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3 Barriers to Communicating with Your Spouse about Sex

Many spouses need to have a conversation about sex with their mates. They are not satisfied with the sexual intimacy in their marriage, and they see issues that need addressing, problems that need solving, holes in their heart that need filling.

Whatever the concern, it’s imperative that they start a conversation about sex. But all too often, such discussions devolve into frustration, contention, and stalemate. What’s keep you from making progress?

Couple with barrier between them + blog post title

1. Making yourself heard. You’re hurt by your spouse’s actions regarding marital intimacy, whether it’s insisting on activities you don’t want to do, resisting sex altogether, or whatever. You are sure that if only they understood how you feel, they would adjust their thinking and things would go more smoothly.

So you start the conversation, explain your thoughts and feelings, present information, argue your points, persuade, plead, beg, cry. Whatever it takes, you’re willing to do it, if only your spouse will listen to you.

Guess what? You’re making that conversation all about you and your feelings. Yes, you and your feelings matter! They matter a great deal. But so do your spouse’s.

Instead, try to ask questions and listen. Find out why they are resisting your viewpoint. What is in the way of them engaging more intimately or giving up porn or whatever you’re dealing with? Show real concern for your spouse’s feelings and give them a safe place to talk about what they are facing.

By doing so, you open up more conversation, gain insight you need to combat the problems, and show genuine care for your spouse. You might be surprised by what you discover if you’ll make the goal letting your spouse be heard and responding to them in love.

2. Keeping score. “You never…!” “You always…!”

We married people are excellent at keeping score. Especially if you’re unhappy in a specific area like sex. The rejected spouse knows exactly how many days it’s been since the last sex encounter or how many times she initiated and was shot down in the last week. The put-upon spouse knows how many times she’s been hit up for sex with no prior warning, romance, or affection. We don’t have to intentionally keep score; we have to intentionally stop keeping score.

Starting a conversation with a litany of your spouse’s failures is sure to end badly. Would you want to hear about everything you’re doing wrong? Then why do you think your spouse would respond to that?

Instead, talk about what you want. Instead of dwelling in real and perceived hurts, paint a picture of what your sexual intimacy could be like. Refer back to what it has been in the past, or what you imagine for the future, or — the best option! — the way God designed sexual intimacy in marriage. Speak of terms of the pleasure, connection, and closeness you desire to have as a couple; what your vision of sexual intimacy would mean to you, to your spouse, and to the relationship; and how a change in your sexual intimacy would honor God and keep your marriage strong.

Show how a new approach to sexual intimacy would be a beautiful thing for both of you — an ideal worth pursuing.

3. Blaming your spouse. If only he would… If only she would… Plenty of us believe that if our spouse would change, our problems would resolve.

Frankly, sometimes that’s true. Maybe your sexual problems really are the result of your spouse’s selfishness, sexual history, inability to deal with past abuse, or hormonal issues. Whatever it is, it could very well be that your spouse is a bigger part of the problem than you are.

But so what? You’re married. One flesh and all that. If you view your spouse as the enemy, you’re a divided team, and divided teams don’t win.

If you view your spouse as the enemy, you're a divided team, and divided teams don't win. Share on X

Instead, make it a WE problem. One of the great perks of marriage is having someone on your team to support you and help you through tough times. Be your spouse’s biggest ally! Whatever the issue may be, it’s a we issue now — one you can tackle together. Remember Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

Don’t let your spouse fall alone. Reach out and help! Be stronger together. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (v. 12). Together, and with the third cord of God on your side, you can conquer almost anything!

Ask your spouse what you can do to help, and address your sexual intimacy issues as a we thing. “We can build wonderful sexual intimacy, and we can get through this together.”

For more tips on talking to your spouse about sexual problems in your marriage, see How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse.

What difficulties have you experienced talking to your spouse about sexual issues? What has worked for you?

17 thoughts on “3 Barriers to Communicating with Your Spouse about Sex”

  1. Are you in my house?!? I have tried and tried and although he says he wants to read books together and work on it, its as though he just is too embarrassed or truly doesn’t want to work on it because of my body(he’s pretty hot), although he’ll never admit that. It’s always been hard for us to talk sex and intimacy, but after turning 40 recently I seem less embarrassed and ready to face the hard. Him not so much.

    1. How frustrating! Here’s something I was telling a friend yesterday: In marriage, it’s often not about having that one break-through conversation we want, but moving the needle little by little. And then one day you wake up and realize you’re so far down the path from where you were.

      Keep addressing the issue, little by little, gently and lovingly. But listen to him too. Blessings, C! I pray it all works out for you.

  2. My husband and I had an awful conversation a few weeks ago. I finally got the guts to draw the line and say no more of something in bed that had always made me feel so degraded. I eased into the conversation, asking him for feedback on what we could do better, what he needed from me, etc. Then when I got to the nitty gritty he was so mocking and disrespecting toward me for the rest of the conversation. I finally had to just leave the room for a while. Looking back I don’t know what I should have done differently, and I’m glad I stood up for myself.

    1. Sometimes you can do everything right, and a conversation still goes wrong. I simply encourage spouses to do their best to set things up for success. But yeah, if the other person chooses to feel attacked or angry, you’re not responsible for their reaction.

      Hang in there, AC!

  3. Doggone. You skipped right over my favorite, Eccelsiastes 4:11: Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?

  4. another thought

    Maybe it’s because of your body, but if he hasn’t said that, I’m guessing that’s not the problem. It may be that your body concerns are your concerns not his. He married you, must have found you attractive and has been with you. My guess is your body is fine with him, if only you’d give it to him without him having to ask. So try giving him your body every night for a week and see what happens. Just a thought.

    1. I literally cannot do this. My husband has never, not even once, had sex when I asked or initiated. He has zero interest in me physically, and since he has had dozens of sexual partners, I’m left to conclude that it really is me.

      Don’t forget, people get married for reasons other than love. And there are many kinds of love that have nothing to do with sex.

      1. It sounds like you need to seek local counseling to sort through what’s happening. And your husbands needs to understand how deeply hurt you are. Praying for you!

  5. People have such a hard time communicating about sex. Actually, I think a lot of couples have a hard time communicating about everything, so when it comes to sex it is even more difficult. Such a tough topic to deal with.

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  7. I just found your blog. Since you went to ACU, I assume you are or were CofC. This is great, since our/my church is absolutely horrible in discusssing sexual matters. My church recently had some marriage “experts” who said that sex was “animalistic” and if it ever was for the purpose of anything but a deep emotional connection, it was lust and was wrong. Even in marriage.

    I have been married for 27 years, and have not had any sex at all for the last five. If I mention it, my wife insults me and tells me sex should not be important and I better not even think of another woman. I am not sure how much longer I can go on. I have done everything I can think of, but nothing is ever good enough. She was never very sexual, but now she is completely nonsexual and is a very angry person. She had a full hysterectomy but refuses to go to any doctor to check for hormonal problems. She also is close friends with two divorced women who seem to hate all men.

    I know I will now be attacked by lots of women, so go ahead. None of you can hurt me as badly as my wife has done. I am just writing to warn women when your husband no longer asks for sex, there is something very wrong.

    1. Something is very wrong. My heart breaks when I hear of scenarios like these. I think most hurtful in such circumstances is the refusal of a spouse to even acknowledge this is a problem. It feels to the rejected spouse like they’re standing there with a gunshot wound, and their spouse is saying, “You’re fine. Stop bellyaching!” I will say that there is a likely a great deal of hurt resting inside your wife as well for her to continue refusing you this way. Maybe you can go at the issue from that angle of trying to help her face whatever pains her inside. But my prayers are with you. This is not an easy road you’re walking, and I pray God can give you the strength to do everything you can to be the person and husband you should be.

      (And yes, I’m Church of Christ.)

  8. I think communicating about sex between Christian couples is very difficult. Our parents (both my wife and I) spoke very little of sex to us other than don’t do it. We are getting a little better at communicating our desires but we have a long way to go.

  9. Thank you for this post.
    In the 7yrs that we have been married, I have orgasmed (during intercourse) less than 10times but I do enjoy sex, a lot. It bothers my husband and he talks about it all the time. It eats at me. I think about it a lot but I always brush it off when we talk about it. I dont want him to know how much it bothers me. It will hurt him so much more if he knew how much it bothers me. I know I need to communicate with him about this BUT I feel that we are ok. We have a good sex life and that is all that matters.

  10. J’s wife, I had written a reply but by accident deleted it before posting. So I’ll be very brief. Please read your own words again and prayerfully consider what God wants for you and your husband to experience in marriage.

    Many women I counsel brush things aside which are important, because it is difficult to talk about, but the beauty of intimate things is that you do not have to say a word, but just do them, men are very easy to guide. I perceive you may be holding yourself back and have an unrealistic expectation that intercourse alone should be enough, for 2/3 of married women, intercourse alone is not enough, it may be great but it won’t bring about orgasm alone.

    If your husband is like most, he cares more about your happiness and pleasure than his own. So slow him down, and guide him how to use the other things (fingers, hands, mouth) God has given him to arouse you and bring you to orgasm.

    Consider this vantage point: He is bothered as much as you are, and probably more, he feels unmanly because he cannot satisfy his wife, your marriage is missing the glue that it needs so desperately, your continued brushing it off is only making it worse. You diminish both your husband, your marriage, and the importance of intimacy every time you ignore this issue.

    You even start from a place of pain for you both and then diminish it. Until you both are satisfied with your intimacy and sex the way God designed it, your sex life is not OK, and your marriage is not OK.

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