Reader Question of the Week: Sexless Marriage

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license: weekend I like to post a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week a reader shares her very personal story of a sexless marriage.

My husband has always been a Choleric driver-type personality who is very focused on work and being productive.Sometimes his job seems like it’s 24/7 – when we were first married he wasn’t home much and now he is home more but slaving away in our home office. Even when he’s not at work he spends a lot of time doing yard work or researching and managing our investments. Like so many people in the current economy, he is stressed out about his job security. It seems like he’s either working like a madman or worried if things are slow.

This has been going on ever since I met him and of course, it has negatively affected our intimate life. I think that he sees sex as a fun leisure activity when he has some spare time. However, he never has any spare time! He would feel guilty taking time out for sex when he should be doing something more productive like reviewing the investments or answering work email. As a result, our sex life has been pretty sad – we have officially been in the sexless marriage category for years, and only really had sex while on vacation once a year! Since I’ve been reading your blog, we have been having sex more – maybe more like every 2-3 weeks. But I can sense that he is just going through the motions and has a hard time focusing. I know that this could be for other (scary) reasons – maybe he’s just not attracted to me anymore, or maybe he’s looking at porn, or having an affair, or maybe he’s gay. But I have known this man for 20 years and I honestly feel it’s work stress more than anything else.

What advice would you give to her?


  1. Continue to love and serve him as you are commanded by God to do and PRAY…a lot! Loving others is what changes them along with taking everything to the Lord in prayer. We can’t change anybody, only God {who is love} can change your husband.
    Lori recently posted…Voting For A MormonMy Profile

  2. A possible legitimate reason could be low testosterone. Because some reasons for low testosterone are pretty significant (ie., pituitary problems), it could be worth having it tested.

  3. Do you have a good church/pastor? Sounds to me like this man could use some all-around marriage counseling, and if he’s not willing to go, go yourself. Being obsessed with work is not healthy physically, spiritually, sexually, or emotionally, and it appears that he’s not making time for anyone but himself. Try to get him involved in reaching out to others in your church/community and see what a blessing and relief it is to invest yourselves in others. Pray for God to change his heart and reveal his selfishness to him.

  4. I think it’s true that men can lose a bit of their sex drives from work/money issues – when my husband is experiencing stress at work, he doesn’t get “in the mood” for sex very often. (For lack of a better term.) However, it does seem strange that your husband is so obsessed with work. It seems like there may be deeper issues – perhaps psychological or mental issues that are driving him? There are mental illnesses (like obsessive disorders, or obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other things) that can make a person abnormally focused and obsessed with something in particular. I would get his testosterone levels checked out, but I would also try to get him in to see a psychiatrist.
    Jenny recently posted…Coping skills to deal with stressMy Profile

  5. Maybe a therapy? Christian therapy for both of you. We had these problems years ago. We had sexless life. I thought it is what it is, no way out, but God has change that. He started changing me, my behavior towards life, my husband and all the rest. I am not saying you are in the same position as I was, just sharing. Prayer can change everything and everybody.

  6. Speaking as a man, I’m a bit of a workaholic as well. However, this hasn’t killed my sex drive one bit. So, I’d have to say that there’s a deeper issue. While it could mean infidelity, including pornography, I wouldn’t be all that quick to jump on that bandwagon. Stress can kill a man’s sex drive, that’s certain. So, can some health issues. However, I think the bigger issues are usually spiritual and emotional. Has he ever been abused? Was he homosexualy abused as a teen or pre-teen? While this cause some men to lean in the direction of homosexuality, it cause the same effect in others, that it does in women, driving them away form sex.

    The other important issue I see here is self-esteem. Many men who are workaholics are that way because they are looking for approval. By and large, men receive their feeling of self-worth from their work, more than from their home life (women are the opposite). So, if he was never properly affirmed, especially by his father, he may be trying to prove that he’s good enough. How are your finances? Does he really need to work that much to pay the bills and give your family financial security, or is he overdoing it? Don’t answer that question based on how you feel about it, but rather an honest appraisal of your financial situation. Is there anything that can be done to take some of the financial pressure off of him? Perhaps cutting out some unnecessary expenses. Any responsible man will drive himself to work like a dog, if that’s what’s necessary to pay the bills. So, to eliminate him working that hard, it’s necessary to eliminate the reason for him to work that hard.

    You need to affirm him a lot as well; especially if this is an issue in his life. If you have sent him any messages that he could interpret as he’s not good enough (notice that I said, “he could interpret, not you could interpret), then he needs those messages overcome with much stronger messages of your confidence in him and appreciation for him.
    Rich Murphy recently posted…Have You Washed Her Feet Lately?My Profile

    • Anonymous says:

      Interestingly, men who were sexually abused/molested/raped by women when they were boys grow up more traumatized and with more sexual dysfunction than men who were sexually abused/molested/raped by men when they were boys. (I’ve read quite a bit on this subject…..)

      My husband experienced a traumatic sexual event in his childhood (as a very young child), and it has definitely impacted our sex life. So that is something to consider, as well as mental illness – or perhaps a combination of both. In any case, it’s something that must be approached very delicately and gently, because when a man experiences sexual trauma in his childhood, he is still the same broken and brokenhearted little boy inside, until he deals with it. Men typically self-medicate, which is often through alcohol, but sometimes through things like work as well.

      Anyway, I definitely think taking him to a psychiatrist and therapist would be beneficial, just to zero in on the issue, as to why he’s throwing himself into his work to such a degree, and why he isn’t interested in sex. It’s good to have Christian therapy, but don’t go to some random crackpot. Often people who are Christian therapists don’t have proper training or knowledge, and can actually do more harm than good. However, if the person actually knows what they’re talking about (has a solid education, etc), and approaches it from a Christian perspective, that’s a good thing. Still….I’ve come across several Christian therapists who were a huge waste of time and money, and only a single one who was worth a darn. Although the non-Christian therapists don’t help with healing very well, because they don’t have a Christian perspective – so yes, just….research, research, research, and don’t feel like you have to stay with a therapist if they’re not helping. And don’t cross off medication – it’s often necessary.

  7. There are so many possible reasons and answers to this situation. I can say that we will be praying for you. I also would suggest that she really prays hard until something happens. Mostly remember that men are naturually prone to want to initate sex, and the trick is to get him to want you without you making an actual move. (If you don’t feel sexy then he’s not going to find you sexy.) (I’m very obese due to health reasons that haven’t been able to get resolved, but my husband loves it when I am full of confidence in my body.)

    I would also talk to your pastor and see if he can head you in the right direction. He may know what is really going on with your husband.
    Crystal Green recently posted…Beauty Blogger VoxBox ReviewMy Profile

  8. I would like you to know you are not alone. When I was reading your question/story I felt like it was my own. Like you i am convinced my husband is not being unfaithful and it has already been confirmed that he has low testosterone levels however because this has been the pattern of our 20 plus year marriage I know this is not just a hormone level issue. He did not grow up in a Christian home and his Dad viewed porn openly when he was growing up so I’m sure part of the dysfunction comes from this in his formative years. However it is very frustrating when you have to tiptoe around the subject when you are trying to encourage him to get help for his own sake as well as your marriage but you have to be so careful to not bruise his ego. I appreciated what the gentleman had to say above and for anyone whose answer is just pray for him and serve him, you have obviously never lived in a marriage where lack of sex is a constant issue to deal with. Satan wreaks havoc on any self esteem you may have had or are trying to conjure up and believe me we have been praying for 20 years!! It does not help for your husband to say, “trust me honey, it has nothing to do with you, I just don’t desire sex” It is equally tough when you have no intimacy outside of sex bc you don’t want your husband to get the wrong message that you are looking for sex. It is a very complicated issue and really one that is breaking down all the good parts of your marriage as well. I can say that outside of this issue we have a lot of great sides to our marriage, They would be the reason I have stayed and tried to work through this for so long. I was surprised that you mentioned that once you started reading this blog some things changed and you have had sex more often. Is that because you shared what you were reading and learning with him and he felt compelled to action, or did you keep the information to yourself and just change some things you were doing?? Believe me, in 20 plus years I have tried every approach known to mankind to get a different response.

    • Anonymous Today says:

      Tammy, I am the reader who sent Sheila this question – I am so sad to read that this has been your predicament too. Unlike other women’s sexual issues, this one is hard to share with anyone – no one gets it, you feel like you are betraying your husband by discussing it, and I personally feel such a sense of shame and inadequacy as a wife and as a woman when everyone else is complaining that their husbands won’t leave them alone.

      Our situation might be different from yours, though, in that I had so many hangups and issues of my own about sex that the lack of thereof wasn’t a huge concern for me for many years. I had a vague sense that we were missing something that other marriages had – and of course the culture tells us that we are missing out big time if we aren’t having lots and lots of sex – but I was on the Pill and was dealing with so many other problems of my own that I put sex out of my mind on a day to day basis. And then we had our 2 kids and l was busy with them and he was still working 60-80 hours a week and so we continued to lead separate lives. Last year things just felt like they were getting worse – it must have been the cumulative effect of 20 years of growing apart (we dated for 8 years and have been married for 12). Anyway, things were miserable and somehow I found Sheila’s site and books and other Christian blogs and marriage books and read and read and read. And prayed and prayed and prayed!

      Sheila’s 29 Days gave me the courage to buy a couple of pretty nighties and make the moves on him for the first time ever (with the help of a glass or two of wine). I forced him to talk about the issues with me – sometimes I was a little too forceful, and we had a lot of fights about it intitially. And I got really panicky when he didn’t seem as gung ho to make up for lost time – I really felt like I was bullying him into being intimate with me and he was really just going through the motions. Another great resource, Tammy, is the book “The Sex-Starved Wife” by Michelle Weiner-Davis. It’s not a Christian book, but it is pro-marriage. I found it really helpful because she delves into some of the emotional problems men have with intimacy and helped me to soften my approach to my husband. So often we assume women are the only ones who have emotional/interpersonal stumbling blocks to intimacy. There really are some men out there who need to feel emotionally connected (or respected or appreciated) before they can be intimate.

      It’s been almost a year now since I started the “Marriage Saving Project”, and while things aren’t amazing they are much better. In the summer, we started to schedule a regular “date night” on the weekend and it has helped a lot. My husband has started to initiate the dates a little more – a few weeks ago he actually said “I’ve been looking forward to this all week.” Our God is SO GOOD!

      I know that once a week is really the bare minimum – and I have to admit I feel so envious when I read these blogs and comments – but when I consider that I used to be able to count our annual “dates” on both hands (some years only 1) and there was a 3 year stretch where we weren’t intimate at all, I cannot be grateful enough to God for how he has blessed us. We still have a long way to go but at least now I have some hope that we can keep moving along the path. And I have grown so close to God through this – I had really made an idol out of my husband and our marriage, and I feel He used this experience to help me realize that my relationship with Him should come first. So even if things don’t get any better with my marriage, I will be OK.

      Tammy, I will be praying that you and your husband will have a breakthrough and be able to reconnect.

      Thanks as well to everyone else who commented – I have followed a number of suggestions already, but there are others that I will try too. This is such a great online community – lots of food for thought!

      • Anonymous says:

        Look up Doug Weiss…he talks about “intimacy anorexia” and he has a number of books that might be able to help you. It could be any number of things, but this is what came to my mind first…and trust me, I know what I’m talking about. Praying for you and your husband that you find the answers you need and that you make positive changes. :)

  9. Hi, all.
    Several people have already mentioned the issue of low testosterone; this can be a life-long thing, so get it checked out! That could be driving all of this, and resolving it could completely change things. There are supplements, etc., that can help. I had one man come to see me looking at surgery, but after adjusting his testosterone level, he was completely fine and back to enjoying sexual intimacy with his wife.
    You might consider seeing a Christian sex therapist. I don’t know where you are (I do this kind of work myself), but you could try checking on
    or calling the organization and asking if they have anyone in your area. Since this is a long-standing issue, that might be a good option for you.
    Hope that helps!

  10. One thing in the question really struck me, and that was that he often worries about his investments and when his job is slow.

    I don’t know his background but I would wonder if he grew up in poverty or something similar and that had an effect on him. I know many men who struggle with this issue, having come from poverty and seen some of the hardships that it can cause with their parents and family they become obsessed wtih work and their financials to the point of shutting out almost everything else.

    They never feel secure in their current position, even when they are wealthy or at least very comfortable to them they are still on the brink of poverty because of a skewed view.

    As a husband and father I can tell you the responsibility to provide for your family weighs heavily on our shoulders, compound that with an issue like above and I can see what the questioner described happening very easily.

    I’m not sure there is an easy solution and I would think that couselling is a must in this situation.

    Just my thoughts.

  11. Here are some ideas based upon the steps I took to save our nearly 20-year sexless marriage. At the time, I was close to walking out, but I desperately wanted to give it one more chance. So far, things are better, not where I want them to be, but at least the trend is in the right direction.

    1) Find the time and privacy necessary to have a heart-to-heart talk, a long one. Spill your guts using a lot of “I feel…”, “I need…..”, with a few “I appreciate…..” thrown in for good measure. If you need to cry, then cry. Just pour out your heart and soul. Tell your husband you don’t expect him to respond that night to what you are telling him, but you want and need him to hear it, think about it, and pray about it.

    2) If he is open to working on the marriage, get a thorough medical checkup to rule out those issues raised in the comments above.

    3) Each of you take the Five Love Languages test found here. Then buy the book and read it to each other at night after the house is quiet. It sounds like his primary love language is acts of service, rather than physical touch or quality time.

    4) Buy Sheila’s book and read it to each other.

    5) Keep talking.

    6) Keep reading marriage blogs & books, attend a marriage seminar

    6) Keep praying.

    7) Seek marriage counseling if there is no noticeable improvement over the next few months.

    8) Never give up.

  12. Is he ok with you coming in when he’s in the office? Does he have issues with you getting on his computer or phone? If he’s open with you in those areas then I wouldn’t go immediately to porn/affair territory. But if he’s being secretive at all then I’d worry. My first husband I thought was a workaholic because he was always in the office with the door closed. He had his own computer in there. I was completely surprised when he came home one day and told me he was leaving me for a 16 year old he met online in an online role-playing video game. So it can happen without warning. We’d been married 5 years and I had never found evidence of porn use or had a suspicion of an affair. Our sex life was bad though, and looking back I think I should have known there was something going on. Naive as I was I thought that he couldn’t be having an affair since he never left the house.

    Regardless, you do need to have a heart to heart with him. I second asking him to have a medical work-up. I also recommend couples counseling if you can get him to agree, and individual counseling if you can’t get him to go with you. Just try not to sound like you’re being accusing. Say things like “I feel like. . .” instead of “when YOU do this. . .” etc. If you really pour your heart out in a non-accusatory way and nothing changes then maybe it’s time to talk to your pastor. But I definitely think talking to him in a vulnerable way should come first. And don’t let you talking to the pastor be a surprise to him if you decide to go that far. You ought to give him some warning and let him know you’re doing it because you care about your marriage. Otherwise he’s likely to feel like you just went and tattled on him.

  13. securelydesired says:

    My husband often feels less “in the mood” when he is stressed – and so do I. But like so many have said, this is a 20 year pattern, there has to be more here. Trust your instincts, and love your husband. A doctor’s visit might be a good idea but as mark says – never give up.

  14. Here’s a response sent to me by email from a reader:

    I am sorry for your situation. First, I’d like you to know this has nothing to do with you. It seems to me your husband is constantly occupied with something. He has a void that will never be filled with” doing”, it can only be filled with love. God’s love, and human love. He has built up walls , one being this facade of always being busy. It is his coping mechanism to avoid whatever it is that he is running from. It could also be that he has childhood abandonment issues, and learned to keep himself busy to fill the emptiness, or he made himself appear to be constantly busy to avoid an uncomfortable situation. One thing is certain ,you are not his priority, because if you were, he would fulfilling your needs before he does anything else. Your husband is hurting over something he can’t admitt to himself, let alone share it with you. As I type this I am visualizing a scenerio: You are both drowning, your husband uses the only life jacket, to swim ashore, because he is a” very busy man, you’ll be alright,” and once a year he comes in a boat to visit for a brief time, then he pushes you back out and says “well back to work, see you next year”(on vacation).Your question is the cry for help out in the deep. Help is on the way. The helicopter pilot has a keen eye. He will find you, and never ever leave you or forsake you .His name is Jesus. Get involved with positive people that will affirm you and be a source of comfort. If you begin to feel guilty for feeling happiness again , remember who came to visit you once a year when you were drowning. Pray for your husband to allow Jesus to save him…from himself.

  15. concerned reader says:

    From what you say, it seems that whatever the problem, it is a 20 plus year problem, and in my experience when a spouse is gay or unfaithful it usually comes to light very early on in the marriage, even if the marriage holds out for 30 years despite the private struggle. I think you are right in your knowledge and assumptions, and whatever is ailing your husband is simply not visible to the naked eye. I can’t imagine how hard it might be to get him in for counseling, that can be a huge roadblock for many men. However many men and women have a positive experience attending counseling together once they go. Even though this problem may be bigger than you it’s not bigger than God. I hope the best for you as you take steps to gently confront the deeper issues here. My FIL and his wife are separated currently as they deal with some very very serious issues that demand almost daily counseling 5-6 days a week, addiction classes, etc. They have been separated for almost two years but somehow have fallen in love again, and spend the weekends together. He never fell out of love, although he has major issues that have remained hidden for countless years. It is a very unique situation but it teaches me to hope in overcoming even the most tragic and extreme of difficulties in marriage. I am in no way equating their marriage to yours, simply saying that they are finding healing and love through God and professional help and I hope that you can also find help for your husband and you.

    With Love,
    Concerned Reader

  16. I’m not embarrassed to buy your book in a store. LOL! I just love the fabulous deal that, that is!! :) A friend recently got it, and I want my own copy!! Is the deal still available or no? I just came to your website today!!! Thanks!

    • It isn’t available like that, sorry! You can still buy it and I’ll autograph it, but you’d have to pay shipping. But you can get it from Amazon for about the same price (including the shipping) here.

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge