Why Doesn’t My Husband Want to Make Love

by | Jul 19, 2021 | Libido | 13 comments

Why Doesn't My Husband Want to Make Love? 4 Reasons
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What do you do if your husband doesn’t want to make love?

That’s such a lonely place to be in a marriage–but it’s far more common than we might normally think.

When we were conducting the research for our book The Great Sex Rescue, we asked 20,000 women who had the higher sex drive: she or her husband (along with other questions). Then we asked men the same thing in our men’s survey for our upcoming book The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex. And while in 58% of marriages the husband has the higher sex drive, in 19% of marriages the woman does (and in the others they’re roughly equal).

So what do you do if you’re a woman, and you’re married to a guy who doesn’t want sex–or at least doesn’t seem that interested in it very often. You wonder “why doesn’t my husband want me?” What’s wrong with me?

I initially ran this big series on women with the higher sex drive because husbands didn’t want sex back in 2012. I keep pointing to those posts, but I’d like to update them this week and rerun them, because higher drive wives is an important topic, and I want to make sure we’ve covered it well!

This week I want to talk about what to do when your husband doesn’t want to make love.

And before we get going, I want to assure you that usually the reasons your husband doesn’t want sex have nothing to do with you–and much to do with him. Maybe he has an abnormally low sex drive; or maybe it’s some other relationship or psychological issue. We’ll talk about how to understand what’s going on better, and then give some strategies about how to deal with this.

For the first part of the week, too, we’re not addressing marriages where she simply has the higher sex drive, but he does want sex. We’re not looking at marriages where they both want sex, but one just wants it more than the other. We’re looking more at marriages where the husband honestly doesn’t want sex very much–when he’s always turning her down. He doesn’t just have a lower sex drive; he seems to have hardly any sex drive.

I believe that God created both men and women with sex drives. We both should yearn to make love. However, in general, men tend to have more spontaneous libidos, while more women have responsive libidos. If men don’t ejaculate for a period of time, their bodies will actually do it for them during the night. Men tend to be aroused more quickly and easily, because biologically, they need to be in order for intercourse to even work.

That’s why men tend to have higher felt libidos. But “tend” doesn’t mean always. In any given population, some will have extremely high sex drives, and some will have extremely low sex drives. However, look at any bell curve and you’ll see that these extremes are quite tiny. So in most cases with a very low male libido, something else is going on.

What could those issues be? I want to look at the four main categories of reasons for low libido, and then we’ll turn to what to do about them later this week.

1. Betrayal Issues: He refuses sex because he has transferred his desire elsewhere

The category that is rising the most right now are men who are not interested in sex within marriage because they’re getting release elsewhere, especially with pornography.

A man who is using porn will slowly find that it consumes more and more of his life, and more and more of his sexual energy. Porn changes the sexual response cycle so that what is arousing is a picture or an image, not a real, flesh and blood person. And you often need more and more porn and more extreme porn to give you the same high that you felt when you started using it.

When men use porn, in general they masturbate as well. And so it becomes quite likely that eventually they will stop desiring their wives in the same way. That’s why the idea that porn can be exciting in a marriage is so off base. Porn steals the natural desire you have for each other. Sure, you may get aroused by the porn and then act it out with each other, but that’s not really making love anymore. The source of the desire was the image, not the person, and you’re still thinking about that image while you’re with your spouse.

Now, it’s not just men who use porn; around 15% of Christian women have struggled with it too. But an overwhelming majority of men had sought out porn, and it is hurting many marriages.

If your husband has a really low interest in sex, and you can’t figure out a reason for it, verify that he isn’t watching porn. Check his computer and his phone, and have a talk with him about it. Here’s a post on what to do if your husband uses porn.

2. Psychological Issues: He doesn’t want sex because of low self-esteem or stress

This one’s a big catch-all for a number of things that can affect his emotional state, and thus affect his level of sexual desire. Anything that causes stress can take up so much emotional energy that it can drown out libido. A rough patch at work, stress of exams or finding a job, stress of a new stage of life, all of that can impact whether or not a man wants to make love.

Also, a man’s sex drive is all wrapped up in his concept of manhood (just like ours is similarly wrapped up in how we feel about being a woman). A guy with a healthy masculinity will feel confident, will feel capable, will feel able to take initiative, though this may look different with different personalities. A man with a healthy masculine identity, then, tends to want to make love. But if he doesn’t feel like a man, he won’t. If he isn’t sure of who he is, isn’t sure of his purpose, and isn’t sure of his role, he could easily have no sex drive.

For instance, I know a woman who is walking through this right now. She married her husband a little later in life when he was working part-time. He has never worked full-time. He tends to spend his life on the couch, not doing a whole lot. He has very low motivation for anything, and doesn’t get excited about very much except video games. He isn’t very involved with his children.

When you look at his life, you can see that he doesn’t seem to have a “will” to do anything. And if you look back at his childhood, you’d see that he was rarely affirmed in anything. He was rarely told by his dad that he was doing a good job. And so he was never sure if any decisions he made, or any steps he took, were the right ones. So he simply stopped taking any. To anyone on the outside he just looks extremely lazy, but I do think there’s more going on there. I think he fundamentally was scarred.

A man can have his masculinity scarred in other ways, too. The root to his scars lie in his family of origin; but even within a marriage he may feel beaten down. There’s nothing wrong with bringing up issues with your husband--and you should do that! But please make sure that your relationship is not characterized by constant negativity, but instead that you also encourage where appropriate.  I have heard so many women constantly pick at their husbands, constantly correct their husbands, and I don’t even know if they realize they’re doing it.

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3. Medical or Physical Issues: His libido is low because he has low testosterone or other medical conditions

Another big category for those with low sex drive is an actual physical issue with the hormone that causes sex drive. If he has low testosterone, he won’t desire sex as much. But low testosterone can also be caused by other physical problems, like diabetes or even some pain and depression medication–or depression and diabetes itself! Obesity can also lower libido.

The problem with this category is that because he doesn’t feel the need for sex, he likely isn’t upset about it, and so it can be difficult to get him to talk to a doctor about it. The good thing is that this category is the easiest to fix–if you can get him to go to that doctor’s appointment. So many women have told me that they suffered for 10 years, having the same back and forth fight over sex, feeling undesired, him feeling attacked–until he went to the doctor and got testosterone treatments. Things changed overnight. Their big reaction was, “why did we wait so long!”

Medical conditions themselves aren’t the only culprits that can impact our brain chemistry. Drug use, alcohol use, or any other addiction (even video games) can also impact libido. When something else replaces the high our brains get for sex, it can cause libido to shut down. In this case, it’s not a medical treatment that’s required as much as addiction treatments.

4. Sexual Issues: He doesn’t initiate sex because he’s nervous about his performance or his desire

Finally, there’s a category that relates to how he functions sexually. Let’s start first with a scenario that’s a combination of #2 and #3. Let’s say that a man is nervous about the relationship and nervous about his own sense of self. One night you make love, and he can’t keep his erection. A week later it happens again. He was already feeling nervous; he was already feeling slightly humiliated within the relationship. Then erectile dysfunction hits, or perhaps premature ejaculation, and it becomes too much to bear, and he shuts down.

Or perhaps it wasn’t the relationship that was causing him to feel uneasy; maybe it was his ability to earn a living, or his relationship with his parents, or something else. If he then can’t finish intercourse, it can become a vicious cycle, where he’s afraid of trying again because he doesn’t want to fail, so he just shuts off.

Other relationship dynamics can similarly cause sexual performance to suffer. A common by-product of a wife having an affair, for instance, is a husband’s intermittent erectile dysfunction afterwards. He may feel as if he doesn’t measure up, plus he may feel an intense amount of grief and lack of trust. And that can cause some men to stop being able to perform, because they’re nervous and they’re sad. Another dynamic I’ve frequently received messages about is marriages where she’s spent years  rejecting her husband’s overtures. Maybe when the kids were little sex was on the back burner, or maybe you had relationship issues where you felt unappreciated and didn’t want to make love.

Then something changes and your libido returns, or you decide you want to prioritize sex. But he’s spent so long turning off his libido that he now is uninterested.

Finally, there’s the hard reality that many men who are married are actually same sex attracted. They married for a variety of reasons–they couldn’t admit their orientation to themselves; they wanted children; they genuinely loved you–but sexual desire never came. And now both of you may feel stuck. I’d like to write about this one more in the future because it seems increasingly common, and it’s so heartbreaking for everyone involved.

The message that I want you to take from this is that his low sex drive is usually–though not always–something that can be addressed.

I’ve received many emails from women lately whose husbands fall into one of these categories (or else into almost all of them!). And these women feel humiliated. They feel as if they must be freaks, because everywhere else in our media it says that men are desperate for sex. Why don’t their husbands want them?

But there are many reasons for a husband’s low libido that have nothing to do with whether you are attractive, with whether you are desirable, or even with whether he loves you.

Now, these are very broad categories that I’ve mentioned, and they do often overlap, but these tend to be the issues that we see: betrayal issues; psychological issues; medical issues; or sexual performance issues. These are the things that impact libido.

We’ll look tomorrow at how to start tackling some of these things. But today, please know that you are not alone. And in The Great Sex Rescue, we wrote at length on how to navigate libido differences in a healthy way. Increasingly we’re realizing that it is not always the woman with the lower libido. We need to talk about male low libido more openly, and what to do when your husband doesn’t want to make love. This week, let’s tackle this head on!

Why doesn't my husband want to make love? The first part of a 4-part series for women married to men with no libido. Understand why, learn to communicate, and see your marriage change!

If you’re in this situation, what specifically would you like to know? And do these categories resonate with you?

Other Posts in the Low Libido Husband Series:

  • What to do when your husband doesn’t want to make love (coming soon)
  • Communicating your needs when your husband doesn’t want sex (coming soon)
  • 10 things higher libido wives need to know (coming soon)

You may also enjoy:

 

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

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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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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13 Comments

  1. Tigergirl

    Another category is chronic pain from any other medical issue, such as back pain. Testosterone won’t fix it. There are good days snd bad days. He may not always have the energy or will to push past pain for actual PIV intercourse. Many times he may not have the energy to pleasure her in other ways to orgasm. That takes a while. Both may need to appreciate closeness and cuddling, and both will need to communicate lovingly about how often is often enough. Throw in any other stressors such as job or family issues such as childcare or elder, and both husband and wife need to be sensitive to each other’s needs and desires.

    Reply
    • Eliza

      Yes. I understand it not being talked about much because there’s sometimes nothing to do. Sometimes you’d both very much want it to be different and you are doing all you can to address it but it’s just not going to change.

      Reply
  2. Kirsten

    I would love to see society as a while STOP using the word “perform” to describe men having sex. So much pressure just in that word alone!

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Not to mention “perform” has connotations of the woman being the passive recipient of the sex.

      Reply
  3. L Johnson Scott

    Good post. We need to add another BIG reason.

    If a man is unhappy in the relationship it can lower libido for sex with his wife. This is a common one (from my reading on it) for both men and women that relationship satisfaction is a factor though it may express differently.

    We need imho to see men’s sexuality accurately as relational not *just* physical.

    Reply
  4. L Johnson Scott

    Another factor is some medications can lower libido such as antidepressants, blood pressure meds etc (and depression/anxiety etc can also lower libido as well as the general stress that you mentioned).

    Reply
  5. Chris

    “the reasons your husband doesn’t want sex have nothing to do with you–and much to do with him.” Uh……what?!!!!! Sheila, you spend a lot of words on this blog attempting to do away with gender stereotypes, but this just reinforces them. The above quoted statement basically says “if your husband isn’t horny, he’s broken” huh?! Really?! On this blog?!

    On another note, I am disappointed that I was never questioned for your men’s survey that you mention above.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Chris, what do you want us to say? “If your husband doesn’t want sex, it’s probably because you’re not hot enough?” Obviously not. This isn’t a gender stereotype, this is just a post written to higher-drive wives and it’s just saying that you aren’t undesirable and that’s not the problem, even though culture is telling her it’s because she isn’t able to live up to the porn he has in his head and that’s why he doesn’t want her. Also remember we have an entire course called “boost your libido” for WOMEN. So… not a double standard.

      And the survey was available all over the website for weeks back when it was live, it was included in every single newsletter, and was plastered all over our social media. I’m sorry you missed it, but it wasn’t personal! We don’t send out our surveys to individuals who may be interested because we like to get as random as a sample as we can, so sending it to targeted individuals would increase our odds of having a skewed sample.

      Reply
  6. Andrea

    I don’t know if maybe this wasn’t brought up as an option because people are becoming more and more accepting of same-sex relationships, but a husband’s closeted homosexuality is (or used to be?) a major reason why he won’t have sex with his wife. The last president of Exodus International before he shut it down, Alan Chambers, admitted that it took him almost a year after marriage to consummate his relationship with his wife. They also have two adopted children, which of course might be the result of infertility, but given his other statement, there may be another explanation for that. The reason I bring this up is because as a pastoral couple my parents have counseled women with this problem, but again, this was decades ago and things might be different now.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great point, Andrea! I actually have a series planned at some point for this scenario, because it happens so often. I didn’t include it in the original 2012 post, and I forgot to put it in this morning when I was revamping it. I’ll go add it now!

      Reply
      • Chris

        It goes the other way too. A close friend of mine from when we were kids is wrapping up his divorce now. His wife left him for another woman.

        Reply
  7. Rejected

    Maybe a view from our side will help.
    I stopped pursuing my wife sexually over 12 years ago. I have a healthy libido; I love her dearly; I am physically and mentally fit. I lived in different countries and have met hundreds of married men like me – it’s not low libido, we just don’t trust our wives any more.
    In the first almost 25 years of marriage she has constantly rejected me, criticised me, disrespected me. So in the end I gave up; the longest we went with absolutely no sex was about 7 years. I’ve had all the rejection I can cope with for this lifetime.

    And then, almost 33 years after we got married, she suddenly decided that she does have a libido and does love me after all.
    The novelty was great at first, but I really can’t trust her at this point. Does she really want and love me, or is she just afraid of being alone? She can talk for hours with her friends but won’t talk to me about the things that matter.
    Ladies, the ‘love and respect’ idea is a lie – men want love as much as you do. We just don’t always trust people enough to show it.
    Also, men want to talk about the things that matter, as much as your lady friends do – but we don’t open up if there is any chance it will lead to us being attacked and hurt.
    And, most men who won’t have sex with their wives are not suffering from low libido. It’s usually a heart problem, not a hormone problem.

    Reply
  8. Dave

    There are 6 key factors as to why I hate sex with my wife and in speaking to buddies, we have a lot of similar reasons.
    1. It’s simply not enough. It’s not often enough and it’s not erotic enough. Most men I know need sex daily but understand that is impossible. 3 times a week is optimal with one of those times being a freak session and not a quickie. After 3 decades of sub par sex in terms of quantity and intensity… I have simply said F it and take care of business myself. I’m 100% reliable, never have excuses and don’t take breaks. None of these are wrong for a woman to do but if you do not satisfy your man… over time he will simply fade away.
    2. Men want high sexual energy… that could mean YOU think of sex and fun things to do or you show up 100% ready and don’t have a 2 hour requirement for arousal. 100% a man should pamper you and arouse you as often as you do that for him. Women are too passive it seems. Men want YOU to do hard work and effort… and prep. and not just what you want. Do what works for us. Be visual, talk dirty(sexual at least) and know your mans tastes. Most women I know think spreading their legs is the a gift and no other requirement is needed. That works for a 20-30 year old but mid 30’s a man will want equal effort.
    3. Men are visual for the most part. If you want to turn a man on, get naked or learn the body language of sexuality. My wife would say ‘take a pill tonight’ with a cold doctors voice. After decades of asking for flirting, nadda. You should be THE expert on what gets him off and do that OFTEN. If you aren’t the best at getting him aroused and climaxed… then you have wasted all those years. Men are dead simple… figure out what works and do it forever.
    4. Hygiene. Be shaved, smell good and be ready BEFORE any hint at sex is given. Nothing kills the mood like heading to the bathroom for a 30 minute pre sex prep. 3 minutes… fine… 10 minutes…NO. Smell for most men is a HUGE issue even though we are told never to say so. Smell sexy. Smell clean. Hey, that goes for us guys too. And do all the shaving etc LONG before sex is initiated. LONG before.
    5. If you are prone to breaks from sex… like its common to take 1-3+ weeks off of sex… I can PROMISE you your man will lose interest. Of all the issues I hear, inconsistency is the largest reason for losing interest in sex. You can give hand jobs, blow jobs or even ask him to jerk by you… all things that do not require YOU to have sex but keep sex happening during dry spots. Dry spots are the absolute biggest killer of men’s desire. I would probably say the largest contributor to cheating too. I’ve never met a man who cheated that got sex 2-3 times a week NO MATTER WHAT. That includes the ‘not really having sex kinda sex’.
    6. Look good. For the most part, men aren’t that picky but if you cross the line in weight gain or lack of self care to where if finds you ‘unattractive’ look out! You do NOT need to be thin or the hottest woman. You simply CANNOT cross that line of being physically unattractive. I know I know… we aren’t supposed to say this but say it or not, it’s 100% true. Looks matter but not the way you think. One of the larger factors is if you ACT sexy… let’s say you feel heavy and unattractive… how you behave is infinitely more important than how you actually look. It’s perfectly fine to fake it. Just don’t act unattractive. Men like body confidence more than women, I swear it.

    Not all men are the same. Some have low sex drives. But the vast majority of us… if we shun sex, that is VERY VERY bad.

    Reply

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