5 Dangers of Saying No to Sex

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a post, and then you all can comment or link up your own marriage post in the Linky below!

Today’s post is a guest post from Julie Sibert who writes at the excellent blog Intimacy in Marriage.

Is it dangerous to deny your husband sex? I personally believe it can be…

5 Dangers of Saying No to Sex

Here are 5 Dangers of Regularly Saying “No” to Sex:

1. You compromise your marriage vows — and possibly your marriage itself.

Long ago, in my first marriage, as my husband was walking out on our life, I was somewhat shocked to discover that he had been drawn to another woman. But as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

I see clearer now what I did not comprehend then.

If the raw pain of my divorce taught me anything it’s that sex cannot be taken for granted in a marriage. A thousand “could-haves, should-haves, would-haves” cannot begin to express the regret I have that we did not address the sexual struggles in our marriage.

I know what some of you are thinking. ”Well, my husband would never cheat. He would never leave.” That may be true.

But the flip side is he may hate staying.

Though his heart, hands and feet may not wander to other beds, his eyes and thoughts easily could. I hear from husbands all the time who…

…hate the situation they are in.

…hate the desperate loneliness of constant sexual rejection.

…hate feeling trapped by Christian morals they have grown to resent.

I’m not saying there is justification in adultery or walking out the door because of sexual apathy. What I’m saying is that if you regularly deny sex to your husband, you are indeed compromising your marriage vows and making your marriage more vulnerable to attack.

I should know. I have been there. And I have done that.

2. You buddy-up to Satan.

Satan’s go-to method is division. He knows that sexual intimacy is an incredibly bonding force created by the Lord to strengthen married couples and endear them to one another.

Obviously, Satan doesn’t want you endeared or strengthened or bonded to the very person with whom you have a covenant relationship.

When you disregard sex, you give Satan one more firm foothold on which to stand as he relentlessly seeks to cause division in your marriage. Seriously. That’s what is going on. If this is news to you, I pray that big red “Danger” signs are flashing in your mind right now.

I pray too that the harshness of those realities does not shame you or guilt you to your knees, but humbly brings you surrendered to your knees.

Ask the Lord to help you reclaim the ground in your marriage that has been given to Satan… especially any ground that you gave to him.

3. You hurt the person you love.

You do love him, right?

Well, if he is like most husbands, one of the ways he best receives that love is when you regularly enjoy sex with him. It’s not the only way he receives love, but if you were to ask him, “Do you feel loved by me when I’m enthusiastic about sex? What does it mean to you when I make sex a priority?” — what would he say?

Be brave. Go ask him. Doing so may stop you from the danger of hurting the person you love.

4. You ignore time-tested wisdom of nearly every marriage counselor.

The very people who make their living from listening to distraught couples in desperately broken places would tell you that when sex is ignored in a marriage, danger is lurking just around the corner.

Counselors become intimately aware of the costs that are paid when a husband or wife has forsaken their marriage bed, whether it be to another lover or simply to selfish or careless neglect.

5. You tell God that He must be wrong.

At its core, this is possibly the most devastating danger of regularly saying “no” to sex. It grieves God’s heart.

Dig deep into God’s Word and it becomes abundantly clear the precious value He puts on sex in marriage, as well as the agonizing consequences when a married couple mishandles or ignores it. Whenever he speaks of marriage, including sexual intimacy, He longs for us to understand its significance.

Through a lot of soul searching and humble reflection, I know that long ago I had a hand in putting my first marriage in danger. While sex was not the only contributing factor, I’d be foolish to not recognize the role it played.

My heart is that you see the dangers of regularly saying “no” to sex before you find yourself looking back on similar regrets.

Julie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two sons and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer dog who refuses to stay in the fence.

Now, what marriage thoughts do you have to share today? Link up a marriage post in the Linky below!

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  1. Except for the divorce aspect, your experience is mine, Julie. I thank God for other women who have had the distinction of walking the same or a similar road, for the support and for the amazing clarity of hindsight. The pain from apathy can bring a person to her knees — and as you have found, it happens for good reason. I know I was blind. I could see my side of the story, but not my husband’s resentment of our marriage and his falling away from faith because he resented the ties that bound him to it. My one crowning glory, as the “old me” would have seen it, was that I never said, “No,” in words. I had dozens of diversions, excuses and barriers in order to avoid saying it. Whether you say it or act it, you have the same result.

    Today, we have rebuilt to a tremendous degree, and continue to learn and grow together. We both acknowledge that we are in better shape now than we have ever been. If I had not turned to God, we would not be here, together, right now. Only He has the power to overcome US!

    Thanks for a terrific article which I will share with some friends who share the struggle, and for a few who don’t realize what they are doing to their marriages because of their indifference.
    Amy recently posted…Critical ResolutionsMy Profile

  2. I agree with all you’ve written here, and I’m a 42 year veteran of a marriage where intimacy is still an important and exciting aspect. And I appreciate that you used the word “regularly” throughout your article. Women should not feel fearful they will lose their husband or disappoint God if they occasionally postpone their husband’s advances.
    Gail recently posted…Please Pray for Me in 2013My Profile

  3. Anonymous says:

    I understand what you’re saying and agree that regularly saying no to sex is dangerous, but these types of warnings can sometimes make it worse. I struggled with zero libido for about a year or so. I still said yes when I didn’t want to and it just built up feelings of resentment for my husband even though he wasn’t doing anything wrong. I read books (not Sheila’s yet – it came out later) that I wanted to throw across the room because the message that I got was to suck it up and do it. There were reasons that I was avoiding sex. Once I figured out what those were and dealt with them, I started to desire my husband again. Now we’re having more (and better) sex than ever.

    • That’s so true. I’ve read plenty of those books, too. When we get into a spiral of “obligation sex” it can be very detrimental for the marriage. I think the key thing is to do this:

      1. Realize that God meant for sex to be something good for you–even if you can’t see how that’s possible right now. It’s an act of faith.
      2. Commit to figuring out how #1 is possible. See it in terms of what God wants for you, and the abundant life He wants to give you.
      3. Talk to your spouse about this and make it into a research project you do together!

      When we see it in those terms it’s easier. But at the same time, there is a danger that many women (and some men) just write sex off as unimportant, and we do need to heed that warning. It’s always a bit of a balancing act.

    • Hurrah for you! There’s a huge difference (IMO) between seeking answers and just giving up. You are (as Agatha Christie would put it) on the side of the angels :)
      Natalie recently posted…James and Paul or what my sister-in-law is teaching me about graceMy Profile

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you Natalie and Sheila so much for this! I had never thought of there being a difference between seeking answers and giving up. It had never occurred to me to write sex off as unimportant, and I spent so much energy condemning myself for not wanting it. If I hadn’t done that, then perhaps healing would have been easier and faster (or maybe not, but at least it wouldn’t have been so depleting along the way). Now if I can just apply that same grace to the other struggles of life! :-)

  4. I think this is so true. It reminds me of what Dr. Phil often says about sex in marriage, (and I’m loosely quoting) “when it’s going well it’s 10% of the problem but when it’s not going well, it’s 90% of the problem.” I really like #2 – because I know it really bonds me to my man, and when it’s “not” a priority we drift. Thanks so much for the wise words, Julie, and to you too, Sheila, for bringing us this important encouragement!

  5. I’m going to go out on limb here and say that men and women should be able to pursue divorce/separation for sexual withholding. While it’s not a common stance in the church today, I believe it’s admissible. Here’s a couple links to some old blog posts that more fully explain what I mean: http://commontricks.blogspot.com/2008/08/more-on-slave-wives-and-question-of.html and http://commontricks.blogspot.com/2008/08/note-on-slave-wives.html

    I’m not advocating a “never say no” policy. I think Sheila’s post on what “do no deprive means” is chock full of common sense. I’m not saying that ED or bed rest or pelvic issues are grounds for divorce because in those cases there is no intentional withholding (although a refusal to address the issues would be problematic). I’m not saying that once a week “please just get it over” sex is the answer. Men and women should work together to understand what creates and kills attraction and practice being attractive for each other. Hormonal issues, stress, medications and the like can all kill libido. Being a slovenly nag will kill desire. Being an irresponsible man-boy will kill desire. Some men and women complain about lack of sex while constantly hitting the other person’s “do not like!” buttons. I’m not for one second saying that a husband who sits around drinking beer all day while his wife works and raises the kids gets to take the moral high ground when his wife doesn’t want to touch him.

    Here’s what I am saying. Marriage is more than sex, but it’s not less than sex. Husbands and wives doing their best to be generous with each other will have dry spells that aren’t about anything more serious than a little extra stress. But there are cases in which one person will leave the other person high and dry for some vicious reason of their own, and in those cases I think that (given a reasonable amount of time to document and address the issue) the defrauded party has the option to leave.
    Natalie recently posted…James and Paul or what my sister-in-law is teaching me about graceMy Profile

  6. I just wondered if you knew that the contraceptive pill apparently – in most cases – REDUCES a woman’s sex drive (thus robbing her of her natural sexuality and sex drive). Obviously tiredness (if there are children in particular) and unfulfilling sexual experiences with a husband (he’s a “wham bam thank you ma’am”-type or has some other sexual oddity) can also induce a woman to reject sex.

    I have never refused sex with my husband even when I didn’t feel like because I see it as something very important for “bonding”, but I don’t think women should bash themselves over the head too hard over this – many maybe trying to navigate several things which supresses their sex drive (the pill, unfufilling sex, tiredness, exhaustion etc).

    The only way to work through it is good communication, and possibly consider changing contraception methods so that the woman’s natural God-given sex-drive can return.

  7. So true. My husband and I have a friend who divorced a number of years ago and the lack of sex was a major issue. He told my husband that he kept track for a year and that in that year, they had sex 35 times. This came up with some other friends (who don’t know this man) and what was funny is that the wife of that couple and I both thought, “Well, that’s every 10 days. That’s not unreasonably infrequent.” Both of our husbands were thinking that once every 10 days was terrible. Just shows how perspective can be so different. Even if one partner feels like the frequency of sex is fine, that means little if the other is feeling slighted and turned away.

    • Dana, your experience with the informal “poll” reminds me of many discussions my husband and I have had on that very subject. It all depends on who you ask!

      My husband, like your friend’s ex-husband, tallied our encounters several years ago. While I don’t remember the number, your divorced friend would have come out looking like a sex maniac.

      The difficulty, for me as a wife, lay in hearing demands for sex, rather than a plea for connection. That’s where communication comes in, I know. When one or the other spouse feels little to no connection emotionally, mentally or spiritually, trying to have the physical connection falls flat. But, you have to start somewhere. In our rebuilding, I got my God connection going, and that led me to the physical. The others began to fall in line as we worked — together — at our marriage.

      Thanks for reminding me about that tally. It makes me feel sad for my husband’s circumstances at the time, but I can rejoice at the progress now.
      Amy recently posted…Critical ResolutionsMy Profile

  8. MrsDennis19 says:

    I guess I’m not there yet, I feel as if articles like this need a disclaimer, as much as I believe I shouldn’t regularly refuse my husband, I think it’s totally unreasonable to expect enthusiastic participation EVERY time he asks. That’s just not going to happen. Not unless I quit work, get rid of the kids and let the house go lol. And I can’t pretend I’m into it when I’m not. I feel that’s belittling to him. Idk like I said I’m lot there yet I guess.

  9. I love this article, and your wonderful blog. (SHH– Yours is my favorite of everybody’s and I always recommend it.) This link up is great and it drives more traffic than anywhere to my site, so I appreciate that too. Wishing you all the best in 2013 Sheila!
    Melinda/Auntie Em
    Auntie Em recently posted…Just Do It PSMy Profile

    • Thank you so much! That’s really sweet (and quite an honour!). I appreciate your comments and participating in Wifey Wednesday, too! :)

  10. I completely agree with not withholding sex and the value of it in the bonding process, and not letting satan get a foothold. I have learned the hard way the results of not realizing this sooner… My husband has been addicted to pornography for the entirety of our 20 yr. marriage – and there was an affair, and several “encounters” and emotional affairs. Despite all of this, we have had a very loving marriage- but it seemed we could never come to terms with resolving the sexual issues. It was never enough for him, and I also had health/emotional issues that prevented me from seeing the real need that he had that wasn’t being met, complicated with his addiction. Currently, for the first time in our marriage we have been separated for the past month and he has been threatening divorce for a year and a half. He is no longer a Christ follower either. I believe he just “gave up” fighting/overcoming the addiction and feels abandoned by God- which he has now concluded does not exist. I am standing on my covenant promise and am believing that God will restore our marriage and bring my husband back to Him and me and our girls. My question is this: my husband still comes to me at least once a week for some kind of sexual encounter – as I wouldn’t exactly call it lovemaking at this point. He always apologizes after, and quickly leaves. I have no guarantee that he isn’t involved with any other woman/women. So, I am struggling with saying – NO to him. After so many years of not meeting his sexual needs, I can’t stand the thought of telling him no- the irony! :/ I don’t want him to go elsewhere… So, what do I do?? I know he is not respecting me, and he expresses no intention of working on our marriage and isn’t even acting like my husband at all-other than the finances. Yet, we are still married and I feel responsible for meeting his needs as his wife. :/ Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you…

    • Kimie, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this! You definitely are on a hard road.

      However, I would say that you can’t resolve your marriage issues by simply having sex, and in fact you could make them worse at this point. If you don’t know if he’s seeing other women, I would definitely be saying no to him, because you do not want to get some sort of STD. That’s not safe for you.

      I think the thing to do is to work on whether or not you can reconcile entirely. Sex would be the last step, not the first. I would suggest seeing a counselor together, if he’s willing. But he does need to work on his addiction issues, and you need to work on your own sexual issues. It sounds like you’re willing to do that, but what I’ve found is that you can’t keep a husband from leaving by being a doormat. You have to rebuild an actual, healthy relationship.

      A counselor is really helpful in this; and the best book I’ve found to walk you through this would be James Dobson’s Love Must Be Tough. Prayers for you!

      • Thank you, Sheila. I actually have read that book- along with many others! ha ha I would love to go to counseling with my husband, but he will not agree to it. He doesn’t admit that he has an addiction, at this point. It’s so sad to see him spiraling down and embracing the sin, after fighting with it for so many years. I do believe that God is telling me to totally surrender him to the Lord, this is a work only the Holy Spirit can take on, to get him to a point of realizing his need for repentance and healing. I have gone to counseling for 5 months and am seeking counsel from my pastor and a trusted mentor. I think my “word” for this year, is Surrender- surrendering everything to Christ! :) The crazy thing is, that also means MY sexual needs – again the irony. Now that we are separated, I have reached a point of healing within myself that I want to be “one” with my husband in every way-more than ever! Waiting patiently for God’s timing… not mine. :)

        • I just want to say, you are amazing!!! May God bless you as you wait patiently for your husband to return to you.
          Lori recently posted…Winning Prodigal ChildrenMy Profile

        • My husband and I are working through the fallout of long running, and intense sexual addiction as well. To make a long story short, Until I drew a line in the sand and said “no more – please leave”, my husband kept allowing himself the “grace” to mess up. Like any addiction, the addicted person needs to fully experience the consequences of his addiction in order to motivate change – to even come to a place of admitting there is a problem.

          Restoration CAN happen. Your desire to reconcile is the first step. Stay faithful in prayer. Trust God – not your husband in this matter. A man’s brain chemistry changes which when he participates in pornography – this affects normal sexual responses and how he thinks, and it takes time to change that- to detox(even if he wants to).

          I encourage you to draw the line in the sand and leave it there until changes have been made. As long as he gets what he wants, he will never feel the need to FULLY change his ways. Feeling the full impact of his choices will push him toward God and repentance. It is more loving to your husband than giving in to him at the first sign of interest in changing- which may very well (in his mind) give him the freedom to continue doing what he is doing. Love your husband well by being tough on this issue.

          With God all things are possible. Glad you are going to counseling. My counselor told me just yesterday, “your husband is doing his work, you need to be sure you’re doing yours and your ready for him when he is.” Some days I want to, others I don’t feel like it – there are more issues swirling around me than just the sexual addiction which makes it hard. But I’m moving forward one day at a time.

          May the Lord bless you on your journey toward healing and reconciliation.

  11. Thanks Sheila and Julie – This is very good advice that probably feels like “tough love” advice to many wives. I encourage women who rarely feel “in the mood” to begin researching, investigating and addressing the reasons, and also to do some reading and talking to find out what sex really means to their husbands. I was very uninformed for many years about how truly important sex is to my husband. Someone mentioned the pill, which can be an issue for some women(it was for me). Sometimes very serious issues need to be addressed. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of women frequently having responsive sexual desire, meaning that they aren’t in the mood until they get started, but then find themselves responding and enjoying it. I just encourage women to keep seeking answers – books and blogs like the ones written by Sheila, Julie, and other Christian women have been extremely helpful to me and thousands of other women. Things can change, but it requires work, communication, information and prayer – not necessarily in that order!

    Gaye @CalmHealthySexy recently posted…Strategy #1 – Move Your Body Every Day – CalmHealthySexy 2013My Profile

  12. It’s true, you have to be aware of it and talk about it. There could be many reasons why couples have trouble in their sex lives but if you don’t figure it out, it’s just going to get worse. I went through a period where some medication I’m on completely killed my sex drive. It was hard. But once we realized it was the meds and what to do about it, things got better.
    Melissa recently posted…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!My Profile

  13. Jeannette says:

    I’ve got a question. When my husband and I were first married in 08 my sex drive almost rivaled his, which is saying something. But since having our son 3 years ago my sex drive is completely gone. We just had our daughter a month ago and after many losses and two births that nearly took my life we decided to go with permanent sterilization. Now that we don’t need to worry about hormonal birth control anymore I’m hoping my sex drive will go back to normal, but in case it doesn’t, I want to know…

    What can I do to want to have sex with my husband when I really don’t?

    My hormones say I’m not at all interested, but I find my husband attractive and want to want to have sex with him and be intimate again. I know he’s been struggling and doing his best these last 3 years but it’s not fair to him or our marriage. He just doesn’t enjoy sex when he knows I’m doing it without actually wanting to. :(

  14. I cannot tell you how moved I am by this post. Unfortunately, I, the wife, am in a sexless marriage. My husband and I have an incredible relationship, but our sex life is in shambles. We are together every 5-8 weeks, and it offend lacks emotion and love. I know I play a role in his lack of desire, but I’m not sure what it is or what I could do differently. I’ve tried so many times to talk with him, but I haven’t had any luck. His testosterone levels are normal.

    Unfortunately, there aren’t many resources or support groups available to women in my position. It’s come to the point of my having to accept that my amazing husband just isn’t interested and that I’m stuck here for the long run. (He’s 40, I’m 31.) I’m sad, lonely, and I feel rejected and unwanted. Wives, take it from me…don’t ever ever ever let your husbands feel the pain of rejection that I feel on a daily basis.

    • Lindsay, I am so sorry that you’re going through this in your marriage. I think this is the most common problem that I hear about on this blog, and I want women like you to know that you are not alone.

      I did write a series of posts for women in this situation, and you can find them starting here (with links to others). I hope they help! It is not biblical to withhold sex, and when people do that they’re really cutting themselves off from intimacy. I think it’s a fear of connecting more than anything in many cases. It’s one of the ultimate forms of selfishness–that refusal to let yourself go and be connected to another person. And it’s not what God desires for us at all.

      Prayers for you, sister.

  15. Tables Turned says:

    What if it’s the other way around….? My husband has denied me sex SEVERAL times… I have discovered he looks at porn and he was also looking at ads on Craigslist….. he lies to me a lot, which is very upsetting. I want him to seek counseling so we can make this work…. but I feel like I’m the only one putting the effort into our relationship.

    Any advice….?

  16. wow I have no idea that rejecting your husband from having sex with you can lead to serious problem. Now I know. Thank you for sharing this one and by the way you are amazing :)

  17. What if it’s the other way around….? My husband has denied me sex SEVERAL times… I have discovered he looks at porn and he was also looking at ads on Craigslist….. he lies to me a lot, which is very upsetting. I want him to seek counseling so we can make this work…. but I feel like I’m the only one putting the effort into our relationship.
    Tulisa recently posted…Can You Really Capture His Heart And Make Him Love You Forever?My Profile

  18. We have this same situation, but the other way ’round. My husband just doesn’t seem to need sex at all. Once in several weeks is enough for a 25-year-old man. And I know for sure, he doesn’t look at other women or doesn’t watch porn, he just doesn’t need anything…

  19. Wow, this is something I have dealt with for 21 years of my marriage. I live in a sexless marriage, my husband has a pornography addiction and in our 1st year of marriage I used to beg him for sex. At one time he told me that he enjoyed pornography better than sex with me. Needless to say, I entered an affair in our 2nd year of marriage, which lasted for 9 months. I separated from my husband and he acted like nothing was wrong. We got back together and have ended up buying a home. We were in and out of counseling for our first 12 years. I have come to realize that he is not going to change and sees no need to change, sex is only a small part of our problems. I have learned to live my life and have become very involved in my church. I stay with my husband for 2 reasons, 1st, being alone is a big problem for me and second, I don’t think divorce is what God wants for me. My husband is not saved.

    • Begging your spouse for sex is so humiliating- when I finally learned how to respect myself, I stopped begging. That’s when we started going months at a time without it. So far the longest stretch has been 6 months, with the latest stretch being 4 months. I had lived in my marriage loathing myself for the first 12 years. Now that I started counseling, after learning he had been lying to me about several things from his past, I’ve learned that though I can’t control how he treats me, the most power I have is in how I react. He has been VERY different with me- almost like a little boy who is doing something wrong, but isn’t sure if the parents know or not. He tiptoes around me, while still neglecting and rejecting me. But I try to remain as cool, and calm as possible, pretending to be happy and in good spirits at all times. He is gone a lot, so I have plenty of time to cry when he’s not here.

  20. yes but it also says… if a man has a lustful intent (which is possible with his wife) it is sexually immoral. and it also states if agreed upon take a withholding of sex in marriage to concentrate on prayer. (which I understand is needed if one has strayed)

    • Tyler Bryant says:

      Actually, lust for one’s spouse is not against the Bible since thats how God intended it that he would desire sex from his wife. Since thats all lust is, its alright if its for his wife.

  21. I’ve only said “no” to sex once in the last 4 years. The reason: he went 4 months without giving me any affection or intimacy. He wanted to just “break into it” as if nothing had happened, and I told him I needed more than that. He chose to let me be and make me wait two more days. The only time I ever said no before that was with my last pregnancy- it was very uncomfortable. He told me he didn’t mind not having sex for 6 months. It’s a very lonely, self-doubting place to be, married to someone who seems to be ok with not having sex. At least that’s what he claims…..

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