My Husband Has a Headache

Erica moaned, I was sooo tired last night, but as usual, Trevor was ready for fun and games!

Karen nodded empathetically. Believe me, I sympathize. When Joel looked at me with that gleam in his eye, I felt like throwing a bucket of cold water on him.

Katie laughed along with her two friends, but inside she was dying. There was no way she could tell two women whose husbands panted at the sight of them that Jason was never ready for fun and games. He never even wanted her. Katie turned her head to hide the tears. Oh God, she silently cried, what is the matter with me? Why doesn't my husband want to make love with me?

Is this a common problem? More so than you might think.

The problem no one talks about

As I (Linda) walked into the main room of the retreat center, my eye was immediately drawn to a woman about my age. She was exquisite. Stunning. I inwardly thought, Wish I looked like that she's so classy. Later Marti sought me out. "Linda, I have to talk to you. I can't talk to anyone in our church or in this city. Please, can we get together?"

It is difficult to shock me, but what Marti told me made my mind whirl and my heart ache. She said, "My husband told me that he loved me, admired me, and wanted to be married to me, BUT that there was no chemistry anymore and there would be no sexual relationship. Most women wish their husbands had a headache occasionally, but mine has a perpetual headache."

Many women believe that any man would be overwhelmed with desire if he had a wife who looked like Marti, but this was not the case. During the weekend retreat, I talked with two other women whose husbands claimed disinterest in sex. Three women in one weekend? It seems husbands who are "cold fish" is a more common problem than women realize. Most women with this problem are too embarrassed to bring it up especially when other wives are wishing their husbands weren't so interested in sex.

According to Dr. Janet Wolfe, author of <Emphasis>What to Do When He Has a Headache</Emphasis>, 50 to 60 percent of the time the complaint that one's partner has fizzled out sexually comes from a woman. In her book, Dr. Wolfe cites a Redbook magazine study of more than a hundred thousand married women that revealed almost four wives in 10, or 38 percent, felt they were not having sex often enough. These statistics indicate that increasingly today's marriage dilemma is, "My husband isn't interested." 1

As you might imagine, this situation stirs up deep feelings of insecurity and doubt within these women:

  • "I'm jealous of women whose husbands desire them."
  • "I'm not sure why, but I feel ashamed."
  • "I used to think I was attractive, but now I analyze everything I put on. I'm obsessed with my appearance."
  • "I pick a fight before we go to bed. Then when he doesn't want to make love, I tell myself it's because of the argument."
  • "I feel so vulnerable. I'm an affair waiting to happen."
  • "I can't help but wonder where he's getting his sexual needs met. Is he into porn? Is there another woman?"

One woman wrote:

The pain is so piercing. The core of my femininity has been crushed. I've worked at being an exciting lover to my husband, and what do I get? Rejected. What is wrong with him? What is wrong with <Emphasis>me</Emphasis>? I know I don't look like Cindy Crawford, but everyone says I'm attractive. My husband makes me feel oversexed when all I want is a "normal" sexual relationship. I hate to approach him because I can't handle another "brush off". What does God want me to do with my sexuality? In my heart I long to be faithful to God and to my husband, but today I feel like running away. My thoughts scare me. I really think other men would find me a great lover. God, keep me from thinking such things! I know I'm vulnerable to the attention of another man. I'm scared.

The problem no one talks about is a real problem. What causes it?

Identifying the problem

An expert in sexual issues made the following statement: "Ninety percent of sexual problems aren't sexual at all &#8212; they have their roots in the emotional barriers we place between ourselves and our partners. We bring these problems into the bedroom from the dinner table, the office, from our past experiences." 2 The reasons why a man may lack sexual interest include: changing sex roles, fear of closeness, feeling overworked and overstressed, time pressures, boredom, marital conflict, anger and fear of sexual dysfunction. 3.

Does the Bible address this issue? Yes. I Corinthians 7:3-5 makes it clear that:

  1. Celibacy is wrong for married couples. If your husband is pursuing a semi-celibate state, he is in sin because he is withholding what is rightly yours.
  2. Sexual expression between a husband and wife is not an option; it is part of our God-given responsibility to each other.
  3. Your husband doesn't have authority over his body you do.
  4. The only reason to abstain from sex is prayer and fasting.

What do you do with this knowledge? Do you club your husband over the head and say, "The Bible says you're wrong!" Obviously that's not the best course of action. The best thing to do is to have an honest talk with God and then an honest talk with your husband.

An honest talk with God

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23-24).

Why did David, the writer of the Psalms, ask God to search his heart? David was a diligent self-searcher yet could not see any wicked way in himself. He knew God was a better searcher so he invited God to dig into his heart. C. H. Spurgeon, in The Treasury of David calls this process "Divine scrutiny in order to be informed of errors and defects." Are you willing for God to search your heart? Will you pray?

God, I've examined my heart I'm not sure if there are wrong attitudes or actions (wickedness) but You see clearly. I invite You to search the innermost parts of my being and reveal any error in my thinking or in my ways. Have I tried to control my husband? Have I criticized him? Have I cut him down? Show me any "hurtful way" that might have caused him to turn from me sexually. Then, Lord, should You reveal any way in which I have failed You or my husband, give me the courage to do what is right to make amends.

After you have honestly talked to God and asked Him to search your heart and reveal any sin in your life, it is time to talk to your husband.

An honest talk with your husband

How do you talk honestly about sex when you've been so wounded by your husband? First and foremost, follow 1 Corinthians 16:14: "Let all that you do be done in love." (Can you imagine the difference it would make in our marriages if we consistently applied just that one verse!) Ephesians 4:15 commands us to speak "the truth in love". The key word is love. Often the truth is spoken but in anger, not in love. Tell your husband exactly what you are feeling and how you are struggling, but make certain your communication is loving. Ask him if you have done anything (controlled, criticized, cut him down) to contribute to the problem of his lack of interest sexually.

It is very difficult to have this honest talk. How do you speak loving, truthful words, when all you feel is hurt? One woman's solution was to have the talk via a letter.

Dear Toby,

I am writing you because I love you and want our marriage to be the best it can be. I want to become the wife you need. I've tried many times to express to you in person what I'm feeling inside and it seems we always end up arguing, so I'm going to try writing this letter. I realize it is difficult for both of us to talk about these things. I really don't know why you've lost interest in me sexually, but I want to understand. I know I don't have a perfect body, but I'm not unattractive either. I'm scared, Toby, because I feel like our sexual relationship (really the lack of it) is changing the way we relate to each other. I feel unloved, unattractive, undesirable, and very vulnerable. A man complimented me at church Sunday, and I've thought about him all week. Please, will you talk to me and go with me for help? I want our marriage to work!

Whether or not you write your husband a letter or try talking openly to him is between you and God. God cares deeply about the sexual problem in your marriage. He is the One who can reveal to you how to relate to your husband in love. You are unique. Your sexual relationship is unique. Your marriage is unique. Each woman must decide for herself, with God's guidance, what is best for her marriage.

How Christi handled her situation

Christi, mother of two and married 12 years, said, "My husband and I didn't make love for a year. He had excuses that, at the time, seemed legitimate. I had tried to approach him sexually but was refused. It was hard to keep asking, but I realized that our lack of physical intimacy had seriously hurt our marriage. I thought, What should I do? How do I get out of a 'no lovemaking rut'?

"Finally I thought, I've got to take the initiative again . I asked my husband, 'What can I do to turn you on?' His answer sliced into me... 'Nothing.' But I tried everything I could think of anyway a sexy nightie, creative seduction. You name it, I tried it. I even added mystery. I took him to each room of the house where a card gave him a clue as to where to go next. The final room was the bedroom (of course) where I served him dinner in bed. He was pleased with the gourmet meal and then made it clear he wanted to watch TV he didn't want to make love to me. Only a woman who has been rejected knows the humiliation, the rage, the feeling of helplessness."

Christi told her husband how she felt, both verbally and in letters, but he just wouldn't talk about it. They also went to a Christian counselor, but there was no change. We wish we could tell you that Christi discovered a magical formula and now she and her husband enjoy passionate love three times a week. But that's not the case. Christi couldn't fix the problem, but she found a new way of looking at her situation that has helped her deal with the pain of her husband's rejection

"I have realized that it is his problem, not mine," Christi says. "I came to the conclusion that I couldn't make choices for my husband, but I could be responsible for my actions. I made a commitment to God to cling to Him, to turn my constant worries into prayers for our sexual relationship. I asked myself, 'What if the situation never changes?' I decided to live with an eternal perspective, with my eyes focused on Christ rather than on my hurt. My situation hasn't changed, but I'm more at peace."

Sometimes hearing the stories of those who've been where you are really helps. To learn what others have done in this situation, read "Unhappy in Bed."

1 Janet Wolfe,What to Do When He Has a Headache (New York: Hyperion, 1992), 2.
2 Dagmar OConnor, How to Make Love to the Same Person for the Rest of Your Life (New York: Bantam Books, 1985), 293.
3 Wolfe, What to Do, 5-8

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Other Things to Consider

Abuse & AddictionPornography and Cybersex, Sexual Abuse

Parenting ChildrenTalking About Sex

Parenting TeensSexual Activity, Crisis Pregnancy, Homosexuality

TransitionsGetting Married, Adoption, Having a Baby