When He Deliberately Ignores Your Pleasure: What to Do When Sex Has Become One-Sided

by | Nov 9, 2022 | Making Sex Feel Good | 32 comments

When Your Husband Doesn't Care About Your Pleasure
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Sex is supposed to be mutual and pleasurable for both.

Your pleasure is supposed to matter.

Unfortunately, though, we have a 47 point orgasm gap among evangelicals, meaning that 95% of men report almost always or always reaching orgasm during a sexual encounter, compared with just about 48% of women.

There’s a lot of one-sided sex going on.

In our survey of 20,000 women for The Great Sex Rescue, we found that this seriously affects a couple long-term. When her pleasure is ignored, she can start to feel disconnected during sex, which means that instead of sex making you feel closer, it actually leaves you feeling worse afterwards. Sex drives you apart. She would feel better about the relationship if they never had sex at all, because sex leaves her feeling empty and used.

God designed sex to be a mutual experience, and when it becomes one person using another, it inherently makes her feel like she is just there to be a body to use. That’s depersonalizing.

And at its most basic level, one-sided sex is not emotionally safe.

We’re in the middle of a series on the blog looking at a 4-step recovery plan when you’ve dug your sex life into a pit. How do you get out of it when one of you has started to feel empty, disconnected, or used from sex, and sex becomes a main source of tension?

Last week we looked at redefining sex to see it as an integrated part of your relationship. This week we’re concentrating on building safety.

I want to touch on several reasons why a woman especially may not feel safe, and today I want to focus on one-sided sex.

Passion 4 Dancing

Let’s start with this question that came into the blog, which is quite a common one:

We have been married a few years. I don’t think I’ve reached orgasm yet, though honestly I am so confused how I’m even supposed to know (and the advice of “trust me, you’ll know” is really not helpful when I already feel so confused).

What has felt best is oral sex, which my husband did somewhat regularly when we were first married before deciding he didn’t want to anymore. There was a while that he wouldn’t try anything at all, then he went back to giving oral sex for a while, then about a year ago there was exactly 1 time that manual felt nearly as good as oral & after that he again decided to stop giving oral. But while he has made fairly consistent attempts with manual, it’s only felt good maybe twice in the past year. Also, he generally will only try manual after I’ve gotten sad, angry, etc. about sex not feeling good (like, I have to manipulate it into happening. He rarely just offers to try anything on his own.)

I feel so torn because I know the right thing to do is to fully respect his choice not to give oral, and I am really trying to do that. But I also feel betrayed that he isn’t willing to do the only thing that truly feels good & is seemingly okay with me just not enjoying sex.

When he does try manual, it doesn’t really do anything. Sometimes it starts to feel good & then it just stops. He gets really discouraged when I tell him what does or doesn’t feel as good, and it’s not like I could even bring myself to orgasm the few times I’ve tried so it’s the blind leading the blind. Basically any attempt just makes me upset that manual doesn’t work & it just raises the pressure for the next attempt. I know it’s never going to work when I’m so stressed about it, but I also feel like I can’t relax about it either. I feel worried that he’s just going to stop trying anything again, like he did before. And nothing happens between us sexually unless I make it happen. He doesn’t even initiate intercourse anymore because so often it ends with me being upset after a half-hearted manual attempt. I have all the burden of making our sex life happen but without any of the enjoyment.

Sometimes it feels like the only way out of this situation is for me to just stop caring about whether or not sex feels good. I feel like there are ways that both of us are making the other feel like unsafe & I just don’t know what to do.

Okay, a few good things about her situation: At least her husband isn’t insisting on one-sided sex! I want to address the marriages where that may also be the case in this post.

But first, a big clarification: Just becauase someone feels insecure does not mean they are unsafe. 

She makes the point that both of them are feeling unsafe. I wonder if that is the case, or rather that both of them have negative feelings wrapped up in their sex life? Not all negative feelings mean you are unsafe.

To be unsafe means that the other is not caring about your emotional or physical well-being in the way that they should. 

Now, let’s look at what has been happening in their relationship:

  • When they got married, they didn’t understand very much about how to bring her pleasure or about female sexual response
  • He stopped doing what was bringing her pleasure
  • He can’t figure out how to bring her pleasure in any other way
  • When she wants him to try, he has to be convinced into it

So basically–because it’s not easy, he is stopping. 

This is not him feeling unsafe. This is him likely feeling insecure and not understanding that sex is a learning curve. And not understanding that women do not usually feel pleasure in the same way a guy does. It takes some work, and it is his job to make her feel pleasure!

He is saying he would rather be disengaged from sex than actually figure her out. So who is unsafe? The person who feels self-conscious, or the person who emotionally feels, “you aren’t worth the work?”

Now, obviously she could be communicating in a negative way which does make him feel unsafe (we don’t know what’s happening in their particular conversation). But I just wanted to point out that just because someone feels badly does not mean they are emotionally unsafe, and when we equate these two situations, we make it much harder to solve.

In this situation, it’s likely best to simply go back to basics and understand how female sexual response works.

I highly recommend they both read our Guides to Great Sex--The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex. I think they both feel as if somehow they’re abnormal or that this shouldn’t be that hard, and they may never have understood how to figure out what her body likes in the first place. He likely needs to be told that this is his job, and abdicating it isn’t okay. 

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I think too many couples assume that if she doesn’t work as easily as he does, there is something wrong with her, and she is asking too much of him to figure her out. But this is how God made her body! Most women who regularly reach orgasm do not do so through intercourse alone, and most women find other routes to orgasm far more reliable. This is not her asking too much. This is not her being broken. This is her having a woman’s body that God designed for her, and it is incumbent on him to help her experience pleasure.

Now, what about a couple where he is insisting on sex that doesn’t feel good for her?

Again, at least in this couple’s case he isn’t insisting on sex, but rather retreating.

In many other relationships, though, she may not reach orgasm, he may become discouraged or give up, but then he’ll keep having intercourse with her.

Do you remember when we talked about how our study found that 71% of men feel they do enough foreplay even when she doesn’t reach orgasm? Many people feel like he’s tried, she just doesn’t work, so he can keep going because he’s done all he can.

But this is a misunderstanding of what sex is supposed to be. 

Sex is supposed to be mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both, so her pleasure matters. 

Let’s imagine a couple where he thinks he’s doing enough foreplay even when she doesn’t reach orgasm. Maybe they’ve been married for 12 years, and she’s only reached orgasm a  handful of times.

Why do we think it’s okay for him to abdicate his responsibility to help her feel pleasure, but she must still give him pleasure no matter what? 

He is not bringing her pleasure, but somehow we think they must keep having intercourse anyway, regardless.

As we talked about in The Great Sex Rescue, we need to start distinguishing between one-sided intercourse and biblical sex. Biblical sex is mutual, intimate, pleasurable for both. One-sided intercourse is him using her for his pleasure. And yet women are told–if you stop having intercourse, you’re depriving him!

Okay–but she’s the one currently being deprived. Merely having intercourse is doing nothing for her. She is being deprived of intimacy and pleasure. And somehow we think she is in sin if she does not allow this to keep happening, but he is not in sin if he keeps depriving her!

It’s all due to a very male-focused way of seeing sex, where intercourse is all that God cares about. 

If a couple keeps having sex that brings her no pleasure, she will not feel safe. 

She will eventually feel like she is broken. She will likely eventually feel like sex makes her feel used (as 18% of our survey respondents did). Sex will likely become a negative for her. 

If she is not feeling pleasure, that’s a sign you need to stop what you’re doing, put his pleasure on the back burner for a while, and figure her out.

As we’ll talk about in a podcast at the end of the month on learned helplessness, this may mean giving her a break from sex altogether to show that he is safe and that he will love her even without intercourse, because she may feel distinctly unsafe. But until her pleasure is prioritized and figured out, one-sided sex is depriving her and making her unsafe. 

(And if you want help figuring out her body, check out our Orgasm Course, too!). 

Orgasm is not as automatic for women as it is for men. 

There are good reasons for that, and maybe we’ll talk about them on a podcast someday!

But it is incumbent on both people to figure out her sexual response. She can’t do this on her own. And if what he’s doing isn’t working, then he has to figure out something that will. 

Sometimes she has other roadblocks, like trauma or shame, and those need to be worked through with a counselor. But those are not HER problems. Those are THEIR problems. They are a couple. And for her to feel safe, she has to know that she isn’t going to be repeatedly used without concern for what she is feeling.

As we told men in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, every time you have intercourse where you receive pleasure and she feels nothing, you cement the idea for her that sex is not for her. That she is broken. 

So honor her body. Honor her roadblocks. Help her feel safe by helping her discover the roots to her own pleasure and her paths to pleasure. Do not prioritize yourself–things are easy for you. Work on her first, and then you set yourself up for a much better, more intimate, more passionate marriage in the long run.

But most of all–she will feel safe. And you cannot have a good marriage where she feels used. 

Husband won't Bring Wife to Orgasm

What do you think? How can we get away from this idea that it’s okay to have intercourse for years, even if she feels no pleasure? How do we prioritize her without adding too much pressure? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

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

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  1. Chris

    In the case of the original letter writer, this is one of the few times where I would advise her to get a vibrator and learn to have an orgasm through masturbation. It’s very clear that she has not had one. This makes it extremely difficult if not out right impossible for her husband to get her there. Since her husband doesn’t know what to do and she doesn’t know how to teach him. Because “there” isn’t defined. This is going to leave him wandering aimlessly around her body. Now, a man who had been married previously to someone else or a man who has had a lot of partners will have a better sense of how to guide her to this place she’s never been but not by a lot. In short, a skilled lover would struggle in this situation, and her husband is not a skilled lover. No doubt many women will respond with “oh no no, a skilled lover would have her at orgasm quickly”. No, womens bodies are all very, very, different in what brings them to orgasm. You can do something to one woman that gives her instant fireworks, but the next woman? Ya she doesn’t want to be touched that way at all. Each one is very different.
    The fact that the letter writer’s husband was willing to do oral on her but that she didn’t orgasm from it leads me to believe there are also non- verbal sexual communication issues here.

    • Suzanne

      You are making this a her problem not a their problem. They can explore this together, she can guide him and he can stop thinking of guiding as criticism, and instead be a better more caring lover. Maybe a vibrator would help or maybe it will make it harder for them to have a sex life together if she must do all the pleasuring on her own. They need to just decide together that if she is not orgasming, neither is he and its time to figure out how to get her completely turned on and find all the places on her body that feel good, once that is figured out, and they have a sex life where both can receive pleasure. You can’t put a timer on it, oh oral didn’t work in 5 minutes cross oral off the list. Her husband gave up, he did oral for a bit and doesn’t want to now, manual is doing nothing for her, she matters too and she is not broken.

      • Chris

        “together, she can guide him and….”

        Suzanne, no, this is the definer of the current dilemma that this couple is in. She can’t guide him because she doesn’t know where she is going any more than he does.

        • Suzanne

          Wow Chris, she doesn’t know where she is going but why can’t they work on this together? You make this a her problem, when it is not a her problem it is a them problem. Figure it out yourself using a toy and then what, then how will it become something he takes ownership of. He already doesn’t care, or want to partake in the one thing that has made her feel good?

    • Ariane

      I somewhat agree, but I would put a BIG caution on encouraging her to figure out how to orgasm by herself. Masturbation has it’s place in a person getting to know themself so they can guide their partner, but that is exactly what the intention was for my husband and I, and things went in a VERY different direction. We were each other’s first sexual partners and very young (21/22). The big thing is that I sought to educate myself on being a better sexual partner while my husband just kept trying the stuff that didn’t work in hopes that it would magically all of a sudden become better. The introduction of a vibrator led my husband to become more and more ok with me “handling myself” after intercourse while he rolled over and went to sleep. Needless to say lots of frustration and resentment came from that…

      I think toys of various kind can certainly help, but the most important part is that each partner be completely committed to learning how to please the other. Without that commitment, any “aids” can actually have a detrimental effect and drive a wedge that sees each partner flying solo to achieve sexual release and that ruins intimacy.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, we did talk to quite a few women who used toys to learn how to orgasm, but then their husbands insisted on keeping using them, because bringing their wives to orgasm themselves “was too hard” and “took too much time.” It’s one of the reasons I’m reluctant to advise using them, because I get so many women saying, “my husband prefers to just use technology rather than try to figure me out!”

    • Elm

      Chris, this advice is basically what my qualified, licensed, and experienced psychologist suggested to me. Taking time for myself – and by myself – was so important. It gave space for me to figure out my own body, without the pressure or added stress of immediately having to try describe it to my partner.

  2. Sadie

    Original writer here
    I want to clarify that why I said both of us were contributing to making the other not feel safe is because of how I have handled communication about this. Your first post in the series you said “Berating her for not meeting his needs will only dig the pit deeper. Berating her for not understanding how important sex is like picking up a shovel and making it worse.” Swap the pronouns & change “sex” to “her pleasure” & I feel this is exactly me – digging the pit deeper when I get upset. I try to communicate calmly but he often doesn’t respond and then I get angry.

    I also was not at all respectful when he decided he didn’t want to give oral. I kept pushing to try it for several months & I know that was wrong to not respect his boundaries. So I think he has also felt used at times & I don’t think he’s wrong to feel that way.

    • Suzanne

      Do you think it is okay that he did not respond to you? He ignores the problem and that is not okay. Have you set any boundaries? Why are you blaming yourself for your husband not trying to make sex pleasurable for both of you? Is he willing to read the good guys guide to great sex? What is he doing to help solve this problem, because all I see is you blaming yourself?

    • Blue

      A phrasing that Sheila has recommended before has been something like (I’m paraphrasing) “I want to have a passionate love life with you, but I am no longer willing to have one-sided sex. I want to work on this goal together.” I wish I had said these words years ago. This may take the focus off a specific act an on to a big picture goal. It’s such a positive, work-together phrasing. Things are better now, but if I could go back I would have put a stop to the one sided sex after the first time with those words. I don’t know what was said, and it’s possible that you owe him an apology for berating him. On the other hand, it is ok to be angry when you are sexually used, which is what one-sided sex is. Of course no one HAS to do any specific sex act, but….he should not expect sex if he is not willing to prioritize your pleasure. Berating people is rarely helpful, but you are asking for sex to be mutual. If you were expecting oral sex with no reciprocation to his pleasure (I’m sure there’s some couple out there in the world with this problem…) then, yes, you’d be like the man in Sheila’s example. That would be unreasonable! You are asking for mutuality! Doesn’t seem the same to me!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, definitely the way that we can communicate can make someone feel unsafe!

    • Elm

      As I’m reading, i get the impression there are a bigger issues, beyond the bedroom, at play here. If it’s possible, speaking with a licensed, qualified counsellor might be a good way forward.

    • Boone

      Your husband is hurt, frustrated and humiliated right now. He doesn’t have a clue what to do to fix the situation. He’s not responding because whatever he does it’s going to be wrong. You’re hurt frustrated and humiliated and you don’t have a clue how to fix it either. So, do you continue in a dead man’s spiral or do you get help?
      If you want to solve the problem I’d get to a licensed family therapist that deals with sexual issues. Next, read every secular how to book you can find. Very few Christian based sec books are going to be any help. Next both of you find somebody with a lot more sexual experience than you’ve got and talk to them. Find out what works for them.
      Wife, Walmart has vibrators now. Go buy one and use it together.

  3. recoverymode

    Sex can be such a complicated topic! When things are going well, it’s a heavenly, bonding, and fulfilling experience. When things aren’t, it can feel hellish. So many dynamics at play — and it is such a vulnerable spot where both parties can be hurt easily when communication breaks down. I would recommend having some open and vulnerable chats with him. Tell him that you desire/aim to have a bonding and fulfilling sex life with him, and that you need to work on it together. No blame game, just setting the stage and goal to tackle this together for mutual benefit — and that you both desire a sex life that is mutually satisfying. Tell him you need his help and patience in helping to figure out what works for you. I believe he should be open to that. Re. Orgasm — check out Sheila’s orgasm course. My wife has expressed frustration about the fact that orgasm seems to be harder to get to/learn for women vs. men in many cases. That is frustrating to be sure! I would encourage taking the pressure off. Focus on developing emotional intimacy/closeness, share a lot of non-sexual touch and closeness (hugs/cuddles/kisses). Ask him if he’d be willing to take any expectation of sex off the table and let you lead (going further or not is up to you, and he agrees in advance that he’s OK with this (tough, but he can learn this!) — This can help you to have no pressure, and to be embodied throughout those experiences, and allow you to begin to feel what you are going to feel. When you feel safe and connected, your arousal will likely grow as a natural extension of the relationship. Wishing you both much success!

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you for all the research you have done! I have learned so much since finding you and I’m upset with the church with how they handle this topic. My mini story is below.

    I went through this for the 12 years of my marriage. I’m divorced now because he mistreated me. I was not a priority for him and got maybe a full 15 minutes of foreplay once a month or every other month from the very beginning of our honeymoon. Never experienced oral or had the honeymoon phase, he just quickly touched of my body and he was ready. I felt “broken” and that there was something wrong with me. I was angry with God for many years because I thought he made me defective/could not even enjoy sex. The first 3 1/2 years of our marriage, we didn’t/couldn’t have sex. He wasn’t willing to be patient with my issues of vaginismus and he chose porn. After getting frustrated enough, I went and bought a toy, just to stretch out my muscles. Sex hurt for MANY years after that and he still didn’t desire me. I personally at this point after being divorced, never want to remarry. Porn use among men is high within the church, and I don’t want to be physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally rejected again.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I completely understand your disgust and disillisionment, Anonymous. I’m so sorry you were treated that way. So sorry. I’m sorry the church didn’t make it clearer that this was so, so wrong!

  5. Jo R

    If the husband thinks spending some time to bring pleasure to his wife is too big an ask, how will he act when it comes time to do actually unpleasurable jobs, like overnight feedings of babies, changing poopy diapers, running kids through bath time and homework and after-school activities, paying bills, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry, and all the other myriad un-fun things that adult life consists of?

    If he thinks learning to help her feel sexual pleasure is too much work NOW, can he begin to imagine how much MORE work it will be five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five years in the future? When he’s developed a real aversion to effort and his wife has developed a real aversion to sex? They’ll BOTH have to do TONS more work the longer they wait to tackle this problem head on.

    Maybe it would be most instructive to him for her to stop him during sex before he has HIS orgasm. When he complains, which he will likely do **vociferously**, she can smile oh so sweetly and say, “Yes, dear, it’s been one night for you and TWO %&@^!* YEARS for me.”

    The wife should take a serious look at her husband and determine if she’s going to be willing to put up with pleasureless penetration, along with the strong likelihood that she’ll be the only adult in the house, for the rest of her life. If she can’t face that future, she should just divorce him now. That position will be roundly disputed, I know, but I had to say it. For her sanity as well as my own.

  6. Tim

    What would you recommend in the case where it’s the wife unable to reach orgasm who’s unwilling to consider manual/oral stimulation to get there?

    • Jo R

      Women are conditioned from a very young age to be extremely body-conscious. It’s obvious to everyone when a girl starts developing breasts—or doesn’t. They are supposed to pretend they don’t menstruate, or if someone finds out, a menstruating girl or woman is supposed to carry on as though nothing at all is happening. Women are not supposed to be interested in, let alone want, sex. What’s the old saying? “Good girls don’t climax.” Girls, teens, and grown women are taught quite blatantly that the way they look is the only thing that matters (oh, and their fertility, of course). Sucks to be in the majority that isn’t pretty, has bad hair or crooked teeth, needs to wear glasses, doesn’t have a figure like a supermodel, or turns out to be infertile.

      Add in some “church” teaching that sex is all about the husband’s experience. Add in the lie that if you wait for sex, your wedding night will be awesome. (Obviously it almost always is—for those who have a penis.) Add in a new husband with no sexual experience who forgets that he has married someone with a female body, not a male body. Generally speaking, what he likes is what she will find hard to respond to: immediate genital contact, very little other touching before penetration, and vigorous thrusting with no buildup.

      When sex SUCKS, women turn to books, trusted books, “Christian” books, for how to make it better. And what do women read? “Make sure you’re enthusiastic so your HUSBAND’S experience is better.” “Just work through any pain you feel—it’s only temporary.” “Make closeness your goal.” “Be content in all situations.” “Sacrifice yourself.” “It’s better to give than to receive.” “Have sex more often.” “Have sex whenever your husband wants it, because he can’t go more than three days without it.”

      That combination is absolutely deadly. The main reason so many Christian wives are having sex is because they’ve been brainwashed into believing THEY’RE the ones in sin if they say no.

      So the solution? I said it the other day. If men have been taking advantage of their wives, they need to take six humongous steps back and treat their wives the way they did during the dating and engagement stages (assuming they were not engaging in any kind of sexual activity). Hold hands. Kiss nicely (i.e., don’t rape her mouth). Be interested in her AS A PERSON, not a vagina life-support system. At least once in a while, put aside what he wants to do in the evening or on the weekend. Look around their lives and pick up a task or two or six. Make dinner himself (notice: ***make***, not phone for pizza delivery or pick up takeout). Ask how her day was and just LISTEN. Maybe a couple months of that will help her know that she’s more than the aforementioned vagina life-support system, which may return her to the point of not being able to keep her hands off him. Or, it may well not, as he has, to a large extent, shown that what he really, really wants is to just have sex with a mom. In that case, he has hurt her deeply and it may take a very long time for her to get over that. Assuming she even can. How long did they date before they got married? That would be a good amount of time for the husband to focus on his wife, assuring her EVERY D@MN DAY that he is foregoing his pleasure so they can concentrate on hers. And he has to MEAN IT. He has to LIVE IT. He has to deny himself the way she’s been denying herself.

      Yeah, tall order. Very few men willing to do THAT work.

      • Tim

        So that’s all well and good if you’re a useless husband who’s treated his wife horribly in the ways you describe. And actually not a big ask in that context, though if I were a useless husband I might see it differently.

        But what can you do if your wife feels happy, loved and supported, doesn’t feel used during sex, but doesn’t enjoy it, doesn’t see that as a problem and isn’t willing to talk about it or do anything differently?

        Past tense for us. We’ve worked through most of that stuff and are in a good place now. But it took getting to absolute crisis point before anything changed, and it bothers me that even with hindsight I can’t really work out what I could have done differently to avoid that.

        I guess if I came across another couple in the same position I’d just say to read GSR, but that wasn’t around when we were really struggling.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Tim, that’s a great question, and we’re going to try to tackle some of that next week.

          I think if a wife is not enjoying sex (ie doesn’t find it pleasurable), it is vitally important to stop having one-sided intercourse. Even if the husband doesn’t want one-sided intercourse, if she is not wanting to experience pleasure, then using her anyway solidifies this feeling.

          Stop having intercourse, back off of everything sexually for a time, re-establish trust and security in the relationship, and then, once she feels safe, start addressing why she doesn’t want to experience pleasure. Encourage her to see a therapist. Figure out if it’s sexual trauma (it often is) or sexual shame (even more so). But make it clear that you want the best for HER, and cutting herself off from intimacy is not best for her either. Look into whether she can’t handle being vulnerable or losing control (for many women that’s a huge factor) and work that through with a therapist.

          And if she honestly isn’t willing to talk about it, and honestly won’t do anything differently, then see a therapist yourself about how to deal with it and explore your own choices going forward. Because you can’t make her change–but it’s also totally understandable that a man wouldn’t want to live in a sexless marriage.

          But I do think the first big step is not having one-sided sex. That’s crucial. Things will never get better if that’s what the relationship is like.

          • Tim

            Thanks Sheila. Hard to know after the fact, but I think that might have made a difference if I’d been able to hear that ten years ago.

            Was a good conversation starter for us now, if nothing else!

          • Tim

            Not sure if you’ll see this, but if you do ..

            I was thinking more about your suggestion and especially this comment:
            “Because you can’t make her change–but it’s also totally understandable that a man wouldn’t want to live in a sexless marriage.”

            I may be misunderstanding you, but are you suggesting that separation/divorce is a lesser evil than a marriage that’s really good apart from bad sex that only one partner is concerned about (and not the one who’s objectively missing out)? If so, can you explain why?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            No, I don’t think separation or divorce should be pursued for this reason. But I do think that a sexless marriage needs to be addressed, specifically with a licensed counselor, because a marriage doesn’t become sexless for no reason. And usually the person who declares that sex is over has a reason for that declaration (that reason may not be the spouse’s fault; but as a couple, it’s their responsibility to work on it together).

            I think people don’t want to be in sexless marriages, but then the answer is to actually do something about it. Get the counseling. Talk to your spouse and say, “this is important. We are going to deal with this.”

          • Tim

            Thanks for clarifying that.

  7. Dori

    So what to do when you are TRIPLE wammied. He has never in 9 years initiated sex, doesn’t even NOW what foreplay is and is ONLY concerned about his pleasure. I have explored every inch of his body while he doesn’t even know I have one except for a receptive vagina. I have been open and honest about my feelings to which he says he feels horrible about but does absolutely nothing to rectify the situation. I desperately want intimacy so will usually reach over to him and initiate sex, again, to only have the same results leaving me feeling more used. I purchased Shiela’s book 31 days to great sex which we have started several times. But, when we get to day five “awaken her body” the brakes come on and it’s dropped like a hot potato!! He has the most wonderful kind heart and I am certain he loves me but this situation leaves me questioning what he loves me for.

    • Lisa Johns

      This may come as a shock (it did to me years ago), but I really think you need to figure out if he is masturbating. It’s quite possible for a young man to have developed such a habit of masturbation that he literally has nothing left for his wife. If he is, then confront him with the problem and find a qualified counselor. Also, make clear that you’re not OK with this being what your marriage looks like. I don’t know what the boundaries need to look like for you (for me they eventually became a complete refusal to touch him in any way or to sleep in the same bedroom), but I would strongly encourage you to set them. Some men only begin to work on change when the pain of not changing becomes huge. It’s a hard place for us women to have to be in, but remaining strong and pressing forward can bring change and healing for both of you.

    • Tim

      Reading between the lines, it sounds like your husband has some kind of feelings of shame associated with sex/the female body. Have you asked him why he feels uncomfortable with the idea of “awakening” your body? Would he be open to seeing a counsellor to work through that?

      Regardless of the background to it though, I hope you know that the way he’s treating you as you describe it is completely unacceptable. I’m sorry you’ve had to put up with that.

  8. Amy

    I think it is important to note that reaching an orgasm also does not equal connected pleasurable sex for a woman. Orgasm can be forced with enough stimulation, but it is not necessarily enjoyable or consensual just because it happens- and when you find yourself checking out in sex because your requests for a different type of stimulation are ignored, that is NOT OK. Basically, I just wanted to weigh in and point out- orgasm does not equal connected “great” sex.

  9. Sarah

    This brings up an issue I’ve had but hadn’t had the courage to ask anyone about. My husband doesn’t like performing oral but loves receiving. I (usually) enjoy both. It’s been a struggle to feel prioritized in our sex life since the beginning of our marriage. It was physically painful for the entire first year and only stopped hurting after I gave birth to our first child. Things have gotten better seven years in, and I read TGSR, but we still use toys to help me orgasm. I’d prefer that he perform oral but he said he just doesn’t like it. The few times we’ve tried have been very awkward for both of us. I can’t relax and enjoy it if I can tell he has no idea what he’s doing and that he’s uncomfortable. It makes me feel self conscious and gross, even though he insists it’s has nothing to do with hygiene and instead has to do with sensory and texture things. I perform oral very infrequently now. I don’t know when I stopped, but somewhere along the way I think my subconscious decided that if he wasn’t going to do something that I enjoyed, I wasn’t going to either. I realize that’s unhealthy. But I don’t know what to do. Is it wrong to want him to figure out his issues with oral for me? Should I just accept that as a personal boundary for him and as something that will probably never be a part of our sex life? And is it wrong to not reciprocate until/unless he does?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I actually have a post on this that may help, Sarah!


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