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She Wants, He Doesn’t Want

Men are always the ones hot for sex, while women are lukewarm to cold much of the time. Right? That’s what society, and many churches now, tell us over and over. So it must be true!

No, it’s not always true.

Some wives go day to day questioning what’s wrong with them or their marital relationship because they desire a physically intimate relationship but their hubby doesn’t. It’s the hush-hush secret we don’t discuss that some men don’t care about having sex much, and their wives are silently suffering.

So what happens when a woman isn’t sexually desired by her husband? Most women start to question. They wonder to themselves one or more of the following:

“What’s wrong with me?”

If all husbands are panting and grabbing after their women 24/7 and my husband barely glances my direction when I don a sheer negligee, is there something about me that is distasteful? Am I not attractive?  Why doesn’t he find me physically pleasing?

You are likely a beautiful woman. Your husband desired you enough to marry you. As long as you are reasonably keeping yourself up, your husband should find you attractive. If he doesn’t, there is something amiss with his standards. There are things that many women can do to turn their hubbies’ heads (flattering clothes, presentation, etc.), but a man who has almost no sex drive is probably not going to respond merely because you throw on a black lace teddy tonight.

“Is he having an affair?”

If men think about sex every 7 seconds and my hubby hasn’t thought about it in three weeks, is he getting his fix elsewhere? Is he not pursuing me because he’s already caught another woman?

Some men are having affairs. But if you have no other clues in that direction, this is probably not the case. Moreover, married men in affairs may continue to have sex with their wives, so lack of interest isn’t overwhelming evidence of infidelity. It is probably evidence of lack of interest, period.

“Is he gay?”

Is he simply not interested in sex with women generally? Is he desirous of another kind of relationship? Could he possibly be homosexual? 

There are no good statistics on how many spouses eventually “come out” as homosexual, but it isn’t common. Once again, if you have no other hints that your spouse could be gay, he most likely isn’t. Lack of sex drive is not a good clue for sexual orientation. 

“Is our marriage over?”

Does he not find me physically attractive because he is simply no longer in love with me? Does he not want a sexual relationship because he doesn’t want any kind of relationship with me? 

The marriage is not over. If you have a good relationship otherwise, you can most likely improve this area of your marital life as well. If you are not experiencing a good marital relationship overall, and your sex life is also poor, you should seek professional help. If your spouse will not go with you, go alone and see if the counselor has suggestions for what you can do to positively impact you both. 

“Is something physically wrong with him?”

Is there a medical or emotional problem getting in the way of his sex drive? Is he too embarrassed to admit it? Is he simply okay with not having sex? 

This is the most likely reason for your spouse’s lack of interest! A sufficient amount of testosterone is required for a man to experience a normal sex drive; if he is low on this hormone, his sex drive will decrease. Low thyroid, depression, high blood sugar, and other factors can also affect your husband’s libido. In addition, negative events of the past can impede a person’s desire and enjoyment of sex with their partner. If a man was molested or inappropriately exposed to sexual material as a child, it can suppress his ability to engage in appropriate physical intimacy now. 

“What can I do to improve our sex life?”

If I bring up this subject, will I embarrass him? Will he be angry? Hurt? Even less attracted to me? Is there any fix available?

Ultimately, you must bring up the topic if you want to see any improvement. If you are concerned that he will be embarrassed, angry, hurt, or whatever, I recommend scheduling a therapy session with a Christian marriage counselor and addressing it in that safe environment. If you can address it with him alone, select a time away from the children, household interruptions, etc. and find a place with privacy and quiet. In either setting, do not complain about the lack of sex or unleash your theories about why he doesn’t desire you; rather, explain that you are concerned about your physical relationship, that you desire greater physical intimacy, and that you want to address any and all issues that affect your lack of connection in that area. If there was a time when things were better, you can reference a “Remember When…” and explain that you want to experience that closeness again. 

“Is this as good as it gets?”

Am I relegated to a sexless marriage? If it never gets any better, how can I remain in this marriage? How can I be okay with that? 

I wish I could answer this one. A sexless marriage is NOT what God intended. Having said that, if my husband was physically injured tomorrow in a way that made it impossible for us to be physically intimate, would I stay? Absolutely!!! However, I understand that being unable to perform and unwilling to engage are two different things. I simply advise that you spend time in prayer asking for God’s help to work through the hurt and the loneliness you likely feel during this time. Sex is not the reason to get married; there are many other benefits to having a relationship with your spouse.

Frankly, I don’t know if men ask these questions of themselves when they are living in a sexless marriage. Not having yet cracked the code of the male brain—which my husband swears is a relatively simple connect-the-dots puzzle—I still don’t understand guy thinking. (For instance, when a man says he is thinking about nothing, apparently he is. How is that even possible?!)

But women whose husbands have physically neglected them are probably going through a self-evaluation more extensive that the battery of tests given to a patient on psychiatric commitment. It is okay to ponder the problem, but not good to obsess and question every little thing about yourself or your marriage. Address the issue, seek help if needed, and pray for greater physical intimacy.

20 thoughts on “She Wants, He Doesn’t Want”

  1. P.S. That’s what I get for Monday morning blogging after a long week at church camp with little sleep. 🙂

  2. Two notes, if I may (as both a male of the species and someone who goes through this periodical with a wife who sometimes has long spells of little to no interest in sex).

    #1. Yes, men ask ourselves most or all of these same questions, plus or minus a couple. For example, it had never occurred to me to question my wife’s sexual orientation but I have wondered if there is something wrong with how I perform in bed that is makes her less interested. Obviously this is a subset of your “What’s wrong with ME?” question but the male perspective is, I think, more performance oriented then the female perspective is.

    #2. It is possible the man doesn’t know how important it is to his partner or even see the problem. Speaking from the male perspective, what I heard in Christian pre-marital counseling was “if the guy isn’t happy with his sex life, it is his fault. He isn’t doing enough of the little things to get his wife in the mood.” No mention was made of the women potentially being unhappy with her sex life, so the take away was “as long as the man is happy, it is all good.” Obviously this is not the case and just as obviously, Christian pre-marital counseling had a disconnect on this particular subject and might still have one.

  3. I love that you talked about this issue! It is one that’s not often discussed and more often laughed off. I dealt with this issue for the first several years of our marriage and it was extremely difficult. I actually just talked about this issue on my blog as well so I wanted to share it with you if you don’t mind. If you’d rather remove it that’s just fine, no offense taken at all!! 🙂 BTW, I absolutely love your blog and look forward to every single post!

  4. I agree with Jamie! Sex is always the unmentionable subject and I love that this is a safe and fun place to learn and discuss.

    My hubby and I have been through a lot physically in our intimacy…meaning physical disabilities. He has severe muscle spasms, a bulging disc, in remission from testicular cancer and low in testosterone. There is definitely much to be said about being honest and open in your communication with your spouse about your feelings and perceptions of what is going on!

    He needs to know you are interested in him, even when he is unable to participate. He needs to know you are understanding and will wait for him if he’s physically unable for whatever reason at the time. Even me just mentioning that I was reading this blog and talking a bit about the subject of the blog I had enjoyed at that time(the one about shaving), gave him a new perspective on where my interest/openness level was. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the article. That is me, my husband is not interested at all in sex and made me believe for the longest that he “just” didn’t need sex that often. Once a month was about as good as it got, twice if I was lucky, then I find out he’s having sex more than that with a very young (23), beautiful, married co-worker. Talk about a confidence destroyer. After catching them and the affair ending with him still here, he still does not want sex with me. It makes me feel like what is wrong with me? Our christian counselor hasn’t even gotten to the sex issues with all the anger and bitterness with us fighting over his affair. I’m not unattractive and have never been one to “cut him off” but let me tell you it hurts to have your husband turn you down especially when he didn’t turn someone else down. Thanks for the great blog. I enjoy reading it.

  6. @Wrapped – Health problems can be a slap to your sex life. I feel for you and your husband. You have a wonderful perspective, though.

    @Anon – Oh, my hearts breaks for you and your marriage. If the counselor doesn’t address the issue soon, I suggest you bring it up. Not because having regular sex is a panacea for marital problems (it ain’t), but a couple’s sex life can reflect how the rest of the marriage is going. Your difficulties in the bedroom may be a window into how you view each other as a whole, and that information may help the counselor. You’re in my prayers.

  7. I have been married for 36yrs & the last 5yrs have been sexless. My husband has no desire to have sex with me anymore – we are both in our middle 50″s – way to young to act like we are in our 80″s. Our marriage isn’t the greatest – he avoids me, doesn’t communicate, & he stays away for 8 to 10 hrs bicycle riding all over our area (or so he says). We’ve gone to counseling but he puts forth no effort to try & make things better. I have caught him in lies like taking a vacation day without telling me & then when I ask him – he lies about it. I caught him because my friend saw his truck at walmart in the middle of the day in another town 35 miles away – he said he lied because he didn’t want to listen to me nag. Thats funny – I thought things were going so good because we had been going to counseling & I was really working on trying to improve our relationship by not nagging. I felt like we were getting closer until he lied about this – felt like I got hit on the head with a sledge hammer. I suggested the counseling, I tried to make things better, & I(We) faild miserably. My husband seems to enjoy being alone all the time – he goes & does things by himself mostly. He is gone from 6am to 9:30pm almost every nite of the week when he is working & he only works from 7am to 3pm. He says he is biking. I work 10am to 6:30pm & never know where he is at unless I call his cell & then he doesn’t answer it because he says he doesn’t hear it. I totally give up with this relationship – I don’t know what else to do. How do I get out after 36yrs & I still do love him but I’m tired of playing games. He knows all this but never wants to talk about any of it. When we fight – we go to bed angry & he gets up the next day & acts all chipper like nothing ever happened even though we never talked or discussed the issues we were mad about. This is long enough – just needed to vent! Thanks

    1. Anonymous –
      I totally feel your pain. I am 44 and my husband is 47 and we will be married 25 years come next month. I don’t know what to think either anymore. I’m stressed, scared, confused and he knows all this, and everytime I bring anything up to him, he just sits there and pets the dog, and doesn’t say a word to me. He acts like he is a teenage child rebelling against me, and I just can’t handle this anymore. Our sex life is horrible. Even when we have sex, he’s selfish for his needs only. I should just get out, but i am scared to be alone, and I do love him. I mean, I want the man that I married, and the man i knew just a few years ago, back. He used to be great, but he started hanging around these old retired men at a local restaraunt/bar and they all drink and do what the hell they want. WHen I’ve said something about caring, he says, “No one else’s wife cares.” I then said,…”When I get 65 years old, I won’t care either, but until then I do. I’m just very hurt in him always spening time with them and helping them and doing things for them when he knows i need help or things done too, or i just want to spend time with him. i’ve even tried just scheduling a day per week for date night, and that lasted only a couple months and now again, back to normal ways.
      HELP, please.

    2. Connie, there is something beyond the sex issue going on here for him. The change in your husband behavior with who he hangs out with and what he says to you is a clue. Of course, it would be best for you two to get marriage counseling, but it doesn’t sound like he’d be open to that idea. I can’t imagine your hurt. I would encourage you to find confidence in yourself as you are and pursue daily happiness. Don’t let it depend on him. Let it depend on how God your Father sees you–as a beautiful, worthwhile daughter of the King. You may want to get counseling for yourself to see if you can figure out what the underlying issues are and how to address them. You’re in my prayers.

  8. Anonymous – My heart was breaking as I read your story. I am not a therapist, but as a concerned woman and wife, I’ll offer a couple of thoughts. (1) Sometimes a lack of sex is simply about the sex – whether due to a low sex drive, past history, etc. and sometimes it is an indicator of greater problems in the marriage. (Of course, it can be both.) The marriage problems you’re having appear to be intertwined with the sexual issues. (2) If your husband won’t go to counseling, I suggest you go alone. Be picky and find a counselor you both like and who approaches your marriage with a moral compass. You might get a helpful perspective and some tips on things to do to improve your marriage even on your own. Engaged Marriage had a great post on this:

    Pray for your wisdom, and I will pray as well. It’s particularly painful when your spouse doesn’t seem to even want to work on the marriage. But only God knows your husband’s heart and what is really going on with him inside.

    Remember that you are a beautiful woman with much to offer and that God knows your value.

  9. Anonymous, I too hurt for you. As a male who is a therapist, for 15 years, I wonder if he is depressed. he may not be, but I think that a decent percentage of men who are not interested in sex are depressed.
    Male depression is often hard to spot as we are not up front with the depression and we either don’t recognize it in ourselves or we refuse to consider it and pretend nothing is wrong.
    I like Archibald Hart’s book “Unmasking Male depression” and recommend it to you to take a look at. Obviously I’m just guessing, but ti might provide you some clues.
    Blessings to you my dear sister and I’m sorry this is happening.

  10. Hi J. First of all I want to thank you for such a great blog – it is truth written in love, which is exactly what is needed on the topic of marital intimacy.

    In addition to the points you raised yourself, I would like to offer some other possible causes for the above problem, based on my own experience. Such an atypical imbalance could be due to one or more of the following factors:

    1. Large age gap – when the man is much older (say, 10 years or more) it can lead to a discrepancy in sex drive. The man’s drive is on the decline each year (due to hormonal changes, etc), whilst the woman’s seems to just get stronger!

    2. Couples who work together/don’t spend much time apart – when a couple spends almost all their time together (e.g. they both work from home, or work in the same job, share the same friends, etc.) the man’s physical desire for his wife can dwindle, as to some degree he is being satiated merely by being around her. Short, frequent periods of absence (such as during the working day) can indeed make the heart grow fonder, and the desire grow stronger. Something about being around his wife all day long can cause a man to feel less sexually driven towards her.

    3. Unforgiveness – if your husband knows you harbor any ill-feeling toward him, it can cause him to lose his desire. This can happen on a subconscious level, with the husband not even realizing that this is causing his indifference until he does some quiet introspection. Feeling like the “bad guy” is a potential passion killer for a man.

    Obviously, the first is impossible to change, but natural measures could be taken to keep his hormones functioning optimally and his stress level low. As for number two, allowing short periods of time apart could be beneficial – encouraging guy-time/fishing trips/independent activities, as well as doing some of your own activities independently of your husband (take a class, make new girl-friends, enjoy girls’ nights, even allow for the odd solo vacation, being sure to keep your mind on your husband during periods of absence). As for the third point, that requires an active decision to forgive and let go of the past, as well as to keep no record of wrongs as they occur. For those of you who find this impossible, stop trying and just allow the power of God’s forgiveness to flow through you. Keep in mind how much you have been forgiven, for “he who is forgiven much, loves much”.

    Sorry for the essay, but I thought that perhaps this could help someone. Thanks again for such a fantastic blog. God bless you!

    1. Great points! Thanks for your input.

      (This is also a kick in my pants to finish a post I started about that age gap you mention in #1.)

    2. Excellent Post! As a woman having been through this type of hurtful disconnet with my husband, so many things run through your mind… For me, I was convinced that “I’m no longer attractive to him AND he’s having an affair”!
      Thankfully we are over that time, but it did take a little daily seperation (both working from home} and forgivness.
      It isn’t always as horrific as what I, or most women, believe.

    3. I totally agree with the age gap thing and I know that has been a factor for us. We got married when I was 21, he was 32 and we didn’t have sex NEARLY as much as I expected or wanted. I asked myself a lot of these questions (mostly #1) especially as we were newlyweds and both virgins at marriage so I was crazy horny and I couldn’t figure out why even prancing around in all this new lingerie was doing nothing for him! Weird thing was that he was horny a lot when we were dating, but I think once we got married and he realized that sex was very different from what he expected it to be, was more work, required more emotional output than he realized, so he wasn’t as interested. It was SO hard and I think that his age (or moreso mine) had a lot to do with it! J I would LOVE to hear a post about age gaps!!!

  11. Another reason why I (a husband) at times don’t care to initiate sex or respond with enthusiasm (very rare due to her low libido)is when my wife has been critical of me all day long, when it seems as if I can do nothing right or to please her, and as a result even if my body wants sex (which emotionally I always do) I am not interested for a while…. I don’t think this is a correct perspective Biblically, but is none the less how I feel and struggle to correct it.

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