We Stopped Having Sex–and Here’s What I Learned

We Stopped Having Sex--what it did to our marriage, and why I'm glad we started again
“We stopped having sex.”

A woman wrote her story on my Facebook Page yesterday, and I thought it was worth sharing with you, and could help clarify perhaps my thinking around the post yesterday–“Should you have sex even if you don’t feel like it?”

I’ll share her comment in just a moment, but first a few quick things!

I’ve been camping for a week so I wasn’t active in the comments, but I’m thrilled you all liked my post about what to do with your wedding dress so much. Boy, did that get shared! That post meant a lot to me, so I’m glad it touched you all, too.

Now, a few things about yesterday’s post.

I totally get what some people were saying about the word “duty”. As soon as we make sex into a duty, we make it EXTREMELY unsexy. I don’t think that’s the way Lindsay meant it, though, but I’ve actually written about how unsexy obligation sex is before, too.

We’re not arguing you should let your husband use you!

Neither Lindsay nor I was arguing that you should just say to your husband, “you can if you want to”, especially if you really don’t want to. That’s not really making love. That’s letting him use you. And that’s rather unsettling.

What we were saying was this:

If this is something your husband really wants (and some could argue needs on a regular basis), then why not just jump in? It’s our attitude that is the key. If we say to ourselves, “I don’t want to do this, and I hate doing this, but I’ll just get through it,” you will hate it. If you say to yourself, “what a great chance to bond when I feel rather icky. Maybe this can change the whole dynamic,” you’ll likely enjoy it.

It all depends on how you think about it!

Let’s do a Thought Experiment: What if you stop having sex?

What would happen to your marriage? Here’s what one of my readers wrote on Facebook:

I have to be honest and I’ve never told anyone this.

I have been married almost 10 years and we did not have sex before marriage. I expected it to be great, especially since we waited like God had asked of us.

Life went on and it really wasn’t a priority for me. Wasn’t that it was bad, I just had too much on my plate in my mind. We worked different shifts at our jobs (worked for same company) but enjoyed each other when we had time to spend together–usually out to dinner or a movie.

Then after 3 years we got pregnant. My husband was just convinced we shouldn’t have sex during pregnancy…And I was okay with this. What a dummy I was! We were not intimate at all for almost a year.

Then after our son came, it didn’t pick up immediately. I was over tired and was NOT in the mood what soever. I was not too excited about the extra weight from my pregnancy and I became a stay at home mother stuck in the frump that can often come with it.

Shockingly (sarcasm), we started to really go through rough patches. Sex was still not a priority for me and I couldn’t figure out why he just wasn’t listening to me! I was his wife. I thought he was my best friend. What had happened to us?!

We had another child almost 2 1/2 years after our son. Obviously we did have sex a few times during that time but to be honest it was a chore now. Then after our daughter and son turned 3 and 5, I had had enough. He works 6 days a week and is tired to do too much on the one day off he has. I stay home all day with the kids and about to start homeschooling….I need some time alone! So when we did have any time together, I just preferred to not be touched, loved on and pretty soon I didn’t even like him to kiss me.

One day I finally got on my knees and poured my heart to God. I surrendered myself and everything to Him and asked what could I do to bring my husband and I back to what we once had….really, better than ever. One thing was to start praying for a heart for my husband again. I wanted to work on me for once and not pray that he would change like I had for years before. I prayed I would enjoy his touch again, etc. Then one day I read a blog (maybe this one) that talked about stop saying no! Take a challenge to stop saying no to your husband no matter what.

Sounds primitive to most but I was willing to give it a try. What could it hurt?

But I didn’t even get a chance to it in action…the more I was praying, the more I was wanting him more than I ever had! Even times that I was so exhausted and got in the shower (where I do a lot of my praying), I was anxious to get out and spend time with him. Sometimes that led into sex but sometimes it was just being together and NOT him on the sofa and me in the chair across the room…like it had been for years.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I didn’t feel like it but I just knew it would be better in the long run if I did because it brought us closer than I could ever explain. My husband is a very personal person and still has a hard time opening up to me, even after all these years, but started to almost immediately. I’m not saying it was all me during all these years but I can honestly say that when I stopped taking the focus off myself and what I deserved, I started seeing my husband and our sex life very differently. I am not saying sex is the answer to everything but it should does bring a closeness that you may otherwise never get–especially with spouses that have a hard time communicating. I hope this some how helps with the conversation and even a situation someone is dealing with today. I’ve never told a soul but I felt led to take to speak up after reading this.

Thank you for sharing that comment! I do believe that that story will resonate with a lot of women. Most of us have been there. We stop making love for a variety of reasons–we’re tired, there are babies, maybe a few health concerns–and then we find our marriage drifting and we don’t know why.

Let’s make sex back into a priority!

And so here are a few other posts that can help you do that, that may apply to your specific situation:

Good Girls Guide My SiteBut what if sex actually hurts? Do I still have to?

No–you have to figure out why it hurts! This post on vaginismus may help. I also have quite the section in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex for women struggling with this.

But why should I have to fake it? So what if he needs sex–aren’t my needs important, too?

Yes, absolutely. And that’s why I believe that sex should be mutual. But here’s the thing–you, as a woman, actually control your sex drive. He doesn’t. That’s because our sex drives are almost entirely in our heads. So we have to get our heads in the game and start anticipating sex ourselves.

What about other problems–like porn, or sex not feeling good, or past abuse issues?

Many of us have reasons that sex isn’t really happening, and I’ve written so much on this subject it’s hard to point to every possible relevant post. We’re all coming from different places. But I do have a round-up post of different marriage and sex advice that talks about all of these different issues. Chances are you can find a link to your own obstacle there.

31 Days to Great SexAnd almost all of the obstacles I can think of are dealt with in 31 Days to Great Sex. It’s a great one to work through with your hubby!

So please understand–I am not saying that we should let ourselves become some sort of receptacle for our husbands. Absolutely not! But sex was created to be something beautiful between you and your husband. It binds you together. It helps you sleep better! It helps you feel closer and helps you communicate. And it was meant to be fun. If it isn’t doing those things in your marriage, then take the initiative to do something about it. Don’t just stop having sex–figure out what the problem is and throw your energy into fixing it. Your marriage is worth more than just a hum-drum existence. When we prioritize sex again, we can find that marriage becomes so much more invigorating!

Don’t miss out on that. Please.

 

Comments

  1. I think for a lot of us women, we feel that sex is some base desire, not worthy of God’s holiness. But, that’s so far from the truth. Sex is like a velvet bond that connects husband and wife. I love her descriptive of ‘primitive.’ When I went through my transformation, I had to do some ‘mental gymnastics’. Sex, to me, was ‘primitive’ and ‘base.’ But, now I see that’s a good thing!! God made us. If busy women can feel their way emotionally back to the basics, we can radically bond with our husbands.
    Bonny @oysterbed7 recently posted…The Effort of EcstasyMy Profile

  2. What do you do if you suspect your husband is having an affair and using porn and succumbing to masturbation instead of sex? When it comes time to be intimate with him, the resentment and lack of trust makes it so hard to enjoy sex with him and eats at my self confidence. I’ve tried to gently approach the subject with him, but I know he isn’t being honest so there’s no resolution. It only ends up in a bad argument with embarrassment shame and anger. What’s the right way to approach your husband on that topic? It never seems like there is a right way. Thanks!

    • Hi Marie,

      That’s a really important question and one that all too many women deal with. I would say that you simply have to get to the bottom of the issue. I’ve written a series of posts on what to do if a guy seems to have no sex drive, but I think confronting him about it and even seeking out a third party, like a counsellor, to talk to about it is absolutely necessary. This is a HUGE issue; if you don’t deal with it, it will only grow in your marriage. I’m sorry you’re going through this.

  3. I have a good analogy. It would be if your husband really wanted to spend time with you and said, “Let’s go the baseball game.” You did not really feel like it and really had other things that you wanted to do.

    We are NOT suggesting that you just go to make him happy and then sit there unengaged and not enjoying yourself just trying to wait out until the game is over and you can go home.

    No, we are saying decide, “Well, I didn’t really feel like going to the game and I prefer to do other things, but I would like to spend time with him and we will have a good time it could be fun.” Then you go and actually get involved in the activity and enjoy yourself and have a good time.

    So, no don’t just say OK hurry up. But say, “Hey I was not particularly feeling like sex but it will be really nice being with my husband and I know it will be a good time and so go have fun with him and mutually get each other in the mood and enjoy it, even if you had initially wanted to do something else instead or were not particularly interested in it, prioritize it.

    If you husband is not engaged in your pleasure, is selfish or you have physical pain, you have another issue. But you should resolve those issues not use them as an excuse to ignore sex. The Bible is clear that neither partner should withhold sexual intimacy. And no, this in not force or rape, this is joyfully responding to your spouse.

  4. happywife says:

    Here’s what always leaves me scratching my head here. This is a marriage blog. I’m assuming that women come here because they want to enjoy a fulfilling marriage. One of the biggest factors in a fulfilling marriage is sex. Yes, there are obstacles to finding or maintaining a healthy sex life, but that can be true of many things in life. There is no need to get caught up in the semantics of the word “duty” or “need” and you shouldn’t have to keep defending yourself, Sheila. I just truly believe that in order to enjoy a fulfilling and happy marriage, we need to be nurturing our sex life. When obstacles come, we need to work around them or figure out how to “fix” them so that we can enjoy the end result of a fulfilling sex life and marriage.
    If I am looking to get fit and visit a fitness blog, I assume I’m going to be encouraged to eat right and exercise. Regardless of how I feel about vegetables or exercising, the truth of the matter is, they yield the results of a fit body. I can debate the semantics of the words “work” and “diet” all day, but that doesn’t change the fact that if I want a fit body, I have to work for it. I may hate running, or not know how to use the gym equipment, but if I persevere and learn some things, I will probably start to enjoy and look forward to time at the gym. And yes, there are obstacles to getting fit. I have to make time to get to the gym. I have to change my grocery shopping habits. I might have an injury that keeps me from doing certain exercises. I refuse to touch a brussel sprout. I have teenagers who want goodies in the house… But my excuses are not going to get me the results of a healthy fit body. If I want to live on donuts and ice cream and slothfulness, I need to accept the fact that my body will reap the consequences of those choices.
    I see marriage much the same. If your marriage is not in a good place, it’s going to take some work to get things on the right track. Sex is a big part of that. If you aren’t happy with that answer, then accept the fact that your marriage will probably not be what you are wanting it to be.
    I keep debating removing that last sentence because I know it sounds harsh. But I think it’s truth, so I’m going to leave it there.

    • I agree, and really anyone who decides that they just are not interested in sex should really not have gotten married. It is very unfair to the other person. You should not get to unilaterally decide on someone else’s celibacy.

      • Sandy in Los Angeles says:

        Yeah, but you have to understand….women (generally – not always) don’t have the same need/desire for sex and we don’t see it as critical or necessary for a happy marriage. However, it turns out, it IS VERY IMPORTANT for a happy marriage. We just don’t understand that until someone like our spouse (or Sheila – more convincing) explains that. Men don’t understand why we don’t get it. Women don’t understand why he wants it all the time.

  5. Wow…this was beautifully honest and struck a chord with me, because it could’ve been my story….Sheila’s site and her words of truth and the biblical heart of her message have transformed my thought process of sex. God used Sheila in a mighty way to prick my heart and open my eyes to the hurt I had caused my marriage and my precious husband.

    I too, once thought of sex as this cave-man-drag-you-by-the-hair thing….that my husband was a simple creature that had to have sex and it seemed trivial to me…i would’ve been happy never having sex again…and unfortunately I told my husband that….Think of the damage it did to his heart…it now breaks mine to think of how selfish I was. He didn’t want sex just to please himself….it was/is validation for him…as a husband, a man, and someone who wants to feel and be loved. To him if I give myself physically to him willingly, that is ultimately me telling him ‘I trust you’, ‘I respect you’, ‘I love you’, ‘I want you’, ‘I need you’, and ‘I value you’.
    Anyway, now I see sex in a whole new way…and yes some days I don’t ‘feel’ like it, but I enjoy my time with him so I willingly jump in and my feelings generally change in the fun process ;) and i desire to show him I love and respect him …which are his needs as my husband and sex is one way I can help meet those needs….that’s what it comes down to, i believe…not the act itself is the need, but what that act portrays to my husband….

    And of course other days i totally ‘feel’ like it….it’s definitely give and take, and there are still times I say ‘not tonight’ but those are now few and far between…we are really enjoying each other again…despite work, commutes, 2 kids, and all the trials in life…we have come to the place where we feel safe together….and I believe that sex has been the catalyst for that….and our relationship has blossomed…we both love being married…being together…hanging out…having our little inside jokes, serious conversations, and little traditions…We have been married 12 years btw and marriage is my favorite thing (even through the hard stuff)

    Thank you Sheila for posting articles that don’t always mesh with the world’s view! Unfortunately the world’s view of sex and marriage pokes its ugly head into the hearts and minds of Christians and I’m so thankful for your efforts to show us how God truly intended marriage to be. :)

  6. As a young wife, the demands of kids and home and job, and the fatigue that came with all that responsibility impacted my desire. As someone has said, it felt like one more thing on the “to do” list, I am sorry to say.

    At this stage of life, with so much less on my plate, it is so different! I long for the connection. I see the joy in his eyes. I understand so much better now that he longs for physical connection like I long for conversation.

    I think the biggest deterrents to great sex are fatigue and time pressure.
    Sharon Mavis recently posted…Are you in touch with your heart?My Profile

  7. Thanks to the wife who spoke up and finally shared this story. It’s an important one for many to hear.
    J. Parker (@HotHolyHumorous) recently posted…Sharing My Own StoryMy Profile

  8. Excellent read as usual!
    If I just simply put two objects together in a space, they do not automatically fuse… I HAVE to use some sort of adhesive. I believe that sex is a God-given, God endorsed fusing agent. It is a powerful bonding tool that can never be used too much…
    Thank you for this post!
    Keep em coming…

    God Bless
    Oliver Marcelle recently posted…Don’t Wait…My Profile

  9. Can we start talking about husbands the ones to not want sex as much as the wife. I am tired of it always being about women having to start saying yes…..some of us wish that. We can have a great relationship but when emphasis everywhere on tv books movies blogs is that men always want to or husbands do its unfair to those in an opposite boat. Maybe we can start a whole convo on hubbys trying harder. I feel everywhere I look wives are working on these issues and some men do but mostly its women and makes me ask why? So if others out there feel that way itd be helpful to see from other wives or husbands perspective. Thanks so much

  10. Elisabeth says:

    Sex is very much a bonding agent to me as well. Though my husband has withheld all sex and all affection for over 5 years now, I still remember the last time we had sex. I felt like I was glowing for several days afterwards! And sex has never been physically pleasurable for me- it’s been just that he was ready to do his thing and wouldn’t take time for me. He just goes faster when I’d say slow down, just to get it over with I guess. I tried explaining all this to him but he obviously hasn’t “gotten it”. But still, even without any physical pleasure, it made me feel like I was worth something to him, that I was giving him something nobody else could, that I was part of him. It made all the little things not matter so much, they were easy to deal with. Now, without sex, I dint feel like I’m even married anymore. I feel like I’m just living in the same house as this man who wants nothing to do with me but am forbidden to leave. Being here is like starving and yet being able to see the feast spread out before you but never being allowed to partake of it. Or to be drowning and see that life preserver floating there and you keep swimming for it but it’s always just out of your reach. And in either case, you know that eventually, you’re going to die, even though the means to your survival is right there, but you just are not allowed to have it. Being without sex, I know that eventually, I will find someone else to replace what my husband withholds from me- that affection, tenderness, cherishing, and yes, sex. And in doing so, I will be dying in a way- that sin will separate completely from him and from God also. And I don’t know if once having crossed that line, and sinning that way, if would ever be able to find my way back, if I would ever be able to repent seeing as how it would be a willful, almost premeditated sin, you know? But it’s so hard to not want affection and sex from your spouse, to disengage your mind and body from desiring that person, you’ve loved them, given them everything you had to give and now they reject you and refuse you. Anyway. I do hope that I will die before I get to this inevitable point because I really don’t want to sin, it’s just that the temptation gets stronger and stronger and I have less mental reasons to resist each time. Pretty bad thing for a Christian to admit but there you go.

  11. What if your husband never wants OR asks for sex? We had a pretty normal sex for years and now he just is not interested and the longer we go without the further we drift apart. Now we are both thinking about a separation and divorce (not just because fo the sex). I completely believe that losing sex in your marriage completely destroys a marriage. We have no intimacy. Nothing we share between just the two of us. We are a step family and since we quit having sex I feel like his kids are above me in the marriage. He seeks relationships with them and not me. I am just a roommate..
    I have never turned down my husband for sex–ever. So it is not always the woman saying no. And it is not always porn or affairs. My husband lead a very wild sexual life before I met him. And I think he just does not feel it necessary anymore. Then my low self esteem kicks in and wonders if it is because he has all those other to compare to and I must not be attractive. But also for us him not wanting sex makes it easier to walk away from me. To give up and not feel any guilt. It allows the enemy into your marriage to keep you on a terrible cycle and keeps your marriage from being the way God intended it to be.

  12. Sheila, I have been meaning to ask you a question for a while now and this seems to be an appropriate time. My husband and I have been married a long time and have raised a blended family. In all of our challenges, I have still had a strong desire for sex and at times more so than him. Am I just an oddball of a woman that I want it several times per week and feel sexually frustrated if we go more than about 5 days? As I read post after post with your words of encouragement for women to Kindle that fire, I feel left out because I would like advice on how to inspire my husband to be the one to “pursue”. I want to feel like a woman being pursued by “her man”!!! Help.

  13. Adrea VanDeventer says:

    It’s a mind over matter thing too. I find that is true with so much in life. Once I started focusing on the good and only the good, things got so much better. If you sit there and tell yourself I’m fat or ugly you believe it even though God never created anything ugly ever. We are created in his image to put ourselves down is to put him down. Go to the doctor, figure it out, you and your marriage are worth it. As for the ones saying he puts no effort in well, what effort do you put in? Do you think yoga pants and pony tails are sexy or does being nagged on all day get your engine going? Work on you and pray that God works on him.

  14. I understand why this is a touchy subject. Some people (even Christians) preach that women should submit NO MATTER WHAT to their husbands. I know a woman who was raped repeatedly by her husband, who said it was her “marital duty” to have sex with him. That’s one end of the spectrum and obviously this is not what you and your friend are talking about. But for people who have been raped/know victims of rape, being told to have sex when they don’t feel like it raises alarm bells.

    On the other hand, you don’t always feel like it, but actually having sex can increase the desire and the intimacy, just as you indicate. This is different from force or feeling obligated to do something. It’s more like I’m choosing to invest my time in something that will connect us, even if I’m not biologically “feeling it.” When we were going through in vitro fertilization, my husband and I had to have sex for every single day of my ovulation period. I was working 60 hrs/week, my husband was working like crazy, and NEITHER of us wanted to do it. At one point we sighed and said, “OK, let’s do this.” Very unromantic. But during those periods, we realized that it brought us closer together not just in the bedroom but emotionally and spiritually. Now when we “don’t feel like it” we remember that time. We may feel like it, we just don’t know it. Sometimes our bodies, to-do lists, tiredness, and other things can get in the way.

    I’ve enjoyed reading this string of articles and perfectly understand your position. Thank you for realizing that it’s a hard topic though and for clarifying :)
    Heather recently posted…Dear people of the Internet: Robin Williams’ death is not. about. you.My Profile

  15. I wish my husband wanted to have sex with me. I miss the emotional and physical intimacy that I crave. I feel so alone.

  16. What if it is the other way around and the husband doesn’t want to be intimate? I can’t even remember the last time we were together it has been so long…

  17. Im writing because for me and my hubby of 23 years, our issue has never been me saying “no” or him but that things just arent working like they use to for him. I find that book stores and blogs are all about the woman – her ability to fulfill his desire but what about when the tables are turned? What about the wife who has desires and the man cant keep up;) I have read every self-help book out there about how to be a good wife, biblically, spiritually, physically, they never mention this issue. I would love to hear from other wives who have experienced this. For now, its a matter of prayer for patience for me as sometimes it could be weeks. And yes we have tried medicinal helpers;) but usually those are only prescribed 5 at a time, we actually plan it around that. Crazy! No spontaneity there!

    • Jen, I totally understand, and you are NOT alone! I have a 4-part series for wives who have a higher sex drive than their husbands here, and a series for wives whose husbands have erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems here. I hope that helps!

  18. Thank you so much for writing this! Me and my husband are going thru almost the exact same thing as the lady in this article! This put a lot of things into perspective! Thank you again!!

  19. I have been married 14 years-no children. My husband has never seemed like he wanted sex. I always initiated it in the beginning of our marriage. then, several years ago, we tried and it was painful. I was told I had several issues, one being vulva vaginismus. The doctor told us several things to try which I did, but he still never wants to have sex. So I have just given up. It’s been at least 5 years now or more since we have been intimate. He doesn’t even come to bed with me but stays up late. It’s very frustrating.

  20. Is there something wrong with me or my marriage, because I don’t feel this “bond/connection” that sex is supposed to bring. It just feels like sex.

  21. Speaking from experience, not having sex for 7 years, has nearly ruined our marriage. Due to health reasons, his ED and a low libido from us both, my husband is unable to do his bit, and I didn’t pursue it. Now that I’m in my 40s and have a renewed sex drive(hormones perhaps?) I want the connection that sex affords. This year has brought our marriage and in some way my life to the brink of collapsing. We still have a long road to walk, but I can definitely say that the major contributor for my chronic depression is our lack of sex and intimacy. Sadly, my husband still can’t find it in himself to change this: even if he has ED, I am prepared to make adjustments, I’m not expecting something he can’t deliver, but its his lack of interest to try anything that leaves me heartbroken and our lives and marriage in tatters. Getting on my knees is the best advice I’ve heard for ages, yes I pray, but I don’t think I have cried out like I could, I guess I am just tired and feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. I spend more time crying that God may take away my sex drive and as much as it’s hurting me right now, I so don’t want to live like that. Thanks for this post.

  22. What do you do if the tables are turned- your husband refuses to have sex if he doesn’t want to (leading to less than 10 times in our marriage), and you’re the one left feeling empty and upset?!

    • Hi Liz, that’s so heartbreaking, and unfortunately not all that uncommon! I have a 4-part series on that here, and then advice for women living in a sexless marriage here. I hope that helps!

  23. Love, Thanks sheila

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