FamilyLife Blog

Help! My Wife Doesn’t Want to Have Sex

by | Mar 13, 2020 | Emotional Intimacy, Marriage, Sex

I agree with Dan Allendar when he says: “Sex is volatile and it was meant to be.” For guys, when we are getting regular sex, the world is as it should be and we are the confident male species ready to take on any challenge and defeat any enemy! On the other hand, a lack of sex causes us to plummet, doubt our self-worth, and wonder, “What’s the use?”  This leads to some very common questions:

Q:  My wife does not want to have sex. I take it personally and feel like she does not want me. I am assuming it is her lack of desire for me. I feel unloved and hurt by this. Am I right?

A:  Don’t jump to conclusions. There are many factors as to why your wife does not want to have sex and many may have little to do with you.

Wired Differently

Because of the way we are wired, men and women have very different views of sex. It begins with the chemicals in our brain. Men have a much higher level of testosterone than women. That’s the chemical that causes us to think about and want sex. Women have a much higher level of oxytocin, which is sometimes called the “bonding hormone.” That’s the chemical that makes them want to connect. So here we are with high testosterone, ready to have sex — and there are our wives, with their high oxytocin, ready to snuggle.

She is wired to want connection as much as we want sex. “Hey, we want connection!” I hear you say. Ya right! We want to connect our body with hers! She wants you to be interested in her by giving her attention, listening, and touching — but only non-sexual touching. We are wired to feel fulfilled when we have sex. Women are wired to feel fulfilled when they are bonding.

It is easy to see there is going to be a frequency issue that has nothing to do with how desirable you are. Guys are wired to want more sex and women are wired for emotional connection. (Although in about 25 per cent of relationships, this is reversed — I met a couple of these guys, but neither appreciated the great situation they were in.) Women can feel sexually fulfilled without having an orgasm during sex. I know, it’s mind boggling!

Making the Connection

Then there is the difference of how we think. She walks in the room, looks at you in a certain way, and you think, “All right, I know what is on her mind!” Actually, you don’t. Guys, we can compartmentalize our thoughts, and in an instant switch to the “sex” compartment just by looking at our wife’s body.

For women, everything is connected, meaning: that look she gave you might not  even be about you. Guys can focus and cut out distractions. Women usually have a more difficult time doing that. Because sex is so high in our thought processes, we go there quickly. Women have a myriad of thoughts, with sex being a lot lower — especially when there are distractions around like kids needing attention, a deadline at work, and the realization there’s no milk in the fridge.

The challenge is that often women feel disconnected and distracted. One of the top reasons women give for not wanting sex is fatigue. As one woman said, “When I arrive home late from a busy day and then deal with my family’s demands, the last thing on my mind is sex. I am just too pooped to party.” Plain and simple, women are often just too tired.

Your wife desires you, but she demonstrates it in a very different way than you think she should. You want sex, but she wants to have you take notice of her, listen to her, snuggle with her, help her with the dishes, and tell her she is beautiful, before her brain makes a transition into thinking about sex. Meeting her bonding needs is huge for a woman. Does this mean if you do these things tonight she will be all over you? Doesn’t work that way. It’s not a switch you flip in your wife’s brain, but here is the good news:

“We sure work hard to get good sex, and even then there are no promises. But I can promise you this: if you work hard to win your wife’s heart as you once did when she said ‘I do,’ her emotional need for closeness, connection, and love will bring her back into your arms. There your chance of sparking a fire is most promising.”    

Secrets of Happily Married Men, page 227

Growing Together

So now what? Tackle the real issues in your own way. The obstacles to connecting with your wife have little (if anything) to do with your desirability. You need to move past your incorrect thinking, “She does not desire me.”  Women are wired differently, so most likely you have a connection issue.

Here is what I suggest: take a renewed interest in her and her needs. If you haven’t read the book the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, do it now and start the fun. I discovered that men are good at observation, even better than women. It has something to do with our ability to focus, so the challenge is to see what works. How does she best like you to express love to her?

I realized that I tried to love my wife the way I liked to receive love, so I wrote her really nice cards with well thought-out wording. Those were OK, but I remember it dawning on me that if I cleared out the dishwasher, I was really talking her language! I like words of affirmation and she likes acts of service. It has made a major difference in how I express love. I need to make sure I am meeting her need for bonding with me the way she wants it to occur. That means away from the bedroom and not just when I want sex.

Being distracted is a huge issue for women. We have to realize that women need a lot more time to get in the mood. It takes me 30 seconds, and I’m sure you can beat that time, but your wife is different. I discovered my wife had a huge distraction in that we had no lock on our bedroom door. She thought one of the kids might walk in on us having sex. After I found that out, the very next day I put a lock on the door. My wife still calls this the fastest home improvement project I ever did! Eliminating distractions isn’t easy or always successful, but there is often a lot we can do.

Fatigue. This is a no brainer. What could you do to help more? Each time I do something I don’t really enjoy, I usually tell myself (yes, I talk to myself) that I am expressing love whether she sees it or not. Encourage her to get the rest she needs. Your encouragement may help overcome her guilt at taking a nap or going to bed early.

By the way, when observation doesn’t get you the info you need, you can always ask her. When I asked my wife how I could best express love and what her needs were, the answer didn’t come right away, but over time we have had a much clearer idea of how it works.

One more heads up with taking an interest in your wife: find out what she really enjoys in the bedroom. Just because you enjoy something does not mean your wife loves it. Communication is really important. She is unique. No matter what the books, movies, or internet says, you need to discover what she likes. Then become better at it. I know we all think we are hot in bed, but there is always room for improvement. Make it a goal that when you are having sex, she enjoys it.

You don’t have to face this alone: Email a mentor.