Can I Withhold Sex from my Spouse?

Question: Do you ever recommend withholding sex as a consequence for destructive behavior? Laura in FL

Answer: I don’t recommend a spouse withhold sex anymore than I would recommend that he or she withhold talking when angry. Touching and talking are the only channels that intimacy is expressed and experienced. If someone cuts off those channels when they are angry, hurt or disappointed in their spouse, then you might as well toss away the marriage relationship. Using sex as a weapon is like using the silent treatment as a weapon. It isn’t good for the marriage. It is controlling and manipulative.

The one exception I would make is when someone is unsure of the sexual faithfulness of his or her spouse. Then the person might wisely choose abstain from sex until safety and fidelity issues are resolved.

That said, loving intimacy might be absent in a marriage at times, just like good conversation, but not as a punishment. For example, telling your spouse “I can’t talk right now because I’m too angry to talk constructively or because you won’t listen to me”, isn’t using silence as a weapon but stating a problem in the relationship. In the same way, if someone says, “I can’t have sexual closeness with you right now because I’m too angry to do it lovingly” may be absolutely true. Or telling a partner, “I feel like I’m just a sex object to you when you disrespect me at other times”, helps the one who is doing the hurting to know what needs to change in order to repair the relationship.

There a more extensive answer as to how to talk about this issue with a destructive spouse in the Blog Question: Do I Have to Have Sex with My Abusive Husband?


  1. Amy on May 18, 2021 at 9:26 am

    Of course it’s okay to set your boundaries. If telling him that sex is not on the agenda then so be it. It depends on the circumstances. You can’t really answer this if you don’t know what is going on. This shows the futility of asking questions like this on someone’s blog on the internet.

Leave a Comment

Ask Your Question

Have a blog question you'd like to submit?

Read More

What’s The Difference Between True Guilt and False Guilt

Morning friends, I so appreciate this community and the faithful participants who pray for one another and regularly respond with wisdom and compassion. Thanks also for your support in my desire to keep this blog open to fresh air and other people’s perspectives. I told you a while back that I had a big life…


My Husband Won’t Change and I’m a Mess

  Morning friends, Today I’m flying home from Branson, Missouri where I spoke at the American Association of Christian Counselors conference. It was a great time, thanks for all your prayers. I was presenting my material on my new book and the comments were very positive. My sister Patt and her husband also came with…


Is There Hope For A Narcissist?

Morning Friends, I want to make a few comments about the purpose of this blog. I wrote this in response to some other comments within the blog but I wanted to share it with you all. First, I am not providing personal counseling within this blog for the individuals posing these questions. I am providing,…