Those of us bold enough to initiate sex will eventually hear the dreaded word “no” from our spouse. How we react to that “no” will either move us toward disconnection or create greater intimacy in marriage. Though hearing a “no” is never easy and can literally throw us into a tail spin, we have the power to choose how we react. We can refuse to make the “no” personal and instead lean into connection regardless of whether we have sex.
I have experienced both sides of that “no”. Years ago, I said it more than I should have. Until I experienced a “no” myself, I had no idea how well my husband had been handling hearing “no” all those years. It has caused me to think about why I did say “no” and what I actually should have communicated.
Many times, the reason women say “no” to sex has nothing to do with whether they love their husband. In fact, their saying “no” might be an indication that they need their husband more than ever. A “no” might actually be a cry for help.
Reasons for “No”
Women might feel totally exhausted and just need sleep. We might feel insecure about our body and embarrassed to share it during sex. Our mind might be filled with worry or stress over trying to manage life. Or maybe we feel insecure about whether our husband really love us. Maybe we feel like every time our husband pursues us, all they really want is sex.
When a “no” causes a husband to retreat in rejection, start pouting or become harsh, they move towards disconnection. They communicate without words that all they really wanted was sex. Once sex is off the table, they loose interest in us.
When a husband leans into connection, even when we say “no”, they prove with their actions that they care more about their wife then an orgasm. They declare they did not just initiate because their body yearned for a release, but because they yearned for connection. Sex was not driven by selfish desire, but as another way to say, “I love you.” When they don’t turn away after a “no” but continue to pursue us in other ways they build trust.
Sometimes a woman saying “no” to sex, is really a plea for help. A cry for our partner to come along side of us and pull us up. To insist on taking care of our needs by sending us to bed early or helping with the night feeding. To affirm our beauty by looking into our eyes, touching our curves and saying, “You are so beautiful”. When we feel stressed, a husband asking about our day will help us process and stop worrying. A back rub might ease our tension a husband’s strong arms comfort us. Our “no” means something and we need you to move toward us and not away.
A woman in class, said, “When I say ‘no’ I don’t really mean no.” She was not trying to insinuate that she wanted her husband to force himself on her. What she was saying was that she’d like to say “yes”, but she needed some help. Her husband’s pursuit, even when she didn’t want sex, would help her move towards trusting him in the future, or maybe even that night.
So much of sex comes down to communication. Interpreting the meaning of a “no” is like asking a husband your mind.
Understanding Our “no”
Ladies, we need to understand the meaning of our own “no” and communicate what we really need. Share your fears, your insecurities or your frustrations. Help your husband be your hero and give him a chance to succeed. Seek connection by honestly sharing why you can’t say “yes” right now.
Even when we don’t communicate well, we still communicate. Our “no” means something. How you handle a “no” also says something. You have the power to change the dynamics in your marriage by not taking things personally and leaning into connection in ways that feel scary and hard. Ground yourself in God and continue to pursue each other. Even during a “no”.