Husband frustrated that wife doesn't want sex

“I’m definitely not getting enough L.U.S.T. – Love, Understanding, Sex, and Trust.”

(This is a post specifically written for husbands. For wives, we’ve got one for you too.)

That sad and somewhat crude comment came from a respected spiritual leader who I had come to know quite well. And I knew right then that his marriage was in trouble. I can only hope he and his wife got some professional help while they still could.

One of the most frequent things I hear from my coaching clients and from the many people who write to me is how frustrated, hurt, and even angry a man can become when repeatedly rejected sexually by his wife. I remember sitting with a classmate and his wife, watching him boil inside with embarrassment and powerlessness over his wife’s emotional and physical distance.

As a woman, I could copy the social correctness and start blaming men for being insensitive and single-minded (sexually, that is). But that’s often not the case. God did not promise you a happy sex life. You are not entitled to sex. But God made you the sexual being that you are. And if some in the Christian church have led you to believe you are spiritually defective because of your sexual drives, I apologize on their behalf. God needs you to be strong, virile, masculine! (More on that another time.)

But as a woman, I want to give you the inside story on how to get more of what you want and need – within your marriage only, of course. Your wife is completely responsible for her behavior: if she is behaving badly, that’s her problem.

But rather than feeling sorry for yourself, or looking outside your marriage for sexual satisfaction, here are five questions to consider, and some practical things you may do, that have a good chance of improving the sexual connection between you and your wife.

What YOU Can Do

1. Does she feel loved by you?

The Number One love need for women is unconditional love, just like it is for men. This is not an excuse for you to blame yourself, but it’s an important question to consider. What’s it been like to be married to you? Many women will only be able to engage sexually if the emotional temperature between you is warm. She’s likely to have a much harder time than you do in putting aside “unfinished business” in your relationship to be sexual right now.

Your part: be sure she knows you love her unconditionally, not just in words but in actions. If there are conflicts in your relationship, take the initiative to start working through them together. Focus on seeking her heart rather than her body. (And believe me, she will know the difference!)

2. Are physical problems affecting her sexually?

A woman goes through numerous hormonal changes during different life stages which can significantly affect her sexuality. The most common of these include immediately after having a baby, right before her monthly period, and during the menopause transition. Other medical problems or medication side effects can also affect her this way. And if she’s experienced physical pain with sex hopefully you can appreciate how that would lead her to be reluctant. A woman’s sexual response is usually more complicated than a man’s. A doctor can evaluate for any underlying physical problems that may be affecting her.

Your part: encourage her to see a physician. Offer to go with her: she may or may not want you to. Check out our Guide to Sex and Menopause.

Check out the many resources on our Relationships page

3. Is she too distracted, worried, depressed, or tired?

If work, children, worry, finances, or caring for aging parents is wearing her out, it may be difficult for your wife to find the mental and physical energy to connect with you sexually, even if she wants to. It may be harder for her to put down those worries than it is for you.

Your part: at a time when she can listen, let your wife know how much you miss intimacy with her. Creatively find a way to relieve some of her burdens: YOU arrange for a housekeeper or babysitter, or take over some of her “chores” temporarily.

4. What is her Sexual Story?

This is one of the most important ways in which your wife’s sexual feelings may not be about you. Unhealed sexual trauma can lead a woman to hate sex. So can harmful religious messages. Some women struggle with pornography, which is an equal opportunity relationship destroyer. And some women, even Christian women, do cheat. Your wife’s sexual story will significantly impact how she relates to you.

Your part: Start by being curious, not with accusation. Seek to understand. If she feels safe with you, talking about her sexual story with you can be so helpful. And if she’s getting sexual satisfaction elsewhere, make sure you are getting some godly support for yourself.

5. Are you romancing your wife?

Foreplay doesn’t start when you crawl into bed at night: it starts with all the little things you do and say all day. A woman needs to feel desired, thought about, cherished, and cared for. She will sense if you only want her for her body, or if you truly care about her. And caring for her unselfishly is no more than God asks of you. (Ephesians 5:25)

Your part: Stretch yourself and find a way to romance your wife. You were creative when you dated her: do it again! You may be surprised at her response.

Remember, you cannot control your wife. A healthy marriage, including healthy sexuality, is a matter for both husband and wife to continually work on. She is completely responsible for her behavior. This is only focusing on what YOU can do.

But you don’t need to remain powerless and frustrated. See yourself as seeking the key to your wife’s heart, and stay on your knees. Know that God understands your heart. He knows what it’s like to feel lonely and rejected. And it’s just possible that He can use you to be the catalyst in bringing healing and stronger connection in your marriage, sexually and otherwise.

Your Turn: How does your wife’s emotional or physical distance affect you? What can you do as a husband to help bring the two of you closer together? Leave a comment below.

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How’s Your Intimacy?

You said “I do” expecting lasting love, connection, sex, and joy. But you may now be feeling more loneliness, frustration, or anger. What happened to “happily ever after?”

In one important sense it’s not your fault. Nobody ever taught you how to do marriage, intimacy, sex, and relationships well. Our Fully Alive Marriage online course shows you how to overcome marriage challenges, learn to love well, and build an intimate and Fully Alive marriage that lasts!