I received this question yesterday through our anonymous Have A Question page:
When ever I ask my wife for sex she doesn’t say no but she just says she has to do a few things out side and then she will be right back but by the time she gets back a lot of times an hour to 2 hours later I’m either to tired and ready to go to bed or no longer have any interest is having sex. Do you have any thoughts that might help?
I’m calling this a passive rejection. It’s when your spouse doesn’t say “no”, but they make it clear they’re not interested in some other way. So, how do you deal with this?
Talk about it
Firstly, you need to talk about it. I get a lot of questions regarding sex and marriage, and most of the time, the answer is simply to discuss it with your spouse. I know, it’s an unpopular response, because talking about sex is scary. But, the truth is you need to discuss it if you want to have any real change in your marriage. Anything else will just be surface changes only. They might net you more sex … but not a better marriage. So, talk about it with your spouse.
I would say something like this:
Honey, can I talk to you about something? When I suggest we have sex and then you find a couple hours of busywork to do, I feel abandoned. I feel like you’re saying you have no interest in me as a spouse. I’m sure that’s not what your intent is, so I was wondering if we could come up with a solution to avoid that unintended outcome.
Of course, put it in your own words.
The key parts are:
- Make it about your feelings, not about her actions. In a business, this dynamic needs to be completely reversed (behaviours, not feelings), but in a marriage, emotional intimacy is just as important as physical intimacy. You need to share what it is you are feeling. Plus, it comes off as less confrontational.
- Suggest that you don’t believe that she’s doing it on purpose while still being clear about the consequences (your feeling abandoned).
- Invite her to solve the problem with you. My advice would be to have a suggestion ready, because I can almost guarantee she’s going to respond with “I don’t know…“. The point is not for her to solve it, but for her to feel involved in the solution.
A possible solution
One possible solution is to initiate sex earlier. Don’t wait until bed time to initiate sex. Then, when she goes off to do her busywork, it’s too late when she gets back.
A lot of women need time to switch gears and get into “sexy wife” mode. So, suggest sex a couple hours prior to bed time, then offer to help with the busywork. That way you can get it done quicker, plus she’ll feel more connected. It would still give her the time to switch gears as well.
The other possible solution is simply to order her up to your bedroom and don’t take “I’ll be up in a few minutes” as an answer. Make it clear you mean now. Something like “Well, I plan for us to be having sex in 5 minutes…it’s up to you whether or not it’s in a bed, in the kitchen or outside in the garden.” This approach works better on some wives than others, though I think that has to do more with delivery than the reception… it has to be done with confidence, without apology, with a bit of a mischievous grin in order to pull it off. It’s difficult to pull off, but more fun if you can.
Those are my thoughts. I welcome others from our readers in the comments below.Have a Question? Ask it here!
13 thoughts on “Dealing with passive rejection”
I’d say that he should offer to help her with whatever it is that is keeping her attention. That would give her accountability as well as allow for some bonding time. I know that my work is never done and I feel like I can’t sit down. If he is proactive with helping her get her things done, it may help to eliminate her excuses….or, they may not be excuses. She may legitimately have 500 things left to do every night. I know I always do. I just have to shut it down at some point.
Keelie, my wife always has chores to do at night. I tell her, “I am shutting down at 10 pm. Don’t ask me to do any chores after that time.” She keeps working and I go to bed. Sometimes she does not get to bed until midnight. So, I have been doing more for her after dinner. After helping her cook, I clean up, run the dishes, do some laundry, sweep the floor, water the plants, set out her meds, walk the dog, feed the dog, straighten the bedroom, clean the bath, lock the doors, close the windows, shut off the lights, set the heat or cooling, shut down the electronics, get the coffee ready for morning, etc. I must admit she is getting to bed earlier, and we can make love before midnight.
I don’t believe that’s passive rejection. You can’t expect a wife to drop everything she is responsible for just because you say you want sex. Come on get real. If he isn’t interested later when she is available that’s his fault. As wives we are accountable for making sure everything is ready for the next day. He really should quit whining and help his wife so she gets done sooner or wait patiently and be ready when she gets done. Now mind you though IF when she gets back she doesn’t want to follow through that’s a different ballgame altogether.
I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t buy it in this case. If she says “She will be right back” and then doesn’t come back for a couple of hours, that’s not a problem with switching gears. Even if she is having trouble switching gears, she’s not communicating that, so it’s still a passive rejection, since she’s hiding behind supposed tasks.
If this is a consistent pattern, and there aren’t times where she says yes to now, I wholeheartedly disagree with this. Even IF she has a lot to do, which most women do, she is still putting the work a head of her spouse. Essentialy, she is saying I care more about the work than my husband
I agree with Keelie….I’m a mom of a paraplegic son and a wife to a disabled husband,and I am going to school (online) full time. I have my hands full! Us women do have 500 things to do in one day (want me to make a list of mine?)…so I think our husbands should give us a break. I know I would be more in the mood if my husband made dinner (and cleaned it up!),got our son to bed,made sure the kitchen was cleaned,everything was in order,and locked up,and lights off….then I may be able to relax before,maybe take a little soak,and get “in the mood”. Women have a different idea of pre-sex and foreplay than men. Come on guys,read a book/magazine about it! 🙂
Have you had that conversation with him?
In most cases, the rejecting spouse isn’t thinking, ‘Oh, they want sex. I’ll just stall long enough to get out of it’. It’s more likely the case that they are just thoughtless and don’t understand the depth of their spouse’s need for intimacy, or their hurt when they act like that. They think sex is something that can be put off to later without consequence, like watching a movie. In a case like that they really need to be lovingly informed about how such behaviour has a far bigger consequence and impact on their spouse than that.
Another way to deal with it is to bind them to their word. When they start with the ‘let me just take care of this first…’ stuff. You can ask them right then if you have their word that they are going to follow though and be intimate with you once they’ve taken care of whatever it is. Put their trustworthiness on the line.
Taking the 40k view … she is ‘running away’. Maybe she wants to be pursued: chased. This could be blended in with your second suggestion which is to be dominate and push/take it now; go after it (whatever that looks like to this particular couple; it’s different for every couple).
In the big picture, people don’t want to do what they don’t enjoy. Since sex is an integral part of healthy marriage and the husband is at the helm, the responsibility falls on him to make it work. Obviously, ‘telling’ his wife that he is lying passively in bed, **waiting** for her, is not attractive or inviting to her.
I don’t disagree with your diagnosis of passive rejection, I just also believe that woman are responders and he is receiving a response to the vibe he is signalling …. passivity.
Yeah, I think that’s a good point.
I deal with this all the time. My wife is good in bed and once I get her there and have a chance to turn her on she enjoys it and can have good orgasms. But the very low sex drive she has, is a problem and caused me a lot of heart ache already. She we will ask questions about stuff having nothing to do with sex, out of the blue while we are having sex sometimes which is a dead give away that she’s not really there and into it. That often happens even when we talked awhile first which is important to her! It really feels like she does not love me all that much. It feels like super selfishness, but she would never be seen as selfish by her or others! She thinks she is showing love by washing, ironing, cleaning and cooking, but I tell anyone can do that but only she can fulfill my sexual needs legitimately! In the eve we are both to tired and in the morning she wants to be left alone so she can sleep. I tell her she’s making it impossible to to have a sexual relationship and it is hurting our marriage. She will say we just had sex three times in the last 10 days! Hugging and kissing she will respond to but seldom initiate except a little after one of out talks.
My language is touch and hers is service but serve her all you like, rub her feet get water to soak them, that won’t generally put her in the mood. It might make her sleepy? We have talked about it many, many, many times over the years and she is always very sorry and promises to try harder and asked what she could do to change? 30 plus years and keep plugging away (pun intended) trying to turn her on early in the day and get her warmed up? A little planning helps but still, is not really the answer. It’s good sometimes to just grab an opportunity and just do it.
I am frustrated too!! Was hoping for more from this article. Maybe like that magic switch that when it is flipped she will be into me. Dream on… as it is hard to not be sarcastic. It reminds of the joke How is a penis and sex so very much alike? besides that a penis is needed for good sex. do you know how? Its the women that make it hard (:
Jack your last comment is a bit sexist. It’s not always the woman.
Anyway other than that, you had me nodding in agreement until you said “three times in the last ten days”. That’s actually pretty average for a married couple. Obviously more is better but I’d love to have even close to that. Real rejection is “three times in the last ten weeks”. Except in my marriage its closer to three times in the last ten months.
I feel for the original poster but at the same time, at least his wife is rejecting him for useful stuff. I’m so sick of being rejected night after night because my husband stays up to 4am playing computer games, alternating with going to bed at 6am because he’s so tired from gaming previous nights.
It’s not even just sex either. He won’t even find time to talk to me or do anything together.
I’m tired of a sexless intimacy-less marriage.
I’ve been married to the same woman for almost 18 years. She is a wonderful wife and I love her deeply. We are learning and growing together in our marriage. It’s a lifelong journey.
While it is true that husbands must learn to help take the load off by helping with chores, sometimes wives need to understand that the chores can wait. Why does sex have to wait until the tasks are done? Are the chores really that much more important?
I’m afraid sexual intimacy in marriage is too often treated as optional. This is tragic. Couples need to stop allowing other things to get in the way of intimacy and sexual fulfillment.