What do you do when your husband is not interested in you sexually?
Last week on the blog we dealt with some pretty big marriage issues–infidelity, how to talk to your kids when you’re having problems, and more. This week I actually want to talk about some practical ways to help when you’ve got some problems (namely, how to feel intimate when you’re making love again!). Too often sex is just sex; it’s not making love. And we’re going to look at some practical ways to see sex as an intimate thing and to enjoy it!
But before we do that, I’ve got a backlog of reader questions I need to answer, and so many of them relate to the same thing: what happens when the HUSBAND has the lower sex drive?
Usually we think of the wife as being the one who doesn’t want sex as much, but I actually get more questions about the opposite scenario, when the husband has stopped wanting sex. I’ve already written quite a bit about this, but it was a few years ago, so some of you may not have seen those posts.
- When your husband isn’t interested in sex–a 4-part series that covers the causes of men’s low libido; what you can do when your husband isn’t interested; how to talk about it with him; and what to do if he’s withholding sex.
- Do I have to live with a sexless marriage? A post for those of you whose husbands (or wives) never want sex at all
- When you said no for years, and now your husband’s the one saying no! There’s another dynamic I see a lot, when women refused sex for years and then they realized that they’ve lost something important, so they try to restart their sex life. But now their husband isn’t interested! Here’s how to tackle that.
- My husband never initiates sex!
So the posts are there! But it’s still the #1 question I get. So I’d like to share a few letters from readers, and then put it a few extra thoughts and point to the most relevant article. Here goes!
From Reader #1–We Have Small Kids and My Husband’s Sex Drive is Gone!
My husband & I celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary this Sat. We’ve been together for 16 years (high school sweethearts). We really struggled to wait till we were married. Now that we’re older & busy with kids, stressed with work it feels like we NEVER have sex. I’m kinda glad I at least got some then. I still plan to teach my kids to wait. But I wouldn’t want to wish on them our struggle. I’m always in the mood & hubby isn’t. I think he struggles with low testosterone. He was just more interested & able to be in the mood at 18, 20, etc than now at 32. 🙁
I’m sorry! That is so tough, and honestly, a great sex life is one of the best ways to handle small kids. It’s such a stress reliever! I’m sorry you don’t have that.
I’d check out the 4-part series on how to identify what the issue is and talk about it. If it is low testosterone, then please, go to a doctor with that. It’s a relatively easy fix, and so many women on this blog have said, “I can’t believe the difference! I wish we’d done this 10 years ago!” On the other hand, given his age, I’d just make sure that it’s not an issue with current porn use or porn when he was a teenager. It really does change the brain and lowers your libido for your spouse. Just ensure that’s not the case–and here’s a great post on how porn affects the brain that can help you see if this may be part of what you’re dealing with.
From Reader #2–We’ve Had a Lousy Sex Life for 25 Years, but Now I’ve Found my Libido–and My Husband’s Lost His!:
I have been married for 28 years and I figured I was just broken and my body wasn’t meant to have an orgasm because I’ve only experienced a couple. After some research I discovered that isn’t the fact, so I got a bit excited to figure out what we could do to help me figure out my body. Ironically my husband and I have switched roles. Our children are all grown and now I am so much less stressed and have found a new interest in sex. But my husband now is very very very very and always stressed out and bombarded with his church responsibilities. He has expressed to me that he just has so much on his mind that he just doesn’t think about it or me. With all of that his libido has dropped and he did tell me he is worried that he won’t be able to perform. I try to talk to him about things but it usually does not go over well. So I have tried to just back off and leave him alone. We do have a good relationship and spend time cuddling and doing things together. I guess I am just wanting to have more sex than him and I need to learn to be ok with that. Sometimes it isn’t even the sex, I would just like him to flirt with me and make me feel like I desires me. Is there anything that can help the libido of men at middle age where there levels drop? How can I talk to him without making him feel bad? I think I have pretty much told myself something stressful will come up every night, so just don’t expect anything. Boy do I feel selfish. Instead I know I should be helping him and thinking of his needs. That is part of my problem–I am self focused.
Okay, a few quick things. First, I think your husband may just have some real disappointment around sex that he’s just squashed in order to love you and keep your marriage strong. To go 28 years with a wife who never seemed to enjoy sex can be so demoralizing for a man. He may feel like he’s not a good lover. And he likely felt guilty for wanting sex. So over the years he probably decreased his sex drive just so that he could love you (as you’re trying to do now!).
Here’s the post on how that dynamic works–when your husband is now the one saying no to sex!
I’d talk to him about wanting to do things differently now. Apologize for the past, and say that now that you’re empty nesters, you have your whole future ahead of you. So let’s just start again. Even work through the 31 Days to Great Sex, which can help you start from scratch and take the pressure off.
But I also want to say this: It isn’t selfish to want a good sex life. It isn’t you being self-focused. You do not need to feel ashamed of this.
God made you to be truly intimate in every way–physically, spiritually, and emotionally. When we connect sexually, we solidify the other areas of our lives. And we get in touch with our passionate side, which is also the side of us that is most intimate with God. When we don’t open ourselves up sexually, we often wall off God, too.
It is not selfish to want a healthy sex life; it is actually wanting the best for your husband.
And I would continue to phrase it that way. If your husband is so stressed at church that it is making your marriage difficult, maybe you really need to reassess that church involvement. Maybe he needs to step away. It sounds like he could be under attack, and now your marriage is under attack, and that’s not good. So keep talking to him. Keep talking about where you want your relationship to be in 5 years. Are you heading in that direction? This stuff does matter, and you’re not being selfish!
Reader #3–Sex Makes My Husband Anxious and Nervous
I’ve been married 8 years to man I love, but our sex life is in tatters. We were both virgins when we married and the honeymoon was about the
only time our sex life was decent. Due to many different stresses, our first few years of marriage were rocky. I have the higher libido and found husband’s withholding attitude extremely hurtful, and as you can imagine this led to YEARS of fights all about sex. I’m thankful to say that we came through the other side and our marriage is doing better, but our sex life is still awful. Husband says he has “negative associations” to sex now, that the idea makes him too “anxious” and “nervous”. When we do have sex, we have an enjoyable time, everything ‘works’ just fine. But Husband will NOT initiate and will literally let months go by without once proposing intimate time with me. (Porn is not an issue, nor even is libido, even though it’s on the normal/low scale) He says that he doesn’t want to be withholding, but the stress associated with sex is keeping him from me, and I have no idea what to do. I feel like our marriage is going to fall apart again – and while I don’t know how much rejection I can take, I feel like I’m coming to tail end of it, and I’m going to really start becoming bitter to my husband for making me live this way. Please, please help.
I’m so sorry! I’m glad you’ve figured out what ISN’T the problem–porn and testosterone. Good. That means that we can zero in on a few things.
There are two issues here: the initial reason why he wasn’t that interested in sex, and then the stress in your relationship now because you guys had such tension around it.
I still think you need to delve down into the initial reason. I’m wondering about some emotional or psychological issues. Some men are very passive, and have a hard time sexually because they’re running away from themselves. Given that he is now so anxious and nervous, I wonder if that may be a factor. Talking to a counselor may be a very good idea for him.
But then there’s the way that you relate now. I think if you could talk about restarting your sex life and going back to the beginning and trying to do it differently, that may work well. Agreeing with him that you have a lot of baggage, and you want to start just exploring with no expectations. I’d suggest a three fold approach:
- Read this post on how to restart your sex life
- Try scheduling sex to take the pressure off of “do we have to tonight?”
- Try working through the 31 Days to Great Sex
But still–encourage him to see a counsellor!
From Reader #4–I’m Living in a Total Sexless Marriage!
You’ve written about when hubs wants more in the bedroom than she does, you’ve even written about when his libido takes a nose dive, even about when he wants something gross in the bedroom. How about when he wants nothing in the bedroom? It’s been a decade. I’ve tried everything you’ve suggested – education, prayer, ruling out medical reasons, ruling out psychological reasons, etc. His T is low, and he does have a few issues, but since he doesn’t see a problem with our lack of intimacy, he doesn’t see anything that needs treatment. Or change.He understands that I have a problem, but since he doesn’t, he honestly believes that WE don’t have a problem. It’s not a marriage issue in his eyes, just my problem. How do I learn to love a sexless relationship?
I honestly don’t know. I’m not sure we’re supposed to live with a totally sexless marriage. Marriage is supposed to involve intimacy; if he’s running from that, he’s hiding from you, from God, and from himself. He’s not just hurting you; he’s hurting himself, too. And that’s why I don’t think it’s the loving thing to do to just let this go on. It needs to be confronted.
Whew. Okay, that was another tough day on the blog.
But the rest of the week should be easier! Yes, we may be dealing with some people with difficult sexual issues, but we’ll be pointing to some real solutions, and I’m hoping it will feel more hopeful!
For now, let me know: how big a problem do you think sexless marriages are in your experience? What’s the best way to handle them? Let’s talk in the comments!