written in the above mentioned book, Intimate Issues:

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

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

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

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

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Filed under: Sexual Issues

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

  1. This article has helped me so much! It is true that sometimes we (women) feel so exhausted when the day is over, that we are not in the best attitude to handle our husband’s needs and requests. Sometimes I admit to have felt with no desire to please him, but that is selfishness and we need to remember that “love does not insist on its own way” and that “everything is possible for God” and we just need to pray and ask for his guidance and help! Love endures all things! God talked to me today through this article!! Thank you Lord!

  2. So for my wife and I, I think it is definitely the hibernation thing compiled with busyness and tiredness. I’m praying and trying to be understanding. I’m begging God to help me be content with simply her even when sex is scarce to non-existent. God is good. He is answering my prayers. But this is sooo hard. I’ve tried talking to her about it in a myriad of ways and it always ends up in the same place ‘well we don’t have to do it at all if you’re not happy it.’ Which I don’t want that for sure.

    We have been married around 15 years and have gone from the typical newlyweds phase frequency (which in new wouldn’t always be that way) to at best once a month. Or when I try to talk to her she says she doesn’t want to talk about it or just gets mad and says I don’t understand how tired she is. Hey. She’s probably right. I’m probably guilty at least on some occasions of being insensitive towards her exhaustion. Surely that’s not always true though? Sometimes when I make a move she will push me away and sometimes if I’m not sure if she’s just being playful I try again laughingly. Sometimes she is just playing and being fun and sometimes she sighs a frustrated sigh and says. “Well let’s just get it over with…” and isn’t joking. I’ve tried in the moment or well after the fact to mention that that hurts me and she blows it off and says to just get over it. So I apologize for getting her upset and forget it. Bury the hurt and move on.

    The sum total of the sexual portion of our relationship is completely up to her. If I don’t initiate it never gets brought up and it’s entirely up to her how and when it happens if at all. And when I initiate it I do so fearfully because if she isn’t up for it then it will not just be a rejection but a hard one that ends up me feeling like I’ve done something wrong… I get that she’s tired. But I’m tired too and I still try to keep in mind the God-given value for sex in marriage. She has time for every other priority but me.

    And she sends mixed signals. During the regular day’s activities she might mention loving me in front of the kids. Making a point to tell them how much she loves me or thinks I’m handsome. If I’m in the kitchen alone she might give me a hug or suggestive touch of some sort. But if I make a move and she’s not up for it it’s all systems down and I’m rude for asking or only thinking about me or always wanting sex. For the record I don’t always want sex. But I would hope for more than once a month at our still young age? P.S – The present tally is 1 time in the last nearly 4 months… Legit question, am I asking too much? I really want to know…

    I just want her to initiate every once in a while so that I know she still wants it at all even if not like I do… I want her to actually want it and enjoy it and be more mutually giving in it… I want, when she goes get intimate with me, to not start it off by making it feel like she’s doing me a huge favor and she would really rather be doing literally 1,000 other things than this and that this is just such a bother.. “just get started already”

    We are both believers. I absolutely will not consider (as some other articles suggest) adultery and I will not resort to porn. And I’m afraid that if I resort to “self” resolve physically that I’ll just grow cold to a cheap substitute and inadvertently grow cold towards her. Definitely don’t want that. And divorce is 200% out of the question.

    I love my wife but because she gets it as often and how she needs she doesn’t see a problem. The only problem she thinks we have in that realm is that I want it too much and that no matter how much we had sex I’d never be satisfied.

    I want to talk to her and I’ve literally tried every approach. Nothing works. I’m at a loss and feel so shut off from her that I find myself afraid to try for fear of more rejection and making her angry. Nearly 15 ears of marriage and this has been going on for at least 7-8 years or so. I used all anon info but I’ll be checking comment info. Please help.

    1. Dear Desperate, I don’t want you to think that your comment fell on deaf ears or hardened hearts. I’ve been praying for you ever since you commented. I just don’t know that I have new wisdom for you. But I want you to know that you are not alone. Others do care. I am so glad you are not feeding temptation and will not “consider” doing that, which you know you shouldn’t (even though it must be tempting). You are an honorable man.

      I don’t have a lot of new info to give you to help you to open your wife’s ears and her heart towards your needs. All I can say is that I was one of those wives who was once clueless as to the importance of my husband’s intimate needs. He tried in every way that he knew how to get me to understand. I just didn’t. And what is even worse, I denied him way, way too many times, for years. For that I am so sorry. But eventually it was God who woke me up. Through some things I read, and God talking to my heart, I woke up and realized, “What am I thinking? Just because I haven’t wanted it, why is that a reason to deny my husband?” It’s a long story, but I DID wake up. And I can’t even start to tell you how glad I am… not to mention how glad my husband is.

      There is a web site of another woman who went through much the same thing. Her name is Chris. She writes, “After 20 years of being a sexual gatekeeper and refuser, I am now learning to dance with desire and enjoy the full intimacy that comes with passionate and joyful sex with the husband God provided for me.” She also writes, “After 20+ years of stubbornness, selfishness, sexual gatekeeping, and discontent, I started to change how I behaved toward my husband. After action came feeling. After all the years of being a poster child for how not to be a wife, I’ve reached a deeper level of intimacy with my husband, emotionally and physically. In refusing my husband sexually, I was denying him my love.” Here is her web site, in case you would like to pose questions to her: http://forgivenwife.com.

      The reason I’m saying all of this is to give you hope. I don’t want to give you false hope… but I do want you to know that there are some of us who wake up as God talks to our hearts. Keep praying. Keep praying for yourself to be the husband God created you to be. Pray that God will show you how to “speak the truth in love” … not denying that you have needs, but finding ways to tell your wife in loving ways. And pray for your wife. She may be a very nice person in other ways, but she is denying that your needs are as important as hers. There should at least be some compromise here. I’m sure that isn’t what you ultimately want –compromise… but it’s a start. And you never know where that can lead. Pray that God will talk to her. He does to many, many of us. I hope and pray He is able to reach through to your wife and that someday you won’t be “desperate” in want, but desperately in love, along with being sexually satisfied with your intimacy with your wife. May God bless you both in every aspect of your marriage.

    2. Desperate… I understand. I’m living your struggle as well. I try my best to help out so that my wife isn’t tired and has more time. I cook, wash clothes, do dishes, etc., but it’s never enough and she just doesn’t seem interested. My wife also tells me that I want sex all the time, but she never initiates it and if I don’t attempt it, it never happens. It could be me, but it feels like everything and everybody else gets the best of her and I just have to deal with whatever is left over.

      I too have tried talking to her about it, but I feel like I’m being viewed as some sort of sex crazed monster at the end of it and she’ll sometimes get an attitude. We’d go 4-6 weeks sometimes 8 weeks without sex and she doesn’t even seem to notice. If I reach over to touch her she pulls away… if she’s asleep she’s even woke up to tell me to leave her alone. She tells me that she loves me and that she’s happy to be married to me, but it doesn’t feel like it. My wife has a job where she deals with people all day everyday and I know it can be emotionally taxing and on the weekends it’s all about the children and church and it leaves me wondering where do I fit in.

      I’ve asked the question and told her how I feel and it’s turned into an argument once or twice where she’s told me that if someone else would make me happy to go and marry them, to which I’ve responded that I don’t want anyone else I just want better from her. She won’t respond, but I feel like she emotionally shut down. Church, the children, her family, her job, and whatever other responsibilities come first… I come somewhere near the end. When we do have sex there isn’t even any real foreplay… its more like thanks for the orgasm, but hurry up and get it over with. I’m trying my best to do what I know God wants me to do, but she isn’t making it any easier for me.

      I want to keep my marriage intact, but I feel like it’s slowly falling apart. I feel like a glorified roommate who occasionally has sex with my sexy female roommate when she has nothing better to do, but has expectations of me that I must keep because we’re living together. I sometimes feel a little angry after sex because I don’t feel like she’s into it and only did it to shut me up and it won’t be happening again for another 6-8 weeks. I’m in that same boat with you buddy and in need of prayer. No judgement on them, but I have no Christian friends who have been in the same position and I can’t/won’t do what they did.

  3. I have been married for 9 years and everything this article I am going through. A Serious bait-and-switch for me. My wife started being very sexual, giving me oral and any other sex I thought was healthy for marriage. I received nothing and a lot of selfishness and great pain for me. God help me.

  4. My wife acts as though she has no desire at all, but claims she wants sex almost as much as me! Last year, I tried an experiment where I did not initiate at all. We went four months without sex. This confirmed to me what I suspected all along: she can do without it.

    Now I never initiate or even hint at sex; and, as expected, we rarely, if ever, have sex. I tell her all the time how much I love her, how beautiful she is, do the dishes etc (I don’t “help” with the dishes because I don’t think it’s her job in the first place), work hard, give her back rubs, sweet notes, etc, but she NEVER acts as though she wants sex, and after 15 years of hearing “I want you to want me for more than just sex”, I gave in. She won. I never initiate anymore. Now she claims it’s MY fault for our lack of sex. (Funny how women always blame the man for everything, right?) She claims it’s my fault, stating I’m no longer attracted to her because she’s gained weight. No, if there’s a loss of attraction, it’s because she acts totally asexual.

    So for the past year I’ve chosen porn. We’re not having sex anyways and she obviously is ok without sex, so, rather than get divorced (we still love each other), I just take care of it myself.

    I think my decision above is the real reason women are jealous of porn. It satisfies their men and that offends them because THEY want to be what “gets their man off” regardless of whether or not they’re willing to ACTUALLY get them off. Now before you get all judgemental on me and start quoting scripture about porn being the same as adultry, yeah, I think actual adultry would be much worse. I think in MOST men’s scenarios everyone is better off (when they have a refusing spouse) to stay with their family, love their wife, and just take care of it themselves. And, here’s the thing: whether or not you like what I wrote, THIS IS WHAT MOST MEN ARE CHOOSING! Most people know this but are just unwilling to admit it.

    I really feel like women’s refusal of sex is finally catching up with them. They’ve said No long enough, and now porn is allowing men to give them their wish.

    1. So, as Dr Phil says, “How’s that working for you?” You decided not to initiate, the whole scheme you devised (to stop initiating) proceeded into the direction you surmised it would. Your wife didn’t initiate. So now, it has come to the place where you have substituted the real thing of being intimate with your wife for pictures and moving images that behave themselves. Instead of intimacy with a real woman who loves you (and you say you love her), you now objectify the “woman” you have sex with (but mostly with your hand). How is this “better” than making the effort to initiate? This may seem like a good deal to you (because now you don’t have to “work” at initiating sex with your wife). You may seem satisfied now, but please know that this can go in a very bad direction at any point (and it probably will).

      For now, this seems to be working for you, and you think it is working for your wife. But lets look at it a bit further. Even though this violates SO many principles biblically (this IS a Christian web site), there are other problems that can arise (and it does very, very often). Let me ask you… what happens when another man pays attention to your wife and the sparks fly? Are you willing to stay satisfied with your pictures and images and sleeping with your hand, and let her get fulfilled with another man elsewhere being all touchy and feely? Will “being right” about your theory feel better then? And what if she falls in love with this man, and figures you will be happy with your pictures and hand instead of her, so she leaves you for this other man? Please don’t think this can’t happen. I can tell you that it happens time and time, and time again… at an ever growing rate. We (and other marriage educators and counselors) are seeing this happening at epidemic proportions.

      And do you really think that as the years go on you will be satisfied with the degrading pictures and moving images of women, and your hand? If you do… you are sure different than most of those who go into pornography. It will take more and more to satisfy you, because it’s an addictive habit you are going into. It’s like my brother (and millions of others) who thought that he could smoke cigarettes and never get hooked. It didn’t work that way (and now his heart and lung problems back up the falseness of his “sureness”… not to mention the heart surgery that he almost died during, AND his having to break the habit). My other brother thought he could beat the odds with dabbling in drugs. He died at 43 of complications from drug and alcohol abuse. To his surprise, he didn’t beat the odds. And now we’re all sadder because of it. He isn’t the only victim.

      You may feel good for the moment in “telling it like it is” and getting satisfaction from that, and going into the fantasy world. But I truly believe you will live to regret all of this BIG time! Yes, your wife should initiate if it’s important to her. And yes, you are right in some of your accusations. But “right fighting” is not all it’s cracked up to be over the long run. The World of Regrets is a sad one to live in. We know. We hear from multitudes of spouses (mostly former spouses) who drove themselves into that place and are screaming for others to wake up and not go there. I hope you will run from it.

      There are LOTS of things over our nearly 45 years of marriage that I have had to get over. There are many, many things I get tired of being the one who initiates or does, but I’ve had to look at the bigger picture. Is being “right” and being without the love of my life better than doing some things here and there that don’t seem fair? I have a GREAT relationship with my husband. I’d rather be the initiator of some things, and the one who does other things more than I’d like, and have a great marriage (and I do), than bite off my nose to spite my face. I’m sure there are other things my husband wishes I’d do more of without him having to do them (like filling the car with gas, and doing more of the yard work). But somehow, it all evens out. Life isn’t fair, but it can sure be a lot better when we quit the “right fighting” and just grow up and just be thankful that we have a spouse that we CAN do those things with –one we love, and who love us.

      Please prayerfully consider what I’m saying here. Yes, you make some good points. But don’t lose the forest for the trees. It appears that you have a good woman there. Please don’t lose her because you want to show her that she’s wrong and prove to other women how wrong they are. In the whole scheme of things, this doesn’t work. I hope you will open your eyes, embrace your wife, and work to change the addicting habit you are getting yourself into. You both deserve better.