Ladies, if your man has shut down from you, physically and/or emotionally, you are not alone. But you may only be guessing at the reasons why. He may give you an answer that may or may not be true, or you may blame it on his porn use, or him being selfish and cold...but is that accurate or the whole story? Moreover, regardless of the cause, what can you do about it?
Skip to the end if you want the good news: because most of the loss of desire is attributed to patterns in the relationship and the bedroom, the woman has significant power to change the situation!
20 Million Sexless Marriages
Men losing interest in sex with their female partner is a well-kept secret, but widespread phenomenon. Low desire is the top sexual problem in America, affecting one in 3 women and one in 5 men. In my FB group, More Intimacy in Marriage for Women, when I’ve polled women, about 40% report “I have a higher drive than my man” often with comments like, “he’d rather use porn than be with me,” or “he hasn’t touched me in years.” But even being in good company doesn’t make this less sad and frustrating.
I personally endured the heartache and isolation of 7 years of a sexless, touchless marriage with my ex-husband; his choice, not mine. And my beloved current husband; despite his high libido, slept in the basement for years, to avoid sleeping with his ex-wife. Why is this?
Low or sexless marriage is a lost opportunity on many levels: you lose the physical bonding, pleasure and release and all the health benefits of regular sex. In addition, the sexless state more often than not causes affection and connection to dry up too. Often we miss that as much as the sexual touch!
These are couples who once found each other interesting, attractive, and desirable enough to commit to sharing a bed forever. What killed the passion?
Why Men Stop Having Sex
The book Why Men Stop Having Sex by Bob Berkowitz and Susan Yager-Berkowitz is a study of thousands of men and women in sex-starved marriages, where the male partner stopped the sex. I’ve added to this analysis some of my interpretations as an intimacy coach for women, as I have developed techniques and methods that women can use to single handedly change the loving dynamic of the relationship and bring back a loving connection.
First, the study in Why Men Stop Having Sex “WMSHS” lists the many reasons men give for losing interest in sex with their partner; and for most, it is likely a combination of these. They are (not in order) depression and stress, low testosterone, medications and medical conditions, trauma, religious conditioning, too busy, an affair, porn addiction, sexual dysfunction and relationship and resentment issues. And very rarely….he’s secretly gay. A very common response is, I am interested in sex, but not with my wife. The study allowed men to choose multiple reasons.
The study noted that absent severe medical conditions, a large majority of the men were still very much interested in sex and the majority continues to masturbate regularly. Then why aren’t they making love to their wives?
A majority of men chose answers that were not medical, but rather relationship issues. The most chosen were: she’s not adventurous in bed and I’m bored, she doesn’t seem to enjoy sex, she doesn’t seem to desire me, and I am angry at her.
Each Spouse Blames the Other?
If it seems men are shifting responsibility away from themselves….they probably are; it is human nature, and their wives do the same. In talking with women, I ask what caused the man to lose interest in sex with her. She may say, I don’t know, or proffer a guess. Often, she will blame depression, or his porn use, erectile dysfunction, or just speculate that he doesn’t have any drive. They often don't know or admit that their man is angry or frustrated with them.
The WMSHS study found stunning differences between reasons men give for losing interest and wives’ explanations: for instance, men said “She isn’t sexually adventurous enough for me 68% of the cases, but the wife chose this option just 14% of the time! 61% of the men reported, “she doesn’t seem to enjoy sex” and only 10% of the women identified her lack of enjoyment as a problem….Also nearly half of the men reported, I’m interested in sex….but not with my wife.
Depression, stress, and low mood
These are reported by a third of men with low drive. We can imagine that quarantine stress has caused these numbers to skyrocket. It’s unclear how much low mood is caused or augmented by relationship conflict, and how much having better communication and connection inside and outside the bedroom would cause both mood and desire to improve.
Male sexual dysfunction
As the population ages, so does erectile dysfunction, impacting 40% of men in their 40s, 50% of men in their 50s….and so on. In order, the top male dysfunctions are erectile dysfunction, (ED) premature ejaculation (PE), then delayed ejaculation. Wives tend to rate these as top causes of desire loss much more frequently than the man does.
It’s also likely that men could be hiding ED and PE shame under a veil of disinterest. For men it is possibly less shameful to report health and relationship issues rather than frustration and disappointment with his own body and performance. Even if a man has physical or psycho-sexual dysfunction, a sexlife can still be enjoyable and sustained in if the couple knows how to create an atmosphere of safety and creativity.
Most issues are relational, not physical nor stress.
Nearly two-thirds of men reported that they lost interest because the sex was boring, or not satisfying because their partner either wasn’t adventurous, or ‘into it.’ Her lack of enjoyment and enthusiasm lessens his interest, because a top desire of men, is that the woman desire him. This is consistent with other studies that show that men’s top desire in a lover is her confidence, genuine enthusiasm and desire to be with him.
When a man feels he can’t please a woman, or due to her lack of desire or elusive orgasms, he may feel that he is using her sexually to fill his own urges. In this case, a male psyche may give up or shut down in this area. Another study reported that it takes as little as 3-4 consecutive rejections for a man to stop initiating. When no one is initiating, the other assumes no desire, and they settle into complacency. It can explain the phenomenon that when children are little and women feel tired, overwhelmed, and ‘touched out,’ she may regularly turn down sex. Later when her drive returns, he’s gotten used to the sexlessness, found other outlets, and now she’s the sex-starved partner.
The sexual menu is vast, but most couples have the same kind of sex every time. Boredom is a top reason women lose sexual interest too, so creating playfulness and novelty in the bedroom is in the interest of both. So is creating deep, connected lovemaking as opposed to merely trying different positions and looking to add “spice.”
As an intimacy coach, I say that women don’t naturally lose interest in sex, we lose interest in the quality and type of sex we are offered. Or the depth of the intimate connection outside the bedroom. One or both could take initiative to bring excitement and connection back. My sex coaching helps a woman explore what she might like and how to artfully ask for it and get it.
I believe that much of this male and/or female perception that their sex life is boring, could be impacted by the influence of pornography. It seems that in a world of increasing hardcore XXX variety and kink, 'vanilla,’ monogamous sexuality is comparatively boring; and that is unfortunate.
Anger and Resentment
Beyond boredom, relationship issues are causing a lack of interest. Nearly half the respondents said they are not interested in their wife anymore because they are angry or resentful toward her. (According to other studies, the biggest frustrations married men report with wives are feeling disrespected, nagged, criticized, mothered, and ‘frump syndrome.’ As my own husband says, disrespect is kryptonite to a man.) It’s worth considering how much desire zapping depression and stress could be alleviated by having a more peaceful, loving relationship.
Loss of Attraction
A third of men said they are not attracted to their partner anymore; and many said it was due to her weight. I think “not attracted” could be physical, or emotional, falling under the resentment umbrella. In the case of my own husband, his ex-wife didn’t change much physically when he was with her, but her criticism and disrespect caused him to feel repulsed by her, and genuinely not physically attracted. He probably would have checked the ‘not attracted to her’ box.
Conversely, (and fortunately, because we are not getting any younger!), when a man is in a loving, sexual relationship with a woman, her objective physical attractiveness diminishes in importance. He still finds her desirable.
Because a man who has lost desire for his own wife due to resentment and not feeling attracted to her still has sexual urges, he will often to porn in order to stay in the marriage and not stray. As a result, the wife may blame porn as the cause of his disinterest, not a result of it. It’s the hen and the egg; not understanding which came first; turn-on to porn, or turn-off to her.
A quarter of men reported they preferred to masturbate to porn rather than make love. It’s impossible to tell how much of this turning to porn is due to the many challenges and turn-offs described above, or the growing trend among men who are so habituated to the porn superhighway, often from a very young age, that they actually prefer it over putting in real effort with a real woman.
Now the Good News for Women
Because most of the loss of interest is attributed to patterns in the relationship and the bedroom, the woman has significant power to change the situation!
My coaching for women in sex-starved and love-starved relationships is based upon a faith in her ability to change the dynamic and create loving connection. She ‘goes first’ and he responds, often quickly and dramatically.
Outside the bedroom, when she creates an atmosphere of loving respect and gratitude, she sees how a good man truly wants to please her. A good man responds to his woman’s appreciation, vulnerability and desire; I’ve seen a stonewalling man bounce back in just a couple of weeks, looking for ways to please his woman, be her lover and hero.
Many blocks to sexual pleasure are psycho-sexual within the woman, may not even be a 'couples problem,' and can be overcome in coaching. To find out if they are n individual challenge, ask yourself, did they impact you before getting together with their man, or would they exist independently of this relationship? (See my paper for the Assoc of Marriage Therapists: https://www.moreintimacy.net/forprofessionals
By overcoming her blocks to pleasure, discovering her turn-ons, and learning intimate communication, she can create a mutually sexy bedroom. Bedroom boredom can be banished by becoming sexual explorers together.
Coaching helps her tap into her feminine energy with time-tested secrets of cherished women. She becomes less stressed and happier, and this happy version of herself is very attractive to her man. She awakens her sensual-self in coaching, discovers her unique turn-on map, and the couple is revitalized with connected lovemaking. Even if HE has erectile/sexual dysfunction, shame is replaced by an atmosphere of safety and teamwork, making loving physical bonding possible again.
How can the woman get the couple unstuck and start connecting? It's a challenge on her own, but with support and guidance from me, a professional sex and marriage specialist, she can create bliss for both! I invite women to explore in a heart-to-heart conversation with me. Book a free call with me here: https://www.moreintimacy.net/bookings-checkout/heart-to-heart-chat-1/book
Debbie Marielle Elzea
Intimacy Specialist for Women
Wife, mother, Colorado psychotherapist, relationship coach and Romantic
FB group More Intimacy in Marriage for Women: https://www.facebook.com/groups/254000829178793
Video: my client Kelley describes how she revitalized her intimacy-starved marriage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mRuqidMTDo&t=18s