Why So Many Husbands Get Angry When Rejected In The Bedroom

Psychologist Joe Kort breaks down exactly why men become angry when they hear 'not tonight, honey'.

Brunette couple looking very serious at camera LightField Studios | shutterstock 

Relationships are complex. They're our primary attachment partners, the source of so much joy ... but also so much heartbreak. Only a few things are as vulnerable and intimate as the dynamics between spouses, particularly within the confines of the bedroom. When the story of a man who created a spreadsheet of "excuses" his wife gave for not wanting to be intimate went viral, people online were enraged. "Why was he being so immature?" many asked.


However, for some husbands, the delicate balance of rejection in this sphere can trigger a disproportionate response — one you wouldn't expect in such a safe space: anger. Of course, this issue can affect couples regardless of their gender. While it's rarely discussed, women often find themselves in the position of "pursuer" while their partner's rejection erodes their self-esteem.

To figure out why some husbands get angry when rejected, you have to start understanding how masculinity, vulnerability, and communication play out in relationships. Dr. Joe Kort, a psychologist with a clinical specialty in helping couples with issues regarding their intimate life, talked to the hosts of the podcast Open Relationships: Transforming Together about this very issue, and shared an insider insight into why so many men react with anger, pouting and even cruelty when their wives say, "not tonight".  


RELATED: The Honest & Unexpected Reason Men Stop Wanting Intimacy With Their Wives

3 Reasons Why Husbands Get Angry When Rejected In The Bedroom 

1. The Pressure of Masculine Expectations

In many cultures (ours included), men are conditioned to embody characteristics associated with strength, dominance, and stoicism. This societal expectation, often referred to as "The Man Box", can exert immense pressure on men to suppress emotions deemed as weak or vulnerable, including feelings of hurt or rejection.

As a result, when faced with rejection, some husbands may react with anger as a defense mechanism — a way to shield themselves from the perceived emasculation of being denied intimacy. As you can imagine, that only causes a bigger rift between the partners.


2. The Challenge of Vulnerability in Intimacy

Intimacy, both physical and emotional, requires a willingness to be vulnerable — to expose one's desires, fears, and insecurities to a partner. For some husbands, however, this vulnerability can feel profoundly unsettling, as it challenges the façade of strength they've been conditioned to maintain.

Thus, when faced with rejection in the bedroom, the perceived threat to their masculinity may manifest as anger — an attempt to regain a sense of control in the face of perceived inadequacy.

3. Men Aren't Taught To Identify or Explain Their Feelings

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship — we all know this. Yet, the taboo surrounding discussions of intimacy can create a communication barrier between spouses, exacerbating feelings of frustration and resentment.

Co-host Joanna Schroeder brought up the story of the man who shared an Excel sheet tracking all the times his wife said, "Not tonight, honey" (the list of excuses can be heard here). Instead of this man talking about his feelings with his wife and being vulnerable about his hurt, he lashed out in anger and probably hurt his wife in the process and Schroeder wanted to know why it seems like men so rarely see the role they play in making situations like this worse. 


Dr. Kort explains why, stating, "We don't teach little boys to have access to their feelings, to be able to express themselves in the way that we allow girls. So they go from boys to men who don't know how to express themselves and things come out sideways." 

"He doesn't know how to say 'I'm hurt', 'I'm sad', or 'I feel undesired' so he goes into attack mode," Kort reveals.

When husbands feel unable to express their emotional needs or fears, these emotions may fester and eventually erupt as anger — a misguided attempt to convey their hurt and vulnerability.



RELATED: Why So Many Great Relationships Are Torn Apart By Rejection 


How To Break The Cycle

Both partners must cultivate empathy, understanding, and open communication within their relationship

Kort responded to Schroeder's example by saying, "When someone says no in a relationship, no is no, but there's still a yes in the room".

He doesn't mean to coerce the wife. No means no. Period.

What Kort is trying to get across is that the "yes" in the room is trying to find what the partner saying no is comfortable doing to let you have that "need" fulfilled.

Kort dives deeper to discuss the topic, "So you say no because you don't feel good or you're not in the mood. The 'yes' is [saying] 'but I still want to do this'. So the question is how do we bring the 'yes' in without the 'no' going against themselves."


In other words, the wife doesn't want to "go all the way" so to speak, but the husband still has a need. So let's explore other options.

Kort reveals, that the yes could mean becoming involved with your partner's self-pleasure or talking "dirty" or any other wide variety of things. For this to work, both partners have to be open. The one who feels rejected needs to accept a compromise and the one who isn't in the mood needs to be open to ideas that they will be comfortable with. That requires being honest, open, and trusting with one another. 



He also advises allowing your partner to get their needs met elsewhere, including via various online outlets. 


The husband who made the spreadsheet needs to realize that he is only pushing his wife away, hurting her more, and making her feel emotionally unsafe. He also must recognize that vulnerability does not equate to weakness and that healthily expressing emotions is essential for fostering intimacy. Similarly, they should strive to create safe spaces for their partners to express themselves without fear of judgment or ridicule.

RELATED: Why Your Wife Doesn't Want To Be Intimate Anymore, Even Though She Loves You

Deauna Roane is a writer and the Editorial Project Manager for YourTango. She's had bylines in Emerson College's literary magazine, Generic, and MSN.