“Not tonight, honey. I have a headache.”
This is perhaps one of the more famous lines delivered by wives trying to avoid sex.
Husbands around the world are all too familiar with being sexually rejected. But now, more than ever, some variation of these words are being expressed by husbands to their wives.
While conventional wisdom has been it’s usually the woman in the relationship who inevitably loses interest in sex, the opposite is just as true.
One issue when a woman’s desire is more than a man’s is how she typically handles rejection.
In any long-term marriage, husbands are generally more used to striking out and not taking it personally. As men, we can play the numbers and know we’ll get another chance at bat, so it’s more a matter of continually stepping up to the plate.
But when a man is not interested in sex, his wife is much more likely to take it as an insult or a reflection on her attractiveness. The first response of most women who are rejected is to second-guess or blame themselves. So, ladies, while a husband’s lack of desire is a problem, it’s most likely not a problem with you.
In fact, most sexual problems aren’t sexual at all.
Also, women are more likely to keep quiet and bottle up their emotions. A husband who wants more sex might lash out and say, “How come we never have sex anymore?” while a woman is more likely to let her anger simmer and stew, leading to resentment and causing her to build an emotional wall between her and her husband to protect her from feelings of rejection.
What is now being reported is low male desire is at all-time high, and is likely to occur for any number of reasons:
- Biology. There are many possible physical causes of low male sexual desire; heart disease, antidepressants, alcohol or drug use, low levels of testosterone. If you’ve ruled out other factors, it may be a good idea to pay a visit to the doctor.
- Emotion. A man’s sex drive is closely tied to his self-esteem – when one suffers, so does the other. The recent downturn of the economy has sent many men into a funk: job changes or loss, financial worries and depression can all add up to a low desire for sex. Sexual performance is very much tied to ego, so if he’s not feeling good about himself it will definitely show up in his approach to sex with his wife.
- Stress. Stress comes in many forms and may stem from many things: financial struggles, personal or family member illness, challenges at work, parenting dilemmas, just name a few. Stress creates cortisol. In men, cortisol signals the body to reduce its production of the “pre-hormone” compounds that serve as the precursors to testosterone. Cut off the supply of “parts” and your production of the end product also dries up. Added to this, just in case any testosterone does get produced, cortisol blocks the normal response of the testicles to testosterone, which is generally to make men feel frisky.
- Relationship. Feelings like anger, resentment, and general dissatisfaction with relationships can wreak havoc on a man’s sex life – but these issues don’t necessarily sink libido. Sure, a man 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. He could also be channeling his sexual energy in to other things like his hobbies, his career, or sports. Point is, what happens outside the bedroom affects what happens inside the bedroom, and when men are bored in their relationship and life they tend to get bored in the bedroom.
- Ruts. Research suggests that female sexual response depends on the quality of emotional intimacy and overall relationship satisfaction. This means that when a woman feels comfortable and secure in her relationship, she’s likely to feel more sexual desire. Enter the point where curling up on the couch in baggy sweats and a T-shirt is more of a turn-on for her than donning something sexy.
But for men, this sense of complacency and comfort can work against sexual desire, especially if there’s less emphasis on novelty, newness, excitement, and visual stimulation, all of which play heavily into the stimulation of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that, like amphetamines, plays a big role in sexual arousal.
- Porn. The Internet has made porn easily accessible – and the frequent masturbation it triggers may be diminishing sex with his wife. Many people in society view pornography as harmless, and some even think that it’s a great way to spice up your sex life with your spouse.
A man can easily be drawn into porn, where he never fails in the virtual world and he can be sexually stimulated without facing the real world issues with his wife. But the truth is, pornography neuters a man. He can become so wrapped up in this fantasy world that he is no longer capable of being excited by his own wife. She cannot possibly compete with the airbrushed models in the magazines and on the computer screen, so the husband simply loses interest in her. The other issue is porn is a masturbation industry aimed at men, and men are generally masturbating more thanks to the accessibility of stimuli. Masturbation is a natural and can even be a healthy activity (depending on who you read). If the frequency is up and you’re still young (in your 20’s) this might not be an issue. But if you’re 40 and toting a gut, it’s an issue. Some men may feel mentally like they’re still in their 20’s, but they can’t have sex that way. Their bodies have changed, namely their refractory periods (the natural interval between erections). Men with low desire may simply lack the mojo for real sex because they’re depleted from masturbation.
Regardless of gender, when a couple is dealing with mismatched desires, the worst thing the spouse with higher desire can do is to give up on sex.
The spouse with higher desire has to engage in some forensic analysis to uncover the clues and causes, and then take action to bring sex back into the relationship.
Be it more foreplay, fantasy, or enhancing communication and the overall quality of the relationship, there’s a lot you can do to foster a satisfying sex life.
So start talking with each other.
And remember, most sexual problems aren’t sexual at all.
Truth is, sexual desire for both men and women is not a light switch that just gets turned on and off.
And, men are not just walking erections (especially after their teens and 20’s), ready to go whenever the wind blows.
The media tells us men over and over that women want/need more foreplay. But women also need to get with the same program and understand that male desire is more like a dimmer switch: It unfolds across a spectrum and still can require effort.