[Two Pronged] Perfect marriage – save for the sex (or the lack thereof)
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,
Everything about our marriage is perfect. We rarely fight and we perfectly compliment each other, except for sex. He has no sexual urge. He isn’t gay. It’s his mind not in sync with wanting it. The last time we did it was last December.
What complicates it is he’s a very touchy partner: kissing, cuddling, expressive, reassuring. His testosterone and sperm count are normal. He loses his focus fast – like 10-15 minutes.
He said he has no problem with me; finding me attractive and sexy. He hates it when the woman initiates sex.
We got married and had honeymoons twice but we didn’t even make out. When we were dating, I didn't mind but now that were married…we both had a check up and we are both healthy. He tries, but his interest is gone in an instant.
I say it’s ok, but I feel unwanted.
He's 34 now. He got deeply depressed in 2012, which is when he lost his urge. I have physical needs as a normal person and this affects my self esteem. He's completely aware of my feelings and he acknowledges it.
I am not looking for a perfect marriage, but it's a normal person's nature to need intimacy from her partner, especially since I’m a girl. I’ve never needed to beg for sex before. I’ve tried initiating and got rejected, it adds to the pain I have deep within. Please help.
You say that your husband (let’s call him Tim) lost his sexual urge when he had his severe bout of depression in 2012 but never mention if he is still suffering from depression (permanently or occasionally) or taking medication to combat it. Antidepressants after all are notorious for affecting people’s sex drive and this could be Tim’s problem. Dr Holmes’s book Down to 1: Depression Stories (Anvil Publishing, 2010) has much useful information on this and other aspects of depression.
Alternatively, there might be some psychological issue at play but you have given us no information that could inform a judgment so all one can say is that this avenue is also worthy of consideration – as is Tim’s attitude to you and his problem.
While your marriage may be perfect in all respects but sex, and he finds you attractive and sexy, what is he doing to resolve his lack of sex drive? Acknowledging your feelings and having checkups are a start but nothing more. Hating it if you take the initiative and rejecting you are however extremely negative. Given the variety of sexual acts available, does his professed love for you extend to giving you sexual satisfaction regularly even if his own sex drive is non existent?
At the end of the day, absent any pharmacological or psychological resolution of Tim’s lack of sex drive, you will have to consider whether 1) you are content for your otherwise perfect marriage to continue without sex or 2) you should take a lover or 3) leave Tim and make a new life for yourself.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter.
In addition to Mr Baer’s hypotheses that it can either be his depression and/or his antidepressants that are still causing his low sex urge, there is a third possibility: he may well be asexual.
For the purposes of our discussion, let us define an asexual as someone who does not feel sexual desire for anyone, male, female, hetero, pansexual, etc. I like to add this disclaimer since there is a lot of controversy surrounding the way we look at asexuals. Is it a sexual orientation and/or a “lack” of something (hence implying something negative)?
In my clinical experience, being asexual does not automatically mean a person has a sexual dysfunction that needs to be “cured.” All it means is, even if someone loves his wife so very much (the way Tim loves you) and, even if someone wants to please his wife in every way he can (the way Tim tries to) and, even if someone psychs himself up again and again to have sex with the woman he love (the way Tim has done on many occasions) and, finally, even if someone finds his wife physically appealing and thus cuddles, hugs and caresses her (again, the way Tim does you) there is still no desire to have actual sex with you — or with anyone else. In other words, it isn’t personal, it just is.
Mr Baer has suggested two possibilities and I, one, to “explain” your husband’s behavior. There are many more, of course, but to me, these are the most likely.
In a way, the cause for your husband’s non -interest in sexual activity does not matter as much as what you do about it.
You can try and work out your differences as a couple, which I, personally (and not necessarily professionally) feel the better option. You both seem very much in love with – and like! – each other.
However, sexual intimacy may well be a deal breaker for you, as it is for many people, and in that case, breaking up would be the better option.
We cannot tell you what to do, dearest Jeany, and can only hope that whatever it is you both decide, it will be done with dignity, kindness, and yes, definitely a lot of love for each other.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.