What to Do When Your Wife Won’t Sleep with You

I received the following question through my blog last week. Since it deals with a problem nearly all husbands face at one time or another, I decided to share my response here, in hopes of helping others.

Help! My wife won't sleep with me.

Question:

My wife and I love you guys. We are reading your books, and they are helping us. She is reading 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband, while I am reading 25 Ways to Show Love to Your Wife. They have really helped our marriage — we were almost breaking up.

My wife has been disinterested in sex for over a year. We only have it once every two weeks. She says she doesn’t feel like it.

I’m deeply stressed and don’t want to cheat on her. I have talked to her a lot of times about it, but nothing changes. I can’t talk to her about it anymore.

We have even seen a marriage counselor, but she is still not interested. I’m frustrated and don’t know what to do. Kindly help.

Answer:

Let me start by saying you are not alone in your frustration.

If I had to pick a single issue that challenges married men who love God and want to honor Him in their lives and marriages, this would be it — wives who have lost interest in sex. I would not be exaggerating to say that it is something every marriage faces at one point or another.

  • Sometimes it is a new bride who finds sex terrifying or painful.
  • Sometimes it is a new mother who feels embarrassed about her post-baby body or is simply exhausted from being up all night nursing.
  • Sometimes there are trust issues if the husband has been unfaithful or is addicted to porn.
  • Sometimes there are trust issues that have nothing to do with the husband at all, such as a wife with sexual abuse in her past, which is alarmingly common.

Whatever the reason, the result is the same: a husband trapped in a marriage where his need for intimacy is not being met.

The default solution to this dilemma usually involves looking for intimacy elsewhere. Affairs, mistresses, prostitutes, and, in the last few decades, online porn are all variations on the theme of finding intimacy outside of marriage. I could give a laundry list of why this is a bad idea, including sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and further deterioration of trust issues, but the bottom line for the Christian is that the Biblical standard is complete and lifelong faithfulness in marriage.

It seems a cruel trick, that God commands a man to have sex only with his wife, knowing full well that at some point, the woman he married will refuse to have sex with him! Why would God put virtually every Christian couple into this horrible conundrum?

The answer is this: God wants us to be fully dependent on Him and also to learn to put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own.

Trusting God and serving others are recurring ideas throughout Scripture. In this particular area, they are precisely what He is asking husbands to do, because He has given us no other option. We cannot change a spouse’s heart, only He can. We can’t even change our own heart. We must therefore turn to Him in prayer.

I have actually prayed with men about their wives and seen such sudden and dramatic changes that the men quickly forgot that there was ever a problem in the first place. Sometimes the change is slower and more progressive. Whatever the timetable, always start with prayer and continue in prayer. It is the real secret. God loves to show Himself strong, to lift us up when we are weak, and to answer when we call out to Him.

The second thing is to pray that God would open your eyes to your wife’s needs.

  • Is she too tired for sex? Maybe you can arrange for her to have some help around the house or to take a relaxing vacation.
  • Is she insecure about her appearance? Maybe you need to reassure her that you still find her attractive.
  • Does she have unresolved trust issues? Then dig deep, seeking to understand the source of her fears and lovingly address them.

On some fundamental level, a wife’s denying sex is a cry for help. Through God’s enabling Grace, you can be the help your spouse so desperately needs.