Addressing The Sexless Marriage, part 2


(This is the second of a six-part series; here are the links to part 1, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6. As well, after some feedback, I did a follow-up post to this, entitled The Shot Across The Bow, Reloaded, which has more information.) 

(For the purpose of pronoun simplicity, I am writing the posts in this series to refused husbands. Wives, if you are the one who desires more sexual intimacy, please keep reading, because I believe that pretty much everything I am going to say will apply to your situation, as well.)

In my last post, I finished by saying that I would start discussing The Talk™, the sit-down, face-to-face, cards-on-the-table discussion in which the spouse who is dissatisfied with the intimacy in the marriage lays it all out.

The first question to answer is if The Talk™ is needed or not. In approaching The Talk™, history and circumstances come into play. If your marriage is only a few years old, and much of the ‘blame’ can be attributed to a new-born or two, and if the wife is good-hearted and generous, then The Talk™ could be nothing more than a “Hon, we need to look at our marriage and see where we can improve.” If, however, refusal is deeply entrenched, then The Talk™ may be the only way out of it.

Two Terms

In discussing sexless marriages, there are two terms commonly used, (both of which upset the spouse to whom they apply, btw): Refuser and Gatekeeper.

The Refuser – This is just what you would expect, given the name. The Refuser basically has shut down most, if not all, sex in the marriage, with no input from or care for the other. Celibacy is the watchword of this marriage. It’s not uncommon to read of a husband or wife saying that they haven’t had sex in years. The spouse with the libido in the family may want sex 2-5 times a week, but be lucky to get a grudging toss in the hay once every month or three. Or once every year or three.

The Gatekeeper – This person isn’t a Refuser, per se, but has so many rules and regulations, stipulations, whys and wherefores and requirements, that sex, if it occurs at all, seems to be due to some ineffable quality that, seemingly, can’t be duplicated ever again. The results is that the ‘Kept isn’t sure, when sex does manage to occur, how it even came about. Quite often, Gatekeepers have requirements that limit sex. “No lights, no noise, missionary only, not until the children are asleep, never in the morning, not on nights Seinfeld and Friends reruns are on, etc.” The spouse of a Gatekeeper begins to wonder maybe if he held his mouth just the right way, or if he said, “Pretty please, with sugar on top” with just the right wheedle or quaver in his voice, it might improve his chances of ‘getting lucky tonight’.

(Speaking of Seinfeld, as I’m proofreading this post and going over this section, unbidden came the image of the Soup Nazi, and I think this is a fitting image for The Gatekeeper: “No sex for you!”

Two Key Attitudes

As well, there are two attitudes that might indicate the necessity for having The Talk™. The first is the Refuser/Gatekeeper’s perception of sex. Is sex a reward and/or a punishment? Is sexual intimacy something that the other spouse has to earn, or be deemed worthy enough to be indulged? Is sexual intimacy (indeed, any intimacy) something to be doled out only when noblesse oblige dictates? For that matter, does the Refuser/Gatekeeper view sex as “disgusting, vile and filthy, and why do you want to have sex anyway, you perv?” You get my drift; the desire for sex with his/her spouse is somewhat akin to the desire to muck out the stables or sanitize the bathroom with her tongue.

The second attitude or mindset occurs in the Refused/’Kept spouse. That is, “Am I going to get lucky tonight?” When a husband or wife feels like their chances for sex are about on par with teenagers looking to score, something’s wrong. Remember last year’s two-day kerfuffle in the internet over the spreadsheet email? The one where the husband kept a spreadsheet of his wife’s excuses for not having sex? The wife was a Gatekeeper, as was ably demonstrated by the guy’s catalog of his wife’s excuses for not having sex with him. Yeah, the general consensus was that the guy was a jerk for emailing the spreadsheet to his wife just as she was leaving for a business trip. But reading his spreadsheet? Again, yeah, a lot of husbands recognized Gatekeeping, in data format.

I believe that it comes down to this: if you feel that the default mode for your spouse is “No”, be it through refusal or gatekeeping, then it’s time to look at intimacy in the marriage and figure out “What’s wrong and how do we fix it?”, and start planning for The Talk™.

“Shot Across the Bow”

This is a post from The Marriage Bed** forum website, and was written by a poster named Job29Man, and he has given me permission to share this on my blog. This was written five years ago, so the events and discussion between Job and his wife Sarah (not their real names) occurred nearly a decade ago. This is one man’s ‘sit-down’ with his wife to address the fact that the default in their marriage bed was set at “No.”

It was about 3 years ago. Communication and intimacy were breaking down in our marriage. My dear Sarah and I had always had a policy of “no refusal” unless for a seriously good reason. Sarah had recently begun redefining “seriously good reason” to include “I’m tired.” or “It’s late.” or “The bills aren’t paid yet” or “You looked busy with your book over there and now I need to make tomorrow’s shopping list.” [In real life], these were bogus claims. So I made a real attempt to come to terms with her and help her out more, etc, but she had fallen prey to the “sex is too much bother” idea. I worked on this for about two years I think (time starts to blur here). I had many talks with her… to no effect.

Finally I took her aside for a meeting one day. No romance was on the agenda. I sat her down and told her. “My dear wife. I’m going to expose all my cards here and put myself at a place of vulnerability, but also I have a serious message to deliver to you.” Her eyes got big. “Honey. I am unhappy in our marriage.” Her [reaction?] “Gulp”. “Now… here’s where I show you my cards…I’m going to tell you my negotiating position. I am totally committed to this marriage. I will never, ever leave you. That’s not the man I am. I am not threatening you with anything because I have no intention of following through on any kind of ultimatum that involves me leaving you. Just not gonna happen. If you and I come to NO agreement today you will still have me as your committed husband until the day one of us dies.” (Big sigh of relief from her. Tension level goes down.) “But honey, I am not a happy husband. You have my body and support until I die, but you are losing my heart.”

“This is not the marriage we both committed to. If you have rebuke for me. I am all ears. I want to be the best husband for you that I can be. You can lay it on me and I will not resist, but will redouble my efforts. I will withhold NOTHING from you. I will give up ANYTHING that you feel is needed. You just say the word. But if you will permit me now to state my own complaint to you in the same spirit… I am a sexually miserable man. I go out into the world of … temptation… every day. Women like me. I ignore them. But you are not making it easy to resist temptation. For the first time in our marriage, it is difficult to turn my face the other way. I DO it! But it used to be a no brainer. It was easy. For the first time in our marriage if a man were to ask me “Isn’t marriage great?” I wouldn’t know how to answer him. Now … I’m a sexually frustrated man who is not happy in his marriage bed. You are a wonderful mother and a great person. You are better than this. I respect you too much not to give you notice of my feelings. I thought you deserved a WARNING SHOT ACROSS YOUR BOW.”

“Now Sarah. I give you no ultimatum. I’m just telling you that you are losing my heart, my passion, even my affection. You do with that information whatever you choose. You will not lose me either way. But think how much you will gain if you change your heart and regain mine.”

At that point Sarah had a clear choice… live with a committed but unhappy husband, or live in joy with a committed and happy husband. She chose the happy husband and has never regretted it. Nor have I.

(On TMB, Job’s post is considered de rigueur reading for refused spouses and is known as The Shot Across The Bow post.)


You have seen how one man approached his wife to address the sexless nature of his marriage. He made a direct appeal to his wife, and in his case, he told her that the choice was hers, that while he would not divorce, that it was possible that she would live with the knowledge that she would lose the love of her husband. And, as you read, this talk changed the marriage.

I have recounted in one of my past posts how Wife and I had The Talk™ on New Year’s Eve 2010, and how it cleared up a massive misunderstanding. The Talk™ absolutely can have an impact on a marriage. But there is no guarantee that every instance of The Talk™ will bring about a change so efficaciously.

There is more to discuss, and in my next post, I want to present another version of The Talk™, known as the End of Normal Life. I also want to present and discuss boundaries and possible courses of action that may be used in connection with The Talk.

Resources for Today’s Post:

• Keeper of the Gate – By Chris Taylor at Forgiven Wife, an explication and analogy from Song of Solomon on the consequences of gatekeeping

• Be Your Husband’s Sure Thing – By J. Parker at Hot, Holy and Humorous. Yes, I know that this isn’t addressed to refused spouses, but it gives voice and shape to the anxiety that the refused feel.

** TheMarriage Bed – Another ministry of Paul and Lori Byerly (Generous Husband/Wife, in my sidebar), this is an anonymous forum for Christians to discuss marriage and intimacy. TMB is a Christian forum, and those who post there must be Christians and must register to be allowed to join. The board is severely monitored, with very strict guidelines. Be that as it may, it is an excellent resource for discovery, counsel, support and direction.

More to come… CSL


Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

25 responses to “Addressing The Sexless Marriage, part 2

  1. I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Shot Across the Bow conversation, which has often puzzled me.

    My husband used this approach several times–and when my heart was softened enough to begin to make changes, those were the conversations that haunted me and helped me remember how my actions had hurt him.

    Although I’ve always thought the general approach would be effective (even with a stubborn spouse like me who requires the conversation multiple times), I’ve always found myself having a negative reaction to it. I’ve read this several times over the past few days to see where I’m bristling, and I finally figured it out: “You have my body and support until I die, but you are losing my heart.”

    I know what my reaction would have been had my husband used these exact words. Because I considered myself emotionally neglected other than during sex, I would have either thought or said, “When did I ever have your heart? I don’t even know what you mean by that. The only time I seem to see your heart is when we have sex, so this is just an attempt to manipulate my emotions to get me to have sex.” I would have felt it was cruel and I would have pulled myself further away.

    My husband didn’t use those words, fortunately, and the memories of those conversations did–over time–make a difference.


    • Hi, FW,
      Hard question for you: why do you hear………..

      “You have my body and support until I die, but you are losing my heart.”

      but not…………

      “If you have rebuke for me. I am all ears. I want to be the best husband for you that I can be. You can lay it on me and I will not resist, but will redouble my efforts. I will withhold NOTHING from you. I will give up ANYTHING that you feel is needed. You just say the word. But if you will permit me now to state my own complaint to you in the same spirit… I am a sexually miserable man.”

      You say your response would have been to accuse him of manipulation. But don’t these words say that he is desiring dialog? Outside of sex? Outside the bedroom?

      I know – more food for thought, huh? I will say that with this comment, you are giving me an idea for a new article, plus will be a part of my next post.


      • It isn’t such a hard question for me, really.

        Those words about heart erase everything else for me. No matter how many times I read this post, I am nodding in agreement until I get to those words—and because those words would not have felt true to me in our marriage, they would have made me disbelieve everything else that had just been said as well. I would have thought they were just words he was saying to justify being able to offer his sexual complaint. I would have perceived them as extended manipulation.

        It highlights for me how little I trusted my husband and how poorly I understood him.


      • Ah, I misunderstood. I thought you were saying that the words were wrong, but it’s actually about what they uncover?


      • Maybe a little of both.


      • Like I said, food for thought.🙂


  2. Pingback: Addressing The Sexless Marriage, part 4 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  3. Our journey was completely different. My guy didn’t have the tools at that time to have this kind of conversation. I didn’t have the tools to ‘hear’ him. In our bad season, I didn’t feel manipulated. I felt abandoned.


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  11. Object of Contempt

    I have had a variety of talks with my wife. Our difficulties began on our wedding night. Eventually she told me that, whereas she found it difficult to wait for marriage, a couple of women told her how much the first time hurt and she became scared. I tried to be as patient as I could be. The issue that really was difficult was that she didn’t have any intention to address the problem. Many months later, I eventually had to make an appointment and take her to the doctor. The doctor said she was tense… After that, she realized she couldn’t say it hurt, but there was always a reason.

    The talks… all the many talks… I was willing to apologize for mistakes, receive explanations of what I was doing wrong… never received a sincere apology from her, though. She would say she’s working on it, or that she just didn’t know how (she refuses to care about her appearance), that she thinks she has Aspberger’s Syndrome (she definitely does not), that she thinks it’s not important. My pain and tears can’t move her. It has been over 20 years now. The depression and anxiety have ruined a couple of careers, and I’m easy to despise. Church elders and counselors have allowed her to manipulate them into punishing me. I am now very aware of the covert abuse.

    Had I known before, I would have handled the entire situation differently. The talk you shared in this post is exactly the kind of post that tells one of these types of people that they can continue with whatever kind of contempt they should prefer in order to keep the other in control. It says to them that if they treat you like trash, then the only consequence will be that you will be sad. But… to that spouse, this is a /reward/! You are now weaker and easier to control. You are likely to stumble, and easier to smear so that anyone you inform of the problems will believe the abusive spouse. And… if there needs to be a parting of ways, it will be easy for them. They will probably be supported, especially if you are the one who files the divorce (regardless of needing to do it for your sanity’s sake).

    So… be careful about the use of this talk. An intelligent and loving husband who is trying to love sacrificially can be taken advantage of in a very huge way before he is aware of the manipulation. It may look like an emotional roller coaster that you just need to ride out. It may look like you are getting through finally. Things may actually change, but then you’ll realize you’re getting a hollow shell of what you actually needed (e.g. sex that is never accompanied by real intimacy, attraction, or especially respect).

    We are still married. I am miserable. She doesn’t care. I am here because I have no other options at this time (and several children). Everything is a control game, and she has no qualms with humiliating me in subtle ways (she isn’t a yeller, which makes it hard to convince anyone of what is happening). I listened to the popular Christian sources of help over the years and have found them entirely lacking. I have found many blogs that say the only hope is to divorce. My finances and my spirit are completely crushed. It’s important to perceive all this before you end up a mess like me.


    • “The talk you shared in this post is exactly the kind of post that tells one of these types of people that they can continue with whatever kind of contempt they should prefer in order to keep the other in control. It says to them that if they treat you like trash, then the only consequence will be that you will be sad. ”

      I’m only going to address this quote, because it is the crux of your criticism. And I’m going to call you on this. Since you commented on #2 and #6, I’m assuming that you’ve read the entire series. That means that you read the quote from Corey Allan, in which he said, “Is life without sex with your spouse a possibility, is this a deal-breaker?”, in #1. I recommend that you go back to the first one, click the link to Corey’s podcast and listen to it. Then decide for yourself if celibacy is or is not a deal-breaker for you. Not Job. You.

      As I said in one of my posts, Job29Man made the decision to word it like that. Another man that I know said that there would be separation and divorce. That’s why I said spend a lot of time thinking about your deal-breakers, and then hold fast to them. If one, like Job29Man feels that he does not have the option to divorce, so be it. If another feels that sexual abandonment is grounds for divorce, as Martin Luther stated, so be it. Job’s speech, as presented, was his speech. I do not believe that I said anything about not deviating from it by even so much as one jot or one tittle. It’s a model, template. That’s all.

      Now, to your situation:
      “We are still married. I am miserable. She doesn’t care. I am here because I have no other options at this time (and several children).”
      I’m again assuming that you’re familiar with the entire series on Addressing the Sexless Marriage, including the fourth one.
      Have you joined The Marriage Bed and started posting there? (Option #1)
      Have you ceased living as husband and wife, withdrawing romance and affection (Options #4 and 5?)
      Have you created separate sleeping quarters for the two of you? (Option #7)

      “I have found many blogs that say the only hope is to divorce. My finances and my spirit are completely crushed. It’s important to perceive all this before you end up a mess like me.”

      So, now what? Moaning your lot, or choosing to do something? My eighth option was separation, but I will say that I agree with the statement that when there is more bad than good in a marriage, it’s time for the marriage to end. We speak of toxic churches, but for some reason are afraid to speak of toxic marriages.

      And I believe that the writer of Proverbs agrees with me. After all three times, he says it’s better to live away from some wives than with them:

      It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
      than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (21:9)
      It is better to live in a desert land
      than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman. (21:19)
      It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
      than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. (25:24)

      Exit poster


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  14. Chuck

    I stumbled upon your blog and I find it very depicting of my situation. For a reason or another, my marriage has been a sort of sexless dungeon for long periods of time. It was a time around 8 years ago when things got really bad and I thought of walking away, but thanks to our Lord my wife started following God and she just changed. That provoked a huge change in my too. Also we moved to America and sort of started a new life, which helped our marriage re-float. Nevertheless, our frequency was always significantly less than I would desire (usually once a week); I kind of came along with it. It’s been almost 7 years from that time now, but since let’s say 4 months things are now back to the same place they were before. Is not due to no fault of my own I must acknowledge. I gained almost 60 pounds which made intimacy harsh to say the least; and to add injury to insult, the total certainty I now have that my wife doesn’t want to be intimate with me has created a lot of anxiety in my which -when we finally get to have some action – is making me “speed up” things that should take their sweet time to brew if you understand my meaning, thus leaving my wife dissatisfied and me frustrated and depressed. I have been working on my weight through exercise and diet and while it is helping me improve I still know it will take time for me to be who I once was in terms of performance. Although I know that if we had more foreplay and I had the chance to stimulate her in other ways (let’s say orally), that would even the ground whilst I get back on my feet; but she does not allow it anymore. When we have sex now it feels like it is a painful duty for her. She has lost weight too and now puts makeup and dresses sexier than before. She also keeps now a more carefree attitude which makes me look like a fat sad clown in comparison. It’s been so bad that for while I thought that maybe she was having an affair, but she got offended really bad when I suggested it. She says she just wanted to feel better about herself and that I should not feel threatened by it. She loves me, I know it but she now acts as if she has been putting up with dissatisfying intimacy for too long and she does not want to anymore, or which – honestly- I can’t blame her, since I am not being a satisfactory sex partner for her. We now argue a lot due to this and when I bring the subject to the table she seems fed up with it and tells me I’m crazy and that is all in my head but still rejects me. The morning after she comes to me tells me she loves me but still doesn’t want to address the core of the issue, nor our intimacy grows stronger. Truth of the matter is that I am now in a very dark and lonely place from where I can’t seem to know how to get out. The same feelings I had 7 years ago are storming in my chest now and I have been suppressing them because I know that If I let them run free, I will resent her and walk out and I don’t want that as absolutely love her and my boys. I don’t know how else to deal with this and is driving me insane. I am not sleeping well and is commencing to affect my performance at work


    • I hope you read around and find my different posts. This site is basically for guys like you.

      Here’s the deal: in one of my more recent posts, I define a wife/husband as a “friend and love”. When lover is removed from the definition, no more husband/wife. Also, if you just accept the situation, it will continue indefintely. You speak of seven years? Let this sink in: if you do nothing, you might be looking at another 7, 14, or 21 years of the same. How’s that looking to you? Are you up for another two decades of the same?

      You say you “absolutely love” her. What will another two decades of this corrosive atmosphere do to your love for her? I can tell you that in the five years that I’ve been reading about marriage, refusal, etc., I’ve seen any number of cases in which the guy says, “I love my wife and divorce is not an option” when they first start posting. But I’ve seen them just go to pieces within two years, saying “I can’t take it anymore.” Walkaway Spouse Syndrome is real, and if you do nothing to try to change your marriage, there is a real chance that you will be damaged beyond the ability of repairing your marriage.

      I know that I’m not a hand-holder, and that I am blunt, but I do care about you, your wife, and your marriage. I hope you find something that will help you, here.


      • Chuck

        Thanks for your answer. I do agree with your blog. I know I need to address this on a firmer way and I am willing to do it. The only thing that stops me at this point is knowing that my performance issues are leaving my wife unsatisfied. How good a husband would I be if I were to demand satisfaction when I cannot give it? I read very well your comment of the wife that said “I like sex, I just don’t like sex with you”. That would be a tough one for me to swallow. I am a little bit lost when it comes to this issue as it is somehow new to me. I know I need medical help with this new “quick action” issue but for some reason I am afraid to go see a doctor about it. It is creating a sort of a vicious cycle as when she finally gives in, the result is often more frustration.


      • I’ll tell you what I would tell a wife to wife who had “issues,” whether physical or psychological. If there is something medically wrong, deal with it. To know there is a problem but just sit on it means that you are sinning against your spouse. Paul calls it “defrauding” in the KJ. I say this frequently: It’s not your sex life, it’s not her sex life; it’s y’alls sex life.

        Yeah, it would hurt to hear that message, but that doesn’t remove your responsibility to your wife and marriage.

        Do what you need to do, work on what you need to work on, to be your wife’s friend AND lover. There is a website that I encourage you to join: The Marriage Bed (see link in sidebar.) It has several fora that might be of assistance to you, including Sexually Refused, Male Orgasm Difficulties/ED Issues, and Testosterone.


      • Chuck

        Thank you very much for your stern but thoughtful words. I needed them. Your blog has been a blessing for me. I will do my homework and will let you know the results.

        Liked by 1 person

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