When low sex drive is mentioned, the spouse with the problem is usually categorized as the wife. However, there are many husbands who aren't interested in sex with their wives.
Although many men don't want to talk about having a low libido, it creates a lot of anxiety and heartbreak in their wives. Discrepancies in sexual desire can cause tremendous frustration. If not dealt with, this issue can destroy a marriage.
"Inhibited desire is the most common sexual dysfunction, effecting one in three couples. Desire problems drain intimacy and good feelings from the relationship. One in five married couples has a non-sexual marriage (being sexual less than ten times a year). Three in ten non-married-couples who have been together longer than two years have a non-sexual relationship." ~ Barry & Emily McCarthy, sex therapists and authors
Comments from women in this situation show the damaging consequences of this problem in a marriage.
- "The only time you hear of sexual discontent in a marriage is when the woman's sex drive has diminished and it's the man that wants more. Oprah is all the time doing shows on it. The media emphasis is always on the man needing more, not the woman. The only time you hear anything about men having diminished sex drives is when impotence is the focus. Thanks to you folks on this forum, I'm starting to believe that maybe I'm not the only wife out there sobbing in her pillow every night for lack of physical affection."
- "I felt like I was begging , really begging for him to touch me, show me some affection ... I just felt like such a loser, such a chump."
- "I feel rejected and not accepted by my husband, and, as someone else said, 'unattractive, unloved, uncared for ...' etc."
- "It's difficult to be married to a wonderful guy whom I love and respect, yet he has little interest in intimacy. We've slept apart for 15 of our 16 year marriage, with occasional sex. We get along well, share similar interests, rarely argue. But in the bedroom, the deep sadness I feel has become more than I can bare. Everyone thinks we're the perfect couple, and it's all a sham. I've had several deep heart to heart talks with him about my needs, only to have a loving, polite "we'll work on this" response, and no change in the relationship at all. Being lovingly ignored is agony, there is no place to release my frustration. I have finally accepted the fact that my husband and I are just wired differently. It doesn't mean he is a bad person, it doesn't mean he doesn't love me. It just means he shows love differently and has different needs than I do. Having said that, it also doesn't mean I can live like this for another 15 years. That's where the sadness comes in. I don't want to leave him and give up the life we've built together, but this is a big part of life, and not having it is a big price to pay."
- "It's such an embarrassing, humiliating experience."
- "For so many years, I thought it was my fault that my husband wasn't as interested in intimacy as I am. Maybe I wasn't pretty enough or sexy enough. Maybe I wasn't a good wife. So I tried and worked to perfect being the ideal wife. My self esteem got lower and lower, but I kept myself busy building my business. Two years ago, there was nothing left to sink myself into ... In this last 2 years I've had to face my sadness and depression about it all. Some people call it a mid-life crisis, I call it a reality check. I even went into counseling for a couple of months. I was still trying to fix ME, I thought it was MY problem."
- "The rejection is the worst part. Or is it the kindness that's the worst part? Sometimes I wish he would do something that I could be angry about, other than the hurt of rejection. It's the niceness, the politeness, the honest love my husband shows that makes this so difficult. When he does wonderful things it makes me feel guilty for wanting more."
- "My husband would be totally happy if I never came to him for sex and he doesn't like to talk about how much it bothers me. He just says he is sorry! I love my husband very much and I feel that if the shoe were on the other foot I would do what ever it took to make things right between us. I would never want him to feel the way I do right now. I feel if he truly cared about my feelings, he would help work this out because it really hurts when he turns me away!"
- "Most men don't want to admit they have a problem. I think either they have it in them or they don't. You can scream blue murder or swing from the chandelier, when his libido is gone, it's gone. But I guess one has to go on trying before taking any drastic steps."
- "I also wanted to bring up the emotional strain of being the 'sex driven' partner. Even if the problem is medical or hormonal or whatever else, you still get a feeling of self doubt and insecurities like why don't they find me attractive any more etc. These can eat away at you and your relationship big time!"
- "It's a big part of life to be missing. I am facing the fact of our differences, but it's so sad, so very very sad, because I love him so much, and I know he loves me too. I know he does, but I just can't live that way. It hurts too much. It's too sad. It began to just spill out and poison other parts of our really good relationship. Now there is almost nothing left. I feel nothing. But I still love me. I still have me."
- "When I express my love in the way I want to, I begin to feel empty and rejected after a while. When I notice that no love is coming back to me sadness, confusion, and rejection set in, then a deep dark desolate loneliness. I got to where i just couldn't tolerate the pain any more. Worse was the realization that I guess it wasn't so great for him or he'd do it more, or he didn't really love me, or I was too fat, too skinny, not pretty enough, smelled bad, looked bad. Something must be wrong with me. In other words, I would begin to not like me, to feel something was wrong with me. But there isn't anything wrong with me. I know that. Being with him was causing me to not like myself. When I realized that, I had to decide if it was worth it. "
- "Dr. Phil said that anytime a spouse withholds from his partner something, anything, that he knows she wants, it is an act of aggression, in a passive way, towards that spouse. The issue is not the gift-giving at all, it's something else. There is some reason why the man feels aggression (anger, really) toward the woman. I don't exactly know why, but that really validated me. I mean, I guess I sort of knew this, but to hear another person, knowledgeable and respected person, say this, as emphatically as he did, well, it really brought it home to me."
It's easy to see how painful this problem is for wives. As a first step, offer to address this problem as one between you both. Offer to go get help as a couple as well. This will take the blame on him out of the equation. Aside from an underlying medical reason, most individuals have some sexual desire. If your husband refuses to get help or work on this issue with you, he is ignoring a potentially disasterous situation for your relationship.
*Article updated by Marni Feuerman