Very few Christian men lead a missional lifestyle, and I think by and large this is also one of the reasons why they are unattractive to women (aside from things like obesity and other factors). Many non-Christian men have a purpose such as the love of money or power or bedding women or whatever. These purposes are obviously sinful and futile in the end, but they are attractive to women because women are attracted to the traits behind these: driven and ambitious.
It would be wise for any single Christian man to know and pursue their God-given mission even before any women come into his life. This way they cannot be put on a pedestal or idolized from the get go, and it correctly models the example of Christ.
Christian husbands who have not been doing this have a harder time, and that’s why “pulling back” from a wife to focus on doing what God has called us to do is so important. It gives God the opportunity to now use our own life as a living witness for Him whereas before there was a dysfunctional pattern of idolization of her feelings and expectations. This was the sin of Adam; intentionally going along with his wife in the garden instead of following God’s command. So too Christian husbands have the choice. It’s a hard one, especially if there have been dysfunctional patterns for years.
A pure focus on God and His mission as first in your life is the model of both 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5. This is what it means for even a husband to live as if he had no wife. When this is put into perspective of Christ’s love for the Church, we can see it leads to appropriate modeling (spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally) of that relationship which helps to break any dysfunctional marriage pattern that has started or existed. Yes, it will be difficult, but following God’s Word has always been that way.
In general, we live in a culture where all of the responsibility in a marriage is heaped on the husband whereas the wife is a perpetual victim of her husband “never doing enough” (to make her happy).
Some would question whether wives who continue in sin (especially if they recognize that the Scripture says sexual denial is wrong) are even Christian. All Christians have their “pet sins” or vices or whatever you want to call them. For wives it’s often pride, envy, contentiousness, disrespect, sexual denial, and things like these. If she is fruitful in other areas of her Christian walk, it’s likely that she’s a Christian. Just an immature one in this area (or possibly many areas). If she’s not fruitful and/or growing spiritually, it’s likely that she’s not.
The goal of the importance of God’s mission and acting as the leader in the home is not sex. Yes, you become more attractive so that generally your wife will want to have sex with you over time. Yes, that’s a good thing. But it’s not the end goal. When you start doing God’s mission for you and acting like a leader in the home, THAT is the way you actually help bring a wife to repentance. Yes, she should be mature enough Christian to realize that she is in sin and needs to repent, but that doesn’t always happen because most Christians are not spiritually mature and can recognize their own pet sins in a world that encourages them.
The end goal is not sex but to help a wife repent. That is what it means for a husband to love his wife for the purpose of sanctification as Christ loved the Church sacrificially (Eph 5). The goal is not sex. The goal is the wife’s repentance.
If repentance is not the goal then sex becomes the idol, and this leads down the road to replacing the idolatry of a wife’s feelings for the different idol of being a slave to your own flesh again. If she denies you, you get butt hurt and into a funk. This is only possible if you are placing sex at a place it doesn’t belong (even though you are owed it). This butt hurt always comes off the wrong way, as it shows a wife that she can still manipulate you with her denial. If she can manipulate you, she has power over you and you are implicitly telling her that you are not acting as the leader. You also fear her denial, leading you to make irrational choices that only contribute to hurt when she does this to you. This only leads back into the dysfunctional cycle of sex denial and more butt hurt.
Instead, the goal should be to model how Jesus did with the sinners of His time. How did He do that? He didn’t shun them or get mad at them (and their sin) but hung out with them and influenced them through his words and actions. Yes, sin is offensive to God, but God is not hurt by any man’s sin. He is angry at it, but he is slow to anger because He desires that all would come to repentance. Jesus ministered to them until they got to a point where they were receptive to His ministry: “go and sin no more” or they went and told others about Him because He had such an impact on their life.
When God’s mission becomes the goal in all areas of your life, it imparts the behaviors that break dysfunctional cycles. Making sex as an idol may temporarily help because your attractiveness may improve, but it does not bring a wife to repentance and it is easy to fall back in the same behavioral patterns. Yet if your goal is to bring a wife to repentance, it is clear that helping a non-Christian or immature Christian wife in these particular areas needs patience and time and good modeling from you to break the cycle. You obey God, and God’s way often wins the other’s hearts back (which often includes the sex that you so desired).
Addendum: I can see in the comments that some people are having difficulty with understanding these concepts.
I am not advocating any sort of asceticism or saying that sex is unholy. What I am saying though is that making your wife your ONEitis even in marriage (especially for sex) is going to lead toward a transactional mindset of “tit for tat” dysfunction that occurs when any sort of denial of sex happens. Husbands are creating covert contracts in their mind that if they only do this one thing (e.g. become more attractive, become a better leader, become more muscular, etc) that their wife will want to have more sex. Yes, that may be true, but it’s incomplete without repentance.
Yes, the husband and wife freely giving sex to each other is part of the repentance process (though usually the end result of it). Focusing primarily on the sex leads to dysfunction, even though that is what a husband is owed (or wife is owed if a husband is denying her). Repentance leads to reconciliation.
The men who are struggling with this in their marriage and walking it out understand perfectly.