It happened again. That moment of realization. Ohhh, I know what she’s doing. She’s initiating. She desires me. My wife wants sex. But, uh—I’m not feelin’ it right now. So, no thanks?

You ever been there? Turning down the lady’s advances?

I’ll never forget the visceral disagreement I had in college. On the eve of my wedding, my mentor told me, “Justin, one day soon there will be a day when your wife wants sex, but you’ll be too tired. You’ll decline.” I’m thankful I don’t remember the specifics of my response. But it went something like, “You’re flat out wrong, you lesser man, you!”

Needless to say, on the fourth night of the honeymoon, I said, “Babe, I’m spent. Can we just, like, cuddle?”

Men, we’ve been told a narrative our entire lives that we are the lions. That our sex drive should be higher than our wives’. That we must initiate intimacy every time. That this is what it means to be a man.

Anything less? Anything else besides this? Well, are you even a man? These lies are loud in our heads.

Is declining her advances okay?

Now, let’s get something straight: to decline is just fine. Every once in a while, that is.

Marital sex is a language. It’s a conversation. It’s worship. Therefore, it must be regular. But nowhere in the Bible are we prescribed a number of times per week. The Bible doesn’t command us to say yes every time. There are days, even seasons, where sex just ain’t gonna happen. (Several weeks post-pregnancy, for example. And also as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians, the mutual agreement to temporarily pause intercourse to pray, only to resume once done.)

But a pattern of saying no when your wife wants sex? Well, that becomes a problem. Here’s why. Think about it from her perspective.

Turning her down when your wife wants sex can cause…

1. Insecurity

My man keeps saying no. Does he even want me? Am I still attractive to him? Does he care? 

It’s easy to see the natural progression into fear.

2. Fear

What’s wrong with me? Am I not beautiful to him? Does my body not stimulate him anymore? Is he receiving stimulation from somewhere else? Is he watching porn? What if there is … someone else?

Then, it tilts towards anger.

3. Anger

Okay, so he has the energy to golf with friends this afternoon but not take care of me? Forget it. Not trying anymore. I’ve been with the kids all day, and I just want to feel like an adult! I love my kids. But I long to be touched in a non-annoying way. Did I marry a man or a boy?

Okay, so flash back to that moment of realization. She’s initiating and you’re not feelin’ it. Consider the situation from her perspective. Reread the last few paragraphs for help in this. Then, here are some ideas to think about.

Admit you might not be feelin’ it … but you’re still needin’ it

As mentioned, sex is integral to the health of the marriage.  The pleasure, the love, the closeness, the chemicals released in the brain, the spontaneous conversations during, the anticipation, the little winks in public afterwards. Our bodies were quite literally made for it.

It’s almost like … God created it for our joy. (Which, of course, he did!) Whoa.

Constant refusal of this is therefore unhealthy. Husband, you might not feel like you’re in the mood. Fair enough. Still, you need it. So does your wife.

Go ahead. Partake. Whew, the sacrifice.

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Understand that your body is under her authority

Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians, “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another…” (7:4-5).

It’s mutual, yes. Praise God for that. But, husbands, our focus is that she, in a sense, owns our body. We shouldn’t deprive her of it. My decision to have sex or not is filtered through if my wife wants sex as much as if I want sex.

Delight often follows duty

It’s a principle we all must learn. It applies to studying the Bible, rolling out of bed for church, and even sex with our wife. While in a perfect world we’d be delighted to make love every single time, it sometimes doesn’t work that way.

So, it often comes down to duty. It’s our duty to care for her in this way. What’s cool is that delight follows—or flows out of—duty.

Practically, you begin a half-hearted kiss with a semi-grumpy attitude. But a few this and thats later … there’s no place you’d rather be!

You are her storyteller

Whether you mean it or not, you’re weaving a story. You’re crafting her story, one in which she’s the main character. It’s likely the story of who she is that she tells herself inside her own head. But it’s this story that gets to the core of her heart.

Every time you refuse her sexual advances you’re (likely unintentionally) communicating some pretty awful things to her. Especially if it’s a pattern. Things that can spiral into insecurity, fear, and anger.

(Let me add that if you’re a man facing medical challenges in this area that is different than simply only wanting sex on your own schedule. But still you should openly talk with your wife about it and also to your doctor.)

Conversely, saying yes when your wife wants sex—even when you’d rather sleep, work out, finish a work project, scroll Instagram or whatever—communicates your high value of her. Your yes tells her she is worthy, beautiful, and yours. All of her.

Husband, it’s not a perfect world. It’s not a perfect marriage. We aren’t perfect lovers.  And we often don’t handle things in a Christ-like way.

But with a little perspective shift, a slight adjustment of belief, and a minor increase in action, our wives, in God’s grace, will flourish emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It might not be easy. But nothing glorious ever is.

Copyright © 2019 Justin Talbert. All rights reserved.

Justin Talbert serves as the Student Pastor at Christ Community Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He received his MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary. Justin and his wife May, have three Vikings-in-training: Soren, Aksel, and Isen. You can find him on Instagram: @justinltalbert. And he regularly blogs at