Love dilemmas abound, and here, in our latest installment of a weekly advice column, a TODAY.com panel answers a question from a reader dealing with a frustrating relationship issue. Have your own question? Submit it here.
First, let’s introduce our panelists:
The wise grandma: Kitty Schindler
At age 87, retired nurse Kitty Schindler is TODAY.com’s oldest regular contributor. One of 10 children raised by a Pennsylvania coal miner during the Depression, she offers advice from the perspective of a successful long-term relationship — a 61-year marriage.
The relationship expert: Dr. Gilda Carle
Dr. Gilda Carle at is an internationally known psychotherapist and relationship expert. She is Match.com’s “Ask Dr. Gilda” advice columnist. She is also author of 15 books, including "Don't Bet on the Prince!"
The sex therapist: Ian Kerner
Ian Kerner, Ph.D, is a renowned sex therapist and author of "She Comes First" and "Love in the Time of Colic." Ian's journey to counseling grew out of his own personal battle with sexual dysfunction and his desire to help others.
Q: My issue is that my husband of four years does not initiate sex — never has. I am 39 and he is 35. This is a not a recent problem. I have always had issues with this. I know that he satisfies himself quite often, as we have had that discussion several times. I have talked with him multiple times about how it makes me feel. It's now been 14 months since we had sex and I am almost at the breaking point. I still love him as I did when we were married, but emotionally I am lost. — Sexless and stumped
Kitty says: Married four years and your sex life is zero! But why are you surprised, when you say your husband's very low sexual interest has been a factor from day one? It's time to face the fact that you want sex with him and he doesn't want it with you. And it's also high time to see a therapist — but only if your husband participates.
You may love each other, but marriage should be more than friendship. You guys need help now. This is a real problem, despite what he says.
Gilda says: Long ago, the way in which you set up your relationship placed you as the aggressor. This has always supported your particular brand of love. However, suddenly you are annoyed that your husband doesn’t take a more aggressive lead. Why? Are you feeling insecure about your relationship? When did this start? I think it has to do with your discovery that your husband does initiate sex after all, but it’s with himself. And you insist this initiation be with you.
You’re so angry about what he’s doing during his alone time that you’ve withdrawn altogether from sex. You can’t control hubby’s masturbation habits any more than you can control his bathroom habits. Get over it! Instead, encourage your husband to experiment with new moves, and to bring them to bed with you. Also include his self-pleasuring in your sexual excitement. This is a way for your routine roles to change, and for you to find some turn-ons you never knew before!
Ian says: In my opinion low male desire is a silent epidemic that rarely gets talked about. Men actually grapple with decreased sexual desire just as much as women, if not more. Those stereotypes about guys and their raging libidos are just that — stereotypes. If you're a woman with a healthy sex drive, it can be beyond frustrating to have a male partner who's less than enthusiastic about getting it on. Since you’re already talking about the issue, why don’t you ask him to take a porn break? That might give his libido a needed jump-start and allow him to direct his erotic energy towards you. Of course, you could always ask him to give you a guided tour of his favorite porn sites. Why not turn his self-pleasuring into some mutual pleasuring?
If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to explore other possibilities for his low desire:
- Biological: There are many possible physical causes of low male sexual desire, including heart disease, antidepressants, alcohol or drug use, or low levels of testosterone. If he's ruled out other factors, it's a good idea for him to pay a visit to his doctor.
- Emotional: A guy's sex drive is often closely tied to his self-esteem — when one suffers, so does the other. The economic downturn has sent lots of men into a funk. Job changes or loss, financial worries and depression can all add up to a low libido.
- Relationship: Feelings like anger, resentment and general dissatisfaction with his relationship can play havoc on a man's sex life with his partner — but these issues don't necessarily sink his libido. Sure, he may claim he's not in the mood. But he may simply be putting his sexual energy elsewhere, whether into masturbation, porn, strip clubs or an affair.
Please don’t give up. I know it’s easy to feel rejected, but right now you’re motivation to change the situation is the most powerful factor in actually changing it.
Do you agree with the panelists' advice? Do you have your own? Share it in the comments below.
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