Is He Too Stressed for Sex?

In the twenty years Lori and I have been discussing sex with married couples, we’ve seen an increase in the number of women who say they are having less sex than they want. Some say this is primarily because women are feeling free enough to talk about it. I can’t prove it, but I’m convinced there is a real and significant increase in wives being refused sex.

If this is the case, then the question is why is this happening? Many blame porn. I think porn is a factor, but I don’t think it’s the only issue. To some degree, I think an increase in porn use among married men is a wrong way of dealing with lowered sex drives. Which brings us back to why.

Is He Too Stressed for Sex?

I’ve been waving the flag about being too busy, and saying it hurts marriage in a number of ways, including sexually. Aside from a lack of time, our over-busy lives result in most of us being under a good deal of stress. There’s growing research on how stress impacts sexuality, and it ain’t good! Aside from the mental effects of stress, it’s been shown that higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, means a lower level of testosterone. It seems stress can attack a man’s sexuality at a hormonal level. Stress means he’s less interest in sex, and less able to push to do it even if he feels some desire. What’s  more, if he has borderline erectile difficulty, stress could easily make erections difficult or impossible.

Not wanting sex makes a man feel like less of a man. That can lead to all kinds of additional issues and/or bad choices. It might contribute to depression, which is a sex drive killer. A man may see porn as a way to amp up his sex drive. If he feels some need for release but can’t face sex with his wife he might masturbate, with or without porn.

If stress is costing you sex, there’s no easy fix. The answer is to reduce his stress level, but doing that probably means some significant changes. It likely means a different job, and that probably means less income. If he makes less that requires a change in lifestyle. It might even mean moving to a smaller home.

If all that seems radical just to get a bit more sex, consider something else. If hubby’s stress level is high enough to hurt his sex drive, it’s doing a whole lot of other harmful things to his body and mind. Stress kills people, especially men. Stress increases the risk of all kinds of things that lead to a shorter life. 

~ Paul – I’m XY, and if you’re being told no I’m so sorry.

How a hormone could boost men’s sexual appetite | Medical News Today

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21 Comments on “Is He Too Stressed for Sex?

  1. Paul, this is quite possibly one of the most accurate posts you’ve ever written. My husband was severely stressed for about six years. Our sex life and our marriage suffered greatly. I was the higher drive wife, and so this hit me even harder. When I turned to blogs for help, I got worse. My already frail self esteem took a huge hit. I blamed myself for all of it. Because he was stressed and I believe he did slip into depression, he wouldn’t even talk about it. That made me feel even more worthless. I took it all very, very (way too much) personally.

    I tried figuring it out on my own. I figured the problem was with me. At 5’9″ I’ve been made fun of for my height all my life, so I figured I was too tall. He must be attracted to short girls. If I saw him notice a brunette, I figured he wasn’t attracted to me because I’m blonde. Everyone who has read my comments is already well aware of all of this.

    I figured maybe I wasn’t sweet enough, feminine enough, smart enough, short enough, pretty enough, anything enough. I tried making all kinds of changes and nothing worked. He even seemed confused/upset that I was trying so hard to change myself. None of it made sense.

    What do I now think it was? Stress. (And yes, some folks suggested that, but I wasn’t in a place to listen).

    But in the past few months he has been learning to deal with stress, and our sex life has improved greatly. He is much more interested in me in every way.

    Yes, there are days/weeks when things go awry. And I will sometimes allow myself to slip back into a negative thought pattern of “what is so wrong with me” – but they are fewer and farther between.

  2. ……climbing onto soapbox

    Fight Club prophetically said “We are a generation of men raised by women…” We are turning men into eunuchs societally. The testosterone count of the average man has been on a slow decline for several decades now, and much of the complaints about “lost boys” and the apathetic nature of men is a result of that. We discourage all of the things that high testosterone men do: take risk, engage in conflict, chase women, compete, etc. Additionally, we are getting fatter and we sleep way less than we should, all of these things contribute to neutering men. When I was a kid 30 years ago I was building a bike ramp in my front yard every weekend or jousting with trashcan lids with my brothers on our bikes, engaging in somewhat dangerous risk taking behavior. In the 11 years that I’ve lived in my community I haven’t seen one boy jumping his bike off a ramp, they are all taught to be so risk averse that they have turned into little girls. Porn is just a symptom of the problem.

    Look at uncut male dogs or horses, they are very difficult to manage, which is why we neuter them. They are stubborn, prone to fighting, and try to hump everything they can catch. The same chemical that makes them do that exists in male humans, we’ve just figured out how to suppress that with enough life stress in men, we are basically animals that are hunted constantly and without enough food, we no longer have the energy to act like we are supposed to.

    If we want men to start acting like men: get enough sleep, stop eating garbage, don’t be fat, engage in strenuous exercise, find competitive activities, and stop pushing them to act like women. Stop expecting boys to be passive and sit still and not fight. Society shames male behavior, the church REALLY shames it. From the Art of Manliness website “The Jesus men encountered in the pews became a wan, gentle soul who glided through Jerusalem patting children’s heads, talking about flowers, and crying.” We are getting the result we are training men for.

    • @mykidsmademedoit – No argument from me on any of that.
      BTW, I live in a place where this is NOT how it’s done. I watch the ten-year-old kid next door build a bike ramp last year. He shot the turkeys we had for Thanksgiving. I see him go buy with a sled, his four-year-old brother with him, to ride down the icy driveway. And men, for the most part, are far more “manly” here.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Perception and RealityMy Profile

    • I’ve worked with plenty of stallions which were easy to handle, not stubborn, never fought (one used to chase butterflies), and were very much the gentlemen while riding among mares. Stallions need to be very cautious before “humping” a mare because the mare can, and will, easily kick him in his place if she’s not receptive at the moment.

      I wonder how many women would prefer to be married to a man who is stubborn, prone to fighting, and tries to hump everything he can catch?

      That’s a man’s definition of masculine?

      • I raise fowl, and kill off any male birds who are jerks. If they shred their females with their aggressive mating, if they aren’t attentive and protective of their hens, if they take food rather than calling their hens over for it, if they pick fights, and especially if they attack humans, they end up in my oven.

        On the other hand, I don’t keep my androgynous rooster, either. The ones who look and act like hens, and basically do nothing but eat. They don’t mate, they don’t protect, they don’t provide. They aren’t jerks, but no eggs, so into the stew pot they go.

        • @libl every one of my grandmothers roosters that spurred me ended up on the table, as did any gander that bit me.

          She did have a rooster for several years that was great with the hens but bullied my 60lb dog…

      • @jolie, I didn’t give you a definition of masculine, I gave you a list of traits produced by testosterone. Statistically women prefer traits for mating that indicate higher levels of testosterone: square jawline, a larger chest with tapered waist, more assertive. The behaviors are byproducts. Like it or not, pretty much every male mammal displays these traits in some way shape or form. Female lions do not kill each other over access to sex with males, neither do chimpanzees; but males do.

    • Where do you live?

      Boys our here drag race, build cars, drive huge jacked up trucks, hunt, fish, and build stuff.

      Maybe little kids get raised differently. But most of the collage guys grew up building stuff and working on cars. Even the guys who now spend their time gaming and played D&D and Magic the gathering. One of my students carried his classmates to all her classes because she had shin splints and was in too much pain to walk.

      Ps. The little boys at church climb the trees, have fake sword fights with sticks and roll down the huge hill outside after service each Sunday. They don’t seem emasculated to me.

  3. There may be another factor at work, at least for some men…and that is that far from feeling less manly in not wanting sex, they’ve found something else that makes them feel more masculine, and better about themselves.

    For me it was shooting, working upon aeroplanes, and PT. Range time was always better than sack time, and what earthly endeavour could compete with the rebuild of the 1700-cubic-inch, 1200hp engine in the living room? That’s the stuff that makes men feel like gods; sex can’t remotely compare.

    This is, of course, madness, a form of asceticism carried to the point of lunacy. But I think it may be more common that one might expect, though by its nature it’s an outlook never shared with one’s mates.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 439 – Final Thoughts, Maybe {FMF}My Profile

      • There is, of course, this joke…

        A pastor, a poet, and an engineer meet for lunch, and the conversation turns to, “What’s better, a wife or a mistress?”

        The pastor says a wife’s better, for the commitment and the growth of love through the years.

        The poet prefers the mistress, for the adventure and the romance.

        The engineer says, “Both. Your wife will think you’re with the mistress, and your mistress will think you’re with your wife, and you can be in the lab getting stuff done.”
        Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 439 – Final Thoughts, Maybe {FMF}My Profile

      • no, but the adrenaline rush of jumping out of a plane makes you want to go get some. I love to race for this reason. On race day I’m always ready to lay it down on the course and at home ;)

  4. “The answer is to reduce his stress level, but doing that probably means some significant changes.”

    I’m not sure significant change is always necessary.
    Everyone can benefit from learning ways to destress ourselves.
    If stress has become overwhelming it’s time to learn methods of relaxation and incorporate them into our lives routinely.
    Avenues of distressing are quite personal and could be anything: meditation, hot baths, rock climbing, tia chi, long walks, etc. It’s finding what works for you.
    I would make that step number one to lowering stress levels.

    “Not wanting sex makes a man feel like less of a man.”
    That, to me, is an extremely sad statement. That statement and belief system is stressful in and of itself. I believe our society has ingrained that thought in many men’s minds. Is it true? Are they less of a man just because sex isn’t foremost on their minds?
    Sometimes, we as humans, make our own misery.

    • @Jolie – I did preface it with “probably”. There are great ways of dealing with stress, but one had to have the time to do those things. If a guy gets six hours of sleep on a good night, he won’t feel he has time for learning to meditate. And there is only so much those things can do for high levels of stress.
      I’d say it’s the way to start. But if that’s not enough, then what? Are we serious enough about it to make bigger changes?

      I agree feeling like less of a man because you don’t want sex is a sad thing. And for the most part, it’s a cultural thing. But the vast majority of men do feel that way.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Perception and RealityMy Profile

      • I disagree with this. It depends on age a lot, but if a guy under 40 isn’t into sex, the odds are there is a problem. That is outside of the normal bell curve. There are a few guys who legitimately aren’t all that into it, but it is rare if they have a normal testosterone count, or actually like women.

        I have a buddy from college who is gay, we all knew he was gay back then, even though he isn’t effeminate. My wife was curious how we knew, we told her that he wasn’t trying to screw every woman he met, which she initially gave me the same lecture most of the women on here will give, as if growing up a guy and spending the majority of my life with men doesn’t give me greater insight into their behavior than what she wants to be true. There are a lot of really politically incorrect observations I’d make about normal male behavior, and one of the big ones is that a young guy who isn’t interested in sex is a big red flashing warning light that something is wrong. I strongly believe that a very large chunk of men who pursue celibacy as clergy are either gay or asexual.

        • @mykidsmademedoit – You no doubt would have labelled me gay when I was in my earlier 20’s. A few folks did that, probably because I wasn’t trying to bed every woman I meet. But I was very much into women, and when I found the right one there was no holding me back.
          Just because someone desires sex doesn’t mean they lack self-control and decency!
          Paul Byerly recently posted…Friday Flashback: Perception and RealityMy Profile

          • If you go look at how the vast majority of young men act with regard to sex, not chasing women would make one an outlier. In TGH, you are talking about boxes, and Christians are often living in a box with regard to what average sexual behavior for young men is, we project our values onto them and assume they are the ones who aren’t acting normally, when in fact it is the other way around, we are the deviation from normal.

            My intuition about being gay or not is about 90% accurate for men, the longer I know a guy, the more accurate it is. If you were not having sex because of religion I would have given you my “god didn’t give you a hand and tell you not to use it speech” and made fun, not thought you were gay.

            If you want to see what happens when you force someone to church who doesn’t want to go and then he gets away, I’ll tell you all about my 20s….

    • You can mediate all you want. If you’re constantly worried about making it to the end of the month/ not getting your contract renewed it’s only going to do so much. Not to mention constantly being ignored or rejected to any job you apply to. And the weeks to months of waiting…

      No amount of de-stressinv is going to give us job security.

      Is dearly love to make drastic changes. Like giving my husband a full time job in his field where he can actually use the skills he spent years and years acquiring in graduate school. But I can’t do that.

      • Alchemist,

        I understand where you and your husband are coming from. My wife and I have finished grad school and I am stuck in a dead end job (like it, but it’s low pay and high stress) and wife has spent months applying for jobs only to get rejected. I don’t have a foolproof answer on how to deal with this stage of life. If anyone does please let me know.

        I have struggled a lot over the past year or so with depression and feeling like I’m not good enough. There are several things that help me feel less stressed and depressed.

        Listening to positive messages. I have been listening to a lot of praise music recently and have cut down on my consumption of cable news. My wife has also been very positive and encouraging towards me.
        Prayer. Just having an honest conversation with God can really help.
        Being more assertive. Sometimes you have to fake it till you make it. I wasn’t feeling very manly the other day but I made a conscious effort to be more assertive at work and at home. After work I went home and boldly initiated sex with my wife. She responded much more enthusiastically than usual and we had a great time.

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