How the Sexually Rejected Spouse Feels

Not long ago, I posed a simple question in my higher drive wife group.

Over 100 Responses

The 111 answers I received reveal a lot about how a spouse regularly rejected in marriage feels.

Of course we’re not talking about the occasional no or not-now answers that are entirely reasonable within the course of a marriage! Rather, these are emotions experienced by spouses who see a pattern of sexual refusal or disinterest from their spouse.

Instead of writing a lot about their responses, I simply want to share the list of emotions, in hopes that:

  1. Frustrated, higher drive spouses will recognize they are not alone.
  2. Refusing or gatekeeping spouses (not just lower drive, which is normal) can see how emotional sex is for the HD spouse.

Related posts: Is Sex Disconnected from Love for Men?, Do You Personalize Sexual Rejection?

Take the Vow

One caveat, though: We higher drive spouses will now raise our hands and promise the following:

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 for not giving me sex.

Later this week, I will share what those same HD wives believe their LD husbands feel about their situation. Because a big gap in sex drives affects both spouses emotionally. And it’s important to also consider the feelings our spouse is experiencing.

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Here’s the List

Question: What primary emotion do you feel as a result of not getting the frequency and/or quality of sex you desire in your marriage?

Adrift

Alone

Angry

Anxious

Apathetic

Ashamed

Betrayed

Bitter

Brokenhearted

Bummed

Cold

Dead inside

Depressed

Desperate

Devastated

Disappointed

Disconnected

Embarrassed

Empty

Fearful

Frustrated

Glum

Grieved

Heartbroken

Helpless

Hopeless

Hurt

Inadequate

Irrelevant

Irritable

Isolated

Jealous (of others)

Lacking confidence

Lonely

Misunderstood

Naïve

Needy

Neglected

Numb

Overbearing

Oversensitive

Pushy

Replaced

Resentful

Resigned

Robbed

Sad

Self-deprecating

Self-doubtful

Selfish

Tearful

Trapped

Ugly

Unaccepted

Undesirable

Undesired

Unimportant

Unloved

Unwanted

Unworthy

Weird

Worried

Don’t Give Up

Those are heavy words to process. But I want to leave off with the encouragement that many couples who’ve been in this place found their way up and out. We hear success stories in that higher drive wife group too, as sexual intimacy in marriages begins to improve with love, intentionality, prayer, and perseverance. The road isn’t always easy, but it’s a path worth taking.

As the higher drive spouse, do you relate to any of these emotions? If you’ve been a reluctant sexual partner in your marriage, did any of these emotions surprise you?

27 thoughts on “How the Sexually Rejected Spouse Feels

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    I know you do not want me
    beyond the mere platonic;
    far from being misery,
    it’s something of a tonic.
    No more am I held in thrall
    to instinct base and cloying,
    and I am free to play football,
    raise hell, and be annoying.
    I wanted life in open air,
    and not between the sheets,
    a place so blithely free of care
    where joy and danger meet.
    But know this, dear, and hold it true,
    that it’s not reduced, my love for you.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      As usual, your poetic talent comes through!

      Of course, your situation is quite different, with cancer taking away the desire and ability to engage sexually. As I’ve long pointed out, there’s a difference between being unable and being unwilling to have sex in marriage. I don’t consider what you’re going through a sexual rejection, but rather an insurmountable obstacle. I pray for you and your wife both!

      Reply
  2. Nunia bizness

    It really has more to do with attraction, motivation, and passion. These are all things that actually take a little work and decision making.
    I don’t see the motivation; therefore,
    I don’t see the attraction being displayed; therefore, no passion is being constructed.
    People seem to believe these things should just happen without much effort but that is NOT true.
    This is why people say, “be fully present.”

    Reply
    1. Beth

      Nunia,
      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m unclear about the direction they are taking. Do you mean the emotions listed here are because effort hasn’t been made? That people who are rejected by their spouses are Just not attractive, so why should there be motivation snd passion?
      You seem to have thought about this a lot. I would be interested in your further clarification and advice.

      Reply
  3. Keri

    Could you please help us know what to do to when a spouse is feeling neglected sexually and the other partner has a low sex drive? We can acknowledge the person’s myriad feelings but what should we do?

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      There’s a lot addressing this very issue here on my blog and in my books. Rather than me summarizing (which I really can’t, because there’s no one right answer), I recommend you run some searches using the search bar above. Also, for wives check out the blogs of OysterBed7 and The Forgiven Wife. Blessings!

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Disappointment would best described my feelings. However, I have contributed to my feelings of disappointment. My expectations were so high when I got married, it placed an undue burden upon my wife. As we aged, her health issues also contributed to the low frequency and quality of our sex life. I need to remind myself that there is usually two sides for every story…

    Reply
  5. closertotheheart

    Undesired and unimportant top my list, but a lot (most?) of those emotions apply to me. I would not call my wife a refuser or gatekeeper, we are intimate about once a week on average. I’ve made a huge effort over the years to address any issues she’s had with me: being an emotionally present friend to her, helping around the house, spending lots of time with her. From my perspective, she always has things that are more important to deal with, no matter how much I take on to offload from her. She struggles with working on intimacy, has a hard time thinking about intimacy and showing desire for me (except when we are in the moment), and has a hard time putting time into things that are hard for her (like intimacy). I see the time she spends in other areas, and wonder if she just took 10% of that time and focused on intimacy, how much better would our love life be?

    Reply
    1. Bill Johnson

      Well-said, Brother. women want to drag any and all kinds of peripheral issues into the bedroom. Sex is only granted if you get a “passing grade” on the report card she always keeps running in the background of her mind. More often than not, even if you get an “A” she’ll hold out, and use it as a bludgeon to get you to an “A+” grade. The most salient , and missing descriptor for me is “humiliated”

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        I almost never publish things like this, because what’s the point? Comments like these don’t spur conversation, solution, or even empathy. But I’m letting this one through to show that this is what sometimes happens. Look, I sincerely feel for you and your resentment, your frustration, your anger. However, step back and read what you just said about women in general and your wife specifically! Dude, what self-respecting female would sleep with that?!

        Unwittingly, you are likely making it all worse. Even if she was 98% of the problem, now you’re a bigger part of the problem because you’re lashing out. It’s understandable, but that doesn’t make it right or useful.

        I pray that you’ll read the post I just put up today (How the Sexually Disinterested Spouse Feels) and aim for some empathy, because I suspect underneath the surface, your wife is hurting too.

        Reply
  6. B

    First, yes, there’s hope. I never believed that when I was deep in the middle of this, but our marriage and sex life has improved.

    As someone who struggled with being a much higher drive wife for many, many years, a willing wife who was more often than not rejected, I’d say ALL of the “un” words expressed my feelings. Undesireable. Unwanted. Unloved. Unworthy. So unworthy. I had to learn to find real love and worth in Jesus, instead of trying to get those things from my husband. It was a painful but very worthwhile experience.

    But the word that would repeat over and over in my brain was – repulsive. I felt absolutely repulsive. It’s a tough place to be.

    We are proof that things can change. It’s not easy. It has been so hard for me to learn to accept his love and the changes in our marriage, because I had convinced myself of so many ugly things. But we are healing. There is hope.

    Reply
  7. Greenbean950

    J, your work is beautiful. This list is very powerful. Chris at the FW has a post of what men wrote about their feelings specifically. These let me know that my feelings of shame were understandable. These stories gave me the courage to demand the martiage my wife and i promised each other on the alter. My 7 children can now see that marriage is not a bitter life, but one of joy. We Christians must do a better job of teaching our children His plan and how beautiful it is. Thank you for your part in Evangelizing His people.

    Reply
      1. Miserable

        J, I have had that conversation with my spouse more times than I can count. Sometimes lovingly sometimes not. I feel trapped and condemned to misery. I think my wife would say the same. It is a vicious cycle of unhappiness that keeps churning.

        Miserable

        Reply
  8. Mark

    J,

    I’ll admit, I’m naïve about a spouse having a higher drive and one with a lower drive. Does lower drive actually mean “no drive”?

    Are you talking about a HD spouse typically waits a couple of weeks to a month (or longer) to be intimate?

    Throughout our marriage, our professions (and kids) pushed back opportunities to be intimate which felt agonizing for both of us. Sometimes when I was out to sea a month or two at a time it reached boiling points.
    (I can’t imagine what service husbands/wives go through waiting a year for a tour to be completed)

    There were times for years, we were intimate daily other times a once or twice a week and we were way more spontaneous, more quickies.

    Also during those times the desire could be stronger for one and less for the other based on exhaustion, stress or during a certain time that occurred every month. (her cycle, which created enormous anticipation for both)

    If HD and LD means one spouse arousal elevates high enough to want sex nearly everyday and the other spouse’s arousal elevates high enough to want sex once or twice a week, can’t the anticipation create a thrilling experience of passion and desire and make the intimacy more fulfilling, when the couple makes love?

    Arousal by itself is a euphoric feeling as anticipation continues to climb and keeps cycling up as the level of arousal and the level of intimate euphoria reaches new heights. It is a feeling I like to embrace, a feeling that makes us feel alive, whether one is HD or LD or somewhere in-between.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Mismatched drives aren’t a problem if they can be negotiated and both spouses are reasonably satisfied. I thought I covered that with this statement toward the beginning of the post: “Of course we’re not talking about the occasional no or not-now answers that are entirely reasonable within the course of a marriage! Rather, these are emotions experienced by spouses who see a pattern of sexual refusal or disinterest from their spouse” (emphasis added).

      So I’m not talking about a pattern of refusal or disinterest, not mutual seasons of struggle or minor differences.

      Reply
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  10. Active Mom

    Hi J-
    Just a question for you that could apply to either side. Do you think in the Church because we are told from a young age (rightfully so) that you can’t get divorced unless there is infidelity that it causes both spouses to feel “safe”? I just wonder if the Bible said that divorce was allowed if you weren’t having sex more says than not of a lot of Christian marriages would find a way to figure out how to mesh their different drives? Would the low drive spouse feel more confident in voicing previous pain and or physical struggles because the church would be more likely to help in order to save the marriage? Would the high drive spouse be more willing to not “go along” with a sexless marriage and have a church aggressively teach the importance of frequency knowing that if they don’t it can end in divorce?

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Short answer: Yeah. I think that some Church teaching that has focused exclusively on where the line is for divorce have missed the whole point about marriage and thus given cover to all kinds of bad behavior from some spouses who knew that their mate wouldn’t divorce them without harsh consequences. Not just sex, but other things.

      That said, I don’t think the answer is to ease up on how much God hates divorce — which I believe He hates because He sees the hurt it causes His children — but rather to direct the focus on what God loves — two people united in such a way that it represents God and His people, Christ and His church (Isaiah 54:5, Ephesians 5:31-32). Yes, we need to address sin, but Christians need to talk far more about living out our Christianity day to day, in every one of our relationships, including marriage.

      The standard isn’t “don’t get divorced” — rather, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

      Reply
  11. Active Mom

    Thanks for your response J. No, I would never want to ease up on the do not divorce message. I have just noticed that churches (at least the ones we have attended) have classes and services for people going through divorce, support groups for people dealing with infidelity and porn and that’s it. There isn’t really any good classes to help women who may have been sexually wounded etc and no classes aimed at maintaining healthy intimacy in marriage. We seem to only react after a major crisis has hit and sometimes for somethings resources seem scarce. I appreciate your insight you have seen far more churches and have more examples than I do.

    Reply
  12. JC

    J, I want to thank you for giving voice to the higher drive wife and the struggle that it is. I agree with B, the “Un” words along with “rejected” resonate with me . I would add “weary” to the list. Some health difficulties have slowed my drive, but when we do have an amazing mutual orgasm it blasts me back to my full drive, which is hard to settle down from, because I know it will likely be a week or more before we do anything again. Then the loneliness kicks in.

    It is hard to find information for the higher drive wife. So much of the information- especially in Christian circles or marriage seminars is geared towards the low drive wife. I have come away from marriage seminars feeling embarrassed and misunderstood, not saying anything because once the speaker even told husbands with high drive wives they were “lucky” and was met with laughter & then continued with the sex talk! Again, thank you for addressing this. I saw a lot of lonely/alone/isolated and mentioning this issue begins to break that down.

    I have requested to join your Facebook group that was linked in this article and am hoping it will be a safe space to find support with this issue.

    Reply

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