What Not Having Sex Does to Your Marriage

Not Having SexNot Having Sex

A lot of couples I see in my office eventually end up sharing that they’re not having sex. Lately, I’m seeing a lot of angry, shut down men. That’s a good clue for what is really going on.

When a couple isn’t having sex, it is usually the wives who initiate therapy. They feel they are losing their husbands or they are worried because their husband is often angry and irritable. Sometimes they are in my office because the husband had an affair, or because he said he wanted a divorce.

I start the therapy process and eventually it comes out there has been very little sex for months or years. I say eventually because the wife doesn’t mention it – she doesn’t think it is that big a deal.

She knows they don’t have sex often but they get along in every other way and he doesn’t complain about it much. The husband doesn’t mention it right away because he is embarrassed or even humiliated. What man wants someone to know his own wife doesn’t want him?

If you aren’t having sex in your marriage, it is a big deal.

It means something is off. The longer you ignore this the harder the punch will be when you are forced to deal.

Every. Single. Time. Every single time, the wife is surprised….shocked at how angry and hurt and rejected her husband feels because they aren’t having sex. Sure. She admits knowing they weren’t having sex. She admits knowing it was a problem for him. But she didn’t realize just how much of a problem.

Let me tell you what happens to the guy you sleep with every night when you reject his advances: he feels inadequate.

He questions whether or not you love him at all.

He fears he is disappointing you sexually and that is the reason you turn him down. He feels completely helpless and then starts to resent the hell out of you for putting him in a powerless position.

He may act out in ways to alleviate both his sexual frustration and his building resentment toward you by using porn or having an affair.  He often avoids coming home and works longer hours.

He will justify this by believing you forced him to do it.

Then he may get even angrier with you.

Because he really just wants to be loved by YOU.

At least he does until he is so angry and so shut down he starts to despise you. When it gets that bad, he tries to stay civil but the contempt leaks out at times and this confuses you. But it also helps justify to you that it is ok not to have sex. After all, who wants to have sex with a jerk?

All of these intense feelings are going on under the surface and you are oblivious to how much pain he is in. Partly because he has not been direct enough in telling you. But partly because you don’t want to see his pain.

When he has tried to talk about it, you have responded by telling him “all you want is sex.” This infuriates him and widens the chasm between you. It makes him feel hopeless and he thinks if all he wanted was sex, he sure wouldn’t be here with you.

Then he notices that you have also started pulling away from non-sexual physical affection. You stiffen when he hugs you. You give him “push off” kisses that let him know you don’t have the time or desire to linger. At some point, to protect himself, he comes to accept this is his “normal.”

He is trapped in a sexless marriage.

And he starts to detach.

This is the point most men leave the marriage.

Men Not Having Sex: Here’s How to Talk With Your Wife

If this is happening in your marriage, wake up now! Guys, if this sounds like your situation, be direct with your wife about your feelings.

Let her know that something has to change. Tell her how much pain you feel and how much it hurts to feel so rejected time and time again. Don’t hide behind your embarrassment or humiliation.  You aren’t the only man who feels trapped in a sexless marriage.  I see it all the time.  Your only way out of this is to speak up or leave.  Leaving may seem easier but it rips the family apart.  

Stay respectful, but tell her! If she doesn’t get it, force the issue by making an appointment for the two of you to talk with a marriage expert. If she doesn’t want to join you, go alone.  Don’t make the excuse that you have tried to tell her.  Every couple I’ve seen in this situation has a wife who tells me she didn’t know things were this bad.  You haven’t told her directly enough until you put the marriage on hold in other ways to get her attention.  Don’t be afraid to find out exactly why you aren’t having sex.  Whatever the reason, there is very likely a solution but you may never resolve this without some answers. 

Women Not Having Sex: Here’s How to Respond

Ladies, there are a lot of reasons why you may not desire sex or desire sex with your husband. Ignoring the problem and avoiding sex is the coward’s way out. If you don’t like the quality of sex, talk about it, go to therapy, read some books together. Fix it.

If there are emotional issues that dampen the mood, deal with those also. It is natural for you to not desire sex if your husband is inattentive, controlling, critical or abusive.  If this is happening in your marriage, you have some big problems to address.  Use this opportunity to make things better.  If you love your husband, find a way to deal with this because one day you may get an ugly surprise.  You may think all those “not tonight” moments aren’t that big a deal, but I promise you, they come with a price.  Your husband needs to know you love him.  He views his sexual needs as a huge part of the marriage deal.  

Call us or contact us online, and let us help you figure out what you need to start enjoying sex with your husband again. But if you keep avoiding the issue, you may find yourself discussing these things with a divorce attorney instead.

Not Having Sex is a big deal!

It’s time we start talking about it and learning how to enjoy each other more. It is heartbreaking to see the pain that not having sex is causing couples.

Stop the misery and get some help. At The Marriage Place, we can work with you to help you figure out why you aren’t having sex–and even better–help you enjoy it!

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29 thoughts on “What Not Having Sex Does to Your Marriage

  1. Odd that this is directed at women being the ones not giving sex. My husband has refused to have sex with me for over 5 years. Why on earth wouldn’t you address this from BOTH spouses point of view???

    1. Thanks so much for your quick feedback! You are so right…this goes both ways. This article was in response to a rash of marriages who got to the brink of divorce from the female refusing sex. I often write based on what is happening in my office at any given time. Because of your feedback, I will address this from the opposite point of view also!

    2. I have no desire to have sex with my wife. 20 year marriage. You like pizza? What if it was what you had every damn time you were hungry?
      I still want sex. I still love her. I want a different sex partner. It’s not rocket science. The monogamy of marriage kills intimacy. Ever try to push a rope up hill?

      1. Scott,
        No desire for sex with your wife but you think monogamy kills intimacy? I’m almost speechless. Almost. Sex isn’t about gratifying your appetite (pizza comment here). It is about connecting with another person. I don’t think your problem is monogamy. I think it is your perspective on intimacy.

    1. Hi Kelly,

      Thanks for your question. Please stayed tuned. Because of your feedback and others like it, I’m planning a follow up blog to address it from the perspective of the man refusing sex. Regards, Kim.

  2. This was my life exactly 3 years ago. My husband admitted an affair, but we both agreed to begin long-needed couples therapy. After months of intense couples and individual therapy and even a “healing separation”, our marriage is better than it’s been in 25 years. Kim, you gave me invaluable advice and truly changed my life and my marriage. I know God brought me to you. Thank you for continuing to help hurting people in hurting marriages. It’s worth the fight!

    1. Hey GBird! SOOOO glad to hear this. I have been thinking about you lately and wondering how you are doing. It sounds like things are going very well. 🙂 It was such a pleasure getting to know you. You are delightful. I’m so grateful for what God has done in your marriage. Take care. Stay in touch!!!

  3. I’m in a similar situation. It’s been a year that my husband has been refusing me. I look forward to the conversation from the other side. Are there any group settings avaiyfor couples to discuss these topics?

    1. Jamie, we are in the process of adding a group coaching option that will give clients a platform to discuss many different topics, sex included. I do have a coach on my team, Eric Tooley, that specializes in this area. If individual or couples coaching with Eric is something you’d like to consider, please call my office and my admins can help you get the process started. Regards, Kim

    1. I am sorry to hear this. If he hasn’t done so already, he might consider talking to his doctor to see if there is a medical cause. Often low testosterone (commonly referred to as “Low T”) plays a role in a man’s lack of interest in sex with his partner. There are other things however that I also see routinely that can play a role. If you are both interested in working on this, I would encourage you to consider therapy. Wishing you the best, Kim

  4. This was the case in our marriage and it started within the first year. There were things in my wife’s past that she never dealt with and so brought that baggage into our marriage. We tried several different therapists throughout the years, but nothing helped. So many things you said in this article were spot on. From the feelings of rejection to turning to porn to eventually having an affair. Unfortunately after 26 years of marriage with very little intimacy, we recently divorced.

  5. In the case that the woman is no more enjoying sex because the husband is not active and not have energy to satisfy his wife and he want the sex all the time but he want the wife to do all the job. We have talked about it several times i have encouraged and advice him to start exercise and to change some of his diet, all this things I practice is it ,I work out a lot and watch my diet, I have advised him to go register for personal trainer and I always call him whenever am going to gym but all is not working, that always make so angry and if i didn’t satisfying him on bed he will be complain am getting tired of the situation.

  6. My first thought after reading your article was why isn’t Kim looking at the problem as if the man isn’t having sex. Why is it always the wife? Then I read the responses. So now I am looking forward to your article that addresses this.
    Thank you.

  7. My wife states that she doesn’t want to have sex with me because she feels its a waist of time. I have been trying to rebuild my marriage with her for the past year. I admit that I have made mistakes but I am faithful to her. Due to some health issues, I don’t last as long as I would like, but I do enjoy time with her. The time where she does have sex with me she states that she has to force herself to be with me and that I am mostly disgusting to her. I am hurt. No idea what to do……

    1. Roderick, I am sorry to hear this. Rejection in a marriage is devastating. Consider calling our office and arranging a time to speak with one of my coaches who can help guide you in how to respond to your wife in a way that can improve the situation for you. Warmly, Kim

  8. Kim, Thank You for posting this – I’m one of the men who you have profiled their feelings and experiences precisely (unfortunately). I have sent a copy of this to my wife and our therapist, as we are well down this path, but my wife still ‘pooh-poohs’ this and denies that the withholding & avoiding is anywhere near the reality of the situation.

    Agree that there needs to be the same posting for Women suffering from a sexless marriage.

    FYI, there’s a great forum for men & women who suffer from sexless marriages – and it’s been very helpful to be able to share experiences anonymously. http://www.iliasm.org

  9. Please do revisit the gender assignment. In an online forum I’m a member of, the ratio is roughly 50/50 of couples with husbands who refuse. My own Ex also had Cialis as treatment but it was more the shame & embarrassment around it that prevented him from using it than a physical ineffectiveness. He was also scared of potential side effects, which did not come out until after/during divorce.
    The sex itself is an expression of the underlying health of the relationship, I think. It’s a self-feeding cycle or something that goes both directions. If the relationship is truly healthy, then the sex is good. If the sex is good, it reinforces the healthy state. But the opposite is also true: just like a marriage can be strengthened both directions, it can also be eroded from either direction.
    I’ll be interested to see the “refusing husband” post on this.

  10. This whole thing is me and my husband all the way. We have alot of issues that we both are incapable of dealing with. Communication between the two of us SUCKS! I feel trapped……i hate sex…….abandonment, betrayal, used, abused, angry, hurt, defensive…….and a host of other emotions i feel everyday!

    1. Hi Penny. Thanks for taking the time to respond. If you haven’t done so already, I would encourage you to take a look at one of my other posts “Not Having Sex? 6 Possible Reasons for a Sexless Marriage”. I talk alot about the Why’s there. Sex comes from abundance. When you are depleted from the anger and frustration in the relationship, there isn’t a lot to give. Consider calling my office and arranging for a time to talk with one of my coaches. We can help you and your husband work through these issues and emotions impacting your sexual relationship.

  11. Obviously you can’t generalize everyone, but 12 years of marriage in, and this article describes us exactly. And I have not dealt with it effectively – she knows it’s bad, but I think she has no idea how bad it is. If I just shut down and quit pursuing her and fighting for our marriage, we would turn into the flip side all the commenters are asking about. As it is, it is not worth risking the rejection just to (best case scenario) get a “hurry up so I can go to sleep” type of response.

    It would be infinitely easier to give up and do the best I can to get my needs met some other way as she’s not interested. That would exactly turn us into the flip side all these other posters are asking about, and I did read the article about men who are saying no today. Seems like all the reasons apply to either side. Sex seems to be a good thermometer for the relationship, and miserable icy sex is pretty indicative. I believe a man responds to great sex with his woman by warming up in the relationship which in turn warms up her up in bed. It’s a wonderful cycle that unfortunately also works in the downward spiral way and gets out of control bad really quickly.

    I just really think the men who are saying no (generally) must be shut down from her being shut down in this way for a long time first. I have fought long and hard and am still fighting to not shut down, but it would be oh so much easier… Then she would be one of the wives on here wondering why her husband doesn’t want sex.

    1. Ned, I hear stories like this all the time and it makes me sad. A couple knows it’s bad and they keep doing the same things the same way because they don’t want to or aren’t ready to do the heavy lifting required to make meaningful change in the relationship. The problem is things don’t stay the same. They get worse and resentment builds until one you announces one day “I’m done”. I implore you, don’t wait! Find a therapist who can help you both understand the role you’ve each played in this and help you establish a new normal. It takes a lot of time and effort but it can be better for you both! I see it in my practice all the time and it’s why I’ve dedicated my life to doing what I do! Warmly, Kim.

  12. Kim, I appreciate hearing the male side of things as you’ve described and it does make sense. However, in this article compared to the reverse (what to do when your husband doesn’t want sex) there seems to be more understanding and respect for the husband’s side than the wife’s and the emphasis is on the wife to take responsibility and fix it. In this article, you don’t ask the husband to question how his own behavior may contribute to the situation (you do offer that insight to the wives though in the opposite article). I’ll give one example; In the 2nd article, you list several reasons why a husband might not want sex with his wife, one being the category “the quality of your relationship”. Couldn’t you offer the same advice to the husbands in the 1st article? You might use your exact words but just switch out the gender… “If a woman is feeling criticized or belittled by you, she will shut down sexually. You can’t rage at her or tell her she ‘needs to be a wife’ and then expect her to want to have sex with you. A woman needs to feel respected by you. If you are talking down to her, treating her like a child, telling her what to do and when to do it, your sex life will suffer”. Woman DO need emotional connection to increase physical desire. Is the husband doing what he can along those lines? You say “everyone knows that” but I’m not so sure some men get what that means. Perhaps you could make some suggestions?
    Some husbands can come across inattentive, controlling/ intimidating and critical at times… (You acknowledge this as a problem but direct it to the women to deal with, not the men). There may be drinking involved (even if functional, can have an effect). To some of these men, this article may invite further anger and intimidation on their part. It is a complicated subject, not one sided and every couple is different. I would be careful about giving such strong blanket advice without addressing both sides.
    I could list more examples but the bottom line is this; In this day and age (with Trump’s past behavior towards women as a more obvious example) many men feel entitlement to sex and the attitude put forth can be disrespectful and a turn off. On behalf of all women and wives who may be avoiding, please respect our side as well. We may not be aware of it all to express it clearly, but we are deserving of your compassion in the same light as the men. Yes, therapy and healthy communication surely is the answer. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for the insightful, well-thought out feedback. You are right…some men feel entitled to sex and don’t seem to understand that their words, attitudes and behaviors have a direct impact on how their wives respond. I cover all of these additional dynamics in other articles. The truth is, both genders often withhold sex as a passive aggressive way to deal with the pain in their marriage. I only approve this method if both parties know why sex is being withheld with clear direction on what needs to be done to fix the problem. For example, a husband who is highly controlling or critical. Withholding sex and putting the marriage on hold will certainly get his attention and could provide the motivation he needs to stop the abusive behavior. Men often complain that wives withhold sex and then deny they are withholding or that it is having such a negative impact. This isn’t appropriate and is abusive in its own right. Thank you for reading and giving me another viewpoint. It just proves further that this is a topic that needs more discussion.

  13. Married 50 years and sex was terrible, and when I asked it made it worse, why bother any more so I had no reason to continue. So it’s been years since we’ve had sex, I didn’t care any more. I know I didn’t deserve it, but it happened.

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