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):

WHY WIVES SAY NO TO SEX, AND WHAT A MAN CAN DO ABOUT IT

NON-SEXUAL TOUCH AND SEX

THE SIN OF BUSYNESS

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

— ADDITIONALLY —

Neil Black, on the web site, Power to Change, 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

WORKING THROUGH PAST HURT

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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Comments

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

  1. Please help me out, because my wife doesn’t want sex. There isn’t any time that I touch her that she will not complain of tiredness. I don’t know what to.

  2. Read some of this but its too long winded. Probably written by an American. When it gets to include biblical quotes of any kind it’s time to switch off. Sexless, even touch free marriage does not work and causes misery.

  3. Don’t get married. It’s as simple as that. Instead take up a mission trip, help locally, be involved in a mentoring program, homeless ministry. So many more other things to do to keep oneself occupied.

  4. Thanks Cindy. Read your article this morning after another fruitless attempt with my dear wife. Your post is very comforting and encoutaging. Thank you. My wife is continuously tired and stressed from work. I understand. I just wondered what a husband can do to make his wife want sex with him.

    1. Louis, There is nothing you can “do” to make your wife desire you sexually; frankly, she either does or she doesn’t, and she will or will not initiate/respond to your advances if not. If she truly desired you she would make SOME reasonable effort to accommodate you. Sorry to be harsh, but it’s a hard lesson learned over 25 years of a sexless marriage.

    2. Hey Louis, you mentioned that she’s tired and stressed from work. Is there any way that you can maybe help out more at home so that she has less to do? What about romancing her? Cooking her dinner or taking her out for the evening? If she’s stressed maybe you can get her some scented candles, some wine and offer to give her a massage? It may not reap immediate rewards but eventually, she may turn around?

  5. At one time my wife said she could live without any sexual contact. Time passed, perimenopausal, then menopause, painful sex. Now she is on HRT, including testosterone, I can’t hardly keep up with her! Something to consider…

  6. I want to have sex. I want to be with my husband becsause I love him. I also still find him physically attractive. We are raising our grandson who is nonverbal autistic. I have the main role with him. My husband doesn’t understand how this affects everything. We dont have timing on our side. I cry all the time because of it. He’s already crossed a line, I forgave, should I offer him a divorce out of unselfisness? Let him go, so to speak? He cheated on me and I haven’t recovered from that. I forgave him but it’s not the same anymore. I feel I should let him go.

  7. “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.”

    So it’s the husband’s fault. Yea, this is something that needs to be addressed with women. If you are having issues then look at yourself first don’t just point the fingers at the man for 95% of the problems because it always takes two to tango.

    1. John, with my wife, her sex drive is the 1st thing to go if any issues, family, life, etc comes along. We guys get blamed for everything. It starts early in a marriage then spirals down from there.

      1. But SOME wives DO turn this around. It happened to me, and I’ve known of many other wives who finally “get it” and change the direction of that downward spiral in a positive direction. One such wife (and there are many, many more) can be found on the web site Forgivenwife.com. This web site has blogs written by Chris. She writes: “After 20 years of being a sexual gatekeeper and refuser, I am now learning to enjoy 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.”

        I don’t want to give false hope… but I do want you to know that your life is not set in stone. God can work in mysterious ways. Your wife may not get it right now, but keep praying. Live your life as you know God would want you to, given these difficult circumstances. But don’t compromise your values. Don’t go down unhealthy roads that you shouldn’t go down. Don’t allow yourself to believe the lie that because you hurt so badly, solutions to cheat and do that which you should not, are acceptable. They are not, even if your wife is not doing what she should be doing. I pray you will be strong and do what is right despite these difficult circumstances.

        1. Cindy, how about praying that SHE does what is right, as in, uphold her marriage vows that she made, you know, before GOD?!? That quote about the wife that finally decided after 20 years (after her husband had passed his prime) that she was ready to have sex and “dance with joy” just absolutely INFURIATES me. She’s being held up as some great example of marriage and womanhood after withholding for 2 decades the ONE thing her husband can’t scripturally seek outside the marriage. What a joke. I weep for the man that married her, because that man is me; except in my case it’s been 25 years and I am STILL waiting! I seriously wish I could just die and have this miserable failure of an existence done with! Except for the fact that it would finally push my bipolar daughter over the edge for good. So for now I have NO choice. What a joke marriage is. I hate it and hate my life because of it!

          1. Alan, Steve and Cindy are all about promoting hope and providing encouragement to married couples…whether the marriage is doing well, or is struggling. Since your desire appears to be to provide discouragement, and remove hope. Can I ask you “Why are you here at their website?” What positive benefit are you providing through your comments here? If your heart were open to the possibility that your life could be different, in a positive way, then you too would find that same hope and encouragement here that many others find. I will be praying that your heart be changed, My Friend… :>)

    2. What?!? Accountability for HER actions that contributed to the living hell that is 20th/21st century marriage? Where’s the fun in that?

      Seriously, you might better go and look out your window; there are probably a mob of Jezebels with torches and farm implements heading your way after your comment daring to suggest that (gasp) women have to take part of the blame.

    3. Yes, it is the man’s fault. The man is to be the LEADER representing Christ. How does Christ keep the bride? Is Christ the leader? Is Christ the servant? Is Christ holding up the workload? Is Christ beckoning and calling patiently? Is the bride to mirror the husbandman?? Are you a servant teacher like Christ helping her to become the woman she needs to become? Are you serving her needs/desires first and foremost? Does Christ have all of the fruits of the Spirit with continual love for the bride? — If you are miserable, perhaps your flesh is reigning instead of your Spirit. If you cannot mirror Christ – you have work to do. He calls us to perfection.

  8. FFS why is religion sticking its fingers into people’s beds? It has exactly ZERO to do with human sexuality yet one religion tells you who you cannot sleep with, that you cannot touch yourself, you cannot watch this or that. Another wants to cut your foreskin or even girls’ organs to lower the pleasure. Medieval old books written by a bunch of goat herders are going to compete with what modern medicine and science today knows about healthy sexual relationships and marriage? Books that talk about slavery, women as second class citizens, are going to be a guide on what we should do in our bedroom, our “moral compass”? I’m sick of it.

    1. Obviously, John is another self-professed “Bible expert” without ever reading it. Sad, but also ho-hum, I’ve seen it before. Just the fact that this topic has a dedicated Christian- focused site and active blogs & comments means that it is a relevant topic for Christians, and something to be enjoyed in Christian marriages.

      Aussie Johnny, how about you take the challenge of reading the Bible through in a year and notate everywhere marriage and/or sex is mentioned? You might find yourself enlightened and much happier with your new knowledge.

  9. Men have two hands. They can use them right? Also last time i checked my biology book sex is not a need to survive but a want. You will not die from the lack of sex. We are not wild animals. As for the Bible aspect – its stories passed on and rewritten to what is now a Bible (I grew up strict Roman Catholic, btw). Not only that, but there are hidden messages that most naive people take literally – used to control the masses. The kingdom of God is within you – yes we are all connected spiritually; we all have God within us and connected to God (and not some guy with a white beard sitting on a throne). I doubt something petty as sex matters in the end. We make it a big deal here on earth, but it really isn’t.

    1. Cathie, the issue is not dying from the lack of sex, its the closeness, affection, touching, kissing, etc. People do die or at least do not thrive from the lack of affection. My own newborn granddaughter came close to passing away because she was in a NICU step-down. We could not touch her. When she was allowed to be touched, she started thriving.