She Doesn’t Want Sex

Written by Beth Scholes

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There are many reasons a woman may experience a diminished sex drive.  Men and women are very different sexually.  Women are emotionally driven while men are more physically driven.  The stage of life can be a factor or there could be a physical problem.  Fatigue is also a major issue for many women.  It could be that she does not feel that there is enough true intimacy in the marriage.  Emotional intimacy goes way beyond sex and needs to be in place for to engage.  Yes, women are complex, but you already knew that!

Men are very visual and physically based.  Men see what they want and are turned on.  They are also driven by an accumulation of sperm that needs to be released in a timely manner, if not released it continues to build in a physical need/urge for release.  Women do not have a physical counterpart for this drive. Women are attracted to a man based on how he treats her and the depth of her emotional relationship with him.  Does she feel safe, loved, cared for, wanted, beautiful, helped?  What is happening with emotional intimacy greatly affects sexual intimacy.  All of these things and more add to her desire.

Outside influences

Her lack of desire may not be about you at all.  Sex outside of marriage, whether due to one’s own choices or due to abuse, can be a big culprit for robbing desire in marriage. Oxytocin, a chemical released during orgasm will bond partners.  (Refer to the book Kiss Me Again Restoring Lost Intimacy in Marriage, to learn more about oxytocin’s role in sexuality.)  Past sexual experiences, even positive ones, do have an effect on your current sexual relationship.

Don’t relate her lack of desire to the way you feel, because men and women are so VERY different on this topic.  Interpreting her lack of desire as rejection is painful and dangerous when it may not be about you but about her and where she is at right now.  It could be any number of things. If she experienced childhood abuse I recommend the book Wounded Heart, by Dan Allender. For dealing with past relationships Kiss Me Again, Restoring Lost Intimacy in Marriage, by Barbara Wilson is an excellent resource.  Once the past is cleared up you can both move forward together!

It may be about you after all:  the two of you

If there are emotional issues between the two of you this will diminish her drive.  She needs to feel free to express herself in all areas.  She needs to be free to be honest in her emotions, even if this upsets you.  You need to control your response to her anger so she does not feel punished or abused. This can lead to freer expression in the bedroom as well.  If she feels that she cannot be herself there is a break-down in true intimacy.  Intimacy is about so much more than sex.

Resentment can be another emotional stumbling block in the pursuit of a woman’s desire.  There could be any number of things she resents you for.  It could be an attitude or action, current or past.  If she resents you it needs to be resolved.  It could be something you are not aware of, she may not even realize resentment is the cause.  (A good counselor can be a gift in resolving these issues.)  Things that get shoved under the proverbial rug are a major source of resentment.

If you think this is the issue, the two of you can sit down and have a heart to heart discussion.  Ask her if there is anything now or in the past that she resents you for.   Give her time to think and process.  If nothing comes to mind right away give her opportunity to come back with an answer.  Give her the freedom to have a long list or a short list to share with you.  If the list is longer than you thought, be careful how you respond.  You do not want to diminish this intimate interaction by reacting harshly.  True intimacy includes honest interaction with both parties feeling safe to express themselves.

Be aware that if she has not felt free to express herself there may be a time period that the pendulum swings and it feels pretty one sided for a time.  You may need to bite your tongue and take what comes at you for a while as she works on becoming more honest with her emotions and expressions.  You need to provide an extra safe place while she learns to walk this new path.  Her first steps will be tentative.  Once this relating pattern becomes more normal the pendulum should land in the middle with back and forth interactions about how you both feel.

Marriage is not 50/50 contract, it is about meeting each others’ needs.  This involves one spouse making sacrifices at certain points in the journey.  That being said, one spouse should not make ALL the sacrifices, it goes back and forth over time.  Being able to express oneself is important in marriage and sexuality in order to achieve true intimacy.

What is true intimacy?

True intimacy is the ability to express who you are and be accepted at all levels.  Relationships get stuck at whatever intimacy level is forged when you start having sex.  Sexual intimacy masquerades as a substitute for emotional intimacy.  The right foundation is achieved when sexual intimacy is introduced after a couple is married AND has previously achieved the fifth level of emotional intimacy.

If sex is introduced at a lower level of emotional intimacy the relationship gets stuck in a lower level.  Intimacy can only progress as far as both people are able to.  For example if he can function at level five but she is stuck at level three the relationship will stay at the lower level, level three.  Lasting love needs the ability to overcome emotional stressors and the real pressures of life, such as anger, conflict, stress, fatigue, etc.   If your relationship is stuck at a premature intimacy level, it may show up in a wife’s lack of sex drive.  Here is a basic list of the emotional intimacy levels:

Level 1: Safe communication (meeting a stranger in the grocery store)

Level 2: Others’ opinions and beliefs (my boss said. . .)

Level 3: Personal opinions and beliefs (I think that …. )

Level 4: My feelings and experiences (this is what happened to me – joy, pain, sorrow)

Level 5: My needs, emotions and desires (this is my deepest self, my secrets)

If this sounds like it might be an issue for you, there is hope.  Going back and restoring the emotional intimacy can be done and will be very rewarding for both of you. To read a full article on the intimacy levels click here.  The book I recommend is Kiss Me Again, Restoring Lost Intimacy in Marriage, by Barbara Wilson.

Boundaries can play a big part in her waning desire

One VERY common issue for married partners is the difference in libido.  Many couples do not agree on how often they should have sex.  In fact many men express, “I want to have sex as often as I can and she seems like she could care less.  What are we supposed to do?”  For some men they feel a personal sense of rejection if she does not want to have sex with him.  He may feel unloved and hurt by this perceived rejection.

A common response is to push more and become persistent to the point of demanding that your sexual desires be met; especially if you feel this is your “right” and “need”. She may feel backed into a corner and feel that she has no choice.  This is especially true for a Christian woman who has been told that her body belongs to her husband and she is the only means of fulfilling his desire/need.  Desire takes flight under these circumstances and makes a quick exit.  People who feel pushed into something don’t have opportunity to decide if they really want it for themselves.

The problem with this scenario is that in order to be free to really say yes fully, one needs to have the freedom to no.  The book Boundaries in Marriage, by Townsend and Cloud talks about this.  They call it The Law of Motivation and describe it like this:

The law of motivation states that we must be free to say no before we can wholeheartedly say yes.  No one can actually love another if she feels she doesn’t have a choice not to.  Giving your time, love, or vulnerability to your spouse requires that you make your own choice based on your values not out of fear.  HAVING to do anything is a sign that someone is afraid.  Fear works against love.  The “have to” destroys the “choose to”.

Putting this quote in context of feminine sexuality, means that her desire has a chance to grow and flourish when she feels that she has a choice and that her desire matters.  Does your wife have a choice?

Finally, are your own sexually deviant choices affecting her?

This could be a wide range of behaviors.  Men think in a compartment format.  For example, he might think, “Viewing pornography has nothing to do with my wife, it does not affect my marriage, and therefore it is ok.  What I do on my own time to relax is my business.  After all men are, visual, so it is fine.”  Wrong, wrong, and wrong!  It does affect your wife. (Here is a video) Stop it!  You may be able to view images and not compare her to them, (or maybe you cannot), but if she knows you have an issue with pornography (or sees you watching other women at the beach in front of her) she will compare herself to other women and guess who comes up short every time?!  She does.

This is especially true of published pictures, because those models are all edited and enhanced.  Real women, your wife included, hate this!  If a woman feels compared to others, it is very hurtful and damaging to her, her self-esteem, and therefore your marriage.  This feeling of inadequacy robs the intimacy from your marriage.

So if you are doing this or other deviant behaviors (there are many more than mentioned here) and wonder why she does not want to have sex, think about the scenario you are creating, from her perspective.  Do you want her talking about how wonderful other men are and then expect to feel good about sex together?  Do you want to wonder if she is thinking about someone else when the two of you are together?  Sex is designed for two people to enjoy each other, bringing in a third party is not acceptable, images included!   For more information on this topic see:  Erosive Influence of Porn Upon Husbands, www.sexaddict.com, Pornography and Addiction

Support her in her journey

Take the time and initiative to support her needs, even if you don’t understand them.  They may go against your needs and desires for a time, but the result is worth your sacrifice.  Depending on what the issue is, she may need to take a break from sex for a time, or be the only one to initiate sex for a time.  Realize that she has a need in this area and support her in the journey toward progress.  This may include working on emotional intimacy that includes more sensual experience than sexual.  For example, take time to cuddle naked and talk about sexual likes and dislikes, without the expectation that it to lead to sex.  Create a safe environment for her to grow and express herself without feeling pressured or pushed, one where her desire can grow and have expression when it comes.

Recognize that the process may involve pain, but pain does not always equate to “bad”.  Pain can indicate growth and be a very good thing.  Other times it indicates that there is a problem that needs to be cared for.  Be patient and supportive whatever the journey looks like in your marriage.

Note: This article deals with a wife’s lack of desire.  If your husband is the one who does not want sex, read Help! My Husband Doesn’t Want Sex and join the conversation.

Take the next step:
Family Life offers hope and resources for struggling marriages. Watch their video: The Sex Starved Marriage.

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52 Responses to “She Doesn’t Want Sex”

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    Rhea,
    May I strongly suggest that you see a professional counselor? To have been married for 1.5 years and not yet consummated your marriage indicates that there are several issues at stake here. One is a physical problem in that your husband wasn’t able to ejaculate and he needs to see a doctor to ensure that this isn’t a physical problem and then the two of you need to see someone who will help you communicate about what the deeper issues are. A good marriage always takes hard work and its worth it to work through the difficult issues.

  • Rhea says:

    Hi, We have been married for more than 1 year. But we have not had sex till date. Ours was a late marriage in my late 30s.I wanted to stay with him after my marriage but he wanted me to goto my workplace and he at his and would come down to meet me once in 3-4 months only for few days. Ours was an arranged maariage. when he would come We would try to have sex. for me it was like sleeping with a stranger and everytime i had to start the relationship new. i never had intrest in having sex with him but used to force myself to do it taking it as my duty. We were never successful as he could never ejaculate and i would wait for the whole thing to get over. I tried to make him agree on our staying together. but he took to his family’s advice and carried on separate for 1 year. by the time he came down to stay with me i was totally exhausted of trying to build a relation all by myself and had given up. So now i have stopped trying to force myself to have sex with him and till now we have never tried having sex. To top this iam paying the bills and playing the role of a provider in the family as he does a job with a very low pay. he refuses to find a better job as the current one is comfortable. Iam totally exhausted by the end of the day working from 5:30 am till 10pm. He is very helpful and loving. He does the laundry and dishes. We are attached to each other but iam not at all physically attracted to him and now after 1.5 years of our marriage also our marriage is not conssumated. Pleeeeeease advice. now i feel it will be like this forever

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