The cultural myth that a man doesn't want sex because his wife is unattractive or unenthusiastic simply isn’t true. Beautiful, fit, desirable—and desiring—women regularly make sex therapy appointments to complain about husbands who don't want sex.
Why does this happen? Here are four reasons—and resolutions:
1. His work is his mistress. When men are passionately involved with their careers, they can sublimate sexual excitement that would normally be directed toward their wives. The accolades, money and ego boost from being regularly praised, or promoted, can be a turn-on.
- Resolution: Be interested in the details of his career so you can share this aspect of his life. Take a quick note or two to remember specific project details. But also request that there be an hour of "couple time" with cell phones turned off every day, and a date night every week. Also: Consider scheduling intimacy time for the morning.
2. Sexual Autonomy. He doesn't want to negotiate sex and so takes his desire, literally, into his own hands. He masturbates to porn or his own fantasies because it's quick and efficient. Some men feel exquisite vulnerability at being dependent on another person for their desire to be quenched. Our society idealizes a man who needs nothing–the rugged individual, the Marlboro man, the take-charge-don’t-take-anything-from-anyone guy. Boys can internalize the idea that being dependent makes them less male. And childhood patterns of interrupted care, or neglect from constantly busy parents, can cause boys—and girls—to decide that needing is dangerous.
- Resolution: Tell your husband that sex is necessary for your marital happiness. Request that he try to cease from masturbation to build partner desire. Remind yourself that his lack of desire might not be personal, but a defense against loss of attachment. And agree on a frequency of intimacy that makes you both happy.
3. Anxiety about ED, EE and DE. Erectile dysfunction, early ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation might have diverse causes but their common factors—a man’s frustration, worry and feelings of inadequacy—can shut things down sexually between you.
- Resolution, for older men: The issue may be less about truly low libido than performance anxiety. But these feelings may lead them to turn away from sex right at the time their post-menopausal wives are worried about waning attractiveness. Make an appointment with a urologist first and check his testosterone levels. (If he needs sildenafil (Viagra), be enthusiastic about the extra time that can be spent in foreplay.) Also, ask for “sexy time” and talk about the desire for stoking and being naked together. Ask for your own orgasm and potentially the lack of pressure will allow his natural response.
- Resolution, for younger men: Younger men struggling with these issues will double their anxiety by worrying about their partner’s reaction, so, first, be kind. Second, be insistent about him getting help. Women, of course, want their partner to climax but increasing the flexibility about how that happens (perhaps not inside the vagina but occasionally lying together while he finishes with masturbation) will reduce his anxiety. Early ejaculation is easily resolved with sex therapy, but ask him about his porn use to see if that is a factor in his ED or difficulty with reaching orgasm.
4. His inner world outvotes the caveman. A reticent, kind, male patient who struggled with low libido finally opened up about three aspects of his libido: One part was an awkward teenager who felt anxious about initiating. A second part was a 20-something, feminist male who thought sex was degrading for women. The third aspect—a caveman—was horny and hungry for sex. He said that the first two characters always outvoted the blatant needs of the third and so he remained silent with his wife about his desire. She listened in awe as her usually quiet husband revealed his complexity, later asking if just once she might have sex with his caveman.
- Resolution: Use psychodynamic therapy or dream analysis to help understand the inner make-up of his libido.
Link for more help from Laurie Watson with SexTherapy in Raleigh, Cary, Greensboro and Chapel Hill, NC. Laurie’s book Wanting Sex Again is available on Amazon!