What to Do if Your Spouse is Not Interested in Sex

In the last post, we looked at what can cause your sex drive to run out of gas. We also talked about some things you might be able to do about it.

But what do you do if your spouse is the one with little to no sex drive?

THE STATISTICS.

According to an article in the New York Times by Jen Gunter, 15% of married couples are in a sexless relationship. A sexless relationship is defined as spouses who have sex 10 or fewer times in a year.

And if you assume it’s just husbands who are frustrated by their wife’s lack of desire for sex, you would be wrong. While it’s true that roughly 80% of males have sex drives that are higher than their wives, there are still approximately 20% of wives who struggle because their husbands are not as interested in sex as they are.

NOT AN EASY PROBLEM TO ADDRESS.

Unlike where to go on vacation or how to discipline the kids, a spouse with little to no sex drive can be a delicate and difficult issue to address. Few things are as sensitive and personal as one’s sex drive, and trying to address this issue can trigger…

  • Feelings of inadequacy.
  • Fears of rejection.
  • Family of origin issues.
  • Frustrations with your spouse.

To effectively deal with sexual issues in marriage requires a level of security and vulnerability that can be difficult for spouses…especially spouses with little to no sex drive.

FEW ACCEPTABLE WORKAROUNDS.

So, if you’re the one doing without, what can you do? For most other things in marriage, there are acceptable workarounds…

  • If they don’t like to cook, you can get take out.
  • If they’re not into football, you can get a friend to watch the game with you.
  • If they’re not much of a talker, you can talk to a good friend.

But what are you supposed to do about sex? It’s not like you can just find someone else to have sex with…at least not if you want to keep your marriage. So do you…

  • Pressure them for sex?
  • Learn to do without?
  • Get out of the marriage?
  • Settle for satisfying your own needs?

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

There are no quick and easy fixes when your spouse has little to no interest in sex. But there are still things you can do to try to address the issue.

Don’t assume this is just the way it is.

Don’t automatically assume there’s nothing that can be done. Such an early surrender will lead you to feel helpless and resentful. It is possible to address and improve this problem if both of you are willing to work at it. So exhaust every avenue before you assume nothing can be done.

Don’t take it personally.

We are created as sexual beings. I believe this is both God’s design and desire for us. So, if your spouse has a low-to-no sex drive, then something is standing in the way. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about you.

Chances are, it’s more about your spouse…their experiences, their emotional state, their physical state, their behaviors, their insecurities, their problems with intimacy, etc.

Don’t immediately assume their lack of sex drive is about you.

Work on your part of the relationship.

Even though your spouse’s lack of sex drive is probably not about you, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to improve your relationship with your spouse. None of us are perfect. We can all do better when it comes to our relationship with our spouse. And working on your part of the non-sexual relationship will help to remove any roadblocks that might be interfering with your sexual relationship.

Communicate your feelings clearly and lovingly.

It can be difficult to talk about your sexual relationship with your spouse. It’s such a personal thing and opening up about it can leave us feeling vulnerable to further hurt. But you must talk about it! You cannot improve something you won’t talk about.

You can speak lovingly and encouragingly, but you must also speak clearly and openly about your feelings, your desires, and your needs. Your spouse cannot read your mind, so don’t leave them to guess at what you want and why you want it.

Be encouraging/insistent that the two of you work on the problem.

Sex drives can certainly vary between spouses, but a low-to-no sex drive is a problem that must be addressed. Encourage/insist that the two of you talk to a physician to rule out any possible physical, hormonal, or medication problems that might exist. If you find nothing on that front, then the two of you should see a counselor for any historical or relational issues that are interfering with your sexual relationship.

Chances are, your spouse will not be excited about taking these steps. They may even resist. But that’s where you need to be lovingly persistent and insistent.

Pursue other forms of sexual engagement with them.

There is more to sex than just intercourse. If intercourse is a problem for some reason, then find other ways for the two of you to engage in sexual closeness. And don’t be so serious and intense about it. Make it playful. (After all, it is called fore-PLAY.)

BUT WHAT IF MY SPOUSE REFUSES TO WORK ON THE ISSUE?

What can you do if you’ve tried all the above, but to no avail? If your spouse refuses to address the problem or do anything about it, it can leave you feeling stuck and powerless. After all, it’s hard to dance with someone who won’t get on the dance floor. And as we said before, there are few acceptable workarounds for this problem.

If your spouse refuses to address the issue, you are left with four alternatives…none of which are ideal.

You could leave the marriage.

You may feel like doing this because your needs aren’t being met and you feel hurt and rejected. But you need to be very careful with this option. It will not fix the problem. It simply replaces one problem with other problems that can actually be bigger and more complicated.

You could learn to accept things as they are.

Again, this is not an ideal or easy alternative. And you need to be careful with this alternative because if all you do is try to ignore the issue and sweep it under the rug, your resentment will eventually build up and leak out in your behavior.

Your resentment could lead you to become angry with your spouse and withdraw from them, or your resentment could lead you to start looking outside the marriage.

If you’re going to pursue this option, you must be able to see your spouse as unable (much as if they had a physical handicap) and determine that your relationship with them is more important than having sex with them.

You could offer up your desires to God and sacrificially commit to this marital norm.

This is different from the previous option of just learning to accept things as they are. Just accepting things as they are is more of a grit-your-teeth-and-put-up-with-it approach. Offering up your desires to God and sacrificially committing to this marital norm is more of a willingness to sacrifice what you want for the good of your spouse and your marriage.

1 Corinthians 7 talks about the need for sexual consistency between a husband and wife. But in that passage, we are also told there can be times when abstaining from sex can used for spiritual purposes.

Theres’ no doubt that this is a difficult option to pursue. But focusing your frustration in the direction of faith, will reduce the resentment and anger that comes from the “grit-your-teeth-and-put-up-with-it approach.” And hopefully this “dry spell” will not be forever.

You could pursue sexual release through self-pleasuring.

If no other option works, you may have to turn to this option. I’m fully aware that this can be a very controversial topic, especially for Christians who are mindful of the Bible’s warnings about lust and looking at others lustfully. And there are distinct dangers to the self-pleasuring option.

  • Self-pleasuring is always accompanied by fantasy. If the object of your fantasy is someone other than your spouse, it can lead to further dissatisfaction with your spouse…making your frustration even worse. It can also violate the Biblical mandate about not lusting over people other than your spouse.
  • Self-pleasuring can become a way of getting around the hard work of building sexual intimacy with a real live person…your spouse. This can create a further gap between you and your spouse.
  • Self-pleasuring can become a habitual form of dealing with stress, anger, or other negative emotions. When this happens, the self-pleasuring becomes an addiction. At that point, it’s no longer serving you. You are serving it.
  • Self-pleasuring can not only become addictive, but it can lead to turning to pornography for stimulation and fantasy. This not only violates the biblical mandates against lust but will typically be hurtful to the other spouse and lead to an even greater divide between spouses.

So, although there is no specific prohibition in Scripture against this option, you must be careful in seeking sexual release through self-pleasuring. It should be done…

  • With your spouse’s awareness.
  • With your spouse’s involvement…if they’re willing.
  • And only when the accompanying fantasies are about your spouse.

A FINAL WORD…

As you can see, having a spouse who shows little to no interest in sex is a complicated and very personal issue. It is possible to solve this issue if both spouses are willing to honestly communicate and patiently work on the problem. But if the spouse with the low-to-no sex drive stonewalls, it requires great commitment and faith from the other spouse to keep the marriage going.

If this is a problem in your marriage, and you’ve been unable to resolve it, sit down and once again and share your heart with your spouse. Seek help from physicians, counselors, or trusted friends. Lean into your faith and prayer. Don’t give up. Continue to fight the good fight for your sexual relationship.

Do You Know Your Spouse?

Maybe you read the title of this post and thought, “I don’t need this post. I know my spouse.”

I’ve thought the same thing. I’ve been married for over forty years, and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on knowing my wife. But there are still times when she will say or do something that makes me think, “Who are you, and do I even know you?!”

Spouses are complex. Their situations, likes, dislikes, emotions, bodies, thoughts, and needs are continually changing. And that means if we want to know our spouse, we have to be on-going learners.

So here are a few tips and reminders (in no specific order) that will help you continue to know your spouse better.

Don’t assume you know them.

Assuming you’re an expert on your spouse is both arrogant and disrespectful. Think about it. You wouldn’t like it if you over-heard your spouse telling someone that they know you completely. Assuming you know your spouse completely will get you in trouble. And I’m telling you, the minute you assume you know them, they’re going to change something just to throw you off!

You don’t know them if you don’t listen to them.

I sit with so many couples who interrupt their spouse, complete their spouse’s sentences, and interpret what they believe their spouse is saying…but never really listen to them. No matter how well you think you know your spouse, there are things on their heart and mind that you will never know if you don’t give them a chance to speak and really listen to what they have to say.

You must listen past their words before you know them.

I have a sign hanging outside my counseling office that says: “No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is NOT saying.”

If all you do is listen to the words your spouse is saying, you don’t really know what they’re saying. Research tells us that only 7% of what your spouse is telling you is found in their words. 38% of their message is in their tone of voice and 55% is in their nonverbal signals.  So listen to more than just the words they are saying.

If they don’t say it, you don’t know it.

I know you know this, but if you’re like me, you probably need to hear it again. You can’t read your spouse’s mind. You may think you can, and you may have been together long enough to make some good educated guesses. But they are still guesses. If they haven’t said it, then you don’t really know it. (By the way…they can’t read your mind either, so don’t make them guess. Tell them clearly and lovingly what you’re thinking and feeling.)

If you don’t know, ask.

Going along with the last tip, if your spouse tells you something, and you’re not quite sure what they mean, don’t guess. Ask for clarification. Your spouse would rather have you ask them for clarification than for you to go off on an assumption that’s wrong.

Just because you know them now doesn’t ensure that you will know them later.

As I said at the beginning of this post…spouses are complex and constantly changing. Just because you know some things about them now, don’t assume those things will be the same a year from now. For as long as I’ve known her, my wife has always wanted to live near the beach. But recently I found out that she now wants to live in the mountains. There was no warning. There was no turn signal. She just changed! This is why you have to keep striving to know your spouse.

Know what they like, but know it will change.

Knowing that your spouse will change later is not an excuse to not know them now.  Get to know your spouse as well as you can now. Just know that you’ll have to keep learning and adding to what you know about them.

Finally, if I could wrap all this up in one last reminder, it would be this:

Know that you don’t know all there is to know about your spouse, but know that you can know them better.

So stay at it and stay curious.

The Quarantined Marriage

I typically talk about what it means to have a “normal marriage.” But in these days of social distancing, “normal“ has become a thing of the past. We are all operating under a new normal now. And that new normal is…quarantine!

Couples who have typically been franticly busy, running from one obligation too the next, are now forced to shelter in place, under the same roof, 24/7. A sort of forced companionship if you will.

But this forced companionship can be difficult. It can introduce irritations that we were able to avoid, as long as we stayed on the go. But now there’s nowhere to go!

Here are some things that can make the quarantined marriage a challenge:

  • BIG DIFFERENCES – It’s no news flash that couples are usually very different from one another. We have different personalities, different ways of working, different likes, different approaches to children, different stressors, and different triggers. Being together all day, every day, provides a lot of opportunity for those differences to bump into one another. If you can’t allow for your spouse’s differences without feeling disrespected or inconvenienced, then quarantine is going to be an experience that feels more like water boarding than togetherness.
  • POOR COMMUNICATION – Again, most couples are use to staying busy enough they have an excuse for not stopping and communicating with one another. Before the quarantine, we could get by on shallow conversations about our day. But during the quarantine, we can’t talk about our day…because we are both there in the middle of it! Quarantine forces us to talk about other things for longer periods of time. And this often reveals that the communication we used to do so phenomenally when we were dating, now needs a little work.
  • INCREASED ANXIETY – This one is a given. There is much for us to worry about these days. The big worry is whether we and our loved ones will avoid catching the virus. Another big source of anxiety is whether we will have a job and be able to pay our bills. Then, there’s the smaller worries. Before, we had to worry about whether our kids were good students. Now we have to worry about whether we’re good teachers. Before, we had to worry about who was going to the store to get milk. Now we have to worry about whether there will be any milk when we get to the store. These, and a host of other worries, can raise our anxiety, increase our stress, and make marriage more difficult.
  • LACK OF PURPOSE – This one is not so obvious. Before the quarantine, we were able to confuse taking care of business with having a purpose. It felt like our marriage was here to put a roof over our heads and food on the table, to raise and protect children, to build our careers, etc. But with our ability to do these things now on pause, we have to face the question…why are we married and what’s our real purpose for being married?

As you can see, this quarantine can certainly test your marriage. But you can also use the quarantine as a time to train your marriage. Let me encourage you to use this time to do the following:

  • Learn that your spouse’s differences are not about you. Their differences are about them. Your spouse is different from you, not because they’re trying to get your goat, but because that’s the way God and life has made them. They are not out to get you, so stop taking their differences so personally. Begin to think of their differences as more tools that can be added to the marriage tool box.
  • Learn how to talk again. It doesn’t have to be life-changing, gut-wrenching conversations on a Dr. Phil level. Just talk about anything and everything. You use to do this when you were dating. So if you’re having trouble with this, go back and remember those times. The more you talk about little things, the easier it will be to talk about bigger things.
  • Learn to to calm your anxieties. Anxieties are like the warning lights on the dashboard of your car. They tell you something might need attention, but they don’t tell you to drive your car off a bridge! Note your anxieties, but don’t live by them. Some anxiety is natural and even healthy in times like these. But if you find your anxiety is causing you more problems than solutions, you need to learn How to deal with your anxiety. Find a close friend who can talk you off the roof. Read Scriptures than can calm your heart. Pray. And if you can’t find anything to calm your anxiety, you may need to talk to your physician. But use this time of quarantine to train your anxiety.
  • Learn to live for something greater then just the immediate. Surely you got married for more than just raising kids and paying bills. What is it about your marriage that con’t be stopped by a quarantine? What is it you want to accomplish in your marriage and with your marriage? Spend some time together tossing that question around and dreaming about that.

When it comes to marriage, you can look at this time of quarantine as a time of testing or a time of training. What will you choose?

I Learned 3 Simple Marriage Rules From a Preschooler

Last weekend, I learned three simple marriage rules from a preschooler when I picked up my four-year-old granddaughter for a much needed date. It was a standard date for us: getting some much-needed essentials from the toy store, catching up on the latest children’s literature at the bookstore, and topping it all off with some elegant dining at the local Chick-fil-A.

Among all the things she talked about (and she had a lot to talk about,) she filled me in on the latest news from her pre-K class. As she was catching me up on all the juicy Pre-K news, she told me her teacher expected everyone in her class to follow three rules:

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Marital Drift and How to Stop It.

Have you ever had the experience of looking at your spouse in thinking, “We use to be so close. How did we drift apart? What happened?” If you have, you are not alone. I think that thought crosses the mind of nearly every spouse at one time or another.

Marriage can be like a boat without an anchor. It has a tendency to drift. In the beginning, when you’re close to shore, it doesn’t seem like a problem. But the further you get from shore the more prominent and problematic the drift can be. You start to experience things like:

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What If We Built Our Marriage On Pooh?

Winnie the Pooh is a classic in children’s literature. As young children, we listened to adults read the great adventures of Pooh and his friends. As older children, we sat transfixed in front of a screen as Walt Disney made those adventures come to life. Then, as parents, we read those same adventures to our children.

But we rarely inject these stories into our marriage. What if the stories of Winnie the Pooh have something to say to our marriage? What if we built our marriage on Pooh?

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Mishaps in Messaging

My wife is not much for talking on the phone. She prefers to text, so she often texts rather than calls. The problem is, if she’s texting someone when we’re together, I have no idea who she’s talking to, because I can’t hear her part of the conversation. This leads me to frequently ask her, “Who are you texting?” (I’m pretty sure she hates this question.)

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Have You Lost the Magic?

Couples come into my counseling office for many reasons. Some are having on-going conflicts they can’t resolve. Others are having trouble with their parents or in-laws. Some are struggling in their sexual relationship. Others are at odds over finances. And some just seem to have different ideas about what makes for a good marriage.

But there was one couple who came into my office who summed up marital issues in one simple sentence. “We have lost the magic.“

Ever feel like your marriage has lost the magic? If so, maybe it’s because: 

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Gratitude is a Great Attitude for Marriage

On Thanksgiving Day, it’s good to look at the role gratitude plays in marriage. Many marriages are unhappy, not because of big things like abuse or affairs, but because of a little thing like a lack of gratitude.

Around 2008, Neil Pasricha was having a difficult time in life. His marriage was failing, his best friend committed suicide, and the market was threatening his job. Falling into depression, Neil realized he needed to do something to turn his attitude and life around. So, as a first step, he started a seemingly insignificant website called 1000awesomethings.com.

There, Neil began to build a list of things he was grateful for…both big and small. Things like:

  • When the police car that’s been following you for miles finally goes around you.
  • When the mug you’re warming up in the microwave stops with the handle facing you.
  • When the nostril that’s been plugged up for so long, suddenly opens up.
  • When you hit something with your car and there’s somehow no damage.
  • When you pick the fastest moving line at the grocery store.
  • When you’re on vacation and finally forget what day of the week it is.

He listed one thousand such things, and so many people resonated with these often overlooked reasons for gratitude that Neil’s website exploded. Eventually, his website generated a book entitled The Book of Awesome, which made the New York Times best seller list. All because he pointed out that we have more for which to be grateful than we stop to realize.

In marriage, we are often more unhappy with what we don’t have, than happy with what we do have. We have so many things in our marriages to be grateful for, yet when we don’t get something we want, we feel slighted and cheated. And the more we have, the less grateful we seem to be.

“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” – Eric Hoffer.

But gratitude is important in marriage, because…

  • It changes your focus. Gratitude causes you to focus on all the good things you like and have, rather than all the things you don’t like or don’t have.
  • It leads you to appreciate who and what you have. The more you focus on the things for which you have to be grateful, the more you appreciate them.
  • It lightens your mood. Your appreciation for what you have will begin to root out your complaining and frustration…which will lighten your mood. This will make you easier to live with, not to mention more attractive.
  • It makes you more of a giving spouse. When you see all you have to be grateful for, you tend to be less self-centered and self-focused. It’s more easy to give of yourself, because you see how much you’ve been given.

Even Scripture stresses the importance of gratitude. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us:

 “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 

I know there are a lot of things that go into marital unhappiness, that don’t elicit our gratitude. But note that the passage doesn’t say to be thankful for every circumstance, but rather to be thankful in every circumstance…which would include the difficult ones.

What if you could begin to turn around your dissatisfaction in marriage with something as simple as learning to be more grateful for the many good things you have. What if you could enjoy your marriage more simply by changing your attitude to gratitude?

If you need to be more grateful in your marriage, take these two simple steps:

  • Assess. Begin by making a list of all the things you have to be thankful for in your marriage. Big and small, don’t leave anything out. As you make your list, ask yourself what would life be like if you didn’t have these things, or if your spouse didn’t do those things for which you’re grateful.
  • Express. William A. Ward once said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Get in the habit of expressing gratitude for the things on your list. You would be surprised by the power a simple, heartfelt “thank you” has on your spouse. Not only will expressing gratitude affirm and encourage your spouse, it will improve your attitude as well. Donald Curtis said, “It is impossible to be negative while we are giving thanks.”

So many marriages could be strengthened if spouses simply became more grateful for what they have and more faithful to express that gratitude. When it comes to marriage, gratitude is a great attitude!

“God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?” – William A. Ward.

If you or your marriage needs a does of gratitude, let me challenge you to do the following: Get a small notebook. Everyday, list five things about your spouse and/or your marriage for which you’re grateful. Don’t repeat anything on your list. Everyday, express your gratitude to your spouse. Do this for 30 days. I can almost guarantee that by the end of 30 days, you will be different, and consequently so will your marriage.

Copyright © 2017 Bret Legg