wife doesn't want sex empty bed

“Anyone who believes that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach flunked geography.”

     – Author Robert Byrne

So today we’re going to talk about something really important to us men.  Sex. More specifically, why your wife doesn’t want sex with you.

In fact, research shows clearly what the quote above suggests indirectly: that sex is the most important part of marriage for about 80-90% of men.  (Christian guys are no exception; no doubt many of you wives can confirm this!)

At the same time, sex is one of our biggest areas of frustration.  Knowing Christ can help, but it doesn’t make our struggles magically disappear.  For most couples, for example, there’s a big difference in sex drive, with guys typically wanting it a lot more than most women.

But you already know that.  This post is about 14 reasons you may not have thought about already. And more importantly, what you can do about it with God’s help.

By the way, guys, if you’re not married yet, this post is for you, too.  I had no clue about most of these things and had to learn the hard way.  I hurt my wife along the way big-time, too.  You can avoid a lot of that by learning from my mistakes. (Think of me as your crash-test dummy.)

If you are married and experiencing some frustration in your sex life, putting some work in on one or more of these areas will help.  And, more importantly, bless your wife and honor God, too.

14 Reasons Your Wife Doesn’t Want To Have Sex With You

1. You’re not spending quality time together

There are a million different reasons for this.  You (and/or your wife) might be working too much, for example, leaving little time or energy left for each other.  Or, maybe it just feels too scary, or too hard. If we’re not regularly dating our wives and developing spiritual intimacy, our wives won’t feel connected to us.  Which means they won’t want to connect physically, either.

2. You’re not getting enough sleep

If you’re not getting enough sleep, your sex drive takes a nose dive.  Same thing for women.  Oh, and it makes you dumber, more forgetful, more prone to serious accidents, and look older, too. 

To be honest, most nights I struggle with getting to bed on time. I find myself wanting to read stuff online, have something to eat, or be more productive. But 9 times out of 10, the best thing I could do is just get to bed. When I don’t, I regret it in the morning. 

3. You’re being harsh

In Col 3.19” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Colossians 3:19, Paul gives husbands one piece of advice.  ‘Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.’  In the first few years of marriage, couples face a lot of hurdles. I tripped over most of them and made a ton of mistakes, including speaking to my wife pretty bluntly.  I didn’t understand God created her differently, and I wound up hurting her.  Think before you speak and dial back the intensity.

4. You’re giving into porn or an impure thought life

Sexual sin is an absolute train wreck for you, your wife, and your sex life (see Prov 9.13-18” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Proverbs 9:13-18, for example). When my wife and I do premarital counseling for couples, guys who are giving into porn or other forms of lust struggle with guilt, shame and diminished desire for their wives. Not to mention the devastation for their wives. Even if we don’t intend it, when we pursue porn and other sexual sin, we’re basically saying, ‘I choose this over you.’ No wonder our wives don’t want sex with us under those circumstances.

5. You’re not affirming her or making her feel beautiful.

In an article for All-Pro Dad, BJ Foster says,

‘Her body has changed since having kids. She knows it and she probably thinks about it all the time, constantly comparing herself to other women. Even when she returns to her pre-kid body, I guarantee she’s still comparing–desperate for affirmation. The best place she can get it is from you.’

Obviously, every woman is different, but we live in a culture obsessed by physical appearance. No matter how godly a woman is, she’s getting assaulted by messages that emphasize youth and being physically fit. As Christian husbands, we can celebrate our wives’ physical beauty, first in our hearts, but then also – lavishly – with our wives. (See: any time the man speaks to the woman in The Song of Solomon.)

6. You’re married to your work

Truth be told, many Christian men are polygamists and don’t know it.  They’re married to their wives, but they’re also married to their work which, as Tim Keller notes, is exhausting and can only be remedied by resting in the gospel.

One frustrated wife confided to my wife that ‘I feel like he’s got a mistress… his job!’  While there are occasionally special circumstances (like being in a medical residency, starting a business, a tragedy, and so on), we need to remember that God has made us one with our wives, not our work (Gen 2.24” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Genesis 2:24).  They need to know, without a doubt, they come first.

7. You’re making sex all about you

It’s so easy for us to put the focus on our pleasure.  To get lost and ‘forget’ to care for our wives during sex.  We fail to ‘look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (Phil 2.4” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Philippians 2:4).  Another version of this involves pushing your wife to do things that are permissible, but against her conscience. (Which makes us a ‘stumbling block’.)  So it’s no surprise when our wives gradually lose interest and resent sex.

8. You’re scared

You’d never guess it from movies or TV, but sex is scary.  In the best sex, both of you bring all of who you are – without anything (literally) – between you.  But that’s really hard because we’re no longer in the ‘naked and unashamed’ position of Adam and Eve before they fell (Gen 2.25” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Genesis 2:25).  So we’re always hiding from one another, just like they did (Gen 3.8” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Genesis 3:8).

Sometimes, men hide by being tentative during times of intimacy.  If we don’t find our identity in Christ, we’ll be insecure and scared of being fully present, and failing in, the bedroom.  We’ll be physically present and emotionally absent.  That can leave our wives thinking that we’re not all that interested in them (like #5), even when the opposite is true.

9. You’re compartmentalizing your life

Most guys think of life kind of like the silverware dividers in our kitchen.  Everything has its place. Knives don’t touch forks, spoons don’t touch knives, and so on.  But most women don’t roll like that. Life is more like a bowl of spaghetti.  It’s all connected.  So when I’m driven all day, or, raise my voice with our kids, that will affect what happens in the bedroom.

10. You’ve stopped being romantic

Remember when you were dating your wife? Chances are, you put extra effort into making her feel special. But then you got married, life got busy, and… you stopped being romantic. Creative. Thoughtful. And honestly, me too. But as marriage and family therapist Felice Mathieu mentions, women (rightfully) want a strong, emotional connection with their husband, and romance is the key to creating it.

11. You’ve forgotten what marriage and sex are all about

In Eph 5.22-33” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul tells us that marriage and the gospel explain each other. When people look at the way we relate to our wives, they should be reminded of the way God relates to us.  As Keller puts it, ‘The Bible views sex not primarily as self-fulfillment but as a way to know Christ and build his kingdom’.  The only way to consistently make loving choices in the bedroom is to internalize that on a growing level.

12. Her sex drive simply isn’t as strong as yours

Despite movies and shows where men and women rip their clothes off in fits of passion, Foster notes:

‘Studies show that over the course of a relationship, a woman’s desire for sex decreases while her desire for tenderness increases. The problem is that our desire for sex stays just as high as always. Even at its highest state, her appetite might not have been as high as yours and probably never will be.’

If that’s the case for you, God’s calling you to accept it. To trust him, and recognize that it’s his design. Your differences are baked into you by God himself so that you, and your wife, grow in areas you otherwise would not.

13. She’s stressed out by other things happening in her life

When my wife didn’t want to be intimate, I used to take it personally. ‘What did I do wrong?’ was my knee-jerk reaction. And – if I’m being honest – usually with mixed motives. Partly to care for her, but partly to fix whatever I did (or didn’t do) so we could be intimate again.

But over time, I’ve learned it’s not all about me. Sometimes, my wife has had a bad day because the kids have been brutal. Or, she didn’t sleep well. Or… life is not mechanical, you know? While our wives – like us – are responsible to manage their stress, it’s totally understandable why a tough day or season would decrease their desire for sex.

Our call is to ‘look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of [our wives].’ (Philippians 2:4) That’s what Jesus did for us, and we’re called to put him on display to our wives. (Ephesians 5:25-28)

14. She’s struggling with sin issues of her own

As I review this list, it occurs to me that it might seem a little harsh toward guys, as many of them are focused on things we may be doing to contribute to our wives’ lack of sexual desire. Please understand this doesn’t mean I believe sexual challenges are typically only, or even primarily, the husband’s fault. That depends, of course, on your particular marriage. 

I want to take a moment here and simply acknowledge your sexual frustration may not only be ‘on you’. In addition to your own sin, and more neutral issues your wife may be facing (like her own natural desire for sex), she may be contributing with her own struggles with sin, too. If that’s your situation, I just want to acknowledge that matters. Remember God sees what you’re facing, and cares for you.

If you haven’t been able to address (what you believe) are sin issues on your wife’s end, consider gently seeking help from friends, church leadership and/or a biblical counselor to encourage change as you humbly pursue change yourself.

Seven Suggestions Toward Sexual Fulfilment In Your Marriage

If you’re anything like me, you’re feeling seriously convicted right now.  We’ve spent a lot of time on the potential problems, but I want to move forward with you in a very practical way that leaves you encouraged.  Not overwhelmed.

Here are seven suggestions to get started.

1. Scan through the list above and identify the biggest problem for you.

Maybe it’s something else, but I bet it involves at least one of the above issues, if not more. Start with what God has shown you. (After all, you cannot – and should not – attempt to control your wife’s part of the problem.)

As Jesus said, ‘If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.’ (John 13.17” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>John 13:17) Decide to take action on something you’re doing to contribute to sexual struggles in your marriage. With God’s help, of course.

2. Determine you’ll never go outside your marriage for sexual fulfilment.

You ‘know’ this, but when you’re feeling unfulfilled, it’s easy to become discouraged and make more and more compromises over time. To start looking at porn, or doing it more often. To engage in chat rooms you shouldn’t. To indulge in fantasies or masturbation.

I know many husbands who nurtured sexual discontentment with their wives, allowing it to blossom into all kinds of sin. Don’t do that. Like Job, make – or renew – ‘a covenant with [your] eyes not to [even] look lustfully at a young woman.’ (Job 31:7) It may hurt deeply, but God will honor your commitment to him and your wife.

3. Have an honest conversation with God about it, confessing anything you need to.

Our confession should include both deeper (‘heart’) and practical elements.  For example, if my times together with my wife tend to focus on me, I should confess that but also the deeper selfishness and fear that’s driving it.  This takes courage, but brings freedom.

4. Acknowledge God may ask you to sacrifice for your wife.

Although it’s entirely natural for men to want more sex with their wives, he may not give us what we want in this area. (And others, of course, too.) 

Dr. Carol Tanksley puts it this way in her helpful article:

Loving your wife as Christ loved the church may at times mean pain, sacrifice, and not getting your own needs met the way you would like. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph 5.25” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Eph 5:25Eph5.25|res=LLS:ESV”>) If she cannot or will not respond sexually to you, God calls you to still love her. That doesn’t make her right: it just means that your call to love her is not dependent on her sexual response. 

5. Have an honest conversation with your wife, too.

Repentance always starts with God. As David put it after his grievous sin with Bathsheba,

Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight.’ (Ps 51.4” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Psalm 51:4)

But after we deal with God, we need to deal with those we’ve sinned against, too. In this case, our wives.

Careful thought and prayer should be given to how you confess your sin to your wife. You don’t want to share a mental transcript of what you were thinking, which would be hurtful and damaging. So, don’t say, ‘Honestly, I love making sex all about me, but I’m sorry and I’ll try to have it be more back-and-forth.’ Instead, say something like, ‘I am so sorry for being selfish when we make love. With God’s help, I’m committed to having this be about us.’ Getting some input from an older, seasoned husband before you speak with your wife is probably a good idea.

Of course, it’s possible your wife’s lack of interest in physical intimacy is not primarily a sin issue on your part. Still, because it’s an issue between you, it’s worth initiating a conversation with her about it. If that doesn’t go well, or isn’t enough, seek help from a biblical counselor and your church.

6. Think and pray about what change would look like.

Think back to the first suggestion above, and the biggest reason your wife doesn’t want sex with you. If I said being scared is my biggest challenge, I can picture trusting God and being okay with trying something that doesn’t work.  It doesn’t have to destroy me because Jesus still loves and values me, even when I feel like a failure in the bedroom.  So I can take initiative instead of waiting for my wife to always come to me.

7. Let a friend know and ask him to pray for you.

Not only for accountability, but for encouragement.  Marriage and change is hard, so we should ‘exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of [us] may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’ (Heb 3.13” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Hebrews 3:13).  Getting real with others helps us stay true to Christ – and our wives – for the long haul (see Heb 3.14” data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Hebrews 3:14).

This isn’t astrophysics, right?  It’s just the normal things that help us become more like Christ, applied to the area of sex.  The key is Spirit-empowered follow through in all its boring but-oh-so-important forms.

Over time, we will change and experience the blessings that God wants for us – and our wives – in this important area of our lives.

Let’s live it out: Which of the 7 suggestions above do you find most helpful? Let me know in the comments below, and feel free to reach out to me privately here.  

 

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  • Ah! Forgot to ‘go first’ like I said I would in the post. For me, the biggest challenge is being scared. I know ‘the right answer’ is that I have every reason not to be, but still struggle with this one. Have definitely seen progress, though, over the years.

    • “God is calling you to accept it (her lower drive)” This is so good to hear. It’s such a refreshing change from most Christian sex advice where women are told to ramp up their desire to match their husband’s drive. Advice which for many women is impossible and leaves them feeling like they can never be enough for him. Thank you.

      • Hi Fiona, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. This is certainly something I had to learn as a young husband, and didn’t really understand before our wedding day.

        I suspect God often gives husbands and wives different sex drives to teach us to learn how to love, and sacrifice for, each other.

        To your point, I agree wholeheartedly husbands must embrace how God has made their wives in this (and every) area. It seems like not doing this would be fighting against God himself, and discouraging for our wives. Thanks again for your comment!

  • Great post, Bryan! This is a topic that many ministers are afraid to talk about but it’s a topic that many need to talk about.

    • Thanks so much, Jared! Jesus wants all of us, and meets us there with grace, so I’m happy to help us all keep moving forward. Blessings to you today!

  • Just once I would like someone to address this issue when roles are reversed.

    • Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Just to make sure I’m understanding you, you mean when a husband shows little to no interest in physical intimacy?

  • For the most part, sex from a man’s perspective is mostly physical with a touch of mental. While sex from the women’s perspective is mostly mental/emotional with a bit of physical. Simply put, a man has only to start one motor, a woman has to start several and even then some of them want to cut off before business is done. It’s like we are from two different worlds.

    • Hey Edward, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. I hear what you’re saying about men and women being so different in this area, and have experienced some of that in my own marriage. Although it was frustrating for awhile, I began to find it’s also a great way for me to get outside of myself and love my wife in ways I would probably never do if she were just like me. I think she would say something similar.

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