Often, the person who won’t have sex doesn’t see it as a big deal.
But it is for the other person.
Both partners need to realize this. And need to work together to solve the issue.
Reading the comments on a Psychology Today article about whether sexless marriages justify infidelity, it seems that the person who doesn’t want to have sex often doesn’t understand their partner’s distress and unhappiness.
I read some comments on an article about sexless marriages where a woman said she was just done, and her husband needed to deal with it, and she didn’t see it as a bit issue.
But it clearly is an issue when a spouse won’t have sex. And some people have an unwillingness to admit there’s a problem, especially with them.
Sometimes, it’s simple self-centeredness.
But other times, it’s hormones.
We are share many traits with other species, particularly in the limbic system of our brain. In humans, a rational brain evolved over millions of year, but it is on top of the primal, pre-rational brain that existed for hundreds of million years before in one form or another. The primitive parts of our brain are still there, and are primarily responsible for our emotions and many of our behaviors. And sometimes what our emotions want and what our rational brain knows is good for us are two different things.
And if we have a hormonal imbalance, our sex drive can drop or disappear. Science has shown that women’s libido is directly correlated with estrogen and testosterone.
So, it’s not a stretch to say that when these levels drop, due to menopause or something else, women’s libidos tank.
These hormones are also especially sensitive to stress. When women are stressed, they produce more of the stress hormone cortisol as well as adrenaline, which has been shown in studies to depress libido.
So. One of the first things to address, beyond chronic health issues, are issues related to menopause and stress. There are things that a person can do about these, either with a physician –particularly a holistic or alternative medicine doctor– or mental health professional.
But, let’s say something that isn’t said often: the person who is suffering from these issues often do not feel they have an issue, and have no desire to have them addressed. Even if their spouse is suffering, and their marriage is suffering, mentally they feel that the other person is over-reacting and should just let it go. Sex, they feel, should not be the basis of a marriage, as a marriage is more than just sex.
One one hand, yes, that’s true.
On the other hand, sex is part of marriage. Part of the implied contract is that both spouses will remain faithful. But, this also presupposes that the couple is having sex, and adequate sex. When one person can’t or won’t have sex, that marriage contract is being broken, although perhaps unintentionally.
If your partner won’t agree that lack of sex is an issue, then you need to get marriage counseling to help you work through the issue.
My wife and I have had our issues.
We’ve been fortunate, though, that they haven’t been serious issues compared to others. No alcohol or substance addictions. No abuse, physical or otherwise. No infidelity or affairs. No growing apart or significant issues with anger or resentment.
But, we have had our issues. Often they’re around expectations, lack of communication, or things we never talked about around how we want to live our lives.
By far, the biggest issue for me was been when our sex life withered on the vine.
We were having an increasing number of disagreements and fights. We didn’t feel as close. We didn’t spend quality time together. And it worked out time after time that she won’t have sex.
And although rationally I knew it wasn’t her fault, seething below the surface I was angry that I wasn’t getting sex. That she wasn’t making herself available to me. That she didn’t want me. That she didn’t care about me. That she rejected me when I did ask. That, my subconscious insisted, she didn’t really love me.
And on top of that, she was irritable, anxious, depressed and defensive as a result of her condition. Our fights were the worst of our marriage… and often, I had no idea where they came from or even what they were really about. And she’s always had the ability to go on the offense when she felt defensive. Our fights never went well for me.
During one of our fights, I can’t even remember about what, I said that maybe we needed marriage counseling.
Oddly, that cooled her off. Although I did frame it as it being to help me understand all the things I was doing wrong so I could be a better husband.
But to her mind, it showed that I did want to be married to her, and I did want to work things out.
And somehow, that right there triggered me to really immerse myself in her health issues, as I realized that I really needed to get those solved first, before there was any point in addressing other relationship issues.
Plus, frankly, I had read enough to suspect that if I could get her health issues addressed, her libido should return. And that should go a long way towards fixing the tension between us.
And it has.
Read the next post in the Keeping the Spark Alive Series: Fallen out of Love