My husband stopped initiating after rejection

I was looking at my website stats and noticed that this search term kept bringing people to my website (frustrated wives and girlfriends I’m assuming):

“husband stopped initiating after rejection”

This leads them to a popular post I wrote many years ago entitled “Why your boyfriend doesn’t initiate sex”.

While I still believe this article covers the issue of Nice Guys becoming passive and seemingly disinterested around sex in long term relationships, I only briefly touched on the specific issue of men reacting badly after being rejected for sex. So I figured I’d dive deeper into that point today.

The common experience

I’m sure this problem plays out slightly differently for every relationship, but the gist is something like this:

At the beginning of the relationship, sex was probably at least OK if not good. It was frequent, it was more daring, both of you initiated or it often felt spontaneous. Your man was horny and keen for it whenever you were.

This lasted maybe 3 months or so (or longer until a serious change in your lives occurred).

Then, as the relationship became “serious”, things in the bedroom started to shift subtly. Maybe one of you got sick for a while, or something else interfered. Perhaps even this problem started much later, like after your first child or in reaction to one of you suffering severe depression.

Whatever the trigger, you (the wife/girlfriend) started to notice that sex didn’t really happen unless you initiated. You started to get anxious about rejecting sexual advances from your partner for fear that he would never try again. 

It seemed like he was getting scared, anxious, avoidant, and overly serious about sex. Or it might have seemed like he was genuinely uninterested.

Now, there’s lots of reasons and different dynamics for why this sexual disconnect can happen, but today I’m really speaking specifically to those of you who feel that it was a rejection that caused the rift.

Why men back off completely after a rejection

If you’re surprised that your man seemed to back off from initiating sex completely after even a single No from you, you probably have a history with men where you’re used to the opposite; where the guy always wants it and you basically have to push him away.

So it’s confusing to have a partner whom you need to beg and cajole and encourage into engage in sex.

Firstly, this probably isn’t just about you personally. While in some cases a guy will only have this problem with a specific girl, the reason for the problem is something he’s been carrying since before you met.

It’s called trauma.

For many of us guys, sexual rejection is a BIG deal. We’ve been conditioned our entire lives into thinking our sexual attractiveness and skills in the bedroom define our worth as a man.

I know, I know. It’s pathetic. And inaccurate. But it’s true!

Most humans hate being rejected, but for a man to be rejected sexually by his wife of all people is a particularly painful experience.

Your man is unlikely to hear what you’re really saying, which is, “Not right now, I’m just not in the right mood, but I still find you attractive and look forward to sex with you another time”.

No, instead what he hears is, “You’re not man enough to satisfy me!” or “I secretly dream of being with my exes because you’re terrible in bed!” or “I don’t find you attractive!” or “You trying to have sex with me when I don’t want to makes you a rapist!”

I’m not kidding. They really do think this stuff.

If you imagined that you said things like this instead of  “Not tonight, I have a headache,” you might understand his reaction a bit more. It makes sense that a guy would feel extremely reluctant to initiate if he interprets your rejections as these brutal judgments about his failures as a man and as a husband.

The issue might also be a more subtle one, whereby the guy has Nice Guy Syndrome and is simply conditioned to avoid ever upsetting a woman in any way. He interprets rejection as meaning that he has hurt you. So he takes the rejection as feedback to never do that “harmful” act again (i.e. initiate sex).

It’s common for men, especially Nice Guys, to believe that even feeling lust and desire is automatically harmful to women. Many of us have been programmed in some way by extremist feminism influences into believing that masculinity itself is inherently harmful, which means all expressions of male sexuality are basically the same thing as sexual assault

Our assumption therefore is that the woman must do all the initiating because it’s the only way we can be sure that it’s entirely consensual and welcomed.

In short, your man is terrified of hurting you, or of losing you, or both, and therefore avoids the potential for rejection because he doesn’t want to provoke something horrible.


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Why this needs to be addressed directly

You cannot sit around and hope that this will magically resolve itself without you needing to get uncomfortable and have some difficult conversations. 

And it would be a mistake to take this all personally and assume that you’re a bad wife or unattractive or your relationship is at risk.

While there might indeed be some deeper relationship problem behind this issue, it’s best to first deal with it as it stands and not look beyond what is actually happening. Avoid making assumptions and catastrophizing, and see this for what it is: he’s not initiating sex and you’d like to encourage him to do it more.

Let go of Hollywood movie ideals about spontaneity and psychic connection and magical changes. You will need to sit your guy down and talk it through. It might not be a pleasant conversation. It might need to be talked about multiple times. But this is the healthy and direct solution.

Don’t come at him with accusations, blaming him for all your sex-life issues and crying about how he’s not attracted to you anymore.

Come at him as his partner. You’re in this together! You love him and want what’s best for both of you.

Start with the generous assumption that he has a good reason for this issue and needs your compassion and support to overcome it.

At least this way you’ll know if the problem is what I’ve talked about in this article. If he turns on you or refuses to participate in a loving conversation, you probably have deeper problems than just difficulty facing rejection in the bedroom.

How to deal with this in a productive way

Sit him down and just share what you’ve observed as objectively as possible. Speak from a humble and curious place, where you clearly show that you’re open to learning more about him and that you may have misunderstood what’s happening.

Simply tell him that you noticed he backed off from sex after you said No, and you want to understand why this happened and encourage him not to permanently give up after a single rejection.

Then let him tell you about his version of events. Listen with an open mind and don’t interrupt or try to debate his points, even if you think he’s wrong. 

He may “counter attack” you a bit and make it sound like you’re the problem. This is just defensiveness, and he might not even mean it. He’s probably just feeling shame about being sexually disappointing to you.

You can respond to this by pointing out that you are both blaming the other person as the cause of the problem, and that what’s more important is that you work together on the solution.

Ask him what would make him feel comfortable and excited about initiating sex. Listen carefully to hear what it is you might be able to do to avoid triggering his trauma around sexual leadership.

But of course, hold him to account for his role in this. Tell him directly what you want and what you like. Let him know exactly how to turn you on. Call him out if he’s just being lazy.

And discuss how he should respond to a rejection. Explain that you saying No is nothing personal, and he should just hear it as, “Not now, but try again later”.

Also explain why you said No. Sometimes, it’s nothing to do with him, and he’ll be relieved to know that. Other times, his approach might be the problem (e.g. he doesn’t take his time), and again he’ll be relieved if he at least knows a potential change he can make.

Together, you can come up with a basic agreement / strategy that will help things become easy, comfortable, safe, and fun in the bedroom, for both of you.

And prepare to have this conversation more than once. You might find that the strategy you come up with doesn’t work, which simply means you both misunderstood what the real issue is or this will simply take a few goes to start working. So review what happened and try again.

Stay calm. Be patient. Commit to long-term development.

And only quit if their reaction to your compassionate and respectful attempts to move forward is abusive, overly resistant, or otherwise completely unworkable.

And of course, you don’t have to fight this battle alone…

How you can make massive progress in just a few months!

You can do all this on your own.

Through trial and error, books, courses and online content, you can figure it out slowly piece by piece over time if you dedicate yourself to it and are willing to fail often and get uncomfortable in order to achieve social mastery and build strong self confidence.


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Thanks for reading

Hope to speak to you soon

Dan Munro

2 Responses

  1. The key takeaway is try to discuss this directly and honestly before you jump to conclusions about the problem

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