Q&A with J: What If Hubby Is Passive in the Bedroom?

Today’s question is from a wife who’s been married for a while, and they’re encountering an ongoing problem. Despite making sex a regular part of their marriage, they’re still struggling:

Please address the topic of a passive withdrawn husband. Mine never initiates, asks, nor jumps in to ravish, nor does he do foreplay, nor sexual talk, nor sounds.  Our sex live has been unsatisfying for us both. He believes God has told him that His will is for married couples to have sex everyday. We have tried this for a while. He liked it, but I still never felt connected.

We both understand that often a women’s body will warm up sexually after her mind. That the couple starts foreplay, and then in a while, she will get turned on. Only thing, with him being so so passive, and not doing anything, nothing much happens. He often is too limp to proceed, or even though I’m not ready, I let him penetrate just so he can quickly climax and go to sleep. I have been very clear, that I am interested to make love, but I need him to make a direct move, pass…..not be like a 90 year old man shuffling down the hall with his walker.

Q&A with J- What If Hubby Is Passive in the Bedroom- with illustrated couple in bed

Let me start with this tidbit: We’ve got this idea that 99.9% of men are ready, eager, and assertively pursuing sex in their marriages. It’s been conveyed directly, indirectly, and through both secular and religious messages. But it’s just not true.

Sometimes the passive, lower-drive, or even disinterested mate is the husband.

Sometimes the passive, lower-drive, or even disinterested mate is the husband. Click To Tweet

It could be that something’s amiss, or it could be his biological makeup or personality. But I just want wives reading this, and those dealing with something similar, to understand that perhaps 15-25% of marriages have a higher-drive wife who longs for more frequent and intense sexual intimacy.

And now, the question when one spouse isn’t interested or active in the marriage bed is why. Why is this person not grabbing hold of this gift of sex in their marriage? It’s quite possible something has gone awry, so here are some possibilities for your husband:

  • Low testosterone
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Shame about sex, based on poor teaching or past experiences
  • Porn use (past or present), which interferes with the brain’s arousal mechanisms
  • Depression/anxiety disorder
  • Relationship conflict or discontent
  • Prior inability to perform, affecting his confidence
  • High stress, and the resulting body chemicals that block arousal

The only way to know what’s going on, and thus how to proceed, is to communicate about your sex life. All too often, though, what we do is start that conversation with a complaint about our own dissatisfaction with sex. Instead, I challenge you to open yourself up more, create a safe atmosphere for him to share, and dig deeper by asking questions and really listening.

If his body simply isn’t cooperating with libido or responsiveness … well, that’s a very different issue to deal with than if he’s secretly watching porn. Dealing with depression calls for a different answer than relationship stress. Once you find out what’s going on, you can better address the challenges.

All that said, it’s possible nothing’s particularly wrong. If your husband is passive in other areas of life, he might be passive in the bedroom too. I’ve talked to wives whose husbands were shy in flirting, asking them out, popping the question, and so on … and then, not surprisingly, those men are shy in the marriage bed. They are timid by personality, and expecting him to suddenly unleash an assertive lover is likely unrealistic.

But you can help him be more assertive in lovemaking in the moment.

Communicate what you like. Speak up for what you want. Or move his hand where you want it. Show him what you like and then encourage him with sounds and compliments for what feels good to you. Make your marriage bed a place of freedom to express what you desire.

Ask what he wants. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? Besides, if you outright ask what he would like to try or do, you might discover something that arouses him more than what’s been going on. This attitude also demonstrates that you are interested in satisfying him sexually, which itself can be a turn-on.

Be the assertive one. Nothing says you can’t take charge and be the assertive one. Pull him closer toward you. Get on top and get things going. My book, Hot, Holy & Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, also has ideas on what to do with your hands, your legs, and your hips to be more active in lovemaking.

Have intercourse less often. Did anyone ever think I’d write those words on my blog? I sure didn’t! But you’ve been married for a long time (info from the email, but not the question above), which means you’re bound to be older, and you’re still trying to have sex everyday. Some couples can do that, but if he’s struggling to get or maintain an erection, he may need a longer refractory period. You can certainly engage in other forms of sexual intimacy—like he could pleasure you—but maybe go two to three days in between intercourse.

Pursue other forms of intimacy. Finally, you might need to attend to other areas of intimacy in your marriage. Believe me, I’m all in favor of consistent, spicy sexual intimacy and believe sex is an important ingredient in a healthy marriage. That said, your husband believes it’s important to have sex every single day, but are you pursuing other intimacy-building activities with that regularity? Sex itself is not the be-all end-all for your marriage, but rather one component of intimacy.

Sex itself is not the be-all end-all for your marriage, but rather one component of intimacy. Click To Tweet

You might need to invest more in times away from the bedroom to really feel that heat and excitement in the bedroom.

Pray for change. I say this all the time, but that’s because it’s such a good idea. And it’s not because I think you’ll pray to God that your husband will suddenly become assertive and voila! he’s a tiger the next time you tumble into bed. You know what really happens when you pray openly and humbly about marital issues? You change. And if you let God change you, He’ll bring you a better perspective, resources to help you, and patience as you work on the issues. In turn, that might well cause your husband to make changes too.

Given your own issues with arousal, I also think you could both learn more about how to get things going and what feels good. Thankfully, I wrote a whole book about that! Hot, Holy & Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design is essentially a how-to manual for wives with ideas for getting your body cooperating, revving, and stimulated in the marriage bed. What I haven’t covered here, you can find there.

18 thoughts on “Q&A with J: What If Hubby Is Passive in the Bedroom?

  1. N

    Wow God’s will for us to have sex everyday. I’ll take it!!!! Have his testotrone checked. Shurtran Young Living oil is very good. It has worked wonders on hubby. Dr Dan Purser has a great book on mans hormones.

    Reply
  2. Eric Wiggin

    Two issues come to mind (and I write from nearly 54 years of sleeping with the same woman):

    #1. Yesterday my wife said to me (with no provocation whatsoever), “Eric, it’s spring. When the dandelion greens are ready, you dig some, and I’ll be happy to cook them.” This melted my soul. Wifey hates dandelion greens (I grew up in a home where Mother canned several dozen quarts a year), and we’ve probably missed a few romps in bed because I was angry over dear wife’s peeved reticence to cook even one kettle-full for my supper. So . . . do try to please the guy. It may just be your ticket to a good time in bed!

    #2. Is he overweight? Our eldest son has just joined a weight-loss contest at the plant where he works. A dozen and a half men each picked in $50 for a prize to the “biggest loser.” One guy was over 300 lbs. and another over 400. Son was 275 to start. A medical report I once read stated that a man with a waist size more than 42 will have difficulty getting an erection.

    So . . . I doubt if dandelion greens is an issue with anyone this loop. But ANY petty issue will do the same thing. Ladies, PLEASE, for the sake of your marriage, don’t wait 54 years to lay down your armor … Before you get naked, give him what he wants with a few minor, non-sexual concessions. God will reward you. And if hubs is sporting a beer belly, try to get him to the doctor. And feed him veggies instead of pasta!

    Eric Wiggin

    Reply
  3. Mitch

    Has anyone, wives in particular given this idea any thought? In the beginning, your husband was a sex machine. Over time you’ve slowed your pace down by making excuses and channeling your time and energy in other areas. When your husband would try to hug and kiss, flirt and make it known he wanted to share an intimate with you, you’d shut him down. This made/makes him feel like he has a problem and is undesirable to you. Now that you are in the mood, he has shut off that part of his brain and you are left feeling undesired and less of a woman. Mom’s please have this talk with your daughters so they don’t live this nightmare.

    Reply
    1. Jennifer

      Mitch-

      Not the case in my marriage. Actually quite the opposite. My husband has never had much interest in sex, even in the beginning. I’m the one living the nightmare (for 18 years!) while he happily goes about his TV watching and sleeping.

      Reply
        1. Jennifer

          Thank you J! — For us it’s not just that I’m high drive. I’m more than certain that his issues stem from a porn habit that started at a horribly young age (seriously, his dad left porn mags in full access when he was 5 and rented porn movies for him when he was a teen). He is recovering and attends weekly meetings (I had to kick him out of the house to get him to do that) but I am not finding any resources on how he can “re-wire” his brain. He doesn’t seem to have much interest in that. Don’t mean to unload, it’s just very depressing for me.

          Reply
          1. J Post author

            Oh, this makes my heart ache. I’m so sorry about your struggle. I’m praying for you both! That you can find the right resources and wisdom, and that he will feel a strong urge to make changes. Many blessings!

  4. Rachel

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying that sometimes men can be lower drive naturally, and that it isn’t always a result of a sin or a medical issue. My husband is low drive, and always has been. He is perfectly healthy and does not have any sexual issues or a porn addiction. But I feel like I can’t find any advice on this from Christian circles. Either your husband has an insatiable sexual appetite, or he has a porn addiction, seems to be the message I find everywhere. Thank you for recognizing that it is possible for a man to be low drive, and that this is okay.

    Reply
  5. Mitch

    I know there are hot and cold spouses out there. I’m nearly always ready to go but that’s not the case for my wife. I really like it when the Mrs. initiates but it’s usually after weeks of telling me no. By then I’m already broken down and contemplating; is it pitty or guilt sex or a way to excerpt control over me? Then she tells me how great it was and we shouldn’t wait that long. ??? I’ve tried to set a rule of no electronics in the bedroom to which I got a lot of backlash. The two hours before bed watching tv shows and the half hour in bed on FB or games could be spent face to face and possibly improve communication and even sexual intimacy. If it really was all that great I think she or anyone else would put forth the effort to make those moments happen more frequently. By the way; my sex calendar is at 84 days dry. She knows it’s been ” a long time” but I’m not sure she knows how long. I’m sure she’d be offended if she knew I have kept track of our intimate interactions over the last year and a half.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I suspect she just doesn’t feel the urge like you do. Some women really do report to me that they have a sex drive, but it doesn’t kick in until it’s been like a couple of weeks since they last made love. Maybe that’s what’s happening?

      Reply
      1. Mitch

        J, She sent me a pic of her and the eldest son today with the caption, “so fat.” It’s tough to convince someone unhappy with themselves of how beautiful you think they are. Much less get her to lower her guard and allow me to touch or see her undressed. The mommy tummy has never bothered me and is actually kinda hot. I just wish she were confident. That’s what’s really attractive.

        Reply
  6. Anonymous for his privacy

    There’s a difference between being passive and being low-drive, I think, because of my own experience. My husband has plenty of drive; we have a lot of sex and he says he likes it and he expresses himself very well in suggesting he wants it. I’m also fortunate that he does a lot of verbal exclamations about how he’s feeling during it. But he is passive in the sense that he doesn’t physically initiate. I love it when he does, but in nearly 3 years of marriage with sex happening at least four times a week, I could count the number of times he’s physically initiated on the fingers of one hand and still have three left over. He lies back and I do the work. It works well for us, though sometimes I’d like something different. When I’ve mentioned it, or joked that I’m ‘forcing myself’ on him, he says that his first wife had migraines so he let her tell him when she was willing. He isn’t low drive at all, I think he’s just lazy, to be honest. He’s pretty lazy when it comes to any other physical activity. My point is just that being passive and having low drive aren’t necessarily the same thing.

    Reply
  7. Once a lower drive husband

    One aspect I have never seen mentioned when I’ve read articles or blog posts, particularly on the topic of the husband having the lower drive, is the wife’s treatment of him or her attitude toward him as possibly being a root of his low drive. Though a husband’s behavior toward his wife could also cause her to have a lower drive, the tendency and what is often expected is for the husband to have the higher drive. When first married (married almost 20 years) my wife was controlling. For example, she felt we were to spend all of our spare time together and she limited the time I spent with male friends and asked me to curtail hobbies that didn’t involve her. She also controlled what we did in the bedroom and, because she was quite squeamish, only allowed intercourse and only in a few positions. Though she regularly desired intercourse, my drive tanked due to the control issue and lack of variety. I felt she treated me more like a son than a husband and I did not find that to be particularly arousing. I thought it was my role as a husband, though, to please her so I kept quiet. I didn’t realize how unhealthy my silence was. I had always thought sex was a bonus for marriage, not a key ingredient, and I began to see it more as a duty. After 5 or 6 years she began to let go of some of the control, but it would still be another 4 or 5 before she understood how much the squeamishness affected me. I finally blew up one year and let out everything that I had kept silent about, which I don’t recommend 🙂 We had a very difficult couple of years after that getting our communication to a healthy place but were able to work through it. We have grown immensely and are no longer in the same place, but I wanted to point out root cause of a low-drive (be it the husband or the wife) that I have not seen mentioned before.

    Reply
  8. Mitch

    I have to agree that someone always having to be in control can be a big turn off. My low drive wife sets the tone for when, where and how. It’s only at night, in our bed with the lights off. I don’t know how many weekends we have been without kids or the little one takes a 1-1/2 to 2 hour nap and she’s not the least bit interested in making the morning great or some afternoon delight. The Wife asked me on day 89 if I wanted to play with the girls. Of course I said yes.
    Her: I know it’s been a long time.
    Me: Yes, it was January.
    Her: No, it hasn’t been that long.
    Me: January 18 to be exact.
    Her: You seriously write it down?!
    Me: Yes, I wanted to know what our frequency is.
    Her: So there’s a magic number of times you have sex that’s going to keep you happy?!
    Me: It’s not about a number. It’s about feeling wanted.
    No sex that night.
    The next day.
    Her: You made me feel like crap when you said you write down our sexual encounters.
    Me: That’s not why I do it. I told you I read a lot and maybe that’s a bad thing but I want to be with you a lot more often than we are.
    Her: I must have made you feel really bad.
    Sex that night.
    Her: I’m sorry I made you wait 3 months.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    What do I do when my husband and I are both young and he doesn’t “desire” me? We have sex about once per week and I’m dying. It hurts so much. I’m pretty confident that he’s not a porn user, just low desire in general. I don’t know what to do.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I have a whole section in my book, Hot, Holy & Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, for higher-drive wives. I’ve also written many posts here for higher-drive wives, and you can look for them using the search bar above. In addition, I’m working on more resources for women in your very spot. Just so you know, estimates are now that 15-30% of marriages have a higher-drive wife, so you’re not alone.

      Reply

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