What do you do if your spouse isn’t interested in sex?
Often when I write about how to spice things up in the bedroom, or how to make sex more fun, the emails start to arrive:
What do I do if my husband doesn’t want to have sex? What do I do if my wife won’t read this series with me? What do I do when my spouse just doesn’t think sex is important?
That’s such a lonely place to be! I’m looking this week at what to do when your husband doesn’t want sex, though today’s post could also apply when it’s not the husband with the lower sex drive, but the wife.
Often, in a marriage, it can feel like the spouse who wants sex the least has all the power.
You know when you’re dating someone, and you feel like you’re more invested in the relationship than they are? You constantly check notifications on your phone to see if they’ve texted. You jump at the chance to get together any time they want, but you’re desperate for a new date on your calendar.
The one who loves least determines the relationship.
And it can feel that way with sex, too. If you’re the higher drive spouse, and your wife or husband doesn’t ever seem to want sex, then you can feel as if something that’s deeply important to you is out of your control. That’s a difficult place to be.
In The Great Sex Rescue, based on our survey of 20,000 women, we found that couples who were the happiest were those who reported roughly similar libidos. But we also speculated that it was less that their libidos were exactly in line, and more that they had grown their relationship to focus on each other, and they’d naturally fallen into a good pattern. If you start to make out after the Netflix movie, and that turns to sex, who initiated? Who was the one who wanted sex more? It’s hard to tell, but you’re in this groove. That’s a lovely place to be!
But what if you’re not? How can you talk to your spouse about how you feel? Let’s take a look at that today!
Do you feel lonely and rejected when your husband doesn’t want sex?
I received a comment on this blog that pretty much sums up what many of the spouses who email me are feeling:
My husband has low testosterone and it is a huge struggle for us, even though he is being treated for it. The biggest thing is that he just doesn’t really see sex as an issue at all; it’s as if he wants a complete marriage, but if there was no sex, he’d be fine with that.
I am a Christian and love my God. However, at this time, I am struggling with being very angry with God because I am a “good girl,” raised in a Christian home and although I dated a lot before marriage (and fooled around), I saved myself for marriage and for my husband. Now I feel like I’ve been cheated or robbed. I know life’s not fair, and that there are worse things people are dealing with, but for me, I feel lonely, rejected, and bitter. He is a fabulous man, father, and husband, but it breaks my heart that he doesn’t see any need for sex in marriage. He’s not into porn, addicted to anything, etc….just apathetic towards sex. In a way, it’s worse, because there’s no “addiction” to stop, no “sin” to confess, nothing that can be “fixed.” Even with his testosterone levels raised to where they should be, he doesn’t really care about sex at all.
He still makes love to me because he knows it’s something I need, but I wish it was something HE actually needed, too.
She’s a little more fortunate, because at least her husband does acknowledge his wife’s need for sex and tries to meet it. Many people who wrote me don’t even have that. Their spouses have basically checked out (and we’ll look later this week at what to do if your marriage is truly sexless).
But today let’s deal with this problem: how do you help a spouse who does not have a drive for sex or an understanding that sex is important understand what your needs are? How do you talk to a spouse who doesn’t seem to want to have sex at all? Now, as I mentioned yesterday, a lot of the times when spouses aren’t interested in sex pornography is the root of the problem. If that’s the case for you, then here are 4 things you need to do if your spouse uses porn. For the rest of this post, I’m going to assume it’s not that your spouse is getting sexual release elsewhere, but it’s honestly that your spouse just plain isn’t interested.
3 Thoughts if Your Spouse Isn’t Interested in Sex
1. If Your Spouse Isn’t Interested: Get Your Heart Right First
Don’t enter a conversation angry or bitter. If your spouse has wronged you, go to God with that anger. You need to have a conversation where you pursue what is best for you as a couple. Having a conversation where you’re trying to get him or her to acknowledge how much they’ve hurt you won’t necessarily help your relationship. There is a time to bring this up, once things are looking better, but if the desire is to move your relationship towards greater intimacy, that is what you should be focusing on, not vengeance. God calls us to love our spouses wholeheartedly, even if they don’t meet our needs.
2. If Your Spouse Isn’t Interested in Sex: Focus on Intimacy, not Sexual Release
Your spouse has an issue with sex. Chances are they find it a somewhat distasteful–if not very distasteful–obligation. It could be because they have really negative attitudes about sex; or it could simply be because they’re tired, they’re sick of having things on their to-do list, and they don’t want to have to do something energetic that they have to “get in the mood” for. Or, of course, it could be that sex just plain doesn’t feel very good to them. One of our big findings in The Great Sex Rescue is that women who don’t orgasm regularly during sex often have lower libidos. She won’t want something unless there’s something to look forward to, and if that’s your issue, the orgasm course may be a good place to start!
But assuming it’s not porn, and assuming that sex, when you have it, does tend to result in orgasm, what then?
If you talk about your sexual needs to your spouse to try to resolve the issue, chances are this is what your spouse will hear (or at least this is what they’ll read in to what you’re saying):
I have sexual needs because I have never really developed self-control the way you have. I am a slave to my body, unlike you, who is able to focus on the important things in life. And now, because of my desire and lack of self-control, I want you, who are already busy, to get energetic and to pretend that you actually want sex so that I can get some release.
Not exactly a very attractive proposition, is it? Obviously that’s not what you mean, but even if you simply said something like this:
I desire you. I find you so attractive. You excite me. I want us to experience this together. I want to feel loved.
Your spouse will still hear the first bit and interpret it like that, especially if this has become a big area of conflict in your relationship.
So what should you do instead? Focus on the real issue–the one that both of you share. You want more intimacy, and sex is a doorway into intimacy. I would say something like this:
I really believe that God created us to long for each other and to be able to experience major depths of love and intimacy. I believe that God wants us to feel passionate about each other, close to each other, and truly intimate, so that we know that we’re not walking through life alone. I want us to feel so madly in love, and I want you to feel how much I love you. I want us to feel like we’re totally one, and I believe that the way that God made us to express that is through sex.
I know sex can be difficult for you, and I know you’re tired a lot of the time. I know you feel like you don’t have a lot of desire. But I’m worried that our lack of intimacy is actually partly the cause of some of that exhaustion. If we could really feel passion and really feel as if we were truly connected, perhaps much of the angst that we have both been feeling lately would evaporate.
I think God wants you to live such a big life. God wants you to enjoy everything that He created you for, and I think that we’re robbing each other of the gift of passion that God put in us. Do you think that we could try to rediscover passion together? I know it’s not easy, because you feel like you don’t have a sex drive. But it’s not just about sex; it’s about feeling so close to each other. That’s what I really want. Can we talk about how we can feel that intimacy, that passion, that closeness? And how we can make it easier for you to feel it? Because that’s what I think our marriage needs.
You’re focusing on intimacy and love, and not on release. The conversation doesn’t become about sex, or what you do in bed, or how often is enough. It focuses on how we can feel love for each other and how we can really experience passion.
Don’t argue about sexual release. Don’t argue about sexual needs. Don’t bring up 1 Corinthians 7:5, about how your spouse’s body belongs to you. Instead, bring up your desire for intimacy–an intimacy that will empower you both, energize you both, and equip you both to deal with the world together. When a couple is really experiencing that, they can take on the world.
Then the discussion can turn more to overcoming roadblocks for sex, like I’m just too tired, or I don’t really enjoy it, and you can start looking at how you can address these things to make intimacy easier. If your spouse is nervous about it, you can talk about it in a loving way, saying something like,
“I understand you’re tired, but I want so much more for you. God created you to live a big life, and I think He put me here to help you do that. Can we talk about how we can break through some of these issues?”
The point is to make the topic of the discussion that you love your spouse and you don’t want them to miss out on intimacy–it isn’t only about your sexual needs. It’s about your needs as a couple.
That’s actually what by book 31 Days to Great Sex is all about. It starts slow, helping couples just have some conversations about what they want sex to look like and what they believe about sex, but then has some “quick wins” in the first week where you do something fun that gives you both hope that things can get better.
Then, before we move on to things like how to make sex feel great or how to talk about how often we should be having sex we build up the relationship to focus on flirting, making each other feel wanted, having more fun, etc. We bring the tension level down early!
Now, some people are bound to chime in and say that I’m being too easy on the spouse. If they’re not meeting needs, they’re sinning and they need to be told to shape up.
Well, in an ideal world we could just say to someone, “you’re doing wrong”, and they would cease. But I have very rarely seen that happen in real life. What I am proposing is to talk about it in a way that is more likely to get your spouse to understand your heart, and more likely to get your spouse involved in seeking a solution. And to me, that is more important than telling your spouse that he or she is wrong and you are right. If you’re not at the point where you can do that, and if you’re still too angry, then I’d suggest you work on your anger before you bring any of this up with your spouse.
It also could very well be that your spouse has good reason for not wanting sex, and having a conversation about it that focuses on your relationship rather than you feeling deprived is more likely to elicit what’s really going on.
Do you want MORE for your sex life?
3. If Your Spouse Isn’t Interested: Build Passion by Focusing on Intimacy in Other Ways
Intimacy should be the main focus of your conversation with your spouse, because as your spouse recognizes a deeper need for intimacy, he or she will likely recognize more of a need for sex.
But intimacy is deeper than just sex, and if you work on building intimacy in other areas of your life, you may very well also fuel your spouse’s desire for sex.
So work on your friendship. Spend time together. Develop hobbies together. Take an interest in what your spouse is doing. If your wife is overburdened with the house or with kids, take on some of the load. If your husband is overburdened with work, do what you can to help him. Help each other calm down, de-stress, and spend time together.
And then work on your spiritual intimacy. Our spiritual health is very related to our sexual health. When we feel close to God, we’ll simultaneously feel more like reaching out to our spouses. As you serve God and worship God more, you tend to reach out for your spouse more.
I have found that in my own life, too. When my husband and I read Psalms before we go to bed, or pray together before we go to bed, I’m always more ready to jump him! So work on developing spiritual disciplines together. Go to church together. Read the Bible together. If you’re uncomfortable praying out loud, get a book of prayers and read those (that really is allowed). In many ways, sex is a picture of our longing for God; our longing to be deeply connected and deeply known. As we open ourselves up to spiritual passion, we’re more likely to feel other kinds of passion.
Pursue intimacy in all areas of your life: physical, relational, and spiritual.
And then talk to your spouse about how God wants you to live lives of passion and intimacy. That is His desire. If we as a couple aren’t experiencing that, we’re missing out on something beautiful. So do we want to live small lives, or big lives? And what can we do to work towards that big life?
Will framing the conversation about sex like this work?
No, not necessarily. You can never change another person; you can only change yourself. However, I do believe that focusing on your goals as a couple and what God wants for you as a couple will often yield better dividends than just telling your spouse what they are doing wrong.
Again, that’s the aim of 31 Days to Great Sex: to grow on each lesson, little by little, to feel closer, find more passion, grow vulnerability, and get to the root of desire in your marriage. I hope it can help you as you try to navigate this, because I know it can be difficult!
Have you ever tried to have a conversation like this? How did it go? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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