Many, if not most, of my readers are low-libido spouses.
Sex just isn’t the biggest need you have, and quite frankly, most nights you could do without it.
I get it. I’ve been the lower libido spouse for most of my marriage (it does go up and down, though!)
Today I have a few things that I’d like to say, as we’re talking this week about what a healthy frequency of sex is in marriage.
When your spouse married you, your spouse trusted you with something that was very near and dear to their heart.
Your spouse trusted you with sex.
Assuming your spouse is healthy and your marriage is healthy, your spouse wants to make love with you, to connect with you, to experience real oneness with you. Your spouse wants to be passionate the way that God made us to be passionate.
But there’s a problem. You’re the one who holds the key.
You’ve become the gatekeeper.
It’s not fair, I know, but the person who wants something the least always ends up setting the terms for the relationship. When you’re dating, the person who is least invested decides how often they see each other, text each other, talk to each other. The person who is more invested sits by the phone, waiting for notifications to pop up.
Was that ever you? If so, you remember that it’s a lonely place to be.
Well, we create a similar dynamic with sex in marriage. Assuming there is no coercion on the higher drive spouse’s part, then the person who decides how frequently you make love is the lower drive spouse.
And that puts your spouse entirely at your mercy.
Some people are being coerced into sex. If you’re wondering if that’s you, these posts may help:
- Let’s talk marital rape
- The marital rape and obligation sex podcast
- 10 times you’re allowed to say no to sex
Sometimes the low libido spouse doesn’t understand how much sexual rejection hurts.
Because you don’t experience intimacy and love and connection through sex in the same way, it feels strange to you, and maybe even a little pathetic, that your spouse feels so rejected and hurt when you don’t have sex. But please listen to these people’s stories:
Other than my children, my life is RUINED. I have little to no friends (why have friends you can’t confide in?) I don’t trust anyone (If I can’t trust my wife, who can I trust?), I avoid, both physically and socially, any woman because I can’t even trust MYSELF to not to something stupid, because I still believe I made an oath I need to keep. I can’t look my family in the face, feeling like a failure. My work is in shambles, because I feel worthless, have no ambition or drive, and most time feel whats the point? I don’t trust churches/preachers, because all I hear about is how evil men are, and if we were just better men things would be hunky-dorey, and never anything about women. I don’t even trust GOD anymore: why should I? He has never helped me at all, not once.
Most days I just want to end as quickly as possible, and most nights as I sit in the dark untouched, unloved, unwanted, I just want to die – but then I’m too much of a coward to do that, so there is no escape there.
But you want to know the sad part? I have told my wife, in counseling, exactly everything above. Result: “Thats not my problem.”
For [higher drive spouses], it’s not about the physical. It’s about a deep emotional connection that I share with one person. The pain of being emotionally rejected is so very real. It’s hard because we are effectively told to “shut up and be content” simply because our meaningful connection includes something physical. No amount of talking will ever truly take the place of sex. In fact, talking and then ending the night without sex, is one of the hardest things to face. My husband gets his emotional needs met and considers it good, while I have to figure out how to walk away from my emotional needs because it includes sex. I have had to literally teach myself to shut down any sexual drive, and the emotional connection it brings, and walk away from it entirely. Sex is on his terms. I’ve never felt so distant from my husband, despite the hours of conversations we’ve had (we are both big talkers).
I know that you want a close and intimate marriage. We all do!
But you can’t have a close and intimate marriage unless you BOTH get what you most need.
Close and intimate doesn’t happen when one person is getting what they need; close and intimate happens when you both truly feel cared for and “known”. And that means that the way your spouse feels cared for and known needs to matter.
When you married, you promised that the things that mattered to your spouse would matter to you.
This is one of those things.
Now, I know there are many, many reasons why sex may be infrequent in your marriage, and why your libido may be low. So I want to address some of the big ones here, one by one, because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem.
When you like sex fine, but it’s just not a priority
Many, if not most, low libido spouses fall into this camp. Sex, when you have it, is fine. Good even. Sometimes even great! If you’re a woman, let’s say that you tend to reach orgasm at least most of the time, so that’s not the problem.
Instead, it’s just that it’s not a pressing need for you. And at the end of the day, you just want to relax and have some time to unwind. So you watch Netflix, or you do a hobby, or you read a book, all until you get tired or it’s time to go to bed.
You rarely head to bed until you’re really exhausted. And then you’re just too tired for sex.
People with responsive libidos don’t necessarily feel “in the mood” or feel like sex until you start kissing and touching. Desire for sex doesn’t kick in until arousal does. And so unless you actually decide, “tonight we’re going to make love“, and unless you actually start kissing, you’re never going to feel that desire for sex–or at least you very rarely will.
If your marriage is a priority to you, then you need to act like it. Don’t stay up until you’re exhausted. Don’t turn to everything but your spouse at night.
I know you need to relax. I know you need downtime. But making love can help you sleep better! It can give you energy for the next day. It releases hormones that make you happy and relaxed and satisfied.
When you don’t prioritize sex, you’re not prioritizing your spouse. Head to bed earlier, when you still have energy. Forego that last episode on Netflix. Take your spouse’s hand (or another body part) and take them into the bedroom with you today. When you prioritize your marriage, life will stop being so stale. You’ll feel connected. And then you likely won’t even need all that downtime anymore!
When you’d love to have more sex, but you’re so overwhelmed
Sometimes the problem isn’t that you’re not making sex a priority. It’s that you honestly have no energy left after everything that you do. You’re carrying the majority of the mental load for the family, and you’re “working” all the time, looking after small children, combined with maybe outside work too, and you’re just exhausted. You’re trying to keep the details of everybody’s schedules and what to make for meals and everything in your head, and you can’t turn it off. It’s too much.
You daydream about going to a hotel for a day, all by yourself, and doing absolutely nothing.
You think to yourself, “I’d have more of a libido if my spouse would take more responsibility around the house!”
I hear you.
I’d suggest that both of you sit down together and take a look at my emotional labor series from June, and work through that. This is important.
But can I also offer a warning? Sometimes we grow resentful that our spouse isn’t doing what we want or need them to do. And in your marriage, perhaps you’ve both become resentful. One of you resents the fact that you rarely have sex; the other resents the fact that you’re doing most of the work. And so you’re both angry, and you’re growing further and further apart.
Growing further apart is not going to help you get what you want. It’s going to make it worse.
Now, if the situation is really dire, I’d suggest seeing a licensed counselor. Some people are married to selfish and entitled people, and the situation isn’t fair and isn’t right.
But often it’s not that crystal clear. It’s more nuanced.
So, yes, please talk to your spouse about how overwhelmed you feel. Tell them that if more of the mental load and work was shared, your libido would likely reappear. Tell them that this is vitally important to you.
But then, at the same time, can you also make more of an effort to prioritize sex? Again, it helps you sleep! It makes you feel more energetic the next day and more relaxed at the end of the day. It can help you handle the stressors of your life anyway! And by showing your spouse goodwill, you also create that goodwill circle so that you bring the tension level down in your marriage, and you make it easier to talk about big things like sharing the load.
When sex doesn’t feel pleasurable
But now we come to another huge group of people–those who don’t want sex because, well, why should they? I’m going to speak in gendered terms here, because overwhelmingly this category is female. Sex doesn’t feel like much of anything, and when you do have sex, it doesn’t make you feel close at all. It makes you feel used.
Sometimes this is because your husband has made little or no effort to make sex feel good for you. He assumes that because intercourse feels good for him, it should feel good for you, too, and you’re selfish for wanting anything else.
That’s selfish! But you also don’t have to accept that. Don’t let his selfishness or ignorance rob both of you of what God wants for you. You can say to him: “I want to have passionate sex with you and make love more, but I am not willing to be treated like an object. Sex has to be a two-way street. It has to be about my pleasure, too, and we need to figure out how to make me feel good.”
Then work through 31 Days to Great Sex together!
Feeling sexually disconnected?
What if your husband really doesn’t care about your pleasure? These posts can help:
- Godly sex is mutual sex
- Can the “do not deprive” verses apply to women, too?
- Why we need a new definition of sex
- Women should experience fireworks, too!
Sometimes, though, you don’t feel pleasure because you’re uncomfortable telling him what you like in bed. He’s tried a bunch of things, but none of them have felt good. You feel awkward if he spends too much time trying to arouse you, and you’d rather just get it over with.
I get that, too. Lots of us have so many reasons why sex doesn’t feel pleasurable. Maybe we’ve believed bad and shameful messages about sex. Maybe we have assault or abuse in our past. Maybe we believed the purity culture so much that relaxing now is almost impossible.
There are so many reasons you could be having trouble! And that’s why I’m working right now on The Orgasm Course (to be released late October). We’re looking at all the different “streams” that go into orgasm, and how to make sure everything is flowing in the right direction, so to speak. We’re going to unlock what’s been holding you back. And there’s even the option to buy the men’s modules so that the can learn better how women work.
Make sure you’re signed up to my email list to be notified when that’s out! I’ll have a big sale on it during launch week, so you don’t want to miss it.
When your marriage is in trouble
Then there are others who have genuine marriage issues which ar causing them to hold back from sex–things like a husband’s porn use, or husbands wanting you to do things in bed that you find degrading. Things like having no emotional connection at all, or being emotionally abused. If that’s you, I’m not telling you that you have to have sex with your spouse.
But here’s what I am saying: You can’t live in that limbo. You can’t refuse to have sex while there are these huge issues, but then leave those huge issues. If you have huge issues, please deal with them. See a licensed counselor. Tell somebody. Learn to draw clear boundaries. It’s okay if marriage problems are keeping you from sex–but then deal with those marriage problems.
What I really want low libido spouses to know
I don’t want to tell you that you are obligated to have sex with your spouse because the Bible says so.
We found in our survey of 20,000 women that when women believe “you are obligated to have sex with your husband”, that sexual satisfaction plummets and sexual pain rises.
Why? Because it makes it sound like you don’t matter. It makes sex feel no longer intimate.
If sex is a deep “knowing”, where you both feel connected to one another, then what you want and feel has to matter. And doing something just because it’s a duty means that you don’t matter.
I get it. Duty sex is really the biggest turn off there is for you, and it’s a huge disappointment for the higher drive spouse.
So none of this has been about duty sex. Please hear me on that.
I am also not going to tell you that if you don’t have sex with your husband, that he’ll be tempted to watch porn or have an affair and he won’t be able to stop lusting after other women. That’s a terribly toxic message that similarly hurts women’s sexual satisfaction. Having sex when you feel like you’re being blackmailed again wrecks real intimacy.
So here’s what I am saying: God created you for a passionate, abundant life. God created you to feel amazingly close with your spouse, and to experience the heights of pleasure. This is something that God wants for you.
You don’t want to miss out on it! I know it feels like it’s not that big a deal, but it’s like trying to convince a colour blind person who can’t see red that they’re missing out on something amazing. Sometimes you just have to go with a leap of faith.
Think about this: what can I do right now that can put us on the road to a passionate marriage?
- Prioritize making love with your spouse.
- Address the big marriage issues that are driving you apart.
- Figure out how to make sex great–even if that means having some awkward and difficult conversations with your husband.
- Deal with baggage that’s holding you back from experiencing sex.
Whatever it may be, do what is in your power to do. Take that first step.
Don’t miss out on the passion that God wanted for you.
And one of the best ways to deal with this is my Boost Your Libido course! It goes over all the things that go into a woman’s libido (and explains different kinds of libidos), to show you that you do have power over how you feel about sex. You can want it again!
Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?
You were created for intimacy and passion, and in marriage, sex is the culmination of all of that. Don’t downplay it. Don’t miss out on something this rich. Please.
If you’re the low libido spouse, what’s stopping you from having sex more? If you’re the higher libido spouse, does anything here resonate? Let’s talk in the comments!
The Libido Differences Series:
- Can Higher Drive Spouses Be Content with their Sex Lives?
- How Many Times a Week Should Couples Have Sex?
- A Word to Low Libido Spouses
- 10 Questions for High Libido Husbands to Ask if Their Wives Don’t Want Sex (September 16)
- The Frequency Podcast (what our survey told us about sex frequency) (September 17)
- 7 Questions for Wives to Ask if Their Husbands Don’t Want Sex (September 18)
- How to Handle Rejection When Your Spouse Doesn’t Want Sex (September 21)
- 10 Things that Tank Women’s Libidos (September 28)
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
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I relate to this post and fully agree with your points. I just want to add/point out that being the low libido spouse really sucks (for lack of a better word). I want so badly to want regular sex. I fall into the category of “sex is great when we have it but I rarely desire it and am so tired/mentally exhausted from dealing with young kids that I can barely bring myself to do it.”
It’s so hard because logically I know that sex will feel good and draw me closer to my husband. Logically I know that it is worth investing in. Logically I know that it is super important to my husband and our marriage. I want to desire it. I want to have a higher libido. I wish I had the drive for it but I just don’t.
It would be like someone preparing a magnificent meal for you when you’re totally not hungry. You may think the food looks really good. You may know it would make the chef feel really valued if you ate it. You may know that it would taste amazing. But if you’re not hungry, you can’t force yourself to be hungry. And if you eat when you’re not hungry, sometimes it can leave you feeling sick, resentful, or frustrated that you didn’t listen to your body’s cues.
I totally agree that lower libido spouses should value their spouse enough to try to work on it and increase desire and frequency. But I just wanted to say that it is so hard to change something that feels so ingrained and outside of my control.
The obligation message is sooooo hard to erase. My husband doesn’t fall into that category at all…he doesn’t pressure me, make me feel obligated, or complain. Ever. He is super supportive, loves me so well in and out of the bedroom, and only has positive things to say about our sex life. All of that true, and I still struggle with feeling obligated because the intrinsic desire just isn’t there.
I guess I just want some frustrated husbands out there to know that maybe your low-libido wife isn’t just gatekeeping or selfish or not trying. Maybe she desperately wants to want sex but just can’t figure out how. The abundance of patience, grace, selflessness, and love that my husband has shown me is the only reason that our sex life is what it is (sexual intimacy a couple times a week and intercourse once a week on average…I know this is above average and way more than what a lot of frustrated husbands are getting, but the ONLY reason it is that is because of my husband’s amazing attitude.)
I am still hopeful that someday my libido will improve so my desire is what motivates me instead of guilt and obligation.
I hope that for you too, Jess!
You worded this perfectly – almost exactly my situation!
I believe I am the lower libido spouse but have tried to initiate with my husband but he chews tobacco and I hate it. His breath smells and taste like it. We have been married for 30 years and he has chewed off and on. He has tried to quit, knows I am grossed out by it, and when he’s in the mood brushes his teeth and used mouth wash. My problem is, I want to kiss him sometimes and belive it may lead to more but I just can’t because of the tobacco.
That’s one of the issues that I talked about in my post on 10 questions for husbands of low libido wives to ask themselves. Have you said that to him?
“Honey, I want to have sex with you more often, and I think we would if I could just spontaneously kiss you. But I can’t when you’re chewing tobacco. So tobacco is hurting your health, it’s depriving me of great sex and it’s depriving you of great sex. Can we talk about how to make a change?”
Twice a week intimacy and 1 x intercourse. Your husband is lucky. I can barely stomach once a week. Mostly due to health issues but even before it felt like a chore that needed to be done. It’s a constant battle.
Ugh, this is just so hard. It’s not that I don’t want to prioritize our marriage, it’s just hard to prioritize sex when it’s taken me 7 years just to get to the lowest level of the pleasure scale of 1-10. (I mean, given that I started at about a -10, finally managing pain-free is still huge, but I’m exhausted from all of that work!) And with 3 young kids, I also feel like I do need to prioritize taking time for my creative hobby. It’s honestly a mental health thing for me, because when I’m sewing something, the thing stays DONE. I get antsy when I go too long without that. And so much of being a stay at home mom is the same repetitive tasks of feeding and diapers and cleaning that never truly feel done. (Also, I very desperately need some new clothes that fit, since I had to just do the big closet purge, and it’s honestly easier for me to sew than it is to find them in stores, especially now that all the dressing rooms are closed.) Do you have any good suggestions for balancing actual needed self-care time with feeling like you need to be available for sex, too?
That’s a great question, Becky! (And I am glad that sex is more pain-free for you now! I’ve been thinking and praying for you often).
I think so much of this is just giving yourself permission to be passionate. Not just in the bedroom, but in everything. That’s really what self-care is at this stage. It’s so easy to just want to collapse and do nothing, but giving yourself permission to actually FEEL is so important.
I think that’s why I like yoga and other things that help you stretch and feel your body. Anything that helps you focus on right now and just appreciating that moment can pay such dividends everywhere!
The first half of this was great….second half fell into the woman being low libido. I feel that is an unfair assumption. I feel like with other articles I’ve read i know that is not completely your stance, but this one leans that way. I think it is so important to talk about the man stepping up when HE is tired or uninterested and do HIS duty. It wrecks havoc on our emotional well being when the man does not pursue his wife and grab his wife to sweep her off her feet, too. I.was going to send this to my husband until i got to the second half.
Ack! I’m sorry, Stacy. I really didn’t mean to. I know a lot of the issues for women are about pleasure, and they’re not the same for men, so it does play out differently. I’ll write more for guys soon on the importance of initiating. And Keith’s post this month and the Start Your Engines podcast is really focused on low libido husbands!
You covered several areas that could lead one to have a lower libido. As I was reading the post, a few others crossed my mind, and I was wondering if you would touch on them.
I’m not quite sure how to categorize them, but I think “Self Worth” and “trauma” come to mind. I know you have spoken at length about various forms of trauma, so I will narrow that down to “self inflicted trauma” which doesn’t get talked about much. You know my history, so it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that one that immediately jumps to mind for me is abortion. I believe that fits into both categories I mentioned.
There are so many circumstances that lead into abortion that it is impossible to touch on every possible way it can play into thing libido issues, but one common thread that I have seen is not believing that one deserves happiness. There is also the association of sex with the trauma of abortion.
Other issues that women have told me negatively impacted their libido are prior promiscuity, or just about any sin of a sexual nature that one has in their past.
Self worth issues can stem from body image issues, or even a childhood marked more with criticism that nurture.
You did a really great job of covering issues within the marriage that need to be addressed, but there is so much that can happen prior to marriage that impacts ones libido, that might also benefit from counseling.
I suspect that there will be a few women who read this, who falls into one of those categories(that sounds really clinical and I hate it, but not sure how to soften it).
If that is you, I would just say that as a Christian, you are already forgiven, and you don’t have to carry that burden. You deserve all the good things that are promised
Very, very true, Doug. Carrying around shame and guilt does lead so many of us to think that we don’t deserve happiness. Thank you. Great thoughts!
My husband calls me a low libido wife. But I have to disagree with him. I am simply a wife that has never figured out what feels good. After 11 years of marriage, my husband still doesn’t understand that 5 minutes of love making just won’t work for me. That intercourse does nothing for me. I have explained this to him many times. Nothing seems to sink in. And then at the end of the love making session where he has his happy ending and I am left hanging, he tells me I just need to get out of my head and concentrate more on what is happening. I know he is trying to be helpful, but all this does is make me more frustrated. Like he can’t help me with that? I got news for husbands, they can and should help their wives relax and focus on the feelings and emotions of the moment. If husbands want more sex in their lives, maybe they should become better lovers. Because selfishness has no place in the bedroom!
I’m sorry he is being like that. I hope something can get through to him! You deserve to be treated better.
Oh, VHR, I’m sorry. This post really isn’t the one for you. I think tomorrow’s post is really more for your husband! I hope he reads that.
It is his responsibility to help you feel good, absolutely. And five minutes is definitely NOT enough for most women.
In the orgasm course that we’re working on right now, we do have an add-on for men so that they can hear what’s necessary. It really isn’t right to keep having sex when your spouse isn’t getting anything out of it. I’m sorry.
I have to say that I’m a little disappointed in this post. I know you want to give a balanced view of frequency and make sure the low libido spouse is making sex a priority. But I don’t see the need to include a comment from a high drive spouse saying they want to die because the rejection feels so awful.
I think it’s healthy for a high drive spouse to be able to commiserate with other frustrated spouses and know that those feelings of rejection are normal and real. But does a low libido spouse really need to hear that? If you’ve been told your whole life that your spouse has a great need, and it’s your God-given duty to fulfill that need, and if you don’t they will feel SO hurt and maybe be open to sexual temptation, you know this crap already. You actually need to hear the opposite, that if your spouse feels like they want to die if you don’t want to have sex as often as they do, it actually IS on them and not on you.
It’s one thing if the high drive spouse says, “Hey, what about sex tonight?” And the low drive spouse thinks, “Well, I wasn’t really thinking about sex, and I’m not super in the mood, but I think I could enjoy it once I get going. Okay!”
But it’s another thing if they actually don’t want to have sex, but they know it’s been over a week already, and their spouse might get SO depressed if they don’t agree to sex, so they agree to it. But they really aren’t into it. And no matter how hard they try, it feels empty and gross. It’s like Jess said: If you aren’t hungry, eating a delicious meal can make you feel gross.
It can leave you traumatized and wanting sex less and less.
I think a much healthier message is to figure out how to make sex feel amazing for the low drive spouse. Find out if there are stresses or relationship issues that could be getting in the way.
Instead of the high drive spouse telling the low drive spouse that it really hurts their feelings that they only want to have sex once a week, what if they instead focused on trying to make their relationship, life, and sex life amazing for the low drive spouse? I know it can be so frustrating to be craving more sex than you’re getting, but is it ever healthy to convince someone to have sex with you because otherwise you’ll feel sad and rejected? Sex should always be freely given, and if you add the guilt layer of, “They will be so sad if I say no,” you take away that freedom. As the low drive spouse, you should know that even if you say no, your spouse might be disappointed, but they will be okay and your relationship will be okay.
You shouldn’t feel guilty for saying no to sex unless you are actually being selfish or are using it as abuse/manipulation or you’re actively engaging in something that’s damaging to the relationship (porn, affair, etc.). Period. No guilt. It’s not selfish to turn down sex if you know that you don’t want it right now, and pushing through would make you want it even less next time.
“But does a low libido spouse really need to hear that?”
Maybe most don’t, but I would be willing to wager that some do. It is kind of ironic that we just had a long string of comments regarding some peoples need to learn to speak freely about their feelings, but when faced with one mans words, that honestly, probably were never shared in such detail with his spouse, well, those feelings are suddenly invalidated. Since we don’t know what frequency was discussed in that remark, maybe we should just focus on what he perceives as rejection, which is exactly what Shelia did. I can tell you that rejection damages the spirit as much as just about anything else possibly can. Ongoing, unrelenting rejection can and does cause deep feelings of despair, as was illustrated in those remarks.
If you are unwilling to try to put yourself in another persons shoes, and only ever stick to your own rights, then frankly, you aren’t fit to be married.
As someone who has had my own struggles with suicide, I wholeheartedly agree that the man who wrote that needs to seek out help, but that in no way invalidates what he feels. It is quite possible that he is the victim of a chemical imbalance, past trauma involving rejection/abandonment, etc. It is equally possible that he is reacting to the way his wife treats him, and nothing else.
Either way, his feelings are valid.
Those feelings of rejection are totally valid. But should those feelings be used to guilt a spouse into having sex when they don’t want to?
Two things can be true at once: That man’s feelings can be valid, but his wife doesn’t have to feel bad for him having them (unless she is actually in the rare category of Refusing Sex Only From Selfishness). She can have empathy and take his feelings into consideration, but she should still feel totally free to say no without a mountain of guilt and worrying if her husband wants to die because she said no.
I think that BBC video about tea and consent applies really well here. Not making someone feel guilty for saying no to sex is part of consent.
Yes, if you are in a truly sexless marriage, this is a conversation to have. But if your spouse is just not having sex quite as often as you’d like, is that a healthy way to convince them to have sex?
I don’t disagree at all, IF he was trying to use that to coerce his wife. I didn’t read it that way. If he was simply sharing his heart, especially in a counseling session, as he described it, then it was not only acceptable, but quite courageous.
If the tables were turned, and a woman said something similar, I don’t think we would be discussing this. If a woman said “your porn use makes me so despondent I want to die”, would you accuse her of trying to coerce her husband, or just accept that she was really distraught.
Dont get me wrong. I think anyone who seriously considers suicide for any reason, probably isn’t totally rational, and needs to seek real help., but I can say that without assigning some illicit motive to their statements.
I can appreciate your point of view, and if it truly was an attempt to coerce sex, I would condemn it entirely. I just didn’t read it that way.
Coercion can be subtle: Pouting if your spouse says no. Shutting down and refusing to connect if your spouse says no. Giving the silent treatment. Not treating them quite as special if they turn down sex. It’s not always as blatant as, “If you don’t have sex with me right now, I’m going to feel like I want to die!”
I think it’s perfectly healthy if, when a spouse gets turned down, they say, “I’m really disappointed because I was craving that connection with you. I love that time with you so much. It makes me feel so close. But I’m okay, and we’re okay even if we don’t have sex tonight.”
That’s expressing your disappointment in a healthy way that promotes connection.
If you’re having sex a healthy amount, you really should be okay if your spouse turns you down sometimes. Not that you won’t be hurt or feel disappointed. But you’ll still treat your spouse with respect if you don’t get what you want.
Comparing your spouse turning down sex with watching porn is wrong. Yes, they are both painful. But you should be able to accept that you’ll get turned down sometimes. You don’t ever need to be okay with your spouse watching porn. Even if your spouse never has sex with you, it can’t be compared to watching porn. Watching porn not only betrays your spouse, it contributes to the real harm of those people behind the screen.
Simply put, it’s okay to turn down sex sometimes. It’s never okay to watch porn.
Thanks again for a great, great podcast and post. I know it’s not always easy to say the truth with such love and true compassion especially if you’ve bombarded with disagreeable comments. I just wanted to say thank you 👍 👍
I am a low libido husband. This article was eye opening for me. It is very hard being low libido because my wife has many times said a real man should want sex all the time. And then she makes it sound like I don’t want her. I do. I just don’t have the same insatiable libido she does and I feel very guilty and ashamed about that. I don’t view myself as the gatekeeper b UT this article is making me reexamine that. So thank you. Also how rejected she feels and how long she’s been feeling that. I don’t like that I’ve contributed to that. It’s hard enough knowing I’m not man enough for her needs and libido. So I want to very much try to work on this. We we do have sex it is very focused on her because she needs and desires so much. Sometimes I feel like it’s all about her then. Which is fine, mostly but I’m like that guy at the end of the bench wh gets to play in the game only for the last 30 seconds when it’s a confirmed blowout! When we have sex she takes and takes and takes because she’s got all this pent up desire and I get the “garbage” time. This article helps me see if I become a better gatekeeper maybe there’s a chance that her feeling rejected will change and that might create space for me to feel included in the sex rather than just as a giver. This was a great article and I will spend alot of time examining my role in her rejection and pain from how I gatekeep.
That’s really interesting! I think that’s a great take on it. I’d love to make this into a post itself.
I do think that when women (or men, really) don’t feel wanted, then there can be a lot of pent up energy, and you can want to prove to yourself that you are actually wanted, and it can result in some one-sided and rather desperate sex. If sex can start happen more frequently, and if that sex is mutual, then some of that desperation can fade away.
This is fascinating.
(Context: I’m a higher-libido husband, my wife is trying hard to improve things this year, but is afraid to confront many inner issues; we average sex every 2 weeks this year, after 30 years of 10 times per year on average, which went down from there after menopause).
People all have such similar needs, and yet are so different.
I hurt for you, Paul, being told that you aren’t “a real man”. I hurt for you that your wife feels so needy as to want to suck up all the oxygen from a love-making session.
I bet there are a lot of low-libido women who experience many similar variations on that, and it all hurts.
I think this was a really great post, and I think that in a way, the many comments who are finding fault with it illustrates the wide range of painful experiences out there.
Paul, I pray for you for healing in your marriage.
Sheila, thanks and keep up the good work, especially in your plans to touch on the variety of bad experiences out there. This is tough stuff.
Everyone who was dissatisfied with this post, I hope you will be able to see some value, keep the good stuff, and keep moving forward positively, in your marriages, in following this blog, and in life in general. These are tough times for the whole world in so many ways.
May God bless you all, and meet your needs.
I totally agree with you–and that’s what we’re going to be looking at over the next week and into next week–how high drive spouses can make sure that they’re doing what they can to make sure that sex is good for their spouse.
And I really didn’t mean to spread the obligation sex message. I’m very against it, as I said.
However, I also think that it’s important that we do hear the emotions behind a lot of high drive spouses, because often lower drive spouses don’t get it. That’s why I included the comments. Some are harsh, I know, and perhaps I could have chosen different ones. I’m sorry about that.
I also want to make it clear that I’m NOT saying you just let your spouse have one-sided intercourse where you’re not into it. That’s NEVER been what I argue on the blog. What I’m saying is that we have to figure this out–figure out how to find passion, how to find pleasure. Not just to give your spouse release, but so that you can have a full and abundant sex life, too. That’s what I said repeatedly in my mutual sex series, and in my boost your libido course. It’s not about just having more sex; it’s about learning that sex is genuinely for you, too.
I know you’re really not trying to have an obligation sex message, Sheila. I know that is your heart. But I think a stronger caveat that those comments apply to those rare cases when the lower libido spouse is truly being selfish would be helpful.
My heart on this comes from a place of trauma. I felt like I couldn’t say no, because I *thought* my husband had stopped his porn use, so I needed to get right back into bed. After all, he would be so sad if I said no. And the Bible said I couldn’t. And he pouted if I said no.
Because I didn’t consider my needs enough, I cemented some very damaging associations with sex. Sometimes when I agreed, I would dissociate because of the pain of the betrayal. Now it will take much longer to recover than if I had refused to push through the pain.
I just don’t want that to be anyone else’s story. I want them to know that they are always free to say no without guilt.
Thank you for sharing more of your back story. It does clarify things a lot.
I really don’t want my words to be taken to diminish your experience or the hurt you experienced, but I do want to address this comment.
“I want them to know that they are always free to say no without guilt.”
I 100% agree that anyone should know they are free to say no. I don’t agree that it should always be without guilt. I don’t know if I can explain that properly, but sometimes your actions, or your failure to act should absolutely cause guilt. I know two ladies personally who would tell you that it was the guilt they felt when they finally understood the pain they had inflicted thru years of rejecting their husbands sexually that ultimately led them to renewed maarriages. One is Chris Taylor at ForgivenWife. I also know how much guilt I carried in my own bad behavior in my marriage, and how that convicted me to not just change my behavior, but started me on the road to real heart change, and also transformed my marriage.
I don’t think anyone should use guilt to coerce their spouse to do anything, but quite often it is only that burden of guilt we carry ourselves that drives us to change. I also think we should truly try to understand if it is guilt that the Lord places on our heart, or something we let others heap on us, and sometimes that line can get pretty blurry.
Yes, in those rare situations where the wife is refusing to have sex just to be selfish/manipulative, some guilt could be appropriate.
But Doug, should someone feel guilty for turning down sex in these situations:
A) They’re having sex a healthy amount (1 or more times a week), but with their current life situation/libido, they can’t manage more without it being obligation sex.
B) They have major marriage/sex issues that make having sex awful.
I’m sorry for any offense or harm. I really am. It’s very tricky, because I feel as if I’m always trying to issue caveats for the other side, whenever I’m trying to make a point. If you look at this week’s posts in their entirety, I think you’ll see something different (and that’s why it’s a bigger series). I hope you like today’s post better.
I disagree with your assertion that this man shouldn’t have the ability to express these feelings to his wife – I would desperately hope that if I was doing something that caused my beloved that level of pain, he would share it with me. I cannot make him choose to be happy, but because I love him I certainly want to avoid maki g him miserable. That doesn’t mean automatically more sex if something else is going on, but it does mean that I am open to discussing whatever the issues may be. If the issue is simply that I’m not in the mood, I’d happily give him some “special affection” if he said “I feel so lonely and disconnected, and a sexual encounter with you would make me feel so happy and loved”. That’s what you do when you love someone. Communicate and meet their needs as best as you can within the parameters of a healthy relationship.
A few thoughts after reading your comment and the others:
The poor man that wants to die is not having sex once a month. I’d bet that he’s lucky to get a handshake on his birthday. I often have clients (I’m a lawyer) in his situation and I would say that he hasn’t had sex in years.
I can assure all reading that it is a lot easier to solve the problem with your spouse than to have me solve it. As the lady that suddenly found herself in the middle of a divorce discovered, All of the dirty laundry will get aired in open court. You’ll be in front of a jury that will decide your future and if I can get at least five men on that jury and two sympathetic women I win. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to deal with the issue.
Oh, I just want to throw this out for thought. Last week my wife asked to ride over to the county seat with me so she could get her hair cut while I handled some stuff at the courthouse. I finished before she did so I plopped down in a chair there in the salon and started going through the magazines. There wasn’t the first issue of Outdoor Life, Field and Stream, Guns and Ammo or Fly Fisherman. G tv hey didn’t even have National Geographic. I picked up an ancient issue of Cosmopolitan. As I was leading through it I saw an article about assuming responsibility for your own orgasm. My curiosity peaked, I read a little farther. The article said that your pleasure is really your responsibility and that it was up to you to work out the details. I would be curious as to your various thoughts on this approach.
I’d also like to compliment Shelia on this post. It’s good food for thought and it’s needed.
I’ll actually be writing a lot more about orgasm next month!
The problem with Cosmo is that it’s written primarily to single women.
To tell a married woman that she’s responsible for her own orgasm, if her husband refuses foreplay and sex takes no more than 5 minutes, is that you’re telling her to use a vibrator or to masturbate.
Yes, to a certain extent, we’re responsible, in that we need to speak up for what we want, allow ourselves to tell him what feels good, even if it feels awkward, move more during sex, say something if it’s not feeling good, etc.
But all of that will only do so much if a husband considers two minutes of foreplay “enough”, or feels that his wife is being selfish if she wants anything more than intercourse (since most women don’t orgasm through intercourse, or at least not through intercourse alone). That’s really the issue.
We should see sex as something that is mutually pleasurable. If only one person is consistently getting pleasure, that should be a sign that something is off, and they should stop and ask, “how can I make this more equal?”
I’m just having trouble wrapping my head around the idea that some husbands think that five minutes prep time is enough to accomplish anything. It takes me longer than that to make quesadillas. Are they dense, inept or what?
Great question, Boone! If you read through the comments we get all the time from women, it’s clear that many, many men think that intercourse alone should do it for women. And if you look at the messages that many Christian marriage books have given about sex (like Love & Respect, for instance) you can see why people think this. Emerson Eggerichs said that women should want to have sex because “it makes him sooooooooo happy and takes so little time.” When people brag about how fast it is, you have to wonder if they’re expecting her to feel good at all.
Boone, where are you a lawyer? Because the last time I checked, there are no juries in Family Court, at least not in Ontario. There wouldn’t be a jury awarding anything in a divorce case, so airing dirty laundry to sympathetic jurors is a moot point. Are you saying that you had a client bring a civil suit against their spouse for lack of sex?
“You were created for intimacy and passion, and in marriage, sex is the culmination of all of that. Don’t downplay it. Don’t miss out on something this rich. Please.”
I hope everyone reading this really internalizes this. So often, it’s the person that needs the message that ignores the message. If you’re ignoring this message, or saying, “But . . . . ” then read it again, because it’s the truth!
“- Prioritize making love with your spouse.
– Address the big marriage issues that are driving you apart.
– Figure out how to make sex great–even if that means having some awkward and difficult conversations with your husband.
– Deal with baggage that’s holding you back from experiencing sex.”
This is soooo true. Making excuses doesn’t solve the problem. Victims never gain happiness, they just feel justified. So, if you ‘re say, “But . . . ..” to these items also, then go back and ask yourself, which of these is getting in the way and start working on it. Work on it like your marriage depends on it . . . because it likely does.
This is a pseudonym,
I am a high drive spouse. While I wouldn’t say I want to die here is the deal. My marriage is. It is slowly dying. The relationship will not be ok. It’s not. Even if he suddenly had an awakening to be honest it may be too late. I think that is why Sheila may have added that comment. Low drive spouses need to know that the reality of not being invested in a healthy sex life eventually will most likely kill the marriage. We know a couple now going through a divorce. Its awful. Why? Main reason she wouldn’t have sex with him for over 2 years. There was no abuse, etc but she was always either overwhelmed, tired etc. He was the breadwinner, did most of the housework and she still always had a reason. In my case he doesn’t think sex is important at all. I would never have married him if I knew then what I know now. I have heard the same sentiment from a lot of spouses. We wouldn’t have married our spouse if sex was going to be 1 a month or a chore. I thought Sheila did a pretty good job going through all of the reasons we may not be having as much sex as we should. She covered, major issues in marriage, exhaustion. The hard reality is for some people like my friend is the reasons for not wanting sex never end. NEVER. However she refused to address it and acknowledge that fact until it was too late. I don’t think she is alone. A year ago she never would have admitted that she constantly had reasons sex wouldn’t happen. She would have insisted no, if he would just do this, well he did. Then it was if he just allowed me this. Now she has all the freedom she wants, and only 50% custody of her children.
Statistically, it’s rare for a marriage to be sexless because a woman just decides one day that she doesn’t want sex anymore for no good reason.
Here’s what Sheila said on a thread on Twitter:
“In our survey of 20,000 women, we found that sexless marriages weren’t caused by women just deciding not to have sex. They generally had other factors, including: husband’s porn use; sex feeling terrible (never orgasming); sexual pain; relationship issues.
Our results will be out in our book The Great Sex Rescue (Baker, March 2021), but in a nutshell, sexless marriages generally are not the problem; they are a SYMPTOM of another problem. Figure out that other problem.
Women in sexless marriages are 62 times more likely to be in the bottom quintile of marital satisfaction than the top. The marriage was rotten to begin with. Sexlessness is the SYMPTOM of something else going on. Often that SOMETHING is how she is treated in the bedroom.
In sexless marriages where the husband has the higher sex drive (so she is the one deciding not to have sex), over 78% had AT LEAST two of these problems: her sexual pain; anorgasmia; husband’s porn use; feeling disconnected emotionally during sex.
To put it another way, it is very rare to find a marriage where she can get aroused and regularly reach orgasm during sex, and where porn is not involved, and where she has no sexual pain, become sexless.
Statistically, sexlessness is not primarily a women’s selfishness issue.
We found that Christian marriages have an orgasm gap of roughly 50 points (actually lower than in secular relationships). The whole way of framing this problem is wrong. Why do we talk so much about women withholding sex, and so little about making sex pleasurable for women?”
You can read the whole thread here: https://twitter.com/sheilagregoire/status/1303681264965353472
I don’t know what the statistics are if the guy is the one choosing to not have sex.
“Statistically, it’s rare for a marriage to be sexless because a woman just decides one day that she doesn’t want sex anymore for no good reason.“
Rebecca, women, or lower drive men are loaded with “good” reasons!!!
Are you referring to my daughter Rebecca? Why? She’s not even a low drive wife. Or am I missing something obvious? (I’m sorry if I am; I was out all day and I’m just checking comments now).
Oooops. Ha! My bad i thought she wrote that. Don’t know why.
Chris, what would you say are bad reasons for saying no to sex?
I have never had an orgasm, but experienced the agony of labour.
Sex does not feel good for me; it’s not a “great but not quite orgasmic experience;” it just sucks.
We have a lot of communication issues: I do not feel heard unless I have an air raid siren; he feels like he doesn’t understand it’s a problem until I am a wreck. This plays out in rather challenging ways in the bedroom, wherein I’ve just given up on communication making any difference (because it doesn’t and I would rather avoid the frustration of speaking and being ignored).
So sex? I would literally rather have a root canal.
Many times, lack of sex is the final warning that the marriage is dying. For the guy who earned most of the money and did most of the housework – ask him how often she climaxed when being intimate.
I was actually thinking something similar, Jane. Usually when we hear about a woman who isn’t having sex and can’t be bothered, there is something else going on. Not always, but often, and quite often that something is lack of orgasm.
The biggest predictor of not having sex is a woman not having an orgasm; and one of the biggest predictors of an active sex life and a good marriage is a woman having an orgasm. (there are others that are higher, though). I think when we hear stories of other people, we always need to be careful, because we often don’t know the whole thing. Sometimes a wife decides not to have sex anymore, but that decision was often years in the making, with years of hurt piling up.
Not always–there are still some sexless marriages that aren’t in that camp. But often there is more going on.
I’m sorry for what is happening in your marriage, Jane. I really am. I hope you are able to seek counseling.
“The biggest predictor of not having sex is a woman not having an orgasm;“. That’s interesting. I would have said it was having kids and being tired.
In the long run, it’s actually that.
Chris, I think it depends on your definition of “not having sex. 2-3x/month (slightly below average) is probably more related to kids and exhaustion. But 2-3x/year – she doesn’t enjoy it and/or has very negative associations with sex.
That’s just a guess, based on my limited knowledge.
I am going to be blunt here, and while it is addressed to you personally, I hope it is not perceived as a personal attack.
First, I just can’t help but wonder why you are even here. All we have to go on are your comments and remarks, but nothing in them indicate any desire at all to improve your sex life or your marriage.
If you are just here to vent about how unfair the world is, Sister, I’m right there with you. I know that feeling better than most, maybe better than you. I can’t tell you how often or how much I have wanted to just climb to the top of the highest mountain and scream how unfair the world has treated me, that so much was taken and it can never be made right. If it gives you any comfort, know that you are not alone. I, and I am sure others here as well, have faced down those same demons. For some of us it is an ongoing battle.
I think this bears saying tho. You say you have never had an orgasm, and I have no reason to doubt that. I believe you completely. I will go farther and say that unless you can change your outlook and your attitude, I don’t believe you ever will. I really don’t know if there is something that physically prevents it. That may very well be true. On the other hand, it may be nothing more than a self fulfilling prophesy.
I know what that is like too. I know what it is like to want so bad for the pain to just disappear, and to suddenly be whole, while at the same time telling myself that the wounds are too deep, and that I CANT be happy, and that I will never know what real joy is. You know what is amazing? Sometimes I actually forget about that pain for just a little while if I quit focusing so much on it and I just let myself live the moment I am in. That is my hope, just more moments, and maybe even whole days like that. But it is all too easy to fall into that self defeating thinking, and those self fulfilling prophesies. All I have to do is give in to them, and I am right back into the pit.
I really wish you well. I hope that life offers up everything it has kept from you till now, and I hope that you leave the door open to that, because right now, from where I am sitting, you are your own worst enemy. I have been there too, so I sort of know what it looks like
Doug, I think the biggest part of Jane’s problem in her marriage is that she is not being heard and has exhausted all the ways of trying to be heard. Don’t ask her why she is here. This is a forum aimed at women remember. Perhaps we should be asking why you are here. Many of the sex and marriage blogs these days are populated by men in the comments section ‘venting’ about the sex they are not getting. Maybe you’d feel better at one of them.
Yes, exactly. Tomorrow we’re going to turn to that in our posts to higher drive husbands (and later to higher drive wives).
I do feel badly about that Twitter thread because I got a number wrong and I can’t change it! It’s not 78% of marriages. It’s 72.8%. Oh, well. I was going by memory, and I’m sure Joanna (who ran the stats for our book The Great Sex Rescue) just about had heart failure. Sometimes it’s a curse that in MBTI terms I’m such a high N and not an S (I’m not a detail person).
I don’t know what the figures are for higher drive wives and sexless marriages (I’d have to ask Joanna to run them). That would be interesting to do sometime in the future (we have so much data, and we’re only scratching the surface). I do know from something Joanna said, though, that male sexual dysfunction was a huge issue there.
I’ve always been the higher drive wife in our marriage.
The extreme physical and emotional pain of being rejected and undesired is no joke. I’m certain I’ve practised as much or more unselfishness and self denial and self control by living with insufficient intimacy As a low drive spouse has ever had to practice by giving to her/his spouse. I will never love my husband the same way as I did on our wedding day, for how he has neglected me.
I stayed for our children. After 14 years he is finally showing some interest/effort. I take as much as I can ( I know that’s selfish) , but it’s too little, too late. What’s worse, now My libido And ease of orgasm has tanked and I can’t even enjoy the increased effort like I would have in the past.
Do I sound bitter? I probably am, though I am trying not to be.
I’m trying to forgive and enjoy what we have now, which is what Sheila says is normal (4-6 times a month), but it’s difficult.
So please let’s have compassion for the low libido spouses, but let’s not demean all high drive Spouses and say their pain isn’t as real.
I’m sorry you’re going through this. I’ve always said that the most difficult place to be is the high libido wife. Of all four possibilities, that is the hardest to bear for all kinds of reasons. I hope you both get through this and grow together.
“Of all four possibilities, that is the hardest to bear for all kinds of reasons.”
Not nitpicking on this, but could you expand on it some. I would love to hear your thoughts behind it. I would think that rejection feels just about the same to everyone.
The difference is that high libido husbands have our culture telling them, “It’s normal to be higher libido. It’s normal for your wife not to want you.” High libido wives, though, have the opposite messages given to them: “Men always want sex.” So when your husband doesn’t want sex, it feels as if there’s something wrong with you in a way that isn’t true for high libido husbands.
Also, low libido wives are constantly told that it’s their duty to have sex for their husbands, who need sex. Low libido husbands are not told the same thing at all. They’re told that women don’t really need sex. So they don’t have their church culture or the world echoing what the high libido spouse wants. They have the opposite. At least higher libido husbands have the church giving their wives the “have more sex” message.
Then, low libido women can “think” themselves into having sex, or decide to have sex “for him”, etc. But if a guy is truly not into it, sex isn’t going to work (I mean, I don’t think you should have sex if she’s not into it, either, but there aren’t the same physical and biological issues).
Does that make sense?
It makes sense from that perspective, tho I haven’t seen those dynamics play out in the church I belong to. I’m not saying the ladies get a pass, but it would be hard to remember a sermon where my pastor didn’t nail down on pornography, anger, and a lot of other typically male sins, and I have only heard one “do not deprive” message. It may be different in some of the counseling but the messages from the pulpit are more generally directed towards the men not sinning against their families.
The one counseling case where I know it came up involved a very close friend of mine, and the message he got from the counselor was not sympathetic towards him. He was told he was being selfish. I know the whole story, and that is absolutely not the case. On the contrary. It really amounted to baggage she brought into the marriage from a previous marriage. I know that because his wife has told us as much in various settings. They got thru it and are a very strong couple now. At the time tho, this man who happens to be my shooting buddy, and a SWAT officer would literally cry in front of me because he couldn’t understand how it went sour so quickly after they got married or how to fix it. Selfish is the last word I would associate with him.
I guess the point is, much of what you mentioned is true, but some of it is a bit subjective, and probably has more to do with your individual surroundings than a generic concept of what the church has to say.
Doug, you need to think beyond church sermons, though. The majority of what women are taught about marriage & sex are through books and women’s Bible studies. And believe me–after studying the 15 best-selling Christian sex & marriage books for our upcoming The Great Sex Rescue, this is EXACTLY what women are told, over and over again. And in women’s Bible studies, too. I don’t think men realize the messages women get, because it tends to be in all female settings, and most men don’t read the books.
Agree Sheila. The gap between cultural expectations and reality makes it worse when you were expecting a relationship where you had a partner who would be equally or more interested in sex, because of cultural messages (I don’t even think it’s just the church that sends the message that men always want sex and women less so).
We are great friends, great partners in life, effective co-parents. But we have never had regular sex because he just. Is. Not. Interested. It’s not a matter of high/low libido. It’s normal libido/no libido.
I always knew exactly when I got pregnant because there were so few possibilities. It used to be that at least there was a response when I would initiate. That is no longer the case and I have just completely given up. I have tried every single thing that you have written, multiple times, since we first got married and I was shocked to realize this was our reality.
There is no porn, never has been. There is no other person, never has been. There is no medical issue, that’s all been checked. Therapy, check. There is a denial of same-sex attraction (though honestly, it would be an immense relief if he came out, because that would make it all make sense). There is just little or no interest in sex. I am loved, befriended and cared for, but never desired. Ever.
We have been together since we were 24, and waited for sex til marriage at 27. I would have never agreed to this life, had I known how painful it would be.
Do you leave an otherwise good life and blow up a family because you never have sex?
Oh, Rose, I’m so sorry. Has he ever actually had his testosterone levels checked? I know so many couples who have gone through this, and then he gets a testosterone shot and it’s like night and day, and they wondered why they waited so long. Has he ever checked? It can be quite an easy fix for guys if that’s what it is.
That is a very long time to wait.
I am a health care provider – every possibly relevant test has been done and is normal. He is athletic, fit and muscular, so not only is the testosterone level normal in the blood, it seems to work fine in the rest of his body.
I’m so sorry, Rose. Sometimes there are psychological issues that cause sex drives to plummet, and so that may also be something to look into (though it sounds like you already have). But it may also be that he is on the extreme end of low libido, and it’s healthy for him. That doesn’t mean he can’t anticipate sex or make more of an effort, though, and this is where scheduling sex can play a role, if he’s willing to talk about it.
That is really sad. And it does happen in all too many marriages.
The problem is her reasons for not having sex were always a moving target. I have read almost all of Sheila’s work. So, I have read with interest where her research led her. She is my dear friend. When the drive towards sexless marriage began it was because she felt overwhelmed with small children. So, he hired a housekeeper, switched jobs so the hours were better. It didn’t improve it got worse. So, then she said it was because her dreams were put on hold to raise children. He made further changes to allow her time outside the home. Then it was because he had a hobby that he liked and she didn’t like that he spent time on it. I love her but it was ridiculous. By her own admission sex felt good and she would orgasm when they had sex. She falls into the doesn’t have an urge for it herself. The problem was she had no drive to find it. She didn’t think it should be important because it wasn’t to her. Before they were sexless it was about 1 a month. She complained that she was meeting him halfway because she thought that was plenty. So, when he wanted counseling to address it she shut it off completely. I am a longtime reader of this blog. I understand how women have been harmed and I agree far too often the church fell flat. However, my friend is wrong, she can wrap herself in the cloak of righteousness and say that he should have been satisfied and she tried to do that. However, her marriage is over and she is now a part time mom. That coat of righteousness isn’t keeping her warm at night. Just like we like to throw out the selfishness label at high drove spouses it applies equally to low drive spouses as well. She would have filled out that survey (and probably did) and give any number of excuses why she wasn’t having sex. The bottom line she was selfish. Only she hid behind excuses that for many ring true. The problem was for her they were excuses. I am not saying this is the case for the majority of women. However, I think Sheila put that comment in because the reality is if you do not have a healthy sex life when it’s possible there is a very real chance your marriage will die.
“She didn’t think it should be important because it wasn’t to her.”
Is that a sex issue or something that would be a problem no matter what “it” refers to?
Actually, the survey never asked why people didn’t have sex. It simply asked the frequency of sex. Then it also asked about orgasm rates, pain during sex, and all kinds of other things. We never asked people “why”.
We did in focus groups, though.
The survey was only for quantifiable data. The qualitative data (so the “why” or “how did you feel” was through focus groups). We didn’t talk a lot about sexless marriages in focus groups, honestly, because we didn’t have time. We talked more about orgasm, and sexlessness did come up in many of those groups. But I’d love to ask more about sexlessness if we ever have more time!
I wasn’t trying to say that since it’s statistically rare to have a woman refuse to have sex for purely selfish reasons that your friend HAD to have a good reason for refusing. She’s your friend and you know that situation way better than I do!
But I don’t know if it’s a good idea to use an example from your life of a rare situation as reason for letting all low libido spouses know that if they don’t put out, their marriage will die and they will be left alone.
There are a few possible situations when it comes to one spouse wanting sex less than the higher drive spouse does:
A) The low libido wife is having sex a normal, healthy amount (1 or more times a week). She feels like for her libido and life situation, this is all that she can do. A better way of convincing her to have sex more is to let her know how amazing and important sex is, make it so wonderful that she wants it more, or take stuff off her plate so she’s not too overwhelmed to want sex.
B) The low libido wife is experiencing some major problems in their marriage/sex life (porn use, pain during sex, not able to orgasm, etc.). Sex is rare because it sucks for the wife. The answer in this case is definitely NOT to guilt trip the wife into having sex even though it’s awful for her. The answer is to first fix the problems.
C) The low libido wife LOVES having sex and has no real problems with their sex life, marriage, or life in general. The husband bends over backwards to make sex and life in general wonderful for her. Out of selfishness she decides to just stop having sex.
What I’m saying is situations A) or B) are by far the majority, and in those situations telling the wife she should have more sex otherwise her marriage will die is not appropriate. That doesn’t mean that situation C) never happens. I just think that when that rarely happens, there should be a caveat about when you should feel bad that your husband wants to die because you turn down sex.
But here’s the deal, my marriage with my low libido husband is dying. It’s not rare. Someone needed to tell my spouse that without sex his marriage would die. Maybe he would have listened to them. He didn’t listen to me. Up to 30% of marriages have women as the higher drive spouse. I have read many studies why, busyness, poor eating habits etc. it’s no longer only the men who are frustrated with sexual frequency. I am only still here because of my children. He didn’t suffer trauma, and to be honest after so many years I don’t care what the reason is anymore. My guess is many men who are in the same position feel the same way. Yes a woman may feel pain. If you don’t deal with it for 20 years you start not caring. That is human nature. Sex doesn’t feel good. If you don’t speak up for 30 years it is no longer about your spouse but you. While I do not agree with the message about you just have sex or he will have an affair the reality is we are obligated to have sex with our spouses. If we don’t like that we shouldn’t get married. If there is something that is keeping that from happening and the options are many I share 50% of the responsibility on trying to solve the issue. If a spouse doesn’t care about foreplay. It is my job to put boundaries in place and have the discussion. Maybe he doesn’t listen. But I haven’t just refused or retreated. By Sheilas own number 7% are due to selfishness. To be honest like my friend I wonder if that number is higher. She hid behind the metal load excuse for a long time. She would paint her husband as the bad guy in women’s groups etc because she was just “so exhausted.” There are women who are absolutely exhausted doing everything for the family. She wasn’t one of them. Sometimes we aren’t really honest when we have to self reflect.
Thank you for your faithful heart and your ministry. It is such a blessing. Please be encouraged and God keep blessing and using all of you 👍
I know we will all have opinions and thoughts about individual cases, but I do think it’s important to give healthy, loving, higher-drive spouses the mic sometimes.
At this season I am the lower-drive, but not extremely so. I appreciate the reminders not to take my spouse’s heart for granted and especially to create grace and acceptance for the areas where we differ.
The big thing that makes a difference in our marriage culture is appreciation. Even for little stuff that should be expected. If it costs time, energy, or motivation, I try to notice and thank my husband and he does the same for me. Putting coffee on for the morning, chores, bureaucracy, anything. Because we are always looking for something to be thankful for, it’s easier to roll up your sleeves and engage with the stuff that isn’t running quite as smooth, whether it’s finances, self-care, or sex.
When I’ve been seen and appreciated by my husband, and I’ve taken the time to notice all the small ways he’s taken care of our family that day, it makes it a little easier to engage more than I would prefer without getting the martyr syndrome.
Thanks for the reminder and encouragement to us lower-drives.
Thanks, Sarah! Love your take on appreciation, too.
I’ve discovered recently that my low libido is tied to a B12 and iron deficiency that I’ve been ignoring for a while. Worsening depression finally made me drag myself to a doctor and now I feel so much better- and hubs like the mood boost too. If you feel slightly fatigued all the time or disinterested in more than sex, that’s a great indicator it may be something to ask your doctor about and have a simple blood panel done. Very easy to take care of in most cases. Wish I had paid attention years ago.
That’s amazing, Susan! Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s amazing how much libido is also related to our physical health, and yet people are often so scared to talk to doctors.
The no sex before marriage idea caused great pain in my marriage. I tried very hard for first 10 years to feel something during sex. I cannot initiate but always tried to respond lovingly when my husband would initiate. Unfortunately I found myself sadder & sadder as nothing he tried ever worked for me. After a while he gave up. We are dear friends but haven’t had sex for 10 years. It breaks my heart. Could it be that we are just not sexually compatible? We have a beautiful family of three girls but I wish we didn’t miss out on sex. I don’t see how it will ever work.
I never had an orgasm ever. Sometime I felt sweetly pleasant. Often just anxious bc he is very sensitive about doing something wrong. Also he had trouble staying aroused, while I had trouble getting aroused at all.
I would love to find a way back to some sort of physical intimacy, but I am afraid that we just don’t have the chemistry. It’s like an arranged marriage. It’s been 19 years of marriage.
Hi Lori, I wonder the same thing. Your situation is almost exactly like my own. I also wonder if it is possible that sexual chemistry just doesn’t work for some people. Is there a cure for that? Meanwhile my husband decided that he is throwing in the towel and he is leaving the family next week :(. Everything we built together, our children, family business, all of it, because we could not figure out how to make sex work. And he desperately needs sex to be a whole human being. And I can’t seem to give that to him, no matter how hard I try. 20 years. He said if we had moved in together before marriage we would have known this would happen and not committed to each other.