Husbands and Wives Respond Differently to Sexual Rejection


couple-arguing-on-bedI wasn’t sure how to write a headline to capture what I want to convey. Keep reading to see if I hit the mark.

My friend and I were talking about sexual rejection, and I shared with her that in my experience as a writer and speaker on sex, I have noticed that men and women respond differently when they are sexually rejected in their marriage.

Now I know I’m painting with a wide brush, but I do see threads that lead me to believe that men internalize and process sexual rejection differently than women internalize and process it.

I’m wondering about your experience if you have been sexually rejected.

How did you feel about the rejection?

How did you respond?

What conclusions did you make?

My observation has been from emails and comments I receive is that when a husband is sexually rejected, he tends to question his wife’s love for him. I’ll hear things like, “I’m a good provider. I work hard. We both help take care of the kids and the house. I am affectionate with her.”

In other words, his observation of himself is positive. He wonders why she would not want to love him sexually. Her lack of willingness makes him question the relationship strength overall, to the point in some cases of wondering if the marriage can sustain ongoing sexual neglect. He also tends to be more apt to withdraw, especially if he has made his feelings known and there has been no change.

When a wife is sexually rejected, the comments I often receive indicate she questions deeply what’s wrong with her. The sexual rejection fuels her sense of low self-esteem. Am I not pretty enough? Am I not sexy enough? Am I not the right weight? Am I not doing something right? Her husband’s lack of sexual interest in her exacerbates her sense that she is “not enough.”

In other words, her observation of herself is negative. She wonders if she could do more or if she could do something differently in order to gain his sexual interest. I often hear women give a list of things they have tried, whether it be with their appearance or the ways they initiate sex. And rather than withdraw, they tend to keep trying to find “something” that will pique his interest.

Again, remember what I said up top. These are generalizations I have gained from the numerous emails and comments I have received over the years. I know that each individual has their own experience. 

Not surprising, even though men and women may process and internalize sexual rejection differently, universally there still is a tremendous amount of pain.

Whether a husband is on the receiving end of rejection or a wife is, they overwhelmingly are grieved deeply and confused. In some cases, they are angry about the lack of nurtured intimacy. There is a grander toll on the marriage than the spouse inflicting the rejection realizes.

Above I asked “What conclusions do you make?” if you are the one rejected. The conclusion I often hear is, “My spouse does not love me.” This then spirals into more self worth battles for women and more resentment and withdrawal for men.

Clearly, sexual rejection is not something to take lightly. If your spouse has expressed concern about the lack of nurtured sexual intimacy, then I encourage you to sit up and take notice.

There is damage happening that is more significant than you have been willing to acknowledge—at least until now, is my hope.

It’s vital that a married couple build solid and clear communication about sex in their marriage. You may assume you know how your spouse feels, but you could be wildly off base—to the detriment of not only the marriage as a whole, but to each of you individually, too.

Husbands and wives may process sexual rejection differently. But the pain is searing for both. If sexual rejection has plagued your marriage, now is the time to heal and reconnect.

For more reading, you can cruise through my list of past posts, as well as my page with a bunch of posts on orgasm.

Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

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3 thoughts on “Husbands and Wives Respond Differently to Sexual Rejection

  1. CS says:

    I felt inadequate as a husband, unattractive and unable to awaken any desire in her. I was failing her, because I couldn’t be whatever she needed to awaken any kind of passion in her.

    I initially responded by trying to meet any need she had, hoping she’d then want to meet my needs. I verbalized my needs, and she listened, but basically said she didn’t think about physical intimacy much at all, so it was just never on her mind, so she was never in the mood. When my attention to her needs and my communication did not result in any change, I withdrew and got bitter and resentful. And I protected my heart by eventually training myself to not see either of us as sexual beings. My desire then went away.

    I concluded there was nothing in me worth her attraction, and since the problems in a marriage are always ultimately the husband’s responsibility, as the spiritual head and because so many teachings, even in the church, seem to imply the man is always the cause of any relationship problems, I figured whatever the problem was was because of me. My sexuality, as a male, was the cause of our lack of intimacy, and it was on me to fix it. But I was too overwhelmed and discouraged to try, because whatever she really wanted, I couldn’t be it.

  2. Tyree says:

    I float back and forth between the two, I question my wife’s love for me, and I question my self worth. But this also may be a result of previous trauma, since my ex-wife decided she wanted to have an affair with a woman, rejection hits hard as a failure on my side, doubled. Causing me to question my manhood. Resulting in me pulling back because I don’t want to experience the rejection again nor do I want to become overly aggressive and abuse her verbally or emotionally. I tend to regress to music or something else to distract me from the immediate pain. So I go into my emotional cave and lick my wounds.

  3. Barb says:

    We had no sex before marriage and as a new Christian I thought my strong desires were wrong. 6 mos into our marriage I asked him why we he no longer was interested. There were some issues he was dealing with on same sex attractions. Then he had an affair with a young coworker while I was raising 2 little ones. My desire was so strong, I was strong in my faith yet that killed me. Counseling did not help. He ignored the pastor’s advice to “just do it!” Despite “permission”’to leave him since he basically abandoned me, I am sacrificing my own wants and desires to keep our family intact as one child is disabled and now I know I will never have what God intended. I truly do not care much for him any longer except as a roommate. Sad but irreconcilable.

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