Forgiveness is mine.

My sexual attitude and behavior hurt my husband for a long time. Although I deeply regret that, the guilt no longer weighs me down. The memories, however, are a different story.

A Husband’s Sorrow

My heart is heavy. Today I have been reminded of the deep pain and loneliness of refusal. In various blogs, posts on message forums, and email messages, I have read eloquent words that have given voice to the sorrow of a husband who suffers when his wife restricts their shared sex life.

Their voices evoke the voice of my husband, so many times over so many years. I am a compassionate person, but I am completely baffled as to why I was so blind and hard-hearted when it came to my own husband.

I spend a lot of time here talking about the pain that refused husbands feel, and for good reason. It was when I first began to hear the voices of refused husbands that I began to truly listen. Those voices were what began to soften my heart. I don’t think wives fully understand what sex truly is to a man. I know I don’t, although I am closer than I used to be.

My refusing and gate-keeping were the sinful acts of a sinful and selfish heart. I was wrong to do as I did. I know I hurt my husband. My husband has a sad story to tell, just as do the men whose stories I read today.

The Refusing Wife

Refusing wives have sad stories, too. My husband and I used to have horrible fights about sex. We spiraled around each other, each of us hurting and vulnerable. Fighting and raised voices create such anxiety in me, and having these arguments about a part of life where I felt vulnerable was just too much.

I haven’t forgotten the pain and loneliness of refusal that I experienced. I haven’t forgotten how it feels to be the wife who has too much to do and too little time. My shoulders can still feel the constant burden of knowing my husband thought I wasn’t good enough. I would hear the word “intimacy” and know that he wanted to talk about not getting enough sex. He would say he wanted to talk about our marriage, and it was about how I wasn’t fulfilling my sexual duty. I was never good enough. And the times when I would try to make an effort to be more available sexually, I would still hear, “I just wish you would do x more.” Even when I mustered up all the courage that I had, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

Those years were lonely for me, just as they were for my husband. I had no one to talk to about this. At work some of us would joke around about our husbands being horndogs—only no one ever talked about how to respond. No one ever said, “That’s how men are, and the best thing to do is grab on and enjoy the ride.” No one asked, “What are you going to do about it?” I was lonely, and I couldn’t talk to my best friend about it because he was the one causing my pain. I certainly couldn’t talk to my pastor because he was a man so would be biased in my husband’s favor. Plus, really, did I want to talk to my pastor about my sex life? Ew.

Finding online support was impossible. Now, to be honest, a wife who isn’t interested in more sex is unlikely to be looking only for support and encouragement in that area. I did occasionally look for information about how to get my husband to stop bugging me about sex. Still, I found nothing.

I believed, deep in my heart, that I was broken. I saw all my failures as a wife and mother. I knew intellectually that I was supposed to provide sex for my husband. So what was wrong with me that I couldn’t do it? Why was it so hard for me to just switch gears and turn from harried mama getting three kids through bathtime into sensuous seductress who shared all her charms with her husband? I didn’t have any charms, anyway. I was tired and frumpy and felt unbeautiful and all I could see was what I wasn’t doing enough of in every single area of my life.

Why couldn’t my husband love me, unconditionally, without any having to ruin it with sex?

Sometimes I thought that I was the only one in our marriage standing up for being righteous. He wanted to have sex, and I was trying to make sure we lived appropriate lives and did the things we were supposed to do. We went to church, we prayed before meals, we played with the kids, we took kids to soccer games and scouts. We were supposed to live a certain way, and it seemed that I was the only one trying to make sure we did that. He was always groping or pleading.

I hated nighttime because I knew what would happen. My husband would look at me, sigh, and say, “I suppose nothing’s going to happen tonight.” And I would say, “Well, I thought there might be, but the way you just asked didn’t exactly do anything for me.”

Why couldn’t my husband just hold me? Why were there all these expectations of me? When would I get to be comforted and held and loved? Why was I always the one to give, give, give? If I went to bed before my husband, I would feign sleep when he got to bed. If he went to bed first, I would find a project that I just had to get done. I got creative at avoiding sex.

Meanwhile, he got creative at asking for sex or wanting to have conversations about our sex life. He would speak in euphemisms in front of the kids where I couldn’t respond. He would twist my words so it sounded like I was contradicting myself. He would phrase things in a way that I was forced to say the word “no,” just so I would be made to feel like I was in the wrong.

Our Sad Stories

Reading the posts and messages from some eloquent men today has reminded me of what convicted me to begin this journey in the first place. Their pain takes me back to what I encountered on the day I began to change.

It has also reminded me of my own pain. I’m reading sad writing from sad men—and I find myself in tears, praying not for them but for the hearts of their wives who feel just as lonely and just as heart broken. Every time my husband felt sexually rejected, I felt emotionally rejected. His sexual expectations of me were fulfilled as much as my emotional expectations of him.

I remember how many nights I cried myself to sleep, knowing something was wrong and having no idea how to fix it. I know I caused my husband deep sorrow; my sorrow was just as deep.

It is easy now to see my selfishness and immaturity during those years. I clearly see how much I hurt my husband. I no longer think what I thought or feel what I felt.

Within my heart, I carry those memories of how it felt to be a refusing and gate-keeping wife.

I sinned. My husband sinned. We were two sinners lost and alone in a marriage to each other.

Today I have been reminded of the deep pain and loneliness of refusal–not just my husband’s but mine.

My husband is out very late with our son right now, waiting for a tow truck so my son’s two flat tires can be replaced tomorrow. I am in bed, alone, remembering how it felt to know that my husband was in the room right below me, sipping his whiskey and trying to settle himself enough to be able to climb into bed with the woman he loved who wouldn’t love him back. Two hearts, wanting the same thing, carrying their own sorrow, drifting alone in a marriage. I had no idea that the path to my own healing was to aid in my husband’s healing.

My prayers for the next few days are for wives who are seeking the hearts of their husbands as they work on their own healing as well.

How can I pray for you?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

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21 Thoughts on “The Sorrow of a Refusing Wife

  1. Thanks for the reminder of what the other side feels. I think often we forget and focus on our pain, when need to focus on our spouses pain more and work to lessen it. If we both did that, marriages would be a lot stronger.

  2. Thanks for the reminder of the other side of this. I think often we focus on our own pain, when really we should focus on the pain of our spouse and how we can mitigate it. If both spouses did that, marriages would be a lot stronger.

  3. “Why couldn’t my husband love me, unconditionally, without any having to ruin it with sex?”

    I can’t count how many times I thought this. I’m pretty sure he felt the same way. It hurts to hear him talk about that time in our marriage.

  4. ” I was never good enough. And the times when I would try to make an effort to be more available sexually, I would still hear, “I just wish you would do x more.” Even when I mustered up all the courage that I had, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. ”

    So how did this change? You just kept mustering your courage until one day your husband turned and said, honey I’m so satisfied with our sex life. ? I know I am coming out of the same hurt you described.. and we are well on our way, but how long does it take? Do you feel like enough now? Did your husband eventually adjust his expectations a bit so you both met in the middle?

    • Well, pretty much, yes. I just kept trying because by then I was convicted that it was the right thing to do. After a few weeks of having to be intentional and muster up courage, behaving in sexual generosity became a habit and courage was rarely required.

      We continue on the process of growth. I would say that it took about six months for my husband to be more relaxed and stop exhibiting the most difficult of his “refused husband” behaviors. It was a full year before he found courage to ask me what was going on. It was another year after that before he trusted me enough sexually to ask to try something new. And at that point, he was completely satisfied.

      Just as important, I learned that I am satisfied with our sex life as well. Recently I have realized that there are absolutely no barriers between us. We are completely uninhibited with each other.

      There was no change of expectations and no meeting in the middle. Rather, the concept of expectations simply faded away. When one of us has a need, the other fulfills it. It is about OUR shared sexual and emotional intimacy. When I meet his needs, I am also fulfilling my own, and vice versa.

      I am more than enough, and I now realize that I have been all along.

  5. I’m seeking the heart of my husband; that’s all I’ve ever wanted. It hurts to keep hearing about the sin of the refusing wife when husbands are refusing, too…refusing to let their wife in, refusing to love other than sexually. I know–without sex and oxytocin men can’t have those warm fuzzy feelings toward you, want to engage in relationship, etc. If we aren’t supposed to be having sex before marriage (God’s plan) then how do men ever get to the point of knowing they want to spend their life with you or express their love for you if they aren’t having sex with you? It just doesn’t add up. I, too, went through periods of refusing. Sex was always about him, when he wanted it, over in 10 minutes, etc.Fifteen years ago he decided, alone, that he would ‘ask God to take away his sex drive.’ About eleven years ago I decided I should be pursuing him sexually but it’s generally been “I’m tired; I’m old now; didn’t we just have sex yesterday…” No matter how often we have sex or what I try to do differently or try to address by talking about the issues, for me it’s always shallow; there is no real emotional or spiritual aspect to this part of our lives.How long should a wife continue to be sexually engaging when she NEVER gets emotional fulfillment and rarely gets sexual fulfillment from the relationship? How long am I responsible to “heal” my husband through sex? Seemingly he isn’t interested in having any responsibility, getting any healing (“he doesn’t need any”), or having a real marriage relationship. Recently he asked if I ever thought about if, after he died, I would just find someone to have sex with, a ‘sex partner’ so to speak, available for sex when you wanted it (he said if you were lonely). He asked me this because he has decided people make too big a deal of sex, that it’s JUST sex. To be honest, I was appalled and shocked (but made sure to keep my composure and not let on how much this hurt me). In his words, he wants to do this ( if I die first),what he wants to do with no strings attached (he even said no one would get hurt. ha!) and with no credence at all given to what God says about sex outside of marriage. His ‘reasoning’ was, he’d be old (we’re 57), as though God’s standard has an expiration date. After the initial shock I thought, no wonder we’ve had so many problems. It’s not just my imagination that this man, who professes with his mouth to love me, just wants sex with no strings attached. I feel blindsided, hopeless and robbed. Yeah, you can pray for us.

    • L, I don’t even know what to say. The hurting can go on and on, back and forth, until it feels impossible. Sexual refusal and emotional refusal are both so painful. I will absolutely be praying for you, and I’ll be praying for comforting words for you as well. Be blessed, and know that you are a beloved child of God.

  6. Your last several posts have really hit home. I long for connection with my wife and the pain is beyond description. It is not only emotional (yes men have those) but can actually be felt in the core of my being. I was meditating about this post while sitting in traffic on the way home this evening and a scripture came to mind. Marriage is a type or shadow of the Christ’s relationship with His people. I have read on other blogs and maybe this one too where even the physical act of sex is related to that relationship (I believe Peaceful Wife also has posted about it) but this evening I saw it a little differently. I believe there is something special about the role of the father in God’s order of the family. Numerous times we see where the father calls in his children and blesses them. Call it the Father’s Blessing if you will. When the order of the home is off, that blessing is cut off. Along that vain the scripture that came to me was Matthew 23:37-39. Husbands/fathers are a representation of Christ in the family and with just a little changing of some words (kind of like your recent post of Song of Solomon) I think these verses shed some profound light on what happens in the family when the husband is rejected. I have pasted in the NKJV of the actual scripture below and then a copy with the changes.

    37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”[g]

    37 “O (insert wife’s name), (insert wife’s name), the one who crushes your husband’s spirit and destroys the man who God sent to you! How often he wanted to gather you and your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see your man (the true man) no more till you say, ‘Blessed is your husband who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”[g]

    I share a personal story as an example of this. My wife had an accident and when I arrived at the scene, she was telling me what happened. As she talked, she began to get choked up and teary eyed. There was no anger in my heart about the banged up cars or what might happen to our insurance premiums or anything else….just an overwhelming desire to “take her under my wings” and hold her…comfort her…give her a safe place to cry and let all the emotions go. BUT I dared not. I have not been allowed to touch her for quite some time. It broke my heart all over again. I wanted to bless her, to give her the blessing of a husband, but I was rejected. The really sad thing is God placed it there to minister healing but instead we both walked away wounded. Her because of an unwillingness to receive and me because I was not allowed to give. I had to keep my blessing. Wives…PLEASE…don’t make your husbands keep their blessings.

    Bless you Chris and Big Guy too for sharing your lives with us. May the Lord multiply a hundredfold the healing you sow back into our lives and family.

    • My heart aches for you and your wife. To not be able to bless or be blessed . . . how very sad this is. I can’t imagine life with no touch and no blessings. You and your wife are definitely in my prayers.

    • @Anon, I hear your pain. I understand as best I can, however, you stated in your own words that you “dared not” give your wife a blessing the day of the accident. You could have stepped beyond your pain and her defenses and tried once again but you chose not to, maybe out of fear of rejection . This is a cycle I see in my own relationship. I get offended or hurt but my husband says I am mad so he withdraws. The more he withdraws, the more hurt I am and so on and so on. It’s maddening. I was told that he would continue to avoid me (emotionally and physically) until I got a positive attitude. It’s hard to stay positive when your’e basically invisible. I tell him, no, I’m not mad, I’m hurt or depressed but he refuses to accept what I say and instead goes with his own interpretation/perception and because he chooses to believe I am angry, he avoids me emotionally and withholds affection, all touch. It IS hurtful. It doesn’t make me angry (for the most part) but has broken something deep inside me (the SOS v.37 you use could just as easily be changed to a husband crushing the spirit of the wife God gave him). I want my husband to get over the “I’m not allowed to” do this or that mindset and quit giving in to fears and do what he feels compelled by the Spirit to do. If you felt you should have reached out and comforted, you should have, whether or not it was received. Yes, rejection is horrible. I imagine your wife has put up walls for a reason, as have you but, no one can make you keep your blessings. You alone are responsible to choose to give blessings or choose to keep them to yourself. Like a friend told me once, decide what is the right thing to do and then, just do it.

      • landschooner on September 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm said:

        I know this comment is old but I just read it. I have to disagree. Anon KNEW what his wife’s reaction would be. (just as I KNEW when my wife would refuse sex. I wasnt stupid) I dont mean this in an offensive way, but a wife can’t behave like a growling angry dog, snapping at the hand, and then be angry as well that a comforting hand stays away. Wives are sentient adults that are in control of their own minds. If Anon’s wife doesnt want to be comforted and repeatedly punished Anon for any attempts he has made in the past, then he did right to stay away.She isnt a child..

        Anyway, thats my take on it.


        • To be fair, we don’t read that Anon’s wife was angry. L is right that a husband can choose to reach out and make the offer of comfort even when his wife has withdrawn from him sexually. Likewise, a wife can reach out to offer sexual comfort to her husband even when he has withdrawn from her emotionally.

          Each spouse can make the choice to offer love every time–but when that love has been rebuffed, time and time again, it is understandable that this is a difficult choice to make.

          I wonder how often anger is just hurt, disguised and unrecognized. We are easily so caught in our own hurt that we can’t see the other person’s hurt.

          Landschooner, couldn’t we just as easily say this?

          . . . a husband can’t behave like a growling angry dog, withdrawing his blessing and then be angry as well that a comforting body stays away. Husbands are sentient adults that are in control of their own minds.

          And is it possible that a husband could rephrase one of my sentences?

          I had no idea that the path to my own healing was to aid in my wife’s healing.

          Once we have been hurt, whether we are husband or wife, refused or refusing, it is that much harder the next time to reach out and do the loving thing without fear of being hurt again. And again and again and again.

        • landschooner on September 17, 2014 at 10:08 pm said:

          Not sure how to reply to your reply in the right spot : ) so I’ll do it here.

          Regarding the car accident. Anon is not allowed to touch his wife AT ALL apparently. L was saying that he should have gone ahead and did that anyway. Am I reading her wrong?

          You decided to be sexual with your husband even though he wasnt there for you emotionally. But what if he bit your head off when you tried to be sexual? Repeatedly? Are you supposed to tackle him while he’s in the shower? To me thats the analogy that fits what L is saying. Anon couldnt even COMFORT his wife. What was he supposed to do?

          I get what you are saying (I think) about giving without receiving what YOU need, but if even trying to give what supposedly is being asked for is rejected? “Step past her defenses” was the phrase L used.

          Maybe I’m not understanding what she was saying. Its almost like she is saying ignore a “No” ???

          Sorry if I’ve confused her point.


        • I understood her to say that if he felt God’s urging to comfort, then he should have done so–that even knowing that he was likely to be rejected, he should have made that choice if that urge came from God. (Sometimes, it is in a crisis that we can break through walls.)

          I am not sure what he was offering what she had asked for. Offering emotional comfort via touch might make it a different kind of thing.

          I am not completely sure I understand it all, either. Once we get tangled up in hurt, it is hard to see how everything fits together. It’s kind of like Christmas tree lights that snag on each other to the point that you can’t tell one end from the other. Trying to explain a tangle of hurts to someone else isnt an easy thing.

          Perhaps L will return and clarify for us.

  7. ” Two hearts, wanting the same thing, carrying their own sorrow, drifting alone in a marriage.”

    This sounds so familiar…This little sentence describes our marriage for so many years. Not only did she not realize the suffering I was going through, l also didn’t realize the suffering she was going through. Suffering for the same reason, for different reasons. I am so thankful that we were in the right place in our hearts, at the same time. Thankful that God opened our hearts and directed us to sites such as yours. Your writing has been a true blessing in our relationship. Not only ours, but our relationship with God had been strengthened as well. I some times feel as though your words are directed toward us personally. It is comforting to know that we are not alone in our struggles and others are battling the same issues as we are. Not that I want others to struggle,but understanding that we are not unique in our struggles and can learn and heal from the wisdom and sharing by others battling the same issues. I pray that God continues to bless you in your work here and you can continue to help heal where healing is needed.

    • I just happened to stumble onto this site. The story sounded so very familiar with what I am currently going through. I am only about 3 years into my marriage with no kids and have been feeling the sexual rejection for about a year now. I cannot seem to break through the communication lines without her getting very upset about it and wanting to avoid the topic. She has told me that she is mad from the times earlier in our marriage when she claims she was convinced unwillingly to have sex. Just as a back story I in no way have ever been physically threatening to her ever and have truly never meant to emotionally hurt her to have relations.

      It just perplexes me that she has been mad about this for the last year. I only want to see her happy and we are great together in all other aspects of our lives. I only wish she would listen to what I have to say and talk things out because its very hurtful to me. I have read a couple of books on the subject and she knows this. On the other hand she has been very close minded and is not willing to read up or discuss. I don’t think she realizes this hurts me. I don’t expect a lot but would like to have these intimate relations every once in a while. Its not so much that but its more of a trust issue that I would love to see from her. I am a patient man and love her very much but this seems to be unhealthy. Is there anyone out there that can give me advice?

      • You are still early in your marriage, and it is good to address this before you have decades of bad patterns and hurt behind you.

        You say you don’t understand that she’s mad about this for a year. You wish she would listen to you. You don’t think she realizes this hurts you. You want her trust.

        So let me turn it around: What have you done to try to understand why she’s still mad? Have you listened to her? Do you realize that you hurt her? How have you demonstrated your trustworthiness with her heart?

        Does your wife feel that you truly heard her heart about the way things were early in your marriage? Does she feel listened to by you?

        One of the things that hurt me most in my marriage was when I finally found words to be able to communicate something I had really struggled with and my husband told me that there was no point in talking about it because it was in the past. That deflated me in a way nothing else ever has. I had taken a risk in sharing my heart, and he dismissed it. It made it even harder for me to trust him. I needed him to acknowledge that he had hurt me (even though that wasn’t his intention), and every time he commented that he didn’t understand why I was still upset, it reminded me of how little effort he’d made to understand me.

        While you never meant to emotionally hurt her, if she felt hurt, that is her reality–and it is unchanged by what your intention was. She hurt, and that hurt is tangled up in her view of sex and your desire for her. It may be that you need to revisit this with her and ask her forgiveness. Another reader once shared the languages of apology site in a comment. Perhaps you can take a look at it and think about what apology would be most meaningful to your wife.

        Yes, there are some things your wife should work on–but I suspect that these might be some things you can do to cultivate an environment in which your wife feels emotionally safe enough to be able to do the things she needs to for her own growth and for the sake of your marriage.

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