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The Devastation of Sexual Rejection in Marriage

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I am not a therapist, a counselor, an expert or a pastor.  I’m just a wife and I am starting a discussion here. I do not claim to have all the answers. Here are some ideas to think about and prayerfully consider. If you have severe issues in your marriage, please seek godly, experienced, wise counsel!

Ladies,

I know that MANY of you are suffering in your marriage with the pain of sexual rejection.  The pain can be excruciating.  And many women think they are the only wives whose husbands refuse them.  Reading marriage books that constantly talk about how men want intimacy all the time just drives the knife deeper in your heart when your husband refuses you.  It can make you think that there is seriously something very wrong with you – and that every other husband on the planet desires his wife sexually but yours.  That is a lonely place to be.  This is something almost no one talks about and it  is not a topic that gets addressed much.  (For those of you with the opposite problem, check out this post)

There are a number of reasons why a husband may have a lower drive than his wife or why he may refuse her advances – many of which I have seen as a pharmacist:

– he is exhausted/stressed/sick

– he feels very disrespected by you (disrespect can actually be a HUGE, HUGE turnoff for many husbands.  It would be the same for them as it would for us if we felt very unloved. Check out my post about respect, disrespect and respect and sexual attraction).

– he has a naturally lower drive than she does at this time of life (especially as men grow older this can be the case – and sadly, women often have an increasing sexual drive as they grow older, especially into their 30s and 40s, this can make things very frustrating sometimes).

– he is experiencing a loss of desire due to depression or due to certain medications (blood pressure medications, some anti-depressants, some prostate medications, Propecia, etc.)

– the timing may not be best for him (most men have their highest levels of testosterone in the morning – sometimes just changing the time of day can make a big difference.)

– medical issues like E.D. that become increasingly common as men age (especially over age 50) – thankfully there are some extremely effective rxs for impotence.  Prostate surgery, diabetes, high blood pressure, peripheral arterial disease and other medical problems can trigger E.D..   The rxs are quite expensive (sometimes $20-30 per pill), but some insurances will cover a certain number of pills per month. (Be VERY careful about talking about this subject with your husband – sometimes, no matter how gently or respectfully a wife brings up the topic of impotence, a husband can feel extremely emasculated. It may be wise to pray a lot about this before talking with him. As a pharmacist, I know that it is very difficult for men to seek help for something so personal and so tied into their sense of manhood.)

– obesity can greatly affect sexual desire in men.

– sex has become a chore (i.e.: to try to get pregnant or deal with infertility treatment)

– serious pornography addiction can vastly lower a husband’s sexual desire and drive for his wife (this is, unfortunately, more and more common)

– infidelity

– low testosterone levels – the Dr can check his blood levels and there are injections and topical gel preparations of testosterone that can be very helpful to increase energy levels and sexual drive for men with this situation (but again, you will have to approach this topic with EXTREME sensitivity and probably a lot of prayer – it would be easy to offend a man greatly about this issue.)

WHAT CAN A WIFE DO?

– First, it could be important to think about examining your motives.

  • Is it possible that you may measure how much your husband loves you, or how lovable you are, by how often you have sex with him?
  • Is it possible that you use sex to get affirmation and to feel loved because you aren’t getting any emotional or spiritual connection?
  • Is it possible that you are trying to control your husband’s sex life and thoughts about other women/porn by trying to initiate sex frequently so that he “won’t be tempted” to look at other women or to use porn?
  • Is it possible you are attempting to find your worth and value in sex instead of in Christ?
  • Is it possible your husband is feeling smothered/disrespected/pressured?

If you are using sex to try to control your husband or to keep his thought life pure or to find affirmation of your worth – you are going to be dissatisfied and your husband is probably going to resist.

– PRAY!!!! Ask God to show you your true motives that may be hidden from your own consciousness. Ask God to give you wisdom and healing. Set your heart completely on Christ and find your worth, your identity, your hope, your strength, your joy and purpose 100% in Him. Be content in Christ alone. Take your desires and pain and rejection to Him and find shelter in His wings. Lay your desire at the feet of Jesus and ask Him to help you find satisfaction and contentment in Him no matter what your husband does or does not do.  Trust His sovereignty to be able to handle this problem for His glory somehow and ultimately for your good.

It’s possible that backing off could be something to consider – if you have been initiating every day or frequently and your husband is rejecting you often. He may feel smothered or pressured. Guys don’t like to feel like their affection, attention or sex is being demanded of them.  Or he may just need a few days (or weeks) to feel his own desire for you and to begin to initiate himself. This is SO HARD!!!!!! I know this is the last thing we want to do in this situation. But sometimes it works. The key is to expect nothing. If he does initiate – AWESOME. But assume that he won’t for awhile. Let your body just be “off” instead of “simmering.”  You may have to purposely stop feeding the fantasies of having sex with him for awhile and see if that doesn’t give him a chance to want to pursue you.  (PS, for wives whose husbands want MORE sex – learn to turn your body “on” to “simmer” by consciously thinking about having sex with your husband often and by flirting with him more and being open to his advances and thankful that your husband desires you.  If you are having pain with intercourse, please talk to your OB/GYN as soon as possible!  There is often a lot of help available for such problems.)

– Sometimes our schedules are TOO BUSY!  Being extremely busy all the time leaves no time for the things that are most important in life – intimacy with God, intimacy with our husbands, time to cultivate relationships in our families and time to spend with friends.  Pray and ask God and your husband what can be cut out of the schedule!

-Some husbands begin to resent sex during the long, expensive, sometimes humiliating (for men) process of infertility treatment. If sex has become 100% about trying to get pregnant – it takes the joy out of it for many men (and really – it takes the joy out of sex for many wives, too).  It could be time to take a break and just ENJOY your man without all the pressure.

The greatest gift we can give to our husbands during love making is to ENJOY them, to truly savor them and to be ecstatic, relaxed and delighted in this sacred and precious act of oneness.When we express our pleasure and rapture (with our facial expressions, words, body language, responsiveness and movements) – we greatly bless our men.

– If there are medical issues, major sleep-deprivation or extreme stress going on – pray about and ask your husband about seeing a doctor.  But if you do suggest he see a doctor, it may be wise to only suggest it once, in a very pleasant, non-pushy way and then let him decide when and if he will go.

– obesity greatly contributes to lower desire and even to erectile dysfunction.  This would be another delicate topic.  But you can pray about the issue, and seek to have most meals at home and to have more baked chicken/fish/vegetarian dishes with beans and less red meat and cheese and fattening things.  Make sure he has time to go for a walk or jog or to the gym if he wants to.  Be sure you are cooperating with your husband as a partner, not mothering him or dictating to him what he needs to do.

– Sometimes something as simple as trying the morning instead of at night makes a big difference. I know mornings can be rushed. But men almost always have their highest levels of testosterone in the morning.  It could be worth rearranging the schedule a bit to try this.

– Sometimes using touch to initiate instead of words can work better.  It almost never works with a man who has been resisting you to say, “I want sex!”  But sometimes just using touch very slowly – something you know he really likes – can be a better approach WITHOUT words.  Cuddling, spooning, a massage – but no verbal pressure.  And be prepared to just enjoy the affection even if he doesn’t respond.  If you resent him or get angry, that is going to make the whole situation much more difficult to overcome.

Men do tend to be very visual.  (If your husband is not particularly visual, this may not matter as much.) Wear your hair the way he likes it more often as a gift to him.  Wear your make up the way he prefers when you can.  Dress in feminine clothing to remind him that you are a woman.  Take care of your body – get the sleep, nutrition and exercise you need to be healthy.  Respect your body and treat it well.  When you respect your body and yourself and you make an effort to look your best, your husband appreciates that more than most men would ever say.  (This does NOT mean you need to be a size 2 or do dangerous things or have an eating disorder or exercise obsession.  But it does mean spend 15 minutes maybe – primping a bit before you see your husband.  And be a good steward of your body for God’s glory and to honor yourself and your husband.  Exercising for 15-30 minutes a day 5 days a week would be a healthy, reasonable amount of time and effort.  Your husband may even be quite willing to watch the kids while you go for a 30 minute walk or jog or to the gym.)

– If your husband is feeling disrespected and controlled – he may have told you this, or he may have just unplugged and gone totally silent. Check out the posts at the top of my home page on about respectdisrespect and signs your husband may be feeling disrespected. Consider thinking about ways that you could stop any disrespect, even the unintentional stuff. And then study your husband and figure out what most speaks respect to his masculine soul.  Depending on how disrespected and wounded he feels – it may take months or even a year or years for him to begin to trust and feel safe again.  And there are some rare husbands who never open their hearts again to their wives.  Ultimately, we obey God’s commands in Ephesians 5:22-33 out of our love and reverence for Christ – NOT to try to change our husbands.  We must be willing to accept our men exactly as they are and stop trying to change them before God will work.  And God’s timing may be much longer than ours.  We can trust Him and His sovereignty with the timing and results.  Our concern is to live in obedience and to abide in Christ no matter what our husbands do or do not do.

– If there are pornography issues – this is EXTREMELY painful for a wife. But with the power of God – your husband, you and your marriage CAN find healing and hope! You can check out www.brentriggs.com for an ebook on this issue or you can look up www.xxxchurch.org for help with porn addictions.

– if there is infidelity – please find a godly, Christian counselor who is experienced in this area and who will promote obedience to God’s Word. You may have to leave for awhile, or he may have to leave for awhile in order to begin to heal. And we will pray for God to bring both of you to Himself first, and then we will pray for healing for the marriage but most of all for God’s will and His glory.

I Corinthians 7:3-5

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife,  and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Unfortunately – you cannot control your husband or force him to be intimate with you.  So there may be a LOT of waiting involved – depending on why his desire is low.  Waiting is HARD.  It is not fun.  But it is an important part of learning to die to self.   I pray for wisdom for each of you that God might show you how to turn to Him and lay your pain at His feet.  I pray He will give you courage and wisdom to do what is helpful and will promote unity and healing in your relationship as far as things depend on you.  And I pray that God might work in your husband as well so that He might convict him of any sin or give him courage to find the medical help he needs to restore sexual oneness to your marriage.  But I pray for God’s peace even in the waiting and for Him to fill you with His joy as you learn to trust Him and seek Him with all your heart.

IF YOUR HUSBAND IS FAR FROM GOD:

My suggestion is not to quote scripture or use words to talk about the things of God or that he is not following God’s Word.  That will likely alienate him even farther from you.  In this situation – I Peter 3:1-6 would be your most powerful tool.

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

PS –

A husband mentioned something very important in the comments, and is allowing me to share here:

Thanks for addressing this topic. I’ve had conversations with my wife when she suggested that she’s been on a bullhorn and putting up billboards to initiate. I’ve had to learn her VERY subtle methods of initiating.

If there was a point when the man initiated often and was rebuffed often, his antennae might not be up for his wife’s initiation. It’s like in public speaking, when you think you’re being overly expressive, you’re barely scratching the surface. Sometimes a woman might think she’s being obvious but she’s not.

I would encourage a woman to ask her husband if he’s even aware that she’s initiating.

AN ABUSE SURVIVOR MENTIONED THIS IMPORTANT TOPIC AS WELL:

Men who remember sexual abuse will often have similar issues to women as well as many of their own. There can be many reminders that are part of regular sex and can lead to.remembering for the first time. They may be reminded each time. There is shame and fear of act itself as well as what they remember. There are counselors for individual and group counseling but many can not ask for help. I’m a female survivor but there are a few famous male survivors that have told their story. it can be a huge barrier to regular sexual relationship and by no fault of the survivor. Hope this helps. This happens by people they knew as church members, coaches, teachers and family friends.

RELATED:

When You Feel Deprived in Your Marriage

She Has the Stronger Sex Drive – Shaunti Feldhahn’s site

Are Particular Sexual Activities Wrong in Marriage?

Placing My Higher Sexual Drive Under God’s Control

My Husband Is Not Attracted to Me

Thriving in a Marriage without Sex If Necessary

Respect, Biblical Submission and Sexual Attraction in Marriage

Signs Your Husband Is Feeling Disrespected (and Unloved)

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