Higher desire spouses by definition want sex more than their mate. But sometimes they don’t want it either. What causes a higher desire (HD) spouse to pass up or avoid sex.
Well, I asked some HD spouses.Let’s look at their top nine reasons for saying no, thanks.
Rejection Still Stings
Recalling the last time they got a no means it can take more effort to try the next time. Do they want to risk rejection again? As one spouse put it, rejection “deflates my desire.”
Many HD spouses feel both vulnerable and hopeful when they initiate or suggest that “maybe, perhaps later, if you’re open to it” they could have sex with their spouse. And hearing another no leads to disappointment and discouragement. (See How the Sexually Rejected Spouse Feels.)
Does this mean the lower desire (LD) spouse owes their let-down spouse sex? Look, it’s your body and God designed sex to be mutually agreed upon and enjoyed—meaning you should have the option to say yes or no to any particular sexual encounter! Also, the HD spouse may need to lower their expectations. That said:
- Rejection stings more if it’s common. If it’s a no now and then, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. (Listen to Episode 35: “Be Worth Sleeping With,” with Kevin A. Thompson – Knowing Her Sexually for more on that.)
- Not now is so much better than no. If you can, giving a rain check—even better, with a window of time in which it will happen—can make the occurrence a put-off rather than a put-down.
If this is an ongoing issue, see 7 Reasons You Don’t Want Sex and address what you can.
My Lover Isn’t Into It
One HD wife said it this way: “It is just a chore or check list for him.” Other spouses report that their beloved sighs, rolls their eyes, or says yes with weariness in their voice—making it clear that they will but they don’t wanna.
In a recent webinar with Dr. Jessica McCleese, a certified Christian sex therapist, we talked about the problems with “duty sex.” You can still register and view the free webinar: Negative Teaching About Sex: How It’s Hurt Your Marriage and What To Do About It.
Among the problems with duty sex are that it makes sex transactional rather than mutual and it doesn’t really satisfy either spouse. It’s dissatisfying for the LD spouse who feels put upon and shows up only because they feel they must or should.
But it also doesn’t meet the longings of the HD spouse. While it might temporarily scratch an itch, what I hear time after time from HD spouses is that they long to be desired, to share sexual pleasure with their beloved, and to feel deeply connected through physical intimacy.
Now if you’re the one struggling to get into it, the answer isn’t more duty sex. It isn’t additional pressure or pep talks to show up in the bedroom with a smile. It isn’t suggesting you fake enthusiasm to stroke your HD spouse’s ego.
Rather, figure out why you’re not into it. Do you need to embrace the beauty of your body? Do you need to speak up more for what you want? Do you need to tap into your sensuality? Do you need to improve your marital relationship? Do you need your spouse to kiss you more, engage in longer foreplay, and/or understand how your sex drive works?
If the issue runs deeper, do you need to get counseling for yourself or the both of you?
The first step may be believing that you could get into it, that there are answers, and that you deserve a great sex life too.
The sex was great! But now, I don’t want to get pregnant. Or get a UTI or yeast infection. Or experience pain or fatigue afterward.
Both HD wives and husbands resist sexual activity if they deem the risk not worth the benefit. That is, a pleasurable encounter that lasts minutes to an hour may not seem worth the week-long infection or another child you’re not ready to have. Maybe you know it’s going to sap your energy, and you need that energy for something else.
And some may have experienced discomfort or pain afterward, making sex a less appealing event.
The best option, of course, is to address the underlying consequence. If you’re prone to infections, work with your doctor to figure out how to manage or avoid them. If you’re concerned about getting pregnant, figure out which contraceptive method is best for you. If you’re having pain, find a good doctor and troubleshoot the issue until you get it resolved. If you’re just too tired, check your schedule and see if you can find other times for sex.
Not all consequences can be entirely removed, but most can be managed.
Sex Is Only for My Mate
Maybe you’re an HD wife whose husband gets his climax, but you don’t get yours. And it feels like you shouldn’t insist, because it was already a “win” for him to make love at all. Or maybe you’re an HD husband whose struggle with erectile dysfunction makes finishing a hit-or-miss proposition. Whatever the reason, you want sex, but when you get there, it feels one-sided.
Now there’s nothing wrong with one-sided sex now and then. But if that becomes the norm in your marriage, it can be particularly frustrating.
It’s probably time to talk about this with your spouse. Without accusation or anger, explain how you really want sex to be mutual and ask how you could work together to reach that goal. If your spouse has really been trying, but it hasn’t gone as well as you’d hoped, be sure to show appreciation for where you are while setting a vision for where you want to be. And if you need resources to deal with the underlying issues, whether physical, emotional, or relational, then seek those out.
Only One to Initiate
Being the one to initiate every single time can be exhausting for some spouses and make them feel that if they stop, all sex in the marriage will die. They wonder why such an important aspect of the marital relationship is squarely and solely on their shoulders.
At times, an HD spouse just can’t find the will to initiate again. They long for their spouse to take charge, even if it’s just now and then.
Ideally, a couple needs to discuss how sex is initiated. The LD spouse may feel their sending signals that don’t get heard or feel awkward initiating and need some ideas. You might come up with simple ways to indicate willingness, like lighting a candle or wearing a certain item to bed. And an HD spouse may want to switch from outright initiation to availability (see Flip the Switch from Initiation to Availability).
When the relationship outside the bedroom is strained, it’s difficult to be vulnerable and intimate in the bedroom. That can happen when one of you is angry, when there’s ongoing criticism or disrespect, when there’s been a betrayal, or simply when relational tension is high.
Not surprisingly, the best course of action is to resolve the conflict. That might start with breathing space so that one or both can calm their physiological and emotional reactions. It might involve several discussions to reach unity. It might require intervention in the form of counseling or a marriage intensive.
The best sex happens in a loving, respectful, committed marriage. Make that a high goal.
On a related note, check out Knowing Her Sexually podcast Episode 9: The Myth of Make-up Sex.
Not Feeling Good
Her period. His illness. Surgery recovery. Mood disorder. Chronic pain. Whatever the issue, if you’re not feeling good, you probably don’t want to have sex.
Some temporary issues simply resolve, but others require intervention. If that’s where you are, visit your doctor, address your diet, find exercise you can and will do, get more and better sleep, and/or engage in more self-care.
Get back to feeling good so you can feel really, really good in the bedroom.
Sex Is a Tool
Some LD spouses, knowing how much their mates desire physical intimacy, have used sex as a tool to get other things they want. Whether stated aloud or not, the message is “I’ll have sex if you _____.” I actually know a woman who tried to get her husband to eat healthier with this formula (specifically trading blow jobs for fruit consumption).
At first, a HD spouse might go along, because hey…sex! But, as stated earlier, transactional sex is ultimately unsatisfying. Because if you have to give your spouse something else for them to show up, then they don’t want to be there or they feel okay about manipulating you.
By the way, this is just as bad an idea for the HD spouse to suggest bartering sex for something else (“You give me sex, and I’ll give you _____”). While I understand the intentions behind some such recommendations—such as affection for her and sex for him—sex was designed to be should be mutually desired and enjoyed! It doesn’t have be equally desired, but you should both want to be there for the sake of sex itself. If an LD spouse doesn’t want sex, then that should be addressed.
It’s fine to playfully suggest a “trade” and even to cater to one partner over another from time to time, but a sex life built on bartering sells you and the experience short.
Worried Others Will Know
Plenty of spouses who want sex shut down if and when they think their kids, relatives, or neighbors will overhear or know they’re “doing it.” It’s all well and good, as long as nobody suspects you’re having an orgasm.
Let me assure you parents, first, that even kids who know about sex rarely know what’s happening in their parents’ bedroom. They don’t want to know the specifics and will concoct their own explanations for unusual noises or locked doors. By the time they’re teens, they should respect your privacy and go elsewhere or put in their headphones if they believe something’s going on behind that door.
Besides, what if your children did realize that their parents have sex? Would the world crumble? No, it would not. In fact, it’s good for kids to recognize that sex can and should continue well into marriage.
As for the neighbors, be respectful enough not to wake anyone at 3:00 am, but they probably aren’t listening and don’t care. Use a noise machine or turn up some music, if you’re concerned.
Each of those reasons has a slightly different fix. And of course, your have to consider your own particular situation, including your beloved spouse.
Yet I hope it’s helpful to break down some reasons why a higher desire spouse isn’t up for sex sometimes.