Turned off

Updated 2/4/2013

For young spouses, the sex runs dry.

Q: My husband isn’t turned on by me anymore. What can I do? What could have caused it? Is it fixable? I’m 26, he’s 27. We’ve been together nine years, married for seven. We have three kids. We’re both in good health. He works and I’m a stay-at-home mom. I finally brought it up to him about a year ago. When I asked him how long he had felt this way, he said he didn’t know. He says he doesn’t see any problem with it and that it is all in my head; that I shouldn’t need or want him to feel that way about me. He isn’t gay, he isn’t cheating, he doesn’t drink and he isn’t on any medication.

I feel like I have talked it to death with him and have gotten nowhere. I feel as if I have done absolutely everything in my power to fix this — learned lap dances and stripteases, bought all different sorts of sexy bedroom clothes, sex toys, sex games, being his full servant for weeks at a time in case it was stress, lots of talking and compromising, researching, ignoring the issue and even begging him to help me figure out what the issue is — all to no results. I’m starting to lose hope.

 

A: Even if he isn’t on medication, it wouldn’t hurt for him to get a physical if he hasn’t had one in a while. There are a number of relatively asymptomatic maladies that can knock down a healthy libido. Chronic pain, depression, lack of sleep, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism can all be undetectable sex-drive killers. Make sure he’s open with his doctor about why he’s there. A checkup won’t do any good if the doctor doesn’t know what’s wrong. If your husband works long hours, he might not have time to get in a good workout. Exercise is crucial to stress relief, which is crucial to sexual function.

Is he replacing sex with another activity? Maybe you were going through a dry spell last year and he simply started doing something else to unwind. It’s easy to replace intimate time by firing up the Xbox or kicking ass at Words With Friends instead. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to turn those temporary pastimes into permanent habits that infringe upon your sex life. If you can identify a nightly pleasurable activity that might have become a replacement for sex, put a moratorium on it until things get back on track.

Familiarity is another silent libido killer. Fiftieth wedding anniversaries spent holding hands on a porch swing is the fantasy of every young couple in love, but the reality is there are a lot of tepid nights between the honeymoon and the golden years. Partners get used to each other and stop viewing one another as outlets for sex. You can buy enough lingerie to fill a second closet, but the packaging won’t matter if he’s not interested in the goods. Try sleeping apart for long stretches of time, with one of you sacking out in the spare bedroom or even a relative’s house.

If none of these suggestions changes his behavior, there’s something going on that he’s not comfortable talking about. Losing lustful feelings for a spouse is frustrating and unsettling, and it can be hard to put into words. I’m sure he doesn’t want to hurt you and is hoping your sex life will eventually return on its own. It won’t until you both figure out what’s going on. Since he won’t talk to you, he has to talk to a therapist. That feeling of desperation can turn into depression if this goes on.

Being desired is critical to a happy marriage. Your sex life will have a natural ebb and flow — sometimes you’re Morticia and Gomez, sometimes you’re Statler and Waldorf — but it’s not natural to leave your partner feeling constantly rejected.

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