Sex for Her – when she resists or limits sex

If your wife limits or resists sex it is difficult to impossible to make it good for her. If she “could live just fine without sex” or “only does it for you”, you will need to deal with that, and key to dealing with it is to understand why she is uninterested, unwilling, or fearful. I have written a good deal on this over the years, so most of the following links to full posts on each subject.

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  • First, please understand not wanting sex when the relationship has problems is normal for women. If she does not feel safe, does not trust you, does not feel valued, or is not having her needs met, not wanting or enjoying sex is not a sexual problem. The same is true when there is nothing horribly wrong with the marriage, but there is no real non-sexual intimacy. You can argue she “should” be there for you sexually regardless, and you might pressure or guilt her into sex, but doing so is only going to create new problems that will further prevent her from wanting sex. I think it is right and good to try to find a way to accommodate valid sexual needs as non-sexual problems are being resolved, but this is short-term workaround at best. 
  • The above said, some women find an endless stream of non-sexual “problems” to avoid sex, or set an impossible level of “performance” before they will even think about being more sexual. Arguing about this will be fruitless if she is in fact, trying to avoid sex. If you suspect this is the case, call her bluff. Meet with third party help who says s/he values both sexual and non-sexual intimacy in marriage, and let that person call foul on either or both of you. 
  • Several of the things I mentioned on Tuesday are valid here too: the pill can destroy sex for a woman, sexual pain is a huge turn-off, she may lack the time or energy for good sex, and she may be trying to work up a male sex drive, rather than being the way God made her.
  • Guilt over past sexual activity is a big problem for many women. This can be sex she choose or something done to her against her will. It can be what she did with you before marriage, porn use, or masturbation. Some women carry this kind of guilt their entire life, preventing them and their husband from having the sex life God intended. Odds are she will need third party help with this, but I have a few suggestions if she wants to start the process on her own.
  • Some women feel guilty for wanting sex with their husband, or for enjoying it. Alternatively, they feel wrong if they want it “too much” or enjoy it “more than they should”. This is the whole “good girl” lie. She may know in her head it is good and right to enjoy sex, but that may not free her from her shame. Again, third party help may be required.
  • Body image is a huge issue, and it extends to her breasts and genitals. It is difficult to want or enjoy sex when you are convinced your body in general, or your sexual parts in particular, are ugly, deformed, or not nearly as nice as other women’s are. Do all you can to convince her you like how she looks. (However, if you look at porn, nothing you say will matter to her, and your porn use is making this situation far, far worse.)
  • Maybe she just does not enjoy it. If sex does nothing for her, she has no internal motivation to have sex or to work on making it better. Even if she believes it could be great, she thinks she is fine without it, and she may reason it is just not worth the time and effort required to start enjoying it. My suggestion here is to tell her gently great sex is good for her, for you, and for your marriage. 
  • You may think she enjoys sex when in fact, she does not. The fact a woman has an orgasm does not mean she is glad she had sex.
  • She may have fallen into the “We will have more sex when …” trap. Julie over at Intimacy in Marriage did a great post on this recently.
  • Some women are hung up on the gross factor of sex. I suspect this is usually about wrong teaching from a parent.

I realise this can seem confusingly impossible, but there are specific reasons for her lack of sexual interest, or dislike of sex. Addressing and resolving those root issues will bring about change, which should make the effort worthwhile. Your bride may or may not know why she feels as she does, and may have no interest in dealing with the issue. We are not usually motivated to work on things we dislike, and even if she believes she could learn to enjoy it, you are asking her to start while she does not enjoy it. The best motivation to work on sex varies from woman to woman. Some see it as the right things to do. Some want to get over “being broken”. Some do it because they love their husband and want to meet his needs.

One motivation that usually does not work is “so hubby will stop hassling me”. However, that does not mean you should be silent about your desire for the situation to change. If you put up with it for too long, she will reason it must not be as bad as you claim, because you make a lot of noise but just keep putting up with it. If she can get you to drop the subject by being upset, or by saying no completely instead of 70% of the time, she will keep doing those things.  You need to let her know, as lovingly as possible, the current situation is unacceptable, and you will not let it go. If she is significantly refusing you, it is wrong, and it needs to be resolved. I strongly suggest you share with her a series Sheila of to Love Honor and Vacuum just finished. This is a very well done, balanced treatment of 1 Cor 7:5, and it is a woman talking to women. See What Does 1 Corinthians 7:5–Do Not Deprive Each Other–Really Mean?, Do Not Deprive Each Other Part II: What is Regular Sex, and “Do Not Deprive” Roundup.

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8 Comments on “Sex for Her – when she resists or limits sex

  1. I believe you are correct: 1 Cor 7:5 is the place to start. A woman who agrees to the outside form of marriage, but will not accept the the substance of marriage, that is, the responsibilities of marriage, is a fraud. You can be the perfect husband (I am not), or even pretty good, but unless your wife assumes responsibility for her own part, then little will happen. I spent a bunch of time with young single adult males. Why are they not married? Fear of exactly THIS is an extremely big issue. They wonder how, if they commit to a woman, can they be sure she will be committed to them (that is, meeting their needs), particularly when they strongly expect to be faithful.

  2. Great article. All very valid points. Do you or could you address it from the point of view of a man who just isn’t as interested as his wife? I’m tired of asking my husband for sex. Makes me feel desperate. And I know it’s not supposed to be like this. Every other woman I know has a man who wants to have sex everyday. O on the other hand have been talking about improving our frequency as well as our quality of sex for years. I know I’m not odd for wanting that as a Christian married woman.


  3. Pingback: SEX: When A Wife Doesn’t Want to Make Love : Marriage Missions International

  4. I know that this is an older article, but in looking for answers I have just come across it.

    Regarding your point, “Maybe she just does not enjoy it. If sex does nothing for her, she has no internal motivation to have sex or to work on making it better. Even if she believes it could be great, she thinks she is fine without it, and she may reason it is just not worth the time and effort required to start enjoying it. My suggestion here is to tell her gently great sex is good for her, for you, and for your marriage.”

    What do you suggest I do next?  I have tried to address this with her multiple times, as gently as I could, using resource such as Sheila Gregoire’s “31 Days to Great Sex” (hoping that a woman’s point of view would help her understand how I am feeling), all to no avail.  

    I feel so hurt by this.  I feel that she does not actually care for me or love me the way she says she does.  I am finding that I don’t trust her anymore with my heart or sexuality and I am beginning to close myself off from her.  

    We are starting counselling, but I am not holding out much hope that things will change, as she does not have too many positive things to say about the counsellor.  

    Sometimes I feel like I am hanging on by a thread…

  5. dprenger  My guess is this has very little to do with you and a great deal to do with her. It’s not about her feelings for you, it’s how she feels about herself. She is as much a victim of this as you are, just in a different way.
    I realise that’s not much help. All I can advise is prayer and love. I’ve seen some amazing changes when a man can hold out long enough.

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