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Why Your Wife Hates Sex and What You Can Do About It

Getting inside your wife's head.

Key points

  • Understanding a woman's psychology can help her partner predict when she is likely to want sex.
  • Fatigue and unexpressed anger are two reasons why a woman may not desire sex.
  • As long as a woman still wants sex once in a while, a good strategy for her male partner may be to adjust expectations about sexual frequency.

It's 11:15 p.m. You're lying next to your wife after a long day for both of you. You catch a whiff of her freshly washed hair and suddenly your mind jumps to how nice it would be to get her naked. You know she's wearing those not-tonight flannel pajamas, but you slide your hand over her closer breast anyhow as you press your hips against her. She suddenly gets very still and quiet. You can almost feel her skin crawl as you try to caress her. She says, sounding somewhat annoyed, "Honey, I'm tired." So you stop, shut down again. You wait till she falls asleep and masturbate, trying not to move the bed too much. It's been two weeks and you can't so much as touch your wife. What is up with that? Why can't she just have sex with you—maybe even just a quickie—when you need it so much?

You're right. It's not fair. But there is so much hope—your sex life doesn't have to be this way.

Why she doesn't want sex (for now!)

The more you can get inside the head of your wife, the better your sex life is going to be. Here are some psychological insights and strategies for you as a capable and vital man to consider for improving your sex life with your wife or long-term lover.

1. She is too tired.

Women typically do about seven times more housework and childcare than their husbands do even when they both have full-time jobs. Add to that the fact that women need more sleep than men do, and you have a recipe for her wanting sleep more than sex when both your heads hit the pillow.

2. She resents or is angry at you.

In any romantic relationship, both men and women need about five times as many positive events than negative ones to say that they are satisfied with the relationship. The difference for women, however, is that they tend to ruminate over negative events more than do men. In other words, when bad things happen in a marriage, like when a husband tells his wife that she shouldn't have dessert, she mentally ties that insult to its grander meanings like thinking that she married the wrong man.

Because women ruminate more, wives are much more likely to come to bed resenting their husbands. And all the proper timing and sex tricks in the world are not going to make the sex good for an angry or resentful spouse.

3. She does not have the freedom to choose when and how much sex she will have.

This stirs in her something called psychological reactance, which refers to the desire to restore a sense of freedom when it has been taken away. Back in the sixties, psychologists discovered that virtually everyone experiences reactance. It's what happens when your neighbors tell you that you can't paint your house red or let your dog run around without a leash. You immediately feel like telling them to go to hell to get a feeling of independence again. It's the same for your wife—all your pressure for sex makes her push you away. But this situation can be turned around to the point of making her beg for it, as I will explain in my next post.

Key steps for better sex

Now, here are some of the key steps that you can consider doing for better sex with your wife. (Remember, good sex leads to more good sex!):

1. Find out how much sex your wife really wants to have under optimal circumstances.

Let's say she says once a week. And let's say that your ideal is five times a week. Don't worry about that discrepancy—the important thing here is that she is still imagining herself wanting sex. Good!

Your focus can now be to shift your expectations for your sex life with her down to once per week, perhaps masturbating the other four nights, and looking forward to trying to make that one time with her excellent for both of you.

Naturally, a huge part of why you are likely to be frustrated and angry about your sex life is that you keep hoping and expecting to have more of it.

2. Do some of the things she usually does around the house.

This includes things like bathing and putting the kids to bed or cooking so that she is not totally worn out by the time you get around to slipping your hand under her pajama top. Or you can stun her by hiring someone to help when she is not expecting it.

When you combine this helpfulness with a low-pressure approach to sex, (see my next post) you may be stunned by the change in her responsiveness.

3. Time your sexual advances according to when she will crave it most during her menstrual cycle.

This means to make them more frequent a couple of days after her period has ended and less frequent (or never) immediately before and during her period. As mid-cycle approaches (i.e., a few days after her period has ended), several things happen: Her energy level rises, her vaginal wetness increases, and her cervix becomes softer and moves back. All of these make sex better for both of you.

A couple of exceptions to the monthly pattern are: (a) Some women crave sex the day before their periods start (making that a good time for a sexual advance), and (b) many women are on the Pill, which can diminish the surge of desire during mid-cycle.

See my follow-up post here.

More from Anita E. Kelly Ph.D.
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