[Two Pronged] Why won't my husband have sex with me?
Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
I am 28, married, and we have one baby born just this year. My husband is 30. We have been married for almost 3 years.
After the first year of marriage, I noticed that my husband would initiate sex less often. It came to the point that I was always the one making the first move. I felt like he no longer desired me. I brought it up with him, and he explained that he enjoys sex more when it is spaced out. I pointed out that we used to have sex really often, and what used to be more than thrice a week had become less than thrice a month. He apologized and said he will make more of an effort. He would initiate once, maybe twice, then slowly would fall back to not looking for sex.
This cycle continued for several months - I would get frustrated at the seeming lack of interest, I would confront him, then he would apologize, initiate once or twice, but then soon return to his nonchalance. I often would feel like I was the only one who wanted to have sex.
Now that we have a baby, it has gotten worse. I am lucky if we have sex once a month, and I am always the one initiating.
I often resort to masturbating while he is sleeping beside me, and try as I might to keep my fantasies focused on us, my frustration at our lack of sexual activity is a huge turn-off, and my mind begins to stray to other partners. I have cheated on him before, and I came clean to him, confessing that while there was no excuse for what I did, I really was feeling undesired in our marriage, and that was a factor in my wrong decision to stray. I regret cheating on him and do not want to do so anymore, even in my mind. But it's happening again that he does not seem interested in sex with me, no matter how many times I've cried to him and opened up with him about this in the past. Just to note, as far as I am aware, he is not and has not been involved in any extramarital affair.
I suppose you could say that I can initiate sex more often and then naturally, we'd do it more often, but I don't just want more frequent sex. I want to feel desired by my husband. I feel so sad, because I know how they say that sex eventually simmers down after years of marriage, but we've been married for not even 3 years and after just the first year, things already began to go cold in what used to be a majorly steamy bedroom. I watch my weight, I take care of my body, and so I know it's not because I "let myself go."
Please help me. I love my husband and want him all the time. I know he loves me too but I don't know if he finds me sexually attractive anymore. I feel so unwanted.
I hope you can give me good advice. Looking forward to your reply.
Thank you so much,
Thank you for your email.
You say that your husband (let’s call him Bob) has lost nearly all sexual interest in you after only 3 years of marriage and one child. This is in stark contrast to earlier and is despite all your efforts to get him to perform more regularly and initiate at least some of the time.
Marriage and the advent of children can have a severe dampening effect on the desire for sex. Premarital sex can be exciting, illicit, improvised, spontaneous, etc. depending on the couple’s circumstances. After marriage has bestowed society’s (and generally religion’s) approval on the couple’s union, most if not all of these adjectives no longer apply and sex can become routine, prosaic and programmed. It is therefore no wonder that its attractions can wane.
Then come children. There are few greater antitheses to sexual ardor than children, especially in the early years. They require endless attention 24 hours a day, leaving one or both parents permanently exhausted with only survival, not sex, as their principal goal.
Added to all this is the frequent effect of the madonna-prostitute dichotomy which, alas, is not confined merely to those of the Catholic persuasion. In its simplest form, men place women in two categories: either available for sex and therefore prostitutes, formally or otherwise, or suitable for bearing their children, for which of course they must remain pure before marriage.
Taken to its extreme, men have problems having sex merely for pleasure with a woman who is the mother of his children.
Then there is the almost inevitable tendency of familiarity and the aging process to reduce the sexual urge. There is an old saying that if a married couple puts a coin in a jar every time they have sex in the first year of their marriage and removes one every time after year one, the jar will never be emptied. This, of course, may be less applicable these days as premarital sex has become more prevalent but the effects of familiarity and aging remain unaltered.
I do not know if any of this will resonate with you and your particular circumstances but there is of course one further aspect that requires consideration and that is communication, something that gets more than a little coverage in this column.
You say you have opened up to him but he just doesn’t seem interested. I think you need to try and get him to have a proper conversation about what is bothering you, rather than just a monologue. It may be that one or more of the above are relevant, or that he has some medical issue, but if you don’t have a two way conversation about it, you will never know for sure what the problem is and be left trying to interpret the tea leaves.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter.
Thank you too, Mr Baer, for sharing many factors which contribute to sexual desire diminishing once one is married.
Many people have found Mr Baer’s suggestions more than adequate to explain the situation they are in, and it inspires a gamut of behaviors, including merely accepting that: “Yes, that is definitely the case with us — and perhaps more with him than with him — so I shall cut him some slack” and/OR “Now that I’ve gotten an explanation that makes more sense, maybe I can do something more directed at the problem.”
But that is not your only concern, is it? Your greater concerns, shared so poignantly in your letter, are: to feel desired by your husband, to feel he still finds you sexually attractive, to feel wanted.
These seem reasonable enough hopes/expectations within a marriage of 3 years and short of trying (or trying yet another time) to “get him to have a proper conversation about what is bothering you rather than just a monologue. It may be that one or more of the above are relevant, or that he has some medical issue, but if you don’t have a two way conversation about it, you will never know for sure what the problem is and be left trying to interpret the tea leaves.”
If, no matter what you do or say, your husband still fails to make you feel wanted and the pampalubag loob (consolation) that he at least tries, never mind that he cannot sustain it after one or two times, then it seems you have no other option than to leave him.
In other words, to quote the title of a monogram about teenage sex (and possible pregnancy) “Is the screwing you’re getting worth the screwing you’re getting?”
Or more to the point, perhaps, “Is the screwing you’re (not) getting, worth permanently not getting the other ways he shows you he loves you?”
In other words, your husband may not love you sexually in the exact same way you wish he did (and he probably never will) BUT does he love you in other ways that make you happy to be with him?”
If he doesn’t, definitely chugi! (get rid of him)
But if he does, well… then you have to decide what means more to you: leaving so you can legitimately and openly have good sex with others (which can be a wonderful thing!) or staying so you can have all the other good things you have with him?
It’s not an easy choice, but at this stage in your life, I think it is a choice you have to make.
Otherwise, you will constantly look back at what you could have had and thus risk being disdainful of what you do have. If you know you not only have a choice and actually take it, then I think whatever situation you finally decide to be in will make you feel in charge, rather than a victim of something you never wanted.
It is called a sense of agency.
Then you will no longer have to angst over “will he or won’t he?” (initiate lovemaking) and “should I or shouldn’t I?” (kick up a fuss, have an affair, make tampo, etc etc).
Finally taking the bull by the horns instead of always being on the brink of doing/saying definitive can sometimes be even better than being desired (though perhaps not for very long).
All the best,
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