How to Respond When Your Husband Doesn’t Want Sex
Tonight’s the night, you think. The kids are in bed, you’ve put away the evening’s dinner dishes, and now you’ve set your sights on dessert. You’ve dabbed a bit of perfume on your pulse points and slipped into some alluring lingerie. The scented candles will provide just the right environment. In fact, you’ve done everything the so-called experts have suggested to help create a night of romance and passion.
You nestle in next to your sweetheart on the couch as he watches television. You quietly wait until commercial time, then you slide your hand over his arm and gently massage it.
With barely a look in your direction, he pulls back his arm, moves closer to the dog, and readjusts his position.
Not to be deterred, you take a breath and go in for a less-subtle second attempt. “Hey, babe, the kids are asleep,” you whisper. “What do you say we go upstairs and mess around?”
“Not tonight,” he says, still not looking your way.
You can feel the tension in your shoulders as you sense this night ending as so many others have before. But still you press on, hoping that this time you’ll get him to change his mind.
“Come on, babe. We haven’t had sex in a while. I promise you’ll enjoy it. Look what I’m wearing—just for you.”
He finally glances your way and then back toward the television. If he noticed the lingerie, he’s not letting on.
“I don’t feel like it,” he responds. “I just want to watch my show.”
And there it hangs. Rejection. Again. You get up off the couch and head to your bedroom, where you blow out the candles and throw your lingerie in the garbage, telling yourself that this is the last time you want to feel this way. Then you sit on the bed, alone, as disappointment, frustration, anger, hurt, and a deep ache all flow over you.
Why doesn’t he want me? you wonder. What’s wrong with me? And the tears come again—as they have so many times before.
Since the dawn of recorded history, it feels like the predominant belief in the culture at large has been that men are the virile, testosterone-filled pursuers whose sex-switch is forever in the on position. Women, meanwhile, are portrayed as the ones who play hard to get, have an innately lower sex drive, and rarely have a need for their own sexual pleasure. But for many married women—as many as 30 percent of them—that perception isn’t reality.1 These women desire to be loved and cared for sexually and to have a healthy and passionate intimate relationship, yet they enter marriage and discover—either early on or later in the relationship—that their husband isn’t all that interested.
And there it hangs. Rejection. Again.
These women aren’t asking for anything outrageous or even out of the ordinary. They represent all ages, all seasons of marriage, and all backgrounds. They include devout Christian women and women who aren’t quite sure about their faith. Some are newly wedded; others have been married for decades. The spectrum is wide indeed.
But these women all have this in common: They yearn to be loved intimately, to experience affection both in and outside the bedroom. They long for their husbands to notice them.
He Won’t Have Sex With Me
From what I’ve learned about these women, most of them suffer in silence. A fear of being judged or misunderstood compels them to keep their secret hidden deep in their souls. For some, their situation feels so shameful that they don’t share it even with their closest friends. How do you admit, “My husband has no sexual desire for me”? It certainly isn’t something they announce on social media.
Why doesn’t he desire me? they wonder. He can desire everyone else, but not me?
Some men sit around with each other and complain, perhaps jokingly, that “my wife doesn’t give me any.” But you rarely catch a woman telling her friends, “My husband doesn’t give me any.” Why is that? I believe it speaks to our perception of our worth, our beauty, and who we are as women.
When these women do gather the courage to share, too often they receive uninformed responses that put the responsibility for the sexual success or failure of their marriage back on them: Light some candles. Lose some weight. Seduce your husband. Be more submissive. Be more daring. Many of these advice-givers mean well, but the message is little more than, If you just do x, y, and z, you’ll please your husband and he will want to have sex with you.
So these women obediently follow the advice . . . only to fail. They pray desperately for God to change their circumstances, but when their prayers aren’t answered, the shame digs deeper and they determine to never again share the truth of their situation. With no one else to turn to, the cycle of shame continues and eats away at their self-esteem. Their marriages, their value as women, even their faith—they are all at risk of becoming collateral damage.
In my work as a clinical counselor, as a marriage mentor for more than two decades, and through the marriage ministry at Marriagetrac.com, the number of women struggling to be heard and wanted by their husbands is stunning. I’ve seen the devastating effects that sexual issues in marriage can have on a couple. Nowadays, more and more of those issues are related to differences in sexual desire.
I’ve received email after email and letter after letter from desperate women who are earnestly seeking a last chance at hope and help. When Marriagetrac tested the waters with a new article titled, “I Want More Sex Than My Husband Does,” it quickly became one of our most responded-to articles. It turned out that we’d given hurting women another invitation to share their stories, heartache, and pain.
Taken from I Want Him to Want Me by Sheri Mueller Copyright © 2024. Used by permission of Focus On the Family. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.