What to Do when your Spouse Won’t be Intimate

What to Do when your Spouse Won’t be Intimate

Husbands and wives both deal with this. “I’m not getting enough L.U.S.T. – love, understanding, sex, and trust.” “Trying to talk to him [or her] is like trying to talk to a brick wall.” The sex is bad or nonexistent. The communication is broken. What can you do when your spouse won’t be intimate?

Marriage can be a dangerous dance. You can’t truly get what you want and need without being vulnerable physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But being vulnerable means you can get hurt. You may not be getting what you want and need, but trying to extract what you want and need out of your spouse just makes them close up tighter.

So some people give up on intimacy entirely. Others go looking for love in all the wrong places – pornography, paying for sex, affairs (physical or emotional), etc. And some people become prickly, hard, and demanding. Did God really know what He was doing when He created us with this undying need for intimacy? It can seem hopeless.

God originally designed marriage to meet many of our needs, including physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy. But He never designed marriage to meet ALL of our needs. Getting that wrong messes us up in countless ways.

So how can you get from your spouse the things God designed them to give you, and get the holes in your soul filled up where your spouse isn’t doing the job?

The Key to Intimacy with your Spouse

Trade places. Imagine being in your spouse’s shoes. Would you want to come closer to you if you were in their place?

Intimacy must be mutual or it’s not intimacy. Trying to demand intimacy (sex, communication, understanding, spiritual closeness) from your spouse never works. Criticizing, manipulation, or using Bible verses as a club will result in the opposite of what you need and want.

As a husband you don’t want your wife to only “give in”; you want her to want you. As a wife you don’t want your husband to desire only your body; you want him to desire, see, and understand YOU. You can’t get there by force. You can only get there by invitation.

What would it take for your spouse to want to come closer? That’s what you need to understand and focus on. That means you will need to study your spouse and seek the key to winning their heart all over again. It may mean changing you. It may mean giving them space. It may mean having hard conversations or setting difficult boundaries. It may mean supporting your spouse in a journey of healing. It may mean praying long and hard to understand God’s perspective on your marriage.

Your role is pursuing intimacy with your spouse, whatever that looks like, however difficult it becomes, and however long it takes. Focus on understanding your spouse and inviting them to come closer.  

Getting Intimacy Beyond Your Spouse

Oh, here we’re sounding dangerous. Remember that God did not design marriage to meet ALL your needs. Sex is important, and the only legitimate and God-honoring way to get direct sexual needs met is with your spouse in marriage. Nothing feels exactly the same as intercourse with your husband or wife.

But as important as sex is, it’s possible to survive without it. It may seem you can’t, but you can. Having sex with another human is not mandatory for wellbeing. Jesus proved that when He was here on earth. Your desire for sex is normal. Pursue it with your spouse. But get it out of your head that you’ve got to have sex to live.

But you cannot survive and thrive without intimacy. That needs to be your focus.

How do you do that? With people, and with God.

Whether you have a healthy sex life with your spouse or not, you need other people around you. You need godly people you are doing life with in an ongoing way, people to ask you the tough questions and hold you accountable, people to cry with and laugh with and grow with, people you can be yourself around. Look for them. Pray for them. Invest in them.

And as good, healthy, and necessary as honest intimacy with human beings can be, nothing takes the place of intimacy with God.

What God can Do

Pursue intimacy with God. That’s not some super-spiritual state only available for ancient mystics or old single women. It’s something God desires to have with you at any age or stage of life. There’s a level of intimacy available with God that is never possible with any human being. He is the only One who will never leave you, never hurt you, never demand from you what you don’t have to give.

Oh, intimacy with God will challenge you. It will call you to vulnerability in ways you may resist. If you let Him, He will reach His hand into the depths of the river of your soul and pull out what you thought was hidden forever, saying “Let Me have this!” Your heart will burn, but you will not remain the same.

And beyond anything, what He offers you through that intimacy is life. Intimacy with God is not about being good; it’s about seeking, finding, and choosing the challenging, satisfying, and thrilling life you cannot have any other way.

That’s the kind of intimacy you truly cannot live and thrive without.

Your Turn: If your spouse has not been giving you intimacy, how have you gone looking for it? Where do you feel God calling you to seek intimacy? Leave a comment below.

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The Human Need for Intimacy

Intimacy with God sounds good, but it also sounds “out there.” When our human need for intimacy goes unmet, we often end up looking for love in all the wrong places – and end up getting hurt in the process. 

These two recent podcast episodes talk about the human need for intimacy, and how to go about looking for love in the right places – both human and divine.

Part One

Part Two


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