A Taste of What Men Feel

The following is an email from a woman who shares her experience with feeling rejected sexually, and how it changed her perspective on many things about sex and the marriage relationship. We appreciate her willingness to share her insights.

Dear Laura,

I think I have just had a tiny glimpse into how men feel when they’re wives are not interested in sex. My husband has been very busy with work and lots of things on his plate, and so have I.

Last night I suggested we go for it! He almost seemed a bit surprised that I was seriously offering. He replied that he didn’t really want a quickie, as I guess that’s what he thought I was suggesting.

After talking a bit about some other stuff I said, “You know, we don’t have to just have a quickie,” and that’s when he said he was really tired and wanted to wait ’til tomorrow. It’s not like this was the end of the world or anything, or that he was outwardly rejecting me, like I imagine happens to some men.

But I just had a twinge of what it must feel like to be a man with an uninterested wife.

I had some work to do on the computer, so I went out to finish that. I remembered a product a friend had suggested for lovemaking and was looking it up. Some of the pictures were a little suggestive, and for the first time in my life I could finally see why pornography could be a potential draw for men (or even women).

Being in a minimal state of longing and feeling somewhat rejected definitely heightened my attraction to the visual images. I even had sexual dreams that night, that I normally never have or remember.

I know this is probably nothing compared to what many men experience on a regular basis. I am just humbled by what little piece of their lives I feel I may have now experienced.

I guess this kind of scenario is an example of how marriage is such a people-growing process. I had to calm my fears about my attractiveness. I had to discipline myself to not venture further into the romantic images that were readily available on the internet.

I had to acknowledge the important role sex plays in a marriage, probably even more so for men, many of whom have likely been frustrated for a long time.

I feel sad for them and for me, even though I know my situation is not a permanent condition. My husband would probably laugh at the drama I have attributed to this “non-situation.”

But I feel greater empathy for the many men who write to you and post on your website about their feelings of rejection and hopelessness.

I hope maybe somebody reading this will be encouraged to make sex a higher priority and to understand the sadness and vulnerability that is created by a lack of sexual connection in a marriage.


I so appreciate her sharing these insights! It can be very powerful for any of us to get a glimpse into our spouse’s perspectives and better understand how they might be feeling.

You’ll also find in my “The Marital Intimacy Show” podcast Episode #016 — “What Sex Means to a Man” I share a poignant and personal description from one husband who eloquently describes the power of sexual connection, providing a beautiful example of what sex may mean to your husband!

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  • pauly November 1, 2007 at 12:19 am

    I get really defensive when I read posts about poor helpless deprived men who are never satisfied. It feels like an over-simplification, and it reduces us to one-dimensional beings, as though we are defined by our sex drives. Do they teach this in Young Women? I sometimes catch my wife saying things like “poor deprived hubby” and it pisses me off.

    But I think the original poster has some very penetrating insights. What she says about why men are drawn to porn, and the insecurity that comes with rejection is spot-on. I have certainly felt this way — usually after a particularly insensitive rejection to a sexual advance. Not the “not tonight” variety, but more of the “What? Why would I want to do that?” variety.

    I’ve never read this anywhere, but my dad gave me one really good piece of advice about marriage that has stuck with me – and that is that the male ego is directly connected to the sex drive. If a woman rejects a man’s sexual advances, he generally takes that as a personal rejection. The opposite is also true (think Tom Hanks strutting around in Big after his first experience).

    So his advice to me was to learn to recognize the difference and not let the ego get in the way. After 15 years of marriage, I still can’t separate the two. But it was really good advice … maybe someday I’ll be able to. 🙂

    Please give men a little more credit. We don’t want sex because it’s an uncontrollable urge driven by a world of sex-filled dreams and constant bombardment by various stimuli. Yes, there’s a physical component there, but there’s also an emotional component. Lika Laura says in her book, it’s hard for men to feel connected emotionally if it’s not there.

    • Laura M. Brotherson November 6, 2007 at 1:22 am

      Hi Pauly,

      I’m sorry if this post felt like the “poor helpless deprived husband” variety. My hopes in posting it was that it might be of value to others. I’m glad to hear it was at least somewhat insightful to you.

      The notion you mentioned of the personal rejection men feel when their wives are uninterested in sex was one of the key points I wanted to share of this woman’s comments.

      If you think about it, your dad’s comment about “the male ego being directly connected to the sex drive” may have something to do with the perception some women have about “poor deprived men.” Even the admission that you still haven’t been able to separate her rejection of sex from her rejection of you adds to the “poor deprived men” syndrome, since I believe women, at least unconsciously, pick up on the way their rejection is actually received. (This can also add to their own feelings of failure as a wife.)

      When men are actually able to see past their sexual deprivation or are willing to be really honest about it, it’s not just sex that they long for, but the emotional connection as well, just as you’ve stated.

      It’s funny that in the end the emotional connectedness is really what both spouses are longing for. It’s just that many women think they can have that emotional connection and still dislike or ignore sex; whereas men generally need to experience the sexual nature of connectedness to get to that longed-for state of emotional connection.

      I realize the perception of men we’re discussing here is an over-simplification, but as I’ve mentioned there are things that tend to feed into that stereotypical belief.

      Maybe the one good thing about this perception is that it’s nice to have at least one spouse that may not be so complicated! I’d sure hate to be a man and have to try to figure women out!!

  • bws71 November 4, 2007 at 11:23 am

    I really appreciated ths woman’s story. If we could spend a day in our spouse’s shoes and feel what they feel I’m sure we would treat each other differently. Thanks for sharing this Laura.

  • msnobody November 16, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    What bothers me about stories like this is that they work under the assumption that it is only MEN who feel this way. There are plenty of women out there who struggle with the same thing in their marriage that you are assuming only men do – rejection.

    Her statement “I just had a twinge of what it must feel like to be a man with an uninterested wife.” could just as easily read “I just had a twinge of what it must feel like to be a PERSON with an uninterested SPOUSE.”

    The uninterested spouse isn’t always the wife, and the rejected spouse is often the woman and not the man.

    The reason it bothers me so much is that nobody ever talks about the reverse situation, even though it occurs. (I’m speaking from experience here, unfortunately.) Stories like this make me feel even worse. (What’s wrong with ME that my husband is the only man in the universe – apparently – who isn’t dying to have sex all the time?) And I’m sure it makes the men who are the lower-desire spouse feel bad too.

    Sexual issues aren’t gender specific, and I wish people would stop using stereotypes that further that myth.

    • Laura M. Brotherson December 7, 2007 at 12:44 am

      Hello msnobody,

      You are right on the money that that comment could have read, “I just had a twinge of what it must feel like to be a PERSON with an uninterested SPOUSE.” Your comments are excellent in highlighting the fact that it’s not always the wife that’s not interested in sex. Your situation is becoming more and more common, or is now at least coming to light more and more.

      I mention some of the potential causes of a lack of sexual interest in men in my reply to “dansprettygirl” below.

      I can see the real frustration it can cause when we speak of sexual desire issues only in terms of the stereotypes. Those I have worked with in this situation do feel an extra degree of frustration, not only at the situation they find themselves in, but also in that it seems to be less common and even less talked about! I hope your comments and others here will help everyone see the realities that some couples face in their intimate relationships.

    • listening December 21, 2007 at 8:07 pm

      Thank you for your comment, it gave me comfort to know that I’m not the only woman who feels this way. It’s really painful and each repeat offense just heightens the rejection I feel. I almost just want to shut down so I can protect myself from getting hurt again. I’ve openly discussed this with my husband and hs says sorry (each time I tell him) but it hurts to always be the one to make the first move and also to be turned down.

  • QuestionMark November 29, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    It’s so odd to me to think that there are couples with the wife being high-desire and the husband low-desire. It’s completely contrary to the only situation I’ve known. And I think that’s why people make assumptions when it comes to sexual relationships.

  • dansprettygirl December 3, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    I am so glad to hear I am not the only one in a situation of having a higher desire than my husband. It’s just unheard of; the story always goes the same way. My story is backwards. I have searched and searched hoping that I wasn’t the only one; that there wasn’t something wrong with me. I don’t know what to do, there is no literature, no life stories telling how to overcome such a challenge. I try not to care, to tell myself he shows his love for me in other ways; but I just can’t get over it. What’s a girl to do?

    • Laura M. Brotherson December 7, 2007 at 12:27 am

      Hi dansprettygirl,

      Yes, there are many wives that find themselves in the higher-desire position in their marriages. When others have written to me about this situation, I have often directed them to consider themselves in the position of what is usually the husband (or stereotypically the husband) as the higher-desire spouse, when seeking to apply the suggestions I teach throughout my book.

      For better or for worse that angle was taken in the book in an attempt to go with the most common scenario to try to keep the writing as easy to follow as possible. I realize we must find a better way to address the spontaneous-desire vs. cultivated-desire scenario without making either spouse feel like an anomoly.

      You might also want to read Michele Weiner-Davis’s book, “The Sex Starved Marriage,” which I reference in my book. And stay tuned for her upcoming book, “The Sex-Starved Wife.” It’s becoming more and more common that women are the ones that like sex, while the husband shies away for various reasons. You are definitely not alone.

      I address this issue somewhat in one of our Q&As — “Husband dislikes lovemaking“. In this post I address some of the common causes of low sexual desire in men:

      (1) Low tolerance for the inherent anxiety-producing nature of intimacy

      (2) Unresolved conflict in the relationship

      (3) Negative sexual conditioning and inhibitions, etc. regarding sex

      …and I would add that pornography can also play a role in some situations.

      I do think this is a situation that should be addressed. If you can’t make progress between yourselves, then I’d definitely suggest seeking professional assistance, even if he won’t go with you at first. There are things either spouse can learn to do to change the dynamics of any relationship for the better.

  • kristyluc December 4, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    I have to say that I was pretty shocked when I read this post. I had a very similiar experience a few nights ago. My husband was sitting on the bed reading when I suddenly had the urge to get something started. I playfully took his book away and started kissing him. He acted a little annoyed and said, “I need to wake up early.” We said our nightly prayer together and I went out of the room. As soon as I reached the bottom of the stairs, I burst into tears. I couldn’t beleive how hurt and rejected I felt. I truly appreciate the insight given in this post. At the time, I didn’t think about it that way… that that’s the way men feel when we reject them. I think from now on I will be a little more sensitive. Thanks for sharing!

  • arjw December 6, 2007 at 10:02 am

    I too am a wife who has always had higher desire than her husband and it has been a hard thing to deal with. I am attractive, take good care of myself, am kind to him, always willing, and have never tuned down any of his advances. He also has had a pornography problem that he is now struggling to overcome. I can’t tell you of the rejection I feel knowing he chooses porn over me. So I just wanted to make aware that a wife who doesn’t put out isn’t the sole cause of men looking at porn as was stated. As I have said, I have always been willing and have have a far higher libido than my husband. A porn addiction is basically a self medication for other underlying issues he may be struggling with and I have to constantly remind myself not to take in personally.

    But yes, it should be made aware that there are many marriages out there that are backwards from the so-called “norm” where us women have the higher desire than our husbands.

  • UnderTheSun February 2, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    I have a fantasy.

    I have a fantasy about what it’s going to be like in heaven. Some stories about heaven (and hell) suggest that it will be tailored to address the predominant shorcomings experienced in each individuals mortal life. Maybe God will gather together all the people who are writing in response to this post. He’ll gather up all the women who have a healthy libido and are longing to be loved. Then He’ll gather up me and all the other men trapped in a desert of a marriage, desperate for even an hour of intimacy…

    Then he’ll take all these people and place them together on a small island paraside somewhere. And then, well, anything will be fair game 🙂

    Your first reaction, if it’s like mine, is “oh my goodness, shame on you for even thinking something like that!” But isn’t that the same inhibition that feeds the taboo that there’s something “sinful” about sex and pleasure? Do we really understand that God wants the best for us in every way, even though our mortal lives “under the sun” require that much of it be deferred for the Great Beyond? Look at the Garden of Eden! “Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32)

    So whether my fantasy is pure conjecture is anyone’s guess. But fortunately, the goodness of the heart of God is a sure thing. See you there!

    • Arogen March 9, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      Not what I expect or would like to happen. I love my wife to the max no matter what she does or doesn’t do (although her actions certainly do have an impact on my happiness). I expect that part of becoming perfect after this life is becoming a perfect spouse for our eternal companion, and I bet in many cases when the body is perfected in the resurection and satan has no hold on us that there will be very little left to do to fix that area up.

  • landschooner March 19, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Not to minimize what some of these women are feeling, but to burst into tears after one rejection…Try 17 years of rejection, having your wife say no 19 times out of twenty, for various reasons year after year after year. I don’t think most women have any idea what that kind of rejection is like. I don’t know; Maybe they do with other needs that might not be met.

    I love my wife and she really is my best friend, but those feelings are balanced and often trumped my by despair and anger. I’m trying to move that into acceptance and resignation not very successfully as yet. It’s like the only way to shut that down is to shut everything down. Any real discussion of the matter on my part is met with anger.

  • JL March 24, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    It is hard to be rejected. I have been rejected many times over the years but I have also been accepted many times over the years. I have tried to tone down my desires for frequency and we have a good time sexually usually once a week.

  • sweetlew January 7, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    I have been married for more than 20 years. I was a very naive’ virgin then and didn’t know what went where. When my husband was having problems…you know…, I thought that was normal. He neglected to tell me before we made our committment to each other, that he was impotent. He had diabetes for about 6-7 years before we were married. Since then he has has cancer, a heart attack, a toe removed and ongoing diabetic problems which put him on disability.

    About 7 or 8 years into the marriage we were arguing about whatever, and he said the reason he didn’t tell me is that he thought I wouldn’t marry him. I told him I was so naive that I would have married him anyway. At least I would have gone into the marriage with my eyes open.

    He has tried very little. Once he took “a pill” (a sample he got from his Dr.) right before we were going out to a friends house. I said, “WHY WOULD YOU TAKE IT NOW?!” He said, “Well, it’s supposed to be good for 3 hours.” Needless to say we were at the frinds house for longer than 3 hours.

    I married for life, even though I forgave my husband of having an “affair” (if you would call it that) with a teenage boy many years ago. It was mutual masterbation. I feel he has cheated me out of a life. I cry all the time and this year, my Christmas wish was that by the end of this coming year either he or I or both of us will be single. I would never do anything to hasten that along. But, I WANT THIS TO END!!!

    I am a married single person. I don’t have any of the priviledges of marriage and none of the freedoms of singleness.

    • Rachel Haskin January 9, 2009 at 8:14 pm


      I feel for you and I just wanted to give you my two cents. I’ve learned that no matter what, a couple should be able to express their love in whatever way they are capable to. You can still have a fulfilled sexual relationship without actual intercourse. The real problems are probably with the emotional and spiritual intimacy lacking. My only suggestion is to do everything you can to show him love and support and he just might care more about your needs in return. I’ve known a few people that honestly felt it was better to be single when their marriages weren’t going well. I will always encourage couples to first do everything they can to make it better, even if it’s just one-sided. I also try to help them remember why they got married in the first place. Staying in the marriage and doing everything you can to make it better will, if anything, make you better for it. I hope some of this helps.

    • SirJohn January 14, 2009 at 5:49 pm


      I have been concerned about your comments for some time and decided to respond. I know that this will not be the most upbeat response but I feel that it must be said.

      I don’t know exactly how young the teenage boy was with whom he had the affair. If he was underage, than in most states that would be called child molestation, regardless of whether it was consensual or not. This is a very serious crime. Your husband may be a danger to other children. If it is not past the statute of limitations where you live, you should report him to the authorities. I realize in saying this that you will find that extremely difficult, if not impossible. Your post leads me to believe that you are very emotionally dependent upon him and may not have the courage to take this step. I feel compelled to give this advice anyway because the safety of innocent children is worth any price. I hope that I am wrong, and that the affair was with an adult who is capable of consenting sexual acts. It is generally recognized that minor children (including most of the teenage years) are not emotionally capable of withstanding the pressure imposed by a child predator, and are therefore not capable of consenting despite what they may say at the time.

      Secondly, regardless of whether the teenager was a child or not, your husband has shown a propensity for both infidelity and homosexuality. It is common with infidelity for him to be involved in more affairs than you are aware of. Your personal health is at stake. If possible, have him get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Make sure that you are privy to the test results, and not second hand from him. Have yourself tested also.

      I know that you have other concerns for which you came to this forum. Support for the burden of marital celibacy being the primary concern. I did not address this in this post because I feel that these other issues are far more important. Please, for your own sake, and for the sake of the innocent around you, consider what I have said. Take action. Protect yourself and innocent children.

      I wish you the best and pray that you will find strength to cope and to act with courage.

      Sir John.

  • Sonia @ Marriage Counselling Toronto March 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. Although everyones experiences are different we still should appreciate the story of this women.

  • Arogen March 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    There have been times where I thought about refusing my wife just so she would know how it felt, but I could never bring myself deliberately hurt her like that.

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