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Do you feel really alone when your spouse rejects you sexually?

We’re talking about libido all month on the blog, and I opened by talking about how to find contentment even if you’re the higher drive spouse and not getting as much sex as you want--assuming you’re still having sex at least once a week. I also looked at questions high drive husbands and high drive wives could ask themselves if sex just wasn’t happening. 

Last week we looked at how often people do have sex, and what peer-reviewed surveys (as well as our own) tell us about the relationship between frequency and marital satisfaction.

(Hint: it’s not straightforward. Having sex a few times a week seems to lead to healthier marriages than having sex everyday; and the quality of your sex life and the quality of your emotional connection matters more towards marital satisfaction than frequency of sex). 

Today I want to address higher drive spouses who ARE having sex at least once a week who feel really rejected by their spouses.

Again, please understand: What I’m going to say does not apply if sex is very rare, okay? That really is a different scenario.

But on a podcast earlier this month,  one woman left this comment that I think many of my readers can relate to. Describing what it’s like to be the higher drive spouse, she says:

For us, it’s not about the physical. It’s about a deep emotional connection that I share with one person. The pain of being emotionally rejected is so very real. It’s hard because we are effectively told to “shut up and be content” simply because our meaningful connection includes something physical. No amount of talking will ever truly take the place of sex. In fact, talking and then ending the night without sex, is one of the hardest things to face. My husband gets his emotional needs met and considers it good, while I have to figure out how to walk away from my emotional needs because it includes sex. I have had to literally teach myself to shut down any sexual drive, and the emotional connection it brings, and walk away from it entirely. Sex is on his terms. I’ve never felt so distant from my husband, despite the hours of conversations we’ve had (we are both big talkers).

Can anyone relate to her pain? She feels emotional connection during sex (which many people do), and so without sex, it feels like an emotional rejection.

Now, I’m not sure if she’s going several days without sex or several weeks without sex, so I’m not really commenting on this particular woman. I just thought she expressed this better than I could.

But let’s assume that she’s having sex at least once a week, and so on the nights she doesn’t have sex she’s feeling rejected.

How do you handle those feelings of rejection?

What do you do when you feel rejected, but objectively you ARE connecting sexually a healthy amount. In that case, the question needs to be, “how can I get over these negative feelings and find joy in my marriage?” On the other hand, if sex is very infrequent, then the question is more, “How can we build intimacy and how can we have fruitful conversations about this so that our marriage is more intimate and passionate?” Very different!

So, again, I’m only talking to people today who ARE getting sex every week.

Another man said something like this a few months ago in the comments (I’m going by memory here because I can’t remember what post it was on):

I have a very high sex drive, and I don’t think women realize how uncomfortable it is to go without sex for very long. After 48 hours, I become very aware of my testicles. They become very tender. After 72 hours, they’re physically hurting. I want to love my wife and be nice to her regardless, but it’s hard not to be testy when everything hurts so much. So I do have difficulty being my nice cheery self when it’s a few days since we’ve had sex. 

So we have the emotional rejection from not having sex, and the physical discomfort from not having sex.

I read both of those stories, and I feel real sadness for these people. But I also think, “that is no way to live.” You shouldn’t have to feel that upset and uncomfortable on a daily basis, and have this impact you so much, when you’re actually having sex an average, healthy amount.

Now, I’m not addressing these commenters specifically, because I don’t know how long the woman is going between sexual encounters. But I have heard enough comments and emails from spouses who are having sex once or twice a week who are still in torment about it. And I don’t think that’s sustainable or healthy.

So I want to say a few things today. Like Rebecca and I talked about on the podcast last week, frequency is often not actually the issue. And so I wanted to make a separate post about this because I thought it was important enough that I wanted it written down to have somewhere to point people.

1. Does sex, when you have it, leave you hanging?

We shared an email in our libido podcast last week from a woman who wanted sex 4-5 times a week, while her husband only wanted it once a week. He was really satisfied, but she was angry, dejected, even wished she’d never got married because of the frustration.

What she was describing was very extreme. But when we looked closer at her letter, one line really stood out:

“I don’t know if he is worried that he isn’t good in bed, because I rarely orgasm, unless I’m the one touching myself during sex? “

So they’re having sex once a week, but she rarely orgasms, and when she does, it’s because she is touching herself during sex (many women do this; if it works for you, that’s fine!).

The issue here, then, may not actually be libido differences as much as it is that she isn’t getting sexual satisfaction while he is. She has a high libido, but she’s often left hanging–or, if she does have an orgasm, it’s not a mutual thing where he’s taking care of her pleasure. She still has to do it herself.

Would she still be this frustrated if they had sex 1-2 times a week, but during those times he took care to bring her to orgasm himself? She’s obviously able to reach orgasm, but what they’re doing isn’t working for her. I think this may be less a libido difference and more a problem of being constantly sexually aroused but not given release, or, when you get release, it’s hollow because it feels as if he’s not participating in it.

(Again, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with touching yourself during sex to bring you over the edge, but if it’s because he isn’t willing to do anything else, or doesn’t suggest that he try something, that could be a problem).

Feeling constantly left hanging in bed can create a desperation in someone that wouldn’t otherwise be there, and could make libido differences worse.

2. Do you feel like you’re not desired or wanted?

Now something from the guy’s point of view. So many men have written in the comments that sex feels empty to them if it’s obviously just “duty” sex and she’s not into it. If she’s just going through the motions out of guilt or obligation, and doesn’t really want to, then he feels rejected and even like she thinks he’s pathetic for needing this, even if he’s reaching orgasm.

Now, sometimes she may be going through the motions because sex has never felt good for her, and he hasn’t done enough to help her figure out how to make it feel good. If that’s you, please pick up 31 Days to Great Sex, and make sure you’re signed up for our emails so that you’ll be notified when our Orgasm Course launches next month!

Other times, he’d love to bring her to orgasm, and he’d love to spend time making her feel good, but she is obviously not into it and just wants it over with.

Now, again, I think it’s important for a man to ask himself these questions if his wife doesn’t like sex. But sometimes you can do everything right and she just doesn’t like it.

In that case, he’s going to feel more and more desperate. He wants to feel wanted, but having sex with his wife who treats it like a duty actually solidifies the idea that he isn’t wanted. So then he becomes even more desperate to feel wanted, and his libido will look like it’s skyrocketing. It will seem like he needs sex so much. But what many couples in this situation have found is that, if she is able to start wanting and enjoying sex (however that comes to be), his libido often goes down to a manageable level, because the problem was not his libido. The problem was his insecurity and feeling rejected.

If you’re a man in this situation, you may appreciate this post on the negative cycle that we can get into with libido. Talk this over with your wife.

3. Is sex your methadone?

Every Man’s Battle tells men that women can be their “methadone when you feel your temperature rising.” It says that when you are tempted to lust or watch porn, you’re supposed to turn towards your wife to help you withstand that. When you quit lusting, you’ll be turning to your wife more often.

This newfound hunger will shock her. She has been accustomed to providing you five bowls a week, primarily through physical foreplay and sexual intercourse. Things were at equilibrium. Suddenly you need an extra five bowls from her. For no apparent reason, you come calling for intercourse twice as often…”Again, this is vaguely pleasant to her.” (p. 135)

Every Man's Battle

I don’t have enough words to describe how awful this way of looking at sex is.

I really, really don’t have enough words, because when we originally wrote the lust chapter for our new book The Great Sex Rescue (coming March 2021 with Baker Books), it was 9000 words. We had to cut it to 5000. So I seriously don’t have enough words.

But this is so wrong. You don’t defeat lust by transferring lust to your wife. You defeat lust by seeing sex in its proper context, and by seeing women as human beings.

If you think that every time you are tempted to lust or watch porn that you have to have sex, then you will be in a state of constant desperation for sex when you are battling lust.

If this is your story, know that no matter how often your wife (or husband) has sex with you, they can’t fix the issue. It’s a heart one. Please see a licensed counselor, join a support group, and learn the roots to lust and how it has taken root in you. When you start seeing sex in a healthy, intimate way, likely your libido won’t feel so desperate to you anymore.

4. Do you find it easier to feel sexual hunger than dangerous emotions?

Finally, here’s a big one that we talked about in last week’s podcast, too. Sometimes we grow up and we’re inadvertently taught that certain emotions are bad. Men, especially, hear that they’re not supposed to feel insecure, or scared, or rejected, or hurt, or embarrassed. They’re not supposed to be scared, or intimated, or discouraged.

So when they feel negative emotions, those emotions don’t have a safe outlet. And what our brains often do with that emotional energy, if it’s not allowed out, is to transfer it into something “safe”–sexual energy.

Sex makes people feel alive, secure, strong, and confident, and so if they feel anything negative, they want to have sex to convince themselves that those emotions aren’t real or necessary. This isn’t usually done on a conscious level, either. But many people are far more comfortable with sexual needs than they are with emotions.

If this is  your story, then not having sex everyday, or even every other day, can leave you feeling lost and desperate, because you have these very strong sexual feelings that have nowhere to go. But if you were able to work on the  underlying emotional issues, then the sexual desperation and frustration–even the physical frustration–may lessen in return.

It’s okay to be disappointed when you don’t have sex as often as you would like.

It’s even okay to be sexually frustrated.

But if you are getting sex a healthy amount, and you are still feeling sexually desperate (either emotionally or physically), and it’s impacting your ability to feel close to your spouse, then ask yourself if any of these four issues is at play.

  • Are you regularly reaching orgasm?
  • Do you feel like sex is a mutually desired experience when it happens?
  • Do you treat your spouse as an outlet for lu
  • Do you feel comfortable with your emotions?

I don’t want people to go through the kind of stress that so many of my commenters express. So if any of these questions resonates, please do something about it.

You may always have to live as the higher drive spouse, and have to navigate libido differences, and that’s okay. But it shouldn’t make you feel unloved. It shouldn’t make you feel desperate or angry or in pain. If it does, then that’s a sign that there may be some more work to be done.

4 Reasons Youre Frustrated - 4 Reasons You May Feel Sexually Frustrated--Even When You're Having Sex

Do any of these resonate with you? Is there one you would add? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila has been married to Keith for 28 years, and happily married for 25! (It took a while to adjust). She’s also an award-winning author of 8 books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila is passionate about changing the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage to line up with kingdom principles. ENTJ, straight 8

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