Giving Up

Neglecting sexual intimacy means that you are giving up on some of the best gifts God has for you in your marriage.


Hillsong’s Hosanna includes the lyrics “break my heart for what breaks yours.” I think of those words every time I receive a message from yet another hurting spouse. Surely God’s heart breaks for hurting marriages.

Right after listening to that song today, I received an email. Sadly, it wasn’t much different from many other emails I’ve received: yet another husband is giving up the pursuit of intimacy in his marriage and thinking that death would be better than the misery in his life.

My friends, I wish I could tell you how much this hurts my heart.

At one time, I wished my husband would give up the pursuit of intimacy with me. I was tired of the fighting, the constant tension, and the emotional hurt that seemed to pile on top of me, day after day and night after night.

Although I was physically interested in sex, my emotional state could turn me off like the flip of a switch.

Reading the emails and comments I see from husbands who are chronically deprived of sexual intimacy, I see what I almost had in my husband: a man beaten down by the lack of connection with the one person who is supposed to show him love, thinking that death might be a better alternative to the life he is living.

That is what I nearly condemned my husband to. Although my husband wouldn’t have sought death, he certainly didn’t go out of his way to avoid it.


Big Guy has a host of medical issues, many of which have become more complicated because he went several years without pursuing treatment.

He had been physically uncomfortable, knowing his body didn’t feel right—but at the time when treatment would have headed off much of what he faces now, he had no reason to try to stick around. He figured he was worth more to me dead than alive, so why fight it? What was the motivation to get better?

I noticed none of his physical symptoms. Why not? I was too busy avoiding him and being angry with him for his constant sexual pressure. Even more, there was part of me that thought my life might be easier if he would die. He wouldn’t be begging me for sex anymore. I could raise the kids, get sympathy for being a widow, and eventually settle down into a new marriage that surely would be easier than the one I had.

The lack of intimacy in our marriage was driving my husband toward his death, emotionally and physically. I neither noticed nor cared, and neither did he.

I didn’t put my husband on the path to poor health, but I didn’t make him want to leave that path once he got there.

Death seemed like a better option than the marriage I allowed my husband to have.


When I took that first step to work on sexual intimacy, I figured it would make my husband happy. I had no idea how much I would gain as a result.

  • True intimacy is a gift beyond what I had imagined. Sex is part of that, but it isn’t the whole story. When I struggle, I know I am safe sharing it with Big Guy. I know he will pray for me and encourage me. He sees me at my worst, yet he reaches out to embrace me. He sees me exhausted from a difficult week, and he bathes me.
  • I feel a sense of belonging in my marriage that I have never felt elsewhere. The hug we share at the end of the day when he comes home from work settles me and makes me feel like my home is truly home once more.
  • I have a man who is trying to stay alive—because he wants more time with me. He is working with several specialists to address his health problems. He has something to live for, and I am part of that.
  • As an overweight woman in a world filled with photo editing, I often struggle to feel beautiful. But when I am with Big Guy, I know how beautiful I truly am.
  • Feeling connected with him rather than at constant odds with him brings much peace into my life.
  • I have total freedom in the marriage bed with him. He has seen me in ways that no other person ever has.
  • I have been trusted with his heart. After experiencing years of rejection and a lack of love from me, I now hold the very precious gift of his heart in my hands. I have seen him in total uninhibited freedom just as he has seen me.
  • Sex has become a gift—a connection, a celebration, a communion. The thing I fought for so many years now commemorates our marriage time after time.

These things aren’t just good, they are the best things in my life. I have work that I find meaningful, young adult kids who are a joy, and good friends—but these things that have grown in my marriage are part of God’s best goodness for me.

I am glad to be able to say how thankful I am for my husband and for the intimacy between us. I am thankful that I managed to take that first step on a journey that led us to where we are now.

If I had not taken that journey, I would have given up the greatest joys in my life.


Every time I get an email from another husband who is giving up the pursuit of intimacy, my heart hurts.

I am heartbroken for him, of course. Yearning for the thing you thought would be part of marriage is a painful place to be. This man, like many others (see this page), is miserable.

Just as much, though, I am heartbroken for his wife—and for all the other wives like her. Like I was.

In neglecting the sexual intimacy in their marriages, they are missing out on so much for themselves.

They are missing the very things that bring me the most joy.

It breaks my heart—and I think it breaks God’s heart, too.

Neglecting sexual intimacy means that you are giving up on some of the best gifts God has for you in your marriage.

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32 Comments on “Giving Up”

  1. What are your thoughts on my situation? My husband has declared that he wants a divorce. I have set a boundary that I cannot be sexual with him knowing that he has no intention of working on our marriage so we can heal. When I have been sexual with him, the afterburn for days, is that he barely acknowledges me. My heart can’t take this patten. I know that God’s heart is breaking for our situation.

    Before our marriage took a nose drive, I often turned him away..I was too tired, felt to fat, was selfish, just wanted to sleep, etc. I didn’t understand his needs and at times , I didn’t care. I did reject him. Intimacy scared me BIG TIME. He was alone for years and now I am alone walking in a divorced marriage.

    I pray daily for God to shine his light on my home, my husband, my children, my heart.

    1. I don’t know that I would be sexual with my husband if he’d said he wanted a divorce, either. That is so sad.

      Is he actually working toward divorce (such as filing, moving out, etc.)? If he is still pursuing you sexually, that might speak more to his true hope than his words. After I began working on sexual intimacy, my husband went through a time when he emotionally withdrew from me even more than before. This lasted around a year, I think. It’s almost like he was too afraid to allow himself to truly experience the intimacy that was there after sex, for fear that it was about to be ripped away from him again. I prayed for compassion for him, and that helped me keep going. But it is very hard to feel compassion for the person who is hurting you, isn’t it?

      You and your marriage are in my prayers. I believe God’s heart is breaking. Your husband’s may be, too, and I will pray for his heart to heal.

      1. I am so sorry for your situation, original poster. I just wanted to add that my husbsnd and I went through a difficult time that included refusal…though he was the one who refused. He wanted sex, but felt masturbation was easier than having sex with me because I wanted him to give me oral sex or manual sex because I couldn’t climax through intercourse alone like girls in porn and movies do.

        We had a big fight, worked some things out, and our frequency skyrocketed. However, sex was so disconnected. I felt like we were just using each other to masturbate. I remember during sex inwardly begging him to look at me, savor me, enjoy me, love me. It took about 2 years but now we have much more connected, loving sex. Still needs work, but we are on the right path.

        Sex hurt emotionally for all those years, but I prayed and fought through it for the better end. I admit that I am exhausted and sick of feeling like the one doing all the work, trying to be so good, and he is so comfortable sitting back, indulging in worldliness….I feel like I pay every price, get the poop end of every stick, but Psalm 4:5 says righteousness is a sacrifice.

        I married my husband out of disobedience. Unequally yoked. This is the consequence of my choice. I have to be strong and work through this.

      1. This is a great article. I have often wondered if my husband is experiencing a mid life crisis. There were several events that happened before he announced he was finished in the marriage. I definitely had somewhat of a midlife crisis professionally. Our financial situation two years back was very poor. I have since gone back to work full time. For years he has carried the financial loaf as a self employed business owner and I stayed home with our children and also had my own business. This combination really put us in the whole financially.

        We are both in our 50’s. I am not getting any younger. Life is going by while I wait for him to decide if he is in the marriage or out.

    2. hopeful,

      Some things in your description just don’t feel like they fit together. I hope you can read this without writing me off. Rejection in marriage doesn’t create a small wound. It can destroy a man’s spirit and his desire to live. Healing that can take a long time. It isn’t about just stopping a rejecting behavior, it’s about starting to show sincere respect and desire.

      You said you were scared of intimacy before your marriage took a nose dive, but what about now? You seem to be doing the same thing as before, but calling it a “boundary” makes it feel and sound reasonable, maybe even comfortable.

      When someone treasures another person, how do they react to losing that loved one? Does your reaction show your husband that you will miss him? that you love him? that you treasure him?

      He is likely feeling rejected, worthless, and discarded more than ever before. He has already endured those feelings for a long time, by your description. Even God doesn’t have infinite patience. (Jer. 3:8)

      Saying you made this boundary because he won’t work on healing, complet//ely confirms his feelings. Even giving him sex would seem empty in t/hat context. Maybe that is the reason for the reaction you saw from him after sex. It is completely possible to have sex, and still refuse all intimacy.

      So the question is: Do you want to love your husband and save your marriage? Or, do you want to make boundaries and pray in broad generalities? One of those options might work. The other will absolutely fail.

      I sincerely hope you will put your husband ahead of all other people and find healing for both of you.

      1. Thank you for this response. I have read it over 4 times while sitting in church. I am praying for God to lead me to scripture to help me discern how to handle this situation.

        I absolutely want to have my marriage restored. We both feel very hurt and rejected.

        I am very confused. There are so many opinions from many different people on this matter in my life. Do I retain my dignity and not be used, or stop rejecting my husband through this boundary and show him honor despite his claim that he wants a divorce.

        Thank you Object of Contempt for your thoughts. I am receptive to all help and thoughts on this matter.

        God please show up. Please soften the 4 hearts in my home.

        1. I am praying for you today, hopeful. I would like to give you some other things to take to God in prayer.

          Perhaps there is a way to see it other than either/or. You see your choices as dignity/not being used vs. stop rejecting. First, I would ask you to consider what you mean by dignity. Sometimes when I say it, I am thinking about my being true to what God has laid in front of me. Other times, sadly, what I am really referring to is pride. I am concerned about what others would say to me or about me. Or what I really mean is fear of vulnerability. Be sure you know what you mean by dignity and why that is important to you.

          Second, consider whether there is dignity to be found in sacrifice. My situation wasn’t as difficult as the one you face, and what worked for me may not be a good fit for you. What I did was view my entire effort as a sacrifice. I made a choice to set aside my fear of vulnerability and risk of hurt for the sole purpose of helping my husband feel loved. Yes, there was a selfishness to this, because I believed that if he felt loved he would be less grouchy–but still, I made choices every day to set aside my fears and desires for the purpose of serving my husband. It was not easy by any means. At times, I wondered if I was losing my sense of self. I worried that my identity was being subsumed under my husband’s. I was able to find dignity in the choice to serve and love.

          Your true choice is, perhaps, to align yourself with God’s will or to not do so. Your prayers, then, would be to ask God to align your desire with His, to give you the strength and courage to do what He wants even when you don’t understand or when you hurt. I found these verses especially helpful:

          Matthew 7:12: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
          1 John 3:17: But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
          Luke 6:36: Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

          Viewing my husband as a Christian brother who was hurting helped my heart do what our marriage needed.

          Also, consider the dignity to be found in knowing you truly did everything you could do to save your marriage. Let’s say you keep this boundary (I think Object of Contempt is right in his question about whether it is different from what you were doing before–doesn’t this look like the same thing to your husband as he’s always experienced?). You tell your husband that there is no sex until he decides to stay in the marriage. He, seeing no effort on your part to make any changes (even though you know your heart is different, can he truly see it?), decides that there is no point in staying and submitting himself to so many more years of pain. The marriage ends. Five years from now, after you’ve seen the effects of a divorce on you, your kids, your friends, your relatives, you begin to wonder, Did I really do everything I could have to save our marriage? Is there anything I could have done differently toward the end to turn things around?

          Let’s say that you show your husband your love and commitment sexually now. You spend the next year setting aside your own desires for the purpose of showing your husband that he is loved and that you are willing to do different (and not just long enough to get him to change his mind). You show him all this, and he still chooses to walk away. When you look back on this in five years, you would have the dignity and assurance of knowing that you gave everything you had. You would have no regrets about the efforts you made once you realized the extent of his pain. None. Consider, then, what it would be like to look back and see that there was this thing you could have done but chose not to do. You might always wonder about what things would have been like. You would bear a different burden of responsibility for the divorce.

          You say you want your marriage restored. What are you willing to do to make this happen? Which of the choices in front of you has the best chance of healing your marriage? You are waiting for your husband to do something that he is likely in too much pain to do. So if you want to save your marriage, it might be you who has to brave the hurt.

          No matter what choices you make here, you are going to hurt. There is no way to avoid that. It’s a matter of which hurt you are willing to face in order to create an environment where your marriage can heal.

          I’m saying some prayers today on your behalf. And if I were sitting right there with you, I’d let you cry all over my shoulder if you needed to do. This has to be so hard for you.

        2. Chris….SO BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN. Thank you so much. I think the dignity you talk about is based on pride, fear, bitterness, and not wanting to be used.

          I have a thought weighing heavily on my heart to surrender my marriage and husband to God, again, on a different level. I do not want to reject my husband anymore. I am willing to risk my heart and vulnerability in order for my husband to heal and bend towards me. I never looked at the no sexual as an either/or or a black/white relationship. I love the scriptures you shared especially

          1 John 3:17.

          I can’t close my heart towards my husband. I have been praying for months for his heart to soften and open up to me, yet I am doing the same to him.

          I agree that I would rather look back 5 years from now knowing that I did what I could and went above and beyond..within reason…what the world would consider okay to do to save a marriage.

          I will continue to pray . I like Ezekiel 36:26 an *

          Job 8:5-8
          IF you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, he will surely rise upward and restore your healthy home.and though you started with little, you will end up with much.

          Thank you

        3. hopeful,

          I hope the confusion subsides. After I posted, I thought that I might’ve been more direct than I had a right to be. I don’t know anywhere near enough about your story. I am in a situation very similar to your husband’s, just not quite as far along. Mostly I just hoped my perspective would improve how much of your husband you can understand.

        4. I am glad you shared your thoughts on this. Understanding why a husband might be pulling away can be important in helping a wife find the courage to reach out to him.

        5. You may have to endure feeling used in pursuit of greater healing. I did. It started with 3 years of refusal on his part. He either refused sex or only did quickies for him. Then the big fight. Then 2 years of the disconnected sex. And I was so raw from the 3 years, suffering severe post partum depression, too, and living as a solo parent while he worked away from home most of the time. It was HARD. But things are much better sexually now. And maritally. Not perfect. Still a lot of hurt and some issues, but sooooo much better than before when I thought death or divorce was best.

        6. hopeful,

          Chris wrote in her comment about how and where you find dignity. I was really glad she did. Changing your perspective (renewing your mind) will be the vast majority of the work both of you have in front of you.

          If I may, there is another aspect of the “retaining dignity or being used” frame of mind that seems important to me. Maybe it will help you.

          Whereas Chris rightly points out that there is nothing undignified in sacrificing for your husband, I’m willing to bet that sacrifice is the opposite of what your husband needs, especially where sex and intimacy are concerned. Sacrificial sex impacts a man like it would impact you if he held his nose to kiss you. I assume that it would offend you, but not because he doesn’t like kisses — it would hurt because /you/ seem to offend him. Likewise, it’s easy to say there is a problem with sex and intimacy, but your husband sees that /he/ offends you. You won’t trust /him/.

          Here’s the change of perspective: When he wants sex, assume that what matters is that it is /you/ he wants. He has stayed so long through so much pain, I think it is almost a slam dunk that he values you even if he is angry. This is important. It means he isn’t using you because what he really wants is sex. Actually, he’s engaging in sex becaúse he really wants you! And, if you want him too, *sexually* — he doesn’t feel used — he feels special and valuable to you! And that is his goal. He wants you to feel desired and celebrate it, instead of making him a chore. He wants to be the object of your desire. I’ll say it again… That is what all of this is about.

          If you assume he is just using you, then having sex doesn’t just make /you/ feel degraded; it assumes the worst about his motives when he is giving you his very self. He is vulnerable and trusting you. If you can change your mind to see him this way,

          If it continues to be a sacrifice, then all that is offered to him is your body. How can he make love like that? It’s not possible. It becomes him “using” your body. So, dignity for both of you comes from indulging and pursuing and trusting each other.

        7. I wasn’t think of sex as the sacrifice. I was considering sacrificing pride, the desire for her husband to make the first step, etc. Your points about sex as a sacrifice are good ones. Even though he may say the sex is just physical, his words may be an effort to convince himself.

    1. I sent a text to my husband that I didn’t want the boundary that I set to put any more wedges between us. I let him know that I was going to keep moving forward and treat him the best way that I can. He will do one of two tvings6..continue his plan of divorce or allow the Holy Spirit to work in his heart. I do not want to reject him anymore. I leave my marriage in God’s hands.

      I have soaked up every word that has been spoken in this blog. I am very thankful to you all.

        1. Thank you Chris. You are a gift and have helped me tremendously. I am pretty beat up from all the pain we have had in our marriage in the last several months. I don’t want to create more by keeping my heart bound behind a razor sharp fence that won’t let my husband in. Maybe he does still care for me and continuing to seek intimacy with me is a small risk he is taking to softness his heart…or not. He has to live with his feelings and choices. As do I.

        2. I mentioned to my husband that I didn’t want to look back five years from now and feel regret on the boundary I had made with him. This was the second time I gently brought up that I wanted a connection to him and no more wedges. Unfortunately I got my hopes up and thought he would respond with some kind of affection. Sadly it’s just the opposite. Nothing at all from him. Totally avoidance of me in the physical sense. I don’t know what to do with this.

        3. It’s going to take time. You have made a clear decision to change, but it will be a while before your husband’s healing can even begin. He has to believe that you mean what you say, deal with his own emotional pain, unlearn years-long patterns of interactions, and learn new ones. Read these two posts: I’m Changing, but My Husband Doesn’t Seem to Notice and Rebuilding His Trust. (And then take a look at the other posts on this page.)

          I’m sorry you’re hurting right now. You’ve made this huge, huge leap for your marriage, and you get . . . nothing. It took my husband an entire year before I saw any change. It was a long time–a very long time. But . . . it did happen. That first year was very hard for me, but I persisted. My marriage feels completely different to both of us than it did back then. This is a time for you to cling to God, take lots of deep breaths, and show your husband that he can trust you with his heart.

  2. While I have not wished death upon myself as a result of sexual disfunction between my wife and I. I did fervently pray that God remove the curse of sexual desire from me so that I would no longer have to be tortured every night, every day. For decades!

    The good news (sort of) is that as I have aged, my libido has decreased. And also after more than 20 years my wife and I agree going to counseling and my wife is putting forth effort to deal with her deep ingrained negative thoughts and feelings associated with sex.

    It is a long slow slog and very bumpy journey. One that I have still struggled with not wanting to give up on as the destination has seemed so many times to be impossible to reach for her… And us. It is so very hard to maintain hope when being punched in the gut, over and over again.

    To the woman above who’s husband SAYS he wants a divorce. But as Chris states, if he is still pursuing you sexually, his actions betray his words. I know it is easy to convince yourself that he is just out to get his rocks off and use you for sex. But for many if not most men, the way they try to connect is through sex. Is this his way to try to reconnect with you? Is he remote afterwards to “test” to see if you pursue him back? I urge you to talk with your husband and be honest about if you want to seek reconciliation. And whether you are committed to do the extremely hard work to make that happen and if he is also willing to do simarly hard work as well.

    I’m not going to tell you the journey is easy. Far from it. All I can say is that you both owe it to yourselves as well as to your family to give it all you both have to try.

    If your marriage is headed for divorce now, what really do you have to lose by talking with him?

    The lack of sexual and physical connection with my wife is the single worst part of my life. Nothing else even comes a distant second. And many men have said the same thing. To the point as this article points out many men contemplate death, or not fighting to save their life. Literally thinking the family is better off without them. That is amazing testimony to the power of the sexual connection represents in marriage. One that is unfortunately little understood by most women and even hidden by the men themselves. It is a hidden secret that has destroyed countless marriages.

    Fortunately there are some out there fighting this. And Chris is on the front lines of this struggle. Hopefully through her and others efforts this unfortunate marriage killer can be defeated.

    1. Thank you for your what you shared. My heart aches for you. I never realized the impact having a sexual relationship has on a husband.

      My husband has stated in therapy that his desire is just physical.

      And he has said that it’s to late for reconciliation. I have stopped twisting myself into a pretzel to fix our marriage. I have been able to string several days in a row of being able to let go and let God.

      1. Your husband’s words may not be an accurate reflection of his deepest heart’s desire. He may be too afraid to hope. I am sad for the heartbreak you are both experiencing. Pray for your husband’s Christian walk and for his heart to heal, as well as for your own. (((Hugs)))

        1. Thank you Chris. You had asked me if he has taken any far as I know he has not done anything legally. He is still in the home and we are still in the same bed. I slept in the basement for awhile when he first said he wanted a divorce. Then I realized that I had a right to be in my own bed. If he wants out, he can leave.

          When we were in counseling the therapist concluded a conversation my husband was sharing in that I was “a friend with benefits.” Therefore I set a boundary, eye didn’t stick with it. This time I have been firm in my boundary sexual intimacy since he continues to want a divorce.

          My husband use to be active in men’s small group’sand read the Bible daily. From what I see, he has stopped both. He attends church, going back to his Catholic roots. I attend a worship service by myself on Saturday nights and on Sundays I take my boys to Sunday school/ Sr. HIGH small group at our old church . My two boys have roots and connections to people here. This is the church that we all went to. My husband is very angry about this.

          Yes..very sad time for us all. I continue to stand for my marriage, and have pulled back some for my own protection. It will take alot of hard work to be able to heal.

  3. Hopeful,
    Your story is extremely similar to mine. Except my husband cut himself off physically completely, other than sleeping in bed with me. He said he wanted a divorce. Like you, I had refused or not fully participated for multiple reasons. It was his main complaint. I tried to make up for it but he would not let me near him. Cold, angry, contemptuous. Told me there was no hope. I prayed and cried and begged God to change him AND me. I journaled and prayed for hours every day and stayed quiet with my husband as much as possible. Every once in a while I would offer a massage or something, but he would refuse. He refused counseling as well. I begged God to help me love and show love to him, and apologized for my end. No response. After 5 MONTHS of this he has softened a little. He is smiling at me again and talking some. He has initiated intimacy. I am working hard on being a gentle, compassionate and respectful wife (all things I thought I was doing, btw) I was so wrong. Because without the physical aspect of it, he could not feel my respect, love, any of it. I just want to encourage you to hang in there, LAY YOUR LIFE DOWN, and pray that God will use you to minister to your husband no matter what he “deserves” or doesn’t deserve. The Love and Respect book helped me a lot, as well as For Women Only. So much I did not know. I will be praying for you as well.
    Much love.

    1. MadeNew. What did your husband want a divorce ? How long has he threatened you with divorce?

      I told my husband that I will love him the best that I can and I will continue to move forward. I am going to become a better person despite my marriage.

      Somedays are easy and my burdens are light. Other days are very hard to get through because the loneliness and rejected is severe.

      I won’t give up hope. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. This hits home for me. Other than one month last year of actual effort from my wife, our whole marriage has been intimacy deprived. She tells me all the time how grateful she is for all the things I do and brags to her friends often but to me, it is all just empty words with no action. She just isn’t willing to put in the effort to make this work. I know for a fact that I have high blood pressure problems but at this point I see no reason to do anything about it. Maybe a heart attack or stroke would end my despair or at least end my sex drive. If I died then she would be financially taken care of and wouldn’t have to deal with my depression. Everybody wins.

      1. We had a huge screaming argument actually. My words seemed to sink in but just when it looked like we were turning things around, it all went back to how it was before with no warning. After that month, it was another 2 months later before she seemed interested in me again. She still says she loves me often but it is getting painful to hear now knowing that she is capable of showing it but just doesn’t think it is important enough to be bothered with.

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