Facebook Pixel

How do I cope with a husband who doesn't want to have sex?

By July 29, 2010 - 1:06pm
Rate This


I am struggling to find a way to feel satisfied and loved in my relationship. My partner and I have been together for five years and have lived together for one. Throughout the relationship, I have wanted sex more than him. It has never been a matter of the passion just levelling off. His sex drive hasn't been affected by stress - I've been with him through periods of high stress and low stress and it doesn't seem to make a difference. He is overweight and a smoker, though.

He used to be a really wild guy - before me, of course. I am 31 and he is 38 and we have had prior relationships. I have never had a really crazy, passionate sexual relationship; my last partner was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, so there wasn't much going on in that relationship either. So even though I love my current partner and want to be with him for the rest of my life, there are days when I'm just mad and there are days when I'm just sad because I feel like this really vital part of myself just gets ignored, and that's hard because it's been ignored for so long.

I have also gained weight - quite a lot - in the last five years and sometimes I worry that he just doesn't find *me* attractive, and that's why we're not having sex. When I ask him about it he assures me that it's not me, it's him, and he doesn't know why. He doesn't seem troubled by it. I've suggested that maybe he should talk to his doctor about it but of course it hasn't happened yet. He's embarrassed and I understand that. It's just hard to keep being patient.

I want to be a loving partner and I'm not going to go do anything stupid like cheat on him, but at the same time, I'm a very sensual person and I *need* to express that side of myself. All of my attempts to get him to see some grey area (like we can make out without going all the way) end up failing; he just pushes me away and says he's not in the mood. I can't convince him that just touching me or french kissing or giving each other massages, or, or, or... would help sooo much. That's what all the books say, "find a middle ground" - but what do you do when your partner won't work with you?

Argh, so frustrated!

Add a Comment4 Comments

Hi Alison,

Thank you for the link and for the encouraging words. Coincidentally, we had a close moment today where I was able to tell him a bit about how I felt. He didn't shut down like usual and he didn't get all upset - I can tell when he feels bad, and then I feel bad, and on it goes - so it was quite nice. I think I am not going to push for him to go to counselling with me or anything like that, but I am going to do some thinking about finding someone to talk to for myself. I think that part of the problem is I'm stuck in what I want/need instead of, as you said, looking at my relationship as being a team and an 'us' thing. That really helped me take a step back and think about us both in this situation and not just how I feel.

I would like more information - my partner has received no treatment. It's just something that sometimes he, you know, can't perform or whatever, and sometimes he can. I do think that it will be a process for him to go seek help if it's a physical problem (or an emotional one for that matter!) so if there is stuff that I/we can do at home that would be good to know in the meantime. He does have a tendency to surprise me - just when I think he's never going to change or follow up on something he says he wants to do, or whatever, that's precisely when he decides to do it. So you never know!


July 29, 2010 - 7:01pm

Hi Alison,

Yes, he has had some physical problems in the past. We probably have sex about once a month and sometimes everything's fine, and other times he has trouble.

But I think it is more than just a physical issue, I think he is just not interested. But maybe that's all connected - he doesn't feel physically aroused and so he isn't mentally interested. It's very confusing because it's like the one thing we can't talk about. He is usually concerned about my feelings and with other issues (money, family, time, that sort of thing) we can usually sit down, talk it out, and it's very loving and affectionate. With this issue, he avoids the topic and makes jokes if I bring it up. That's what makes me think he is embarrassed.

I agree that we should work on it together but he is very closed. So I need to figure out how to take care of myself. I know that I can't "make" him change or "make" him talk if he doesn't want to, and I have no intention of leaving, but I do end up feeling frustrated and sad and I want to stop living in this weird limbo of "when will the next time be, and should I bring it up, what should I do, what should I say". I feel like I'm waiting for him to do something and he never does.

Ugh, argh!

July 29, 2010 - 2:23pm
(reply to crisiskris)

It is frustrating, but you can still be sensitive to his needs if he is embarrassed, and realize it is a process for him to seek help. Since he has had physical problems in the past, how were these treated? Do you notice any triggers for him on the times when he has trouble?

There are so many men who have similar troubles, and there is an entire and very profitable pharmaceutical market targeted to them! A sex/marital therapist would be excellent for both of you: help him not feel as embarrassed and able to communicate to the one person he can be intimate with, both emotionally and physically. The therapist can help you with more understanding and how to possibly be open to his troubles, which can in turn help him not be so closed. (I am not suggesting that you are not empathetic, just the idea that you can let him know you both aren't going to therapy because of his "problem", but for you both to learn how to improve your relationship. He could even choose the therapist, if this would help).

If he is not willing to seek help right now, you are right..you can not "make him". You may choose to seek counseling for yourself, as a third-party would be ideal in your situation. Find a therapist who specializes in marital and sex therapy, and s/he can help guide you toward next steps.

A few suggestions (every marriage is different; that is why it is so difficult to provide "answers" via email and an in-person therapist would greatly help..even just a few session!). A few ideas:
- Talk with your husband during a particularly happy, carefree time, when you are both feeling emotionally close. Tell him that you love him, and look forward to the time when he feels more comfortable with you, to trust you to appropriately respond to his intimate feelings and fears. You are happy to be on his team, you appreciate everything he does, and you are here for him.

I don't want to stereotype all men, but many men do have basic desires to be understood, not feel ridiculed for their fears, and to feel appreciated. Maybe some simple words would help, without expectation of a response...expect it to be a long process with small steps.

- EmpowHER's Dr. Marty has some great relationship advie, too: My husband has lost sexual interest in me, what should I do?.

I hope some of these suggestions help!

Would you like more information on male sexual dysfunction?

July 29, 2010 - 6:17pm

Hi crisiskris,

Your words, "When I ask him about it he assures me that it's not me, it's him, and he doesn't know why. He doesn't seem troubled by it" speak volumes. It is OK if he is not troubled by this issue, but he SHOULD be troubled by is YOU having this concern. Regardless of the issue (sex, finances, communication, kids), if one partner is concerned about an on-going issue, it is the responsibility of both people in the relationship to find a solution, or to work on the issue together.

You mentioned he is embarrassed by this, and it leads me to believe that he is having physical problems...is this true? If so, we can send you some information about how common it is for men to have erectile problems, or any number of issues, and most of them are easily treatable. No need to be embarrassed!

I am interested to hear more: are there other areas in the relationship that are troubling as well? Is this a physical problem for him, or is he "not in the mood" as you say? Is he usually concerned about your feelings?

July 29, 2010 - 1:34pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.

Sex & Relationships

Get Email Updates

Resource Centers

Sex & Relationships Guide

HERWriter Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!