WHY She’s Refusing Matters. A LOT!
There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of comments on this blog from men talking about their wife limiting or full-on refusing sex. Some are articulate and kind, some are so full of anger it hurts to read them. All of them are in pain.
But there is an important difference in their stories. Some of the wives are limiting or refusing because of something they suffered in the past, while others seem to be more motivated by selfishness. Of course, it’s impossible to tell by hearing from just one spouse what’s really going on. But Lori and I have talked to enough couples to know there are various reasons why a woman says no to sex, and why she does matters a whole lot!
I can break the why’s down into a few big chunks:
This was the reason my wife said no far more often than yes when we got married. Among other things, she was molested by multiple people as a child and lost her virginity by acquaintance rape in college. Those things are good reasons to see sex as bad rather than good.
Other women who have suffered things less horrible than my wife are just as broken. Abuse hits women differently for a variety of reasons. Something that would be devastating to some women is only mildly harmful to others, and vice versa. We can’t judge how hurtful something was on a set scale.
BTW, one cause of being sexually broken is being exposed to a lot of negative messages about sex as a child and teen. These messages include sex is bad/wrong/evil, sex is gross, sex is unspiritual, sex is painful, and sex is just for men.
She’s Too Tired to Care:
I talk about this often because it’s one of the primary reasons women don’t want, won’t have, or don’t enjoy sex. Lack of sleep can easily destroy a woman’s sex drive. If she’s not getting at least seven hours of sleep a night that may be the reason you’re not getting sex most nights. Her saying no isn’t about selfishness, it’s about self-care.
Some women use sex as a punishment and reward system to get their husband to do what they want. Or to not do what they don’t want them doing.
Yes, some women are just selfish. If sex has never done much for her and she’s selfish, she may say no just because she doesn’t want to.
Men can be selfish too. If you ignore her until you want her to get naked, or treat her badly until you want sex, you’re being selfish. If you think she should put out regardless of how you treat her, you’re being stupid. And if you think Jesus expects her to be all about having sex with you when you’ve been a jerk you need to work on that log in your eye.
By the way, if you think she should just “get over” her abuse, or should spread her legs even when she’s likely to fall asleep during sex, that’s selfishness too. I’m not suggesting she’s allowed to say no to sex for the rest of your marriage, but expecting her to ignore emotional pain or exhaustion is neither kind nor right.
It’s not uncommon for sex to cause women physical discomfort or pain. For some, this is cyclical based on her cycle, for others sex hurts every time.
Some women have little to no sex drive, or have never had pleasure from sex and thus don’t have any interest. Another face of this is the man who doesn’t care enough about his wife’s pleasure, or doesn’t have any idea how to make sex enjoyable for her.
Relational problems are a factor for some women. You can want and enjoy sex when you’re mad at her or feel disconnected; her, not so much.
Your sin, be it porn, adultery, open lust, or pressuring her for sex before you were married, can also be a problem. These things are far more hurtful to a woman than men realise, and trivialising it and telling her to get over it just make it worse.
Depression is a killer of sex drive, and also makes it difficult to enjoy it if you have it.
Medication can mess with sexuality in various ways. It can reduce or eliminate drive, and/or make it difficult to get aroused or reach orgasm.
It would be nice if each instance of sexual limiting were caused by one and only one of the above. In reality, there are usually multiple issues at play.
First, you need to know why she’s saying no to sex. The problem is she may not know, and if she does she may not want to admit or discuss the real problem. Or, she might identify a lesser issue as the primary problem. It’s common for a woman to overplay her husband’s selfishness or make relational issues bigger than they are to shift the blame to him. And men tend to downplay these same things, so knowing if she’s really exaggerating can be difficult.
Be quick to own any part of this problem that’s yours. Even if it’s a minor part, deal with it. This might help the situation, and it does show you’re willing to do what it takes. It also removes your part as an excuse for her.
If she has injuries from her past be loving and understanding. Yes, she needs to work on it, and yes that needs to happen sooner rather than later. If she doesn’t deal with it, it will just get worse. However, dealing with it, really dealing with it, will probably mean even less sex for a time. Making too much noise about that can slow or prevent her healing. Some skilled third-party help is a good idea for this, and for many women, it’s the only way they will ever get free.
If she’s too busy and/or not sleeping enough, the ONLY solution is to change those things. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and it’s going to require some changes on your part as well as hers. If you have a baby lack of sleep is a given and there’s no fix – just live with it and don’t get nasty about the lack of sex because that will only give her reason to not want sex in the future.
Regardless of why she’s resisting sex, or if she doesn’t know or won’t tell you, you must deal with the issue ASAP. (Uness it’s a situational issue that should change with time.) Very few women move past this on their own, and the longer it goes on the worse it gets and the more difficult it becomes to deal with it. Don’t let her tell you it’s not important or that your sex drive it too high*. Beyond your need, God intended married couples to have regular sex. Sex is good for our bodies, our minds/emotions, and very good for our marriages. Infrequent sex hurts a marriage, and it needs to be dealt with like any other marriage crippling issue. Make sure your wife knows you find the situation wrong, and you want it fixed. If she won’t get help alone or with you, get help for yourself to deal with your broken marriage.
* Regarding high sex drive: If you’re having sex more days then not and still complaining she’s refusing you, you need to back off.