I received this question a couple of weeks ago from our Have A Question page:
How can my wife say that she loves me but then withhold sex; say she loves me but not want to have sex with me?
If I did or said something to hurt her feelings (whether I know about it or not) that day or even a week earlier, how can she honestly love me if whatever she’s holding on to is more powerful than her love for me and blocking sexual intimacy?
That’s a difficult question, and I think it’s one that everyone married to a refuser or a gatekeeper eventually asks: “Does my spouse really love me?” It’s a very uncomfortable question to have rattling around in your mind.
And the fact is, the answer is yes they love you. Just not as much as they love themselves. And that goes for most humans: Thanks to our sinful nature, we’re not good at loving other people as much as ourselves. This failure to love others plays out in every aspect of our life, and our married sex life is no different. It takes a continuous dying to self and letting Christ live through us to really engage in a truly loving relationship. While this gets preached often in church, it’s not something that many Christians actively work towards, unfortunately. We tend to accept this teaching on a broad, generic, doctrinal level, but the day to day actions are where it really counts.
When you get cut off in traffic, is it you who responds, or Christ?
When you get a nasty email from a coworker, is it you who responds, or Christ?
When your kids act up and misbehave, is it you who responds, or Christ?
When your spouse refuses to have sex, is it you who responds, or Christ?
And yeah, we point fingers are your spouse and say “well, they aren’t living like Christ would”, and that’s true, but I can’t speak to your spouse. I can speak to you. So, how do you respond? How would Christ respond (you know, if He was married to a sinful spouse)?
I think He’d look at this beautiful creation of God that has been so hurt by sin and won’t let God in enough yet to help heal them, so that they can have the relationship He wants them to have with their spouse. I think He’d be sad for them. I think He’d want to console them. I think He’d want to heal them, and depending on where their heart is, I think He’d confront them.
I don’t know your spouse. I don’t know where their heart is. I don’t know if now is the time to hug them and cry with them because you aren’t having the intimate relationship God wants for you both. I don’t know if it’s the time to show them their sin and ask them to change. But, I know that Christ wouldn’t sit back and ask “I wonder if they love me” because He knows that none of us really love Christ. We try…but we fail. And our spouses don’t really love us….they try, but they fail. Just as we don’t really love our spouses. We try…but we fail. Constantly. We love ourselves…and even that we don’t do well. Because we tend to treat ourselves pretty badly as well.
But I think Christ would love them, in a very active way and show them that life can be better. The wisdom is in knowing what that looks like for your spouse in each moment. Sometimes that means accepting that they’re not ready, and loving them while they’re still sinners, as God does with us. Sometimes it means showing them their sinful state and inviting them to die to self and let Christ live through them, again, as God does with us. But, it takes knowing their heart to know when is the right time for each, and knowing their heart means talking about it.
So, my advice: communicate about it. Share how it makes you feel. Share that you want to help. Ask for their thoughts, their views and opinions on it. Do a Bible Study like Intimacy Ignited together, if they’re ready, to see what the Bible says about married sexuality. But most of all: pray for them, and pray for yourself, so that you will know how to be Christ to them.
8 thoughts on “How can my spouse love me if they are withholding sex?”
Day to day actions, daily dying to self so that Christ may live through us…TRUTH!!! I have personally seen how this plays out in our marriage…after years of selfish living and now living the consequences of those choices. I thank God that I can truly see this now (not that I am perfect by any means or have it all figured out.) Great post!!!
I was that wife, refusing, not just sex, but physical touch almost entirely, because of things from my childhood. I was broken and grossed out by any sort of physical touch. It all made me feel like an object; like my husband only saw me as a thing for sex. But he never pressured me in anyway. He very much showed me Jesus and loved me through it all. He wasn’t preoccupied with my refusing him (Even though I KNOW it hurt him.) He told me, numerous times, that he could never have sex with me knowing that it made me feel completely gross and objectified. So he just waited and waited until the Lord healed my heart. The Lord Himself convicted me and told me how it hurt my husband to refuse him, and the Lord worked on my heart. My husband did nothing but waited and kept loving me and now we have a very regular, healthy sex life. Actually, these days, I initiate sex most of the time. The Lord has brought us a very long way (and we’ve still got a ways to go and grow.) And it happened very much like Jay Dee said. I hope this helps. 🙂
JaxStyle, do you mind if I ask you a few questions? This is something I am going through right now with my wife (for the last 8 or 9 years) so it would be amazing to have some clarity. How long did this period last in your marriage and how old are you guys now? In what way specifically did God speak to you to make the change? Thank you so much! Any other info or tips would be so helpful.
A message like this a few month ago changed our sexual intimacy for the better. Thanks!!
We have to realize that there are ebbs and flows in every area of of marriage. Vould your wife be just plain toirec? Does your wife work outside the home plus take csare of the kids and the house. Could you take some things off her plate so that zjhe had the energy for more sex.? InsteD of complaimimng we have to ask ourselves how can we make it better for our spouse. Having your husband help you out without asking is amazing foreplay. Realize that you must might have to put more effort into your end of the relationship be that husband or wife. If we put the needs our our partner on our priority list it is a win win.
We are 64 and 65 and retiring next March. That will mean !more toime for each otheranfd for sex. Some empty nesters say they feel like honeymooners again.
I was this wife, I loved my husband but I was tired and overwhelmed (or those were my excuses). Then our Pastor preached a message about marriage and our bodies belonging to our spouse. That changed me. I began to initiate…even when I wasn’t ‘in the mood’. After several times of doing this, I became aware that pleasing my husband was immensely satisfying. I would encourage women to do this, don’t just go through the motions but see how many ways you can please your husband. Love him more than you love yourself.
It sounds like the questioner is talking about his wife withholding sex in revenge for a perceived hurt.
My question is, how can a spouse claim they love you if they are withholding sex (all the time) because they’d rather pleasure themselves? (either sexually or in non sexual ways whether it be drinking with mates, playing sport or computer games, etc).
How do you explain to them that forcing you to live in a sexless marriage because they prefer self pleasure is not love? That it’s not even loving themselves more than you, that it’s not loving you at all?
Loving another person is being selfless, and serving them. If your spouse cares for you in other ways, then she loves you, (although women really don’t understand how important sex is to a man, and how it hurts when it’s withheld.) I had a marriage that was essentially sexless, but not only that my wife never did anything, work, cook, clean, take care of the kids, care about my feelings. No, in that case she didn’t love me.