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 Husband Whose Wife Doesn’t Want Sex
I can’t even start to know the frustration you’re experiencing. 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):
• WHY WIVES SAY NO TO SEX, AND WHAT A MAN CAN DO ABOUT IT
And then here are two great articles written by Sheila Wray Gregoire on this same issue. Sheila addresses husbands, helping them to figure out why she doesn’t like sex in the first place. And then what to do about it. We encourage you to read these articles (and comments posted below it). Sheila does a great job in explaining things:
• FOR THE GUYS: When Your Wife Hates Sex
• 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK IF YOUR WIFE DOESN’T WANT SEX
— ADDITIONALLY —
Neil Black wrote the following articles, which you may find helpful:
• HELP! MY WIFE DOESN’T WANT SEX
• HELP! MY WIFE DOESN’T WANT SEX – Part 2
I hope men find the above series of articles, from both Paul Byerly and Neil Black, helpful!
Next: For Wives Who Do Not Want to Have Sex:
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. There are so many reasons why a wife may want to say no to having sex with her husband. Lori Byerly, of The Generous Wife web site wrote a blog addressing this issue, that you may find insightful. I sure did —probably because I have had to make similar decisions:
• THE SEX QUESTIONS — WHEN SHE SAYS NO
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:
• WHEN PAST SEXUAL ABUSE AFFECTS A MARRIAGE’S INTIMACY
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.
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.
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 begin now to work in me.”
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Sexual Issues
638 responses to “When a Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex”
I would agree whole-heartedly with your article. My problem is that my wife has told me …point blank, she DOES NOT want a Christian marriage OR to be a Christian wife!! (Anymore). So, yes, it’s been 5.5 months now without sex, and our marriage is going down the drain, sad to say. Guess I need to stop focusing on ‘my’ problems and keep following God’s Word…albeit I have given up on morning prayers …as I feel so lost, hurt, wondering why things have gone from bad to worse. Seems that the more I prayed, the worst things became.
Praying for you brother. I’m sorry for what you are both going through.
Dude.. you are lucky. After my wife had 2nd child (she’s now almost 3) in past 4 years (including 9 month pregnant) I think we have had sex 3 times. It wasn’t even fulfilling sex; she just did it to get past my annoyance. I’m tired of begging. But being faithful doesn’t mean putting up with it, I told her, even if I cheat on her, I’ll tell it to her face first, then do it. So after this Christmas, that’s what I’m going to do. Tell it to her face that something needs to change.
She always says she’s tired. Mind you, I’m 6’3″, 230, making 7 figures. I pay for literally everything, even my birthday dinner. I can pay for slew of women if I wanted. She’s a stay home mom that didn’t want to watch our 3 year old, so I sent her to day care so mom could rest. I even suggested we get a live in nanny, so she doesn’t have to do any house chores. Mind you, she doesn’t cook; all she does is take care of the kids and does laundry. We have cleaners come monthly.
So throw out all the excuses that something man is doing to cause this, it’s not. All I can say is be honest with each other and move on.
Thanks for finally writing about > When a Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex – Marriage Missions International ~ Chassidy
Why are there so many reasons why a married woman can’t have sex with her husband and there are so many reasons why the husband should stay “faithful”? What happened to having reasons why the woman should have enjoyable, pleasurable sex with her husband because her body is not just for her? (If a guy was withholding sex from his wife, then the same would apply.)
But Mike, if it was enjoyable and pleasurable for her, don’t you think she’d want it? Have you ever considered, ever that it just might not be enjoyable or pleasurable for her? Wives don’t forgo those things she enjoys.
My wife is family stress, with her over thinking about other’s issues; it consumes her. Then there is her phone, call after call after call, text after text after text, drama after drama after drama. Our texts are less than 5 words, not like the 1 foot long texts she receives from others. She says I smother her??? & pressure her for a few minutes of sex 1 time a week?
What do you do when it was your own husband who caused past sexual trauma? In 2007, during the second half of my pregnancy with my second child, sex started causing false labor. I went to bed every other night in pain. I told the doctor at my checkups twice, I was advised to just stop having sex until the baby was born. When I asked my husband to stop having sex, he either ignored me or called me crazy. He talked to a pregnant woman at work about it, and then came home and told me the pain was all in my head. He would massage my sore back, then guilt trip me into having sex.
I would stay up til 3 a.m. playing games on the computer avoiding sex. He would sit on the couch and wait me out. If I tried to lay down and he was awake we ended up having sex, and the only thing to take the pain away was trying to go to sleep. Sometimes I woke up in mild pain. So when I woke up in real labor 5.5 weeks before my due date I had no clue it was real. I had to ask my neighbors for help, as my husband was already at PT with his unit for the morning.
My son was born 30 minutes after I got to the hospital. Then he had to be rushed to Naval Hospital in San Diego, because there was not a NICU at Camp Pendleton. I was told not to have sex until my 6 weeks postpartum checkup, but my husband pressured me until I gave in to sex 4 to 5 weeks later. Not that this part is his fault, but it was incredibly painful. I apparently had a cyst growing on the vaginal wall. I had to have surgery to remove it.
Throughout the rest of my marriage (we’re still married) we’ve gone through dry spells where I sleep on the couch. Then he’ll ask me to come back to bed, we’ll have a long talk and then sex is okay for a while. Then he’ll ask less and less, and instead try to manipulate me into doing it more and more. The more sex he would get the more new things he would want to try that just plain hurt.
After our 4th child was born in 2012, we had a really long dry spell. After that things got much better; he stopped asking for special favors and we had sex at least twice a week. Sometimes my aversion to sex came back, and we would fight about it. But usually it would eventually pass. Now, sex is once every 3 to 4 weeks, for the past year. And I know, actually know, every time he touches or “massages” me, unasked for, he’s trying to have sex.
He’s offended if I avoid him touching me. But when I let him, he always turns it into an attempt at sex. If I wait to say no, until it’s obvious he wants sex, then I “should have been straight with him from the beginning.” I asked him why he doesn’t straight out ask me, and he said, “because that is not how it’s supposed to go.” We had sex more often when I was allowed to say no.
Every time he massages me unasked for I know what he wants, it was part of his pattern when he use to cause my false labor. I never had that kind of pain with my other pregnancies, but I’ve never been able to get past it. And he’s upset that he’s been paying the price for years. He also says that I need therapy, because I haven’t moved on. He’s moved on and improved on his flaws, so therefore he doesn’t. It’s wrong that I bring up the past when we argue about sex, but he’s repeating the similar behavior from the past. To this day he says I was a witch during my second pregnancy.
I am in this situation almost 6 yrs now; my wife will not have sex!! Very frustrated.
It’s so frustrating to me that these articles never address sensory aversions and other problems neurodivergent people face. My issue with sex is that bodies are just plain gross, and skin to skin contact is torture. It’s hard to bond with your spouse emotionally when your skin is painfully crawling and all you can think of is fighting the urge to throw up and/or run straight to the shower. To be clear, it’s not my husband. I react the same whenever anyone’s skin touches mine, for any reason.
I want to please my man, but he can tell that I’m suffering whenever I try and it kills his mood. I’ve been in therapy for this for years and praying constantly, but nothing helps. Argh.