Q&A with J: “I Feel Rejected All the Time”

Today’s question comes from a wife whose heart is broken by her husband’s rejection. As I often do, I pulled out the relevant parts of her question and left out some details. However, I’m sure other wives, specifically higher-drive wives, can relate to the emotional pain described by this reader:

What to do if my beloved husband just isn’t willing to change anything sex-wise?

We got married one and a half a year ago. At first, we used to make love like twice a week. This was okay with me, though I felt I wouldn’t mind a bit more. . . .

Now it’s been almost a year that we have stuck to this exactly once a week routine. And this is just not enough for me. I’m always longing to connect with him in a deep physical and emotional way, and it hurts so much that he doesn’t. . . . Whenever I ask him why he doesn’t want to make love more often, he just goes ‘ok, sweetheart, I’m sorry I hurt you. We’ll change it.’ and then he changes…the topic, and starts to speak about something else. And we stick to once a week. And whenever I tell him I feel totally undesired, he just says ‘come on, I do desire you.’ but what if I can’t feel it at all? (by the way, when we do have sex, he is  passionate and loving, and it feels heavenly for both of us.) 

When he wants it, he does it, but when he doesn’t, I can’t do anything to make him want me. Strangely enough, we do express our love in a physically affectionate way. We kiss, cuddle, hold hands, caress each other several times a day. We can’t even fall asleep without him spooning me and holding me tight. So now I feel rejected all the time. . . I just cry and pray almost all night.

Q&A with J: "I Feel Rejected All the Time"

You know your hubby loves you, and you figure if only he understood how much you desire greater intimacy, surely he would put forth more effort in the marital bedroom. Yet no matter what you try, you end up night after night wondering why he doesn’t long for you the way you long for him.

You’ve talked and talked, and he still doesn’t get it — how important this aspect of your relationship is. For many lower-drive spouses, that’s the issue. They love their mate, they want things to be better, but they truly don’t understand what the big fuss is about. It’s like living with someone who has a completely different body temperature (which many of you do). One of you is always hot or always cold, and the other wonders why their spouse is freaking out all the time when the temperature is just fine.

How can you get your message across? I have some posts about communicating more effectively with your spouse, and that could be where you begin — with more directed, positive conversation about what you want in your mutual sex life. (See How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse and Are You Sure You’re Communicating?)

However, the right choice could be to stop talking about it. Because it’s not important? No, of course not. It’s very important. However, when we hear the same thing over and over again and we don’t want to revisit the topic, we tune out. It’s a defensive measure many low-drive spouses seem to have perfected: You start talking sex, and they symbolically cover their ears and hum over your words. It’s become too painful a subject, so they build a wall and cower behind mild apologies or real excuses or mere silence.

If you can introduce the subject, focus instead on listening to him. Because for some reason, your mate is struggling. And whatever they’re going through sexually probably isn’t a personal rejection of you. Spouses uninterested in sex are typically responding to physiological issues, erroneous belief systems, negative past history, ongoing fatigue, etc. Of course, he’s (or she’s) married to you, but in a sense they would be uncooperative regardless of who they married. Because the issue resides with them, not you.

Move past their walls by making your relationship a safe environment for them to explore what’s going on, to ask for help, to pursue something better. Be his advocate and teammate in figuring out what issues are preventing him from enjoying God’s blessing of sexual intimacy in your marriage. That could include going to doctor appointments or counseling with him. Whatever’s going on with your spouse, it’s a we problem, because the two have become one (Genesis 2:24).

For yourself, consider these practical tips:

Accentuate the positive. Singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer said it way back in 1945: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative . . .” But even further back, there’s Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Even if you have reason to be disappointed, frustrated, and hurt by your spouse’s actions, dwelling on them will make everything that much worse. When you’re tempted to unleash your mind and/or mouth about your hubby mistreating you, try instead to think of things about him for which you are thankful. Accentuate what’s positive about your husband and your relationship. That daily practice can help you view him in a kinder way — and your joyful attitude is likely to be more of a magnet to your husband in the long run.

Be willing to initiate, and accept that sometimes the answer will be no. Should he say no? I’m not a fan of no for your marital sex life, although I think not now can be a completely reasonable answer. However, when you’re dealing with a lower-drive spouse, you might need to accept that you will have to do most of the initiating, that you will make requests not demands, and that you will accept that sometimes the answer will be no. But hey, sometimes the answer will be yes. Your marriage needs intimacy — various kinds of intimacy, including sex. Give yourself permission to pursue that goal, knowing it won’t yet be everything you want, but it will be something.

Express your heart to God. I’ll be honest: I prayed a lot to God when things were going poorly in our marriage, and little changed. But most of those prayers were a litany of complaints about my husband, excuses about my own bad attitudes and behaviors, and a plea for God to fix everything . . . yesterday. I encourage you to pray about this situation, not with the notion that God will play genie and perform a miracle in your marriage. I’m not saying He can’t, but I think what changes most when we pray is ourselves. Express your fears and your hurt and your longings to God, then ask for His comfort, His wisdom, His strength, and His love for your husband. Your Heavenly Daddy wants to hear your heart and be there for His beloved daughter.

I wish I could play genie myself and fix your situation. But I can’t. No one can truly change someone else; it’s that person’s free-will prerogative. Yet I believe that when we do the right thing, when we pursue the best for our marriages, blessings will come. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

22 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “I Feel Rejected All the Time”

  1. nylse

    My overriding thought is: it’s only been a year and a half of marriage. I’m not saying this is ok because she’s not ok with it but maybe she should try to figure out why this has become so burdensome to her. Maybe both of them had some expectations around this area that they never talked about or weren’t comfortable sharing…but maybe this would also be a place to start. She should cut herself some slack so she can enjoy what she has until it gets better.

    Reply
  2. Jennifer

    So what if it’s 21 years later? What if prayers haven’t changed anything? What if it’s just who he is? In a culture that is so sexual in nature, I have gotten to the point I hate romantic comedies because they just breed discontent and deepen the rejection.
    I would be interested if this would be the same information that you would give a man if the rolls were reversed or if we as wives only have the option to pray and wait.
    You missed it on this one big time.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      It’s absolutely my advice for the rejected spouse — regardless of gender — that you cannot change your spouse, but you can try to make a positive difference in your marriage. I OFTEN tell rejected husbands to sit down and listen to their wives and why they are resisting, to get on their wife’s side and figure things out so that they can both have the intimacy they need in marriage. And I did NOT say that the plan was “pray and wait” — rather, do everything you can, but in a loving, godly way.

      Now if the rejecter comes on my blog, they’ll get an earful about how they need to get past their issues and pursue (with vigor) sexual intimacy in their marriage. It’s definitely not okay to deprive your spouse of sex for 21 years!

      But I answer the question of the person who asks it.

      I didn’t “miss this one big time”; I think you mis-characterized what I said. I’m not blaming the rejected spouse AT ALL, just trying to help them figure out a way to cope.

      Reply
    2. B

      Hi Jennifer, I understand how hurtful and frustrating this is. It is so hard to read about men with high sex drives for their wives and not feel frustrated. And I’ve noticed that the majority of women simply cannot understand how it feels to be the rejected wife. They try to console, give advice, care – their hearts are in the right place – but they just DO NOT understand. It’s just such a foreign concept to them that they cannot grasp the magnitude of the pain. I think some other women, especially if they’ve gone through a period in their lives where their husband had a brief low drive (due to stress or illness) – then those women think they understand. But a lull is FAR different than being rejected for years. I’m with you. Being the higher drive spouse – for your entire marriage – especially when the culture screams at you that men want sex all the time, is a terribly hard spot to be in. I wish I could give you “the answer” but I’m still looking for it myself.

      J, I don’t think Jennifer meant to offend. It’s obvious she’s hurting and frustrated. Sometimes hurt comes across as offensive. And J, I admire you and your blog. That being said, I don’t think you can truly understand what a rejected wife feels like, because you have said yourself how much your husband loves and desires you, how healthy your sex life is, and what a good place you guys are in. That’s awesome! But it’s not like that for everyone. J, you radiate confidence, and it’s easy to see you feel secure in your husbands love. That, too, is great – but many wives don’t have that. And it’s a painful place to be.

      I thought it was a good post, but the one point I’d disagree with is “be willing to initiate and accept that the answer will sometimes be no.” Um…. No way!! I initiated forever, and after reading the blogs and learning I had it backwards, I stopped cold turkey. I still slip up and come on to him once in a while, but I try so hard not to. He says he misses it, but I don’t think so. If that were true, then why wouldn’t he be initiating more with me? Doesn’t make sense. Anyhow, I see your logic if you initiate and get told no once in a while. But if you initiate and get rejected over and over again for years (other than pity sex) you learn to stop making a fool out of yourself.

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        I wasn’t offended, B. I understand the underlying pain. BUT after a while of doing this, I also understand how important it is to not let my position be mis-characterized and then attacked accordingly. I want to clear about what I said and operate from that.

        And I think I understand more than you think I do… But I don’t pretend to understand what YOU personally go through. Absolutely not! My heart definitely goes out to you and other wives constantly rejected. You have my best wishes and prayers.

        Reply
  3. D

    Was in a milder version of this situation this year. Am also new to the marriage game (8 mos). Like this situation, I felt like our marriage was affectionate in every area but the bedroom, so while I had zero doubt about his love, I felt really puzzled and hurt he didn’t seem to desire me.

    It took a lot of little talks (many that felt like dead-ends, because they didn’t change the pattern) to find out there were physical problems on his end (doctor time!), but I felt like the strongest breakthrough came when I admitted that I felt like I was botching things up and apologized for my part in putting pressure on him, not listening, etc. — that seemed to change the pattern. Of course, your mileage may vary, due to different personality types.

    May I also recommend some reading? “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It” helped me understand some of the psychology that goes on in men’s heads–like how, when they feel like a failure at something, talking about it is the ***last*** thing they want to do (which can be polar opposite of a woman’s approach). It gives some alternative actions you can take to make sure you and your husband feel connected.
    I don’t think it’s a Christian-written book, but I thought the conclusion was very much in line with our Savior’s teachings!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’m not familiar with that book, but I’d likely agree with what you present as its message. So glad things have gotten better for you! Blessings for your marriage.

      Reply
  4. S

    I read all the time that a man needs sex every 72 hours or so. I know that isn’t true of everyone, but I understand it is true of most. If he doesn’t need it that often, is he getting it somewhere else. That is always my fear when I read something like this. If he isn’t getting it somewhere else, and not self-gratifying, he just might not need it like most other men.

    However, there has to be give and take. He needs to meet her needs as well as her meeting his. There has to be a happy medium, don’t you think?

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I believe in happy mediums, but sometimes the couple needs to get out of the middle altogether and go for broke! “Drink, be intoxicated with love!” (Song of Songs 5:1, HCSB).

      That said, the 72-hour thing is likely an average. Age, stress, physical shape, etc. can affect that number. And yes, “getting it somewhere else” can play a part too — with adultery, porn, and even solo masturbation. Some men are engaging in that behavior, and it could be the cause of the problems or another symptom of an underlying problem.

      But that’s not always the case. Some men are simply lower drive.

      Reply
  5. Lisa

    Thank you so much for sharing! I am the high sex drive person in our relationship and it is awful to be rejected over and over again. It gets to the point that you just want to “throw in the towel” and give up…but you also know that you need sexual intimacy just as much as anything else in marriage so you still pursue him. I am told over and over again…”I’m too tired” ~ “didn’t we just have sex (when it has been 5-7days) ~ “not now” (and it still doesn’t happen even in the next 48hrs or more)! This can be so very frustrating!
    We have such an amazing marriage otherwise, he shows love in meaningful ways to me (this awesome man pumps my gas every time it is needed), he does things around the house without me ever asking, he works hard and drives 1 1/2 hours one way to work each day, he caresses me just because, he tells me I’m beautiful all the time…all of these things make me want to make love to my husband even more! But that is the part I think that he doesn’t really understand…he is such a great husband that I want to make love even more often. *I’m not sure I even want to try and explain that to him because I really don’t want the other things to stop* 😉
    We are at the point that I am lucky to have sex once a week…most of the time I am just told “I’m tired” and that’t the end of the conversation or initiation. We have been married for 3 years and him and his late wife before me were married 10 years and with her he said it was about once a month…I guess I am lucky that it isn’t down to that now…but I would definitely be ok with at least 2 times a week! Thanks for bringing light to this issue!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      As we say down South, Bless. Your. Heart. That sounds frustrating, although I’m thrilled that he shows you love in other ways.

      One quick tip: I wonder what would happen if he responded, “I’m too tired,” and you responded with something like, “Then when would be a better time? I’d love to schedule that with you, so we have it to look forward to.”

      Reply
    2. libl

      I was rejected a lot….and found out he was masturbating instead. Big fight and we got to the why. He is just too sore and tired to do all the work of sex.

      Now, what happened isn’t perfect and I daresay I am the one who did the lion’s share of changing, adjusting, compromising, and giving up my desires…And it was a 2 year battle…But we are officially at a point where his drive surpasses mine, and we both climax 70% of the time.

      It feels so nice to be pursued, accepted, called nice things like sexy, and to have regular orgasms. It is so nice not to live in fear, worry, rejection, tears on the pillows. It all feels so nice that I almost don’t mind having to give up certain expectations (like oral sex for both of us, and manual sex for me).

      I had to expand my comfort zones (such as self stimulating during intercourse), and I had to learn to climax more quickly. I had to redefine foreplay and take responsibility for my own sexual arousal and not rely romantically nearly 100% on him to make me feel special.

      Hubby had to make some changes, too, including accepting that sex isn’t like in the movies, and that I pretty much can’t O from intercourse alone. (Though he still tries to make me….Seriously that takes way more effort than wiggling a finger!!)

      Like I said, it isn’t perfect, but it is FAR better than it was. Next time he says he is too tired, tell him to just relax and you’ll do all the work.

      Reply
  6. K

    J, when said to stop talking about it, did you mean indefinitely or just for a season to take some pressure off of the lower drive spouse? I agree that you might need to take a break and/or change the approach, but if you quit talking about it completely it might give the lower drive spouse the impression it isn’t an issue any longer. I speak this from experience.

    You said, “Of course, he’s (or she’s) married to you, but in a sense they would be uncooperative regardless of who they married. Because the issue resides with them, not you.”
    This is so true! The issue does reside within them. When our marriage was sexless, I used to worry that if anything ever happened to me and my husband remarried he would refuse her too. This concerned me because I thought someone else might leave him over it.

    You said, “Whatever’s going on with your spouse, it’s a we problem, because the two have become one (Genesis 2:24).”
    Again, right on the mark! This is probably a bigger “aha” for men, than women. My husband viewed the issues as his burden, instead of our problem to work on together. He is always there for me when I have a problem, but thought he had bear his problems on his own. I think this is a strength and ego thing that is instilled in men. Once I let my husband know that his problems were our problems, his burden lifted and he found it easier to open up to me. If only I had figured this out he needed to hear this 20 years ago!

    Your point about accentuating the positive is also spot on. Learning to be content in your circumstances is important to maintaining a strong relationship even though sexual intimacy is lacking. Even in a sexless marriage, you can have a very strong relationship. It’s still possible to have intimacy in every other area.

    Also, I found that asking “do you want to have sex?” did not work as a means of initiating. When I started saying things like, “I’m going to take a shower, come meet me.” or “I’m going to bed and I’ll be waiting for you”, I got much better results. And, sometimes I’d just get in shower with him when I knew he wasn’t in a rush for something. Again, if only I’d figured these things out 20 years ago!

    The breakthrough for us came after sex started to increase in frequency. I was figuring out how to initiate to get him to respond. Then I started telling him how the sex impacted me physically. This was the breakthrough that led to us talking about the issues that were preventing him from wanting sex. It took some time to get there, but it is all in the open now. It has also been very painful, but worth it because we both know that things will only get better with time.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Good for you sticking with it! It sounds like things have much improved.

      And yes, I meant to take a break in talking about it. You can come back later and approach in a different way, but sometimes it’s better to drop the subject for a bit and work on non-verbal ways to get your message across.

      Thanks!

      Reply
      1. libl

        I wanted to add here that during a time of prayer about it God told me to give it up. Hubby was fully rejecting me at that point. Absolutely no sex. I did give up praying, initiating, stressing, fearing, and within a week, hubby pursued me.

        At that point, my drive was near daily and his was every two weeks. It must be hard on a man to feel like he never gets a chance to be a man and initiate because his wife beats him to the punch.

        This isn’t a formula for every situation, but it may be insight for some.

        Reply
  7. e2

    Wow, how perspective makes such a difference. Your writer says, “when we do have sex [once a week], he is passionate and loving, and it feels heavenly for both of us. … we do express our love in a physically affectionate way. We kiss, cuddle, hold hands, caress each other *several times a day*. We can’t even fall asleep without him spooning me and holding me tight.”

    How many of your readers would love to have this sex life? My wife and I have orgasmic sex probably twice a week, and in between those sessions… nothing… no touching… no kissing… no caressing. I would gladly give up an orgasm every week just to have one daily passionate kiss.

    Reply
  8. Carol

    I realize that for a young person, once a week is on the low side, but “feeling heavenly” every week, and daily snuggling is a LOT! Check on the physical, let him know how very amazingly awesome he is for being so affectionate, and seriously count your blessings!

    Reply
    1. the wife who asked J

      Tthanks, Carol!
      As English is not my native language, sometimes I come across interesting expressions I didn’t knew before that make me think. When you told me to ‘count my blessings’, these words amazed me. How important this ‘counting’ is! I literally found myself counting my blessings, and I have to say I really have plenty of them. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Anon

    I felt the same way about a year into our marriage (we’re a month away from our second anniversary now so it hasn’t been too long). He is a great man and I know he loves me… We both cuddle every night and are affectionate too.

    We’re past that stage and moving into something better. I’ve learned to pray earnestly for him. Now we are at a point where we can talk about sex and it’s frequency, but I definitely had to learn to communicate through actions… Like you said, J, listening to him, loving him well, praying for him….

    And I think the important thing to remember is patience and faithfulness. We serve a patient and faithful God. Our problems aren’t going to be solved right away. Sometimes it takes continual, faithful prayer over months. Or learning to be patient in those moments of sexual rejection.

    Thanks for the post, J!

    Reply
  10. Anon

    I would like to add, after reading other comments, that some sexual baggage was present for my hubby. He had been addicted to porn and had unhealthy relationships before coming to a relationship with Christ. He knew he was a new creation , but i think he still held onto that guilt and hurt. It took a lot of patience and openness in both of us for him to share his past with me, and for us to with through it. And it took a while for me to realize that it was okay to be the higher drive spouse.

    Reply
  11. Sean

    Even as a celibate husband for over 5 years now, I still think that a refused wife is more tragic. She has to hear her friends say that their husbands are all over them and older women tell her to be grateful. When will Churches realize that the only person in existence who wants married couples to avoid sex is Satan?

    Reply
  12. the wife who asked J

    thank you, J, thank you so very much!!! your answering meant a great deal to me!
    I will act the way you advised me to – yesterday 🙂 I know this will help a lot, even if my hubby doesn’t change, because I am going to feel much better in my marriage this way.

    (sorry if I posted this twice, my phone’s been acting crazy)

    Reply

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