Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] Losing one’s sex drive after marriage

Margarita Holmes
[Two Pronged] Losing one’s sex drive after marriage
From self-proclaimed 'sex machine' to man without a sex drive

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 a married man but since I was married, I lost my sex drive with my wife. I did not have sex for several months, even if my wife asked for it. Before, when I was a single guy, I was like a sex machine with other girls…but since I got married I lost my sexual appetite with my wife.

Can you give me some advice to bring back my sex drive?  

Just Call me a Fan

Dear JCMAF (Just Call me a Fan),

Thank you for your message, which is a model of concision. Unfortunately, however, when it comes to giving advice, concision is not a virtue since the greater the knowledge the more informed the advice can be. For example, it would have been nice to know if when you were single and a sex machine, did that include your future wife or only other women? Did your desire for your wife wane over a period of time (how long?) or was it immediate? Does your problem affect you with other women or only your wife? What does your wife think about your failure to perform? 

For example, is she unhappy, reluctantly accepting, or quite relaxed? Do you and your wife still love each other? Given that we do not know the answers to these and many other questions, we can only generalize and hope that some of what follows will resonate with you.

The Madonna Prostitute Dichotomy (MPD) is the belief that women fall into two categories – the Madonna represents the pure and nurturing side of women while the prostitute represents the sexual side – and these are mutually exclusive. This belief is frequently encountered in religious societies which seek to protect a woman’s virginity until she marries. It is also prevalent in patriarchal societies where men seek to control women.

Problems arise immediately when a Madonna marries. The old persona of a blushing virgin, real or feigned, has to give way to a sexual woman. Quite how sexual depends on the situation of course. If the husband has strong views about what is and is not suitable for a wife to do in the bedroom, then an adventurous sex life is unlikely. Many are the men who have declared that fellatio and the like are acts only prostitutes perform. This encapsulates the MPD. Prior to marriage, she was a Madonna and a pure virgin. Upon marriage, now that she is free to embrace her sexuality and actually enjoy doing so, to do so would transform her into a prostitute in the eyes of an MPD believer. We can see that there are some very serious issues here for the marriage, and these issues are revisited when the woman becomes a mother. The chance to embrace the return of the image of the pure nurturing mother clashes with the uncomfortable fact that pregnancy requires the woman to have sex, something significantly at odds with the Madonna image. And then, having given birth, the marriage continues and the husband faces the conundrum of more sex with his Madonna.

If some or all of these issues ring a bell, then perhaps a stint of therapy would help you get your mind around the concept of life in the 21st century.

This does not mean that you have to become some sort of post-metrosexual. Consider therapy like a buffet – you look at all that is offered and choose what suits your situation.

If the whole MPD belief system is however alien to you, then perhaps a visit to your doctor/urologist is in order to see if everything is functioning normally.

Write again with more information if there are other issues you wish to raise. All the best,

JAF Baer

Dear JCMAF (Just Call me a Fan):

Thank you very much for your letter. I agree with Mr Baer that your letter is a model of concision, so what I will do is consider what I think your situation is by reading between the lines, ok?

It sounds to me like you are not interested in having sex with other women, definitely at this point and hopefully this disinterest lasts forever. What you want to do to is ignite the sexual desire you had in spades for other women,  when you were an unmarried man, so that this same intensity can be there for you when with your wife.  

Why is it so hard to have both a terrific marriage and a fevered sexual relationship after several years have gone by? The psychoanalyst and couples therapist Ester Perel was the first person I know of to articulate the major reason this is so difficult. It is because what a fine marriage needs: stability, security, love, predictability — is the exact opposite of what fevered desire requires: mystery, novelty, unreliability.

Dr Perel in her 2006 book Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic strongly suggests looking at your spouse with a brand new perspective: Not as someone you already won and thus “own” like a trophy, but as someone new that you have to constantly seduce, court, and show your best (but honest) side to. Because, Dr Perel says, that is the more accurate description since you never know when you may lose your partner to death, illness or his/her walking away from your relationship. 

Another is to allow your partner to flourish in her own element so that you see her differently — as an “other” who has her own insights, opinions, reactions which you may be unaware of, especially if she has a career passion she loves.

Of course, Dr Perel says these things much more eloquently, so reading her book or watching her Ted talks might be a good idea. 

If you have other questions or comments  please write us again and we can share more with you. If you give us more detail, hopefully, we can give you an answer that hits the nail in the head! 

All the best,

MG Holmes


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