When we hear about couples whose libidos are not in sync, we imagine that it is the husband who wants more sex than his wife. Statistics support this conclusion: a higher percentage of women state that they lack interest in sex (34%) than men (15%). But there is a fraction of the male population that experiences a low sex drive; in fact, one in five men would rather do anything else other than sex. This can be a temporary issue due to ageing, medications, stress, alcohol or drug abuse, unexpressed sexual needs, or a baseline, hard-wired personality trait (some men just have a lower interest in sexual activity, and that, since adolescence).
Low libido, medically known as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) can be caused by a variety of factors and conditions.
Stress and anxiety in one’s daily life, one’s relationship or family problems, depression, or mental disorders and their medical treatment.
Health issues such as diabetes; conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol; and HIV drugs, some hair-loss remedies, and other medications [for example the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) can negatively impact a man’s sexual desire.
Testosterone is the hormone that contributes to desire. Low testosterone levels usually mean low sexual desire. Levels can drop as men age. Other causes include chronic disease, medications, and other drug use. Hormones can play a role, too, such as low levels of thyroid hormone or, rarely, high levels of prolactin, a hormone produced in a gland at the base of the brain.
Differing sexual appetites
When a couple’s sexual appetites are misaligned, great frustration can result for both parties. A good, reliable sex life is one of the benefits of marriage. When a wife begins to feel like she is being neglected, or a husband isn’t sure that he will be responsive to his wife’s advances, an unwelcome visitor takes up residence in the couple’s bedroom: anger, resentment and self-doubt. It’s best to not get to that point, so if you sense that your husband’s sex drive is not what it should be, read on.
The women speak: Let us hear from some women that have experienced this difficult situation first hand.
Karen married the love of her life. Even before they were married, their sex life was just adequate. But her husband had so many other qualities that Karen decided to move forward with the wedding, thinking that their sex life would improve once they were husband and wife. She was wrong. As the years went by, their sexual activity diminished, going from once a month to, after their second child was born, complete celibacy. But only Karen seemed to be worried about this; her husband continued to be a wonderful provider, good father and interesting and kind partner. But night after night of sleeping next to a man who showed no desire towards her finally took its toll. Karen forced her husband to start attending sex therapy with her.
After listening to the couple’s complaints, the sex therapist advised the couple to see a medical doctor, where it was revealed that her husband suffered from a hormonal imbalance and had from puberty.
Suzanne’s marriage went from a hot and sizzling sex life to her having to beg her husband to touch her. In the early days of the relationship, Suzanne and her husband had sex at least once a day. Mornings before work, a quickie in the early evening, or a longer session before falling asleep, this was their norm. Sometimes they’d wake in the night just to do it. But Suzanne started noticing a drop off in the frequency of their sexual activity after her husband started spending more and more time on the PC installed in his home office. After another evening of trying to seduce her husband and being rejected, her husband finally admitted that he had become addicted to online porn. He was spending his evenings masturbating to it, and consequently, when he came to bed, there was no interest nor energy left to tend to his wife.
Additionally, sex with his wife appeared unappetizing, as he had been conditioning his brain to the pornographic images that he was seeing flash on his screen. He could no longer become excited by his wife, as he had changed the level of what he needed to become aroused by his continual use of pornography. Suzanne and her husband consulted with a sex therapist who immediately suggested that he stop his online porn viewing so that his brain could reset, and his sexual response to his wife return to what it was before.
Kathy’s husband had not always been disinterested in sex. They enjoyed a mutually-satisfying sex life for years. But when he started avoiding coming to bed and making excuses not to touch her, Kathy’s self-esteem took a nosedive. She wondered if it was something she had done. Had she let herself go? Was the fact she had put on a few pounds become a turn off for her husband? Her image of herself as a vital, sexy woman began to crumble and she became humiliated and depressed. She felt uncared for and unloved. After all, if she couldn’t turn on her husband, it was her fault, right?
Talking about the elephant in the bedroom
All the women interviewed said that when they first started noticing that their husband’s interest in them had dropped off, they had a difficult time finding the right words to address what was going on. They did not want to hurt their husband’s feelings or make them think they were anything but the best lovers on the planet. The male ego is a fragile thing, and being a sexual superstar plays into their self-image of being “the alpha male.”
But it is in your couple’s best interest to talk about this particular elephant that is haunting your bedroom. If you don’t address it, you cannot open your couple up to receiving the help you need to turn things around. It is a difficult conversation to have, so here are some pointers to get the ball rolling.
Start the conversation on neutral territory
You don’t want to bring up your worry about his lack of response while trying to have sex with your husband. A good place to begin the dialogue would be anywhere outside of where your sexual encounters traditionally take place: while having a nice walk, or just chilling in the living room. (Make sure it is just the two of you and the children are not around.) You might begin by using good “I” messages, such as “I’m a little worried because I’m not sensing I excite you right now. And you know I love making love with you.” This sets the stage for an honest, non-accusatory dialogue. You are telling your husband you are on his team, that you want to be involved in figuring out how to resolve whatever is going on that is contributing to his low libido.
Book an appointment
Your husband’s low sex drive may be medically-related, so one of the first things you should do is set up an appointment for a complete physical, including blood workup, with a medical professional.
Do your homework
Research expert sex therapists in your community. You can then gently suggest that you both consult, assuring your husband that you are eager to get some expert advice on bringing the spark back to your love life. If not a sex therapist, a marriage counselor might also be useful if his low sex drive stems from issues around anger, boredom, midlife crisis, or general disenchantment with your relationship.
What can the man do?
Here is what one man, who suffered from a low sex drive for many years, advises:
Get some physical activity every day. This doesn’t have to be complicated or involve a gym membership. A brisk walk for 30-60 minutes will suffice. While you are walking, breathe deeply through your nose. Swing your arms to get the blood circulating. Incorporate hill-climbing and power-walk straight up that slope. This provides aerobic exercise for your heart and lungs, keeping those vital organs healthy which will contribute to your sexual energy.
If you have any signs of erectile dysfunction (which is not the same as a low libido), ask your doctor for advice
Do not indulge in pornography, whether it be print or internet
The use of pornography has a demonstrated negative effect on a couple’s sex life. You may think that pornography is helping you remain sexually vital, as you are able to get an erection by using it, but in fact, it numbs you to respond to your real-life sexual partner (your wife). A real-life person cannot possibly compete with the (fake) sexual antics of online porn stars.
In bed, focus on preliminaries and not on the act
Couples who are working to enhance the husband’s sexual response focus on all the wonderful benefits of sexual foreplay, and do not view penetration and climax as the ultimate goal. So make a deal with your wife that for now, all pleasure will be in the preliminaries: the caressing, the stroking, the kissing, the touching, and anything other than penetration and the male climax. Commit to this type of interaction for a set period of time, say, one month. You may see that one month is all it takes to get you raring to go “all the way” since you will have been limited to “everything but.”
Get enough sunlight each day
Studies have shown that men who work in darkened environments and who don’t get exposure to natural sunlight each day can experience a reduction in sex drive. So make sure you get out and get some sun (combining it with that brisk walk!) each day. If you live in a northern climate where long winters mean no natural sunlight for extended periods of time, invest in a lightbox and set it up near your workstation. Just 30 minutes a day of exposure to your lightbox can have a beneficial effect on your arousal response.
Examine your diet
What you eat can have an effect on your sex drive. A less-than-optimal diet consisting of fast food can be a real erection-shriveler. A diet that contributes to your cholesterol levels, such as one filled with fat and red meat, can clog your arteries, reducing blood flow everywhere, including your penis. So clean up your foods and include some healthy omega-3-filled, nutrient-rich goodies such as blueberries, salmon, whole eggs, tree nuts and even—surprise—coffee!
While a reduction in sexual response is natural as a man ages, it does not have to be a death sentence to your sex life. here are so many things a husband can do to address and correct this challenge. Start with the conversation that comes from a place of love. When you show your husband you are 100% on his team, he will be more willing to seek help for this relationship-impacting issue. But do tend to this before things go too far. The fix may be as simple as a change in medication, or a new medication, or some honest sessions with a sex or marriage counselor. The goal is to get help before the situation becomes irreconcilable.