Some ILIASMers have spouses who professes to want a regular and satisfying sex life.  When asked why they are refusing, they indignantly insist it has nothing to do with their desires, but is the fault of circumstance.  Often they go so far as to insist they REALLY want the same sexual intimacy their partners are seeking.

For Refused spouses, this is confusing.  Naturally, if you love someone, you want to believe them.  You especially want to believe them when they say what you want to hear!  But confusion arises because, despite saying this is what they want, there is little or no evidence to back up these claims.  In fact, more often than not, there is extensive evidence to the contrary.

Looking at these situations from the outside in, it is very clear that the Refuser is not telling the truth.  But when you are IN the situation, it can be much harder to accurately evaluate what is going on.    This is due to the variations of motive in individual Refusers.

Identifying your own Refuser can help you to see what you need to do to deal with this situation.

Refuser One: says s/he wants sexual intimacy but cannot follow through with the behaviour.  This type of Refuser has an (a) and a (b) category!

(a)     This Refuser actually wants to believe s/he wants sexual intimacy. S/he wants to believe this because s/he knows it is “normal” to do so, and therefore wants to conform to “normal” standards.  But her/his behaviour actually contradicts this.  This type of Refuser is VERY difficult to deal with because they do not understand their own reality.  They cannot accept their own truth of not wanting sex.  So ALL instances of sexual refusal will be externalised onto another issue.  This often takes the form of blaming the Refused for causing the lack of sex . . . !

(b)   This Refuser knows very well that s/he does NOT want sexual intimacy, but says they do because it keeps their spouse from straying.  It is dangling a carrot in front of the horse (who is you!) with NO intention of ever letting you have the carrot.   IMO, this is a particularly cruel form of refusing.

Refuser Two: says quite clearly that s/he does not want or need sex – and follows through with consistent behaviour.   This Refuser is the one who tells you that you are “sex mad” and cannot understand why you do not realise that “all you need is love” – without any of that messy, time consuming sex!!

Refuser Three: I call this person the Clayton’s Refuser – because s/he is not a genuine Refuser in the ILIASM sense.

This is a spouse who is jaded with marriage and / or their marriage partner.  This is the spouse who likes sex and wants an intimate connection but is being driven away from that level of intimacy by problems in the marriage.  These problems are often due at least in part to the spouse.  It IS hard to maintain a warm, sexual and intimate connection with a person who disrespects you, disregards your feelings, treats you unfairly or does not maintain personal hygiene!

Refuser 1a is the most difficult to deal with.  This person is in denial.  S/he tells herself/himself that they are “just like you” in really wanting a good intimate sexual connection – and cannot accept that their behaviour (ie. Refusing) clearly demonstrates the fallacy of this supposed belief.  This person will always have a problem that prevents that sexual intimacy occurring – and yet will never accept that these roadblocks are their own problems.

Sometimes these roadblocks seem (and maybe are!) quite genuine.  But the acid test occurs when there is NEVER a time for sexual intimacy because there is ALWAYS another roadblock. . . .   Often the roadblocks are about you – the Refused.  YOU are not romantic enough, you don’t take on your share of the child care, you are not a good housekeeper. You are too fat, too thin, too old, too ugly, too beautiful, too . . . . You don’t “understand” him/her.  The implication is that, once you “fix” yourself, sex will be back on the menu.   DO NOT BE FOOLED! This is NOT going to happen.

There is a strong temptation to “fix” yourself (or the environment) with the hope that THIS time you will achieve success.  But that simply plays into the falsehood that this situation has its roots in an external problem.  And it does NOT.  It is a deep seated part of your Refuser.  And as your Refuser cannot see that, let alone admit it, there will NEVER be a resolution to this problem.

Refuser 1a will never understand that s/he IS the problem.  In his/her mind, the problem is always external.  So if (when) you leave, s/he will always blame you for breaking up their happy marriage.  S/he will never take responsibility for their role in the break-up.  And nothing you do can change that.  So recognise that, if you have a 1a Refuser, you WILL be the “bad guy”.

Expect resistance at every stage of your break up.  Negotiations in every area will be tinged with negativity because this person truly does NOT “get it”.  S/he still sees himself/herself as the “innocent victim” in this marriage break up!

1b Refusers are aware that they do not want sexual intimacy but say they do because they want to keep you tied to the marriage.   They are often highly successful at this for many years!!   If you can clearly see that your Refuser is only paying lip service to the concept, with absolutely NO intention of following through, you know exactly where you stand.  As long as you allow yourself to buy into the “dangling carrot” scenario, s/he will keep you tied to the marriage.

In this situation, you may have some success by standing up for yourself and calling the person to account.  S/he may not budge easily – after all, this tactic has worked REALLY well for them in the past!  But you may get them to admit that there is no chance of a sexually intimate future with them.

These situations are sometimes the ones with the better outcomes.  Once the “bull ****” positions have been revealed for what they are, then both sides can find relief in not living a lie.  To achieve this, it is most important to avoid blaming, angry outbursts and accusations.  You are seeking a resolution to the problem and negative behaviour on your part will only serve to further entrench the attitudes you are already seeing.

Honesty, compassion and respect on your part may (eventually!) elicit the same from your Refuser.  The operative word here is “may” . . .   But you DO need to realise that reaching this level of honesty will in no way alter the sexual dynamic of the relationship.  It will still be necessary to leave the marriage if your needs dictate you have sexual intimacy in your life.   But you may be able to negotiate your separation civilly and also work out such arrangements as co-parenting with a degree of cooperation that is usually missing from Refusers 1a and 2.

Refuser Two is the truly selfish and narcissistic Refuser.  This person has no interest in your needs.  S/he openly states that s/he does not want or need sexual intimacy, and therefore it will NOT happen in your relationship.  This person sees no reason to give your needs or wants any priority at all.  If your needs and wants conflict in any way with hers /his, then you WILL be the loser.

In many ways these are the easier Refusers to deal with.  There is no “bull ****” on their part – they are honest about their needs coming first.     

But YOU need to recognise that there is nothing at all that you can do to change this position.  Hoping that something miraculous will occur to turn your Refuser around one hundred and eighty degrees is to lie to yourself.

These situations are best resolved by recognising that there is only one “cure” – and that is, leaving the marriage.  This Refuser is unable to empathise with the needs of his/her spouse.  Your needs cannot ever compete with the Refuser’s needs.  Trying to convince them otherwise is an exercise in futility.

Negotiating your separation and child access will probably be very difficult.  As your spouse puts his/her needs ahead of everyone else’s s/he will not easily cooperate with anything that is not seen to be in his/her best interests.  This often extends to the children too – even though they profess to want to put the children first.  In reality, this means putting the children first provided it does NOT conflict in any way with what they want for themselves!

Refuser Three can easily be confused with Refuser 1a.  It takes considerable self awareness and willingness to look carefully at yourself and your own behaviour to see if your Refuser actually has some valid complaints about you.  Conversely, many spouses think their Refusers are type Three when in fact they are type 1a!

Two  ways to determine the differences:

With a Refuser 3, your relationship was often pretty good for a long time – several years or even decades.  (Refuser 1a types tend to emerge in the first two to three years of marriage or knowing each other.)

A Refuser 3 often becomes a Refuser because there has been a steady decline in the relationship for reasons other than sex – anything from financial crisis and personal illness, to affairs or lack of personal hygiene.  This Refuser is finding it hard to trust his/her spouse and is withdrawing from the intimate sex life they once enjoyed.  (A 1a Refuser usually embarks on his/her refusing simply because they don’t really want sex.  The “reasons” they give are often vague, insubstantial or not rooted in real life reality.  Such as “If you love me you will know what I want.”)

With a Refuser 3, it is essential to nail down exactly what is wrong; which behaviours need changing and what will constitute a satisfactory outcome in these areas.  If you are the cause of this break down in your marriage, you have a chance with a Refuser Three to rebuild your relationship.  You need to take your role seriously and not try to just “band aid” the marriage by giving your lip service to change without following through.

Be aware however, that sometimes your best efforts may not result in success.  Fear and lack of trust may be too great in your Refuser Three for you to successfully overcome these feelings.

Sometimes a Refuser Three results from circumstances outside your control , such as serious illness; profound grief; drastic changes in family circumstances.  These can be the WORST situations to deal with because you cannot personally change them.  And you can understand the reasons for the change in your spouse.  This means you have sympathy and empathy for them.  But tragically, it does nothing to resolve the issue of your sexless marriage.

Then you are faced with the dilemma of deciding if you can live with this situation or not.  This condition has my profound sympathy because I believe it to be the most challenging one in the Sexless Marriage arena.

Are there other types of Refuser?  Quite possibly!  ILIASMers are encouraged to add further “types” they have identified.

enna30 enna30
56-60, F
22 Responses Dec 13, 2012


I have long been a fan of your insights in this group and I am not sure how I managed to miss this post. This may be you most insightful post to date. I have read and reread now many times.

I believe I may actually have a hybrid of a 1a and 1b. Before marriage she was a normal sexual person, 3 or 4 times a week. I received my first refusal just hours after exchanging vows and same on the honeymoon. Upon our return from our honeymoon I was told that sex was to be a “once a week or once every other week thing”, that’s a hard thing for a 20YO to hear.

That was the course we charted for the first 7 years of our thing until she could no longer play along. I actually think she just became tired of having to reject me so I got an “I’m different than you, sex is not important to me, I don’t care if we ever have sex again” speech. This mark a change that reduced sex to a several times a decade thing, mainly in pursuit of having children. She has always managed to convince me that better times were just ahead if I would only be patient. I am the horse that chased the carrot for a very long time.

That has been our marriage except for the 2 times I have offered my departure from thing. Just the mention of divorce makes her sexually active again. Though mysteriously, it must have an impact on her memory as she seems to forget her contribution to any of our marriage issues. She forget the words she said about never wanting sex again, she cannot remember our wedding night and honeymoon. She is the victim of my neglect as I long ago stopped attempting intimacy.

It is truly a nasty cycle of rejection, hopelessness and self-dilution by both of us to make this last so long. I will say that I too have changed. I no longer seek or hope for meaningful change. I have found my pleasures outside my marriage. I have found love again and know I am worthy. You and I must have shared many similar experiences to come this far.

Thank you again for penning such a fantastic post.

Good Luck !!!

Thank you for the info !!!!

Excellent Enna .
This should be the first stop for new ILIASM members .
I was number 3 . Outside issues .
Very hard to deal with because neither wants to be in that position and can't do much about it . It can be fixed , if you find your way back to your former self .

Omg! You have nailed it! I can't stop crying. These are tears of joy. This is exactly what I needed to hear and I know now my feelings are not just pointless emotional rants that he calls them. I am miserable. LIASM has made me question every single thing about myself from my body, my intelligence, my value, my house keeping, my parenting, and even my sanity!! No one should be married to someone who provokes this much self loathing and doubt. As for resentment-- I am full of more rage and hate than the love we started with. The thing about the dangling carrot... Spot on. I have thought exactly that! It is like someone personally torturing you and hanging their affections over your head JUST out of reach but enough to make you stay. When my husband sees that I am at my wits end ( usually balked up in a fetal position in tears, or damn near thoughts of suicide, he will "give in". Even then it is a quick and emotionless act of selfishness. And ten minutes later, I am just as empty and assess that it will be another month or two before it happens again.

Mine is without a doubt a 1a. She says that everything is my fault and I believe it. I have spent years trying to change whatever seems to be wrong with me. Several years ago, I decided to quit trying and basically moved out. I am in the same house with her (and two of my kids) about 6 weeks/year. Not a good situation, but it was the only thing I could think of that I actually would do.

I have become so resentful, that even if things were to change, I do not want to try anymore.

<p>My ex-refuser wife used to be T3 plus P's T4, plus a nasty dose of toxic ideology, familial patterns and "kids-come-first" rubbish thrown in.</p><p>My variant of counter-refusing was perhaps unusual in the sense that that's when I "came out" about it (the ulae honesty bit) - but with the difference being that I was very upfront that I did want sex, with her(!) - but also, as I put it, with a willing lover; but the basis for our marriage had to be renegotiated. Status quo - niet.</p>

I think your wife would be Petrushka's Type 4 - "a rare bird" as he says!!!

A GREAT summary! On so many levels you have hit on things I have either thought, written, said or all 3. I like the generalized summary, I am sure there are many combinations and sub-types of refuser yet you have summed up the most general and typical issues.I am tired of trying to figure my refuser out..... as there seems to be no answer to the issue. I feel myself slipping inexorably towards separation. if it is me then so be it.... I don't say this in a narcissistic way, rather it is more I am not a Chameleon and have had sufficient therapy that I am able to identify many of my co-dependent issues. Thus if my refuser is either unwilling or unable to participate in an intimate and sexual relationship I believe it best to move on for the good of both of us. I am quite monogamous so moving on may require a period of celibacy.....then again I have been nearly totally celibate for the past 4 years.

There comes a time when you (the Refused) has done everything you can (and more!) to "fix" the problem but without success. At this stage it is wisest IMO to realise it IS unfixable. I think you are definitely on the best path for you. {{{hugs}}}

Mine is a 1b I think. She thinks a good sex life is vanilla (more like natural yogurt) once every couple of months or so although we've not had sex or even a passionate kiss for last year. (5 month old baby in the family).
Love my family and seeing what Christmas brings... Normally an emotional roller coaster of happy days and miserable nights.

Mine is 1a, possibly 1b.<br />
I will add that he doesn't, and never has ***********...though occasionally he says he does. I don't get it.

I'm not sure which category of refuser my boyfriend is. He tells me going solo will never compare to any woman. So he refuses, and masturbates in front of me. But he has also told me things like "I don't find you attractive enough". But sometimes I feel he may have homosexual tendencies.

Have you considered dropping this guy like a bad habit?

Yes, I have....but like an idiot I keep taking him back because I feel so much love for this man. I know it is my fault why my relationship with him lasted for so long. I guess I am waiting for my feelings to change enough so I can finally leave him for good, and I think it's coming soon.

It can't come soon enough IMO! Your thinking is in danger of being warped by being with a truly selfish man who prefers ************ to real sex. Please PLEASE get out NOW!!!!!

My wife is type 1a :(

Oh dear...

Said to me an oncologist: "When a cancer first strikes, it is fairly easy in most cases to interpret a biopsy, or resections during the surgery. However, the surgery often ravages the normal tissue. If a new malignancy develops in or near resectioned tissue, during a second procedure, it becomes significantly harder to identify the margin well."

Enna30, I suspect you will have a /much/ harder time cataloging counter-refusers.

No argument from me!! And I like the analogy!

Refuser FOUR: Has been the Refused for so long that s/he no longer has any desire to have sex with someone who doesn't want or enjoy sex, even if they are willing to endure occasional duty sex with him/her to avoid looking like the bad guy.

Aka the counter-refuser, "one who no longer gives half a ****".

Huh. My ex was a 2, but tried to act like a 1a for many years to keep the hope alive.

"Expect resistance at every stage of your break up. Negotiations in every area will be tinged with negativity because this person truly does NOT “get it”. S/he still sees himself/herself as the “innocent victim” in this marriage break up!"

That describes my husband perfectly. He truly does not see an issue in never having sex. He is happy with the state of our marriage and honestly cannot see why I have any issue with it. He absolutely does not get it.

My wife was category 1a gradually turned 3 because I (the refused) provided the necessary input to tip her over from 1a to 3. Once I realized I will always be the bad guy, I decided to be brutally honest. Obviously a woman would not want to have sex with a man who claims that thinking about her is his best medicine against unwanted erections. I have done no name calling or petty bickering, but I have been brutally truthful. It's great how fair you can be once you expect back nothing. Just today I told her how much I love to be alone at work, and how annoying being at home is for me. No shouting. No cursing. Just the truth. She naturally thinks it's my problem if I dislike home so much. So what? I said what I wanted to say, and it is the truth.

Your life saddens me . . . I know you are resigned to it, but you are a lovely, funny, intelligent and wise man. How sad your home life is so arid . . . :(

@ too...

Superb, Enna.
I'm thinking about the spouse who marries through being attracted by his/her partner's (independent) qualities and then sets about changing him/her. S/he may become a refuser spouse type 1a forcing change through controlling behaviour.
Given time the refused partner may/will descend perhaps to repenting at leisure in the pub and his/her drinking may be a problem or there may be business problems or failure or even age related snoring or whatever.
Thus the type 1a refuser can add type 3 problems to the agenda, in that there may be some genuine complaint. However this is cause and effect. The initial behaviour of the type 1a refuser occurs first and is the primary catalyst. At this point though the marriage probably has so declined that it has no chance of recovery and should end as soon as possible to finish the complete unhappiness in both partners.
And then of course there is type 2. I know all about type 2. LOL. Type 2 is the narcissist refuser. Might I suggest that type 2 is always type 1a as well and a much more extreme example of this type. I agree with you that type 1a and type 3 show the behaviour pattern or control drama very early on in the relationship. This is a way of separating types 1b and type 3.

Some of our refused friends here might feel they could be the cause of type 3 behaviour. Naturally we will all react and change to unhappy circumstances and our own pattern of behaviour might become or be over the top. Even the most timid of emotionally battered wives or henpecked husbands will start to wake up one day and fireworks will begin. The difference is that the routine and behaviour changes in ourselves was caused by our home life/circumstances and not a previous established or latent pattern brought on by nothing to do with the marriage.

It is especially the case with type 2, that the refused has co-dependency issues. The refused is most often a people pleaser. The stages that a people pleaser goes through in a passive/aggressive relationship are i) doing one's upmost to make the other person happy, ii) becoming resentful, and iii) feeling like a victim full of self doubt. Part ii) of this unhappy circumstance may appear like type 3 behaviour. But beware, for ii) is a descent into type iii) which if not addressed will cause real health problems and a possible breakdown.

You may be in stage iii) if you have been to the doctor for anxiety and stress and been prescribed medicine. That could be the time a decision has to be made. It's a stark choice between your marriage or you health. I was faced with that choice but there was no contest really....especially with a helping Enna hand. {{{{{hugs}}}}}

Thank you for expanding so well on the original! I hadn't thought about how oone type of Refuser can morph into another, but that certainly is true.

And I agree one thousand percent about the real health dangers (mental and physical) if the Refused allows the situation to go on too long . . .

Enna does it again. (you should really write a book)

Hey! Don't we counter-refusers get a line or two?

Hmmm! Now there IS a challenge! I'll need to think about that one Ulae. You and other counter refusers definitely qualify for your own category!!

Mine is a 1a too...but she's not fighting. She's clearly angry and hurt that I "rejected" her...
...Well... My therapist reminded I DID reject her...

She's emotionally abusive, disgusted by my sex drive, controlling towards me but totally unwilling to control herself in terms of not setting off my PTSD, arrogant (my way is the RIGHT way and you're gonna do it the RIGHT way...)
She won't admit she's asexual-but she did admit she'd never felt a lust to be physically sexual with anybody in her life, ever.

Slightly off topic - but relevant I think.

I don't believe that your typical refuser realises the powerful force (refusal of intimate connection) they are using (knowingly or otherwise) in running their agenda.

It is playing with fire to indulge oneself in refusing intimate connection with the spouse. It is NOT a controllable force.

A 'deliberate' refuser thinks that by judiciously applying the handbrake to intimate connection (at intervals they deem appropriate) is a sustainable method of maintaining control in the relationship.

In the short term they are probably right. It will do that.

Longer term however, the tactic spins out of control. In educating the refused spouse to not expect intimate connection from them, the education program eventually succeeds !!! and the refused DOES come to not expect intimate contact from them AT ALL !!!! - and thus the control tactic has reached its' shelf life. It no longer works.

This, is most definitely NOT what the refuser intended, and that's why you see the mad scramble to re-institute some level of sex by the refuser, to get the relationship back to as it was - at which time the manipulative refusal strategy can be dusted off and used again.

Tread your own path.

Very thoughtful post! Mine is definitely a 1a; the goal post mover. I heard a lot of those things, "I am selfish, don't do enough around the house, etc, etc," I was an idiot and tried my best to change myself and be better, thinking that it was my fault. I gave up chasing that windmill.

You can't fix crazy!

Enna Great Post. Hopefully some here will now realise what kind of Refuser they are dealing with.

Stay Strong & Good Luck