“My husband doesn’t want me.” It’s one of the most common emails I get. My husband doesn’t want sex, he has a low libido, and I don’t know what to do. I feel really alone in my marriage.
Last month I wrote 29 Days to Great Sex, where I talked about how to make sex wonderful in your marriage. I was focusing on the things that women can do to boost their libido, get better attitudes about sex, and have fun!
But what do you do if it’s your husband who has the low libido? When I was doing my research for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that in 20-25% of marriages it’s actually the wife who wants sex more than her husband. And many women have emailed me saying, “I feel so rejected. I don’t know what to do anymore. What’s wrong with me?” I dealt with this in a chapter in the book, but I want to expand on it here, too.
Today let’s look at what we women can do to help boost our husband’s libidos. But I need to put a big caveat in here first. Yesterday I listed the main reasons that a husband may have a low libido. When we talk about boosting a husband’s libido, you’ll often hear people say: just buy some lingerie! Just seduce him. That’s easy to say, but it doesn’t always work. It entirely depends on why your husband isn’t interested in sex. And to tell a woman to just be “sexier” is awfully hurtful, especially if she’s tried all that and didn’t get the response she wanted.
Quite often the reason your husband isn’t interested in sex has very little to do with you, and a lot to do with him. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; he could have an issue he needs to work on and fix, or you could have an issue together that you need to work on.
I’ve received several emails in the last two weeks from women whose husbands have not made love to them in years. Literally years. They have completely rejected their wives, and complain when their wives “bug” them for sex. This is a far bigger problem than what I’m talking about it here, and I’ll deal with what to do when your spouse withholds sex on Thursday.
But if it’s more of a “we go weeks for a stretch without sex, and when we do make love, he seems like he’s doing me a favour”, or “my husband never initiates sex and never seems to want it,” then something also needs to be done, and I’d like to tackle that today. So let’s look at the circumstances where being “sexier” or working on issues in the bedroom really won’t help, and when another type of intervention is needed. Then we’ll look at the circumstances where taking steps to rebuild your sex life actually can pay dividends now!
Using Porn Can Make a Man Less Interested in Sex
A woman commented on the blog recently that her sex life with her husband is down to about once a month. He always says he’s too tired. He works long hours, and he doesn’t want to be bothered. He doesn’t hug her, doesn’t kiss her, and doesn’t show affection. Yet he uses porn three times a week.
If your husband is using porn, and this is reducing his sex drive, you can’t increase his drive towards you by doing much of anything until the porn use has stopped. In a post a while ago, a former porn user explains the steps to take to help your husband quit porn. And here are 4 Things to do if Your Husband Uses Porn.
Your marriage and your sex life cannot improve while he’s using porn. Porn steals his sexual energy from you and transfers it elsewhere. Ironically, it’s not really transferring it to the women on the screen. We often think, “my husband doesn’t want me” because he wants those women more. But what he really wants is the rush of feeling in control, and the selfishness that comes from masturbating. It’s himself that he’s using, perhaps even more than those women. So it just has to stop.
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Now, stopping porn is wonderful, but it’s not the only step. After he has stopped using porn, then you’ll need to rebuild your sex life, by starting slowly and helping you both get reacquainted with real intimacy. Don’t rush things, or he may turn to fantasy to “complete the deed”. My book 31 Days to Great Sex can help you get reacquainted with intimacy slowly, and can help with exercises designed to stop the fantasy and focus on the relationship (and the fun!)
Physical Issues can Make a Man Uninterested in Sex
Women can make love when they’re not particularly “in the mood”. We can decide to throw ourselves into it “for him”, and frequently when we do that, our bodies follow and we do end up enjoying ourselves.
Men, on the other hand, can’t make love without arousal. If your husband has libido problems, and can’t get aroused because he has really low testosterone, or depression, or problems with circulation, then sex is just difficult. This isn’t necessarily a reflection on you; it’s just an acknowledgment that sometimes you need medical intervention. If your husband has one of these issues, please encourage him to seek help (more on how to do that tomorrow!)
Psychological Problems Can Lower a Guy’s Libido
A woman once confided in me that she had recently had her marriage annulled after eight years. She had married a man she thought was her best friend, only to find that he had no intention of ever having sex. She found out later that he had been sexually abused by his mother, and once married, almost regressed to a childish personality.
After eight years, she left him, and a few years later I heard that she had married and was pregnant with her first child.
If you have a husband who has deep psychological trauma, with deep psychosexual issues, your husband needs to see a counsellor (and you probably do as well).
It is not your fault if your husband is struggling in this area. And you can’t cure him! He needs an intervention of the Holy Spirit in his life. So please, don’t blame yourself. You are not wrong for wanting sex, no matter how much your husband may say that you’re “bugging” him or that you’re “sex-obsessed”. God made you with a desire for intimacy and a desire for sex, and these are good things. Don’t let your husband’s problems make you ashamed of yourself.
So what can you do?
Need an easier way to have these conversations?
If It’s a Less Serious Problem: Understand How Male Desire Works
Men tend to be very visually stimulated. When they think about sex, it doesn’t usually take long for their bodies to be interested. And through sex, they feel affirmed as men. They feel desired and strong.
When something goes wrong to short circuit this desire, and it’s not due to pornography or major psycho-sexual issues, it’s usually because:
1. They’re worried they won’t be able to perform (because they haven’t been able to in the past)
2. They’re stressed and worried that they can’t carry everything on their plate, or feel as if they’re not doing a good job at home or at work, making them feel less like “real men”. When a guy feels as if he isn’t doing a good job or isn’t capable, his sex drive often suffers because it’s so wired in to how he feels as a man.
3. They’re worried that you don’t really want to.
By initiating sex and trying specifically to arouse him, you often can overcome some of these problems. But let me throw the caveat in again: this will only work if the problem is one of low-intensity relationship issues, stress at work, or lower than average testosterone. If the problem is more serious (like pornography or psychological issues), then you need more serious help!
When low desire is caused by your husband feeling less of a man because he’s stressed, and he has too much on his plate and he feels like he’s not dealing with it well, then making him less stressed and showing him how appreciative you are of what he does do can go a long way. Thank him for what he does. Encourage him in what he does. De-stress yourself as much as possible so you can be there to help him and to carry more of the load. The worst times in my marriage have been when both of us are busy at the same time. My husband has recently cut back on work a bit so he can be home more while my book releases, just so he can pick up the stress. I did that for him a few years ago. A marriage can’t survive both of you being worn thin, so if your husband is in a difficult place, do whatever you can to shed your own commitments.
Then initiate sex!
Don’t wait for him to. Be a little brazen. Start with a bath to relax him, or whatever it may take. By initiating you say, “I find you desirable. I want to make love to you. I appreciate you as a man.” That can be very affirming for most men.
Some of you, though, have been initiating like crazy and nothing is happening. I understand that, and again, we’ll talk more tomorrow about how to communicate your needs when your spouse doesn’t want sex.
If the problem is one of erectile dysfunction or just very low desire, though, many men, even if they don’t get aroused on their own, can become aroused with a little work. Let him look at you! Take off your clothes for him. Use your hands to arouse him. It may take longer than usual, but laugh through it, show him you don’t mind, and that you’re just happy to be together with him.
Sometimes men shut down after they’ve had several episodes of erectile dysfunction, and showing him that you just want to try, and don’t care whether he’s able to finish like that or not, can take some pressure off. You could even ask him to help you orgasm in another way so that he still feels like he can bring you pleasure. Erectile dysfunction can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Relax about it and persevere, and things often get better (and if they don’t, see a doctor! ED can be a sign of more serious health problems).
Many men on my survey announced that they had stopped initiating sex altogether because they had been turned down so often early in their marriage, and it had been humiliating. So they decided to stop altogether until their wives initiated. Often these wives, however, interpreted their husbands’ lack of initiation to mean that the husband didn’t want sex, when really he had shut down to protect his ego.
Last month we had several female commenters on this blog say something to this effect during our 29 Days:
I turned my husband down so often he stopped asking for it. Now I’ve realized I was wrong, and I do want to have a healthy sex life. But I don’t know how to make it work again because he always seems to rebuff me–it’s like my husband doesn’t want me anymore.
In a situation like this, where there has been a relationship breach, you can’t heal the problem simply by being sexy or trying to arouse him. You also need to work on trust and communication. So at the same time as you’re trying to initiate more, also work on your friendship in marriage. Do things together just so you can talk and laugh. Most bedroom problems are actually better solved outside the bedroom!
Great Sex Challenge: If you decide that your husband’s low libido is due more to stress, relationship issues, or low sex drive, then encourage your husband and show him affirmation as a man. Then initiate! Tell him you want to give him an amazing evening. Tell him you find him desirable. And if things don’t go perfectly, laugh it off and relax together in another way.
What if you’ve tried all of these things and nothing’s working? Tomorrow we’ll look at how to talk to him about your needs.
Have you ever felt “my husband doesn’t want me”? Or have you tried to initiate and found that this helped? Let me know!
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