How to Say NO to Sex but YES to Your Spouse

How to Say NO to Sex but YES to Your Spouse

In every marriage there are times when you are not on the same page as your spouse when it comes to intimacy. You’re truly tired, and the energy required for sex is just too much. As a man, perhaps you can’t perform as you wish and the fear of failure isn’t worth the effort. As a woman, perhaps pain or hormones or fatigue make the thought of sex unbearable. Or the pressures of physical illness, children, business, or a million other things make it so that you truly must say NO to sex for now. What then?

One of the most frequent questions and comments I get is from people whose spouse does not respond to their desires for intimacy. I hear from almost as many women as men about this. Such a disconnect can create a wall between you and your spouse that has the potential to destroy your marriage if you let it.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I have plenty to say to the husband or wife who wants sex more than the one they’re married to. But this post is to the one of you who is unable to respond sexually. You can do a lot to bridge the gap between you and keep that wall from growing larger – even if you must say NO to sex.

One husband wrote to me about the truth that isolation kills the soul, not lack of sex. Tweet that. Maintaining a strong connection with your spouse takes intentional effort, but the risks of neglecting to do so are too important to overlook.

How to Say NO to Sex Without Saying NO to Your Spouse

If you’re the spouse who can’t respond sexually, here are some things you can and should do to stay connected with your husband or wife.

  1. Verbalize why you must say No. If at all possible, let your spouse know the reason you can’t respond. Be honest – with yourself, and with them. Tell them something you appreciate about them. If there’s unresolved conflict between you, work it through. Make sure you’re not using sex – or withholding sex – as a weapon.
  2. If possible, plan a future time for intimacy. Your spouse will take it much easier if you are able to say, “I’m really exhausted, and I’m going to bed early. But on Friday night I’m making a special dinner – and planning for dessert!” Anticipation can often make the eventual sexual connection even sweeter. You may not always be able to plan for future intimacy, but do so whenever possible.
  3. Get a medical evaluation. If your difficulty with sex is ongoing, make sure there are no medically fixable reasons. Wives – see your gynecologist. Husbands – see your urologist. If you believe it’s psychological (such as PTSD from past sexual trauma), see a therapist. If your spouse wants sex and you can’t do so, give them enough respect to see a professional. If medication or other treatment improves the situation, you will both be grateful.
  4. Talk – including about sex. The ear has been called the organ of intimacy. Allow your spouse to talk about what it’s like for them to have to refrain from sex. Listen to their frustrations, and share your own. Make sure you spend as much time seeking to understand your spouse as you do in sharing your own struggles or desires.
  5. Focus on connection outside of sex. Spend time doing things together. Work on your marriage such as learning better communication or conflict resolution skills. Pray with and for each other. Consciously seek to grow in forgiveness, unselfishness, and commitment. Show physical affection such as kissing, hugging, or cuddling. Make sure you are treating your spouse as the number one person in your world.

My husband’s illness made it impossible for him to be physically intimate as much as he would have liked, but the connection between us could not have been stronger. If you’re not able to have sex as often as one of you would wish, I know it’s possible to not only survive, but to thrive together. That’s what commitment and God’s grace makes possible.

I encourage you to show enough love and respect for your spouse and their desires to do more than just say NO to sex. If you must do so, intentionally say YES to your spouse as a person at least as often, and your marriage can remain strong.

Your Turn: In what ways can you say YES to your spouse even when you must say NO to sex? Leave a comment below.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • If you must say NO to sex, make sure you say YES to your spouse as a person just as often.   Tweet that.

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