I’ve just finished 29 Days to Great Sex, leading to the release of my new book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. And I was talking in that series a lot about how women can come to see sex in a new way, understanding the real joy and intimacy that it can bring, so that we can desire it more often.
When I was conducting the research for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I asked women how often they made love, and who had the higher sex drive: she or her husband (along with other questions). Then I asked a bunch of guys the same thing. And while in the majority of cases the husband has the higher sex drive, in about 20-25% of marriages the woman does. So what do you do if you’re a woman, and you’re married to a guy who doesn’t want sex–or at least doesn’t seem that interested in it very often. You wonder “why doesn’t my husband want me?” What’s wrong with me?
For the next four days I want to talk about what to do when your husband doesn’t want to make love.
And before we get going, I want to assure you that usually the reasons your husband doesn’t want sex have nothing to do with you–and much to do with him. Maybe he has an abnormally low sex drive; or maybe it’s some other relationship or psychological issue. We’ll talk about how to understand what’s going on better, and then give some strategies about how to deal with this.
First, I believe that God created both men and women with sex drives. We both should yearn to make love. However, in general, men’s sex drives are more physically urgent. If their bodies doesn’t get sexual release, their bodies will actually do it for them during the night periodically. And men are much more visually stimulated than women are. They are supposed to be aroused fairly easily, because it gives them an impetus to really pursue women.
Therefore, a man with a low sex drive should be a rare thing. It’s a sign that something isn’t going right. Now, it could honestly just be a variation in population. In any given population, some with have extremely high sex drives, and some will have extremely low sex drives. However, look at any bell curve and you’ll see that these extremes are very tiny. They account for maybe 2%, not 20% or 25%. So there has to be something else going on.
What could those issues be?
1. He refuses sex because he has transferred his desire elsewhere
The category that is rising the most right now are men who are not interested in sex within marriage because they’re getting release elsewhere, especially with pornography.
A man who is using porn will slowly find that it consumes more and more of his life, and more and more of his sexual energy. Porn rewires your brain to tell you that what is arousing is a picture or an image, not a real, flesh and blood person. And you often need more and more porn and more extreme porn to give you the same high that you felt when you started using it.
When men use porn, in general they masturbate as well. And so it becomes quite likely that eventually they will stop desiring their wives in the same way. That’s why the idea that porn can be exciting in a marriage is so off base. Porn steals the natural desire you have for each other, so that you stop desiring each other. Sure, you may get aroused by the porn and then act it out with each other, but that’s not really making love anymore. The source of the desire was the image, not the person, and you’re still thinking about that image while you’re with your spouse.
Now, it’s not just men who use porn; about 25% of women in my surveys had sought porn out as well. But an overwhelming majority of men had sought out porn, and it is hurting many marriages.
If your husband has a really low interest in sex, and you can’t figure out a reason for it, verify that he isn’t watching porn. Check his computer and his phone, and have a talk with him about it. Here’s a post on what to do if your husband uses porn.
2. He doesn’t want sex because he doesn’t feel like a man
A man’s sex drive is all wrapped up in his concept of manhood. When he feels like a man, he’ll want to make love. But if he doesn’t feel like a man, he won’t. And what does it take to not feel like a man? If he isn’t sure of who he is, isn’t sure of his purpose, and isn’t sure of his role, he could easily have no sex drive.
For instance, I know a woman who is walking through this right now. She married her husband a little later in life when he was working part-time. He has never worked full-time. He tends to spend his life on the couch, not doing a whole lot. He has very low motivation for anything, and doesn’t get excited about very much except video games. He isn’t very involved with his children.
When you look at his life, you can see that he doesn’t seem to have a “will” to do anything. And if you look back at his childhood, you’d see that he was rarely affirmed in anything. He was rarely told by his dad that he was doing a good job. And so he was never sure if any decisions he made, or any steps he took, were the right ones. So he simply stopped taking any. To anyone on the outside he just looks extremely lazy, but I do think there’s more going on there. I think he fundamentally was scarred.
A man can have his masculinity scarred in other ways, too. The root to his scars lie in his family of origin; but even within a marriage he could not feel like a man. Please watch how you talk to your husband. I have heard so many women constantly pick at their husbands, constantly correct their husbands, and I don’t even know if they realize they’re doing it. Make sure that when something comes out of your mouth about your husband or to your husband that it is positive. Even if you’re talking about resolving some conflict, do it in a positive way. Do not browbeat your husband.
Also, if you’ve had an affair in the past, or even if you were sexually active before marriage, your husband may feel that he can’t measure up. And that can cause some men to stop being able to perform, because they’re nervous. Finally, if you spent years in the marriage rejecting your husband’s overtures, he can shut down. If you’ve now decided that you want to change and you want to make love again, he may have a very difficult time making that adjustment.
3. His libido is low because he has low testosterone
Another big category for those with low sex drive is an actual physical issue with the hormone that causes low sex drive. If he has low testosterone, he won’t desire sex as much. But low testosterone can also be caused by other physical problems, like diabetes or even some pain and depression medication. The problem with this category is that because he doesn’t feel the need for sex, he likely isn’t upset about it, and so it can be difficult to get him to talk to a doctor about it.
Low testosterone can also be caused by addictions to alcohol, drugs, pain medication, or even gambling or video games. When something else replaces the high our brains get for sex, it can cause testosterone to shut down.
The good thing is that this category is the easiest to fix–if you can get him to talk to a doctor. We’ll discuss in the next few days how to do that.
4. He doesn’t initiate sex because he’s nervous about his performance
Finally, there’s a category that’s a combination of #2 and #3. Let’s say that a man is nervous about the relationship and nervous about whether or not you really love him. One night you make love, and he can’t keep his erection. A week later it happens again. He was already feeling nervous; he was already feeling slightly humiliated within the relationship. Then erectile dysfunction hits, or perhaps premature ejaculation, and it becomes too much to bear, and he shuts down.
Or perhaps it wasn’t the relationship that was causing him to question his manhood; maybe it was his ability to earn a living. When a guy is unemployed, or feels like he can’t support the family, he already feels like he’s not a man. If he then can’t make love, it can become a vicious spiral, where he’s afraid of trying again because he doesn’t want to fail, so he just shuts off.
I’ve received many emails from women lately whose husbands fall into one of these categories (or else into almost all of them!). And these women feel humiliated. They feel as if they must be freaks, because everywhere else in our media it says that men are desperate for sex. Why don’t their husbands want them?
The message that I want you to take from this is that it likely has little to do with you. If your husband doesn’t want to make love, it’s often an issue within him, or within how he experiences the relationship, far more than it is an issue about whether or not you are desirable.
We’ll look tomorrow at how to start tackling some of these things. But know that you are not alone, and know that it is becoming a problem that is increasingly more common. Hang in there!
If you’re in this situation, what specifically would you like to know? And do these categories resonate with you?
Follow-up posts in this series:
Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!
Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.