Estimates vary, but at least one wife in five is having far less sex than she wants. Some are told no often, some are in sexless marriages. Those who work with this issue agree it’s increasingly common. In part, this is because of greater openness, but it also seems more and more men are less and less interested in sex with their wives.
Why might he not want sex, or much sex, with you?
- First it’s not primarily about you: Let me repeat: It’s not primarily about you. I understand how blaming yourself is easy and natural. I understand thinking he must no longer find you attractive. These are natural reactions, but they are almost always wrong. He may allow you to believe these things. He may even tell you these things. Maybe he actually believes them himself. None of that makes it true, and buying into the lie gets in the way of finding solutions.
- Too busy: Society just keeps getting busier. Your husband is probably far busier than his father was at his age. Being busy cuts into couple time and most men actually need some non-sexual couple time to desire sex with their wife. (Okay, maybe I should say most men over 29!) As much as we love the physical side of sex, we want a full sexual connection, body, mind, and soul. A lack of time together dims our drive to be sexual with our wives.
Some men end up with more physical drive than their relationship can support, and they deal with this by masturbating. This is not the case for every man saying no, but I’d bet most men who say no take care of themselves on occasion. Men also masturbate because they feel a need for release but don’t have time for sex. He can take care of it himself in a couple of minutes; doing it right with you takes far longer. It’s like grabbing fast food when you’re hungry and in a rush.
- Too tired/stressed: Lack of sleep and stress both attack sex drive. When these are occasional problems any sexual fallout should be short term. If these things go on for a long time, permanent loss of sexual interest is possible. This one can also result in choosing to masturbate, as the energy needed is less than for sex with you.
- Porn: I suspect this is a factor in the majority of cases. If your husband is under 30, he had probably seen a huge amount of porn by the time he met you. Porn thoroughly messed up his sexuality, and how can it not mess with his desire to have sex with you? There’s a growing discussion of porn induced sexual dysfunction: men unable to get or keep an erection without porn, men unable to climax without porn, and loss of desire for sex with a real woman. These problems are even seen in men in their 20’s! Ongoing porn use makes it worse, but stopping porn can also cause temporary problems. Cutting off a source of high-level stimulation may result in short-term problems with arousal and sexual function.
- Not dealing with getting older: Young men can keep having daily sex even with all of the above going on. Their drive is so high it pushes past the things suppressing it. Age, however, lowers a man’s natural drive. Suddenly the things limiting his drive exceed his drive, and he can no longer keep going.
- Passive-aggressive pushback: If he is unhappy with you and given to taking it out on you in passive-aggressive ways, sex may become his attack of choice. The more you tell him you want it, the more he says no to get back at you for whatever real or imagined offences he ascribes to you.
- Payback: If a man has been told no for years, you’d think his wife wanting more sex would make him happy. Often it does, but if he is bitter about being refused he might decide this is his chance to show her what it feels like. Yes, it’s silly and self-defeating, but I’ve had a couple of men admit they did it.
- Boredom: Most men desire something more than missionary in the dark. Feeding someone the same meal every day for years is a sure way to get them to eat less, and sex is much the same.
- Hiding a problem: It’s all too common for a man to deal with erection problems by avoiding sex.
- Hormones: This is the top of many lists, but it shouldn’t be. I’m not saying it’s never a factor, but it’s not nearly as common as some would make it, and it’s rarely the primary reason. In fact, a new study says we may have it backwards; low testosterone may be a result of, rather than the cause of less sex. Much of the hype is from those selling something, and a good deal of the effect of testosterone and other sex drive boosters has been shown to come down to the placebo effect. Testosterone can make a difference for men with significantly low T levels, but in men with normal or low normal levels, there is no proven benefit. There are however proven dangers for some men.
- Sex is dirty, you’re not: Some men see sex as dirty or wrong, and they don’t want to do something dirty or wrong to their wife. Some men do this with all form of sex, while others do it with just certain things (oral sex, a certain position, sexy lingerie). Another version of this is thinking women should not want or enjoy sex, or should not want or enjoy it “too much”. If you push beyond those limits in his mind, he may back of sexually.
If your husband has never had much drive, it’s possible he is just low drive. I’d bet one or more of the above is also a factor, but low drive men do exist. On the other hand, if his drive has dropped more than a bit, something is going on in his mind and/or his body. Aside from how the lack of sex hurts you and your marriage, it could be an indication of a medical problem or red flag for sin. It could also be a symptom of an unsustainable life style. Dealing with the issue is important for both of you and for your marriage.
“Accusing” a man of low sex drive is not a good way to get him to open up. Instead, tell him you’d like to have sex more often, and ask him what needs to happen/change for that to occur. If gentle asking doesn’t work, be more instant. Ultimately, you can’t make him change, but you should let him know the situation is hurting you and may be a sign of a significant problem in his life.
~ Paul – I’m XY, and I’m sorry if your husband says no.
Resource: The Sex-Starved Wife: What to Do When He’s Lost Desire by Michele Weiner Davis
I’ve followed Michele for years, and communicated with her a few times. She’s the leader in this issue, and has some good thoughts on precipitating change.