Being loving when sex is lacking

There are two situations in my mind – there are those of you who have a spouse who has good reasons why they can’t meet your sexual needs (illness, physical limitation, past abuse, emotional issues) and then there are those of you who have a spouse who is able but not willing.

If your bride can’t:

This is comparatively easy. She is hurt, wounded or limited. Your understanding of this and your love for her goes a long way towards removing the feelings of anger. It’s unlikely you will feel betrayed, as you are not being betrayed. Being upset at her is like being mad at your four year old for throwing up on the carpet – no one is happy about it, but you care about your kid more than the carpet or the mess.

The danger in this situation is that you focus so much on her injury that you fail to let her know your honest needs. You see that she hurts for not being able to give you what you want, so you shy away from showing her the want. It feels like it’s protecting her, like it’s keeping her from hurting unnecessarily. Thing is, it’s a subtle form of lying, and by feeding her a lie you are making it easier for her to not work towards the healing that will allow her to be what you need sexually. Even if there is no reason to think she will ever be able to do what you really want (such as a physical issue that is not going to change) she can learn to provide you with sex, and to enjoy sex herself, in other ways. Think of it this way, if your 13-year-old keeps throwing up, you expect them to work with you to figure out why, and you expect them to learn to have a bowl or trash can nearby – and use it! These expectations don’t change your concern or love for your kid, but they are right and reasonable expectations.

If your bride could, but won’t:

Let’s be honest, this is a VERY difficult thing, no matter how loving and selfless you are. It’s tough to be nice and loving to someone who is, intentionally or not, causing you deep harm.

The only way I know to make this happen is to make a choice. Choose to love her regardless. Choose to give her things you don’t feel she deserves. Decide she does deserve them because you say she does, and because saying she deserves them is agreeing with God.

Do NOT expect her to repay you with kindness – or sex. You are doing it because it’s right, not for what you might get out of it. If you expect something, you will find it more difficult to act lovingly when you are not getting anything in return.

I will have more sex when he does XYZ:

A common defense by those who say no to sex is that they are not getting what they need, and when they get what they need they will dole out more sex. Thing is, this is such an inherently selfish and unloving choice that it’s difficult to believe a person who would say this is actually willing, or even able, to be more loving. Quid pro quo is not love, and those who offer it as if it is love really don’t get it.

Taking it a step further, the same things would apply to the husband who says “I’ll be more fill-in-the-blank when she has more sex with me”. This is not love, it’s bartering for sex. Don’t fall into this trap, it won’t end well.

The after effect: After sex, a regularly refused person usually feels very close and loving. This is not just gratitude, it’s a natural reaction to having your needs met, and to feeling more loved and cared for. There is nothing wrong with this, but it might be used against you. “You are only loving after we have sex” should make her think about how she can positively affect you, but may be taken as proof that you can be “nicer” and that you are withholding being nice until you get sex. The solution to this is to try to be consistent. Don’t quickly burn up all the goodwill and loving feelings from having sex – stretch it out. Try to be just as loving regardless of how much sex is occurring – no downs when there is no sex, and no big ups when there is sex

You will fail: No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you really love her, you cannot be free of the harm, and emotional drain that comes from a long-term lack of sex. Effort can do a lot to show love when you are not feeling loved, but human limits mean you won’t always do as you would like. Don’t beat yourself up over this, and don’t blame it on her lack of sex. Acknowledge that you are human and that you failed, apologize, and go on.

Burn out: Loving when you don’t feel loved and giving when you are not receiving what you need is both difficult and costly. It’s done at the expense of something inside you – something which is not unlimited. If you are too starved for things that build you up, there will come a point when you just can’t keep going. Far too often folks hang on for all they have until they run dry – then they let go, fall, and die emotionally and relationally. Gage your energy, and when you are running out of the ability to go on, warn her. Tell her you can’t keep going the way you have been, and if she does not make changes you will. Be as specific as you can about what you need and what you are running out of the ability to do for her. Yes, I’m talking about an ultimatum here. Ultimatums may not seem loving, but it’s far more loving than dying, no longer caring, and not being able to do anything no matter what she does.

10 Comments on “Being loving when sex is lacking

  1. Choosing to love. Not only is this the best way but it is what the Lord Jesus Christ commands us to do and when we love our spouse as God commands there is blessing. We are to love them as God has told us to because He told us to. He loves us despite what he gets from us which is usually disobedience and unbelief.


  2. I will have more sex when he does XYZ:

    This is called prostitution, not marriage. I feel like sometimes this is learned at home through comments made by a bitter, unloving woman, and it is passed down to the daughter like the art of… prostitution? Offering sex for services rendered has nothing to with love.

    To the husband who gets into the trap of offering services for sex; isn’t that illegal too? Or maybe everywhere but Nevada.

  3. I’ve decided today to subscribe to the Generous Husband instead of the Generous Wife, as 90% of the time, the posts about sex are relevant to him, and the above post is totally relevant to me. I am the initiator, and it hurts badly. At least it’s gotten better, we used to have sex only once a month, me initiating, of course, and now it’s more like once a week, me still initiating. the struggle that guys talk about with feeling like they are constantly trying to do something to get their wife to show them some intimacy, that’s me. I like the comment by Philip about it being a form of prostitution, I give you something in exchange for sex…it comes to feel like that after years of rejection; maybe if I start doing this, he will make love to me more, etc.
    So, starting today, I’m joining the men, ha! :)

    • Sorry this is the case Kathleen, this should not be.
      I am of the opinion that a husband should pursue his wife’s affections consistently so that there is an “air of sex” between them creating a mutual bond that she NEVER feels unloved or unwanted. EVER.

      • That’d be awesome! When I was a teenager, I dreampt of having so much sex that I’d be physically fit, ha! That only happened at the very beginning of our marriage, the first few months.

        I know he loves me, though I often feel unwanted for sure. Unloved as well, though I try not to correlate it. I’ve been rejected so many times that I have a hard time getting aroused now, and when he does kiss or flirt with me, it’s difficult to let go and be aroused, for fear of him not following through with it then, or that day/night.

        • I know the feeling all too well…you’re not alone. It just flows over into other areas of hurt and disappointment as well and seems like you can’t ever get anything where it needs to be. He wasn’t like this at first but now… :(

          • I often wonder if we do have “enough” sex, will it be better? I mean, I know that I will never be completely satisfied in this life, but I know when I don’t want anymore sex. (More than once a day, every day would be too much, ha!)

  4. I have couple of things I’d like to comment on for the future.

    1. I think your idea of categorizing people in either can’t or won’t doesn’t work well with real people. While there are certainly a small percentage who fits in either the large majority like in the in between. Keep in mind the best lies are the ones that contain grains of truth we can hold on to.

    The big problem is the “I can’t because I won’t deal with my issues.” This probably makes up a big chunk. Unfortunately, we live in a victim’s society and there is viruually no incentive to change. Being a victim puts you in control over the other person and that is something wives will rarely give up.

    2. You list the following as reasons for I can’t: illness, physical limitation, past abuse, emotional issues. The one reason that is not overtly included is sex outside of marriage. I have been discussing these types of issues with a counselor recently, and he informed me that this is the most common reason for a lack of desire is that we hard cheapened sex by using incorrectly. Mind you, most of this is before marriage and the kind of thing most people just think requires a quick forgiveness. In reality these sins have real consequences that destroy our lives if they are effectively dealt with and repented of (the Bible clearly states this as well). I’m sure this could take a full post or more discussing this.

  5. I am a wife with a selfish husband. He cares about his needs being met but is rude,uncaring,he lies; his behavior is hurtful. When I express the hurt he doesn’t apologize and he continues with his same attitude and behavior. I am trying really hard to do good b/c that is what God says and do all that I can for him, including never turning down sex. I really don’t want sex though. And he is nice when he wants it. I need to be treated nice outside the bedroom in order to provide for him any longer. I don’t feel withholding sex is the answer but nothing I say or do works. Running out of “giving energy”

    • I am so sorry to hear this. I pray that your husband will see your example of Godly love and be inspired to show you the same love in return. I would just encourage you to be loving, honest and patient. Let him know exactly how you feel and maybe come up with an example in reverse like: “What if I only treated you well when I wanted money to go shopping” or something like that. Hopefully something like that might help him to see things from your perspective.

      May God bless you and your marriage.

      With love from a brother in Christ.


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