Don’t Force Your Sex Life into Hibernation Mode By Choosing Sleep Over Sex

Don’t Force Your Sex Life into Hibernation Mode By Choosing Sleep Over Sex April 21, 2014

Stop read the bookDear Shaunti,

We have young kids, and often I’m so exhausted that I just want to go to sleep without my husband trying to start something. Most of the time I have absolutely no interest in sex late at night, after running afternoon carpool, juggling karate and ballet lessons, making dinner, helping with homework (my husband helps too), and returning work emails. But my husband gets upset when I tell him to please leave me alone. Seriously? It’s nothing personal! What do I do? And please don’t say, “Have sex every day” or I just may toss this computer out the window.

–Too Tired

Dear Too Tired,

Don’t worry! That advice is not what I would say! But for the sake of your marriage, I do want to give you some perspective that our tired female brains sometimes completely miss.

It may seem that putting dear hubby off for another night isn’t that big of a deal. As you put it, it isn’t personal. In other words… we women tend to think that, for him, sex is primarily a physical need. In the same way that sleep is a physical need!


Well, actually, for him…. no.

I was shocked in my research with thousands of men that sex is actually primarily a powerful emotional need for men. It meets a very deep need in a man to feel that his wife desires him – a need that hits at the core of who he is, and is thus far more central to his sense of emotional well-being (and thus the marriage relationship!) than most women realize. (Ladies, if you have the higher drive in your marriage, check out our special article series “When She Has the Stronger Sex Drive.”)

Being intimate with your husband tells him he’s desirable, which, believe it or not, gives him that oh-so-necessary sense of confidence and well-being in all the other areas of life. One husband I interviewed explained, “What happens in the bedroom really does affect how I feel the next day at the office.”

And it works the other way, too. Your “please leave me alone” probably makes your husband feel like “you are so undesirable you can’t even compete with my pillow.” Looking at it from his standpoint, that is a depressing message. Do you see how responding—or not responding—tells your husband something emotionally important in a way you never realized?

The men often used this analogy: a lack of being physically intimate is as emotionally serious to a man as a lack of togetherness would be to you. It would be similar to how lonely and abandoned you would feel if he suddenly started giving you the silent treatment and stopped communicating.

Now, all that said: we all realize it is sometimes just difficult to get in the mood for intimacy. It is sometimes difficult even to think about enjoying it when we are tired, stressed, dealing with the kids, worried about work, and so on. So I’m sure you don’t intend to send a rejection message to your man night after night.

But he doesn’t know that. He simply feels rejected. And because feeling desired is so tied in to how he feels about himself, it is personal.

So for the sake of not only him but your relationship, it is probably worth it to find ways to address this. Help him understand YOU and how you need anticipation time to get in the mood (take a look at my recent column about that). Or tell him it would help if he’d do the karate and ballet run – and then show him later that you mean it! Talk to him about what would make this more feasible for you.

Don’t worry – there’s no reason to think this means “every day!” Every couple has their own pattern. But if you have gone weeks without being together, be aware that your husband, the person you love most in the world, probably isn’t feeling truly loved and affirmed by you. Thankfully when you find ways to get engaged in this way, I think you’ll truly enjoy watching the difference it makes; not only in his demeanor but the whole relationship.

Do you want Shaunti to share life-changing truths at your church or event? Inquire about Shaunti speaking, here.

Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage, and her newest book, Through A Man’s Eyes. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her findings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit for more.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • battleshiphips

    The solution is to sleep a couple of hours and then wake him up for some middle of the night delight, or switch to first thing in the morning when you are fully rested.

  • Alix Feodorovna Romanov

    What if the female has a disability & she has tried to do her best through the pain, all through the years. Now the husband is 70 & the wife, who is in pain nearly every day, feels enough is enough. He knows it has nothing to do with him personally. Why would a man want to do this to his wife knowing it will increase her pain?

  • Melinda Todd

    I know it can be so hard when the kids are little. One thing I started telling myself is, how would I feel if I wanted to talk to him and he said, “Leave me alone. I don’t want anything to do with talking to you.” Ouch. And I did a lot of praying. I still do sometimes. When his needs are being met, he is so much more willing to help me with anything I need. I admit, I still struggle in this area sometimes.

  • The argument also assumes that we men are not tired after a long day of work, commute and other chores. We do get tired as well, but, as the author says, intimacy is very high in our priorities

  • osborn4

    Change the “no” to “not now. How about [some time in the not to distant future].” and follow through. Because a flat no really does feel like a personal rejection, no mater how you mean it.