Why Obligation Sex Wrecks Your Libido

by | Sep 11, 2023 | Libido | 57 comments

Obligation Sex Affect Libido
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Can feelings of sexual obligation affect your libido long-term?

This month we’re talking about obligation sex. We started last week by noting 10 things to understand about obligation sex, when I wrote the definitive post of everything that I tend to talk about with obligation sex!

As I noted, obligation sex was the worst belief that we measured in our survey of 20,000 women for The Great Sex Rescue. When she believes the obligation sex message before she’s married, her chance of sexual pain increases to almost the same statistical effect as if she had been abused, because the body interprets obligation sex as trauma. 

We had some discussion over the last week about marital rape, too, especially on social media. Marital rape is a huge problem that obligation sex often feeds. Obligation sex teaches that men are entitled to sex, and when he also believes that, all too often sex becomes coercive. I have written about this before, and we’ll address it at the end of the series, too.

But I want to talk about obligation sex outside of marital rape, because that’s also very common. 

Sometimes sex isn’t necessarily coercive, but she does feel a lot of obligation, and he also feels a lot of entitlement. That dynamic, even if it doesn’t turn into rape, can have horrible effects on libido long-term.

What does obligation sex tell you?

Let’s look at the messages you’re telling yourself when you believe the obligatioin sex message: that you are obligated to give him sex when he wants it.  What are you now believing?

  • Sex is no longer intimate, because my needs don’t matter. It’s not about two people “knowing” each other; it’s about him having access to my body even if I don’t want it. So I am erased.
  • Sex isn’t about me. It doesn’t matter what I’m feeling; it matters what he is feeling. So he is the focus of sex.
  • My feelings during sex are irrelevant.
  • His need for sex must be so great that I will never understand it.
  • His need for sex is so great that it must trump all of my possible needs. 
  • He has the right to use me. 
  • If I don’t let him use me, he will lust or have an affair or watch porn. I’m the only thing standing between him and sin.

In Love & Respect, Emerson Eggerichs tells women that if a husband doesn’t ejaculate frequently, he will come under satanic attack. And he tells women that they do not understand how much a man needs sex.

To give this message without acknowledging any of the legitimate reasons why she may want to say no gives the impression that no matter what I am feeling, his need for sex must be so much greater. 

You have a migraine? His need for sex is even worse.

You’re absolutely exhausted? His need for sex is even greater than your need for sleep.

Postpartum and depressed and desperate? His need for oral sex or a hand job is so much greater than your need for help and support and compassion.

Feeling used and discarded because of his porn use? His need for ejaculation is so much greater than your need for love and loyalty and fidelity.

What do you think the cumulative effect is of these messages over time? 

Sex will become a threatening experience for her, because every time you have sex, you feel: “I don’t matter.” It’s inherently depersonalizing and dehumanizing.

And this is true even if you DON’T have sex when you have a migraine, when you’re exhausted, when you’re postpartum, etc. It’s not that these effects are only true if you go through with sex; it’s that the guilt that you feel when you say no makes you feel dehumanized regardless.

The belief that these things are true impacts you whether you act on that belief or not, because this is the story about sex that you tell yourself and that you internalize. 

As we explained in The Great Sex Rescue:

Great Sex Rescue

From The Great Sex Rescue

Much current teaching, though, elevates his need for intercourse above any of her needs. Even look at the subtitle of bestselling Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. In this book, sex is included as a component of respect but not as a component of love. What he wants (sex) is a need, then, but whatever she wants is merely a desire.

The message that whatever you are feeling doesn’t matter, you need to have intercourse with your spouse erases you as a person. It says that who you are, including your wants, desires, and feel- ings, doesn’t matter. Then sex, which is supposed to be this deep knowing, becomes something far different. It’s saying, “I don’t want to know you, because your needs and desires are actually unimportant to me. I only want to use you.”

What sexual dynamics does obligation sex create?

Let’s say that you believe that his need for sex is so much greater than your need for anything else.

And so you have sex when you don’t want it. What does this do?

  • It makes it harder to get aroused during sex
  • It makes it less likely that she will reach orgasm
  • It makes it more likely that she will experience sexual pain 

So sex is objectively worse. Maybe he wants to make it good for her, but she just doesn’t want that because she can’t get in the right head space to enjoy sex. She’s only doing it for him. 

I have lots of men send comments like this:

I would love to give my wife pleasure! I want to spend time doing anything that will make her feel good, but every time I try she stops me and tells me to just go ahead. If I try to stimulate her, she won’t let me for more than a minute or two. I’ve asked her to help me figure out how to make it good for her, but she just won’t. She doesn’t understand how much I want to see her feel amazing!

So she just doesn’t want him to try to arouse her, which makes sense, because she’s been told she’s doing her duty by “letting him” have sex. She likely doesn’t want to do this, so the faster it’s over with, the better. Because she doesn’t want to do it, it’s going to be very difficult to get aroused, no matter what he does to her (because arousal isn’t just about his technique; it’s also about where her brain is at the moment).

(Incidentally, I get frustrated with men when they send comments like this, because if they really valued their wife’s pleasure, they wouldn’t have sex with their wife for 15 years when it wasn’t feeling good for her. Even men like this believe that sex is okay if it’s just for him. If you want to get rid of obligation sex, you need to show her that one-sided sex isn’t okay! But more on that later in the series.)

When he internalizes that sex is primarily for him, he’s likely to “let her let him.”

Sure, he may prefer that she feels pleasure too, but if he also believes that sex is about his need for ejaculation, then when she offers sex when she isn’t aroused and doesn’t want to, he’s likely to take it. He’ll let her “let him have sex.”

In some cases, he may even pressure her to have sex, and complain about how long it’s been, or just act put out. And so she has sex because she feels like she has to, and he “accepts” it.

Both of them have now confirmed that sex is for him and not for her. 

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Her body will store these obligation sex messages.

This dynamic of having sex when she doesn’t want to results in over and over again her telling her body (and him telling her body):

This is something you don’t like. This is something you won’t enjoy. This is something that is for him.

Because it’s for him and because he gets such pleasure when you’re not even wanting it, sex becomes something really icky. How can someone get that excited about using you when you don’t even want it? This is something pathetic. This makes me lose respect and interest and sexual appeal for my husband, because his sex drive is so infantile and divorced from relationship.

This is something that is threatening. This tells me, I’m not important. I don’t matter. I’m erased. 

Think of the effect of that message, being told to your body over and over and over again.

Your body will believe that sex isn’t for you. And so for many women it will be very difficult to get aroused or reach orgasm. Or, even if they can reach orgasm when they do want to have sex–they just don’t want to have sex very often. Their libido has disappeared.

These effects on libido can last beyond the belief in the obligation sex message.

In our focus groups for The Great Sex Rescue, we heard from a lot of women who were able to regain their libido and their sexual response when they let go of the obligation sex message with their husbands’ help. That was actually such an encouraging finding that we kept hearing again and again.

But we have also heard from many women who desperately want to get rid of obligation sex, and who understand that it isn’t true, but their libidos have never returned.

Please understand that this is normal. Your body keeps the score, and many of these messages are stored in the body, not just the brain. 

We talk about getting to the other side of obligation sex in The Orgasm Course, and I hope that can help!

And we’ll be talking later this month about how to move beyond obligation sex.

Orgasm Course

But for today, I wanted you to understand something: The obligation sex message affects not just our beliefs about sex, but our experience of sex. 

And it does this because of the messages that the body has learned. The body’s job is to try to protect you from things that harm you. When you sense that sex is harmful of your personhood, the body won’t desire it. Won’t want it. May even tighten up and experience sexual pain. 

We need to get beyond obligation sex if we’re going to have people enjoying thriving sex lives in marriage. My books The Great Sex Rescue and The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex I hope will do that (and we wrote so much against obligation sex in the Guy’s Guide!). I’m so passionate about this. We need to spread the word that talking about sex like this in terms of obligation hurts women, and it isn’t okay. It’s not what God desires. It’s not right. It needs to stop.

I’ve got handouts in my Great Sex Rescue toolkit about all of our findings on obligation sex, and you can pick that up to share with your pastor or small group leader or counselor!

And this month, we’ll unpack more of this message so that hopefully you’ll be able to put it behind you for good!

Obligation sex Affect Libido

What do you think? Does the body keep the score about obligation sex? Have you come out on the other side? Let’s talk in the comments!

The Obligation Sex Series

Previous Posts on Obligation Sex

Previous Podcasts on Obligation Sex

Plus please see our Great Sex Rescue Toolkit for handy downloads about the effects of obligation sex that you can give to your pastor, counselor, small group leader--anyone who teaches it!

And see chapters 9 and 10 in The Great Sex Rescue for all our charts, stats, and commentary!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

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

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  1. Kay

    Oh the guilt is horrible! I fell for this belief sometime after we got married, and little things my hubby would say or do confirmed in my mind that he thought similarly. I would keep mental track of 72 hour rule and be like oh we gotta do it tonight, oh no it’s been 5 days…. Meanwhile I had no desire to initiate as it was HIS need, not mine.

    Coming upon your blog & research I have felt so validated that I wasn’t “crazy” for not initiating or seemingly enjoying sex…. I had no words to describe exactly how I felt. Libido came back as I took heart that this was for me too, BUT he then once said the word “need” and it oh so triggered me. I definitely think there is some trauma there that I just can’t seem to get over.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that’s really common. If we just understood how, when we say that he “needs” sex, what we’re saying is that “he needs to use your body.” It’s really damaging.

    • Kay

      Also! It kind of erases the idea that I have desires, but the fact that it’s framed as FOR the man, I can’t even voice something that doesn’t feel good as this act is FOR him, so I just do whatever.

      Totally erases personhood.

      How am I supposed to even know what I might enjoy if it’s all for HIM?!?!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very much so!

  2. Nessie

    “Incidentally, I get frustrated with men when they send comments like this…”
    The sad thing is that these men probably really do think they are “loving” their wives by wanting them to feel good. I think that speaks to the breadcrumb mentality the church has created- women are of such little worth that we should be ecstatic that our husbands finally want us to have the experience they have had for years (at our cost). Many of them probably truly do feel they are growing greatly in their Christian walk by making this change.

    My situation is beyond what this post is about but I had a very high libido early on (which my husband couldn’t match because of his unconfessed porn problem.) Now it’s almost non-existent. That made me feel like I had squelched part of how God created me, which made me feel guilty. What I have come to realize is that it wasn’t ME who squelched God’s creation in me- it was a combined effort most prominently coming from my husband and the church.

    By their standards, I can’t teach if God has gifted me in that; I can’t be heard if I have the gift of wisdom and discernment; and now I can’t even enjoy the bodily responses God had given me. It’s a rewording and twisting of scripture- what God meant for good the devil used to tear apart.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Nessie, I’m so sorry! That is exactly the number that’s been done on so many women.

      • Nessie

        Thanks. It’s just where things are. Not much I can do to increase my libido if he can’t be emotionally safe and present (zero intimacy) so it stays where it is. But at least he continues seeing a therapist to try to work on it.

        I just wish people could see how long the road to recovery may be on these things, when love and awareness on the front end could keep these problems from starting.

    • Lisa Johns

      I also had a very high (read, HEALTHY) libido, which my husband could not match because of his porn/masturbation issues, and which he used as a weapon against me. My libido is currently tanked, and while I have hope that it could be reignited in a healthy relationship (which is NOT in this marriage!), I just find it really irritating that this potential blessing was taken from me by a selfish, selfish man. It’s heartbreaking how often this happens.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        It is absolutely heartbreaking. I’m so sorry.

    • Nessie

      Fwiw, I should have said I *couldn’t* (past tense) teach/discern instead of can’t. I’m in a healthy church now. That is helping me heal, albeit slowly, in other ways. I’m so thankful for that.

  3. P

    This perfectly describes my 15 year marriage to my now ex-husband. I felt used and erased, unknown and unseen, and he was frustrated that I “didn’t like sex, ” but he was happy to take it anyway, and assumed my not enjoying it was something wrong with me.

    The Great Sex Rescue gave me the clarity I needed to understand my former marriage, and I’m so grateful. I’ve done a lot of hard work towards healing, though dating is still challenging. If they bring up even the topic of sex too soon, I competely lose interest in them, everything in me remembering how it felt to feel used and erased. I want someone who actually want to know me, not use me for sex.

    • Bernadette

      I’m so sorry you experienced that. If he was frustrated that you didn’t like sex, then he shouldn’t have kept doing it. You’re right, he was using you.

  4. Jo R

    Are we starting to preach an “obligation healing” message?

    Some people have chronic, incurable physical ailments that simply will never be healed in this life. Expecting them to live as though they don’t have these conditions is clearly asking too much, though of course that inability is not license to not do what is possible to mitigate their symptoms and difficulties.

    But do we put so much emphasis on the supposed ability to fully and completely overcome these messages, in the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional realms, that we’re simply putting a different kind of obligation on people—which for this situation is overwhelmingly women—to overcome what may well be permanent damage that won’t be fully healed in this life?

    Again, not that women should not take what steps they can to heal, but on whose schedule? If a wife endured three decades of this crap, is it reasonable to expect her to “get over it” in six months, a year, a decade?

    (Asking for a friend…)

    • Nessie

      Great point!

      I’m not worried about healing my libido when my husband hasn’t yet become safe enough to have sex with. What’s the pojnt? If he ever gets close to behaving in a healthy way, then I may return to working on that area for myself. But really, why would I work on increasing my libido right now when I don’t have a safe person to have sex with?

      And does the pressure to recover our libidos become a transference for the husbands who did push the Ob.Sex message? Instead of saying a wife has to have sex, it’s now a wife has to heal herself. Great thinking points, Jo R!

      Perhaps learning to know ourselves and recognizing if we are growing stress in one area from trying to “heal” in another area is what we need to look more at?

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Good thoughts! Healing comes AFTER the spouse is safe, not before. And where there has been much trauma, likely requires a lot of therapy and EMDR and more.

        For some women, that just may be too much. Her sexuality may have been terribly affected, and it’s not going to recover without massive amounts of work, and she may decide it’s not worth it.

        What makes me sad is that it’s all so unfair. He’s the one who took her sexuality through obligation and coercion (and even rape), and now she is the one paying the long-term price because she’s never experiencing what her sexuality was supposed to be. I hope that in marriages where he has made himself safe, that libido can come back once the couple works through it. Not because it’s an obligation, but because it’s just so wrong that she also pay the long-term cost.

      • Bernadette

        This is great.

  5. Jane Eyre

    Regarding “wanting” your wife to enjoy sex:

    It’s childish. Children want fun things that they do not take affirmative steps to get (dinner, toys, vacations, snacks). Adults understand that we need to make an effort to get what we want and goodies don’t just fall from the sky.

    If someone “wants” a promotion but does nothing to strengthen their skills, build relationships with higher ups, and showcase their talents, we would all roll our eyes.

    If someone “desperately wants” to find a spouse but does not leave their home, refuses to go on dates with people their friends are willing to fix them up with, and does not want to meet anyone new… are they really “wanting” to meet someone?

    Actions speak louder than words. If you aren’t learning your wife’s body, slowing down to her pace, being patient with the process, learning about the female sexual response cycle, and avoiding things that turn her off, sorry buddy, you don’t acurally “want” to make your wife feel good in the bedroom.

    “I want a clean house, really I do, but I refuse to even buy a mop!” Yep, gents, that’s you, just with sex.

    • Amy

      Jane – what an interesting observation. However, isn’t this just what the church has taught us for years? A prime example is purity culture. I learned from purity culture that I was supposed to do nothing to get a spouse. I was actually suppose to actively work to NOT find a spouse, and somehow God was going to magically drop my perfect man on my doorstep. We hear similar things about work situations, relationship issues, etc. from the church. I don’t actually have to exert any real effort to improve my situation; I’m supposed to pray about it and God will just fix my issue.

      So, we shouldn’t be surprised when men say these things. We’ve all got a lot of magical thinking to undo!

      • Jane Eyre

        Magical thinking nearly destroyed my marriage, if it’s even worth salvaging. I long ago tired of it from my maybe soon to be ex husband.

        • Jo R

          Oh, Jane, I’m so sorry. Hugs if you want ’em.

  6. Laura

    “it’s that the guilt that you feel when you say no makes you feel dehumanized regardless.”

    Wow! That’s exactly how I felt when I was married to my ex but I just could not put it into words. When I said “no” to his advances, he acted like a jerk for days by giving my the cold shoulder. Giving him sex made him treat me better, but toward the end of our marriage and the frequent sexual assaults in the middle of the night, I realized I could no longer live this way. He was not a safe person to have sex with and I am so grateful that God gave me the courage to leave him.

    So, to the above commenters who mentioned “obligation healing,” I get that. I want to heal for me, not for him so he can get his way. When I left my ex and considered the possibility of reconciliation, I told him that if I were to ever return to him, I would never have sex with him again. This was not necessarily to punish him, but for my own safety.

    I am thankful that this has been long past over 21 years ago and I’ve been seeing someone for a while. He is very respectful and had told me he believes in waiting until marriage. Usually, I was the one who said that first when I was getting to know men in the past.

  7. Mara R

    I am really happy that you are doing this series even though I’ve been so busy I can’t keep up with comments and can barely keep up with the posts.

    The purity culture didn’t ruin me. That was before my time.

    But the obligation sex message sure did. Early on, when the ex wanted sex, and I didn’t, here’s how I’d determined whether to say yes or no.
    If we had sex the night before, I could say no. almost guilt free. If we didn’t have sex the night before, I had to say yes. Because obligation.
    So, we usually had sex anywhere from three to four times a week.
    But he always underestimated it saying it was two times or less.
    Even when I tried to be fair, I couldn’t win.

    I also used to like sex.
    But the thought of being in a relationship with a man who expects sex just kind of turns me off right now. Turn off? Maybe a better way to put it is, it makes me want to walk the other way.
    And do I really want to go through the effort to heal right now? Can’t say that I do, at least not right now.

    • J

      Mara – my spouse also underestimated our sexual activities! I began keeping a secret diary and after about nine months, I asked him how often, on average, he thought we’d been intimate. He guessed roughly half the amount of times that we actually had. I whipped out that diary and took way too much joy in proving him wrong with my data.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I understand, Mara. I think working on healing and feeling strong is more important for you. I just mourn for all that so many women have lost. It seems so very unfair.

  8. William

    As a man I’ve learned to more less keep my mouth shut until my wife wants sex. Being rejected gets old and you just need to wait. I’ve been trying for years but if she’s not interested in changing I guess things will just continue the way they are for another 40 years.

    • Bernadette

      Are you sure that your wife is the problem? What about your attitude?

    • Jo R

      “As a woman, I was taught by my church and every Christian sex and marriage book I read to keep my mouth shut every time my husband wanted sex (except when he wanted a blow job). Being used as a blow-up sex doll gets old and you just need to put up with it. I’ve been trying for years but since I can’t voice my opinion, needs, wants, and desires, lest I usurp my husband’s authority or try to teach him anything, I guess things will just continue the way they have for another 40 years,” said lots of Christian women everywhere just today.

    • John

      I hear you William. Brave man to put his head above this parapet. It’s been 16 years since I last tried to initiate sex and got turned down yet again. I have also stopped trying and yes, no sex for 16 years. And yes Bernadette, I am very probably at least part of the problem, but my wife seems quite happy with our situation and exceedingly unwilling to even talk about it. I am just getting depressed, medicating with alcohol and self harm.

      • Anonymous

        If you are “getting depressed, medicating with alcohol and self harm,” then please seek qualified help for yourself for your own sake.

      • Jane Eyre

        Your wife doesn’t want orgasmic sex from her devoted husband???? That’s really strange!

        Oh, it probably is not good for her. You probably don’t know how BAD it is for her, because men rarely if ever experience genuinely bad sec.

        • John

          Me sharing out of my pain and you sharing out of yours, does probably not lead to mutual edification. I pray for God’s blessing on your life and future.

  9. Jen

    So glad to see you approaching this from a body-keeps-the-score stance. We are trying to recover from the obligation sex message, along with a lot of other issues, including betrayal. When your primary attachment person who is supposed to be safety is dangerous, there is a lot to undo. For anyone dealing with betrayal too, I highly recommend Michelle Mays’ book The Betrayal Bind.

    Sheila and team, you may be interested in that book as well because much of what she deals with could describe the results of the obligation sex message. If that message was present, even without literal betrayal, the damage done to attachment between the partners is enormous. After all, don’t our husbands betray us when they put their desires over our safety (and women can do this to men, too, of course)?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thanks for the book recommendation! That sounds really interesting for a project I’m working on now.

  10. Angharad

    Genuine question for the husbands who say they ‘need’ sex:

    If your wife died tonight, would it be ok for you to go out and rape someone the next time you ‘needed’ sex?

    If not, then how come it’s ok to force sex on your sick, injured, postpartum, or reluctant wife because you ‘need’ it?

    Or do widowers get an automatic ‘off’ switch once they no longer have a spouse to fulfil their ‘need’?

    • TJ

      As a guy who’s 15 year marriage has been functionally sexless from day one due to her mental health struggles and the side-effects of associated medications, I can confirm for those sorts of men that sex is definitely not a ‘need’ and you will certainly not, in fact, die from the lack of it.

      Feeling undesirable in your marriage might be unpleasant, but certainly not terminally so. And it’s absolutely not a valid excuse for pressuring, coercing, cajoling, or forcing your wife in any way shape or form.

      • Angharad

        I’m so sorry you are having this experience, but thank you for being one of the men who take a stand for what is right. It’s one of the reasons I get so angry with men who bleat about how they can’t cope if their ‘needs’ are not being met – it’s not only belittling to women, it’s also incredibly offensive to all those guys who are coping and continuing to be gracious, faithful and loving partners to their wives.

        • TJ

          I appreciate the kind words, but I certainly wouldn’t want to create the impression that I’m a perfect man by any stretch of the imagination.

          I definitely made more than my share of mistakes over the years and had a lot of growing to do. Even today, I still sometimes struggle with feeling hurt and sorrowful over the situation. It can be a challenge to stay mindful that those feelings are MY problem and MY responsibility, rather than anything she should ever be confronted with or “obligated” to fix for herself.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Thank you, TJ. And I’m so sorry for how difficult this has been for you. It sounds like you have really worked to love her regardless.

    • John

      Clearly men don’t need sex, but we can really want it and can really struggle when we don’t ever share physical intimacy with our wives. That’s where the “obligation” sex message is a little black and white. Clearly on no single occasion is husband or wife obligated to have sex, but extending that “no” to every night for years, is also not acceptable. At least if my wife died tonight (heaven forbid, as she is my best friend, life partner and a wonderful mum to our children!), I’d be free to seek a new relationship, with new potential.

      • Angharad

        I agree that sex is an important part of marriage – I don’t think anyone here is saying that it isn’t. But when sex is designed to be enjoyable for BOTH partners, if one spouse doesn’t want it for years on end, then the problem is far deeper than that spouse saying ‘no’ all the time.

        I do have every sympathy for those who have tried their best to be caring and considerate partners, but whose spouse is unable to overcome their dislike or fear of sex. But the solution is not to keep preaching the ‘obligation’ message. Telling someone they need to keep doing something they dislike or fear until they stop disliking or fearing it is never going to work.

        The church has been spreading misinformation and false teaching about sex for many years – we are now reaping the harvest of that bad teaching.

        • John

          It feels like there should be an obligation (maybe too strong a word?) for the refusing spouse to be willing to talk about it and engage in whatever work/ discussion/ process … is needed to at least explore why they constantly refuse and maybe get to a place where they do want sex again.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Not really. It depends on why the spouse is refusing.

            When there have been dynamics in the marriage where the husband has made sex difficult for the wife, the onus is not on the wife to talk about it. The onus is on the husband to rebuild trust. If there has been marital rape/coercion for years, there’s serious trauma there and it could be really hard to talk about.

            If there are other things going on, then, yes, the wife should be addressing it. It is up to us to take responsibility for our own stuff. But where the harm has been caused by one to the other, the onus is on that person to rebuild. A good place to start is here.

          • John

            I don’t mean to imply that she has to do all the work, I am very sure I need to too, quite possibly mostly me. However if she doesn’t engage at all with any conversation about sex or more immortally, emotional intimacy, then it is very hard to follow through on your suggested 4 point plan. It is refusing to engage with the issue of complete lack of sexual intimacy, even to express her frustrations with me or low libido or … , that feels wrong in marriage.

          • Anonymous

            Hi John,
            Have you tried to address your relationship without discussing sex? At this point, she may feel that anything is an attempt to coerce her back into sex, so even mentioning sex or closeness is dangerous for her. Have you thought about telling her point blank (and meaning it- that’s the tricky bit!) that you want to be a better husband, that sex is off the table and that you simply want to get to re-know her in non-sexual ways?

            I don’t have enough info of your situation but most guys seem to go about wanting to improve their relationship just for the sake of getting back to having sex. Maybe you could try just wanting to have a closer relationship, wanting to know her as a person.

            Even if you have tried talking about sex just for her to express her frustration/struggles, have you honestly been a safe place for her to talk about things? Have you been a safe person to talk about anything else? Did your conversations, either recently or early on (trust me, the early stuff can solidify that we are just your sex doll, not a person you care about, and we *learn* you can’t be trusted) possibly convey that?

            i’m not accusing, merely tossing about questions that might be worth a ponder.

          • Anonymous

            *I meant many guys, not most. Sorry.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        The thing is that most women do not start out refusing. Most women start out marriage expecting to love sex. So the question needs to be: what happened? We need to understand that so that we can correct it. Here are some questions to ask.

  11. JoB

    Regarding the guy’s comment about his wife not letting him “help her feel amazing”… I think there have been some posts on the blog before about the topic of female arousal before, but it sounds like this guy may not realize that “stimulation” is going to get things nowhere fast if he’s trying to rush his wife’s arousal cycle. I am not sure that many men understand that women need more time doing stuff that presumably is not featured prominently in pornography (don’t know since fortunately I haven’t seen porn), like hugging, kissing, caressing, with all clothes on, kind of like a premarital makeout session. Keep that going long enough without losing control of yourself or pressuring/rushing her to do more, and you might find her asking you for more. There is so much emphasis on being orgasmic, but little patience with the process of getting there… kind of like wanting to go swimming in the deep end before the pool has filled up with water. It takes time and self control.

    • Sequoia

      I like that image: “wanting to go swimming in the deep end before the pool has filled up with water.” Knowing that doing “swimming motions” will do you no good whatsoever if you’ve rushed things.

      • JoB

        Yeah, or wondering why the woman isn’t willing to do an enthusiastic swan dive into a foot of water. She must be an uptight perfectionist who doesn’t want to have any fun!

  12. Meinhi

    Sometimes it turns into obligation sex because neither spouse is taught God’s true meaning of sex so both sides have it all wrong and end up suffering and resentful.

  13. Willow

    “Emerson Eggerichs tells women that if a husband doesn’t ejaculate frequently, he will come under satanic attack.“

    Is this Christianity, or some kind of weird phallic-worshiping cult?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I have often wondered that myself.

  14. Alisha Titus

    I can personally relate to this so much. I had deeply internalized the message that sex was just for him, and it was a need I “could never understand”. I grew to resent my husband for having this “need I didn’t want and could never understand”.

    After realizing this message was wrong (sex is designed for intimacy and pleasure for BOTH) and learning to talk through what feels good to me. My libido is SO much higher and I actually look forward to having sex. Also- The Orgasm Course was very healing for me.

    I am passionate about spreading this message because I know there are other women out there that feel the same way I did. You are not broken.💖

  15. JY

    After I had our son, my libido took a total nose-dive for years. In my heart and mind, I found my husband sexy. Physically my libido was pretty much gone (due to hormones). The best I know how to describe it is when you have the flu: physically you don’t feel like having any sort of sexual contact…in fact your spouse trying to have sex when you have the flu can make one’s libido go past zero into the negative. You start to dread it in ways, then feel like a guilt-ridden crazy person for feeling that way. I remember begging God to give me my libido back. What made matters worse is that I worked outside the home while my husband stayed at home. Also, there was very little emotional intimacy (he clammed up emotionally). He’s also a naturally more energetic person than me. So I think he expected me to be “in the mood” after coming home from a 45 minute drive in gridlock, after cooking dinner/cleaning up, and getting our son settled in. We continued to have sex a couple of times a week. It wasn’t “passionate” though and not often enough, so he grew silently resentful. I used hormone creams and supplements but those only helped a little. Then he had a 5-year on and off again affair with another woman. Thankfully he doesn’t blame me anymore, but at first, he said he wouldn’t have been tempted if our physical intimacy was where it should be. What’ ironic is I found out about bio-identical testosterone pellets and had the procedure done months before he started the affair. At that point he had already turned his heart away with offense. I’m not trying to say I didn’t have flaws — growing up in purity culture, I know that messed with my head in ways. But there is no excuse in the world that makes it okay to cope in destructive ways.

    This sentence resonated with me: “Because she doesn’t want to do it, it’s going to be very difficult to get aroused, no matter what he does to her (because arousal isn’t just about his technique; it’s also about where her brain is at the moment).” I think my husband did (and does) want me to experience pleasure. But as the above sentence says, it’s not necessarily about technique. He would want/try to do things to “get me in the mood”, but I had hormone issues, and mental/emotional road-blocks because of lack of intimacy outside the bedroom (plus stress from job burnout). Then he wondered why the passion was missing. It’s because there were issues inside of us individually and outside the bedroom that needed to be healed. More kissing or foreplay isn’t the solution in that case. Sex cannot be a shortcut or substitute to full intimacy. Sex cannot be used as a crutch to cope with boredom, self-esteem issues, emotional dysregulation, etc. You notice how people have sex after a big fight? If you jump into bed to “resolve” a fight, then sex is being used as a substitute to emotional vulnerability. However, if you resolve the fight by having healthy communication and vulnerability, THEN AS A RESULT of the emotional vulnerability decide to bond physically, that’s a different situation. Intimacy is being fully known. If you look at the intimacy pyramid, sex is at the very top. If sex is the biggest area a couple runs to in order to “feel” intimate, the relationship is going to be lop-sided. I want it all!

    Husband’s, a question you may want to ask yourself: “Do I genuinely desire for my wife to experience pleasure, or do I just want to “see” her enjoying it because that makes me “feel” good or “feel” like more of a man?” That’s a tough question to ask yourself. Because if you answered “yes” to the second part of the question, you’re still making it about yourself (not her). The same can go for helping people: Do I help someone because I genuinely want to, or do I help mainly because I “feel good” from doing it? How can you tell the difference? When you genuinely want to help, you don’t expect anything in return (including an emotional high). I was guilty of something similar: I gave my husband pleasure, not solely because I wanted to, but because I felt obligated, because I didn’t want to feel guilty, because I didn’t want to hear his remarks or sense his frustration. Mine was the opposite issue, I wanted him to experience pleasure, but I also did it because I wanted to avoid feeling bad. That’s unhealthy and detrimental.

    I’m about to say something some may disagree with. But I’ve done A LOT of research, personal work, interaction with infidelity professionals, and hundreds of hours interacting with people involved in betrayal. Infidelity is not a marriage issue, it’s a coping issue. If marriage was the issue, most people would be having affairs or drinking themselves into oblivion. Just like someone who decides to cope/function in life via drugs, abusive actions, alcoholism, or other destructive ways. I’ve known a number of people who cheated and will readily admit they didn’t have any complaints about their marriage. There was a deeper individual issue going on inside, to which they decided to cope in a destructive way. Some people (even well-meaning people who think they know how to deal with destructive patterns in a marriage) want to first address the marriage, when in actuality that’s backwards. Each person in the coupleship needs make some serious headway in dealing/healing from their individual issues FIRST before dealing/healing the marriage issues. He has to heal the root of his destructive coping mechanisms. I need to heal from the betrayal trauma.

    With that being said, in my opinion, sex issues are not always a marriage issue. Does it affect the marriage? Yes. In my sex situation, he needs to heal the entitlement, childhood rejection wounds (that got transferred to me to fix via lots of sex), coming up with healthy solutions to issues, being vulnerable (dealing with intimacy aversion/attachment issues), killing the shame cycle, self-love (we need to all experience a sense of contentment primarily within ourselves and thru God, then secondarily with our spouse…if we rely too heavily on our spouse to “feel” happy, and not enough on ourselves/God for that, then you’re setting yourself up for consistent disappointment), etc. For my side of the street with sex, I need to heal the purity culture mindset, obligation sex message, setting boundaries (instead of giving in to sex to avoid his disappointment/resentment, I need to set boundaries to be safe for myself), harnessing my worthiness, taking ownership of respectfully standing up for what I need to feel safe, listening to/taking care of my body (including my hormones), and trusting my intuition, etc. When we make serious headway on those individual issues that have affected our sex, then I believe the marriage/coupleship aspect of sex can be addressed. For instance, strengthening the other areas of intimacy, so “sex” can sit on the foundation of the pyramid without toppling over. Learning about the sexual response cycle, taking the orgasm course, reading the ‘guides to great sex’, etc.

    It would be nice if there was a 3-part intensive: one for the man, one for the woman, then one part for the couple, that addresses stuff like this. Perhaps partner up with Andrew Bauman, LOL. I know each person’s situation is different, but there are common themes. Just my two cents.

  16. Madeleine

    I am so sick of obligatory sex that I ask God daily to please take the desire from his mind & the ability from his penis. I am sick of being punished for saying no—the silent treatment or a general attitude of meanness. Even when he perverts what is to be the beauty of sex by insisting I tell him erotic stories (where I am forced to cheapen myself by giving oral or anal to several men in a group sex setting). I cringe, not wanting to be touched by him. Who would willingly want to have sex under these conditions? Sadly, I am trapped & under obligation until I can financially set myself free. I don’t think I will ever desire sex again

    • Lisa Johns

      I am so appalled by reading what you are enduring. I pray your freedom will come quickly. Hugs.


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