QUESTION: Everyone always says the husband has more sexual desire than the wife, so you can imagine that you feel a little disillusioned when it’s the other way around. It’s always been this way, to a certain extent, but has been exaggerated with having a toddler, stress and busy schedules. We are intimate about once per month, if I’m lucky. I am very dissatisfied with this level of frequency. Not only do I enjoy sex with my husband, but when he doesn’t want me, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me or undesirable about me and leaves me feeling angry and insecure. On top of this, now we want to try for our second child, but you can’t get pregnant if you don’t have sex! There’s always something that he has to work late and come to bed after me, or he’s too tired or stressed out, etc. I’ve worked hard to lose my post-baby weight, try different romantic things, be thoughtful during the day, everything for over 5 years now, including trying doing nothing. What should I do differently!? Please help!
ANSWER: Please do not include me in the “everyone always says the husband has more sexual desire than the wife.” When I talk about sex on national television, lecture about it to couples, or teach it as adjunct psych faculty at Lipscomb University, I often mention that the need for sexual satisfaction does not reside only within the male. Actually, quite often I receive questions from females about their husbands whose sex drive and desire for lovemaking is far less intense than theirs. In that sense, there is nothing unique about your wanting sex more than your husband. However, it appears that more goes on here than just mismatched sexual desire.
You mention your husband’s stress level. In either gender, increased stress definitely plays havoc with sexuality. You also mention fatigue, though you imply that because of your toddler the fatigue factor applies more to you than to hubby. We know that fatigue also diminishes sexuality, particularly in its affect on the body’s and mind’s ability to become aroused. However, that typically affects women more than men and, as already stated, you imply that you are the one fatigued, not him. If your lovemaking were diminished because of temporary stress or adjusting to a toddler, I would advise waiting a while and things likely would return to normal. But that is not the case with you…
You write “it’s always been this way.” You go on to say that your toddler and busy schedules exacerbate the problem, but the fact that it has “always been this way” worries me.
Unless I miss your point entirely, you have wanted sex more often than your husband from the outset. That in no way makes you unusual. It does mean a problem exists. Your statement that you are lucky to have sex once a month probably puts your marriage into a category that we refer to as a “no sex marriage.” Couples in no sex marriages make love to each other ten times a year or less. Couples in low sex marriages range from eleven to twenty-five times a year. Being “lucky” to have sex at least once a month indicates that it doesn’t happen at least once every month. That’s why I say believe you fall into the no sex marriage category. Actually, a couple more times a year does not make much difference anyway. Your marriage lacks an essential element – lovemaking.
Unfortunately, a valid research project a few years back indicates that 20% of American marriages between the ages of 18 and 59 fall into the no sex marriage category. An additional 15% in that same age range fall into the low sex marriage. Though that means you are not alone in your situation, it also does not help you with your sexual needs, as well as your relational needs.
Your husband’s lack of desire from the outset indicates that he may have a sexual difficulty. Obviously, I cannot say that for sure. However, the frequency of your sexual interactions, especially with your desire for more lovemaking, makes it likely.
Because it has existed from the beginning, we would not immediately look for recent causes such as an affair. Instead we would ask questions that might reveal physical causes, such as medicines he has been on for years, and also ask him to have his testosterone checked. If everything checked out okay physically, then we would ask questions about his sexual life from as far back as he could remember. For example, we would ask about when he first masturbated, his first sexual encounter – whether that was with you or someone else – and more. We would also dig into what he was taught about sex from his parents, church, peers, media, etc. In short, we would do a sexual history. (I am being brief here, of course. We explore these four broad areas – psychological/emotional, biological/physiological, interpersonal/social, and environmental. Forgive me for not having space or time to explain them.)
Exploring those broad areas, we seek to understand a couple things about the problem (in this case that appears to be hypoactive sexual desire disorder – BUT REMEMBER THAT I AM NOT DIAGNOSING THAT). Specifically, we seek to understand whether the problem is lifelong or acquired AND whether the problem is situational or global. Lifelong means that it has been there as long as the person remembers. Situational means it exists with a specific partner or specific situation. Global would mean that it would exist with any partner or in any situation.
Without going into greater detail, I hope I have made a point. Figuring out why people avoid sex is a complicated matter. Unfortunately, that means that I have no simple answer for you to solve your problem. If, indeed, your husband has a physical problem that could be solved with increased testosterone or changing medications, great. More likely something more occurs.
Yes, I did use the word avoid. By coming to bed much later than you, or working late, he is avoiding making love to you. Being intimate in that manner only once a month indicates that some type problem exists and, for your sake, as well as the sake of your relationship, should be rectified. Other than recommending that you find a reputable sex therapist, I can offer only two things.
First, if your husband is willing to read it and work through the psychosexual exercises, buy a copy of Barry and Emily McCarthy’s book Sexual Awareness, Fifth Edition. Barry is a friend and the book covers a lot of very good information. (If you are a Christian, be aware that Barry is not. Therefore, you may shy away from some things he suggests.) While I recommend the book heartily, I can tell you that research indicates that most couples are not helped sexually through books. It is difficult to get people to stay with a book all the way through and do all the exercises.
The other thing I offer will be ready and on the market by the end of 2012. I have been working on it for a year. It is a DVD teaching series that leads a couple through understanding their own sexuality, desire, arousal, avoidance, or whatever they need to address to develop a fulfilling sex life together. There is no sex on the DVDs, of course. I teach, along with some of my PhD friends. Additionally, there are true-to-life discussions and scenarios demonstrated by four couples as they learn about themselves, discuss sexual matters as husband and wife, and more. The series leads you from basics through developing a mutually satisfying love life in which each of you may reach your erotic potential. It is not sex therapy, of course, and will not in any way replace that for those who need it. However, for most couples – including you – I believe that it will help develop a sex life that has satisfying frequency, fun, and fulfillment. Any couple who works through the DVDs and workbook will create a mutually respectful, but mutually enjoyable love life. When people ask me what it does, I say that among other things it transforms boredom and frustration into romance and passion. Look for it on www.MarriageHelper.com and www.JoeBeam.com beginning January 2013.