Sex can be complicated to discuss because it’s personal and intimate. But I want to talk about a specific sexual struggle: the exhausted married woman who doesn’t feel like having sex with her husband, but should do it anyway. She doesn’t have complicating factors like marital abuse happening in her life. She doesn’t have sexual traumas making sex difficult for her. She’s just tired.

I have been this woman, and so have many of the women I know. We looked forward to getting married and beginning a sexual relationship with our husbands. We were in love and excited. We anticipated having guilt free sex whenever we wanted. It didn’t occur to us that the sexual aspect of our relationship would ever be a source of conflict or struggle in marriage . . . let alone that it would sometimes feel more like work than play.   

Sex is often the first thing put on the back burner in the busyness of life. By the time we are ready for bed, we are too tired to think about sex, much less have it. Add kids to that scenario and the situation gets even more dire. Mothers have held their little ones, been tugged at, and grabbed all day long and now we just want to be left alone and go to sleep. We don’t feel animosity towards our husbands; we are just exhausted and tapped out.  

I get it. My life is full and busy. I have three kids that need my time and attention every single day. I have responsibilities at church and at home, with family and friends that can sometimes be overwhelming.

Maybe you’re a wife who would truly affirm a strong commitment and love for your spouse, but at the same time you might admit that you are stuck in an unfulfilling sex life with no end in sight. Something has to break this cycle, but sometimes it is difficult to know where to start. Here are a few suggestions:

Seek the Lord

God says we should be having sex with our husbands.

"Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement, for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self control." 1 Corinthians 7:1-5

We are supposed to freely give of ourselves to our husbands and not deprive one another unless we agree to abstain for a period of time so that we can devote ourselves to prayer. Whoa. Most of us can remember the last time we had a tired headache or just didn’t feel like it, but we probably don’t recall the time we asked our husband if we could agree together to refrain from sex to foster a season of prayer.

Paul encourages us to “look not only to our own interests, but also the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).  

When you routinely withhold sex from your husband you are not considering his desires or even his feelings. Whether you are a man or a woman, rejection stings. When we only think about our mood, desires and preferences we fail to consider the fact that we are hurting our husband's feelings and eroding the unity in our marriage. There are undoubtedly many who will read this and begin looking for loopholes and exceptions. However, the two principles we must gather from these passages is that God tells us we should be engaging regularly in sex with our spouse, and that we should be seeking to serve our spouse more than we serve our own preferences.

Will there be days when you legitimately don’t feel well physically or emotionally and you don’t desire sexual intimacy? Sure. Your husband should seek to love and serve you on those days, but pursuing sexual intimacy with your husband should be the rule and not the exception in your relationship. If you are in a cycle of withholding from your husband it's time to make a change.

Talk About it

If you are noticing a lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage, your husband recognizes it too. Maybe you have never discussed your expectations about your sex life. Maybe you are content to have sex once a week, but your husband is struggling and wants to increase your sexual intimacy. Talk about these expectations and do it with humility (Phil 2:1-4). Be ready to give up your own preferences (1 Cor 13:5) and serve your spouse. As you talk, remember that you are both on the same team. You both should want the same things: a close, intimate relationship with one another that brings joy to both of your lives and honors Christ.

While each couple’s conversations about this will look differently, your conversation should be honest, loving, and goal oriented. Acknowledging the need for change is important, but it won’t necessarily change your relationship.

Be sure to set some clear goals as you move forward. Maybe you settle on a number of times per week that you’ll seek to come together sexually. Maybe you’ll come up with days of the week that you’ll have sex with your spouse. Scheduling sex on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays doesn’t sound particularly, well, sexy, but it may help you to grow as a couple. Also, consider scheduling a time a few weeks later to circle back and talk again to see how things are going, if things are improving, or if you need to tweak your goals and efforts.

Do It

After you consider what God wants (for you and your spouse to have sex regularly), and after you talk to each other and make a plan to serve one another better in this area, the only thing left is to have sex. Make it happen. Consider what is keeping you from having sex and eliminate the obstacles.

Too tired at night to have sex? Plan to take a power nap during the day, go to bed earlier, or have sex in the morning!

Too busy for sex? Take something off your plate. Your marriage should be a priority (Mark 10:7-9). There are certainly things you can let go of so that you can focus more attention on the spouse God has given you.

Too upset with your husband for some reason to have sex? Take initiative to be reconciled to one another so that there is no relational conflict keeping you from coming together (Eph 4:26).

Maybe you are just being lazy and passive about taking time to engage sexually? Turn off Netflix, get off Facebook, stop reading blogs and go have sex with your husband!

Have fun, be creative, and enjoy one another as you seek to honor God in all things—including sex (1 Cor 10:31).   

Lauren Lambert is a pastor's wife to Heath and mom of three children. She lives in Jacksonville, FL where Heath serves as Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church and is the Executive Director for Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.