How the Sexually Disinterested Spouse Feels

Earlier this week, I shared responses from higher-drive wives asked what they feel about the lack of frequency and/or quality of sex in their marriage. Today, I want to share their responses to a different question.

76 Responses

From a research standpoint, these answers aren’t as useful, because they involve conjecture. While we can express what we’re feeling, it’s more difficult to know what someone else is feeling — unless they tell you.

Even so, the responses are eye-opening and likely accurate. They represent what I’ve researched and heard from sexually disinterested spouses.

Take the vow

Once again, let’s make a promise that:

I will not use this post to feed my resentment or anger, but rather to grieve through my own situation and sympathize with others. Moreover, I will not use this post to challenge or berate my spouse.

I’m sharing all this, in hopes that we will recognize how a big gap in sex drive can take an emotional toll on both the higher drive spouse and the sexually disinterested spouse. Indeed, a mismatch in drives is the #1 sexual problem reported by couples.

A mismatch in drives is the #1 sexual problem reported by couples. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

That gap isn’t a problem if you can negotiate the differences, use the opportunity to display empathy and generosity toward one another, and pursue regular sexual intimacy for your marriage. It may be that one of you gets less than their ideal and the other participates more than their ideal, but couples who’ve worked through the mismatch report overall satisfaction with their sex life.

Where it becomes a problem is when the gap is enough that one feels deprived and the other feels pressured or inadequate, two words that show up in the 45 emotions my respondents named.

Without further ado…

Here’s the list

Question: What primary emotion do you believe your HUSBAND feels knowing that you want higher frequency/quality of sex than he is currently giving?

Accepting

Annoyed

Apathetic

Apologetic

Avoidant

Awkward

Broken

Burdened

Clueless

Disappointed

Discouraged

Emasculated

Empathetic (some)

Exhausted

Failure (like a failure)

Fearful

Frustrated

Guilty

Inadequate

Incompetent

Incredulous

Indifferent

Insecure

Insufficient

Irritated

Justified

Lacking self-confidence

Lost

Moody

Obligated

Oblivious

Overwhelmed

Pitiful

Pressured

Pushed away

Remorseful

Resentful

Resigned

Sad

Shamed

Sorry

Stressed

Tainted (by porn use)

Tested

Unsure

By and large, the most common statement from these higher drives wives was something like “he feels like less of a man.” The emotion named was emasculated. (See A Letter to the Low Drive Husband.)

That’s not what you’d hear about sexually disinterested wives, but the other emotions listed above apply — like burdened, obligated, resentful, and sad.

But aren’t sexually disinterested spouses obligated?

Sometimes a husband or wife (usually husband) writes me with the request that I demand their spouse have sex with them. Because after all, “they’re commanded to do so in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.” I then point out that this passage is about mutuality not selfishness, that their situation is not easy on their spouse either (see emotions list!), and that you get a lot more lovin’ when you approach your spouse with love! Agape love specifically.

We need to put ourselves in the other’s shoes and imagine the situation from that angle.

  • What if having sex made you feel desirable and cherished, but your spouse refused to have it with you?
  • What if you received little pleasure from sex, but your spouse demanded it regularly?
  • What if you became moody and sad during sexual dry spells in your marriage?
  • What if your spouse seemed to only meet your emotional needs when they wanted sex?
  • What if you felt your spouse’s lack of desire indicated that you were “less than” —less than attractive, less than worthy, less than loved?
  • What if you didn’t want sex because of your bad past experiences, but you didn’t know how to tell your spouse?
  • What if…

I don’t know your marriage’s “what if,” but all too often we don’t know for our marriage. We haven’t asked how our spouse feels about the situation. Or we asked, got a shallow answer, and stopped pursuing more. Or we got an answer but didn’t like the answer or didn’t let sink in and elicit empathy.

What’s the solution?

Here’s where my SEO and book sales would go up if I said: YOU CAN SOLVE THE SEXUAL DESIRE GAP IN YOUR MARRIAGE WITH THESE 5 EASY STEPS! And then I outlined the steps and made them sound quick and doable like a Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days commercial. Fortunately — or unfortunately for my pocketbook — I’m much more interested in telling you the truth.

The truth is that the solution depends on:

Your specific situation

Is the sexual disinterest due to relational problems? Medical issues? Past abuse? Something else? Is the HD spouse reasonable in their expectations? Pressuring for unwanted activities? Using porn? Something else?

The specifics of why there’s such a big gap matter. A proper diagnosis is needed for proper treatment.

Your and your spouse’s willingness

One spouse can have great influence and encouragement for a marriage to get on track. But eventually, you both have to be willing to work on your sexual intimacy.

You simply cannot make your spouse do something they don’t want to do. (If you do, that’s called abuse, by the way.) That said, you making changes could push things in the right direction.

Your understanding of God’s design

If you believe myths about sex, you’ll prescribe the wrong solutions and not get anywhere. Or your gains will be short-lived. (See our podcast episodes on Lies Women Believe: Part 1 and Part 2, Myths from Pop Culture.)

With the foundation of the Word of God and the truths about sex as God intended it, however, you can begin to see what a loving response would be to your particular situation. Moreover, you’ll know what you’re aiming for and the benefits of having that level of intimacy with your spouse.

Your resources

Access to necessary or useful resources can make a big difference. For instance, if a sexually disinterested spouse experienced childhood abuse, being able to see a trauma counselor could be the most important piece for building fresh intimacy. Likewise for porn recovery programs, Christian counseling or sex therapy, or a medical specialist to address physical issues.

Many couples don’t require that level of intervention. Rather, they need resources like mine, that help you understand God’s design, communicate more effectively, and experience greater pleasure in your marriage bed. Or they can use my resources to supplement those other interventions.

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Take the first step

Regardless, the first step is talking to your spouse about the gap in sexual desire. For those who say they’ve talked about it a whole lot already, I suggest you clear the air and start over. That is, tell your spouse you know it’s been a point of contention and the topic makes both of you tense, but you want to start over and really understand their viewpoint better.

And then … do that. Ask questions and spend more time listening than talking. My book, Pillow Talk, can help with that, but you may need to introduce the conversation on your own before getting your spouse on board with going through my (fabulous) book. (You can download a sample here to see and share with your spouse what it’s like.)

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Now that I think about it, maybe your first step should be prayer, followed by opening up that conversation. As I write this, I’m saying a prayer for you — that you can address the big gap in desire in marriage, listen and show empathy, and figure out what the next step should be.

And I pray that that many more couples will begin to describe their sexual gap with emotions like optimistic, hopeful, contented, and loved.

As the sexually disinterested spouse, did you relate to any of this list of emotions? If you’re the higher drive spouse, did any of those emotions surprise you?

18 thoughts on “How the Sexually Disinterested Spouse Feels

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    There’s much that can be mended
    in the trials together faced
    by knowing we’re commended
    to offer kindness’ grace.
    We may be far too tired,
    scarred by the life we live
    to feel in any way inspired,
    but still, we need to give.
    The storehouse may seem empty,
    resources drawn full down,
    but there’s always room to gently
    bring a smile from a sad frown.
    As hands and heart of God above
    we must be channels of His love.

    Reply
  2. Nick Peters

    I think it’s odd to think of husbands not wanting to do things. Not denying it happens. Just saying it’s odd for me to think about. I think about how Mark Gungor once said in his marriage series, “Some of you men out there are married to women who just love sex. They can’t get enough. To those of you like that, I think I speak on behalf of all men when I say, ‘We hate you.’ “

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Gungor is really funny, and I like a lot of his presentation. But that may be my least favorite line from him. Because I always imagine the higher drive wives in that crowd cringing inside, feeling even more weird or less-than, wondering if they’re alone.

      Reply
    2. Val Russell

      I am one of.those women and my husband isn’t that interested really,I think sometimes he just can’t be bothering to.out the effort in and would rather get stoned and watch TV but if he admitted that in a room full.of men they would probably think, what’s wrong with you man!

      Reply
      1. Ben

        Val, yeah, guess, well, yeah, I’m pretty much with you on that. To most men in a group that probably be the main consensus…but…I know, and yes I can hardly understand it but I’ve come to learn from a dear male friend who has some low T issues and who just can’t go for more than seriously a couple of minutes and it’s over. He’s confessed to me how it’s much more complex than we normally think and after being in several groups including one of Mrs. J’s I now know it’s more common than we have been led to believe. My buddy actually feels he’ll not “satisfy” his wife…so he almost dreads her HD desire for him, feeling he’ll just disappoint her and that she won’t be satisfied yet she enjoys what time, times they do have when they do. Of course she’d like more, wish he could last longer but he’s almost not physically able. He does apparently try manual, oral etc for quite a long time but when they finally come to PIV, he know’s it over. I’ve almost come to accept that my dear spouse is even similar, afraid, knowing she just doesn’t enjoy it, won’t let herself or feels like she just won’t measure up or a combination of all and some poor choices I’ve made pretty much as a result of it too. I’m trying to deal with it now for years, hoping, praying, dealing with the gamut of emotions, bitterness, contempt, you name it but have to try and hold on, trusting that even if the Father doesn’t in my lifetime…somehow his grace will get us through. God bless you guys Val, smh, just wish it was so straight forward and simple…oh my, but there’s always so much…probably so much more than what seems to be so obvious..kinda like an “iceberg,” so much more we don’t see…

        Reply
  3. Uvilma

    I’ve been the lower drive wife for 20 years. My husband is super high drive, the gap is huge. For many years I didn’t tell why I didn’t want sex: I felt nothing or was painful. My husband complained a lot. I made a personal commitment to have sex with him twice a week, but still he complained. For many seasons, sex to me was a duty, I knew I had to love him no matter what, but sometimes it is so difficult, so emotionally hard to do something that it’s not building intimacy at all because when he is trembling with pleasure I feel miles away from his heart, because I am trying to hold on with a smile in my face, but feeling nothing in my body, just lonely, devastated, useless, defective.
    Getting the courage for a new sexual encounter could takes some days, so please have patience. Yes , I love my husband with all my heart… but it is pretty hard to try it one more time.
    So that is how some of us we feel.

    Reply
  4. Chris

    I love how you introduce this topic. I hear too many gripe posts. I am blessed to have a wife who understands the importance of physical and emotional intimacy. It doesn’t mean that I always am satisfied, but I always know that I am loved. It hasn’t always been so. It has taken some time to express my thoughts, which didn’t come easily. However, the result has not only been a greater physical connection, but a much stronger emotional connection as well. By the way, my wife melts when I ask to pray for her or for us. She understands the amazing power of prayer. I believe that it is important, as the spiritual leader of our home, to point her to Christ (and as my help mate, she also points me to Christ). It is the iron sharpens iron concept.

    Reply
  5. Valleygirl

    I’m the disinterested one. I’m an introvert and need space to recharge. Physical touch exhausts me. I only feel he is engaging to me when he wants it. I’m obliging and putting on a smile but inside I feel distant.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’m so sorry. You should feel loved throughout your time together. I’m wondering if he needs to understand you better. Perhaps you could talk together more? You could also seek out resources about making sex better for you. A good place to start is our podcast: Sex Chat for Christian Wives. We talk plenty about lower drive wives, and we’re also hosting a $5 webinar in November for husbands to help explain a women’s sexual response (and how it’s not like his!).

      Reply
  6. Valleygirl

    I am working through some heart issues so there is a good chance it’s my fault not his. I am not receiving love. I’m sure it’s there I just struggle seeing it. I’ll find the podcast for sure and give a listen. I do want to learn to love it and often it’s good one in the middle of it but man it’s hard to get to that point.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      It is difficult, and I posted these responses so that we can have compassion for one another. Most disinterested or reluctant spouses I know of aren’t bad people or ill-willed; they have their own challenges that need to be acknowledged, identified, and addressed. And there should be patience and perseverance as spouses work together toward better intimacy, in all areas of marriage.

      Reply
  7. Valleygirl

    It was when spouse shared with me what it was doing to him and how he felt that I really “woke up” for lack of a better word. I had learned to ignore the walls around my heart. I’m now taking them down. One brick at a time. Working hard to stay the course.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’m glad you listened and opened your heart. I pray that sexual intimacy can become a blessing for both of you — as God intended it to be.

      Reply
  8. AMidwestWife

    Thank you for this. I appreciate your objective stance and advice on issues that oftentimes feel so emotional and subjective. My husbands drive is higher at this stage in life, that is true. I don’t feel bad. I’ve continuously stated factors that contribute to that and basically unless those change likely my libido well remain where it’s at. These factors are things like let me have a few hours to myself without a child attached to me, be emotionally supportive, don’t jump on my back when I spend $ on things (this isn’t an issue of us being able to afford it but an issue of my husband being extremely fiscally conservative)… it just all adds up. Does the Bible explicitly state he is to do these things? No, so he really doesn’t have to but it definitely would contribute to a better sex life. But it all comes to a head because we both feel burnt out. So one of these days maybe we can figure it out.

    Reply
  9. Matt

    I’ve got to be honest; the way the poll was conducted and the resulting list above feels like words being put into the mouth of low-drive husbands like me.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’m very interested to hear from LD husbands how they feel, but I don’t have direct access to them, and in many cases, these wives simply reported what their own husbands had told them.

      But I certainly understand your perspective. If you’re willing, could you relate where you think these are off? Or how you would describe it instead?

      Reply

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