“What am I supposed to do if my wife won’t have sex with me?“
I wasn’t surprised by the bluntness of his question. Having worked with married couples for many years, I’ve heard it all (or at least I’ve heard a lot). His frustration is a relatively common one and this area of “sexual neglect” is one of the most frustrating marriage issues I hear from husbands (and in some cases from wives as well).
The man went on to unpack more of his marital history. He told me that the marriage had started off well and in the early stages of their relationship there had been a healthy sex life. Both spouses seemed satisfied by the level of frequency and intimacy in their bedroom. Their marriage bed now seemed to be a cold and uninviting place where both spouses curled up on their own side with no physical touch at all.
At some point, there seemed to be a change in his wife’s sex drive. He couldn’t pinpoint a certain time or event where things changed, but for years there had been a noticeable downward trajectory in their sexual intimacy. He had done all he knew to do to turn the tide. He had tried to meet her needs. He had communicated about his own needs. He had lost all dignity and downright begged and pleaded, but he felt like he was a starving man being forced to live on dwindling crumbs and finally be starved completely in a sexless marriage.
This man was feeling a mixture of negative emotions. He felt betrayed. He believed his wife’s withholding of sex was the same as an act of infidelity since she was refusing one of her basic “duties” as a spouse. He also felt abandoned and rejected, because his bride was seemingly giving him the cold shoulder. He was sad, hurt, frustrated, confused and angry. He wasn’t sure what to do next.
Experience has taught me that most marriages will face seasons where one or both spouses feel a certain amount of neglect. If left unchecked, this season can morph into a new reality where it’s difficult to find a restart and the marriage can tragically end in either a divorce or a life of disgruntled coexisting without true love or partnership.
This man was desperate for answers. His anger was beginning to devolve into apathy toward his wife which can be the final kiss of death before divorce. I don’t know him personally and I’ve never heard his wife’s side of the story, so I was very careful about the advice I prescribed. I told him to do the following four things. If you are in a similar situation in your marriage, I strongly believe these same four steps could help. In no particular order…
1. Commit to a season of selflessly serving your spouse and asking nothing in return.
Learn your wife’s “Love Language” and speak it fluently. Serve her and not with a cold-hearted sense of entitlement. Serve her selflessly as Christ loved and served his bride (the Church) giving Himself up for her. Let your tenderness be evident in your words and your actions. Speak with a loving tone. Consider the act of loving and serving her a privilege in itself regardless of what she may eventually reciprocate.
2. Look for ways to reconnect outside of the bedroom.
To reverse the drift that’s happening between you and her, don’t put your focus on reconnecting in the bedroom. Putting so much pressure on the act of sex itself will potentially push your wife even further away. You need “foreplay.” Look for ways to laugh together. Create new adventures together. Start dating each other again if date nights are something that have stopped happening. Make conversation a priority. Pursue her. Win her heart all over again.
3. Pray together.
I firmly believe prayer is one of the most intimate acts a couple can share together. When you pray, God binds your hearts closer to each other and He also fills your marriage with more of His presence which is the very embodiment of love. As you pray, you can pray specifically for your connection as a couple and even for your sex life. Ask God to restore the drive and the connection that was once present in the bedroom.
4. Seek professional help.
You and your wife don’t have to go this road alone. Get help. There might be answers that can be found through medical help and/or counseling. Medically, your wife might have a hormonal imbalance or other medical condition that is contributing to her lack of sex drive. Get her the help she needs. Professional Christian counseling is also an option that might bring to light emotional and psychological issues that are hindering the intimacy in your marriage. Getting help is not a sign of weakness; it’s actually a sign of wisdom and strength.
One more I’d also add to this list is simply, “don’t give up!” Don’t quit on each other. You also don’t have to settle for the status quo. Keep fighting for each other and not against each other. Keep pursuing paths to healing. Don’t blame each other. Don’t assume the worst in each other. Choose to believe the best in your spouse and choose to trust that God will carry you through this. Your best days are ahead if you don’t give up.
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