You’ve tried it all! You did the dishes, bought her flowers, talked with, and complimented your wife throughout the day. Now you’re freshly showered, smelling great, and the kids are in bed; yet your wife STILL doesn’t want to have sex. What is wrong with her? Your sex life is suffering because of her lack of desire. You’re frustrated that she’s the gatekeeper for your sex life. 

Dr. Corey Allen, the host of Sexy Marriage Radio and Family Therapist, says this is a common dilemma within relationships, especially long-term relationships. You and your spouse have been together a long time and your relationship has evolved and changed. The novelty of marriage and sex has worn off and your spouse rarely seems to be in the mood. So, now what? How can you help him or her want to have sex more? Your spouse is the one at fault here, right? Well… maybe not?

Let’s start by asking ourselves a few questions.

  1. Do you offer GOOD sex?

2. How do you react when you are turned down?

3. What are you working on yourself? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, take a moment to stop and write down your thoughts about them.

1. Do you offer GOOD sex?

If you’re seeking sex often and your spouse keeps turning you down, is the sex good? Could there be another reason why they don’t care to have sex? Have you done the groundwork to become a desirable lover? If you truly want a great sexual experience you need to make sure what you are offering is desirable.

When you express your desire for sex to your spouse, what do they think you’re asking? What do they picture? If they picture intercourse limited to only penis and vagina interaction, is that what they want? Or do they want something more emotionally charged? How your spouse views sex can largely contribute to the quality of sex you are having.

Obligatory Sex

A common mistake is when men and women frame the husband’s desire for sex as a NEED. Stating that you NEED sex creates an obligation for the other to fulfill. A lot of women will give of themselves freely to fulfill obligations and just get on with their life. When you, as a man, settle for obligatory sex, what are you teaching her? That you will settle for whatever sex is offered! Is that what you want? The scraps?

Dr. Corey Allen explained what ‘scraps’ are. “For me currently, any sex that my wife isn’t wanting FOR HER is scraps. It’s accommodating, it’s for me (mainly because she doesn’t want to deal with me if she says no, not out of love and a sense of generosity), and it won’t be very good for either of us.”

Another example of obligatory sex is when you negotiate for sex. Men and women alike use household chores as a way to negotiate for sex. “If you do the dishes, we can have sex later tonight”. Negotiating sex is very common. When sex becomes negotiatory sex it is then an obligation to fulfill or a gift to earn.

Although negotiating sex can be viewed as obligatory sex to some, for others negotiating help with household chores could be beneficial to your spouse’s mood, stress level, and sexual interest. Talk to your spouse about this, how do they view negotiation and sex?

Obligatory sex sets a poor standard of what sex is and what you can offer your spouse. You don’t want to settle for scraps.

More than Orgasmic

Even if your spouse orgasms or finds it pleasurable – was it good, connecting sex as well? Corey Allen tells us that good “sex is more than an orgasmic experience”. If you are only offering an orgasmic experience, then are you really offering good sex? Sure, orgasmic sex can be fun and pleasureful for both of you in the moment but there is much more to sex than orgasms and pleasure. Long-term marital sex can and should be much deeper than that.

Good sex is about being free, vulnerable, and honest. Showing your spouse who you really are. If you want your spouse to love you and participate in sex freely then you have to be willing to let them be themselves inside and outside the bedroom. Remember, part of allowing your spouse to be free might mean they don’t want to have sex! Are you okay with that? Allowing your spouse space to be who they are and choose for themselves is crucial for great intimacy.

2. How Do You Handle Being Turned Down?

Sending a sext, making a sexual innuendo, or initiating sex and then being turned down never feels good but how you react matters. Erupting with anger, “You never want to have sex!” when they don’t respond the way you want doesn’t allow your spouse to freely express herself sexually. What were you seeking in that moment, what angered you about being turned down?

Erupting with anger might send your spouse spiraling down a path of guilt. When your spouse feels guilty, obligated sex is more likely to happen. Being trapped in the “scrap” zone of sex isn’t where you want to be. 

Being turned down can hurt a lot more when you tie their sexual interest to your identity. When they turn you down or tell you they don’t like something about sex, do you take it personally because it’s part of your identity as a husband or wife? If you do, you’re not alone. Men and women can struggle with whether or not they are a “good” husband or wife based on their sex life. Remember, frequent sex doesn’t always mean it’s good sex.

Reacting with love and understanding when rejected can go a long way. It says a lot about who you are as a person. When you lay down at night you want to be able to reflect and say you handled rejection well – but don’t allow it to be a one and done experience. Continue to handle yourself well in the face of rejection. Your spouse will notice when you react with anger and likewise, they will notice when you react with understanding. Being understanding of their feelings, needs, and desires can be sexy. Your spouse will feel freer in their words and actions outside the bedroom which will translate to inside the bedroom.

3. Are You Working On Yourself?

When you encounter difficulties in relationships, it’s natural to think you’re the victim and wish others around you would change to accommodate your way of looking at things. However, in practice, very few marriages and sex lives improve by blaming and being a victim alone. The surest way of improving your sex life is to improve yourself where you can.

One of the best ways to begin improving is by considering what your spouse sees in you. Because you live together, share bills, children, friends, and many things together, your spouse sees you in all aspects of your life. Invite your spouse to help you be the very best version of yourself. 

Dr. Allen suggested thinking about this scenario: Your daughter (or son) is about to marry someone just like you! What would you hope she (he) doesn’t have to deal with? What is it like being married to you? Answer that question sincerely. Everyone has things about themselves that they need to work on. Thinking about this scenario helps illustrate things about yourself you know can be irritating to others.

If your spouse is constantly turning you down, have the courage to ask yourself “are they right to turn me down?” What does that say about me?”  What if they should be turning you down? Self-reflection, if done honestly, can be insightful into reasons why they turn down sex.

Here is an example of self-reflection Dr. Allen gave us: If you don’t handle yourself well in social circumstances and you know it’s not attractive to your wife (or husband), yet you continue to act that way in social circumstances, then that is likely a problem in the bedroom as well. All your actions are seen in marriage and any of them can affect your sex life. This can be one of the most rewarding parts of marriages, but it can also be one of the hardest.

Going Forward

You are only human! Not everything is going to be perfect all the time! Give yourself some grace if things aren’t going smoothly. Having an intimate relationship takes courage, can be challenging at times, and it is not for wimps. When you hit pressure points of marriage, realize that nothing is wrong. All marriages will experience hiccups and bumps, but GREAT marriages are marriages that recover well and move forward. As you learn how to recover well you will get a taste of what marriage can really be with two vibrant and alive people.

To learn more about Dr. Corey Allen go to smrnation.com and you will find over a thousand blog posts and new courses for 2021. Check it out!

If you like what you read here, download the Intimately Us app, the fun & sexy app for your marriage! It’s full of games, connecting activities, and ideas to increase connection & pleasure in the bedroom.