I know plenty of you who read here are frustrated by less sex than you want. You’ve heard all your life how men are sexually insatiable, but you’ve not found this is the case in your marriage. You’re hurt, frustrated, scared, and confused. Is it him, or you? Is he broken, or are you sexually undesirable?
First, I want you to know it’s not you. Even if he’s told you it’s you (in fact, especially if he’s told you this), it’s not you. Sure, you may have made mistakes and contributed to the issue, but at most you have added a small amount.
Why Men Say No:
We recently did a survey on husbands who say no to sex. What follows is primarily from that, with some added information based on more than a decade of talking to couples about sex. (Full survey results here).
- Too Tired: The number one reason men say no to sex is they are too tired. Of those men who said they say no, 45% selected this as the, or one of the, reasons. Thing is, tiredness doesn’t necessarily mean he has lost his sex drive. Doing sex right with you takes half an hour or more. Getting a quick release in the shower takes a couple of minutes. He’d rather have real sex with you, but if he doesn’t feel he has the time or energy for that he may choose empty release on his own just to kill the nagging of his sex drive. I’m NOT telling you this is a good or right choice, but it is far more common than most women think. The point I want to make here is he’s not choosing masturbation over sex with you; he is masturbating because he feels too tried to have sex with you. In other words, it’s not you, it’s him.
- Too Stressed: The second most common reason was stress, chosen by 33% of the men who say no. Unless you are a full on harpy, this one is also not about you.
- Sexual Problems: Twenty-eight percent of men say no because of various sexual function issues – 14% erection problems, 12% due to premature ejaculation, and 2% because they can’t climax or take a very long time. Men get really hung up about these things, and many would rather just stop having sex than admit to and deal with the issue. Of course, many of these men still have a sex drive and turn to masturbation and possibly porn to deal with that drive. Obviously none of these is about you.
- Depression: One in five men said depression was part of the reason they say no to sex. I suspect busyness and stress are factors in much of the depression. Again, this is not about you.
- Relationship Issues: One man in five said part of why he says no is his marriage relationship is a mess. This is not in line with the typical stereotype of men, but in fact many men can’t or won’t have sex if the relationship is bad off. This is especially true for men over 30 and not in the first years of marriage. This is one of the only things on the list that is probably partly about you. Of course if it’s bad enough he doesn’t want sex, odds are his wife has long since lost any interest in sex. She may be trying to use sex to fix or hold the relationship together, but it’s not likely she is chasing him due to her sex drive.
- Sex is Too Much Work: One in five men who say no to sex said they think sex is too much work. Before you go there, this is not about you. This one was chosen more by young men, and the least by the oldest group of men, and I would bet porn plays a huge part in this. It also goes back to the issue of being tired. If real sex exceeds the amount of time he feels he has, saying it’s too much work is his way of blaming his wife. Along the same lines 12% said they say no because their wife takes too long. Same root causes and issues for this. (I’ll do a separate post on these.) So he’s blaming you, but it’s not you. Really, it’s not.
- I’m Too Busy: Eighteen percent gave this as a reason. More than half of these men also said they were too tired.
- Masturbation: Seventeen percent of the refusers said they masturbate. This doesn’t mean others don’t masturbate – rather they realise their masturbation is not the reason they say no. Very few men choose their own hand over their wife unless something is wrong, and things like tiredness and stress are a common factor.
- Punishment: About one man in seven said he refuses sex to punish his wife. Some of these men are punishing her for refusing him in the past; some are using sex as a club for other things. While the reason may have something to do with you, his childish behaviour is not your fault.
- Lower Sex Drive: Only 15% of the men said they say no because they have a lower sex drive than their wife. Four times as many women said their husband’s sexual refusal is due to him having a lower sex drive. I suspect men saying no are perfectly fine with their wife thinking it’s about their sex drive as this is easier than admitting the ugly truth. The take away on this is odds are it’s not as much about his drive as you think. Taking this further, in the how do you feel about saying no section not a single man chose the “She is over sexed” choice to excuse his choice. I have no doubt some tell their wife this to make her stop asking, but in reality men know it’s not about her sex drive.
- Health Issues: Eleven percent say general health issues keep them from sex. In many of these situations, some form of sex would be possible if both the man and his wife were willing to think beyond what they have always done. Unfortunately some men feel not being able to have intercourse is unmanly, and just avoiding sex may seem easier for such men.
- I use Porn: Only 8% of the men selected this. We know about half the men in our sample groups are using porn. The men who choose this are telling us they think their porn use is part of why they say no to sex with their wife. This means most men who use porn don’t think they say no to sex because of their porn use.
- I’m having an affair: Not a single man choose this. I’ve seen other surveys which say men having an affair are usually still sexually active with their wife if she is willing. If he’s saying no, don’t assume an affair.
Is this a growing problem?
Men saying no to sex was all but unheard of in the past. Now it’s the fact of life for at least one wife in five. There is debate about what is really happening – is male refusal more common, or are we just starting to talk about it. I’ve always maintained it is some of both. Our survey supports the idea it’s more common. When we sort men by age group, we find the following:
Age 25-34: 19% have always said no
Age 35-44: 10% have always said no
Age 45-54: 6% have always said no
Age 55 or older: 3% have always said no
See the trend there? It is difficult to find men 55 and older who have always said no – only 3%. Among men 25-34 almost one in five has always refused on occasion. Whatever the reasons for men saying no, it’s becoming more and more common with each generation.
A final word from the survey – 31% of refused wives have considered divorce. I understand why a woman would think this way. If you feel that way, please do everything you can to fix the issue before it comes to that.
Like any problem, it won’t change without hard work. The first step is getting your husband to understand this is a big problem and you’re not willing to ignore it. According to our survey, almost half of refusing men feel bad for their wife, so he may already admit to himself it’s wrong. Tell him it hurts you, it hurts your love for him, and it’s putting your marriage at risk. Make it clear things can’t continue as they are; if he does nothing to change, your marriage relationship will change.
Once you get him to see the problem, be all about helping fix it. Ask him why he says no, using our survey if it helps. If he’s too busy, too stressed, or too tired, the only way to fix your sex life is to change his use of time. This may mean changing his job. It could mean moving into a smaller house so he doesn’t need to work so much. If he has sexual issues, find ways to fix them or work around them. Whatever it is, treat is as a couple issue, and do whatever you can to help.
If he says he has a low sex drive, our How to Get Him to Want Sex article might be helpful. If he just needs help getting turned on, the ideas there will be useful. Otherwise, they likely will not be enough.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’m very concerned about the growing number of men saying no in the marriage bed.