Is this you? You’re not as young as you were with the kids reminding you that carefree days of little responsibility are behind you. But you’re halfway attractive, look after yourself and expect intimacy and love. You may even be happy in your marriage, except for one thing - your sex life is non- existent.
Sexual rejection isn’t something people want to talk about. If you’re female you may be lucky enough to be able to discuss it with friends and family but for most people embarrassment and shame get in the way. If you’re male I’ll bet you don’t raise the subject unless it’s in that half jokey way that men do and put it out there as a joke or a dig at the wife. You may get some jokey sympathy back that makes you know instinctively that you’re not the only one in this particular boat, you might even feel gratitude for that acknowledgement, but heaven forbid you’d discuss it.
Most of us want a relationship that is close and loving and fulfilling at all levels, including sexually. To some people this may just be a romantic dream unless they work out exactly what this means and how to find it. But if you have experienced love and great sex with your partner then it can be baffling when the sexual desire wanes and dies. And it isn’t a myth that we want even more the things we can’t have. It’s lonely and frustrating when your partner is rejecting you sexually, and even more painful if they’re also accusing you of having a one track mind.
People do live in sexless marriages very successfully, but only if their prime needs are being met. If you have a prime need to be sexually fulfilled - and this is a basic human need - then the chances are that sooner or later this need will have to be met – perhaps outside the marriage.
What’s changed, or getting in the way, since you last had a good sex life? Chances are you’ll think of tiredness, overwhelm with the kids (if you have them) and stress at work. You may think you’re partner doesn’t fancy you any longer because they are don’t show you affection any more. But do you know for sure this is the case and not just your perception? Have they put you down or shown disdain (which are not good signs) or is it a case of being out of the habit of showing affection and warmth, which often result from stress and worry and doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on the way they feel about you?
Men’s sex drive varies considerably and energy and inclination are major factors affecting it.
Chances are if it’s tough at work, any perceived underperformance at work can have a knock on effect on his sex drive and he will avoid making love. After all, in his mind, if he’s under-performing at work or not doing anything right in other important areas in his life, why should his sex life be any different? Watch out for him possibly protecting you if he’s not being fully upfront about work related issues.
Women need to keep the sexual spark going, it’s not something that ignites well if it has long periods of non use. Think of a car in a garage over the winter, not being used at all. What are the chances of it starting after 4 or 6 months of non-use, especially if the battery was a bit worn in the first place? It’s likely to need some coaxing into life again with jump leads or new plugs before it fires into life. But had it been maintained over the period and driven regularly there would be no problem. Women are like that – give us appreciation and nurture and our sexual energy will flow accordingly – in fact, it may even run over as bonding hormones created in the love making process have a funny habit of making us want more of what’s good.
So what’s changed since you last had the relationship you miss now, apart from the lack of sex? Take a sheet of paper and divide it into three – a ‘Q’ column; a ‘He’ column and a ‘She’ column.
In the ‘Q’ column write:
What did we both used to do and we don’t do now?
What do we both do now and didn’t used to do?
What did he used to do and he doesn’t do now?
What did she used to do and she doesn’t do now?
In the ‘He’ column write down the first 3-5 things which come to mind. Don’t think about them. In the ‘She’ column write down the first 3-5 things which come to mind. Again, don’t think about them, just write. Don’t worry if you can’t do this exercise together.
You will end up with between 24 and 40 insights into what has changed over time, some of which may take you by surprise. Look at your results. What does this tell you about the relationship as it was and as it is now?
How important is Sex?
If you’re female, in the ‘He’ column write down, on a scale of 0-10 (with zero being the last thing he thinks of and 10 being THE most important thing in his life) just how important she thinks sex* is to him.
If you’re male, in the ‘She’ column write down, on a scale of 0-10 (with zero being the last thing she thinks of and 10 being THE most important thing in her life) just how important she thinks sex* is to her.
If you can do this with your partner: Reverse it
If you’re male, in the ‘He’ column write down, on a scale of 0-10 (with zero being the last thing he thinks of and 10 being THE most important thing in his life) just how important you think sex* is to you.
If you’re female, in the ‘She’ column write down, on a scale of 0-10 (with zero being the last thing she thinks of and 10 being THE most important thing in her life) just how important you think sex* is to you.
* Sex in this context is making love in your existing relationship/marriage
Look at your results. What does this tell you? Who is an abstinence of sex really a problem for?
What you may uncover here is that not everyone needs a sex life. But if one half of a couple does, and the other doesn’t, who is it a problem for? Listen to what your partner is saying. For instance, if your hubbie is giving you verbal assurances that “things will get better in this area” he isn’t hiding from the issue entirely, but he may be trying to protect himself from uncovering underperformance issues which he’d rather not delve into. Similarly, if she’s saying “I’m too tired” all the time she may be ducking out of confronting personal relationship issues which she’d rather not delve into.
But whilst you will want to try and help your partner get over this problem - which is after all, in your best interests to resolve too - ask yourself exactly what is he/she doing/has he done to put it to get your sex-life back on track? It is often very hard for a man to seek help because it’s so embarrassing to admit to sexual failure, but if a guy can’t do this, he often simply can’t find the answers he needs and he may be completely stumped as to how to progress: it’s so embarrassing for him and wifely pressure to perform won’t help.
Women are more likely to admit to a sex-free marriage to trusted friends but may refuse to admit that it is a problem, instead putting forwards all the reasons for not wanting a fulfilled sex-life and convincing themselves this is in their best interests.
If he genuinely can’t get it up, then stress could be a major factor and male sexual dysfunction (as it’s called) regularly affects men for a number of reasons, psychological and physical. There’s some very helpful advice on the NHS site which strongly recommends suffers speak to their GP as soon as possible to identify the cause and get support in overcoming it. What can you do to help get him to his GP? Gently ask if he is open to suggestions and get his permission before you put them forwards. Reassure him that he doesn’t have to involve you if he prefers not to.
If she is continually pushing you away, does she know you find her attractive? When did you last tell her she was special? That she looked good? That you couldn’t live without her? It takes courage to voice feelings not expressed for a while, but set yourself a challenge and decide to give her a compliment, however large or small, each day.
You can help and reassure your partner, but there is a point where you might ask yourself:
Where will I be in 2 years time? 5, 10 or even 15 years if we can’t make ourselves happier?
Do I want to be in this relationship without sex?
Have I really thought through what the alternatives are – e.g. Divorce?
Ask yourself how healthy the relationship is in every other aspect. And how do you know that you partner isn’t sexually active elsewhere?
Enjoy each other’s company, if not their body!
When did you last have a romantic dinner together? If the answer is some time ago, book a babysitter, order a cab, and find a restaurant you both like. Go out with no agenda but to relax. Before you go out remind yourself of the three things which used to turn you both on. If it was a certain aftershave, wear it; likewise the fuchsia mini-skirt, ladies. Over the course of the evening do one thing well – really listen to your partner. If he talks about football, be interested. Ask him questions even if you have no interest in the game. When you talk about the children, actively listen to what she has to say, whether she verbalises anxieties or good moments. Share their emotions without judging whether she/he is right or wrong; just enjoy being with her/him and communicating.
When did you last have a weekend away together, without the kids? If the dinners are successful, arrange childcare and book a break away. Find a destination you both know and like and go with no agenda but to relax and re-discover each other. Before you go out remind yourself of the three things which used to turn you on about her/him and tell yourself they will return, but maybe not this weekend – your aim is to take the pressure off. If it seems right, take their arm when strolling or their hand over the table. Think ‘first date’ and what you might do on a first date – a quick kiss, a cuddle, warmth, friendliness. Expect no more from them - be affectionate if she/he is but absolutely do not mention sex if she/he doesn’t, or initiate it.
Take the pressure off You’ll find the answer, be patient. Whether we believe in the old proverb ‘Marriages are made in heaven’ or the opposite ‘Wedlock is a padlock’ it is a fact that sometimes the kids are the only thing which couples have in common, as people grow apart and boredom can set in.
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