Being more skilled at rejection

Jay Dee

Being more skilled at rejection

Feb 21, 2017

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about being more skilled at initiating sex, but today we’re going to tackle rejection.  I think sexual rejection might be one of the touchiest conflicts to handle in marriage.  It’s hard to do correctly and too easily to

Being more skilled at rejectionA couple of posts ago, I wrote about being more skilled at initiating sex, but today we’re going to tackle rejection.  I think sexual rejection might be one of the touchiest conflicts to handle in marriage.  It’s hard to do correctly and too easily to do really poorly.

You can utterly destroy a marriage based purely on sexual rejection. Here’s how.

My wife Christina will be adding her thoughts in purple.

1. How to demoralize your spouse when they ask for sex

All you need to do is pick one, or more, of these behaviours when responding to their initiation:

Respond with “no” without considering it

One of the things my wife admitted to me after we started repairing our marriage was that often she would just reject me out of habit.  She didn’t even consider the initiation anymore, it just was a reaction without thought. It’s true. From the initiating spouse’s perspective, though, we don’t know it’s just habit.  Often it seems to be a deliberate and hurtful response. But from the other perspective, they may not even realize how hurtful the response is.  Either way, though, any rejection without consideration is going to end up damaging the relationship.

Shut down any initiation because you’re not up for what it might potentially mean

You’re not up for a multi-hour sex marathon, so just shut down any hint of initiation.  It’s just too daunting and exhausting to think about.  Since sex doesn’t happen often if you “give it” you gotta make it epic to make it worthwhile.  Don’t bother negotiating or offering alternatives.  Just reject your spouse’s advances at the first sign of them.

Don’t tell them why you don’t want to have sex

You could lie and fake a stereotypical headache, or just don’t offer any reason why at all.  Another way is just to say “I’m not in the mood” as if that’s a valid reasonIt’s like you just can’t possibly muster up the energy to give it a chance. It’s easier this way.

Make them feel wrong for being hurt by the rejection

When you reject your spouse and they show any negative emotion, like feeling hurt, disappointed, sad, angry or even rejected, you call them a sex addict.  Make it clear that it’s their fault they’re feeling that way and has nothing to do with you.  That you’re the reasonable one and that their emotions are because they’re broken.  You’re not responsible for them feeling disconnected. You’re not responsible for their reactions, why is it such a big deal that you don’t want to right now?

2. How to reject your spouse skillfully

That heading kind of sounds wrong, but I mean what I wrote.  Unfortunately, a lot of people think that rejecting your spouse skillfully means rejecting them in a way that they’ll never ask for sex again but without damaging the relationship.  But, that’s a fairy tale.  What you’re really doing is demoralizing your spouse so that they give up on the relationship and eventually don’t bother initiating again because it hurts too much to try and be intimate with you.  This extends into all areas of marriage until you’re living separate lives because intimacy on any level is impossible without serious repair.

Skillful rejection is not about getting your spouse not to initiate sex again.  It’s about postponing sex, with cause, until a more appropriate time in a way that does not damage the relationship, or at least minimizes the damage.  How do you do that?  Well, as with the previous post, we reverse the bad behaviours:

Give serious consideration to your spouse’s initiation

When your spouse initiates, don’t just give an automatic “no”.  Instead, evaluate what the impact on your relationship would be depending on whether you said yes or no.  See if there is any part of you that wants to reconnect and focus on that.  Use that to influence your attitude towards willingness.  Remember that many people (most women) have responsive sex drives rather than spontaneous sex drives.  Meaning, just because you aren’t in the mood now, doesn’t mean you can’t get there without too much effort. Think about what effect your willingness can do to impact your spouse’s day or night, or next day.

If you have a habit of saying “no” out of habit, when you realize what you’ve done, go back to your spouse and say “I’m sorry, I didn’t actually consider your request.  I’m willing if you still want to.”  In this way, you can start to break the habit of saying “no”.

Offer what you are up for sexually

If you aren’t up for a multi-hour sex marathon, then don’t just shoot down any initiation.  Offer up something that you are willing to participate in.  If your spouse says “Hey, want to go have some fun in the bedroom?”  Don’t just reject it because it might take a long time.  Instead, say “Sure, but can we try to make it a quickie?  I’m really feeling tired.”  Just don’t do this every time, because eventually, they will get the feeling that you are just trying to invest the minimum time required for your physical relationship.  At some point, you need time to explore and really connect.

There’s also nothing wrong with having sex “just for them”.  Or, for couples who engage in oral or manual sex, if you aren’t up for intercourse, you can offer that instead.  Or, you can just offer to be there and engaged while they masturbate.  At least then you are together and connecting, sharing the experience.

Tell them why you aren’t up for sex

If it’s really not possible and you have to say “no”, then explain why.  You owe them that much, at the very least.  And don’t pick an excuse out of the air.  If you have a migraine, then okay, that makes sense.  But if you’re having migraines every day, then you should be working with a doctor to clear those up (I prefer naturopathic doctors myself).

If it’s because you’re exhausted and simply cannot muster the energy, then that’s okay.  But if you then continue to watch TV, or play on your phone, then you send the message that you were lying about being exhausted.

And there’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m really not in the mood, but we can try to get me there.”  It might not work, that happens, but at least you were willing.  Jay tells me all the time that my attitude is what makes things great or not. So if you’re not in the mood, and you suggest trying to get there, be willing to relax and enjoy each others company. Don’t get stuck thinking, “I’m not in the mood, and you can’t get me there!” Like it’s a challenge to see if you can not enjoy sex. Your not enemies, you’re husband and wife, you’re partners in life, so try to have some fun together.

Allow them to be hurt and validate their feelings

How to fail at rejectionOne of the things that separate healthy couples from unhealthy couples is their ability to be emotional coaches rather than dismissing their emotions.  In other words, you need to be able to accept and validate your spouse’s feelings, not shut them down or make them feel bad for having them.  God gave us emotions for a reason, and there’s nothing wrong with having, so-called “negative emotions”, like sadness, hurt, disappointment and such.  Even God feels those.

Unfortunately, a lot of higher-drive spouses get told, when they initiate, that they are sick.  That they are a sexual addict.  That they’re only interested in sex.  That their sex drive is sinful and ungodly.  These attacks are meant to destroy their sense of sexual self in the hopes of spiritually or emotionally castrating their spouse.  It’s a show of contempt.  It’s manipulative and, frankly, abusive.  In the end, these tactics not only destroy the spouse, but also the marriage.  I know, because I get emails from them saying they wish they could leave their spouse.  Most don’t because of their kids.  Some admit they wish their spouse would die as that would be the easiest outcome to deal with.  And that’s a terrible place to get to due to this constant abuse they face in their marriage.  And I know that if a few are admitting it, many more are thinking it.

So, how do you respond?  Well, the same way you should when your child is sad or angry.  When they feel frustrated or hurt by someone.  You don’t tell a 4-year-old “Go to your room until your happy!”  Or at least you shouldn’t.  You should be validating their emotions.  Saying things like “It’s okay to feel hurt, and it’s perfectly understandable.”  Don’t use the same tone you would to a child with your spouse, but the same principles apply.

Tell them that you understand they’re disappointed and that you are too.  Tell them you are looking forward to the next time you can reconnect (which should be as soon as possible).  In that way, they don’t feel alone, and they don’t feel like a freak for feeling the way they do.  They also don’t feel like the marriage is one-sided when it comes to sex, which is how the higher drive spouse often feels when they get rejected regularly.  That feeling of being the only interested spouse is dangerous because it spills into the rest of the marriage until they feel they are the only one interested in being married at all.  Again, I know, because I get emails saying just that.

If you can stick to these skillful behaviours, you can manage to reject your spouse (don’t fool yourself, it’s still a rejection), without causing undue damage.  At the worst, you should be able to repair it easily, so long as you don’t wait too long to have sex again.  If possible, initiate yourself at the next possible time, that will amplify the repair considerably.

So I didn’t have as much to say throughout the post as I thought I would. But this is a tough topic. Jay covered everything I would have said. If you find that you are one who does this to your spouse often, please take a close look at the words you speak to your spouse, and think about what kind of affect they might have on them.  When I realized how hurtful my attitude was, it was a game changer, I couldn’t believe how I came across. So please don’t think your refusing spouse is doing this maliciously. If they love the Lord and want to be Christ-like, they wouldn’t want to hurt you in this way intentionally.  Many honestly have no idea they are being so hurtful. Just continue to pray for them, and try and speak about this with them on how it is hurtful. Email me if you like (, I’ll see what I can do to help.

Looking for help?

27 thoughts on “Being more skilled at rejection”

  1. Mike says:

    Ever since you helped us a year ago, we have no more rejection issues. Once a week or so, I feel like I have had enough sex and want to say, “no.” But, I remember back and say, “yes.”

  2. John says:

    I feel blessed that after being together for 25 years I know my wife well enough to know when she is in the mood and when she isn’t. I will only initiate when I am certain she’s receptive. I can tell by her body language and just how generally relaxed she feels. Because I can read her like this I virtually never get rejected and she never has to deal with having to reject. The reverse is also true.

    While this forum seems to attract mismatched couples and couples who struggle with issues like this, I’ll bet there are many couples out there who operate just like my wife and I do.

    1. LatterDay Marriage says:

      It shouldn’t be a thing for only when she is ‘in the mood’ to start with and no consideration for your feelings. You should be free to initiate when you feel in the mood. Many times a woman may start off not feeling desire but going ahead out of love for her husband, then in foreplay become aroused and feel desire then. While you are avoiding conflict by only asking when you are sure she is in the mood, you are also avoiding overcoming a limiting factor in your both your happiness.

      1. John says:

        Well she does consider my feelings. She knows that I prefer sex only when she’s in the mood. I can’t imagine that I would be ok with this approach I’d say like Jay says below, it happened only twice a decade but this works well for us.

        I’m really not sure how both or either of us would be any happier if I worked her into arousal. How can you be so sure it’s a “limiting factor” in our happiness?

        1. LatterDay Marriage says:

          If it results in mutual sexual satisfaction, then that’s great. For 99.99% of the world that arrangement would make it so one person achieves sexual satisfaction at the expense of the other’s and that is not healthy.

          1. John says:

            How can you be so sure of your statistics? I mean seriously? Can you really speak for 99.9% of the world? I claim to speak only for my wife and me. So it is possible that you are right….but really? How can you know?

          2. John says:

            And “at the expense of the other’s”? Really? How so?

          3. John says:

            The point I’m trying to make is that if two spouses are mismatched (which I will admit seems to be the norm rather than the exception) what is so wrong with the higher drive spouse waiting for sex at times? I will admit in an effort not to be hard headed that 2 or 3 times a decade seems untenable but If the high drive spouse wants it once a week and the lower drive spouse wants it half as often what is so wrong about the idea that the higher drive spouse waits a week and just does without? For a week at a time? There always will be differences. Can’t the higher drive spouse just use that energy to work out and become healthier or do some more research into cancer cures or worship more or harder or any combination of those things?

            Why all the resentment on the part of the higher drive spouses? Although I’d ideally like to have sex a little more often than my wife does, I’m not going to die if I wait a little and I will argue that the relationship blossoms when we wait compared to how it would be if I felt she was doing me any favours. But I can’t seem to get any traction with this line of thinking in this forum. I am willing to admit defeat but before I do, am I really the only one who thinks sexual “favours” from your spouse are decidedly not hot and not sexy?

            1. Jay Dee says:

              No, you’re certainly not the only one. I think LatterDayMarriage’s 99.9% is a bit inflated, and likely hyperbole on his part. Others who wait certainly exists, but typically it’s for one of two reasons:

              1) Pride – I find a lot of people who don’t want to have set if their spouse isn’t already “in the mood”, but is doing it because they know it’s important to them, they have issues accepting gifts, kindness, sometimes even forgiveness and salvation. Again, not saying it’s you, but the vast majority I come across, they have a self-admitted problem of pride.

              2) Fear – They’re afraid of being rejected, afraid of having a conversation about it. Afraid of conflict. In the end, they are catering to their fear, under the guise of keeping a peaceful marriage.

              In either of these two cases (pride and fear), the sin becomes the real thing being protected. Again, not saying it’s you. Just saying while you’re not alone, the group you are a part of generally has an issue that’s causing them to be in that group.

              I’m afraid I don’t have an exact stat for you though.

              1. John says:

                That makes sense. Something for me to think about for sure.

                Practicality is another consideration. Family duty and obligation and the resulting fatigue for my wife are realities. More frequent sex would just add to that fatigue. I see my willingness to wait and let her rest as my gift to her.

    2. Jay Dee says:

      Well, I think the vast majority of couples are “mismatched”. I mean, I could opt never to get rejected as well if I waited for the 3 times a decade my wife was spontaneously in the mood. But then I’m hiding a real part of myself from her and cheating her at really knowing me. I’d be deciding to not be vulnerable or intimacy so that I can avoid conflict.

      1. John says:

        To clarify I never hide the fact that I am in the mood. I let her know. So there is no loss of vulnerability there or “cheating her actually knowing me”. In fact I think I take it one step further in that she knows I’m in he mood but she also knows that I much prefer to have sex only when she is in the mood. To not tell her that second part would be hiding something in my opinion.

      2. John says:

        I would also like to clarify that I think whatever approach you take to marital happiness and satisfaction is comperley legitimate. I’m not trying to say you are wrong in taking whatever approach works for you. If that approach involves your wife willingly and lovingly giving herself to you and allowing you to get her in the mood that’s absolutely fine.

        I may be mistaken but on the flip side, when I say in this forum that I’d rather wait for my wife to be hungry for sex, I get the sense that somehow that just seems wrong and not Christian like. Should my wife and I not be able to choose our approach to sexuality (specifically the question of frequency) in this manner? Somehow my read into the tone of the responses is that the answer is “no” and that we should be having sex more frequently than what we have deliberately decided works for us.

        Am I reading more into these responses than what was intended?

        1. Jay Dee says:

          When this exchange started, I would have said the only issue I had with your comment was that it seemed you were saying that mismatched sex drives was irregular, or at least that matching drives was fairly prominent. But, by your own admission, your marriage doesn’t have matching drives. You said

          I’d ideally like to have sex a little more often than my wife does

          Which means you are taking from her a chance to serve. Not only that, but you are basically giving her veto power over sex. Sex doesn’t happen unless she’s in the mood. That stance seems to be in direct opposition to 1 Corinthians 7:5.

          The only thing we’re questioning is “is it REALLY working for you”? Or are you missing out on an opportunity for growth. Mediocrity is the death of excellence, as they say.

          Of course, it’s your marriage. Do as you will. We don’t have the authority to tell you what to do. I just want people to ask the questions in their own marriages and talk about it.

          1. John says:

            Thanks Jay – yes I think I’m in the mood a little more frequently than my wife is (I really don’t know that for certain) but there is no veto happening. I’m sure if I asked she would comply.

            The degree of match is close for us I think so to think of it as a mismatch is really splitting hairs. It seems I really miss it if happens less than once every 10 days and if I had to guess, for her that number is more like 14 days. Again these numbers change and are fluid but I think as a generalization they work. We talk about it but it’s hard to quantify in any precise way.

            She knows how I feel, she feels the same and agrees to this approach. In other words we “mutually consent” as stated in 1 Corinthians 7:5 so I don’t see any opposition there.

            Thanks for sticking with this exchange Jay. I’m still willing to be convinced that a different approach would be better for us. I’m hoping many others are reading this exchange. My guess is there are and that they are getting some benefit.

            This is really good work you do! Thanks again!

            1. A says:

              John I’d be curious to know how old are you and your wife?

              (Sex every 10 to 14 days would be really difficult for me but I am a high drive wife who is fairly young – only in my late 20s)

              I figure if the arrangement with your wife is working then it’s working, right? However, what would happen if she suddenly only desired sex every 20 days? Would you confront? I think there is a certain threshold where is is simply no longer healthy for one person to wait for the other to be ‘in the mood’ and that is really what this forum is addressing.

              1. John says:

                Thanks A. I’m in my mid forties. So is my wife.

                I agree that there is a limit to how much waiting the higher drive spouse should “tolerate” I suppose for lack of a better word.

                I’m not sure if I would confront her or not if her desire started to stretch to 20 days. I may end up asking her what has changed in an effort to understand but I still don’t think I would ask her to “take one for the team” if that’s what you mean because I still don’t think I would want her to.

                1. A says:

                  I’d recommend just having an honest conversation about you wanting to have slighty more sex than your wife and asking if there is anything you can do to get her in the mood more often such as doing a little more around the house so she can relax etc.

                  Based on all of your responses I am starting to get the feeling that you are uncomfortable having these discussions.

                  My reluctance to discuss marriage issues nearly destroyed my marriage. I wanted sex 3 to 4 times a week and my husband wanted sex once a week to twice which is a really large gap. Along the way of working through this we discovered was also emotionally abusive by constantly criticising me and being quick to blow up at me over small things. The sexual refusal was just a manifestation of emotional abuse but it was in the form of neglect versus the other ways he was being actively abusive.

                  We are in counseling and I am starting to have my hope restored. Anyway, my only reason for sharing this is an encouragement to you to have the difficult conversations before things get way out of hand and a lot of damage is done. I think I could have minimized the damage by confronting issues sooner.

                  1. John says:

                    Thanks A. I appreciate you sharing. The drive gap has been there for our entire marriage (20 years) so it’s nothing new for us. We do talk about it periodically but neiher of us see it as a problem to be overcome.

                    I’m also trying to be realistic – as she heads into peri and then full menopause my guess is that gap will widen. I’m trying to prepare myself for that eventuality.

                    1. A says:

                      John – I think a red flag for me is that you are actually preparing for things to get worse not better.

                      I don’t think this is good – scripturally we should be growing in our relationship with the Lord and with each other. In an extreme example it’s almost like saying when I retire and get older I anticipate that I will no longer want to get up in the morning and go to church – so here is my plan when I stop going to church – WHAT?

                      There is hormone replacement therapy both bioidentical (which I have heard good things about) and synthetic if your wife loses interest in sex and has other side affects of menopause including low energy and hot flashes. Additionally I think there are some natural remedies.

                      On the other hand, I don’t see an issue with a blow job or hand job if she doesn’t want sex and you do. I understand that this might be ‘pity’ sex but it could also be a growth opportunity for your wife where she learns to become less selfish and more attentive. My husband tends to feel emasculated when I want him to ‘help’ out’ and he has no interest in sex (society says he should always want sex, right?) But that arrangement is preferable to me crying myself to sleep.

                      Finally, how often does wife have an orgasm when you have sex or have some kind of sexual activity? Maybe more orgasms would increase her sexual interest? Alternatively, she could get into sex more often if she looked at it as a time to reconnect and be close or be held?

                    2. John says:

                      A it looks like we’ve maxed out the number of times we can respond in one string “there was no reply button on your last message.

  3. LatterDay Marriage says:

    Another way to really really demoralize your spouse is to say you’ll have sex with them at a specific later time instead (later that evening, next morning or evening etc.) then break your word on that.

    1. Kay says:

      Though I hope a spouse would offer grace if this happened on occasion (and certainly wasn’t the norm) due to extenuating circumstances. I feel as if this has happened to us a lot since the start of the new year, but completely unintentionally on my part. My husband would initiate at a less than ideal time for me (for example, I was already running late and had to be somewhere), so I “promised” to pick things back up when I got back, but before I knew it I was holding back a kid’s hair while she vomited and he was scrubbing chunks out of the carpet. I try not to make those promises lightly and to always follow through, but sometimes life happens. (We have had three very different stomach viruses, several colds, and high fevers run through each family member since the second week of January. We are tired.) If it becomes a pattern with no viable excuse, however, then that is a problem that needs to be addressed.

  4. MindInTheMountains says:

    I have to admit, I found this article and I am the person on the other end. I have heard “are you serious right now?” “Really?” “Is sex seriously all you think about?” “All you care about is sex” more times than I care to admit. I will also admit that a lot of the mismatch in desire in our marriage comes from the fact that I have hurt her through use of pornography and secrecy that led to her discovery on 3 different occasions in our 9 year marriage. I will admit that I have struggled with pornography and sexual addiction and am currently 11 months into recovery but how do you come back from outright rejection coming from a place of hurt?

    I do my best to wait for her to initiate but that’s about once every 6 weeks give or take. I have also been told that “initiating touch” or intimate touching is unwelcome and disrespectful to her body. And I do feel like I’m just lucky to be still living in the house, although we have been in separate beds for about 4 years, due to my snoring and my hurtful addictive behavior. I feel like I am wrong or selfish to expect that my advances be accepted, and I feel like I don’t deserve it and try to just be grateful when it does happen but it just hurts so much to love someone so much and long to be accepted and have that connection.

    So I guess, how would this be addressed if the “higher drive” spouse may not deserve to have their advances accepted? Is there any coming back from this?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Since you’re the higher drive spouse, you’d probably be more interested in this post: Being more skilled at initiation

      As for the rest, that’s a difficult one.
      Ultimately the answer, which doesn’t help much, is that none of us deserve our spouse. We don’t deserve anything but destruction. One of the purposes of marriage, I think, is to love unconditionally, to teach us how God loves us.

      As for the “is there any coming back from this?” I’m working on that resource. Stay tuned.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I realize that this is an old article and that this is less likely to be read and responded to, however, as the other driver spouse that is rejected frequently, I actually clicked on the article to find help dealing with my side of the rejection without becoming angry and bitter. I understand that she is not being malicious, but I have had such strong emotional responses that I am trying to figure out how to handle. I don’t know if that really makes sense, but if it does, is there a place I could read your thoughts on that?

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I read every comment that comes in, even on the old posts.
      So, here’s the post from the other side: Being more skilled at initiation

      But you may also be interested in these:
      Where did my sex drive go?
      Why is initiating sex so difficult?
      Confidence is sexy

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