If you’re like many men you want sex more than your wife does. If she says NO your natural reaction is to take it personally. The message you hear is, “She doesn’t respect me enough to be my sexual partner when I need her to be. She’s interested in just about anything else rather than meeting my needs. If she really cared about all I do for her she’d say Yes.”
And truthfully you want her to do more than say Yes. You want her to want you, to want sex, to respond enthusiastically. You may even want her to ask you for sex.
I’ll have plenty to say to wives when I write to them about this topic. But for now, I’m giving you an inside picture of what may be going on in your wife’s mind when she says No. There are many possible reasons your wife doesn’t want sex, and many of them have nothing to do with you. And the good news is that by understanding some of these factors you may be able to help her respond to you more effectively.
Some women’s natural sex drive is quite strong, and that may overcome these barriers to intimacy in marriage without much trouble. For other women these reasons may loom large and present enormous challenges for her. A woman’s sexual response is more affected by other areas of her life than yours probably is. Here are some possible reasons your wife doesn’t want sex:
1. Confused or negative messages about sex. Some Christian women have heard “Don’t do it” so long that they have a hard time rewiring their brain to “Do it” with their husbands. She may naturally feel “dirty” when it comes to sex because of shame or guilt from her own previous sexual experiences. Some men find this factor difficult to understand.
What you can do: lovingly talk with your wife about what sex means to her. If the very idea is unpleasant to her for any of these reasons, a Christian friend or counselor may be able to help her develop new and healthier ideas about God’s view of sex in marriage.
2. Sex brings up painful physical or emotional memories. Domestic violence, rape, or child abuse in the past may create very deep and painful nervous pathways your wife has a difficult time getting over. If sex has been physically painful for her in the past because of a medical condition she’ll probably have a hard time responding again.
What you can do: Hopefully you know each other well enough that you are aware if she has been hurt sexually in the past. She needs you to caringly encourage her to get help – from a physician, Christian counselor, psychologist, etc.
3. Her body is not feeling well. Hormonal changes during the postpartum period, premenstrual time each month, or menopause affect some women’s ability to respond sexually. Any other medical condition may use up physical and emotional energy such that she has less available for intimacy. Certain medications may also cause these changes.
What you can do: Encourage her to get a medical evaluation. There may be some seasons during a woman’s life when intimacy is more difficult. God calls you to love your wife regardless, but there are many times where medical treatment may help.
4. Her mind is preoccupied. Being tired from childcare or a job may leave your wife little emotional reserves with which to enjoy sex. She may be worried about money, elderly parents, planning an upcoming vacation, or any number of things. It’s not that she doesn’t care about you: the space in her mind is taken up with other worries.
What you can do: Pay attention to what is making your wife stressed. Look for ways in which you can ease the load she’s carrying. Do so just because you care enough about her to help, but the intimacy may improve as a result.
5. She doesn’t think about it as much as you do. On average men think about sex more often than women do. That’s one of the ways God made us different. And when women do think about sex they usually need more warm-up time than men do. And women want to be wanted for more than their bodies.
What you can do: Let your wife know how much sexual intimacy means to you. Demonstrate ways in which you care about her as a whole person. And drop hints in advance that give her a chance to warm up to the idea of sex.
6. She doesn’t want you. This is last, because the other reasons are more common. Yes, some Christian women do struggle with pornography, affairs, or other addictions also. And if there’s other conflict in your relationship it’s likely to affect her more than it does you, at least as far as intimacy goes.
What you can do: Be a careful observer of your wife, and of the things that make her happy. Does she respond with joy to your non-sexual attentions? If so, her difficulty responding to you sexually may have nothing to do with you. If not, prayerfully consider whether you may need to confront one of these bigger concerns. Make sure you address any conflict between you clearly and caringly.
God calls you to love your wife regardless of how she responds sexually. But understanding some of the reasons your wife doesn’t want sex may help you take it less personally. And it can also help you help her.
Use your desire for sex with your wife as a fuel to push you to get to know her better – not just her body, but her. Study her. Find out what makes her tick. You can win her heart all over again!
Here’s to a tender, passionate, loving relationship in the days ahead!
Your Turn: If your wife doesn’t want sex, why do you think that is? What have you tried to do about it? Leave a comment below.
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