What happens when the desire you have for your spouse consistently goes unfulfilled? For example, a man looks at his wife while she is getting dressed for bed. However, he knows that nothing will come of it. She will reject him, and they will go to sleep. Time after time, he desires his wife, but he is rejected. The same can happen to the wife. She desires her husband, but he consistently rejects her.
What should you do if the desire for your spouse goes unfulfilled and causes stress and emotional pain after years of rejection? You work hard to restore love and affection, but disappointment is always the end product. Some couples divorce, and others remain together in a miserable relationship. For those who stay, what should they do if their desires for their spouse produce pain instead of fulfillment and pleasure?
Let me first establish the context herein. The context is a couple who have been married for more than ten years, especially those who have been married for decades. Also, I wrote this article primarily from a husband’s perspective because that is who I am. I would love to hear from women about their unfulfilled desire for their husbands.
James 4:1–2 (NKJV) — 1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
We fight each other because of insatiable desires. The Buddhists believe that desire, i.e., craving pleasure and more stuff, is the root of suffering. The point relating to marriage is an unfulfilled desire for your spouse causes suffering. The more a man’s craving for his wife go unfulfilled, the more stress and emotional pain he experiences—likewise, the wife for her husband.
Couples who stay together in a sexless or otherwise unhappy marriage tend to suffer quietly because their unfulfilled desire for their spouse produces emotional pain, exacerbating the situation. The husband and wife crave an emotional connection that has faded after years of rejection or neglect.
The desire for one’s spouse is the very thing that is causing pain because it is not fulfilled. You find yourself always wanting but not receiving. Consider what the Bible says.
Proverbs 13:12 (NASB95) — 12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
A husband’s hope (expectation) is for his wife and the wife for her husband. The heart becomes sick when that hope goes unmet, and the relationship will follow. The unfulfilled desire for one’s spouse leads to a sick heart.
So, what can those with a sick heart from a sexless marriage do? Below I provide some options, and I am not suggesting that these can fix a sexless marriage or somehow overcome the desire. They are, at best temporary coping mechanisms.
There are several options for a man with unfulfilled desires for his wife (and vice versa). What I mean by unfulfilled is that she arouses him sexually and is attractive to him, but his arousal goes unquenched. He knows from experience with her that those desires will not lead to anything, i.e., an emotional connection through sex.
Let me say right from the start that none of these options resolves the issues of a sexless marriage. The best way to resolve issues resulting in a sexless marriage is to fix them or learn to cope with them the best you can. For example, a woman may sometimes avoid sex because of a medical or physical condition. A man may avoid sex with his wife because of erectile dysfunction issues. To top it off, other problems could lead to those, e.g., stress, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, etc.
Some options or coping mechanisms are as follows.
- Continue in the sexless relationship
- Consider separation or divorce for a better future with someone else
- Develop an emotional connection with another woman, including sexual
- Consume porn and masturbate for sexual relief
- Control your desire for your spouse
Let me address those options.
Continue As Is
Some couples remain together in a sexless or otherwise unhappy marriage for decades. They become roommates or cellmates instead of soulmates. The husband, for example, may still crave his wife, but he knows his cravings will not lead to a connection with her. He resolves to remain unfulfilled for the duration of the marriage, i.e., his sex life with her is probably over.
This approach introduces a slew of problems. First, he may still desire his wife when she is undressing or otherwise in a provocative posture. He thinks to himself, “I’m married to someone I cannot have.” That thought is devastating to a man because it derives from years of rejection by his wife.
Romantic love between the couple will fade away over time. How can there be romance between a husband and wife without sex when sex is possible? He remains in a marriage that causes him distress and emotional pain daily. There is no way that won’t affect other areas of his life, including his spiritual life.
Separation or Divorce
Even though they remain committed to the marriage, there may come a point where that commitment wanes. For example, the husband may soon find that he can no longer tolerate a sexless and unhappy marriage and decides to pursue separation or divorce. However, it is interesting that women initiate about 80% of divorces.
He hopes he can either light a spark in the marriage through separation or take a chance and start over with someone new by getting a divorce.
Unfortunately, divorce brings a whole world of other issues that may be much worse than a sexless marriage. Since our judicial system seems to favor women in divorces, the husband may get himself into a much worse situation than an unhappy marriage. He may lose his house and access to his children and incur a financial burden.
Some marriage counselors may recommend couples separate for a short time to clear their minds and assess things objectively. Separation should be monitored by a professional if it becomes an option. The idea is marriage restoration, though some separations can end in divorce.
Cheat on Your Spouse
A husband not getting his emotional and sexual needs and desires met by his wife may pursue another woman to meet them, and vice versa. A dissatisfied person may cheat on their spouse. A man may find himself “connecting” with a woman at work, the gym, etc. He finds that he becomes emotionally connected to her, which feels relieving and good.
That seemingly platonic emotional connection can become physical because men emotionally connect via sex. He gets from another woman what he originally wanted from his wife.
Some even reason that finding another person to satisfy their sexual desires will save their marriage. They think that they can look at their spouse and not suffer because they know the sexual arousal produced by their spouse can be met by someone else. Unfortunately, that, like divorce, can create a whole new world of problems if the cheater is caught.
Above an emotional connection through sex is trust. If trust is broken, a healthy sexual relationship will unlikely happen. The sexless marriage will probably get worse.
Porn and Masturbation
Let me first address pornography. Some say it is healthy to consume porn because it allows for sexual release without fornication or adultery, i.e., assuming porn leads to masturbation. There are many kinds of porn, e.g., soft-core and hard porn. The idea is to be stimulated by images, video, or audio. That stimulation may lead to masturbation to release the ensuing sexual pressure, which already existed because of a lack of sex with your spouse.
The problem with porn is that it can, and most likely will, reprogram your mind such that a real woman doesn’t stimulate you, i.e., your wife. You may begin to desire unrealistic things from your spouse, who is already withholding sex from you, thus making the situation worse.
In any case, my point is that a person may resort to porn, thinking they can get the sexual release they are not getting from their spouse. However, porn does nothing for the emotional connection you desire for your spouse.
The last point is an important one in my opinion. Consuming porn may provide sexual release, at least temporarily, but it will not help the sexless and emotionally disconnected relationship you have with your spouse.
Masturbation may follow porn consumption. However, porn is not necessary for masturbation. A man or woman may masturbate to relieve sexual stress.
Some religious people say that masturbation is a sin and should be avoided. I can’t entirely agree. I went through an in vitro fertilization program that produced a son. I had to masturbate many times during that process. I think masturbation is just a thing. Like anything else, we can overdo it to the point where we don’t desire a physical connection with our spouse.
Masturbation, too, is not a solution for a sexless marriage, especially for men. For men, sex is how we emotionally connect with our spouses. Masturbation may relieve the sexual pressure, but it will not solve the problem of unfulfilled desire for his wife (and vice versa).
Don’t Desire Your Spouse
I think this can be a powerful tool a person can use in their marriage and life. The premise is simple. If desire causes pain, then don’t desire. Of course, it is easier said than done. Let me give you an illustration to help you understand what it looks like.
A man enters his bedroom at night, and his wife is lying down reading a book or just unwinding at the end of the day. She only has on a bra and panties. He looks at her and is immediately aroused by what he sees. His first instinct is to materialize his desire by coming on to her. He might want to lay beside her, caress her legs, etc.
However, he considers the most probable outcome based on many years of marriage. She will, in one way or another, reject his advances. The sexual tension produced by his reaction to her laying on the bed will not be relieved. He then short-circuits his desire the same way he would if he were looking at another woman that stimulated him.
He would turn his physical desire for his wife off because that is the safest and most probable route for him. He turns his head and thinks about something else. Instead of engaging her physically, he would turn off his desire and walk past her.
You cannot be dissatisfied or disappointed if you don’t desire your spouse sexually in the first place; at least, that is the theory. Problem solved. If you don’t desire your spouse, you can avoid the pain associated with the pain of unfulfilled desires for your spouse. Right?
Problems with Not Desiring Your Spouse
You must be aware of a significant problem with not desiring your spouse. For one thing, it is not sustainable. It may work for several instances of desire, but in the long run, its effectiveness will fade because the desire, though suppressed in the past, only builds up over time.
Turning off the desire for your spouse does not resolve the sexless marriage situation. It does not produce an emotional connection with your spouse. Instead, it fuels the emotional disconnection. Instead of at least wanting your spouse, you train yourself not to want them. There may come a time in the future when things start turning around, and you are free to desire your spouse safely. However, you have programmed yourself to turn off when aroused by your spouse. It may take a while to reprogram your brain again.
Another problem is that practicing not desiring your spouse may add to the emotional disconnection. For example, a wife may flirt with her husband only for him to turn away from her, not because he doesn’t want her, but to protect himself from disappointment later. She may interpret his actions as rejection, possibly causing her to pull away from him even more.
Not desiring your spouse may help you cope with sexual rejection and disappointment, but it will not solve the problem that has caused the sexless marriage and the emotional disconnection.
One of the best things you can do in a marriage is to communicate respectfully and honestly. Tell your spouse how you feel and consider carefully what your spouse tells you. Don’t allow your emotions to cloud the honesty that can flow in a heartfelt conversation about your feelings towards each other.
Sometimes, the wife, for example, doesn’t realize that her husband is suffering because of a sexless marriage. To her, infrequent sex is fine but devastating to her husband. The husband must tell his wife what he is feeling. Only then can the problem have a chance of being solved.
But Nothing Worked
I have to include this section because I came across many men in a sexless marriage who are suffering. Some have tried talking to their spouses and expressing how they felt to no avail. Some have decided to stay in the relationship even though it is not fulfilling.
What can you do? Is it fair that you married someone who doesn’t seem to want you and rejects you when you approach them? Is it fair that relieving the sexual tension elsewhere causes even more stress? It can be extremely frustrating.
A man may have tried giving his wife flowers, candles, gifts, cuddling, deep conversations, and so much more, only to be consistently rejected. What is he to do (and vice versa)?
As I mentioned earlier, divorce may not be viable, especially for the man. A divorce may become complicated if children are involved and therefore deemed not an option. Should you stay in such a terrible relationship?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. I wish there were. It is one of those things in life that we have to do our best to cope with or resolve. If we don’t like our jobs, we can pursue employment elsewhere. If we don’t like a club or church, we can join another. Marriage is supposed to be until death parts you. Ending your spouse’s life is NOT an option, so don’t even think about it.
Even if nothing worked in the past, still do what you can to learn more and become a better you. Communicate and attempt to resolve any issues between the two of you. Perhaps practice controlling your desires for your spouse at specific instances to keep from being disappointed and frustrated so much. Do what you can to survive and, at the same time, do what you can to improve the situation.
What happens to a man when his desire for his wife is consistently unfulfilled? He finds her attractive, loves her, is committed to the marriage, and wants to connect with her emotionally—the same thing for a woman (I can better speak from the man’s perspective).
His desires going unfulfilled is a form of rejection to the man. The more he desires his wife and the more she refuses to fulfill those desires, the more he feels rejected. That consistent rejection will cause other things to sprout in the marriage—and they aren’t nice.
Below are some consequences of the husband’s desires being consistently unfulfilled by his wife for years.
Loss of Romantic Love
How can a man continue to have romantic love for his wife when his wife rejects his romantic gestures? His love for her will begin to wane as she continues to reject him sexually. He may still say “I love you” in response to his wife saying those words. However, that kind of love is far from his heart.
Sex is expected in a marriage. When a man decides to marry a woman, he hopes they will have a sexual relationship. He imagines connecting with her, protecting her, providing for her, and being her hero. However, when he is consistently rejected sexually, those expectations and dreams start to face.
After a while, he begins to regret getting married. The hopes and dreams he once had for his life with his wife are slowly disintegrating. He starts thinking about what his life would be like if he didn’t get married.
Now, not only is his sexless marriage a source of pain but so is his wife as a whole. That condition is not good for the relationship.
Resentment can quickly appear in a relationship when there are consistent unresolved issues. Resentment will slowly erode the marriage over time. That is why resentment should be resolved as soon as possible.
For example, men tend to be stimulated by what they see. We can even use our imaginations to see what is covered. Men expect to have sex and emotionally connect with their wives regularly. It is a way of strengthening the bond, giving and receiving love and affection. If his wife consistently refuses him, bonding is hindered, and resentment arises.
Unnecessary Opportunities for Others
The emotional and sexual tension that grows in a sexless marriage is significant and should be dealt with. If desires go unfulfilled, that opens the door for them to be sensitive to opportunities to fulfill the desire with someone else, i.e., infidelity.
Constant rejection can erode the passion until they seek opportunities to fulfill their desires with someone else. We desire our spouses, and we want them to want us too.
Therefore, couples must maintain their emotional and sexual connection and prioritize it. That will minimize responding to opportunities to cheat.
Of course, some opportunities to be emotionally fulfilled by someone else could lead to infidelity. Your desire can shift from your spouse to someone else. I’m sure you can understand how consistent rejection from your spouse could lead to seeking affection from someone else.
The husband becomes emotionally connected with someone he met at work. They have lunch and dinner and soon see more of each other. One thing leads to another, and they are in bed together. He is relieved, and his sexual stress is eliminated by one act of sex with another woman.
I watched a video where a woman said a husband should leave the house empty. Whatever it takes, he should be fulfilled before leaving the house for work or whatever. It would be difficult to tempt a man who is being emptied of all sexual stress by his wife and is emotionally connected to her.
Rejecting Your Spouse
Prolonged sexual unfulfillment can lead to one’s spouse being seen as something like the enemy. A man may start responding to the desires for his wife the same way he responds to temptations from other women: He turns his desires off. Doing that consistently with his wife could become a normal response, and she may interpret that as rejection.
A person can teach themselves to reject their spouse to protect themselves.
A sexless marriage produces a lot of stress on men and women. Men are very sensitive to it because it is how we connect with our wives. Without that emotional connection, wives become roommates and less an object of their husband’s desire. It shouldn’t surprise the wife if she finds him responding to other women and negatively responding to her.
Emotional and sexual tension builds along with stress. Stress can cause a variety of health issues, e.g., hypertension and inability to concentrate. So many things in life stress us, and it is unfortunate if someone is stressed because of their marriage.
Tension in the Household
Looking at your spouse knowing that nothing will happen between you will produce tension in the relationship and, therefore, the household. There will be little emotional connection, games, fun times, date nights, etc. The husband and wife will eventually become roommates instead of soulmates.
That tension can spawn angry outbursts, arguments, lack of communication, and extended absence away from home.
Overall, unfulfilled desires in a sexless marriage is a significant threat to the relationship. It can produce ill feelings and gradual emotional separation. Couples should learn to resolve issues and sustain a healthy sex life—whatever that sex life looks like. The important thing is that it is consensual.
Many problems in marriage can be averted if the couple is emotionally connected and growing closer over time. It seems reasonable to expect a marriage to fall apart (divorce or not) if the two are no longer emotionally connected.
The only true solution for a sexless marriage is to have sex. That may mean that other areas of the marriage may need attention. For example, discovering why your wife won’t have sex with you and vice versa. Work on the cause of the sexless marriage, if any, to open the gates to have sex.
Ensure Your Own Happiness
I think it is essential that we ensure our own happiness instead of expecting our spouses to contribute to it. Sometimes your spouse may be the source of unhappiness instead of happiness and fulfillment. Concurrently, they may also be a good functional partner, i.e., good with family finances, cooking, cleaning, repairs, etc.
Do your best to make yourself happy by pursuing things you enjoy. Don’t allow a lack of sex to define your life. Be the best husband or wife that you can be. Continuously pursue a solution to problems in the relationship. Above all, communicate honestly and respectfully.
Many men and women are in a sexless marriage, though men complain about it more than women. Lack of sex can devastate the man because sex is how he emotionally connects with her. Lack of sex can also crush a woman because she may feel unwanted by her husband.
There are several things that someone might do to cope with a sexless marriage. These include doing nothing about it, porn, masturbation, separation, divorce, or practice not desiring their spouse. Controlling the desire for one’s spouse seems like a good idea in a sexless marriage. However, it is wrought with its own challenges and consequences.
Not desiring your spouse means you turn off the arousal produced by looking at them. You teach yourself not to desire them sexually so you won’t be disappointed and full of sexual tension later. It may help, but the underlying problem will persist.
I think the best approach is to do what you can to cope and resolve the issue. Communicate with your spouse. Work on improving yourself for your sake. Learn to ensure your own happiness and stop giving your spouse that responsibility.
Always pursue a happy marriage. Pray for wisdom on the matter. Don’t make the matter worse by disrespecting or antagonizing your spouse. Do your best to cope with and improve the situation. Don’t allow a sexless marriage to define you or have so much power over you.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from you. Can you add something to this issue?
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