How to Have Sex When You Don’t Really Feel Like It


Sometimes sex requires gymnastics—not during sex itself, but in my mind before I can even have sex.

Learning to have sex when I didn’t feel like it was a huge part of my process of change. When I began to make the effort to change myself in the marriage bed, so many times I would lie there waiting, having to talk myself through what was coming:

It’s just sex. It’s just a few minutes. Your marriage needs it. You will both be glad you did it. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say or do. Let it happen.

Frankly, even since I began to change, I’ve had sex plenty of times when I haven’t really felt like it.

I don’t feel like having sex when . . .

  • I’m preoccupied with something.
  • My stomach or sinuses are feeling icky.
  • I haven’t had much emotional connection with my husband recently.
  • My sex drive just hasn’t been happening.
  • I’m tired.
  • I feel frumpy and unsexy.

However, I understand that sex is important—not just to my husband, but to me as well. I know that the connection we experience will help me feel closer to him. The post-orgasm hormones will help with pain relief for a while. It’s a good way to get my mind off something worrisome. I can help me fall asleep (when it doesn’t wake me up, that is).

I know sex is good for me, and I know that it is good for my marriage—but when my husband is interested and I’m not, it’s still a tough transition from whatever I’m doing in my head to sexy lady of the bedroom.

That’s where the mental gymnastics come in.

When I don’t feel like having sex, I do it anyway—with cheer and generosity, not just a sense of duty. My mental gymnastics move me from “I don’t feel like it” to “let’s get it on!” 

It isn’t always easy. We had a day recently when I’d been feeling emotionally disconnected from my husband. Our sexual frequency had been down (which makes it harder rather than easier for me to want to be sexual), and my husband gave me several indications throughout the day that he wanted us to do something that night.

Without even being aware of it at first, I began to go through the same old thought process I’d gone through for years:

Sex. I so do not feel like having sex. I just want to go to bed and read my book and not have to use any energy at all. Hmm . . . I wonder if I can talk him into watching another episode of this show instead. He insists on getting to sleep at the same time every night, and that would put us too close for him to want to do anything. Have I said anything yet today about feeling bad that I can use as an excuse?

At that point, I realized what I was doing. So I began the gymnastics routine I’ve developed for myself.

  1. I closed my eyes and took ten deep breaths to relax myself.
  2. Instead of thinking about sex, I brought to mind the positive, loved feeling I have after sex.
  3. I thought about how nice it was to feel that way and how it had been a while since I’d felt it.
  4. I reminded myself that sex was the best way for my husband to experience an emotional connection with me.
  5. I thought how nice it was that he wanted that connection with me.
  6. I thought about how loved he would feel—and that reminded me of how loved I would feel as well.
  7. I reminded myself of some of God’s truths about sex.
  8. I told myself that sex is for me, too, even when my husband is the one who makes the request.
  9. I thought about what I could do during sex that would make my husband smile.
  10. I smiled and realized I had just made a perfect landing. My routine was over, and I was ready.

When we’ve avoided sex for years, “I don’t feel like it” is such an automatic response to a sexual advance. Fortunately, we can overcome that response and get ourselves ready to have sex anyway.

It’s rare these days that I don’t feel like it, but the gymnastics routine is worth it every time.

Image courtesy of Vlado /

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15 Comments on “How to Have Sex When You Don’t Really Feel Like It”

  1. As a husband who is working through this problem with his wife I find it difficult to come to terms with your comments. One of the problems with the “Duty Sex” is that my wife felt used and “making” yourself have sex sounds like another use of my wife rather than with my wife. The fight for many women as I understand is that as desire wains, for a period my wife did her “duty” and before either of us knew it she resented doing something that she really did not want. I understand that part of the process is finding the mental focus to extend beyond desire, all very confusing and I wish I could fully understand it all.

    1. The point is that by working through the mental gymnastics, I was able to have sex because I wanted to–not out of a sense of duty.

      I was the queen of duty sex, with all of its disengagement and resentment. By figuring out how to shift my attitude toward one of my own desire to please my husband (and be pleased), it ceased to be duty sex.

      That said, I did struggle with the wording of some of this. It was more making myself want to have sex than making myself have sex.

  2. Appreciate the thought of the problems for wording as I feel so responsible for damaging my wife by creating a sense of duty versus joy. As we discuss this issue she has very little connection left to the days when we were younger of the joy sex brought to both of us. While I dislike blaming anything menopause stole that part of her. So many things happened at the same time, our relationship lost most of its connection. In the last twelve months we have rebuilt that part, we are once again best friends but she continues to struggle with her wanting to have sex as it reminds her so much of what we hurt. She sees my difficulty in serving both my desire to be sensitive to her needs but giving in to the absolute need on my part for physical contact that she just cannot bring herself to have at this time.

    1. Hi Getting Better,

      I can sympathize with your situation and appreciate your sensitivity.
      I came to this blog with concerns about refusal after menopause but I think Chris is trying to help women learn how to talk themselves into wanting sex when the only road block is desire. It can take a lot of mental work, but often pays off in pleasure, connection, and feeling loved.

      I don’t know if Chris has any blogs or suggestions on how to talk oneself into wanting sex (after menopause) when not only desire is gone but often arousal and orgasm are diminished and many times pain from dryness and tissue atrophy occur. Getting past the ‘not wanting to’ can only work for so long when there is discomfort and no pleasure.

      Menopause is not a breeze and affects both partners deeply.
      You are a wonderful man trying to understand the non-understandable.

      All couples will eventually go through menopause so it’s never to early to think about the sexual changes that will occur.

      I’m hoping Chris might have some idea’s for those of us that are beyond the just ‘not wanting’. What does the Bible say about when sex becomes painful and/or unpleasant? Is it ever ok to refuse?

      Can men learn to love their wives without sexual connection?
      If a woman has given to her husband for years, can he learn to be as giving to the wife when she can no longer be sexual?
      I would love to hear the answer to those questions.

      1. This post addresses some general aspects of being sexual in aging bodies, and I hope to address some specific menopause issues in another post soon. Menopause is no walk in the park, and my husband and I have both had to learn to work with a completely new version of my body.

        1. Great little post regarding Sex in the middle. Thank you.
          I guess we have to embrace the aging process with humor and humility and a few pillows thrown in for comfort 🙂
          Looking forward to the menopause post.

  3. Thank you for these sorts of articles – they are certainly challenging, but a great blessing!! My husband and I are in our first year of marriage and even before we wed I was determined not to be one of those women that just “turned off” sex after getting married. Now, with so many things against me (pregnant + symptoms of pregnancy, wacky hormones, low self-esteem, feeling disconnected, feeling terrified of the pain and of being vulnerable) it is so hard to even WANT sex or see it as a good thing.
    I know so much that it’s something valuable and prized in a marriage, and God has a lot to say about it too. Not all women are purposefully hurtful when they refuse their husbands though – sometimes it really is a battle that hurts the wife just as much as the husband (something for the men to keep in mind).

    1. Congratulations on your pregnancy! What a glorious opportunity to get to participate in God’s on-going creation. The hormones and body changes (and yes, the fear and anxiety that accompany pregnancy) certainly pose challenges.

      I encourage you to read “To Wives: Before You Were `Mommy,'” a wonderful post about remembering that the love between you and your spouse is central to your family.

  4. unfortunately, you refuse to address the situation when a man refuses to have sex with his wife for months on end.
    I think he is passive aggressive,.

    1. The ministry of this blog is for Christian wives who are making an effort to stop refusing. I am trying to encourage them as they work on their own growth. It isn’t so much that I refuse to address the situation. It just is outside the scope of this site.

      Sadly, many wives are refused by their husbands. Their heartache is real, too. Refused wives might want to check out the Spice and Love blog, written for women who have the higher drive in their marriages. The blog was on hiatus for a year, but it looks like she has begun posting again. Archived posts might be helpful and encouraging as well.

  5. What advice do you have for a wife who is unable to achieve orgasm during sex, despite her (and her husband’s) best efforts? After the birth of my second child (3 years ago), it’s only gotten harder and harder for me to reach climax, and I’m at a point now where it hasn’t happened in a long time. I know my lack of desire is hurting my husband, but I simply can’t get myself to want to do it anymore. Can sex be truly fulfilling when one partner never finishes? I know this sounds incredibly selfish, but I have a hard time enjoying sex that never gives me any benefit. I love my husband and I want to enjoy a fulfilling sex life with him, but it’s so hard to always see him getting all the pleasure while I’m left with nothing. It’s not like he hasn’t tried, but something is just different down there. He’s given up (and in a moment of frustration told me I take an inordinate amount of work, which wounded me deeply), and so have I. Sex has become “just for him” now (from my perspective at least, my husband is not a callous man and I know he wishes we could figure this out), which makes me resentful and less and less desirous of it.

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