Does Your Husband’s Rejection Make You Doubt Yourself?

On Monday, I wrote Do You Make Your Husband Feel Guilty about Sex? My intent was to explain to wives (my main audience) how husbands say they feel in the face of their wife’s rejection or disinterest in sexual intimacy.

Of course, rejection goes both ways. There are a number of women that post didn’t apply to, because those higher-desire wives are the ones getting refused. And it hurts. I get it.

Some of these wives wrote about their experiences in the comments, how they were the ones made to feel guilty. I thought about that for a while — why I’d heard about guilt from husbands before, but not so much us ladies. And I think it’s because I more often hear from higher-desire wives about doubt.

Maybe because we ladies are often constant self-evaluators, maybe because society proclaims (incorrectly) that “normal” is a horny husband and a reluctant wife, maybe because stories of cheating husbands are so prevalent . . . maybe. But for whatever reason, I suspect that higher-desire wives whose sexual advances are consistently rejected, or perhaps merely tolerated, by their husbands tend to experience severe doubt. About what? Well, here are some pangs of doubt brought on by a husband’s rejection of his wife’s sexual desire.

Doubt about her appeal. This wife worries there must be something unattractive about her. After all, hasn’t she heard all her life that men are flooded with sexual desire the moment they see a beautiful woman? Naked flesh? Even a hint of sexy stuff? Yet, her husband doesn’t respond to her. So maybe the problem lies with her lack of appeal.

This is highly unlikely. Sure, a person can let him/herself go to the point they lose attractiveness. Yet, most spouses are surprisingly reasonable about their mate’s looks — still highly pleased and aroused by their beloved, even as their bodies change through the years. It’s far more likely that you, wife, possess distinct beauty and appeal.

Besides, doubting your appeal won’t help your sex life. If you personally want to improve your health or appearance, go ahead and do so. (Better health never hurts!) But hold your head high and your body erect. Be confident that God knit you together beautifully (Psalm 139:14). You are attractive, and your husband’s lack of interest probably isn’t related to a lack of appeal.

Doubt about the relationship. This wife feels her marriage must be failing in some way because her husband doesn’t want her in the bedroom. Perhaps there are some horrible kinks in their relationship she can’t see, something she’d fix if only she knew what it was. The marriage is sinking, and she can’t even say just when and how the hole formed in their relationship boat. A sense of doom creeps over her, and she wonders if they will ever be okay again.

Did anyone else read He’s Just Not That Into You? It was a relationship book that was all the rage a few years back, and one of its premises was that if a man isn’t trying desperately to get you into bed, he’s just not that into you. That’s a prevalent notion out there, that if a guy isn’t like a bucking bronco in the chute when it comes to sex, he doesn’t want to take you on any kind of relationship ride, period.

Hogwash. There are a number of couples who have good marriages but honestly haven’t worked out all of the issues in their marital bedroom. Perhaps a spouse’s resistance to sex stems from unhealthy teaching in their past, a history of sexual abuse, physical or hormonal challenges, mood disorders, or a heavy blanket of stress in their lives. Sometimes, a person’s lack of sexual interest isn’t about their spouse, it’s just about them.

Now, of course, whatever affects one spouse affects both of you. Once you say “I do,” his problems are your problems, and your problems are his, and it’s a beautiful thing to have someone on your team who’ll do everything they can to help you work through your issues and overcome. So sexual problems in marriage, regardless of how they came about, are a we thing to resolve. But their existence doesn’t necessarily indicate some relationship hammer about to drop.

Doubt about his faithfulness. This wife wonders if his lack of sexual desire in their marriage means he’s getting sated elsewhere. Is he carrying on a physical affair? Is having an online affair? Is he looking at porn?

Yes, there is some percentage of husbands for whom this is true. But there are also plenty of men out there whose desire simply isn’t that high. They aren’t getting fulfilled somewhere else, because they require much less filling to begin with. They might be content with sex now and then. And feel quite devoted to their wife.

Is this a problem for you both? Yeah, sure it is. When there’s a severe mismatch in sexual drives, or there’s just not much sex happening, both spouses need to address the issue and seek a mutually satisfying resolution. (Preferably a lot more sex. In almost all cases.) But just because he’s not looking your way as often as you want, doesn’t mean that his eyes have strayed to someone else.

Woman DoubtingBeing constantly rejected sexually by her husband can make a wife doubt herself and her marriage. It takes inner strength to fight against the negative messages that swirl around in your brain when he says no.

Yes, long periods of sexual rejection, refusal, and disconnect will negatively impact your marriage. Yet, have confidence in yourself and your ability to grow through your circumstances. It may take time, research, effort, conversation, prayer, and much more, but change can happen.

Every single day, marriages improve. Spouses break through obstacles, connect where they were divided, reignite the spark.

And where you feel doubt, you can always find confidence in the Lord.

“I cried out, ‘I am slipping!’
but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Psalm 94:18-19

16 thoughts on “Does Your Husband’s Rejection Make You Doubt Yourself?

  1. H

    Yes, you are right…..I wrote in one of the comments on the last post….you must just keep doing all the things you are doing. We cannot let self doubt creep in. It will get better! Praying for all that have way more problems than I do…..it really put my issues with my husband in perspective. It could be a lot worse….with God’s help we will get through it.

  2. Tam

    When I read the title of the last post, “Do you make your husband feel guilty about sex?” I immediately thought yes because he recently told me that he feels pressured into performing for me. I consider myself a higher drive wife. So I took the title as a rebuking that perhaps I’m doing too much pursuing in wanting sex from him. Then I read the blog post and it was completely opposite of what I was thinking. I basically read it and dismissed it. I often find that I’m putting up a wall between us when it comes to sex. I try not to, but he rejects me and it hurts. I get hurt, I get angry and tell him, but then nothing comes of it, so I tend to make myself numb to the “desire” within me. I also know that this is unhealthy for our marriage too. When he does finally want sex, I do it to make him happy and it’s usually at inopportune times or have no desire. I’m tired of this rut. What do I do besides pray and continually communicate my needs?

    1. J Post author

      Well, the post that addresses your situation is more likely the one I put up today: Does Your Husband’s Rejection Make You Doubt Yourself?.

      Prayer is, of course, something you should continue! And communicating your needs is an important part of any marriage, but I wonder sometimes if these situations don’t call for less talking about one’s needs and more about what you mutually wish your sex life looked like. Ask him what he thinks a great, healthy sex life in your marriage would involve in terms of frequency, variety, etc. And then listen to his responses and try to find areas in which you agree. Implement any changes you can make and celebrate progress. Yes, you should continue to try to break through and improve your sexual intimacy, but make sure you’re taking a WE approach to your sex life and including his desires as well as your own in the equation.

      Many blessings to you and your marriage! I’ve written some other posts for higher-desire wives. You might also want to search for those and the tips I give there.

  3. Dan

    Excellent follow-up J. The wives definitely deserved some consideration on this issue from their side of it. I have to admit my wife is going through this to some degree presently because I am having to make adjustments in how I need/want to/am able to experience “doing” sex. I am, in some cases, having to redefine “sex.” After reading this and commenting today on it’s mother post, I am going to have a talk with my wife this afternoon to try to ease some of her anxiety. It would be nice if I had it all figured out in its entirety so I didn’t have to revisit it later, but that’s not the case. I sometimes feel because of the constant change in relationships, we can never really heal anything. We just keep having to put bandaids and Neosporine on one another’s wounds, grow and move on.

  4. Michele

    After a horrible crisis in our marriage, my husband revealed that he has for years preferred masturbation to actual sex with me. He never thought of it as cheating because so many men talk about it as a normal thing guys do. . Just like porn has become normal in our culture. For years I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me which resulted in me trying to change me in every possible way but, with little to no results. So, I would highly recommend if another wife is questioning why her husband isn’t interested that she approach him on thing subject.

    1. J Post author

      I pray that you’ve worked that out, Michele!

      Thanks for piping in. I was actually writing about that very thing in another context today — how masturbation is sometimes preferred because it’s just easier. But it’s far less fulfilling in the long run.

      1. Michele

        Thank you J, God has moved in a mighty way to save our marriage. The major artery that was missing from our marriage was trust & communication. We were perfectly matched in the beginning so, I knew something was wrong. After some major strongholds broken he’s a very different husband & father. We’re currently in an affair recovery group at our church. Yes, he progressed from masturbation only, to porn, to an actual affair with a co-worker. Although my heart is broken to bits I know that God has promised me restoration. God’s actual words were I know this feels like the beginning of the pain but, it’s actually the end of it.

  5. Larry B (larrysmusings.com)

    It may be in many marriages that the problems in the bedroom (and with mismatched levels of desire, and lack of interest (in sex) or rejection) are a symptom of more serious issues in the relationship. If there is emotional neglect or hurt or resentment, these can serve to reduce desire for lovemaking. It seems to me that when the lovemaking is infrequent or treated as “duty sex”, that this indicates more serious relationship problems that need to be admitted and addressed. (And emotional hurt and resentment can apply to husbands. The husband who believes that he is not respected by his wife, or feels, rightly or wrongly, that he and his needs are not an important priority to his wife will often withdraw from the wife emotionally and physically.)

  6. Jim

    “Sometimes, a person’s lack of sexual interest isn’t about their spouse, it’s just about them.”

    This is true in my case, however it’s not a lack of interest, but of shame. As far back as I remember I have always struggled with body image. It still is now after 15 years of marriage. The past couple years have been the worst. My wife has the lower drive, so I don’t know she notices much. But I attribute that to my lack of maleness if you will. And at times it is too difficult to initiate because I don’t offer much. And when she doesn’t initiate (which is most of the time) of course I think things. So, this could be a reason for others too, I don’t know.

  7. SMP

    Hubby and I are in a balanced season in our bedroom right now (Yay!), but in general I tend to be the higher drive spouse. This is a great article! I wish I could have read this years ago! I know it will be a great encouragement to other wives when they don’t feel good enough.

  8. M

    Oh my.. It feels so good to know I’m not alone. I’m the wife, and have the higher drive, and sometimes it just gets so hard. We have sex often, but it just feels like I’m the one who wants it, so that’s why we do. Like shouldn’t heee want mee? I know I’m pretty skinny and look alright but how can I believe it when my husband doesn’t seem drawn to me?? Yes, I definitely doubt. He’s very good looking so I feel like maybe he wishes I looked better. The worst thing is when other guys tell me I look good.. (I dress very modestly, by the way! It’s not like I’m seeking attention from other guys.) But the comments make me doubt my marriage. I hate the bad thoughts. Maybe I should have married another guy. One that actually appreciates how I look. My husband tells me he does, but if he’s not initiating sex very often- how am I supposed to believe him? I feel so insecure. If he loved how I looked, wouldn’t he want me? To be close, to touch, to make love? I wish I didn’t feel like a nag. He’s the man right? When I hear women complaining about their husbands always wanting sex it’s like- what’s wrong with you?! Your husband wants you! Where is the problem???

    The thing that’s been on my mind most recently is maybe it’s the work. Usually I initiate and if he’s in the mood, he ‘accepts’ and takes over. And that’s how it always is. I feel like- maybe if he let me do some of the work, like me being on top, he might want it more? I’ve asked and he’s pretty much just said maybe. But when we’re actually ‘in the act,’ I’m not really given the chance.. I guess maybe he doesn’t want me to be on top? Still one of the main reasons he rejects me is because he’s tired, or sore. Just trying to make him less tired..

    I’m just so sick of trying. I feel like I should just settle for when he wants it, like a ‘normal’ wife. What’s wrong with me? A wife, wanting sex a lot? Something must be.

    We dated a long time. Our wedding day was our first kiss. I mean it was hard to stay pure!!! (he was always trying to get something back then!) Now, we can finally have each other whenever we want. This is beautiful, and right, and pure. What God designed for us to share with just each other. I guess I just don’t see why he wouldn’t want it more. I’d understand if it was down the road but we haven’t even been married six months..

    All the other higher drive wives out there, I know how you feel. And those in worse situations than mine, my heart breaks for you. :/ Don’t lose hope. God is with you, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

    Sorry for the novel!:/

    1. SMP

      I could have written almost all of this at 6 months into my marriage– including the waiting to kiss!

      I realized that a lot of it was unrealistic expectations. I didn’t realize that no guy REALLY wants nonstop sex. Before marriage, I was mentally preparing myself to be the generous lower drive spouse. I had to realize that all the books I had read beforehand were useless because I didn’t marry Mr. Average Stereotype, I married Mr. J—–.

      Don’t give up. Don’t give in to wondering if you should have married someone else. That thought crossed my mind too. In all probability, this is just temporary. Both of your drives will ebb and flow. Even if you’re always at least a little higher drive, you guys will probably find a balance. 🙂

  9. Nancy

    Please, if your husband’s drive is causing difficulties in your marriage, have him tested for testosterone levels. I felt rejected, unloved, unlovable, like a freak. One the rare occasion I was brave enough to talk about sex with my girlfriends, they too, made me feel like a freak. Turns out hubby’s T levels were so low, the doctor was shocked. She only tested him to shut me up. He’s gone from no sex drive to a normal one. Do not wait for 20 years to get him tested.

  10. janie

    It is so nice to know I’m not alone. I have tried talking to him and he says there is nothing wrong with me. I’ve told him i want him and asked if he would prefer if I wore lingerie. He says no. But if to try to initiate sex, he acts like I’m just playing around or just pushes my hand away. We converse well and everything else is fine. But within the last two months it has gone from twice a week to twice a month. So I have just buckled down and try to ignore it but it gets hard to ignore outright rejection. The other night he asked me to take a shower with him and I thought we were going to make love. Nope. Straight to bed he went. I don’t know what else to do

  11. rebecca

    Like a few comments here , our first kiss was our wedding day. The honeymoon and first few months of marriage were great then it stopped. We can go weeks at a time with nothing. I am definitely higher drive but in some ways, I’ve given up. I was prepared for him always wanting sex and I think I’ve struggled with wondering what’s wrong. I even remember hearing a pastors wife say if a man doesn’t want sex, he’s gay. I was so relieved when I heard I am not the only high drive wife out there. But I’m not sure whys to do. Whenever I try to talk to him about it, he just apologizes or we fight. Thanks for the article.

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