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.

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