When My Spouse Doesn’t Want to be Intimate

What happens when your sexual desires don’t match your spouse’s?

By Elvira Tan | 8 August, 2017

The issue of incongruent levels of libido between a husband and wife plagues many couples. It can lead to plenty of frustration for both parties – the one yearning for greater physical intimacy and the one whose sexual desire cannot keep up or is close to non-existent.

As Christians, we cannot address the issue of sexual relations within marriage without bearing 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 in mind.

Paul wrote that sex is to be enjoyed within marriage to prevent sexual immorality and both husband and wife have authority over each other’s bodies. There should be mutual enjoyment of each other’s bodies. It is also clearly stated that such enjoyment should only be put on hold for prayer; husband and wife must come together again so that they might not be tempted to unfaithfulness.

However, before we delve into how needs should be communicated to the spouse who lacks desire for sex, the above-mentioned bible passage has to be clearly understood, so that you approach your spouse in a Christ-like manner that builds and strengthens your marriage.

Approach your spouse in a Christ-like manner that builds and strengthens your marriage.

Never threaten to be unfaithful or entertain the thought

It is dangerous to take 1 Corinthians 7:2 out of context and to use it to threaten your spouse who has been rejecting sex. It is hurtful and extremely demeaning to use this verse to strike fear in their heart. No good comes from threats that you will look elsewhere for satisfaction – all it does is develop insecurity and mistrust between you and your partner.

What is cultivated will then be fear, not faithfulness; that goes against what God intends for love to be (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) – a love that is not self-seeking, irritable or resentful.

Threats to look elsewhere for satisfaction only serves to develop insecurity and mistrust between you and your spouse.

Seek to understand your spouse’s underlying reasons for their lack of sexual desire

Considering your spouse’s needs first might prove challenging, especially if your requests for physical intimacy are repeatedly turned down, but it would help your relationship when you address the root of the issue(s).

Spend time to find out more for your spouse’s lack of desire. Could it be unmet emotional needs, hidden resentment from unresolved conflict, work pressures, personal hang-ups or even an undetected health issue? These contribute to hesitance for sexual intimacy.

In the marriage preparation classes my husband and I attended almost 20 years ago, what our pastor shared with us from Ephesians 5:24-25 has stayed with us through the years. Each time we’ve had conflict over mismatched desires or any other issue of contention, we endeavour to remember and live out what it says.

Understandably, while the wife is to submit to her husband, the husband is to love her the way Christ loves the church – this kind of love that God commands is self-sacrificial. If a wife submits to her husband’s request or cues for sexual intimacy, it should not be out of fear or obligation but other-centred love and an obedience to God’s word. Similarly, if a husband is to better understand his wife’s drop in libido for example, he must lovingly find out what could be causing it instead of being silently resentful and feeling hopeless about the situation or, worse still, force himself on her.

In the first few months after giving birth to our children, I appreciated how my husband did not make undue demands on me. We made the effort to bring pleasure to each other in different ways. Similarly, when he was tired out from an incredible workload which diminished his sex drive, we adapted accordingly. If desires were completely mismatched and we sensed resentment brewing, we took it to the Lord in prayer, which is another powerful thing we can do in a Christian marriage – seize the privilege of prayer.

When we sensed resentment brewing, we took it to the Lord in prayer.

Pray, together

We should not be anxious about anything, bringing everything to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6), including our sexual desires or the lack of it in marriage. Pray for wisdom to overcome issues that hinder sexual intimacy in your marriage and take practical steps to restore intimacy in your relationship. Pray also for acceptance of things you cannot change.

Most of all, pray for God’s peace in knowing that He is in control in all things, no matter how mismatched your sexual desires might be with your spouse. Remain hopeful in Him on His strength.

© 2017 Whole Life. All rights reserved.

Join us at this year's Whole Life Symposium — an annual discipleship platform for church leaders —tackling the issue of sexuality and values, with special tracks for school educators, working adults and tertiary students. Held on 25 and 26 August 2017, be equipped to concisely communicate the Christian worldview on sexuality. Sign up today!

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