My Wife Says “Not Tonight” Every Night


Q: In your book, “Babyproofing Your Marriage” you all talk about the “Hourglass” that seems to get turned over when the husband asks for sex and is told “Not tonight.” The idea is that if the request is not satisfied within the next 24 hours then the hubby’s foot starts tapping as he looks at his watch.

On one hand, I can see why it would be very annoying for a mom to have a request for sex come out of the blue and then be subjected to some kind of time pressure to get it done within the next X number of days in order to prevent a fight.

On the other hand, speaking as a dad, it is also frustrating to have your wife say “Not tonight” and then leave it at that for days on end. I know from experience with my wife that if I ask her for sex on Monday and she says “No”, if I ask again within the next couple of days she will get annoyed and tell me that I am obsessing about sex.

The problem is that my wife does not think about sex at all. She told me this. It never crosses her mind unless I bring it up. Suppose I ask her on Monday night and she says “No.” Tuesday she might have a really great day and at 9:00 PM she might be in a good frame of mind, but it will not occur to her that now would be a good time to see about fulfilling the hubby’s request from last night. Instead she will sit down and start watching a movie or get into a book.

So how do you deal with that? If I don’t bring it up then it won’t happen. If I ask and she says no, then as far as she is concerned the subject is closed until the next time I bring it up. Then if I bring it again too quickly I am told that that I am obsessing. But I haven’t been successful yet! And the need has not gone away!

It can get very very frustrating.

A: Yes, we’ve heard this many times before.  Best thing to do is open our book to the Sex chapter and ask her to read it.  (Half the chapter comes from the wives’ point of view, so she shouldn’t feel left out.)  We talked to hundreds of men across the country and asked what it’s like to be rejected by their wives.  We heard things like, “the sky is falling down,” “the wheels are coming off,” “it’s crushing,” and if it’s two times in a row it’s “soul destroying.”  The key point she can take away is that almost all men feel this same frustration – you are NORMAL.  You are hardwired to spread your seed.  And likewise, when you read how women feel about sex after baby, you will know that your wife isn’t the only ice queen.  There are droves of us out there!  Our bodies are telling us to nurture our baby to the exclusion of all else.  We are hardwired to make sure our baby survives (Is there a saber-toothed tiger around the corner?), that they are eating right (Our breasts are for feeding, not groping.), and developing properly (We want him/her to hit those milestones before getting pregnant again!).  Basically our bodies are telling us to not get pregnant again (sex falls off the radar) until the first one is well on his/her way.

Once you understand that you are married to a (hopefully) normal person who is hardwired a certain way, it can take the personal sting out of the conflict.  The “why are you doing this to me” arguments turn into, “what are we going to do about this” discussions.

For her, like we said in earlier posts, she needs to understand that men bond and communicate through sex and sex and intimacy is the glue to your relationship.  For you, good communication, redefining foreplay (i.e. helping out around the house), actually wooing her (there’s a lot more to it than just bagging the deer), and removing the 10:00 Shoulder Tap from your romance toolbox are good places to start.

For more detail, check out the blog under the topic of Sex entitled, The “Sex Life” of New Parents, Coitus Non-Existus.


*Illustration by Larry Martin

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