When a Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex

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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):




And then here is a great article 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 this article (and comments posted below it). Sheila does a great job in explaining things:

FOR THE GUYS: When Your Wife Hates Sex


Neil Black 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!

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:


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 begin 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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615 responses to “When a Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex

  1. If a woman purposely withholds intimacy (sexual or nonsexual) for no reason: it’s abuse, pure and simple. Ladies, if you do that to your husband, and he cheats, blame yourself. You were a major contributor. Men you’re not off the hook either. It goes both ways. Seek a reputable therapist and work it out.

    1. During intercourse, many peopIe have a tendency to tense their muscIes 😍. The closer they get to orgasm, the more they do so. It happens to my gf. If her muscles are unaccustomed to being engaged so intensely, they may begin shaking after being held tense for several minutes. When she orgasms, she immediately relaxes her muscles, and this release can cause them to spasm and shake, especially the larger muscles in her legs. This is why shaking is common in intercourse, and especially common following orgasm.

  2. My wife’s family would make a great TV drama series. The drama has been going on for 40+ years. You name it, they have done it. There has been a lull in the action for few months. But it just started back up. My wife wanted me to hurry home from work, I know what means… When I get there… ZILCH, ZERO… no touch. I asked her, she stated “well I was in the mood until I got on the phone” (with her family). Sometimes you have to separate yourselves from things. You say don’t care about others? No; separate from DRAMA. Let them vomit their drama on someone else. Don’t have itching ears or be a busybody…

  3. Well, I am now officially in this category. Wife went from us sending slightly dirty texts thru the day, wife would ‘pose’ for me, sex from 1 or 2 times per week, to zero, zilch, nada. She wants no touching, no looking, no talking about sex, no dirty texts, nothing. All this happened in a couple of days. So, no looking, touching, etc. Is she seeing someone else or emotional affair? She says no, just wants space? So I am hoping for the best, emotionally planning for the worst.

    1. Update: Still nothing. She is consumed with her family’s issues, basically wants a relation with minimal affection…

  4. How long is it reasonable for a wife to suspend sexual interaction to seek healing from childhood sexual abuse?

  5. My wife claims she has sexual aversion. She self diagnosed herself. So for nearly 9 months no sex, not anything, not any touching, not any cuddling, not any sleeping close side by side, not thing! I have about had it with her. And yes, she has pushed me into a corner that I never wanted to get put into. I have needs that go unfilled and to her my needs are just of no account and I can go take a cold shower. To me it is like her saying that she needs to eat that if she does not eat soon she will get sick. I think hey, you eat all of the time; chill out go read a book; it is all in her head.

    But I don’t tell her this; but if I did I would be considered so mean and inconsiderate. Yet she does it to me now for 9 months. The corner I have been pushed into is dark and for me to survive. I have needs that are being filled in different ways. Divorce is not an option and yet this marriage of 22 years is over in my mind.

    I actually, for real, this happened just this morning, July 25, 2021, not making it up, I was dreaming that she and I were sleeping next to each other and I put my hand on her thigh and was giving it a rub and squeeze and then I told her sorry I absent mindedly touched your thigh. I woke up from my dream and realized it was a dream and yet it made me so upset that she does not even want me to touch her in my dream that I woke up and muttered under my breath, what a horrible day this is. I wake up often with the feeling of this day is crap and it is only 5 seconds old!

    1. Well, my wife of 35 years asked me to move out. She is mad about a few things I should have not said, few things I did, (not cheating or another woman), and our finances. I know how you feel. I am living on the other side of the house now, and am starting a 2nd job this week. The more nights I am gone, the better things will be. I am also selling a few things for financial relief.

    2. I’m not going to tell you to divorce — that’s a decision between you and God. But if your wife doesn’t have a legitimate reason for withholding sex, she is doing the exact opposite of what the scriptures and Christ teaches. She is being selfish and is unknowingly encouraging sinful behavior in you, such as pornography use or infidelity. There’s nothing else to be said about it; she’s either committed to you, or she’s not.

      I want to look at this from a mathematical and financial perspective. What is the monetary value of your wife’s time? If she works, or if she were to get a job, how much is her hourly earning power? Maybe $30 per hour? And how often do you want sex, and for how long? Maybe on average 2 times per week for 30 minutes each time? So about an hour per week? So basically, when she denies you sex, your wife is saying you are not worth $30 per week to her — and that’s if she considers it work, rather than something pleasurable. You have a powerful, innate need that only she is morally allowed to fulfill, and she won’t give you 1 hour out of every 168 hours to satisfy that need. Sad.

  6. Ok, I read this article. First, I have been married before then got deployed somewhere, came back and my wife cheated on me when I got back home. The reason I was told is she got lonely??? So to the point, I have been married now for 1-1/2 years, have gone through counseling with local church leaders, because wife used to have problems while drinking, then talking about what men and her had done. Not appealing. My wife has an ex who tried to kill her, beat her up and not to mention he is a 7 time felon.

    Me, I am retired military. When dating and engaged we would spend time with one another watch movies and yes make love. While she has a 5 year old and I have teenager can’t do things like no children in relationship. However, financially we have spent over 60K on her getting sole full custodianship. In addition, I try to do what she asks the most I can. The church leaders constantly say we need to schedule time with one another but my wife won’t. Nor will wife respect finances . As per my time with her, I am told I have to wait. I can’t leave because I have nowhere else to go. I am tired of not having a best friend/spouse to help me or at least check on me when I am working on yard. All I hear is her ask for more money to spend but my time with her is maybe an hour before bed watching a movie once in a while.

    When I ask her if she wants something else I am told no but what woman doesn’t want to be loved on and not see I mean cuddle, and yes sex once a week or so; it has been like this since being married. I was told there is no way to get divorce unless my spouse were to cheat on me but isn’t my wife not making time for me or not making love a reason?

    Her priority is her five year old; she points out what she had with the 7 time felon who might every now and then pay child support while I pay for his medical, vision, dental, food, roof over his head. I am getting tired of this. So, please give me advice. I have done everything I have been told to do by counseling, and have been told by both counselors I need to just continue trying but they know my wife isn’t trying so why do I need to stay in a miserable marriage with someone who obviously does not love me the same?

  7. So when a man is not receiving this needed and wanted aspect of marriage we need to learn how to enjoy not having sex. It is understandable however that women don’t want sex because men are pornography addicts with poor personal hygiene. The article was a waste of time.