Going Sexless

The big trend today is to go “-less”. The grocery stores want us to go “bag-less” and bring our own totes. Companies ask us to go “paperless” and pay our bills online. Of course most of us have gone “wireless” long ago, but there is one area of married life people shouldn’t go “-less” in…and that’s sex. Yet, according to surveys, an estimated 20 million couples have done exactly that.

What are we talking about?

Sexless marriage is defined as having sex less than ten times a year. Some couples say it’s a lack of time. If that’s you, read my post on Scheduling Sex. Others say they lack desire. For those of you stuck on that one, read the posts The Desire Myth and Sometimes Sex is Just Sex. Sex is very important in a marriage and I’ve written additional articles on the subject that you should check out in the archives of my Marriage Insights Blog.

Men and women give a variety of reasons as to why they are in a sexless marriage, but there is only one real cause: They STOP. Pretty simplistic reasoning, I know. Actually, in reality it’s usually because one person in the marriage says “no” and stops. For the purposes of writing this, I’m going to say that it’s the wife. I do recognize that in some cases, it’s the husband who won’t have sex, so try to flip-flop it and apply the concepts to your marriage.

There could be serious issues such as infidelity, physical or health problems, pornography use and masturbation, past sexual abuse, etc., that lead to a lack of sex. The following advice will, mostly likely, not apply to you if you are dealing with anything of that nature. Those are much more complex issues that need to be addressed with the proper professional support and counseling, and are not the scenarios I’m talking about here. I’m speaking of much simpler and straightforward situations.

As in a recent email I received from a woman who said she cut off sex for a reason she saw as a legitimate issue: his poor hygiene. Who wants to get up close and personal with someone who stinks like last week’s garbage or visits a toothbrush once a month whether they need it or not? Another reoccurring theme I often hear is that the guy doesn’t take his time. He’s the “two-minute wonder”…if he even makes it that long! The woman doesn’t get any pleasure or enjoyment from the act of lovemaking and feels used when he just “hops on and hops off”. So she ends up saying, “No”, when he approaches her for sex.

I Get It

There are genuine sources of trouble that lead to issues in the sex department. But just saying no isn’t the answer. Saying no to a guy and shutting him down causes a man to lose his confidence. As little as two or three rejections in a row will make many men back off and not want to try anymore. He’ll simply quit asking. Women fail to realize how very fragile a man’s ego is…especially in the area of his sexual prowess.

It’s not just sex he steps away from. Often, as a move of self-preservation, the guy will begin to back off emotionally, too. He stops paying attention to and stops really engaging with his wife. Most all forms of touching stop because it only leads to sexual frustration. Everything a woman wants from her husband apart from sex now goes out the window. The best example I’ve seen that shows how this plays out in a marriage is in the recent movie Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. If you are dealing with a sexless marriage or especially if you have just begun to struggle in this area, you must see it.

Trust me, you do not want to become this couple. You really need to watch it to get a good picture of what your life will look like if someone keeps saying “no”. What a husband and wife go through and where they end up is really depicted well. It’s emotionally brutal to watch. All the anger, loneliness, sadness is palpable. Apparently, it was supposed to be a comedy, but there is nothing funny about the situation these two are in. The reason they are so miserable is because they allowed the marriage to die. On the eve of celebrating 31 years of marriage, they are sleeping in separate rooms, he’s angry and bitter, she’s hurt and devastated by his lack of interest in her.

She ends up scheduling a week long counseling intensive for them to attend, in hopes that it will fix the problems so they can have a “real marriage” again and end the five-year drought in their sex life. (Quick disclaimer here: I totally disagree with the lust-based practices the therapist employs to “spice up” and get their love life back on track. In the end, they find that it’s just good-old-fashioned, lust-free sex that works.)

The Streep and Jones characters go through several therapy sessions, and then spend uncomfortable evenings awkwardly trying out exercises assigned by the therapist to improve their ability to touch and reconnect with one another. It isn’t until more than halfway through the movie that the truth finally explodes when the guy says, “You’re the one who stopped.” He then explains how he, in turn, shut down in both sexual and non-sexual ways, and became disconnected and disinterested in his wife.

She admits that, “Yes, I stopped for a while” but can’t understand why he stopped after that and never restarted when she wanted him again. Like in any marriage, there were issues and reasons why she stopped. But during all their years, he didn’t know what those issues were. She never told him what she needed or wanted.

She Just Said, “No”

The big problems start when you simply S-T-O-P. You can’t just say, “No”. By doing so, you risk the other person shutting down completely and eventually the whole relationship derails and dies. Your spouse must hear some version of “yes” from you. The solution is to say, “Yes, IF….” and tell the guy what it is you need from him to make this a win for both of you.

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Before I get emails from people freaking out saying, “You mean women have to put out no matter what!?” Take a deep breath and relax…that’s NOT what I’m saying. Of course, a woman doesn’t have to put up with ridiculous, abusive or immoral behavior from a man and “shut up and put out” as some very misguided people believe and teach.

Like the poor lady who approached me at one of my marriage conferences with tears streaming down her face. She went on to explain that her husband never talked to her.

I questioned, “He never talks to you? That can’t be possible?”

To which she drilled back, “No! He NEVER talks to me!”

I asked her how her love life was. She explained that it was fine.

“So how is it that your love life is fine, if your husband never talks to you? You mean you are still having regular sex with him?” I queried.

She cried, “Well, that’s what they teach us at the women’s conferences. That you shouldn’t turn the man down, and it’s a wife’s duty.”

I told her, “You’ve gotten some bad teaching, Sweetheart! You can still have sex with him but the next time he reaches for you, say, “I’ll knock your socks off and make you a happy boy! But first, we are going to talk for fifteen minutes.”

See, she didn’t have to subject herself to the hurtful behavior, yet, could tell him “yes”. Now, it’s a win/win scenario.

Copyright © 2012 Mark Gunger, used with permission. All rights reserved.

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  • CushieSurvivor

    I really do wish that Christian’s would start realizing it isn’t “always the woman’s fault”, when there is a lack of sex and intimacy in the marriage relationship, Don’t forget, women are far freer and have a much easier time sharing their emotions, being romantic and being in touch with their emotional side, in general. You must have those, in order to open up and be vulnerable when having sex, making love, or whatever one chooses to call it(please not intercourse or sexual intercourse–THAT will kill anyone’s sex drive–those are words for the doctor’s office or science, not the bedroom). I would like to see some Christian authors writing books, or articles discussing how often men refuse to have sex and reject their wives. I am one of those women, and I can’t say that we’ve ever had a satisfying sexual time together, and my husband hasn’t made love to me in over 5 years(YES, YEARS!!). I am sick to death of begging for him to even notice me for 5 minutes while at home(yes, he’s one who will be all pretend lovey-dovey around others, but the minute we get home, I cease to exist), to make a romantic overture, to make love to me, and all I get is rejected and ignored. It is so painful and hurtful, and yes, I am very angry with him for this. When we did “make love” after I begged and begged, it was a chore to him, and he complained the whole time we were being intimate. Talk about killing a woman’s desire, and hurting her to her very core, as well as striking at the heart of her femininity. On top of that, throw in absolutely ZERO romantic gestures the rest of the time, even going days without kissing you, unless you(the wife) initiate, being completely neglectful not just of the marital relationship, but of his wife, it’s no wonder so many women are in so much pain. And, on top of that, we have to suffer in silence, or if we read an article about lack of sex and intimacy in marriage hoping and praying for just anything…something to comfort us, and maybe even have the article talk about men being neglectful, and how ungodly that is, we just face more berating and blame when we read articles, such as this one, that once again portray a sexless marriage as the woman’s fault, and we need to do something to fix it. The man is off the hook again, and it’s the woman’s fault, and we are also getting blamed by our husband’s and berated by them for everything wrong in the marriage. But, does an article ever point out that it’s wrong for a man to masturbate multiple times a week/day while ignoring his wife’s needs and ignoring her in general. I realize that this article did say that in some cases it is the man who is at fault, but “in some cases” doesn’t even come close to the actual number. I have read that as high as 40% of sexless marriages are because the man refuses to his “husbandly duty” to his wife. Of course, this bring to question, why don’t we ever even hear the term, “husbandly duty”? They DO have a responsibility to meet our needs(I Cor. 7:1-5), and I would say it is even more of a responsibility and demand to them by God, because God has made the man the head of the household, and holds him more accountable for the marriage.

    So, Growthtrac, could we PLEASE see more article addressing this issue, as there are many, many of us women out there hurting because of sexless marriages, and I believe it is even more damaging to us because of the way God has hard-wired us to be emotional, nurturing creatures, and we need that in so many ways and frequently, too. It truly is a NEED that women have to have met, and their husband help-mates should be the one doing that meeting of the need, and when they don’t, I think you see why even born-again Christians, who can appear very Godly on the outside at church each week may have fallen into sin and be in an affair and committing adultery(no, I have never done this–still begging hubby after almost 12 years of marriage and very little sex mostly initiated by me, can count on one hand the number of times he’s initiated sex, and 1 finger the number of orgasms I’ve had, and yes, I did what was right and saved my virginity for my husband and our wedding night).

    I am not writing this comment seeking pity, or anything like that. I’m writing it to open up the Christian communities eyes to a huge and very, very serious problem that many out there seem to maybe naively overlook, or are still thinking we’re in the Victorian to 1950’s era where women were taught that sex was dirty or nasty, even after marriage(not beautiful and holy, created by God for a husband and wife, and a way to worship Him), and it’s just a wife’s duty to bear it when her husband wants to have sex with her, and she must do her duty by her husband.

    Personally, I LOVE sex, and I thank the Lord for giving us such a wonderful gift to so deeply express our love to each other and to have a way to give thanks and worship the Lord for the beauty of marriage, and I WANT and DESIRE my husband, and I desperately WANT and DESIRE for us to have an active, beautiful sex life where we make love on a frequent, regular basis. But, I also find it almost impossible to even let him touch me in a sexual way right now, because of his treatment of me, neglect of me, and neglect of our sex life, as well as being torn down and rejected sexually so many countless times. I am terrified of opening up to him sexually, being vulnerable and giving my body to him, as he could seriously hurt me emotionally, mentally and spiritually by rejecting me or scorning me. And men, you may not think about this, as I know you all are vulnerable during intimacy, too, but woman are many times more so. The Bible is correct in saying that a man and wife become one flesh, as a single unit after marriage, but also during love-making. There is no other time that a man and woman are truly one flesh than at that time, as the husband and wife are connected on many, many different levels at that time. But, the wife IS more vulnerable at that time, because not only do we connect mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and verbally, we also connect deeply sexually, as we take our husbands INSIDE our bodies. Think on that for a minute, men, and what that must be like for a woman, a wife. How vulnerable are we during love-making? Try to remember that the next time you make love, and what a gift your wife is giving to you, and what a gift God has given you in providing a wife for you. Then, remember it each and every day, not just during the deep, intimate physical connection of sex, and show your wife that you really do appreciate her both in and out of bed. I bet it would change a lot of marriages.

    May God bless each and every one of your sex lives, and make them into the Godly, Holy, worshipful, intimate times that He intended them to be.

    • Michele Bailey

      Read the Sex Starved Marriage by Michele Wiener-Davis. She is very insightful and a great supporter of marriage.

    • CryingOutForHelp

      Oh wow! I thought I was the only woman who felt this way! Thank you for sharing your story because I am too going through a very similar situation! I’m as well frustrated at the fact that men are labeled as the “sexual” beings and that it is the wife’s duty to fulfill their sexual desires no matter what. When I as the wife are constantly be neglected sexually by my husband. On our wedding night, we had sex once, and it last for maybe two minutes. During our honeymoon I was in tears because I couldn’t figure out why my husband was not desiring me as I thought he should. We’ve been married for two years now and intimacy is our number one issue. We’re both in our 20’s, and his sex drive isn’t there. He doesn’t understand how deeply it hurts when he tells me no, or when he doesn’t initiate. Don’t even get me started on the way he critiques during sex at times. It drives me insane and it hurts to the core! But when I critique he can’t take it and shuts down in the middle of intimacy. It drives me crazy when I read or hear from other women how much men think about sex constantly and how much they want it because my husband it the total opposite. I have found pornography on his laptop and mobile phone but he either shrugs it off like it’s not a big deal or lies about it. We’ve even went to counseling over it with our pastor and it was completely looked over! It’s so frustrating that my husband get’s away with this, and I’m the one who hurts DEEPLY! When we first was married, I tried the lingerie, the romantic dinner/gestures but I was still looked over. I’m to the point where I don’t even want to try anymore, what’s the point? I’m sure if a man felt this way, he would’ve cheated or something a long time ago. He doesn’t even kiss me anymore..at all. If we do, it’s a little peck on the lips, nothing more. I don’t know if the church is aware of this on going issue among marriages, or if they choose to ignore it. In my case, I’ve asked the church for help, but like I said before it wasn’t handled and it was put on me for basically going through his phone and laptop in the first place.

    • LA JONE

      its true
      wat u have said at times like that have prayed and seen JESUS BRINGING him to me was happy knowing GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS,,,, but i understood one thing all the time am neglected i feel myself special in GOD S EYES

  • hurtingwife

    cushiesurvivor, I just wanted to say I’m in exactly the same situation as you are, and I agree 100% with everything you’ve said. I’ve heard and read so much about how much a man wants sex with his wife, and how most often it’s the wife who rejects her husband. I’m here to testify that has NEVER been the case in my marriage. It’s the exact opposite. My husband and I have been married almost nine years now and we have had sex probably 50 times total. I am not exaggerating either. Almost always it has been I who has initiated, begged, pleaded, seduced……whatever you want to call it. My husband chased me and told me how wonderful and sexy I was during our courtship, but once we were married I found out he never had any time or desire for me the way a husband should for his wife. We haven’t made love in five years, and the last time we did I was the one once again to initiate. You are so right on how devastating and hurtful this kind of treatment is, and there is not nearly enough recognition of what’s going on in the christian community, nor is there any help or support for the wife who is going through this. Somehow it’s always her fault. Maybe she’s disrespectful or a sloppy housekeeper, or maybe she’s put on some weight after children, or (heaven forbid!) gotten older. The only trouble is there are many instances when just one of the above is the case (sorry, getting older happens to the best of us), and it’s just that the husband is neglectful and selfish. Many times it’s the fact that he is using pornography and masturbating and sulks and pouts when his wife finds out and tries to seek counseling. He wants to do his sinful dirty deeds and have his little wife stay loyally by his side while he goes off behind closed doors late at night and commits mental adultery, never once thinking about the vows that He made to be faithful, never once caring about the fact that his wife is lying in bed, rejected and alone, feeling like she’s a failure as a woman and a wife because her husband would rather have porn sex. No wonder more women file for divorce than men. They expect to have a relationship with their husbands when they get married. They don’t sign up for a sex-starved marriage that is shared with a neglectful, selfish, porn-addicted man who can’t be faithful to what he promised.
    I find it very disturbing that the church hasn’t stood up and address this issue more strongly and fully. It’s a big reason why we have so many failing marriages, and until we bring it out in the light and hold men accountable the way Jesus did, there will never be true repentance and reform.

    • growthtrac

      I appreciate your post. As a marriage ministry we are aware and I am working on content to address this issue. Thanks again. Jim, Growthtrac Ministries

    • John

      To be honest, these post don’t help at all. I love sex and want nothing more than to make love to my wife. My wife hates sex. Tells me this. She says I am the odd one and that she is like most women. Our sex life fell apart several years ago after I got back from a deployment and then she had one of her ovaries removed a couple years later. I understand that the ovary removal creates big changes in hormones, desire, etc. I never try to initiate anymore because I don’t want rejected again and again. She will initiate sex once a month as “her duty”, and I hate this duty sex. When she initiates this she insists that I get it over with as soon as possible. On some level I appreciate her at least doing this, but on another level I wish I never even thought about sex or wanted it. With God, All things are possible. So I am helpful all of this improves, but I just need prayers and discernment in how to handle the now.

    • Deborah West

      I so hear you!!!! Most women I speak with fell like the old ‘bait and switch’ has been pulled on them. Men are good at pretending. During dating and early marriage they ‘pretend’ to be faithful, loyal, trust worthy and loving. And then they can’t keep up the pretense. They revert back to their true, selfish, childish, cheating, and lying ways. They become ‘two-pump chumps’ and think that’s good enough. Sure, good enough for THEM. They don’t care about their wives desires. And many wives stand back and take this behavior, trying to be the ‘good little wife’ with the hopes that their husband will grow up. But a lot men don’t grow up. They get worse. They NEVER gave up the childish masturbation and resort back to it as their primary source. Their wives are begging them to ‘come to bed’ but they don’t HEAR the invitation because it wasn’t said in the curd way THEY would said it. So the husband answers no, that he wants to watch television. What a blow to the WIFE. And then man wonders why she won’t have sex with anymore. WHY???— because HE started the refusal FIRST. He STOPPED first. Not her.
      Please read CushieSurvivior reply. She NAILED it!!!!!!!!!

  • Amy

    My husband is the one who hates sex, disgusting, messy, smelly, not worth the effort and total waste of time. Day after wedding moved to the basement and that’s where he has been living, doesn’t talk or come near me, I’m like the plague. He’s not gay or have some one else, He is just for himself, selfish, he is the only one who counts, goes no where, has no friends and from I can see very lonely. Now the part a lot of people can’t believe we have been married 47 years. I should have run away but I didn’t and I don’t know why. I gave up and decided to just be me, have friends, work part time and enjoy me. I’m to old now to care about men there all ugly creatures and won’t get near them.

  • Isis56

    IN EARLY February 2 YEARS AGO, My husband decided that he was not going to accept negotiation about how to start our sex life after me saying no for 31 years. HE said that he was not talking it through with any one else, he was not permiting me to go to a social function that night. He said I either started being his wife or he was putting me out the door with nothing on in minus 40 degrees, he wondered if I could make it to the next house before I died of hypothermia.
    The intent was clear. I had hurt him for 31 years, now I was going to hurt. Everyone that hurt him now has been swept into the same trash can. We can’t say no your not going to be allowed something he has rights to, It would probably get our brains knocked out our ears, its already lead to his fathers neck being broken with one punch. All for what he has rights to.



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