One spouse has a higher sex drive than the other. Can you relate?
We spent years avoiding sex. We outright refused. We donned our don’t-touch armor of clothing and comments. We limited what sex was allowable.
Then we realized our husbands were miserable. We addressed our issues with sex. We worked—hard—to turn things around. We changed our thoughts. We learned to not let our feelings drive everything. We stepped out of our comfort zones and sweatpants into our sexuality.
Somewhere along the line, we realized what we’d been missing all those years. When we’d been depriving our husbands of sexual connection, we’d been depriving ourselves as well.
Our marriages became good. We were happy. Our husbands were happy and felt loved. THIS is what marriage is supposed to be like, we thought. The more we had sex, the more we enjoyed it and the more we wanted it. It seemed like we were having sex a lot—and we were glad of it!
Then a weird thing happens. It doesn’t happen overnight, and we might not even see it at first. One day we realize that our sex lives have begun to slow down again. This time, though, it isn’t because of us.
Our husbands who had suffered so long from our sexual avoidance are now the ones avoiding sex.
We might wonder, What is going on? Is it me? Did I do something wrong?
Something like this happens in more marriages than you might think. Mostly I hear about it from women whose husbands are in their 40s or over.
So let’s talk about what might be going on.
It’s not about you . . .
Several factors may be at play that have nothing to do with you.
- Medical issues begin to present themselves. Adult-onset diabetes and high blood pressure often affect a man’s ability to physically respond to sexual touch. Treatment for various conditions may have a similar effect. His equipment just doesn’t seem to work the way it used to. Some men avoid sex so they can avoid the experience of equipment failure.
- Men in their 40s begin to experience the effects of the decrease in testosterone that started in their 30s. Low testosterone (low T) affects sex drive, anxiety, and stress and can worsen some medical issues. Even men with no other medical problems may find that their erections are less firm, less predictable, less immediate, and less reliable.
- Life happens. Men in their 40s may begin to wonder if their lives have made a difference. They realize that they are a little past their prime. Their lives are probably more than half over. What kind of legacy are they leaving? Have they done what is necessary financially? If they haven’t, is it even still possible to change careers at this age? The stress of wondering if they’ve done enough and realizing that they are running out of time is tough—and stress of any kind can affect the sex drive.
Most of the time, these factors are the root of the problem. Health problems, low T, and life stress often are the reason behind the “we had lots of awesome sex after I turned things around and now we hardly ever do it” phenomenon. It really isn’t about you . . .
. . . except when it is a little bit about you.
Even when we have fully repented and accepted God’s forgiveness as well as our husband’s, there are consequences for what we’ve done.
Unfortunately, years of experiencing sexual avoidance and deprivation can take their toll. This means several other issues might be adding to the problem.
- When we are avoiding sex and our husbands feel deprived, we get a false sense of a man’s normal sex drive. A husband may want sex every single day—but that’s because after a week or a month without sex, the unmet need is still there. He thinks about it every day because he’s starving for sex. When his wife first begins to make sexual changes, he is still wanting sex just about every day—partly to make up for lost time, but also because he doesn’t believe that the changes will last. He’s trying to “stock up.” As he begins to feel sexually connected with his wife and trusts that the changes are the real deal, he will settle into what his drive is naturally.
- Many women find that the more we have sex, the more we want it—so while a husband’s drive might be slowing down into a normal rhythm, her drive might well be increasing to a new normal for her.
- Years of expecting “no” or never having specific desires or requests fulfilled can train a man to suppress some of his sex drive. After an initial celebration of “I’m finally having lots of sex and it’s awesome!!!!” they start to come down from that high and settle into patterns they might not have realized were normal for them. The reaction to suppress sexual interest was carved deeply into their minds and bodies. It is hard to overcome that—which we should realize, having worked so hard to overcome our own reactions to sexual attention in our marriages.
- Many men will say that one of the major ways a wife’s sexual avoidance affects them is that they feel like less of a man. This is an area that can take a long time to heal. The realization that his drive is slowing down can tap right back into that feeling and insecurity. If his wife’s drive is increasing, he may be feeling that he just can’t keep up with her.
- If he relied on masturbation to provide physical release when his wife would not, a man may find it difficult to fully respond to his wife’s touch, especially as his testosterone decreases. Avoiding sex altogether may be an effort to avoid sending her the message that her touch isn’t enough. Or perhaps he is trying to avoid triggering the memory of images he once saw in porn.
In these ways, our years of sexual avoidance may have contributed to the current situation.
For a wife who has worked so hard to turn herself around sexually, a slowed-down sex life can be confusing, hurtful, and laden with residual guilt. If you can relate to this, what can you do?
Shake off the guilt. It is easy to tell ourselves that this is what we deserve or that we have no right to be unhappy because we contributed to the situation. That is not true! When you accepted God’s forgiveness for having hurt your husband, it is done: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
The fact that you avoided sex for many years does not mean that you deserve this. It also doesn’t mean that your husband is absolved of having to pay attention to your sexual needs and desires. In fact, I would say that having suffered so long himself, he should have a pretty good understanding of what you are experiencing.
Pray about it to be sure your own heart motives are pure. While guilt is one common feeling, another common feeling is one of entitlement. After all I went through to become this way, how dare he not express proper and frequent appreciation? Pray for your heart to be one that seeks intimacy with your husband and with God.
Get your husband to the doctor. If he has low T or depression, it can be treated. That should help this to an extent. Or, if he is concerned about erectile dysfunction, he can request a sample of an ED medication.
Have a conversation with your husband. Give him a chance to talk about his stress–work, his health, even his stress about sex. Just listen, and ask how you can pray for him. Ask him how you can help him avoid or deal with the stress in his life.
Talk about the fact that your drive is higher. It is a good opportunity for you to express remorse for what you put him through if you haven’t done so already. It is never too late to ask for his forgiveness.
Ask him how he would like you to handle your higher drive. Is he willing to take care of you manually or orally even if he isn’t in the mood? Would he prefer to hold you while you masturbate? Work together to figure out a solution that will help the overall intimacy in your marriage, even if it doesn’t affect his sex drive.
Initiate. If sex isn’t happening because he isn’t initiating anymore, have you tried initiating in a way that he will recognize as initiating? If not, that might be one thing you can work on.
It is strange to be living in a reversal of the dynamic your marriage experienced for so long. It’s difficult, awkward, and really, really confusing.
You are not alone. I’ve experienced some of the things I’ve written about here, and a whole lot of other women have as well.
I’ve found it helpful to remember this: The process of working on something together builds intimacy. This is not a you-problem, and it isn’t a him-problem. It’s a y’all-problem.
Work with your husband to figure out what is going on, to seek treatment if necessary, and to search for a solution that can strengthen the intimacy in your marriage.
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