Every now and then, I get comments on my site that cut to my core.
A recent one was,“…wish you could speak to my wife before I leave” — written by a man who vulnerably admitted that his wife’s constant sexual refusal has done him in, to the point that leaving seems like the better option.
“I vowed monogamy when I got married, and she gave me celibacy.”
Now, I am not so naive to think comments on a website offer a complete picture of a marriage. Marriage is a complex creature, interwoven with unique idiosyncrasies and interactions. To say no two marriages are alike would be a monumental understatement.
But don’t such raw comments offer at least a glimpse of the reality happening behind closed doors?
And does that glimpse reveal something about the depth of sexual pain within some unions?
After all, these comments are anonymous… there is no repercussion to someone when they bare their soul in this manner. Such comments may be the most unguarded words that person has spoken about their discouragement.
Do I think resolving sexual intimacy struggles, particularly on-going problems, is easy?
No. Definitely no.
This is especially true when we consider the roots of many of those sexual struggles…
- Past sexual abuse
- Tapes of skewed theology, teachings and messages repeatedly playing in one’s head
- Pornography use and addiction
- Inability or unwillingness to talk about sex, let alone the personal problems within one’s marriage
- Lack of understanding of our bodies
- Fear of or misunderstandings about sexual pleasure
- Other on-going marital problems
- Relentless stress within daily life
In some marriages, the above dynamics aren’t just speed bumps, they are fortified road blocks. Simply going over or around them is not an option.
They must be picked apart brick-by-brick — not just so we can diminish their power, but also so we can be wise enough to not build them back up again.
Discernment, discernment, discernment.
Take a breath and more than a passing glance at what is happening in your marriage sexually. Would your husband say to me anonymously, “I vowed monogamy and she gave me celibacy”?
Or would you be one to say to me anonymously, “I’ve tried to address the brokenness in our sexual intimacy, and my husband has refused to listen”?
My heartfelt encouragement to husbands and wives reading this is that you both grab hold of the responsibility and privilege to tend to your sexual intimacy.
Books, marriage bloggers, seminars, counselors and most importantly, God’s Word and Spirit, all offer tools and wisdom on how to do that…on how to establish enriching sexual patterns and diminish unhealthy ones.
But ultimately, it all comes down to what you are humbly willing to do. Preferably, you both move in that direction together, but even if only one of you takes baby steps toward healthier sexual intimacy, there often times can still be surprising outcomes.
Your marriage is worth it, if for no other reason than the fact that your marriage is precious in God’s sight.
For many of you reading this right now, this post is either your wake-up call — or a bitter reminder of longstanding sexual struggles in your marriage.
My heart is not to minimize those painful realizations or the heartbreak behind them. I am well-acquanited with sexual heartbreak on a very personal level. A past failed marriage will do that to a person.
No, I stand not in judgment or in random ramblings about your deepest sorrows. I offer instead my perspective on what I hear.
What I hear regularly is that many marriages are not all they could be sexually. And the fallout from that is causing anguish, despair, anger and resentment.
If you know sex is more of a battleground than playground in your marriage, have you gone to the greatest of godly lengths to change that?
If not, please comment and share with me why so that I can better understand how to speak hope into broken places.
Copyright 2013, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
41 thoughts on ““Wish You Could Speak to My Wife Before I Leave””
Could write a book but will be brief. About to celebrate my 19th anniversary. Wish my wife cared enough to read blogs like this and apply them. Devout Christian here – maintained virginity until marriage with the expectation God would honor and reward this with reward upon marriage. Extremely disillusioned and disappointed with the results. Great honeymoon, good first year or two…then the lack of interest kicked in and the excuses and sex just dwindled to unacceptably low levels. . I persisted doing everything your blog would have recommended – honestly!!! – until somewhere around year 15 and a half, and finally gave up, realizing that the best sex life I had was when I just masturbated as a teenager and my wife is never ever going to come close to meeting those needs. I was jumping through all the hoops and getting next to nothing to show for it and finally reached the point where I decided it wasn’t worth jumping through those hoops anymore. So over a period of a few months I psychologically accepted the idea that I was going to give up on pursuing intercourse – ever. It took a while but I’ve done it. I satisfy myself as much as I need it, and I haven’t initiated or had sex with my wife in over three and a half years. Nor will I until and unless she cares enough to jump through a few hoops of her own. I’ve had it.
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t love her for everything else in the marriage besides sex. I don’t consider this marriage unhappy except for the sex part. And fortunately, I’m a man and not a woman so it is very possible for me to isolate one area of my life and not let it permeate the others. I asked myself – would I disown my mother, or father, or another blood relative, just because I don’t have sex with them? Of course not! And I love my wife as much and more than any of the above. So certainly this marriage is worth staying in – and brings me happiness in every other way. But as far as sex, it’s no longer something I’m willing to work for. And that also means no splurging on fancy romantic dinners or flowers and no staying in fancy hotels (my wife may wonder why I don’t propose vacations anymore. Well if and when she asks I will simply explain that I don’t share hotel rooms with women I don’t sleep with).
You women out there reading this, know this: if you get married to a man, you’re likely to be marrying someone who expects regular sexual physical release – A LOT – perhaps even on a daily basis. And you’d better be prepared to accept it, because if you aren’t, then you have no business getting married. Do yourself and your future husband a favor and stay single.
Thanks for all you do to help marriages! Another thing that could have been on your list is a chronic illness or condition (or a disability). I have suffered from a chronic condition since before I met my husband. I do my best, and he is understanding (and we’ve been married over 25 years), but some marriages don’t make it because of how the chronic condition affects the marriage.
My husband and I have been married for going on 5 years. We had a great sex life for the first 2 years, until I got pregnant, then the hormones did funky things to me and sex actually made me feel sick. He was very understanding and we talked about it sometimes and agreed that it was only a few months out our lives and we were okay with it, but I’m afraid he got too used to it during that time. We ended up having a special needs baby who nursed 24/7 and even had to sleep with me sometimes. Sex became nearly impossible. My husband had to start sleeping on a second mattress next to the one my son and I sleep on, and we now have sex about once or twice a month, and I always initiate. It makes sense that I would have to initiate since I’m the one who has to put our son to bed and try to sneak away, but somewhere along the lines my husband has stopped being otherwise physically affectionate. He rarely hugs me, kisses me, holds my hand, or even says sweet things. It makes it very difficult to feel motivated to get back up out of bed once my son is finally asleep and I’m exhausted to go have sex wham-bam-thank you ma’am style with a man who otherwise may as well be my roommate. He is still very kind and supportive and everything, just nothing that really makes me feel sexy. I’ve tried talking to him about it and he says he’s just being patient and supportive and he’s fine with the way things are, but I can’t get the fear out of my head that he’s really not, and it’s starting to make me paranoid and jealous about other women. I wish he would talk to me about what he’s feeling, and honestly I wish I could figure out a way to make more sex possible.
Thank you @Anonymous and @Anonymous for your comments… I appreciate you stopping by.
Yes, I agree that chronic situations like illness or injury can take a toll on sexual intimacy and marriage. I am sorry to hear about your chronic condition, but it is also encouraging to hear that your husband has been understanding.
I don’t do it in every post, but I try occasionally to offer the disclaimer that when I’m talking about sexual intimacy refusal, I am referring more often than not to marriages where there is no reasonable excuse as to why they couldn’t be having sex on a regular basis.
I’m almost certain there is a site written by a woman whose marriage has experience chronic illness, but I can’t think of it off the top of my head. If I find it, I will comment again with the link.
Thank you again for your comments and insights… I am humbly grateful you took the time to comment!
*raises hand too*
I don’t understand why wives think it’s ok not to have sex with their husbands. I don’t.
I’m this close to giving up. I get rejected EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. I’m frustrated to no end. I have suggested we read your book and was told I’d have to read it alone. I’m not sure what to do and where to go now. I didn’t have sex with anyone before marriage; I’ve never cheated on my wife and I have to admit that I almost regret this now. I have a beautiful son I love very much and I don’t want him to go through the pain of a broken home so I push the pain down and love my wife as ordered by Christ.
But I don’t understand when it became ok for a wife to constantly refuse her husband sex.
I actually hate the idea that you don’t want to have sex with me at all. That it’s a duty. That I have to demand for it. It’s sex, not an allowance. WOW! If any woman is reading this, I think this is heart-breaking stuff. Really, really, really heartbreaking stuff.
Every christians behaves like sex isn’t created by God,they don’t discuss it before marriage and some if not everyone of us needs it to be humanly connected to our spouse,I am not in support of sex before marriage but the moment you’re married consideration is needed wives should give their husband sex whenever they want it because christian men can’t go out to look for it,if rest is needed discuss.
Well, my husband & I have sex at LEAST weekly. I feel guilt for saying no. I also don’t like when my “excuses” which are legit to me, are thrown in my face. I’m at stay at home mom of two kids, one of which I homeschool. Pressure to be everything to everyone is very hard. When the kids are in bed, its like finally I can relax. Sex was not designed to feel like a chore. My husband & I watch tv while on our phones. Don’t really speak all that much. Its in important for women to feel connected. Its like once we say I do, the men quit trying to “date” us. Not that us women don’t change. I feel over a period of time, people get bitter & resent the way things have changed. For me I hardly have time to take a shower with life so busy. Yet, it seems my husband can take time to take care of himself. And having children, changes us. Its hard for our self image with the media blasting our brains & lives with lean, sexy images both men & women. I am expected to still want to have sex, even though no communication, not to mention nightly rountines dinner, baths, are NOT really a team sport. My husband & I have spoken about his need for release & I understand. I’ve suggested going to bed earlier b/c I’m so tired, yea not gonna happen. I hate the expectation, & pressure to have sex. Give me some me time, away from the kids, away from all the chores without complaint, & talk to me about something other than kids, money, & church, that could go a long way.
@jane… thank you for being so real about the dynamics in your marriage. I think you highlight a very important reality that husbands and wives need to remember… that when disconnect happens, it is best overcome when both the husband and wife take ownership.
So, it’s not an either/or situation… and it’s not a “if you do this, I’ll do that” situation… where sex becomes a bartered transaction. Instead, the goal should be humble recognition that if unhealthy patterns are going to change, then steps toward health have to happen.
I always recommend that if a couple can’t navigate toward solution on their own, there is great value in a marriage counselor… a third party who can often help generate conversation and equip a couple to make healthy changes.
Otherwise, what happens (and what I hear in your comment) is that bitterness takes root. It’s hard to feel hopeful and confident that things can look different if discouragement and resentment become so heavy.
Have you vulnerably shared with your husband the depth of your pain and your feeling of isolation? Maybe write him a letter, with the hope that it would springboard into more face-to-face conversation and reveal to him that indeed you do love him and you do value intimacy, but you also feel some of your needs are being neglected and that you are committed to the two of you working together toward a stronger, healthier marriage.
Yes, of course I’ve shared. When we had our 1st child, he was serving our country in Iraq, 2nd tour. PTSD a mild case.
I am in pretty much the exact same situation as the first poster here, except coming up to 12 years and 2 young children.
After constantly being refused, averaging about once every 4-6 weeks, and my wife telling me she’s sick of me talking about sex to her, I’ve made a decision not to mention it, nor make sexual references etc. I’ve set up a Twitter account to get the best advice from the best people (unfortunately I think a lot of posts out there are for people who live in fantasy land, ie “Oh, I LOVE to please my husband! I love to make myself willing every hour of the day to meet his needs!”. I’ve even done the 5 Love Languages test again and of course touch is my highest. I am praying literally constantly – riding my bike to work, walking around the office, at home in private, that God would bring me closer to him, her closer to him, and us closer together (including whatever the Spirit can do to change her attitude). I have done pretty much everything you could ever ask me to do, including fasting, maybe with the exception of seeing a therapist. I honestly don’t think there’s anything I haven’t done. And what does my wife do?
I send her the link to 5 LL; she says “right”. She’s got books including “The Sexually Confident Wife” (which her mother bought her); she won’t read it. I know her so-called Love Languages. They are completely opposite to mine; what is high for me is completely low for her and vice-versa. I have read His Needs Her Needs – I help around the house, with the kids, basically everything a woman could ask for. And does it increase our physical intimacy (not just sex)? No. And of course, when I read all the marriage-building posts, I usually end up angry, because there’s so much stuff there for my wife to read but she’s got no interest at all.
I honestly think part of the “problem” (in this instance it’s not one as such) is that she is the typical Phlegmatic personality – laid back, not overly motivated, why fix it if it’s not broken mentality, not overly emotional, keeps VERY much to herself (even with me – keeping her relationship with God to herself). She is just naturally a very private person. Whereas I am mostly the opposite personality type (not saying they are to define a person, but a good indicator). I’ve got a very high mix of Sanguine and Melancholic traits; very emotional, into touch. (I actually think I am particularly like the “fifth” temperament, Supine) And especially now, I’m feeling very needy emotionally. But I don’t want to crumple in a heap at my wife’s feet because it’s not manly. It gives an impression of being weak, especially for someone as matter-of-fact as her.
Her refusal to be sexually intimate, coupled with the lack of any physical attention I’m getting & her unwillingness to change or improve, is hurt very, very badly. I know that my wife loves me and we love each other, as poster #1 said. So right now my only real hope is that the Spirit speaks to her, maybe prompts her to do something. I’m going to try this passive approach for a month or so. If nothing improves I will go by myself to a sex therapist or similar. I would really like to leave her few days with an ultimatum to force her into action, but not sure whether this would do more harm than good. Also, I’m naturally suspicious (and probably has evolved from my line of work), so of course I evaluate every possible scenario. No I don’t think she is having an affair, or emotionally involved with a girlfriend. She did have some problems with that when she was a teen but had them resolved. I think she knows the risks are too high, and besides there is no one she would get with. I sometimes briefly think of a woman whom I almost dated when I was a teen, and what life would be like with her (she is still single). But we are too similar and it would not work (besides this being completely sinful). Believe it or not, my wife and I make a very good couple. But I’m stuck in neutral on this one. She doesn’t want to help but I’m not going to go anywhere else.
So, if you have anything to share from a woman’s point of view, especially with dealing with my wife’s temperament, I would love to hear it. Remember, except for the Spirit changing my wife’s attitude/heart, I’m on my own here.
@kwala… one part of your comment that really jumped out at me was…
“But I don’t want to crumple in a heap at my wife’s feet because it’s not manly. It gives an impression of being weak, especially for someone as matter-of-fact as her.”
Maybe crumpling in a heap and revealing the depth of your pain might be a reality check for her that this area of the marriage the two of you share has room for improvement.
You also said “Believe it or not, my wife and I make a very good couple.”
Obviously there is love between the two of you, as well as commitment to the marriage.
I’m not saying it’s easy to address these issues (and certainly it does sound like you have tried numerous ways). I agree with you wholeheartedly that going to a counselor, even alone, would likely be beneficial. If she goes too, it may open up new levels of conversation, even if that means getting to the root of some of the pain. If she does not go, you still likely could benefit from a third perspective, as well as you simply going sends her the message that you are willing to do all that is within your ability to improve the marriage.
I do grieve with you… that this area of your marriage is not all you had envisioned it would be. But I also lean on hope that things can change.
To annonymous of 4:06pm – although I do not suffer from the same problem in my marriage, I do understand what you are going through. May I just ask if you have sought help from your pastor and other leaders from your church? Your wife’s attitude is sinful, and sins should be confronted and if there is no repentance, I think it would be the case for church discipline. True, I’ve never heard of a church that has disciplined a member for not having sex with a spouse, but why not? The point is not to humiliate your wife publicly,which obviously would only make things worse, but I was wondering if she has a good reputation in the church, or has some function or something. The objective of church discipline is to “gain your brother”. On the other hand, if she were confronted by the church and remaine unrepenting, she should be considered gentile and publican.
I have been married for 19 years. And when I read the above posts about spouses refusing to have sex, it makes me cringe. It makes me so upset to see how people have taken such a blessed thing as marital sex and made it into a chore, or even something that they with-hold from one another because they are putting their own needs first!
This is a Christian website, correct? So, I’m assuming lots of Christians read this and post comments on here….. so why do we follow what the Lord tells us in the Bible, -BUT- we don’t recognize how we are supposed to live -sacrificial- lives for each other. I would think that sex with the person that we love should be the least of our problems!!
Don’t get me wrong, I know that there are physical limitations in some marriages–like a handicap, etc. But we have to be careful that just because we have a sink full of dishes, that we can’t at least once a week give a little intimacy in our marriages! It’s not ALL about ourselves!
I am the wife. My husband is the refuser. We have been married 19 years. It has been 19 years of getting refused. 19 years of coming to him and him flatly saying “No” to my advances. We do have sex, but it is ONLY when he has decided to make it -his- choice. It’s a one-way road.
My husband knows that if he wants to change our marriage for the better, then -he- needs to make certain choices, ie: counseling, getting an accountability partner, reading books. If he cannot make those changes, then I guess it will sadly show me where his dedications lie–to himself–and that is pure selfishness. But I will stay with him, not because I am a martyr but because I love him AND he will have to face the Lord for his choices in this marriage!
Everyone remember that marriage is not two separate people, it is two people that the Lord has put together to become one, and when you become one couple, –it can’t be all about yourself–!
I love reading your posts. Over the last 8 years of marriage we have dealt with deployments, addiction/recovery, cancer, infertility, a blended family, 2 new children, family and daily life issues, and most importantly infidelity through porn, chat rooms, and anything short of an actual person. Through it all, I have sought counsel from various places, marriage bloggers, therapists, pastors on how to improve me, how to be forgiving and kind, ways to foster healing, etc. And all of the advice I have gotten is keep having sex with your husband. Don’t give him a reason to keep straying. It’s an addiction, he can love you and cheat. But I don’t think that is true. And I am a higher drive wife. It kills me to be rejected just to find out he is giving it away somewhere else.
I hurt for the two men who shared about their wives. I cannot even imagine the idea of signing away my gift of sex, but honestly, I am in that boat right now. Thoughts of divorce, an affair, and just being sexless forever are the only solutions I see. Every time he gets caught, I hear the same song and dance. I can literally do it word for word at this point. He has have way tried therapy (but can’t go because of his job), 12 step programs (but he can’t do that because it takes up to much of his “at home” time), pastor guidance and accountability (but he can’t keep doing that because they don’t ask him enough). Those are all things he has said this last time.
I believe in marriage and not walking away, but at what point does one have to ask ‘ how many years will this continue until it eventually escalates? And at that point, will I be young enough for it to not feel like I have thrown my life away on a man who clearly isn’t interested in making the same investment? I concur wholeheartedly when you said they were road blocks; and I have been continually walking head on into them for 5 years straight! Argggggg!!!!!!
@Victoria… thank you for your kind words about my site.
My heart grieves over your situation. And it does indeed sound like you have tried and have continued to try to give him every opportunity to change his adulterous ways and to fully commit to his marriage.
While I understand to a degree some of the advice you have received about making yourself sexually available to him, I at the same time sense that the issues going on within your husband aren’t just about your sexual availability. Obviously. You are making yourself sexually available and your husband continues adulterous behavior.
Actions speak louder than words, and if he keeps making promises of change, yet fails to back up those words with actions, then it’s no wonder that the divide between the two of you is widening.
Hebrews 4:13 says we all must give account for how we have lived. Nothing is hidden from God.
Every marriage is different, but if you have sought the insight of the church and given him every opportunity to start being accountable for his sin, then I would prayerfully consider about next steps.
Certainly, don’t have your next steps be sinful (an emotional or physical affair, etc). But from a biblical standpoint, you certainly have grounds for a separation. I’m not telling you to do that. You have to decide based on the circumstances within your marriage. You know your husband; I do not.
I’m simply saying that your husband obviously doesn’t understand the seriousness of possible consequences.
My other suggestion is that you find support and prayer from at least 2 other Christian woman who are mature enough to keep your situation in confidence, not bash your husband, pray with you for discernment, etc.
I’m so sorry for what you are experiencing. My prayer is that your husband starts to see the light on this and realize that he, you and your marriage are worth more than his waywardness and poor excuses. He can be transformed by the Lord, but your husband has to be willing to walk in the direction of transformation.
When I read some of the posts I can really feel the hopelessness and angst people have in their marriage. While I was not dealing with outright refusal, my wife and I had some difficulties that, looking back on the whole thing, were driven primarily by a lack of communication in the area of intimacy. It was clear to me that I did not know how to proceed constructively, and so I proposed seeing a Christian counselor who could help us. While my wife initially was a bit cool to the idea, when she saw it was important to me and that I was considering going alone, she jumped on board.
It was by no means a magic flip of the switch, but I think counseling was extremely helpful for us. It helped us learn how to communicate more, and we both got a better realization of the other’s perspective.
For those still struggling, please don’t struggle alone. Go talk with someone, and make that professional a Christian counselor with experience in sexual issues. I think it can be a good start.
Although I have never been a wife who refuses, I have used sex as a weapon in my marriage for 12 1/2 of the 13 years i have been married, to my shame. My husband and I are both fairly new christians (5 years), and were both exposed to porn at a young age, so our view of sex was very distorted. I know sex was created by my Father, but couldn’t see how I was supposed to enjoy it when it took sooo much effort for me!!! 3 times a month was fine by me (I know that is a huge amount to many, but my hubby wanted it daily) about 4 months ago, I got sick of not having His best and I was led to websites like this that showed me that rather than a chore, it was my privelage to please my husband, and that i am the ONLY one who GETS to do that for him!!! It may not always be convenient, it may be a gift just for him, but I have found drive has increased when i make it a proirity, when I seek to please God by pleasing my husband, and I get a more relaxed, more attentive hubby!!! I say all of this only to encourage wives that it IS important to your marriage, and it IS worth the effort, and you never know, you may find you enjoy it!! I am now the higher drive spouse, would you believe!! I am having to lrarn to deal with postponement!! God can change a heart, if we will be willing to submit to his ways. I know this is sometimes not what one wants to hear after 3 years with no sexual intimacy, but dont give up, my God is able to meet all of your needs!! Praying for your marriages. Bless you.
After 25 years, everyday I find myself wishing I could just be single again. The loneliness is overwhelming. Sure we’re great friends but more like roommates. Sex does happen but it’s not very intimate. It’s seems like when it does occur she’s just going through the motions although she greatly enjoys it and usually attains fruition. Any initiation from her equates to a few squeezes here and there and I’m supposed to be hot-n-bothered.
Girls – Foreplay works both ways!
How boring. And the hair is just too much of a mess.
Think of it from a Gynecologists view point:
Would I want to see a tangled, hairy mess?
Do I want to see a very well groomed or bald area?
HHmmm… I’d say the person who takes pride in themselves is the most attractive.
.. just throwing that out there. Sure to each their own but geez how do you expect a guy to be attracted to the flower if the flower doesn’t look or smell appealing?
Oh come now, Noway. Trimmed/waxed pubic hair is a recent fashion. It only became popular in the last decade or two, and has led directly from porn trends. From the dawn of time to the 1980s, women had ‘natural’ pubic hair, and lots of it. [Can I assume that you wax every pubic hair from your private area, too? Because it’s now becoming trendy for men, you know.] Of course, I agree that cleanliness is paramount. But if you honestly find your wife’s private parts, as God designed them, to be such a turn-off, could the person with the problem be… you?
Is Helena at ChronicMarriage.com who you are thinking about, Julie? She has had some good posts about sex in a marriage challenged by chronic illness.
yes @J!! Thank you!!! http://www.chronicmarriage.com is the site I was thinking of!
So glad you stopped by to share that info!! THANK YOU!
Thanks Julie for articulating a common and very painful issue so well. We ve been married 10 years, are both Christians and are leaders in the marriage and family ministry in our church.
BUT. . . .
Our marriage, or shall I say our intimacy is in ICU. I empathize with many who ve shared here and somehow dont feel as bad now. We make love on average 2 to 3 times a month. This is nowhere close to satisfactory for me. Like many here, I love my wife and she says she loves me. Though she doesnt hug, hold my hand or kiss me much any more. I initiate this things to which she’s a passive participant. I believe in open communication; I used to share blog links such as this one and many others but each time I did, or when I brought up the conversation around our sex life she said I am pressuring her and I should stop.
It isnt barter trade but normally its hard to feel connected and close when your needs are not being met by the one person who should.
Recently, I discover that my wife was having an emotional affair with a very close friend. When I confronted her, she said it was my fault since I wasnt meeting her emotional needs. I was crushed. . . . still am. And we are the ones that sit to advise young christians how to start off well in their marriages! We ve taken a break from the ministry now.
Well, I am praying for myself, for her, for us. That God may restore us. That He may enable us to truly enjoy the wonderful gift of sexual and other intimacy. That He may keep us strong to resist all the temptation lurking around us. . . . and there’s plenty!
I will also pray for the many here who are hurting and in seemingly impossible situations. God is able!
I have been the refuser in our marriage and I never understood why until recently (I was if the mentality that it was a another chore that I had to do). My wake up call was when I suspected my husband of 7 years was having an affair. When I finally worked up the courage to ask him about it all the pain, hurt and resentment came out about our lack of intimacy. He had tried talking to me before about it but I would shut down and not want to communicate.
Like other commenters have said the rest of our marriage is wonderful. We love each other and our two babies. We are happy in every other way.
Since my wake up call I have been reading all I can about rebuilding our intimacy. He has asked for time to process his feelings now that it is out in the open. We are working on our communication and have talked a lot about our feelings. More in the last few weeks then all our marriage!
We have not yet been intimate because he doesn’t want it to feel fake. My biggest fear is that he may be emotionally unable to reconnect with me after 5 years of turning himself off. I am hopeful though that we can work through this and regain the intimacy we once shared.
Thank you for your site and words of encouragement. If only I had found it earlier the struggle would be much less!
My husband and I went through an intimacy dry spell a few years ago. It was hard to explain, I was really in love with him but had lost the mood to be intimate with him. I thought it could be hormonal, I’d given birth to my first child about a year before, but I couldn’t explain why I was still avoiding sex almost a year later. Eventually, we spoke with each other and put our troubles on the table. We sought some counseling and consulted some books. We communicated openly in a positive and constructive way. We each talked about our needs and set time aside to improve our sexual intimacy. Ultimately, what helped the most is that we set time aside for ourselves to give ourselves a chance to rekindle our attraction. We planned a romantic weekend together, away from work, our child, our stresses and found that intimacy wasn’t a real problem; the stresses of daily lives were. We reconnected and have worked to keep a keen eye on our activities since then, fueling the flames with occasional romantic getaways or nights out to be alone with each other.
Please tell me how, when I have done this to my husband due to relentless daily stress and building resentment, I do not continue to not be interested when he only steps up after we have sex? I thought we had really turned a corner to find that we are right back where we were. It’s just so difficult to be hot for him when he’s lazy and lacking any initiative and I’ve been working two jobs and trying to take care of everything there is in the household. I’m down to one job and its not any better. Help me.
@K… I’m so sorry for what you are going through. If you have tried to lovingly yet firmly convey to him how it makes you feel that he is not more supportive and that you don’t really feel like the two of you are partners in this thing called marriage and life, then I would suggest marriage counseling.
Even if you can’t afford a counselor, check to see if your church (or a church in your community) offers any kind of pastoral counseling.
Also, you need good support. If you don’t already have a few Christian women in your life who you can confide in, then I would encourage you to pray that the Lord would cross such women into your life or reveal who you should reach out to. And I am thinking of women who are mature in their faith, will listen non-judgmentally, will not bash your husband, will pray with you, etc. Sometimes just having a safe sounding board can be helpful when we feel we are in a stagnant place in marriage.
Also, are you and your husband involved in any type of small group… maybe a group of other couples through your church, etc.? Sometimes building good accountability with other couples can enrich your own marriage… if your husband can begin to see that he has room to grow in his role in the marriage.
There are a few books out there too that you may consider…
“How to Act Right when Your Spouse Acts Wrong” by Leslie Vernick; “Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage” by Michael Misja and Chuck Misja; and “10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages” by Karla Downing.
My heart goes out to you… I am sorry about what you are experiencing…
I thought I’d write a quick follow up to my depressing post the other day. It is still sad but I’ve at least done something. The other day in a joking way I had my wife complete the Love Language quiz, and there were no surprises as to hers, and that we’re completely opposite. We briefly talked about it and over the weekend I didn’t mention sex and things seem a bit smoother.
Last night our kids had a sleepover at grandma’s house. My wife had a lot of work to do but I was hoping she would take some initiative to come to bed early and get some intimacy happening (I told her that I’m not initiating or anything). Well I “spoke her love language” all night – helped around the house, got dinner, cleaned up etc. Then nearing bedtime I simply got ready for bed, and she kept working. There was no way she was gonna stop working and come to bed. I had been putting a lot of hope on last night being something good (seeing the kids were away) but it wasn’t to be. I ended up going to bed early, full of anger, resentment, hurt, and pretty much crying. Not only that, but I didn’t get to sleep for over an hour. Then when my wife finally came to bed, I was still so upset that I went and slept in one of the kid’s beds. And I hardly slept all night; I was so hurt and upset that my wife still doesn’t want to be intimate despite having perfect timing.
So this morning after sleeping in and getting ready for work (and of course hoping for some early morning loving, which didn’t happen), I had a depressed mood and wasn’t talking. My wife, in her typical deliberately being nice voice said “Love you honey”; so of course I replied saying I loved her too but I was so upset with her. After trembling over tears I finally told her why I was so upset, why I am hurt she doesn’t want to do anything etc. She said she had no idea I wanted to be intimate; of course the conversation moves onto her suggesting that we’re not compatible and maybe I should find someone else – which is really a shallow statement because we both agreed that other than the intimacy issue, we have a great relationship and suit each other. I think she says this because she knows there’s a problem but doesn’t have an answer and doesn’t want to fix it. She said no to getting help, and basically no to fixing the problem. She has no desire to have sex, and despite me saying that it means so much to me, she always sidesteps the issues – saying that is she making an effort with physical touch with me. I explained to her Dr Laurie’s testosterone levels thing (men vs women) which she thought was funny. But after repeated pleading for her to make an effort, the response was fairly average and non-committal.
Ever since I started praying for a change in her and in our intimacy, it’s been ME whom God has been hitting with things to change. Fair enough, I have changed a few attitudes and things I say. But I’m desperately pleading with God to change things with my wife, or at least something. Like I said before, my wife’s placid personality has its challenges here, especially when it comes to change. So now I’ve said all I can, pretty much broken down in front of her (which is what you said might work), and now all I can do is plead and petition the Throne for a change of heart.
I want to have sex with my husband. I admit that I have been denying him sex over past hurtful comments about my weight despite going from 230lbs to 185lbs. I feel better about myself but now I can’t seem to want the sex and even turn it down. This is my first marriage and I don’t want to loose my husband because I can’t get turned on! HELP!
@Alea… thank you for your comment. I’m sorry for the pain in your marriage.
My encouragement would be that you approach your husband humbly and tell him that you do want to work on the intimacy in your marriage. Be honest about your struggles but also express to him that you are hopeful the two of you can address these struggles together.
Also, begin to recognize that sex isn’t just good for your marriage, it’s good for you personally. Yes, lots can discourage a couple from nurturing their intimacy, but if they can begin to together grasp what a positive impact it has on them and their marriage, that can help give motivation to actually wanting to have sex.
Don’t rule out having doctors check your hormone levels. Sometimes hormone levels can get out of whack and can affect desire. Same would be true of some medications… don’t change your medications without talking to your doctor, but talk openly with your doctor about whether they could be affecting your sexual desire.
Also, consider marriage counseling. Marriage counselors tend to be very adept at moving a couple past stumbling blocks to a point where they can have productive conversation and solutions about the things that are limiting their marriage.
I hope some of this is helpful…
I am always so hurt and surprised by all of the poor men (and women) out there that feel like the only answer left is not being intimate at all. I am a Christian woman who was married to the same man for ten years with two beautiful sons. We had a rocky marriage, and sex was a huge part of it. I did all the wrong things. I refused him. I acted like it was a chore. I cringe to even say this, but sometimes I would just lay there and let him do what he needed. We are divorced now. He left. There were many things wrong with my marriage, but it was a rude awakening.
I am remarried to a wonderful man, and it is a rule in our marriage to never say no-either one of us. It works well. We talk about sex often, and it feels so much healthier than ever before. If you are a husband or wife reading this and YOU are the one refusing your spouse-IT ISN’T JUST ABOUT SEX. You are slowly but surely breaking them by turning them down again and again. I never knew the hurt was so bad until my ex-husband (still married at that time), who is a big, macho policeman broke down and cried, telling me that I was destroying him. It is real. Please be intimate with your spouse. They need it to love you.
First of all i want to say that i am trully grateful for this blog. It hasn’t pointed out all the intamacy issues that I have, I’m reminded of them everytime that my husband initiates sex (yes,unfortunately he is the main one to initialize it,one of my regrets and something i am going to change starting tonight) but this blog has helped me realize thatintamacy and sex trully are important and sacred in a marriage. Its not that i dont fulfill his sexual needs to the best of my ability, he has rarely been denied and its usually because one of the kids is needing my attention,and then the next one and then by that time our 3 month old is waking up and ya know, the moment for a quickie is gone. Anyways, no my problem isn’t with giving him sex any time he wants it and time allows. My problem has been that I often begin dwelling on my past while we’re sharing whats supposed to be an intimate moment. I wasn’t a virgin when we realized that our feelings were deeper than just a mutual attraction. More than not just being a virgin though, I had a bad history with sex. Not realizing the sacredness of it and Gods true purpose for sex, I had had sex with men just to not be alone. Even going so far as to sleep with married men to fill thevoid of love in my life. Ididnt really feel bad at the time, it wasn’t until i began reading the bible that I had realized what I had done, which was only one short month before meeting my husband. I had thought that i had moved on from it and forgiven myself, but since i became convicted of my sin, i can only see sex as that,sin. I suppose that its satan getting into my head to keep me from enjoying something that God intended to be cherished not shameful. As all this is finally setting in and my mind is at peace with the truth, I know that pulling my marriage out of the emotional debris that my guilt has caused is not going to be easy, but with hope, love,prayer& dedication I have faith that i can show my husband that I am trully sorry for letting my baggage affect our relationship so long and that with his compassion and forgiveness we can have the marriage that God wants us to have. Thank you again for this blog, it has helped me to understand what marriage is and how God intended it to be.
@kristin m… thank you for your honest and vulnerable comment. You may want to check out this post I wrote about not allowing past promiscuity to rob you of genuine marital intimacy:
In her book “Is That All He Thinks About” author Marla Taviano tells the story about a woman whose favorite things to do are shopping and scrapbooking. When asked how often she would get to do those things if she could do them only with her husband, the reply is: “not very often, so I just go do them with my girlfriends.” Then Marla tells her: the favorite thing of (most) husbands to do is indeed sex, and they cannot do that morally with anyone else on the planet, only with their own wives, so why is it fair to deny them this one activity ?
About 10 years ago my wife punished me for 3 full years by withholding all physical contact, not only sexual intimacy. There was no touching, hugs, kisses, etc and she tried to avoid letting me see her nude. Of course, the emotional intimacy went out the door, too. But when she was around my relatives, then she played the “all-loving wife.” Our child was kinda young then, and she wanted another child. But there was a series of confrontations between us, the last one concerned where to put a cedar chest in a room, and she became very violent and threw heavy items at me in the house. In most of these fights she threatened to divorce me, the first time was just 2 weeks after the wedding. I did all I could to calm her down and encourage her to be reasonable. That last time I vowed I could never have a second child with a woman who was so unstable. It appeared that the stability of our marriage was based on fleeting desires, not on any real decision to weather the tough times, nor the wedding vows.
So during those 3 years I was a celibate husband, but I continued to do my duties of work and tasks around the house.
among others. I played with our child very often, several hours daily in fact, while she spent many of her free hours glued to the TV; I even took the 3 of us on vacation trips every year. I now look back on those times, I should have said “I don’t feel like going on vacation trips anymore. Let’s just sit at home.” But I did it all for the child. We 3 used to walk in touristy areas, and if I tried to put my arm around her, she would immediately pull away, I wonder what the people nearby thought of us.
Recently, for over 2 years, there was another dry period of no physical contact. The past month now she has been receptive to me somewhat, but her attitude is not really enthusiastic; it is mostly like she finds all physical intimacy to be a chore, something to be endured; her real joy in life appears to revolve around TV and movies.
She has never agreed to oral sex in our marriage, either giving or receiving. And now she says in regard to handjobs “No way ! That is what hookers do, and I am not a hooker.” In the last month she has said I am treating her like a prostitute, even when all I gently ask for is some bonding time together in the bedroom.
I feel really sad when I read the comments here about you husbands and wives who remained virgins until your wedding, thinking that your obedience to God would really bless you in marriage, and then your marriages soon became empty of the intimacy of which you had God-honoring expectations to fully share with your spouses.
I’ve been married for 8 years. The first two years was amazing but then I became suspicious. He would go downstairs and sleep and later I found that he was having an affair. Six years have passed and it has only grown worse. I am rejected by him, he sometimes have sex with me and gets an orgasm and leave me feeling like a ——. I still don’t trust him. I have confided in some mature Christians who are really praying for me. I quit my job over a year ago to be with my famil and of course we have been tight in finances but he has been verbally abusing me. He calls me real hurtful, unbearing names. I can’t lie and say that I don’t think about giving up because sometimes I do. Sometimes I feel so vulnerable but somehow God gives me strength. I don’t know what to do? Please help………
@Shawny… thank you for sharing so vulnerably about your situation.
Is your husband still having an affair? Even if he is not, it sounds like from what you have shared that he is being emotionally and verbally abusive.
If it is too difficult to talk to him about the marriage, I suggest you write him a letter, expressing that you want the two of you to work on the struggles you have. Express to him the pain you have felt from how he has treated you and that you want the two of you to seek marriage counseling…that you are committed to healing the pain between the two of you and growing closer and stronger, but that you can’t do that alone.
If he refuses, I suggest you go to Christian counseling on your own and/or have more conversations with these mature Christians you have confided in to pray about what to do next.
Leaving a marriage is by no means an easy decision, but staying in an abusive one is not healthy either. And if there is any possibility he is still having an affair and is not willing to stop that and work on the marriage, then that is one more aspect where it shows he has essentially left the marriage already even though you two are still married.
I can’t tell you what to do, but abuse is not okay. The foundation of marriage is love and respect… not only for each other, but also for God’s Word and commands. Your husband is being careless with all of the above.
My heart goes out to you… I’m so sorry…
Julie, I saw my post here from 6 months ago, and I just need to respond; I wasn’t going to but I need to. Whether anyone reads it or not.
So in 6 months, we’ve probably ML that many times or less. Nothing has changed. I got a relapse of a medical condition, things have been a little rough. But still things have evened out now, for normal life. Yet nothing in our intimacy has changed. Well from my end it has, let’s see – regular gifts, helping around the house, lots of prayer, throwing myself on the marriage bed, pleading with God, facing greater temptation etc etc.
I’ve tried to seek Godly counsel on some reputable marriage forums and basically been told to “grow some” and kick my wife out of the bedroom.
I was hoping God would change my wife’s heart and despite my slight hope that He will, nothing has happened. I am cut to the heart, I am depressed, I hate looking at these marriage websites because they’re all aimed at people who want to improve their marriage. My wife doesn’t want to, so what’s the point? She’s more interested in sending text messages to her girlfriend 24 hours a day.
So Julie I am at breaking point; plus my new meds are making me even more depressed and one minded. My wide thinks I’m a hypercondriact. So either God comes through for me soon and softens my wife’s callous heart or I drown in a sea of depression, lust and porn. I’m sorry but that’s where I’m trying to swim out of right now.
In this article alone, more than one wife has had to have a divorce happen to her before she decided to obey the Scriptures and not withhold her body from her husband. It really makes you realize how smart those rules are, doesn’t it?
Here’s my question: WHO is failing to tell our nieces and daughters how to behave in marriage? Their mothers? The church? The fathers? How can sexual refusal be men’s #1 problem in marriage and yet it keeps happening over and over and over?
All I can attest to is what *I* did. When my daughter was engaged and close to her wedding day, we had an adult talk. I literally laid the success of her marriage on HER. That’s right, I told her that the majority of marriages break up over the lack of sex, and that SHE held the keys to her future as a wife. I did not want her to have to go through a divorce to discover how important a life-long commitment to sex she was stepping into. I shared that my own marriage’s success was based upon her mother’s willingness to keep intimacy alive for the past 30 years. My daughter will NOT be having the problems that this website addresses, that’s for sure! My daughter and I are very close and I know she took my advice to heart.
Before anyone criticizes me, read Sarah’s post on this thread. Without trying to hurt her feelings, her two sons would still be living with their father had she treated her first husband like she treats her second husband. For many wives, it takes a divorce before they see the destruction they cause to their marriages for completely selfish reasons. I feel the entire purpose of this website is to PREVENT destroyed marriages like Sarah’s. I can only pray that Sarah will be honest with her boys and tell them WHY their father left, that she created the broken home, not him. And as for her integrity, I can only hope she didn’t demand alimony or insane child support from her husband when he was the victim of her actions. Such waste, and more boys brought up without their father. I’m overjoyed she’s realized what she’s done to her family, but it was all preventable.
I cannot thank Julie enough for creating a place to go to like this. I only wish marriages like Sarah’s could’ve been fixed before it was too late.
I was very moved by your post above. I am a husband who is constantly denied access to my wife’s body, and have been for about a dozen years now. My wife also denies me intimacy of any kind, like, she never even touches me, never does anything with me, never has any words of affirmation for me, and she clearly prefers conversing with her friends and online social networking, and gallivanting all over town doing good deeds for the community or you name it, if it doesn’t involve me, she does it—all the while ignoring me and treating me like a roommate or a lousy business partner.
For the 13 years we have been together, sex has been very infrequent, and only after I would ask and ask and ask and do chores to please her, she would occasionally grant my requests for sex, but always at the same time of her own choosing, and same method of her own choosing, with the least amount of intimacy possible. She doesn’t even like being in the same room as me in the house, whether she is happy, mad, or neutral toward me.
I lately have been putting my foot down and have been more demanding that she treat me like a husband. After all, she tricked me into marrying her by pretending to be, quite literally, the most affectionate woman alive. You wouldn’t believe how she bombarded me with tokens of affection—until I married her. Then it all evaporated in the wind.
I just read your post and half of me felt like applauding and the other half felt like crying.
There is an extreme likelihood that my wife and I will be divorcing extremely soon. Her reaction to my demands to be treated like a real husband have caused her to harden herself, arch her back, and now suddenly she springs it on me that she is moving away with our children to a place that will make it inconvenient for me to see them. I married a really damaged individual, I now realize. And it makes me sad, the tenor of Julie’s post, and your response, which includes the alarming message that neglectful, selfish wives like this do indeed wake up, but they tend to wake up too too late, too late to do anything but moan over their mistakes. You are describing my wife to a T. She has already done this once before. I left once before over this, and it took about four months for her to suddenly wake up and want me back. She had a marvelously selective memory about all the sex and intimacy she denied me. I only came back to her at that time because a hideous tragedy struck my family and I was devastated over it. I came back and she was super affectionate–for about three months, then she went back to her Vulcan self. But now the same stuff is happening all over again. And this time I won’t be reconciling if I go, because this thing is a sexless, touchless death trap for me. I know I can’t wake her up. Nothing I do can ever wake her up. And I have, sadly, learned that the LAST place I can go to for help is through any local licensed religious official, “Christian” or otherwise–which of course is entirely in keeping with Jesus’s words–but even though I know that I’m still awfully awfully awfully lonely.
Wow. It is amazing to read these comments. Thank you so much for this post and website. I have been married 7 years and just a few months ago finally asked my husband how often he would like to have sex…. It has been difficult for us to communicate d/t resentment for other issues, but we have gone up to 8mos without sex before. I remember always feeling ugly around my husband– he used to hold my hand and take me on dates our first year, but once I had our first baby (now we have 4, age 6 and under) he seemed to act as though I was not ‘hot’ or desirable. I noticed he wouldn’t look at me at all when pregnant– when I was wearing any pajamas that were tight or I thought, sexy… And it was like pulling teeth to figure out if he wanted sex. I finally just started going to bed before him. After our 4th baby, 6mos ago, I saw him looking at another woman from church (who honestly was wearing shorts of her 12 yr olds!), and it really bothered me… I was sitting there, chubby from swelling from having the baby — 4 weeks old– and 30lbs heavier than before our wedding… The main issue I had was that after staring at her for a couple hours, he wanted to have sex with ME. I was so hurt that night. I have never denied him. But he has gone months after babies… Except after staring at her. So… I finally asked him so that I could know and provide this for him… Also, me wanting desperately to feel close to him. And all he did was throw the question back on me. “Well, how often do you want it?” I have never gotten an answer even after asking again. We are having sex more often, but I feel lost. It isn’t helping me feel any closer like I thought. I know he has his friends to talk to, but I always thought when you got married that was the best friend– the closest person to you. I feel like we are friends but that he shares more with his guy friends or his brother than with me. The sex is nice, but at this point it is honestly making me feel cheap. If it makes some feel closer, it makes me realize how far apart we are emotionally.
After 29 years of marriage, I am losing hope. Refusal started within 2 weeks of the ceremony. Except for a 3 year period to have 3 kids, it has been my reality. Spent literally thousands of dollars on conseling, no improvement. Our biggest fights were always about sex. About 4 years ago, she said if I stopped bothering her about it, she would feel less pressure, and she would be willing more often. Frequency went from 2 to 3 times a month to about once per month. Pray daily for God to help me. Thanks for listening.
I hate reading comments like these. It’s very heartbreaking, actually. I married a year and a half ago and was one who used sex as a bargaining tool. We were sexually active before we married and it makes me cringe at the thought of it. Anyway, it wasn’t until I came across this blog and a few others that I began to understand the devastating impact refusal can have on a marriage and the relationship. I didn’t even realize that there was a term associated with it. I just thought that if I wasn’t in the mood or if he upset me that sex was off limits until I felt like it. Well, luckily I figured that I had it all wrong very early on into our marriage and made the changes I needed to, to encourage a thriving and happy marriage. We’re both fairly young, under 30, and still have some sexual struggles but we’re both learning how to navigate through them.
My hope is that men and women who refuse their spouse is that they stop serving themselves and begin doing some soul searching to find what it means to be a husband/wife and the responsibility that comes with it. And refusal isn’t just about sex, it’s about intimacy; we all crave it and need it to feel connected to our spouse. Once you marry, it’s no longer about you, but two people coming together to serve one another. If that’s not you’re idea of marriage then you probably had no business marrying in the first place.
[We] have become so wrapped up in our own wants and needs that we put our spouses on the back burner and then 30 years down the road wonder how we got there. Well, it doesn’t take much to destroy the marriage so don’t be that person who thinks everything is going fine because you’ve gotten everything you want when the other spouse is plotting their exit plan and serves you with a divorce when the kid(s) are out of the house.