Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

What's Behind a Loss of Libido

When one person in a couple loses interest in sex, both have a problem to face. Read More

It ain't broke,don't fix it

"...it’s important to talk about the situation without accusations but from a problem solving perspective..."

The problem is THEY don't see it as a problem. They don't want it, the fact that you do is YOUR problem, not theirs. Why would they want to spend time effort energy etc on something they have lost all interest in?

yes, that's my problem too

Yes, indeed, someone who doesn't even see the point of sex imagines that the higher libido spouse can just take care of it themselves because it's just "physical".

So, yes, I hear the advice also that we should sit down and talk about it, etc., as if that was something I hadn't though of! If it were that simple, we would have been on the way to fixing the problem in no time.

Where you stand

Absolutely ...

Your problem is an inevitable aspect of life ...

Now, my problem is an emergency.

Whoever is the gatekeeper controls the situation. Gatekeepers like control. Control is power.

But, of course, we all need to be "faithful". Spouses that have no interest in sex but want you to "honor your vows"?

I think these suggestions work for reasonable people who just don't understand the issues and problems. They don't work for people who don't see your problem as "our problem". That is not an issue for therapy, in my opinion.

Re: Anonymous @6:54am

If they care about their partner they should care about a problem their partner is having. Thus I don't think your explanation covers it.

Rather, what I see is that since they don't care about it anymore they don't see it as something important, if their partner complains they're making a mountain out of a molehill.

Stonewalling

Dear anonymous responders,

Perhaps I should have been more explicit. I am aware that often the one who doesn't see lack of sex as a problem sees no need to have a discussiion about it and will usually avoid one. It's up to the other to make him/herself heard about sexual frustration, lack of affection, loneliness and what s/he sees as the alternatives. "I'm afraid masturbation isn't enough. Would you prefer I see a commercial sex worker, take a lover, not bring it up any longer but take action as I see fit?" Once the partner hears that that the other will not take sexlessness and lovelessnes lying down (no pun intended) some real problem solving may follow. For other discuussion on this see my 1/23/14 post here "Sexless Relationships".- Isadora

great suggestions

Hi Isadora,
I really like your suggestions here. I also agree that it's easy for the "low-desire" partner to fail to see how there is a problem. Maybe this sounds harsh, but I believe that many "low-desire" partners actually like this situation. By refusing sex, they keep their partner in a less powerful position, forcing them to beg and to cater to the whims of the partner while hoping for crumbs of affection in return.

I'm glad to see you suggest letting them know that it's unacceptable to expect sexual faithfulness while refusing to be intimate. This should help the "low-desire" partner to understand that its' their problem, too.

but being heard doesn't always solve the problem either

I do have some sympathy for the low/no desire person in a mismatch. Sometimes they do hear the message and it makes them feel inadequate and guilty because you can't just get your sex drive back by sheer willpower. And some have tried the remedies, hormone levels check out, and there is nothing apparently wrong. But for them to force themselves to engage in sex that is pointless to them, especially with a high desire partner who needs a lot of frequency, can result in sexual aversion for the low desire partner, and also make the high desire partner feel bad.

Thank you. This is exactly

Thank you. This is exactly true for me. My lack of sex drive makes me feel horrible, inadequate, and defected. I am not choosing to have a low sex drive--I can't help it as much as someone with a high sex drive can help it. Not to mention that if I do give in to sex without being sufficiently aroused it will be a horribly uncomfortable, even painful experience for me.

Very hurt by all these negative comments suggesting the low sex drive partner is doing this deliberately to hurt their partner. This isn't easy for anyone. How about a little compassion both ways?

You don't get much compassion

You don't get much compassion because by the time it gets to this point the high desire partner has heard plenty of excuses they know to be false. Even if there is now a real reason if there's no way to verify it the high desire partner is just going to figure it's just another false excuse.

And a lack of arousal is simply a reason for more foreplay. Of course sex hurts if you're not ready for it!

Thank You

Thank you for raising this issue. I have a different point of view, but it exposes an important dynamic.

You may be someone who actively has tried to increase your sex drive. If you have, I applaud you. On the other hand, my low drive former spouse did not.

But she staked out the same position for a while -- that my unhappiness made her feel bad, it wasn't her fault .... and I was bad, unfeeling uncaring and uncompassionate for not caring enough to relieve her from this unhappiness.

In my view, what this does is challenge whether my unhappiness with my non-existent sex life was valid -- since my partner who (allegedly) had no drive would feel bad because I was unhappy. Stated another way, did I have a right to be unhappy if my unhappiness made my partner unhappy.

In my view, this is inappropriate. We all are responsible for our own feelings. Each partner's happiness must be considered equally important. But, the practical issue is -- who controls the remediation of the problem.

It is your body. You don't have to have sex. But, then you can't lay claim to restrict your partner's body. It is up to you to address the issue -- your partner can do nothing, really, about your sex drive with you, if he/she can do anything at all.

Further -- your pain issues presumably relate to traditional intercourse. There are many other sexual options.

Since you, not your partner, control your body and mind, you have the primary burden of doing something -- or not doing something and accepting the consequences. You own your feelings -- he/she owns his. And both are equally important and valid.

Reply to John B

Thank YOU. You put the matter perfectly. No blame, just a practical look at what is. I have said it many times in my counseling office: Partner A doesn't have to have sex if it's unwanted or painful but can not deprive Partner B of touch, affection, sensual pleasure and orgasms and expect complete fidelity or to have this situation accepted with no bad feelings.

Yes, I agree with both of you

Yes, I agree with both of you for the most part. I should point out that my situation is a little bit different in that I have a moderate case of vaginismus, which has made sex painful for me, and in turn, caused a diminished sex drive and inability to get aroused.

Yet despite how difficult it is for me to experience this, I also have to put myself in my partner's shoes and think of how difficult it must be for him (and trust me this is hard -- I have no idea what it must feel like to have an insatiable sex drive). This is why I do make effort to pleasure him in ways that I can and I am very affectionate.

That being said, I disagree with the premise that not making this effort justifies the high sex drive partner in cheating. If you're in such a situation and you really can't handle it, and your partner is refusing to compromise, you should really just call the relationship off rather than cheat. Doing so is just going to cause even more feelings of hurt and betrayal and what good is that going to add to the relationship? Nothing.

And to John B., yes, I currently am making an effort to increase my sex drive (starting therapy sessions with a specialist is one). But keep in mind it is not so easy to do as one might think. It's not just like flipping a light switch. That's because the causes can often be very deep and multidimensional.

Another thing to point out is that in many cases, the low sex drive might not actually be a dysfunction, in the sense that it clearly is for me -- People do naturally vary in their sex drive level. Asking someone to make an effort to increase their sex drive in such a situation is the same as asking the high sex drive partner to decrease their sex drive. Not exactly an easy task, if even possible at all.

I wish everyone good luck with this difficult and sensitive issue.

calling the relationship off

If it's a long-term marriage, with children in their middle years and many other established ties, and if the nonsexual aspects of the relationship are still good, it's not clear that simply "calling off the relationship" is always the only option. Because if you're going to call off the relationship anyway, with all the upheaval that is going to cause in this situation, it is worth considering an open marriage first. It's not for everyone, but it's worth considering.

Remember, just because divorce and remarriage is legal and considered "not cheating", for children it can still be a deep betrayal that both parents are with others. To them it is still a sort of permanent cheating. The fact that it's legal and socially accepted as "clean" by adults doesn't mean children process it any different emotionally.

I bet if you ask a lot of kids who were pained by their parents' divorce, you'd get some who would prefer their parents stayed together in an open marriage with long-term outside companions than divorcing rather than divorcing. In a way, the two situations are somewhat similar except that in an open marriage, the parents are closer together with the family.

I know what I speak of because I come from such an open marriage, and I'm very glad my parents stayed together, even though both have long term stable outside partners who have full lives of their own and don't want to mix their finances, properties, inheritances, and other responsibilities with each of my parents or seeing our things split up to two other sets of step children, etc. Gawd, it would otherwise be so complicated, I don't see how fully divorced and remarried people even handle it without some kind of conflict, even if the personal relationship between the divorced parents is good. My parents have NONE of those complications.

Sex after 83 years old

I want to bear witness to the fact that some people enjoy regular sexual intercourse after 80 years old. My wife and I make an appointment twice a week for intercourse. She is 72. I take Cialis and she uses the lubricant, Just Between Us. My orgasm is diffuse and flowing rather than throbbing and bursting like it was up to the time I was 65. I find it quite satisfying and relieving, nevertheless.

My wife says her climaxes are about the same as they always were and enjoys them. We talk in detail every day about all aspects of our lives, especially our sexual feelings and desires. We have no secrets from each other. We have told all about our glorious pasts. I like to hear the sexual details of her love love. She does not want to know any details of mine. That level of openness deepens our sexual trust and willingness to enjoy the sex we have rather than the sex we don't have.

With Isadora, we believe that communication is a very important key to excellent sex between people of any age.

Sex after 83 years old

I want to bear witness to the fact that some people enjoy regular sexual intercourse after 80 years old. My wife and I make an appointment twice a week for intercourse. She is 72. I take Cialis and she uses the lubricant, Just Between Us. My orgasm is diffuse and flowing rather than throbbing and bursting like it was up to the time I was 65. I find it quite satisfying and relieving, nevertheless.

My wife says her climaxes are about the same as they always were and enjoys them. We talk in detail every day about all aspects of our lives, especially our sexual feelings and desires. We have no secrets from each other. We have told all about our glorious pasts. I like to hear the sexual details of her love love. She does not want to know any details of mine. That level of openness deepens our sexual trust and willingness to enjoy the sex we have rather than the sex we don't have.

With Isadora, we believe that communication is a very important key to excellent sex between people of any age.

Same situation here

My husband has lost interest in having sex with me or even touching me emotionally and he refuses in solving this problem in any way. I cant bring this topic up as he always gets angry and says 'why I still think about this stuff?'. Even when we are in bed and I only want him to touch me. There were countless times I tried to 'be romantic' and he refused. What does this effect me? I lost my sweetness, my trust, my warmth, my care, and almost every thing about him. I feel unappreciated and unattractive for him, and started to feel disgusting. Then he questioned me why Im not as nice as I used to be. I feel so miserable enough to think about divorce or worse, having an affair. Apparently its not just physical for me like he thinks. And when I see that my husband doesnt trust me enough to solve this nor see it as 'our problem', then I know this marriage will never last long.

I am sorry for your pain

I can certainly understand how you feel. In some couples the one who has no desire remains physically affectionate so that at least the needs for love and touch are being met, if not actual sexual needs. In some couples the low or no desire one will even sexually please the partner, not out of desire but out of affection and respect. If one does not have that type of relationship then it may indeed be time for some serious decision making and the no desire partner needs to hear this fact. I am sorry.

If being sexless isn't a problem...

Then "... "I'm afraid masturbation isn't enough. Would you prefer I see a commercial sex worker, take a lover, not bring it up any longer but take action as I see fit?"..." is going to be framed a abusive, bullying, selfish behaviour that "decent, faithful" people don't do.

exactly!

Yes, some spouses are going to take that comment as bullying and selfish behavior. And if the high-libido partner goes ahead with the threat, it's seen as cheating and completely in the wrong. And Dr. Phil would chime in with a folksy comment like, "You don't solve problems IN your marriage by turning OUTSIDE your marriage". Well, Dr. Phil, what do you say to people who've spent 20 years INSIDE their marriage trying to solve the problem and haven't succeeded!

Another example of this negative blowback might be Newt Gingrich when it was publicized that he asked his former wife for an open relationship. Of course, we don't know his actual private circumstances, but the public face of this dustup could be exactly the type of situation described here. The relationship could have become sexless and so he asked his former wife for an open relationship to make the point. And then she publicizes just that aspect of the exchange to get back at him in public. If this was indeed their situation, it wouldn't do Newt any good to fire back in public that the relationship was sexless -- that would just invite more sideline kibitzing and endless unwanted media attention.

Being called names

Would you rather your spouse called you names or would you rather have some affection, touch and sex in your life? Your choice.

I doubt it's a choice

If they're going to react by calling you names I doubt you're going to end up having sex with them.

I don't think she means the

I don't think she means the spouse. You tell your spouse you're going to sleep with someone else, no, they are not going to suddenly develop a libido. The chances are they will rape you in the divorce court, citing your "threat" as evidence of unacceptable behaviour/irreconcilable differences, which are absolutely NOT their fault.

It's so hard to beg for sex

Being a woman who has been married to a low-libido man for over 30 years, I was always the one to initiate sex, and to fix long-running dry spells. It hurt me nearly everyday of my life that my husband did not seem to want me.

Then he got prostate cancer and our problems became unsolvable. You can't hit a roadblock like prostate cancer without the communication skills or the raw desire for intimacy, and get through it. Now I am so bitter and angry about the wasted years I spent hurting in a sexless marriage.

If I had one piece of advice for younger married people frustrated with their partner's lack of interest in sex it would be: GET OUT WHILE YOU ARE STILL YOUNG. It never, ever gets better, and as you can see, it can get a whole lot worse.

reasonable if you have few ties

That's a reasonable approach if you have few ties -- no children, etc. But my question would be, if you're still "young" why did you rush to get married before you found out he was "low libido"?

If you're really going to divorce anyway, why not consider an open marriage first? The suggestion alone would make your spouse understand the gravity of the situation and force him/her to consider at least one more option.

I have heard so many stories like yours. I don't understand why people like you don't make it clearer to your spouses early on. Do you really think you're earning some kind of moral points from society or your god for enduring a sexless marriage? Do you really think you're going to burn in hell if take a lover? Just curious.

Outside the Box

The x admitted he used sex to self sooth. He is a sex addict and women are just objects to him. So, not all sex is healthy. Some is perverted and I suspect there are more people like that than are discussed.

Easy to say everyone should have sex, when in many cases, it is not true.

Outside the box

No, not all sex is healthy, of course, but I would use the terms "unhealthy sex", "compulsive behavior",or "self-defeating" behavior rather than "perverted" or "sex addiction". I also feel that self-soothing with sexual activities is just fine if any partners are willing.

Nowhere have I ever suggested that "everyone should have sex". "Should" is a word not in my vocabulary.

There have been times in the

There have been times in the past, and I still encounter them sometimes, when I am just not interested in sex. I would like to be interested (except for the times when I might be angry or frustrated with my spouse). Unfortunately, my body just feels "lazy." Being tired doesn't help. Being unhappy with myself for one reason or another also doesn't help. For a time, when this happened, I just didn't respond to any advances. (I should mention there also was a time when I was having IBS symptoms, which were always worse in the evening, and was too embarrassed to tell my spouse that I didn't want to have sex because I felt physically uncomfortable and didn't know if I might pass gas during sex). During one of these times (and also during a time when a close relative of mine was experiencing severe health problems that had me upset), my spouse began "seeing" a co-worker. Fortunately, I discovered this pretty early on when their relationship had not progressed too far, and we had a lot of conversations and really worked on our relationship. I worked on fixing my health problem and I also started trying, because I love my spouse, to please him even when I didn't really feel like it. It's not OK to cheat and lie, but you've also got to expect that when you force your partner to go without sex and physical affection, they are going to be vulnerable to outside relationships to get those needs met.

There have been times....

"I'm willing but you have to get me interested" or "I'm willing but my IBS may cause me to make some unromantic noises" would have saved you both a great deal of grief. Communication is the best sexual lubrication!

Not normal

My situation is so different than what I read here.

First of all, according to several counselors, our sex life was 3 X's an average marriage. When he stopped speaking to me until 7:30 pm and asked, " Should I take a blue pill?" or didn't want to pick me up at the hospital , coming from ICU because he wanted to take a bike ride, I knew I had a right to say no.

He has been diagnosed as a Narcissist, and sex addict by professionals, not me. he dishes out poison everywhere he goes.

No-brainer.

To Irene

One always has the right to say no to sex, male or female, married or not.

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Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

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