My wife withholds sex from me, and I believe she does it to punish me. Anytime I do anything wrong, I can count on not having sexual intimacy for some time. The Bible talks against this and yet she still does it. How can I get my wife to see that withholding sex is wrong and hurtful to our marriage?

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Your problem is an age-old complaint. Historically men crave sex and feel entitled to it, while women crave trust, safety, and intimacy. Often these needs collide, creating undue marital stress.

That said, I question whether your wife is really withholding sex to punish you — though undoubtedly it feels that way to you. It’s more likely she has built-up feelings that are creating a barrier to intimacy with you.

You reference Scripture as a way to justify your position. First Corinthians 7:5 does say, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps 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.” But often men use this biblical passage as proof of their “right” to demand sex. The truth is, sex is something that must be freely and lovingly given. If you demand sex, the results will be disastrous, leading to resentment and bitterness — hardly the environment for a loving, intimate encounter.

You note that your wife’s withholding of sex seems tied to “anytime I do anything wrong.” Is it possible your wife doesn’t feel safe and loved? Sexual intimacy is often a barometer for how the marriage is doing. In my experience, when there is limited conflict and significant trust and closeness — when both “defer to one another in love” — there will be physical intimacies spontaneously given.

Note what happens in many marriages, possibly yours:

  • There is a history of conflict, with a lack of safety, trust and stability;
  • The man still pushes for sexual intimacy, only to be told she doesn’t feel loved;
  • He interprets this as punishment, reacting angrily, creating even more distrust;
  • She feels “used” and pushes away even more;
  • The cycle continues.


While God created us to enjoy emotional, spiritual, and sexual intimacy, he also created us to love one another unselfishly. “Love does not seek its own way” (1 Corinthians 13). Love builds the other up and offers protection. Love is not demanding, but understanding and caring.

Consider these additional points:

Explore all the factors involved in the situation. It can be tempting to reduce a complex situation with simplistic explanations. Pull back and seek other explanations as to why your wife withholds sex, other than to punish you. Women have many reasons for lack of desire, including exhaustion, feeling dishonored because their man is looking at other women and pornography, feeling unloved, or feeling unprotected emotionally.

Make sure you are showing her sacrificial love. Again, love does not seek its own way. You must be certain you are creating a climate in your marriage where lovemaking will naturally occur. Are you dating your mate? Are you helping her around the house? Are you helping her feel safe, trusted, cherished, and loved?

Be certain you are sexual pure. Men far too often stray physically or mentally. They turn to pornography, ogling other women or making sexually inappropriate comments. You must maintain an attitude of sexual purity and chastity.

Work together to have a fulfilling sexual relationship. A vibrant, healthy sexual relationship is most often achieved when a couple talks openly and respectfully about this aspect of their marriage. Don’t be afraid to be solution-focused, sharing feelings and needs openly. If there is emotional safety and openness, there is likely to be sexual vibrancy. Work together to create a mutually gratifying sexual relationship;

Maintain a strong emotional connection. Let’s face it, men: women crave emotional connection and cannot feel open sexually unless they feel loved. If your wife feels unloved, she is not likely to want sexual intimacy. If she withholds sex, it’s probably not an act of rebellion or punishment. It’s likely emotional issues are at play, and you must explore what they are and remedy them.

In summary, God wants you to have a close, intimate, loving relationship with your wife. But, the atmosphere in your home must be such where you feel respected and she feels loved and cherished. Do everything you can to provide that kind of environment and see if the other problems disappear.

If you would like more information on relationships, as well as having a sexually vibrant marriage, I’d like to hear your thoughts and welcome your reactions. Contact me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com. I encourage you to read about our programs at www.marriagerecoverycenter.com.

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