He Wants Sex, But Won’t Ask

November 6, 2015

in Uncategorized

In the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to talk with several men who have stopped or all but stopped asking for sex. Two of them said their wife would say she wants more sex than he wants. All of these men still want sex, and the two whose wive’s think he is lower drive are wrong.

So what’s up?

Unhappy wife in bed © elnariz | dollarphotoclub.com

The short answer is these men, all married at least five years, are tired of asking and being told no much of the time. Beyond this, they would like their wife to initiate sex. So they don’t ask, or they ask rarely. If their wife suggests sex and these men think it’s “mercy sex” or out of obligation, they often say no thanks. They may also do things to avoid being in a situation where she might offer if they don’t think it’s from her desire.

The issue is these men are tired of thinking sex is mostly for them. They don’t want one-sided sex, or sex they enjoy far more than their wife. They want a mutual sex life, and if they can’t have it they will settle for far less sex.

I have no idea if these men’s perceptions are right. Maybe their wives don’t want or enjoy sex much, but it could be something else. Perhaps they don’t express their desire or enjoyment well.

Women not expressing sexual desire and enjoyment is common problem. Perhaps some of this is a valid gender difference, but I think it’s much more a result of cultural garbage. Women who want or enjoy sex “too much” are called rude names. Another factor is not wanting to play into wrong porn messages, resulting in downplaying enjoyment. 

If your husband seems to have lost interest in sex, I suggest you work on making it abundantly clear to him you want and enjoy sex. Say something like “I need you between my legs now” or just get into bed naked and do something to get him aroused. After sex tell him how great it was for you. If you feel uncomfortable try something silly like “Best sex ever!”

By the way, if your husband shows no drop in sexual interest, doing these things will bless him and prevent it from becoming a problem.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and I want to make sex as good for her as she makes it for me.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kendra November 6, 2015 at 6:04 am

It is useful to hear these men’s stories. And I understand your point. BUT {and it’s a big but… ;-) }, I trust you’re counseling these men to knock it off. There is no room in a healthy adult relationship for game-playing. If she claims she’s the higher-drive spouse and he’s turning her down because he thinks it’s mercy sex, I don’t know if her attitude/behavior needs to change but I know that his definitely does. How will he know they have a mutual sex life if he keeps turning her down? How will she learn that sex is about her, too, when he plays gatekeeper to their sex life – only when she approaches him (and does it correctly!), only when her desire looks like he wants it to look.

I guarantee that if he feels undesired, she feels doubly so. In a society that tells women that men are always horny, it is hurtful to initiate sex and to keep being turned down. Frankly, it makes it that much more difficult to get “enthusiastic” ahead of time. Much easier – emotionally and physically – to send out a test balloon to see if he’s interested. Once he shows interest/ desire for her, her physiology will follow. But being too enthusiastic too soon (when she’s used to being rejected for reasons she likely doesn’t understand) results in the triple shame of feeling undesired, feeling too promiscuous, and having boiling needs that are unmet and have to be settled back down. {For better or worse, men are much more practiced at settling those feelings down than women are b/c they’ve been doing it since middle school.} It’s much easier to just not invest too much too soon.
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Paul Byerly November 6, 2015 at 10:02 am

@Kendra – Yes, I work to correct such men. Usually, I start by telling them I understand because I did a light weight version of this for a while. I then explain how I came to see it was stupid. It robbed both of us of what we could have and was slapping my wife in the face for a loving offer. It also slowed down healing for both of us.
And given the chance, I also give women suggestion to deal with this. If either one can get past it, things are likely to get better.
BTW, your last section is the exact reason some of these men are doing what they are doing. Yes, they have become very good at getting all ready and then not doing anything, but practice does not make it less painful. The more it happens, the worse it hurts. Most of these guys took years to get to the point of being unwilling to try.
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Kendra November 6, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Yes! I agree that whoever can deal with their part of it should – ideally, both people but an “I’ll go first” attitude is necessary in marriage because we can only change our part. Thanks for all you do!
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IntimacySeeker November 6, 2015 at 7:57 am

I agree with the sentiment of this post, as I would routinely prefer something high quality on rare occasion than something mediocre on a frequent or regular basis. Kendra makes some strong points: the my-way-or-the-highway, all-or-nothing requirement will cause trouble.

Incidentally, one of my husband’s friends recently stated he has no interest in sex with his wife. He didn’t venture into why, but your post may be his answer.

I have to ask, are these men insisting their wives be all in, all the time, every time? I can understand their perspective if their wives never do more than lie there like corpses, but we live on such a broad spectrum. There WILL be times we have sex out of obligation, and by the way, that doesn’t mean we won’t also enjoy the experience. There will be times we aren’t interested YET, and we hope our husbands will understand this is due to our unique feminine wiring, and won’t take offense. As you yourself have said, we (women) will never need it like you (men) need it. And there will (hopefully) be times we have had the leisure and pleasure of thinking about our husbands much of the day and are looking forward to intimacy. OR when he does something seemingly insignificant (showing kindness to our children, brushing our hair away from our face, etc.) that unexpectedly makes us want to jump his bones right then and there.

We are complex, inconsistent, mysterious women. My husband sure seems to enjoy the challenge. Not that he’s convincing me to do something I don’t truly wish to do. But he knows my desire is somewhere to be discovered, and he has to work a little bit to find and enjoy it. It seems to feed his sense of worth and affirm his capability.

I also sympathize with these men if they feel their wives are conceding. I used to feel that way as I realized my husband noticed and appreciated and enjoyed the sight of so many other women. I felt that if I couldn’t be the only one in his mind, I didn’t want any sex at all.

Sorry for the long response here. Your post triggered a lot of thoughts. As always, thanks for sharing insight.

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Paul Byerly November 6, 2015 at 10:08 am

@IntimacySeeker – I’d say these guys would be thrilled if they felt their wife was all in even one time in five.
When Lori and I were going through all our stuff she reached a point where giving me as much as I wanted was easy, but enjoying it fully herself was still difficult at times. I don’t know the exact ratio, but when we went too long having sex mostly for me it became more and more difficult to enjoy it. There were times I said “thanks but no thanks” because I just was not up to another one-sided sexual exchange. I mean if all I cared about was getting my physical pleasure sure, but I wanted and needed for are.
God created sex to be a mutual thing, and when it’s too one sided for too long it’s not what He intended. I worry about any man or woman who can keep going in such a situation without a struggle.
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Rico November 6, 2015 at 8:26 am

“We are complex, inconsistent, mysterious women. My husband sure seems to enjoy the challenge. Not that he’s convincing me to do something I don’t truly wish to do. But he knows my desire is somewhere to be discovered, and he has to work a little bit to find and enjoy it. It seems to feed his sense of worth and affirm his capability.”

With all due respect, your husband is not all men. For many of us, we have as much “challenge” as we can handle with work, leading the family, making sure bills are paid, etc. The last thing we want when we come home is yet another challenge to overcome in the form of our wives.

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Paul Byerly November 6, 2015 at 10:11 am

@Rico – I see an interesting balance here. I think men are created to be enticed by a challenge, but only to a point.
As you suggest, many of us are beyond our challenge limit outside the home. Maybe that’s part of the problem.
BTW, I don’t think IntimacySeeker was suggesting playing games just to be a challenge. I think she was expressing something God made women to be.
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IntimacySeeker November 6, 2015 at 12:06 pm

“I don’t think IntimacySeeker was suggesting playing games just to be a challenge. I think she was expressing something God made women to be.”

You are correct about this, Paul. I don’t consciously create an obstacle course for my husband, nor do I intentionally play games with his feelings. He has come to understand that I function differently (arousal often precedes desire), and rather than be offended or frustrated by that, he celebrates me and the way I’m created. I do the same for him.

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Paul Byerly November 6, 2015 at 6:33 pm

@IntimacySeeker “He has come to understand that I function differently (arousal often precedes desire)”
Good for him! Oh that more men could get this.
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Starving in CO November 6, 2015 at 2:27 pm

I’m one that has quit asking. ‘No’ was almost always the answer, or a date would be set 2-3 days in advance which then didn’t happen 95% of the time. We’ve had issues in this department from the day we were married (10 yrs), the first 9-12 months being “are you done yet” with no engagement on her side. Because of this (and several other serious issues) I ended up filing divorce 2011/2012. She begged for another chance saying she’d do anything, but we never discussed what that looked like. Things were a better on the surface for a while but underneath nothing had ever been dealt with. Now we’re back to me not asking and her specifically saying she won’t because of the hurt I caused her (filing for divorce, not willing to admit or face the issues that had gotten us to that point in the first place). Been almost 8 weeks. I’m running out of patience, understanding, etc. There are certainly lots of other issues beyond sex, but it’s a big contributing factor. Maybe the counselor we’re with currently can help (we meet again on Nov 11th). I can’t do this forced celibacy thing much longer. I think you were the one that wrote recently about what it’s like for a guy (the gnawing hunger in the back of your head) going without. I saw in comments that there are some women in that category too though I think it usually is on the man’s side. Sorry for the rant… I’ve been following your blogging quite some time but never written on the public site before. Something has to change soon. Counselor believes there is some deep trauma in her past, likely sexual, but we don’t know yet. It’s either that or she’s just selfish. Either way, scripture doesn’t seem to indicate forced monk-dom as necessary in marriage (but rather exactly the opposite). Praying for a breakthrough or release soon.

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Paul Byerly November 6, 2015 at 6:36 pm

@Starving in CO – You have our prayers. May you and your wife each see what you should be working on, and may the combination lead to a great marriage.
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Me November 6, 2015 at 8:07 pm

I can relate to this. Interestingly, I can relate to almost all of it, from both sides.

I am a woman. The wife. And I was refused for several years. And it was awful. And I did feel very ugly, un-feminine, and unworthy. When we did have sex, I could sense it was “pity sex” and I began to hate it. What woman, especially after reading 50,000 articles about how much men want sex, show love through sex, love their wives bodies even after babies, etc… Wants to be the woman whose husband has sex with her out of obligation or pity???

So we are starting to come out the other side of this awful time in our marriage, but now he is upset that I “just don’t seem to be into it.” Well, duh. Would you be if you knew you were the one woman, who, (for whatever reason that he still has never fully explained), had a husband who seemed to have to endure sex? He claims that it was never me, it was his stress, depression, etc. but it still caused a very deep hurt. I’m willing to try to rebuild our sex life, but he can’t expect me to jump right back in and be like “oh yay!” It is going to take some time.

Thankfully, I think he understands, and is willing to be patient as we work on this.

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Paul Byerly November 7, 2015 at 5:48 pm

@Me – I’m glad you are both working on it.
I’d bet he is telling the truth about it never being you. But believing that as deep down as necessary is very difficult.
You both have my prayers.
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Confused November 7, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Ok let me ask then when my wife and I were first married it was on she was the one to fire things up, I was the virgin. After years I grown and it was very mutual between both. Now though she has completely turn off and only will do mercy sex as you say. Where did it all go how do I kick start, after 34 years to turn he faucet off is confusing

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Paul Byerly November 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

@Confused – Could be any number of things. Hormones might have messed up her desire. It could a combination of negatives (stress, busyness, relationship issues) playing against a lower drive. There are also women who think they should not want or enjoy sex after they are done having kids, or after menopause.
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Coriander November 8, 2015 at 9:22 pm

I’m glad, but not surprised, to find more corroboration that I’m not the only one who’s experienced this. Look: it’s not only a drag to encounter indifference as The Man who Always Wants It (she rolls her eyes), it’s a drag to work toward being a considerate and conscientious partner, to adopt the policy that she comes first, and still find indifference.

And after a while it leads not only to feelings of rejection that women can so easily write off as base petulance, it leads to feelings of shame: sexual desire turns grown men into big babies, and coming face to face with that is where the real humiliation begins: not that she doesn’t want it, but that I want it so much.

People talk about consent with the explicit metaphor of a cup of tea: you offer someone a cup of tea and if they say “no thank you” then the civilized thing is to say no more about it and move on. Well, sex is not a cup of tea. It is not some tidy thing that I can offer my wife with the same disinterest as an idle refreshment. As a cultured and educated and civilized man I wish I could. I want to be able to keep cool and do things with order and respect. The reality of my sexuality makes that very difficult. It is shameful to confront my own feelings of neediness, to observe how absurd my behavior can get in trying to persuade or seduce. If I am tired in my life from many other exertions, how much energy can I afford to spend on exposing myself as a big baby to the person with whom I have to share all the responsibilities of managing a household?

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Paul Byerly November 9, 2015 at 7:35 am

@Coriander – Thanks for voicing something many men feel.
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