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.
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).