9 Tips for Sexually Frustrated Wives

by | Nov 19, 2019 | Libido | 33 comments

What do you do when you’re feeling sexually frustrated in your marriage?

A lot of advice for sexual frustration tends to be for singles, because sex is entirely off the table. But what about when you’re married, when sex IS an option, but your spouse just isn’t giving it to you? What do you do then?

Last week I wrote a post asking if the way that we talk about libido makes women have no libido–because we’re always focusing on how SHE has no libido. Someone challenged me on Facebook and said that most of my posts lately were about women with lower libidos, and I took a look, and she was right! I did a big series last year on higher drive wives, but I decided it was time to revisit it. And since I’m away on a speaking trip out west, I asked Rebecca to write this one (since writing is one thing she can do while recovering postpartum). So here’s Rebecca!

Sexual frustration happens in two situations in marriage: when sex can happen but your spouse just won’t, and when there is a period of time sex can’t happen but it is temporary. Let’s deal with the first scenario first: what do you do when you could have sex, but your spouse just isn’t interested? Let’s talk about it! (And we know that there are many sexually frustrated husbands who read the blog, so we’ll try to keep this gender neutral. But it really applies to higher drive wives, too!).

1. Deal with time wasters in the house

If you are frustrated that your spouse never wants to have sex, take a look at how much time is being put into video games, Netflix, TV or the like. Sometimes these time wasters can be a real libido-killer because they suck all your attention and then before you know it, it’s midnight and you just crash and go to sleep. It’s easy to get into this self-defeating routine.

Talk to your spouse about cutting out some time-wasters from your routine so you can focus on your marriage and relationship. Make a list of things you can do instead, like having dessert by candlelight or settling into a bubble bath together! Sex often becomes frequent when there are fewer barriers in the way.

2. Confront your expectations

If you’re feeling sexually frustrated, ask yourself what your expectations are for sex. Maybe you have a much less physically demanding job than your spouse, or maybe your spouse is exhausted from taking care of the kids all day and simply doesn’t have the energy to have sex as often as you would like. Your expectations for frequency may need to be tapered a bit if they are unrealistic for your spouse’s schedule.

You may want to have sex every night, but your husband may need a few nights off a week because of the demands of his job. If your spouse’s refusal some nights is more about their situation than it is an indication that they never want to have sex, it can be easier to re-adjust your expectations and avoid the disappointment.

3. Ask your spouse what would make more frequent sex easier for them

If you’re working outside the home and your spouse is taking care of the house and the kids, then taking over childcare in the evenings so they have a bit of time to themselves may give them the break they need to be able to get in the mood.

Or, if your spouse has a really physically demanding job it may help if you take more of the active role during sex, since sex may simply be a really daunting task most nights if he/she often does most of the “work” during sex and you tend to be more passive, despite being more physically energized.

4. Talk to a someone about the lack of sex in your marriage

If this isn’t just a frequency issue, but you’re in a marriage where sex seems to be entirely off the table, that needs to be addressed. A lack of sex is not normal in a healthy marriage, since sex is an important and unique part of the marriage relationship.

Bringing in people to talk about this isn’t about ganging up on your spouse to pressure them into having sex–it’s about recognizing that something important is missing and building a community of support as you deal with this together.

See a licensed counselor with your spouse, or bring in a couple you both trust to help you have those tough conversations. If you need to talk about it with someone to figure out how to go forward, find a same-sex friend you trust.

5. Talk about seeing a licensed counselor either individually or together

It may be that your spouse has been abused in the past and it’s causing him or her to have difficulties with sex now. Dealing with past sexual trauma is very difficult, and your spouse needs you to be understanding and patient with them as they go through recovery. But in order to get freedom from the abuse, they do need to go through recovery. That may mean talking to trauma therapists, seeing a licensed counselor, or going on medications to deal with other mental illnesses that were brought on by the abuse.

Abuse doesn’t need to dictate your spouse’s entire future. You can encourage him/her to seek out therapy to deal with the past trauma to be able to move on and experience everything God intended sex to be, as a blessing in your marriage.

Sexual disinterest isn’t always just about abuse, though. Sometimes there are other issues such as self-esteem or body-image issues or feelings of inadequacy. Maybe depression or anxiety are crushing your spouse’s libido. Either way, seeing a counselor can help get to the root cause of the issue and put a plan into place to work together towards a healthier future.

Do you find it hard to talk about SEX?

31 Days to Great Sex guides you through exercises so that you can talk about libido, frequency, intimacy, in a low-stress, easy way.

No blaming. Just solutions–and a whole lot of fun!

6. Ensure there are no major sexual sin issues

If your spouse is never interested in sex, it is wise to check that there are not pornography addiction or erotica addiction issues in your marriage. Despite what many people think, porn actually kills your sex drive because it re-trains your brain to find an image sexy, not a person.

If your spouse doesn’t let you see their screens, hides their phone, or becomes defensive when you ask to use their devices, those can be red flags that they are watching, reading, or playing something they are ashamed of.

But what about when sex truly is off the table?

What about when a spouse is away for long stretches of time due to work, or when there are health issues that make sex genuinely impossible for a time?

7. Exercise to get out some energy

Libido is sexual energy. Take that energy and channel it somewhere else! Physical exercise can be helpful because it leaves you too tired for anything else, anyway. Plus, then when your period of waiting is over, you’ll be in great shape and may even be able to try some new things!

8. Take up a hobby

Puzzles, knitting, painting, whatever it is–find something that can engross you for hours and that you really enjoy doing! By finding something to fill up your evenings with, you can try to distract yourself a bit from the fact that sex isn’t an option right now.

As well, if you’re in a situation where you and your spouse aren’t long-distance but there are health or other issues that are causing the temporarily sexless marriage, finding a hobby you can do together or two hobbies you can do side-by-side is a great way to spend time together while you can’t connect sexually like you’re used to.

9. Avoid romantic or sexual triggers

Watching a bunch of rom-coms or racy TV-shows isn’t the best idea when you’re in a sexless period in your marriage–you’re just making it more difficult for yourself. Likewise, staying away from romance novels can help you put sex to the back of your mind because you’re not constantly bringing it to the front.

And 10. (Bonus Tip) Find ways to increase your intimacy without sex

Even if you can’t have sex for a time due to health conditions, for example, you can still be intimate. Taking baths together, snuggling at night, curling up to watch a movie and sipping hot chocolate together. Not being able to have sex for a time doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to all romance in your relationship.

What are some of your suggestions for spouses who are struggling with sexual frustration? Leave them in the comments below! 

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Chris

    I think #8 above is really the best advice for people in either situation. If you are in a sexless marriage, I think a good hobby is the best way to go. As a kid I always wondered about adult men and their hobbies. Like, how did they get into them or why they spent so much time doing them. Now I know why.

  2. AspenP

    #9 But it’s Hallmark movie season!! 😜

    Good point though. It can make it harder.

  3. Lendon

    This is a great article. I would add that with number one; it can be the spouse that is not interested that has the time waster ( ex. phone, facebook, tablet). This is a problem of priority; do they prioritize these wasters over the initmacy.

  4. Emmy

    I came accross the term “Intimacy Anorexia” on this forum. I wonder if there is also such a thing as “Intimacy Orthorexia”. If such a condition exists, I believe I know someone who has it. It is very frustrating and has finally lead to a situation where it is hard to tell who is depriving whom.

    I blame the lusy sex education my husband had when he was young. I want to blame him. But the frustration is: he really believes plain PIV intercourse is the only acceptable way to have sex. Yes, some very frugal foreplay is permitted because I have told him I really need it but I can tell he does not like it and would rather not do it. And he has to be on top.

    So, when he became too heavy to be on top, we were stuck. Anything else was simply not an option. I would have been happy to try, but no. So I have stopped initiating sex, because anything adventurous will be turned down. And he also has stopped initiating. Maybe he is afraid I’ll ask for something “weird”.

    Before we married we both strongly believed sex before marriage was not right so we did not try things out. I still believe that was the right thing to do and I’m not sorry for waiting, but somehow, I wish I had known this. I wish I had known my husband has “Intimacy Orthorexia”. I wish I had been better prepared for this.

    • Lindsey

      I’m so sorry. That sounds absolutely awful. I pray that your situation finds healing and resolution soon.

    • AspenP

      My heart breaks for you Emmy. That sounds awful and I can hear the pain in your message. Would your husband be open to reading any of Sheila’s posts?
      I have approached my own husband in a playful way inviting him to join me in a “group project” to help turn around our sex life so we can enjoy what I believe God wants us to have. He was able to handle the conversation in that playful-ish format where it wasn’t a hardcore conversation about sex that I don’t know if he could have handled. He is very sweet and naive and the poster boy of purity culture—and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but the topic of sex is intimidating to him even though we’ve been married for over a decade. But he has become more open to reading some of Sheila’s posts (alone..he would struggle if I was sitting there with him). I’m not sure I any of that helps!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m glad the posts are helping both of you, Aspen!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Emmy, I’m sorry. Will your husband read any other materials? Like even the existence of the clitoris, and the fact that it is OUTSIDE the vagina, shows that God intended sex to be more than just PIV. Will he read the post on the theology of the clitoris, for instance?

      • Emmy

        He might want to read it if he finds it all by himself. If it’s his idea to read it. But if I ask it or suggest it, then he will be offended. He will think I think he is not good enough and I want to improve him somehow.

        He is not a bad person. He is not inable to learn new things. But he has some kind of panic like fear for women who want to change their husband. He always had it, even before we were married.

        I wonder if some woman did something evil to him when he was little.

  5. Kat

    I was single and a virgin until nearly 30 years of age and spent many lonely nights looking forward to a passionate sex life. I’ve been married for six years now to a wonderful Christian man, but could have never believed I’d actually be more sexually frustrated as a married woman. It has been a bitter pill to swallow realizing that the act is hardly mutual. I never knew that what I thought would be mere appetizers (hand and mouth) were in fact the whole entree and all the variety I could expect. Is a penis only for making babies? Please forgive the bluntness, but no matter how hard he thrusts, it never accesses where I need it to go or for as long. I have no one in my life to ask. Is this normal? Can most women orgasm during intercourse? If not, I mean, where is the outrage? Men can pick and choose how they want it and be guaranteed an orgasm without much work. I have to stay still and concentrate with all my might while he does something to me with something other than his penis. Our bodies not connected at the middle. No primal motions. But being inert while I detach and imagine the mutual sex I wish we were having. Hardly the bedroom fun I wanted. This is what I waited all those years for? Let me say that my husband and the gift of his companionship were indeed worth it. But I want the passion. Except…how can there be passion on my part without the excitement and hope of pleasure? I thought orgasms during intercourse were a normal and reasonable expectation. The disappointment has been heartbreaking. I’m too young and too newly married to be this close to resignation. It would be like killing a piece of myself.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve been married 17 years and feel exactly the same way and believe me, there’s outrage over here. Sex is the greatest disappointment of my life. Society perpetuates the idea that penises are some kind of magic wand for vaginas but there’s just not that many nerve endings in there. The clitoris works well but it’s always an extra thing, it doesn’t just happen. It truly seems like a huge, not funny at all cosmic joke.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m sorry. I do understand your frustration, really! I will say, though, that when we stop thinking of sex as only penis in vagina, and we start just focusing on what brings pleasure, and we let our sexual encounters encompass so much more, women are actually capable of more intense orgasms than men are, apparently. It just can take some time! So I understand your frustration, but don’t give up!

    • Gemma

      Hi Kat,

      Disappointment can be such a difficult thing to go through. I’m sorry the early years of marriage have been difficult in terms of sex but glad to hear in other aspects things are going well.
      Not all women orgasm easily (if at all) through penetration. It hasn’t been a well known fact but it’s being talked about more and more which is good in my opinion. That doesn’t mean you should give up! So-called “foreplay” (which is really just sex) can be amazing and orgasmic for some women. I encourage you to look more into this blog to help reframe how you see sex and get some tips on things to try outside of PiV and also how to make penetration more pleasurable.
      I would also recommend trying to find other people in your community (or even online) who you can share with. Talking about this stuff with others can make you realise you are not alone and we all experience sex very differently. Not all bodies are the same!

    • Chris

      Kat, I am so sorry for what you are going through, and what you said about being more sexually frustrated after being married hit home for me as I am in the same boat so I get it. May I ask though, it sounds like from what you said that his penis just isn’t hitting the right spots for you. Is this because of his penis being small or do to angle of the position you guys are using? It might help for you to be on top so you can better control the angle to give better pressure on your clitoris. It will also help him last longer. Just my thoughts.

    • Tory

      Kat, to answer your question— no, most women do NOT orgasm from penetration. There are mixed statistics on this but the consensus is that about 75% of women do not orgasm from just thrusting/penetration. So you are not broken, it’s just how your body is designed. Can you orgasm in other ways? Can that be the “main event” for you? I consider myself to be easily orgasmic but if I expected to climax from intercourse, I’d still be waiting, lol.

    • AJ

      My wife and I had been married for more than 10 years before she ever experienced orgasm through intercourse. After 18 years of marriage she now almost always orgasms from intercourse. Be patient a lot can change in a few years. You mentioned “I have to stay still”. Think a better idea would be to never be completely still. Move your pelvis as needed to intensify what you are feeling. Also my wife orgasms from penetration much more frequently and intensely when she is on top. There are many different positions you can be in while on top. Most of the differences are in how you position your legs and torso. Get in a position that is comfortable for you. Also don’t go chasing after orgasm with the exception it will happen from intercourse. Just focus on your pleasure and what feels good. If a particular motion or position feels good lean into it. The first time my wife ever orgasmed from intercourse it was purely by accident while she was on top.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Kat, I feel you! I really do. But just be assured that often it takes time to make it work really well. Many, many women can orgasm through intercourse. It takes time to learn how to relax enough and let the waves carry you over, but it can be done. Just keep talking to your husband and telling him what you’d like and what feels good. And make sure that sex is also for you, and not just for him. Even if it takes a while for orgasm, it’s okay. You may also find that moving yourself and being more the initiator helps you figure out what feels good. But you can get there! If you’re having trouble, I’d really suggest trying 31 Days to Great Sex. It’s only $4.99 right now, and it’s a great way to discover what feels good.

    • Blessed Wife

      If I understand your post correctly, you can’t orgasm from PIV and can only orgasm from oral or manual if you hold rigidly still and fantasize about PIV? Do I have that right?

      Or is it that he won’t do PIV?

      I also get the feeling that there’s more missing for you than orgasm, like that sex isn’t making you feel close and bonded, or that you’d really like him to do some things that he isn’t doing. Am I just reading that in incorrectly?

      If he will, but it just isn’t hitting you right, have you tried a perpendicular position where he can use his thumb on your clit while you lean back slightly? That position puts pressure from his penis inside against your g-spot. If you’re on top while it happens, you have more control over angle and movement. It’s not foolproof, especially if he finishes really fast, but it gives you two points of stimulation. Three, if he uses his other hand on your butt or breasts.

      You might also find good stimulation by riding his length pre-insertion. (Use lube so you don’t abrade yourself.) If he’s a speed demon, you can use this like manual stimulation for you before he comes in.

      Also, a blindfold might help you shut out distractions and focus on what your body is feeling, if that’s the issue.

      Good luck! Yours sounds like a very painful and disappointing situation, but it doesn’t have to be hopeless!

  6. Dani

    What if your husband has ED and other health problems and doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal and won’t go get help? I’d rather just not have intercourse at all. He thinks I don’t want sex and blames it on me having an affair.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Dani, that’s hard! I assume that you didn’t have an affair, but he’s just accusing you of it? That’s quite common when men are feeling insecure about sexual performance–they lash out and say that it’s your fault that sex isn’t happening rather than theirs.

      I’d just keep having frank talks, don’t back down, and say this is important. He needs to see a doctor, especially since ED can be linked to a lot of other chronic health conditions.

      • Dani

        He has low testosterone level and medication is too “expensive” and he will not discuss other options.

  7. Kat

    It was helpful to read everyone’s comments. I thank each of you for being so kind as to respond.

  8. Marie

    I had been hoping this would be addressed again, but it seems like none of these articles ever cut to the chase of our issues. The only take-away I could actually apply here is “maybe see a counselor,” but we all know that’s prohibitively expensive and childcare is an issue as well for the next couple of decades. There seems to be no answer for a man with a normal job, no history of porn, abuse, or pre-marital sex, who has checked out healthy and hormonally normal, and is emotionally close in all other ways.

    Not that he is totally withholding, just that the stars only align for him 2-3 times a month if I’m lucky. A husband might need “a couple of days off a week?” This phrase is ridiculously laughable for somebody who is truly sexually frustrated. To the point of it being insulting. It’s more like we try scheduling for twice a week and now I only have to feel rejected on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

    I wish the “low libido husband” articles didn’t all make it seem like there is obviously some easily discoverable thing that can just be addressed so he can go back to normal. We have so much advise for women on how to increase their desire in the absence of pathology, but I cannot find anyone to admit that a man could need the same thing, that his drive could be low “just because,” and that this can be addressable in the same way a woman’s low drive is talked about.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Marie, I actually totally believe that a man’s drive can be addressed just as a woman’s can. The problem is that it doesn’t really do any good to tell the wife this, because she can’t address it. You have to tell the husband that, and, to tell you the truth, I have very, very few low drive men reading this blog. It’s primarily a woman’s blog, though there are about 25% men. But the vast majority of those men are higher-drive spouses.

      So really, the only thing I can do is direct the post to the woman who is frustrated. I really wish there were something magical I could say, but there isn’t. So I say to the higher drive wives the same thing I say to the higher drive men: talk about it. See a counselor. Give grace and work on the relationship. But it’s okay to want sex more, and it’s okay to talk about it, and it’s okay to wish for something more. But if that more isn’t coming, then you have to figure out how to deal with it.

      When Keith and I speak at marriage conferences, where we have a variety of men in the audience, we do address lower drive men. And last week, when I spoke in Utah, I was very direct that the lower drive men need to pursue their wives, initiate sex, and value sex. So when I get a chance to, I do. But It does higher drive wives very little good to tell them, “Yeah, your husband should be doing X and Y”, if I can’t convince the husbands to do X and Y. It just increases the frustration, because they see even more what their husbands aren’t doing. So instead, let’s focus on what you can do. You can build the friendship so it’s easier to talk about important things. You can discuss the topic. You can insist on seeing a counselor, if that’s necessary. You can insist on him seeing a doctor. You can figure out how to fill your life with other things so that the frustration isn’t as acute. You can reduce time wasters and clean up your diet so that hopefully his libido can return. But other than that–a lot of it just isn’t in your control. I wish it were. But it’s just not.

  9. Jo

    Tip #10: Pray and pour out your troubles to Jesus. He cares about all parts of our lives. Sometimes he heals, and sometimes he gives the grace to sustain us when healing doesn’t come. That’s not to say that we should not work to make things better or seek help, but sometimes you have done all you know to do, and you feel things will never be what you hoped they would be. Jesus comforts us— my joy is in him, not in the amount of physical pleasure I get to experience in this life. I struggle with feelings of self pity and resentment when I think about my intimate life (not sexless, but not mutual for many of the same reasons listed above), but putting my eyes on Jesus gives me a different perspective and helps me to focus on what I do have, not what I don’t have.

    • Debbie

      Thank you, Jo. This is the only tip that spoke to my sexually frustrated heart.

  10. Mary

    My husband never initiates sex and when I initiate it he says he’s tired! I have been married for 3 years and it should be exciting and happening often. Unfortunately it doesn’t and hasn’t happened in a very long time!!! I am sexually frustrated and feel unloved and unwanted. I feel extremely lonely. I need intimacy from my husband. I lie in bed hoping, praying that he will reach out to me and love me. I love my husband and I’m still in love with him.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry, Mary. Have you made sure there’s nothing else going on, like porn use, or low testosterone?

  11. Jane

    I am 35, married almost 12 years and haven’t had sex for the last two years. We’ve had many long periods without sex but this is the longest by far. I have no one I can talk to about this. My husband is massively overweight and frequently has issues keeping his erection so even when we did have sex easily half the times it would stop because he’d lost his erection. I am fit and healthy. He’s been sick on and off and completely disinterested in sex for years.

    Now it’s been so long I feel like even if he was interested again, I don’t think I’d enjoy it with him as I (and this feels awful to say and I’ve been so careful not to give these vibes to him) don’t fancy him at all anymore.

    It’s properly depressing.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Jane, I’m so sorry. It’s a huge marriage problem when someone lets their health, and their body, go like that.

  12. Ellie

    My husband and I have been married for 14 years now and our marriage has been completely sexless in every way for the past 10 years. I have had several talks with him about it, he gives me lip service & says what he thinks I want to hear & nothing changes.

    We have seen a few counselors together & even a “sexpert” & nothing changed for us in that area. My sex drive is every other day. I told him that before he got married & said sex is a rea important part of a marriage for me & he said he was good with that.

    I used to exercise 5 days per week & eat really healthy food but doing both of those things greatly increases my already high sex drive and the frustration gets much more difficult to deal with and I get angry a lot.

    So now I rarely exercise & I now eat a lot more junk food because it blunts the strength of my sex drive & helps take the edge off of the incredible sexual frustration I feel and I can stay calmer.

    I pray to God countless times per day for help, try to take deep breaths many times per day, my legs shake a lot.

    I try not to think about the great sex I had with a couple/few different boyfriends prior to my marriage when I was not a Christian.

    I took up a few engrossing hobbies years ago, but as soon as the hours of participating in the hobbies are over I am reminded of how lonely and deprived and intimacy-starved I feel.

    My husband is happy in the marriage & he is fine with being celibate. I am not fine with being celibate within my marriage. I have been reading up lately on how nuns deal with their sexual urges because I feel like I might as well be a nun. I didn’t think I was signing up for this!

    • Jennifer

      My jaw is hanging open at the first paragraph! I could have written it word for word. 10 years with no sex from my husband. My sex drive has even increased which does not help. But I get barely a response when trying to bring it up. My husband is 23 years older and ED has been the issue since this started. But meds cannot help. Nor is it that important for him. So what the hell does this so called expert have to say on US I wonder? Aren’t we a pair.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        If your husband is refusing to get help, that simply isn’t okay. You don’t need to act as if your marriage is okay if it is not. It’s okay to insist that he see a doctor. And even with ED, you can still be sexual.


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