OK men, I’m going to address you a bit further down, but this part is for the ladies:
Short answer: No. I don’t mean “tell him “NO””. I mean, there is no good way to tell your husband “No Sex Tonight”. Here’s why:
No matter what you say, how you phrase it, he’s still going to hear that you have unilaterally decided that this component of your marriage is not happening tonight.
Now, what would happen if you tried to start a conversation with your husband and he, instead of responding verbally, handed you a card that said “No talking tonight”, and then went back to watching TV. Chances are, you’d be fairly upset. Why? Because one person decided on their own what was happening in the marriage.
Some of you know how it feels to have your spouse decide their not coming to church today, not interested in praying today, don’t want to do devotions together today. It hurts to have a component (spiritual in this case) taken away from your marriage without consent.
Now (speaking in the context of marriage), sex without consent is marital rape. No sex without consent is what many of in the marriage blog-o-sphere would term “refusal”. Both are a breaking of the marriage vows, and I’d argue both are sinful.
So, how do you tell him it’s not happening tonight? You don’t. You shouldn’t, and, you shouldn’t have to. Here’s why:
OK Men, Listen up now:
Men, we’re the heads of our households, we are the leaders of our family. We should be the shepherds of our little flock as Jesus is our shepherd. That means we nurture, we provide, and more importantly, we care for them, including (especially) our wives.
So, when your wife comes to you and says “I’m really tired tonight”, you have a choice. You can say “Well, let’s try to be quick tonight so we can get some sleep.” or “I know dear, get some rest, we can connect another time.” She’s made her wishes clear. She’s tired, she wants to sleep. Now, you could hold her to your marriage vows but if she’s truly tired, then just let her sleep. It won’t harm you to wait a night (assuming you’re connecting regularly and have recently).
So, what do you do when your wife comes to you and says “I hope your not expecting anything tonight” or “nothing tonight dear, I’m too tired”?
Recognize that she does not feel safe with what your decision would be if she gave you one. She has taken the decision away from you, which means she doesn’t think you can make a good one. Now, this probably isn’t conscious, she might not be aware, but it’s there. If she trusted you to make a good decision, then there would be a discussion, or she’d let you decide. But she doesn’t trust that, and so she has played the veto card and taken your ability to decide away as a parent does to their child when they aren’t mature enough to be trusted to make a good decision.
So, what do you do? First, explain to her what she did. In most cases, I bet she has no idea that she’s just pulled you down a peg by making a decision for you like that. She’ll probably either apologize or think it was nothing.
Second, if she keeps doing it, then you need to accept that she doesn’t trust you, and that’s something you need to change by becoming someone trustworthy. Perhaps you haven’t made good decisions in the past, I know I haven’t. Next time you know she’s tired, maybe preemptively say “Look, I know you are tired, what do you say we get some sleep tonight?” Note: Don’t do this every night or you may find you have no sex life at all.
After a while of proving you can make good decisions, then she might start trusting you to make them with her again. If not, you may have to explain again what exactly she is communicating when she does this.
Women: Do you do this? Do you understand what you are communicating?
Men: Does this happen to you? What are you doing about it?