Reader Question: My Husband Wakes me Up for Sex

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at it. Here’s a difficult situation, where a woman asks, “my husband wakes me up for sex. Is that really reasonable?”

I may be being a bit selfish here, so I need to ask your opinion. We just had another baby a few weeks ago. Now there will be times when I initiate and my husband says no, which I am okay with. But then he will want to a few minutes later. Now this doesn’t seem like it should be an issue, but for example, today I had to go to work and knew I would be leaving in a half an hour. I offered for us to have a quickie before I had to go. He said he was okay. Then right before I had to leave, he asked if we could go in the bedroom. I got frustrated but didn’t want to deny him which of course killed the mood for him and he got frustrated.

Also our baby isn’t sleeping through the night yet. When we go to bed I am normally pretty tired already, I initiate and he normally wants to, but there are nights where he doesn’t…when I initiate, then as soon as I fall asleep, he wakes me up and says he is horny (or he will wake me up early in the morning around 5. I am a sound sleeper so I normally sleep through it and he’ll make comments about how I didn’t wake up to have sex).

I don’t want to deny, but it is so frustrating and I feel like he isn’t being at those times considerate. How can I communicate this to him in a loving way? Or am I being in-considerate? Any tips or help?

Let’s paint this picture a little more: They have a newborn. She offers him sex frequently, and he sometimes says no. Then he’ll come back and ask for sex at a really inconvenient time, and get annoyed when she doesn’t wake up.

Wow, there are a lot of issues here which make me a little uncomfortable, so let’s start with some fundamentals.

Husband Treats me Like a Sex Object--thoughts on how to create a better dynamic.

First Principles About Sex in Marriage

Sex Should Be Mutual

Sex isn’t just about using each other for your own pleasure. Sex is about sharing something together. It isn’t just physical; it’s also emotional and spiritual as well. That doesn’t mean that every time you have sex that the earth has to move for both of you, but it is about sharing something together, not using someone. There’s one part of the letter which could be taken in two ways; I’m not sure if she’s saying she sleeps through the times he ASKS her for sex, or if she’s saying she sleeps through sex. If he is having sex with her while she is asleep, that concerns me greatly. There is no consent going on, and there is absolutely no mutuality.

I’ve written more about how sex should be mutual here.

To Say “Not Now” is Not the Same as To Refuse or Deny

We aren’t to deny our spouses (I’ve written a three-part series on what that means as well). But it is not denying to say no to sex when you’re late for work, especially if you had given him the opportunity thirty minutes earlier. We are not obligated to act as if we’re at our husband’s beck and call sexually, with no regard to our feelings or our needs. Again, sex should be mutual.

Respect Should Be the Cornerstone of any Relationship

And what does respect mean? It means that you value the person as a person. You don’t view your spouse simply through the lens of what they can do for you; you hold them in high esteem based on who they are. If a spouse is asking for sex while you’re passed out cold because you’re exhausted with a newborn, and then getting cranky about that, or demanding sex right before you have to leave, that does not show respect.

Sure, playing “beat the clock” when you’re both into it and it’s something you’re laughing about together is one thing. Having someone consistently ask for sex at the worst possible times, even when they know it’s a bad time, is something else entirely.

Self-Control is a Christian Virtue and a Fruit of the Spirit

Asking someone to wait twelve hours until you can both enjoy it and both be there mentally and physically is not unreasonable. Again, you’re not saying “no”. You’re saying “not now, but soon.”

Those are some foundational principles. Now, with that background, what would I say to this woman?

Create a Relationship that is Mutual and Respectful

It seems to me that there’s a really unhealthy dynamic being set up in this marriage. They both seem to have this idea that when he wants sex, she should not say no, even if it’s inconvenient. He’s come to expect that, and he expresses displeasure if she says no (even though he often says no to her). This makes her into a sexual object, not a person.

Ladies, I talk so much on this blog about how we need to initiate more, and how we should be having sex frequently, both for him, but also for ourselves. I talk about how men need it. But I absolutely do not believe that this means that you should let yourself become an object to him. That isn’t glorifying to God or helpful to your husband or your kids.

What does God want? He wants each of us to resemble Jesus more and more. According to Romans 8:29, it’s His will that we should be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. We should be looking more and more like Him.

If you are allowing your husband to treat you with disrespect, you are encouraging him to look less like Jesus.

You are setting up a dynamic in your marriage where your feelings and your needs are considered unimportant. Do that for long enough, and it will be easy for your husband to overlook you as a person, and see you only in terms of what you can do for him. And that is not a healthy dynamic for the kids to witness.

You can’t DEMAND respect, but you can COMMAND it.

Certain people we automatically have respect for. Others we tend to discount. The difference is usually in the way the person acts. It sounds like this couple has set up a dynamic where he thinks he can get whatever he wants whenever, without thinking about her at all. And the reason that he thinks that is that she has allowed him to treat her that way. Becoming a sexual object for your husband does not point either of you in the direction of Christ.

So how would I handle this? I would begin by starting to be very forthright. This woman hasn’t been happy with the way things are, but she also hasn’t said very much about it. He has expressed his displeasure; she doesn’t mention expressing hers. In fact, the whole tone of her letter (and I edited some out) seemed to be, “do I have a right to feel a little bit upset, and to ask him not to do this?”

Let’s practice this. It’s 10 p.m., and you’re heading to bed because you know the baby will need to eat in a few hours and you need to get some sleep. So you say to your husband,

“I’m going upstairs now. If you want to come, I’d love it, because I’d love to have some fun with you tonight. But I really need sleep, so it’s now or never baby!”

You can say it in a fun way, but be very clear: you will not be making love in the middle of the night because you need to sleep.

If you’re willing to have a “quickie” during the day, and you offer and he says no, that’s fine. But then if he comes back half an hour later, at a time that is really inconvenient, you simply say,

“I’m sorry, babe, but you missed your chance! I’ll try to find some time tomorrow.”

Start saying this enough, and he’ll start taking you seriously when you initiate, realizing that it’s now or never.

Will he be upset? Perhaps. That’s okay. He’s allowed to have his feelings, after all. But you’re allowed to have yours, too, and you can talk about it, and just say,

“I want to have a great sex life, and you are an amazing lover. But there are other things I need to get done, too, and I need my sleep. So let’s look at how we can find times to make love where it’s for both of us, not just for you, and where I can still get the sleep that I need.”

If he continues to be upset, then you need to let him have space to have his feelings. But it is not okay to set up a dynamic where you become an object, rather than a human being with real needs.

One more thing: I would not be being this harsh about this had she not also said that she initiates frequently and says yes frequently. I do believe that your needs are important, but so are his, and having a regular, active sex life is a legitimate need. So don’t take any of this advice to mean, “Great! It’s okay to say no every single time I’m tired!”, especially if you’re tired every night. I’m just saying that in the context of a marriage where there is regular, frequent sex, let’s make sure that we’ve got lots of respect going on, and that sex is totally a mutual thing.

I’d love your thoughts now, too! What do you think about a husband who wakes you up for sex frequently? How do you handle that? Let me know in the comments!

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  1. Hubby wakes me up every now and then for sex. And I love it. You see, I need a lot of sleep. Which Baby Girl never gives me (even though she is over four). And letting me sleep a little rejuvenates me enough to enjoy making love with him. And the passion that I feel emanating from him is amazing. It doesn’t happen often, and I think it may be a bit annoying if it did, but I dl relish it when it does happen – especially if we’ve been through a bit of a dry spell because I have been so tired. Its lovely and its sexy. But it is mutual. And not overdone!! :-)
    The Baby Mama recently posted…Your Tag CloudMy Profile

  2. Alicia Marie says:

    Wow, I am going through the same, but my husband has always been this way – even before the 9 week old baby got here. He seems to only be in the mood in the middle of the night. I get all dolled up during the day and wait for him to notice me. I try and stay up all night and wait for him to make a move and often times I fall asleep waiting. It kills my self esteem and makes me feel lonely for the intimacy I miss out on. I am one that never ever rejects my husband because I believe its a sin, but he will always reject my advances. So it’s only a one way street. He couldn’t wait anymore 6 DAYS after my Csection and I didn’t reject him even though I waited 7 weeks with the last baby and my ex husband. All of this has lead me to be lonely. Until now, I’ve only ever had eyes for my husband, but lately I have noticed myself feeling lust for other men and it scares me so much :(

    • Alicia, I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I have written a series on living with a low-libido husband, and you can see the first in that series here. That lust and fear you’re feeling are good warning signs that something really has to change, so don’t ignore them! Really work on talking to your hubby more and seeing if you can build a great friendship, because if you have that base it’s so much easier to deal with all of these other issues. Hang in there!

    • Maybe you could be a little more direct with your husband? You mentioned twice that you are “waiting for him to notice” you… that’s not really the same as initiating something! I can definitely see how it seems like your husband is rejecting your advances, but from his point of view, maybe you’re not making advances that he recognizes.

    • 6 days after your c-section?? Just wow. I can’t even begin to imagine. I wasn’t even walking
      normally at that point.

  3. I love your focus on respect and even courtesy here. Sometimes, the Christian answer to wives sexually refusing seems to be “never say no” — even when that means the offer of sex disregards your person, your schedule, your feelings. That bothers me. Instead, I agree with you that God’s concept for sexual intimacy involves all of the aspects we want from love in other areas of our marriage: respect, kindness, grace, passion, etc.

    I’ve also said that “no” isn’t the right answer, but “not now” can very well be the exact answer you need to give at times. This happens in my marriage from both of us, and neither one feels like we’re aren’t getting enough sex to be satisfied. We get the rain check and then follow through when we can both engage more fully in the experience.
    J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) recently posted…Two Words Your Higher-Desire Spouse Needs You to HearMy Profile

  4. purplecandy says:

    Something bothers me here, I don’t want to read to much into the lady’s email but it seems the husband cannot get in the mood when the wife initiates. He needs more time, like 30 minutes or a couple of hours. It makes me think of the need for the man to get aroused with something else than his wife, such as thinking about things that will make him be in the mood.
    I am thinking about pornography. Is the wife sure this is not an issue in her marriage ?

    Another thing, I noticed that some husbands (usually older, but not only) are not very confident on their physical ability. If the wife takes them by surprise they’d rather say no than taking the risk of not performing very well, and they would initiate whenever they know they are physically ready. It could very well be possible that the husband wouldn’t talk about that with his wife and use the “you have to say yes when I want it” kind of reaction to cover up for something he might be scared to talk about.

    Not sure I am being very clear here…

    • Interesting thoughts! I actually had the exact same thought about porn, too. That does raise red flags for me. It isn’t necessarily this, of course (and the sex at 5 in the morning is not likely because of porn), but if this is happening a lot in your marriage, I would definitely look into it.

      Your second thought is interesting, too. I think what this couple needs is to sit down and really talk about it, because it seems like there are a lot of unspoken assumptions going on that would be much better dealt with out in the open.

  5. Years ago, in a codependency support group, a woman shared with the counselor that whenever her husband would ask for sex, she’d say, “No,” and then half an hour later she’d change it to “yes.” The counselor gently called this out as a control game: always insisting on having sex on her terms. She said it’s a common defense mechanism for people who were once victims, unable to say “no.”

    I’ve kept this in mind and tried to be aware of areas in my life where I say a knee-jerk “no” followed by a “yes.” This has helped me realize that I was unnecessarily reacting to certain relationships as victimizer/victim (i.e. boss/employee) and allowed me to make positive changes.
    Cheri Gregory recently posted…How I Went from Miserable Wife to Happy WifeMy Profile

    • That’s really interesting, Cheri. Thanks for mentioning that! It could be a control thing from his point of view–that he wants to set the stage and be the aggressor. Again, I think the two of them sitting down and really talking about why this dynamic happens so much would be very useful.

  6. To answer the question “What do you think about a husband who wakes you up for sex frequently?”, I’d say that’s not entirely abnormal or off…as long long you are okay/can go an extra mile/he’s able to work with “not now but later”. It’s something we’ve worked through ourselves and and from my experience working with other wives, it’s not uncommon to have the “asks” in the night :) Or have the wife be the night-owl. :)

    Still the question was asked with this reader’s situation in mind and I like the advice you’ve given and what other commenters like J of hot holy humorous have added. Good thoughts.
    Ngina Otiende recently posted…10 Things Every Bride Should Know Before Her Wedding NightMy Profile

    • Yes, I’d agree Ngina. The issue isn’t so much about whether or not it’s okay to ask in the middle of the night. The issue is really about whether or not you’re caring about each other as people, and just simply being courteous. For many this totally wouldn’t be a big deal. For a young mom with hardly any sleep it likely is. So it really does depend on the relationship!

  7. Alicia Marie says:

    I live in terror because my husband had a problem watching porn before we got married, asain women that I fear I will never be for him. So when I don’t stay up all night, I worry that that problem will retain.

    • Alicia, I’m so sorry you’re scared. Often we’re most scared of what we don’t know, though. It’s likely better to confront the issue head on and figure out if it’s still a problem.

  8. My husband and I have been talking about this recently because he wakes me up for sex at night on average once every couple weeks, give or take, and he’ll also wake me up once or twice a week in his sleep (he has A LOT of sexy dreams and will act on them before he is really awake, though they usually won’t lead to us having sex). I usually say “not right now” when he does ask in the wee hours of the morning. He usually goes to bed around 8 or 9 pm and I usually crawl in around 11-11:30 pm, so he has a few more sleep cycles under his belt than I do when he wakes me up.

    The last time I turned him down at night got us both really frustrated due to some misunderstandings about our expectations. To make a long story short, we agreed that I would be ok to be woken up every once in a while for sex, especially since he struggles with pornography temptation at night. A part of me feels that I am a “stop gap” for this, it’s either me or the porn. But the other part of me feels that I’d rather have him wake me up than let him struggle alone. He is seeing a Christian counselor about this, and he confesses every time he’s seen something he shouldn’t have, which I am thankful for.

    I know overcoming porn addiction is a long process, and our sex life and overall relationship dynamic will likely look very different down the road, but in the mean time, I feel like I need to be the one who acquiesces and gives more grace in this area, and not love my sleep so much. But I agree with purplecandy’s comment that porn should not be overlooked in this woman’s issue.

    • I think that if this “waking up” business is happenning all the time to her displeasure and discomfort it totally needs to be discussed!!
      HOWEVER, I will say from experience, actually on my side as the woman (my husband has NEVER woken me up for it) that sometimes the NEED can be overwhelming and while our spouses aren’t objects, they are there to support us through these sexual needs. We need to be careful we’re meeting the NEEDS. My husband never really needs sex, yet we’re very happy together. Sure, I’ve had some resentment and anger over it at times in our six years of marriage, and sure I wish and dayream that he would ask me and I’ve told him so many times that I fantasize about him waking me at 3am for sex because it would be so sexy!! But my needs are really high. Just this weekend (and I have morning sickness with number 5 right now!! haha) I woke HIM up at 3am and he was so sweet and obliging. But some of us just feel stimulated in the night, women and men, with the warm, relaxed environment. Again, if its not constant demand, I think its a beautiful way to minister to our spouse who has the greater sexual needs. And there is always one with greater needs in marriage. Just my 2cents worth!

  9. Let me start by saying I agree with everything Sheila said. Having said that, I think I’ve got something different to add here. When I read the letter from the reader, what I thought was that he was responding to her sexual advances, just doing so a little late. In other words, he hadn’t been thinking about sex, but once she offered, he probably couldn’t stop thinking about sex. After a while, he was more than ready and went back to her.

    While I’ll have to say that most men are ready at the drop of a hat, some do need some time to switch over into sex mode, especially when they are busy or focused on other things. This is much more common in women, but some men do it as well.

    It sounds to me like this couple needs to sit down and have a serious discussion about their sex life. He needs to understand and accept her offers for what they are and not to expect her to drop everything when he’s ready. I applaud her for her willingness to meet his needs, especially with a new baby in the house. I think a lot could be solved with some clearer understanding between them both.

  10. I don’t normally comment, but this is one of the things I always felt like no one else had this problem. My husband would wake me up (he was asleep as well) often times he would almost force himself on me (I’m not ready – I don’t deny him) until he woke up and realized what he was doing. After we addressed his porn issues this stopped! On a side note, we’ve been free about 8 months, hopefully its not like the last few times where he goes back, but I made him admit his sin to the pastor this last time and I think it may stick this time. Its one of the reasons I follow this site for the ongoing support :)

  11. My husband (we married almost a year ago) never wakes me up for sex and I have never woken him up. It hasn’t even crossed my mind. We just have sex when we’re both awake, and when I’m asleep I don’t think about sex and I assume my husband doesn’t either. He just snores or talks in his sleep. Is my husband abnormal, or am I?

    • I don’t think that’s abnormal at all! I think different people do different things. If you’re enjoying making love when you’re awake, and enjoying sleeping when you’re asleep, that’s perfectly fine.

  12. I have to wonder about the pornography aspect, too. After 17 years in a marriage where sex was all about him, I now realize how I WAS just an object to gratify his lusts. I see so much of myself in her letter–and it often wasn’t worth the anger I would endure to even say no to his advances. My marriage finally ended after an affair. I now realize his “dabbling” in pornography was much more severe than I ever realized.

  13. I’d be careful with the now or never thing because sometimes that can come off as the woman only wanting to have sex on her terms. Maybe something more like “The baby just went down for a nap. If you want me I’ll be upstairs organizing my sock drawer in the nude ;) ” Then, if he comes upstairs when it’s about time for the baby to wake up (or when he’s starting to fuss) you can gracefully express your regrets and tell him that you’ll let him know when the baby goes back to sleep. Better yet, if your baby is on a schedule I’d try writing it up for him and highlighting naps and labeling them something like “Sexy hour” or whatever. That would let him be the aggressor and plan ahead for a time when you’ll be free.
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  14. Alicia Marie says:

    Honestly I was scared half to death but I’m more scared of what my husband would have done if I said no.

    • What are you afraid he would have done? If you’re living in fear that he’d hurt you, you really need to seek some outside help that will help you navigate this. Violence never has any place in a marriage. If you’re living in fear that he’d turn to porn, then again, you really need to confront him and maybe go to talk to a third party, like a pastor or a counselor, together. That’s a really unhealthy dynamic in a marriage that does need to be dealt with. I’ll pray that you have the strength to do what you have to do!

  15. Whoa! It sounds like you guys are really out of step, more so than anyone is really inconsiderate. I feel like your husband may appreciate a little good old fashioned wooing, as opposed to “Hey honey, wanna have sex? Now’s good for me.” Not that that is exactly what you are doing, but maybe your hubby wasn’t thinking about sex, then you suggested it, he thought he wasn’t into it, then the suggestion made him think about it, and then all of the sudden he is ready to go!

    For the mornings, I might say “Hey, honey, I would love to have a quickie, but I’ve got to get ready for work, so we’ve got a five minute go, no-go for launch window. Sexy, yes?” My husband is a rocket scientist, so “go, no-go for launch” may not be your way of talking, but you get my drift.

    • Maggie, I’d agree that that is absolutely the right approach in the vast majority of cases!

      My problem with this letter writer is that it really seemed like something else was going on, because he seemed to insist on sex only at times which were extremely inconvenient for her, even though he could have sex at other times. It really seemed like this was more a respect/control issue than a sex issue.

      But I absolutely agree that in most cases we need to give people a “launch window”! I think if more men did that for us it may be easier for us wives, too.

  16. Please, tell me….what is wrong with a woman saying No? This woman has a job, and now another baby, and in my world the women do most of the taking care of baby and children more than the men so I bet she’s tired. Can’t men just put aside their own sexual desires for the sake of their wives tiredness sometimes without pouting about it and making the wife feel guilty about saying no, or worse yet–turn to porn! How is that husband’s attitude and actions reflecting God? And, what if no means not for an entire week–what is wrong with that? All of these comments, and even your post make it sound like saying “not right now, but soon” might be misleading to the husband. He might be thinking soon might mean in an hour, when it may mean next Tuesday. I’m just wondering….

  17. Is it possible to talk the husband into taking trading sex for late-night baby duty? He might be willing to get up half the time so that the wife can get some sleep.
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  18. Mrs Scarlet says:

    My husband has never woken me up for sex, nor have I woken him up for sex. I find that behavior to be completely disrespectful, especially with a baby at home. We put our children in bed a couple hours before we normally go to sleep together; if the lovin’ happens, that’s the time. If you enjoy being woken up for sex, great, but we all have our boundaries and they should be respected. It’s not entirely clear how direct this woman is with her husband, but I’d make my boundaries and expectations known. That conversation needs to happen long before sex is being initiated.

  19. Unimpressed says:

    This is the most out-dated and degrading blog I have ever read. I feel genuinely sorry for women who suffer from IQ’s that are so low, their only goal in life is to please a man. What is sexy in a woman is the ability to be independent, smart and self-sufficient. In regards to this post, you’re husband is an asshole. Also, you contradicted yourself when saying “not now” is denying but that self control is a “christian virtue” and “not now” means soon. As a woman, I will deny sex to my husband WHENEVER I feel it necessary, I am not on this earth to please him.

    • I’m sorry you feel that way, but I just want to point out that I did NOT say that you were denying if you said “Not Now”. I specifically said that WASN’T denying.

      As for not being on this earth to please him, and denying him whenever you want, do you give your husband the same courtesy? Do you say, “you can be nice to me when you want to, but you don’t have to. You’re not on this earth to please me. You can do whatever you want”? If you do, that sounds like an awfully lonely marriage. A marriage where both partners are bending over backwards to serve each other and love each other is a much more harmonious marriage than one in which you say, “I’ll only ever do what I want.” If that’s the case, why get married? Why not stay single? Once you marry, you commit to loving someone and caring about them. Saying you’ll only ever do things on your terms sounds awfully selfish, and not at all like the marriage vows you took.

    • Wow.

      There is plenty to be troubled with in the reader’s question, but wanting to please one’s spouse is not it.

    • In a world that views each persons OWN desires more important than those of any other person, I can see how it would seem outdated. But putting others needs/wants before our own is not outdated, it’s Biblical. We do it for our family, friends, children, and of course husbands, because that is what love is. Putting others first. It’s actually quiet a beautiful thing God designed. My husband is constantly looking for ways to make me happy, to show that he loves and cherishes me, and I try to do the same for him, there is nothing un-sexy about that.

    • You know. Your behavior is not unlike that of a person who bursts into a conference or meeting where a bunch of women have been having a peaceful, productive discussion, and then after hearing less than a second of the discussion (for this blog has >1000 posts) screams “YOU ARE ALL SO STUPID! I pity your stupidity! I’ll do whatever I WAAAAANT!” and storms out. In other words; your behavior is incredibly rude and rather infantile.

      I’m going to make a few assumptions about you: You are likely a feminist, a liberal, a secular humanist and entirely sold on the ME culture. Possibly also a hedonist in that you believe the purpose of your life is to make you happy at whatever cost.

      So, Let me submit that if you are a feminist then you are also a hypocrite. If a bunch of women decides they want to use their freedom and equality by having a family and serving them, who are you to say otherwise? Do you propose to dictate to us that we must all be single career women?

      If you are a liberal: aren’t y’all supposed to be enlightened? Doesn’t sound like it if the best rhetoric you can come up with is “you’re stupid”. What are we? In middle school? I’ve heard 7 year olds use better rhetoric.

      I’ve you’re a humanist: Isn’t is rude to call people out and pity them because of their supposed low IQ’s? Aren’t we all equal?

      I’ve you’re all about being happy and not judging people: If we all decide to give up our careers, have 10 children and be stay at home mom’s who tries their best to serve their husband and their kids, who are you to judge our choices? Aren’t we entitled to do what makes us happy?

      It is also possible that your just an internet troll.

      Or a women who feels convicted.

      In either case; good day to you.

  20. And very well said!!!
    The Baby Mama recently posted…Day 9: Being His FriendMy Profile

  21. It sounds to me like he is jealous of the time the baby is taking away from him. Or insecure with her new role as a mother and where that leaves him. Prior to the baby was it common for him to wake her during the night, etc.?

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