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"My Husband is not Interested in Sex"

By Michele Weiner-Davis

Below is the story of Paula. Paula has been married for 19 years and her married sex life has hit the rocks. Her husband is not interested in sex, and the sexual resentment has seriously threatened their marriage. Intimacy and affection are key components to a happy marriage. Below I share some of my tips to solve their marriage sex problems and save their marriage from divorce.

Dear Michele,

I've been married for 19 years. My husband always had problem with erections but it got worse through the years. I guess it was like a vicious circle. I felt it was me, he felt guilty. In the beginning I felt bad and guilty too, later it was anger, sexual resentment. I always was the one who initiated sex with my husband. I tried to talk to him about it but he always said that he would see a doctor to see what was wrong with him but never did. As the years went by, our sex life went from practically non-existent to non-existent.

The last time we tried to make love (four years ago) he got really mad at me because I told him that I needed a sexual relationship in our life. I must say by then that I was being very impatient at that point. So I made a decision; I decided to not initiate sex anymore because If I did, we would fight about it with no solution. He said that he was angry at me because he was tired of being the provider in our household. So we stopped communicating about our deep emotions. Still, during the day, we would get along really good. At night I learned not to desire him but the result of this was for me not so positive.

So last November, he started feeling really weird and told me the basic MLC (Mid Life Crisis) sentence: "I love you but I'm not in love with you anymore..." He was so different from what he was before that I was devastated. He told me that it would be a good idea if I left him alone for a while. So I left to Boston and went to see my family. I came back 2 weeks later and I found him the same way before I left; still in crisis. The tension in the house was unbearable. I was crying every night and tried to talk to him. It got worse...

He told me that he went to see an urologist but he was fine physically. They tested him for hormone level, etc... he even got a Viagra prescription. MLC big time, but no OW in sight. He didn't know when he would feel better so I asked him to leave the house for a while. His response was negative. Why should he leave, he asked me. I told him that it wasn't good for any of us, especially for our 17 year old son. I said that his behavior wasn't a good example for our son. I decided to sleep somewhere else in the house because I was crying every night in the bed. He acted like nothing was happening. He started to be nicer like his old self during the day. So I thought that he was getting better; I went back sleeping with him. We even had intercourse for the first time without Viagra. But he didn't touch me even once. I felt pretty sad. No affection or intimacy at all...

I asked my husband why he was not interested in sex and about his behavior towards me but he says he doesn't know how he feels. He say's he's kind of numb. Since then, I moved out again from the bedroom and sleep better away from him. He doesn't understand why I don't sleep with him. He say's that we slept like that for years and asked me what was different. I answered that everything was different. I didn't want to continue like it was before October. I wanted to have intimacy. He say's that couples who have been married for almost 20 years live that way and that's the way it is. Sometimes I feel like leaving him.

That whole situation is really sad for me and I don't know how to fix it. I know that he will never be intimate if I don't initiate it. On the other hand if I do he says that he doesn't know if he will reject me. I've been rejected so many times in those years that I am burned out. He doesn't say he loves me anymore. He used to say it often. I believe that he must be angry with me and the way to show it is to reject me with the intimacy. He controls that and I am helpless. He acknowledges that and that's the way it is for now.

We tried to see a sex therapist a few weeks ago, but my husband was too numb to even try the exercises that the therapist suggested. He said that he didn't like him so we stopped seeing him. Now I sleep in another room again. If I try once in a while to talk about our relationship, intimacy, the future, whatever subject that involves emotions...he says that he doesn't know or has no comments.

Can this change? Do you know if there is hope?

What can I do?



Dear Paula,

Thanks for sharing your story. I wish your intimate relationship could be more of what you want it to be. Maybe some day it can. It's too bad that your husband was so burned out by the time you reached a sex therapist because I think that could have been a real help to you both. Usually, sex therapists suggest NOT having sex for a while and begin with touching exercises instead. I hope that's what happened in your case. It takes the pressure off.

There are lots of reasons your husband may be feeling the way he is about sex and I will cover many of these possibilities in my article in Parade Magazine due out in March 2001, but for now, let's focus on solutions instead. Here are a couple of ideas.

If, in fact, he has a great deal of sexual resentment, encourage him to talk about it, even if it's uncomfortable. Sometimes resentment kills sexual desire. You need to know what's on his mind. Don't debate or defend yourself. Just listen. If you have tried to get him to talk, to no avail, here are a couple of other thoughts.

There are so many great books out there that offer sexual techniques for those having trouble. Just go to any bookstore. Maybe he would read a book if he could do it in private. Sometimes this is less embarrassing than going to a therapist.

Also, there is more to intimacy than an erect penis. Cuddling, hugging, and satisfying you in other ways is something you both can do. If he didn't feel under pressure to have intercourse, might he be more willing to be physical? If so, let him know that you don't want to have intercourse you just want to _____(fill in the blank). There is no reason in the world that he can't satisfy you, even if he's not in the mood. I know this isn't what you really want, but I think it might help somewhat.

Finally, in the Divorce Busting® spirit the one thing I think you might not have tried is to tell him that you love him and accept him for who he is and that if a sexual relationship is not something he is interested in right now, you will accept that. You just want to feel closer to him. Now, before you think I've lost my marbles, I am not suggesting that you go for the rest of your life without sex. I found it curious that even with all of your prodding, he went to a doctor when you weren't around. When he stops feeling pushed, he acts. I know you said that you stopped initiating, but I wonder whether he felt your resentment coming through. I bet he didn't think it was coming from a place of acceptance in you.

Anyway, in the meantime, understand that it's entirely possible that the lack of sex in your marriage at this point has less to do with you personally and more to do with the way in which he anticipates intimate moments...he dreads the failure. It's hard to feel compassion when you are so hungry for intimacy, I know, but try it anyway.

I wish you the best.


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