There are many ups and downs in the life of a marriage. I work with couples dealing with a wide variety of problems, but one of the most challenging and personal areas in a relationship are those involving sexual problems. It isn’t uncommon at all for couples to fall out of sync when it comes to their sex lives, but that doesn’t make it any less of an issue. Especially when it’s a wife who tells me, “my husband has no interest in having sex with me.” Below is a question I received from just such a wife and my advice to her.
My husband has no interest in sex with me. I've been married to this good guy for 26 years. Great friend and wonderful father to our two elementary school aged children. He's always had a low libido. For the past 5 or more years he's had E.D. on top of it. He's seen medical doctors but even with prescriptions he has no interest in sex with me! I'm in my late 40's and feel like I'm wasting the prime of my life in a sexless marriage. I've been seeing an individual counselor for over a year and she had encouraged me to get him in counseling or us both in marriage counseling. I've done the research...he won't make the appointment. We communicate well but he makes no effort to resolve this problem. I feel like he knows I'm trapped. He is making me choose between our family and a sexless life. It makes me angry. Help.What do you suggest?" -Renee B.
Renee is in a difficult, but fairly common situation. Sexless marriages happen more often than most people realize and this circumstance can cause a big problem for couples. Especially when one partner has a strong sex drive and isn’t feeling satisfied. Below is the advice I gave her.
Feeling trapped is a common feeling for a lot of spouses -- not just wives, but men too. And it's easy to feel angry when we feel trapped.
I can't say at this point exactly why your husband has no interest in sex or won't go to marriage counseling. But I can tell you having worked with men with erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance problems, embarrassment and shame can be big contributors to their not wanting to talk to a counselor.
However, my guess would be that there's more going on here than just his having no interest in sex and not wanting to talk about it. A lot of men use not going to counseling as a way to have power and control in the relationship. And unfortunately, a lot of wives don't realize how they hand this power right over to their husbands. I hear you surrendering power in the statement "he won't make the appointment."
I'm glad to hear that at least you're working with a counselor on your own. You're a step ahead of a lot of wives who surrender their power to do even that.
Here's what I suggest you do:
- Tell him you're going to marriage counseling, with or without him, but you'd like him to come with you.
- Give him the option to have input on choosing the counselor and meeting time. Give him 24 hours to give you his feedback.
- If he gives you none, then go ahead and choose the counselor and make the appointment.
- Let him know what day and time the meeting is scheduled for and the location. Tell him he can meet you there.
- Don't say anything else about it and go to the meeting.
I can tell you that more than a few guys want to come to tell their side of the story. Even if he doesn't come, he'll probably be curious to know if you really went. There are ways to discover why your husband has no interest in sex, so stop feeling trapped and learn how to change your sexless marriage.
Can A Marriage Last Without Sex?
How a marriage functions and whether it can still be healthy without sex is a more complicated question than it may seem. There are many variables to consider.
Generally speaking, a marriage without sex isn’t going to be as healthy or satisfying as those where sex occurs on a regular basis. However, this can vary from couple to couple and isn’t always the case. If both partners find themselves disinterested in maintaining a sexual connection, and they satisfy each other in other important ways, the relationship can still work well. But most often what occurs is an imbalance between sexual desires and leaving one partner left feeling frustrated, much like Renee in the question above.
Marriages with sexual dissatisfaction tend have a harder time in the long run. Sex in a relationship is about more than just achieving an orgasm, it helps bring us closer and builds an intimate connection that keeps the love strong. When that goes away, staying connected and keeping things healthy becomes much more difficult.
If you find yourself in a situation like Renee’s and are saying, "my husband has no interest in having sex with me" too, then I encourage you to work at changing things. This may be as simple as starting a conversation and opening up the lines of communication, or it may involve counseling as her situation did. Whatever the case, both partners need to feel that all of their needs are being met in order for the relationship to survive and thrive.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published July 17, 2012. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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