The Sex-Starved Marriage

Many couples find themselves tangled in a troubling web when their sex drives are different, and it can wreck havoc on a marriage. Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido - A Couple's Guide, shares some advice to put your marriage and your sex life on the right track!

Sex-starved marriage?

From a frustrated husband

Dear Michele,


Please, please help me. I am going through hell!! I am 28 years old, married with a three-year-old daughter. For the past three years, my wife has avoided being sexual with me. It has slowly gone from having sex maybe twice a week to now, if I'm lucky, once a month. And even then, it's not really having sex. It's more like her saying, "Hurry up and get in here, and let's do this before our child wakes up." There is no foreplay. She doesn't even kiss me. I'm the one who always is initiating any sort of affection.


I get completely angered, hurt, and resentful toward her because I can't understand how she could be so cruel to me. I want to tell her, "If you don't love me anymore, then we can split up and move on," but we have a child together, and I don't think that's right or fair to our daughter. I want to be there when my little girl wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night. But I also don't want to be with a woman who doesn't want to be with me.

So I struggle every day with what I should do because I can't keep living like this. I'm miserable. I have talked to my wife about how I feel numerous times, and nothing I say seems to change anything. Is there anything else I can do besides getting a divorce? Is there something you could write to her so she hears from another person about the importance of a good sexual relationship in a marriage?

Mismatched desire

Does any of this sound familiar? Are these things you've thought or said to yourself? Or have you heard words like these uttered from your spouse in an attempt to get you to change? Either way, you need to know that you are not alone. It is estimated that one out of every three couples struggle with problems associated with low sexual desire. One study found that 20 percent of married couples have sex fewer than ten times a year! Complaints about low desire are the number 1 problem brought to sex therapists.
And if you've been thinking that low sexual desire is only "a woman's thing," think again. Many sex experts believe that low sexual desire in men is America's best-kept secret. Just read what women have to say about what really goes on behind closed doors:

I am so tired of reading articles in women's magazines and watching talk shows that perpetuate the myth that men are always more interested in sex than women. This is a bunch of hooey! There are many, many women who would love to have a spouse who wants to have sex, touch, or kiss. I've spoken to many women who have this same problem. . . . Their husbands simply aren't interested. I cannot believe my circle of friends is so different from the average. None of their husbands are "getting it on the side"... they simply are not interested. In my case, my husband of 26 years has never been as interested as I in sex, and during the last 5 years our sex life has been nonexistent. This lack of sex is more than just a lack of physical attention. It goes deep into a woman's heart. I think in a normal marriage, a couple can fight about anything, but then they can make love and soothe the bad feelings... sort of like a rebirth... a forgiving ritual. But when you are deprived of even that, bitterness and resentment and desperation accumulate. I have a husband who is a good guy, great father, good provider, but I have no lover. I'm angry about the wasted years, the years I could have been loving, but spent agonizing about why I was being deprived. It's so much more than sex. It's feeling wanted, and sexy and desired by the man that you are committed to for life.

As you can see, women have no corner on the low libido market. Maybe you're asking yourself, "If low sexual desire in men is commonplace, why are they so closed-mouthed about it?" That's a good question. When a woman lacks sexual desire, although it may be troubling to her, she's not likely to start questioning the core of her femininity. After all, she's almost supposed to have "headaches."


Men, on the other hand, are thought to have only three things on their minds: sex, sex and more sex. To be disinterested in sex is to feel less than a man. Just thinking about low libido, let alone talking about it, strikes terror in men because it threatens the very foundation on which their feelings of self-worth are based. No wonder they're tight-lipped. But make no mistake about it: there are millions of people, women and men, who just don't feel turned on.


On the next page: Desire discrepancy, Making a breakthrough


Continue »


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Comments on "The sex-starved marriage: When your libidos don't match"

Disappointed March 02, 2014 | 6:25 AM

I agree with Guy. This article gives no real information or new insights. Simple stories but no real direction. Yes, only trying to sell a book.

A FRUSTRATED HUSBAND February 14, 2014 | 5:17 PM

had no for 3 years........and iam 47

david February 14, 2014 | 5:11 PM

have been married for 17 years and i have not had intercourse for 3 years with my wife now and don't know what to,because i love her ,i need my life back .but 3 years ago her mum pasted away and it stared then i did give time but she just didnt want to know i just dont no what to do any more

Jimmy February 02, 2014 | 6:55 AM

Where's the rest of the article? It says, please continue reading, but... Where's the rest! It stops suddenly on page 3!

Wondering January 21, 2014 | 2:43 PM

I LOVED this article. I started crying actually that for the first time I read that it's common for women to be the -starved ones! It's been such a huge problem for my husband and I since we met and whenever I've tried to talk to him about it, it's made things worse and more time go by in between . At the end of page 3 it says if this is you, keep reading...then it ends? It is me, where do I keep reading?

Wayne January 16, 2014 | 5:37 PM

I have a very strong drive (3 times a day). My wife has none. Sounds like Cammy is in the same position. Let's meet up and see if we can fix this together.... Maybe we could get scarredandhurt in on the fix aswell and send a video of it to bigdaddy24 to help him get over his religious hangups.

Bigdaddy24 December 23, 2013 | 1:31 PM

Cammy, this article is about marriage, not pre-marital intercourse, which you shouldn't be doing anyway.

Cynthia October 16, 2013 | 10:29 PM

Joan, I am right there with you. The unbelievable thing is I have never experienced anything like this with any other man in my life before now. It has been a year with none and I am afraid that this will continue. The first five years of marriage showed this life dwindling to two or three times a year. I almost laugh at people who complain of once a month. Try a year. I don't look my age, I am a size 4, yet you would think otherwise the way I am dismissed on every emotional level. Where does a 55 year old feminine lady turn when her husband rejects her loyal affections?

DJ Frankee Cee September 10, 2013 | 7:36 AM

To "ROOT OF THE PROBLEM",...>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Tell the "low libido" partner to seek medical help,... if they aren't using their low drive for control and have a REAL desire then they will do that. If you know you have a problem (any problem,..) and you DON'T seek help then you DON'T WANT HELP and you don't want to improve your situation. Read "why women have $ex". book.

DJ Frankee Cee September 10, 2013 | 7:13 AM

Whatever. The point is withholding $ex isn't always about "$ex drive" in and of it's own self. Withholding is about controlling and manipulating,.. in a passive way. It's about power. Just look at how much controlling and manipulating that most women do, as a second nature thing. The first thing they say is "Oh I'll get a man using $ex." Then it's "oh I'll get him to marry me using $ex" Then it's "I'll change him into the man that I want him to be," using $ex but if that doesn't work then I'll cut $ex off and withhold and control him with $ex. Reward him with $ex when he's good. But when he isn't or doesn't do something, ...I will punish by silent treatment (not even telling him exactly what he may have done wrong) and withholding all forms of affection. ("That'll show him who's boss") "Just do it" is a joke to the modern women. $ex is their "big gun"! You don't lay down your weapon when you're winning, and surrender the best weapon in your arsenal! You've got to be kidding me?! ************************************************************** The only time women stop using this weapon is when other women start to "mate poach" and flirt with THEIR man. If the husband is successfully poached because there is no intimacy, no touching, no $ex in his marriage (as the wife prescribes) the wife usually does a temporary 180 degree turn about because she knows if he gets $ex else where, she loses her control over him! He won't beg anymore then, because someone else is appreciating him,...and that throws a monkey wrench into her whole controlling and manipulating program. (Someone else is feeding the starving man,..) Once she sees the threat of the poacher, ...she turns the $ex back on and get him back into her bed. (sometime it's too late though, and he doesn't come back though. Your controlling and manipulation plan blows up in your face.) If she gets him back, then after a while she can resume the withholding, controlling program. ***************************************************************** The women with the low libido learns of her power early in the relationship. She finds she does not go warm and fuzzy so often and finds that her low drive is easy to switch on and off, because it's barely existent in the first place. High drive ladies however,.. know how to enjoy themselves and they don't try to find the off switch. They have no desire to locate the off switch. They desire to have good feelings with their husband, as often as they can. ( the committed man who gave up his freedom for THEM. ) They just can't get enough, in the first place! To deprive their husband would be to deprive themselves. So they never have to face the "just do it" scenario. They are already doing it,...and just fine. On the internet you can read like crazy,.. many different things. One thing I've noticed from all this reading is that the only women who feel sad and remorseful about loss of $ex drive due to hormonal issues,... are the high, and normal drive ladies. Those 2 types FEEL something beautiful is missing when they are going through that time in their life. Something THEY FELT that was beautiful,... is missing. They have no "mind over matter" control over how their hormones are now screwing with them,...but they KNOW that which is missing,.. from their life. ********************************************************************* The others low-no drive ladies are just dead. Flat feelings. Life-less. They haven't lost anything because they never had it to begin with. They don't feel anything missing because they never took the time to appreciate "IT" in the first place. Oh they feel love for their children, but that's a different love and don't have to MAKE LOVE to the children as they do with their mate. These low drive/no drive women look around and say "why is everyone having fun except for me!" Everyone else enjoying life around them and they never understood what all the fuss was about to begin with. (It's called "all work and no play, makes Sally a dull, boring girl,.." who should never get married because they will only make someone else’s life miserable.) Some of that low drive group just get a mental orgazism over the thrill of the power to control their mate. The power feels better then the , THEM. They are laughing at this "just do it" idea. ******************************************************************** To Root of the problem:... Most of the low libido women don't have a problem with low or no $ex, hence the words "low libido". It's like saying someone who doesn't like grapes, is suffering because they miss grapes! H0w can you miss something that you don't like and never learned to appreciate in the first place? If you convince them that they aren't healthy, normal and a complete women because they never have $ex, they might suffer in remorse only then, but they have no point of reference to know what they are missing. They will never be a good companion. Unlike the normal to high $ex woman who DEFINATELY KNOW what they've lost and that creates the incentive to try and get "IT" BACK through medicine or medical help. Very few low drive women even WANT HELP. You hear them all the time; "it's only , no big deal. But I can get what I want with it!" (They say THIS on line all over the place!) If you try to explain to a woman that there is something unhealthy and abnormal about NOT having a libido, they will probably get mad, insulted, etc. They have to WANT to pursue the health issue (whether it's neurological, glandular dysfunction, or menopause,..) that makes them frigid. Many aren't willing to FACE IT and or even talk about it or admit it because years of hormone imbalance affect your personality and telling some one that their lack of interest in $ex is like telling them that they have a personality disorder. (which they may very well in fact have, through neuroendocrine problems!) You seek $ex based on what you FEEL you need. If you don't feel that need for $ex often then you are not suffering by not getting any because your body does not crave something that you aren't getting. But if you got married and did the act to make your prospective mate THINK you had a normal drive so he would accept you, and then you go back to low or no interest after the wedding, then you make THEM suffer because they desire closeness, intimacy etc,.. and you have none to give. The only women who are "suffering",.. are those who once HAD a normal to high libido because those ladies appreciated $ex enough to know what they are missing. Low drive/no drive women have no business being married UNLESS,.. they have agreements in advance that they are marring a spouse who ALSO has NO SPARK, and no interest in $ex also. $ex is a pretty big part of marriage and if you don't want any then,.. DON'T GET MARRIED! PERIOD. ***************************************************** (But they do marry because they want to control someone and get every thing they want handed to them, new cars house, jewelry etc. They want a Sugar Daddy. They will marry for money, and never bring happiness to their spouse, because they are only about business and control.) Thank God there are some ladies who actually enjoy and appreciate ual intimacy.

jenn September 09, 2013 | 5:08 PM

Sorry to say, but when was the last time the husband offered cunnilingus, no questions asked? How about a massage? Has he been sensitive to her needs as an overworked and tired mother? How about offering to do more house chores and care for the kids and give the wife a break from being the domestic chore-horse. Women aren't as angry, withdrawn, or uninterested in if women's emotional, physical, mental needs are actually being met. If our needs are met, we are far more apt to offering the same love and support in return. If you are giving and still not receiving, then yes, it's fair to complain, but complain on top of not giving anything to your wife to make her feel good and replenished and in turn, full of enough energy to reciprocate- then you are feeding into repulsion rather than attraction. We tend to draw our energy from men, so if men aren't being very giving or loving, we become bankrupt. So don't let us become bankrupt! You'd be surprised how easy it is to get what you want from us. Pay attention to our needs, care about how we feel, give us hugs, offer to do some of what we do for a change, if we looked stressed, rub our shoulders, do random acts of kindness. You'd get laid a bunch! Don't take my word for it! Try it yourself (a bunch of different things for a few weeks and see if this advise gets you anywhere). I bet it will. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. A little really does go a long way with your women!

The Root of the Problem September 04, 2013 | 3:51 PM

Another lengthy article telling the "low Libido" partner to just "put out" to solve all the marital problems; but again - absolutely no sympathy or advice on why their libido is low or how to change it. No one seems to think that the "low Libido" person may be suffering and struggling too, and that just maybe their partner's misery just adds to the guilt and stress the "low Libido" partner is already under. Write an article to help and support the "low Libido" partner - then you might actually do some good for the starved marriage.

NicP. August 13, 2013 | 1:27 PM

I'm so glad dj chimed in. Valuable insights. So glad he explained what "passive aggressive" means, too. I would have been at a total loss.

DJ Frankee Cee August 06, 2013 | 8:27 PM

The author's idea about how the low drive spouse should just "do it" and that they because of their low drive with be responsible for the divorce if they don't,....sounds good but lack practical thinking. For example, in most of these cases it's the wife doing the refusing and controlling is something that wives have literally been taught to do because it is their only REAL power. Women are passive aggressive which means they use a passive form of aggression because they lack the physical strength to be directly physically aggressive. So they take out their aggressions by doing things like withholding and the silent treatment. It's their power. They aren't going to give up that power to control just because the author of starved marriage tells them to "just do it". That's too much power to lose. Ladies will NOT PART with this power to control . If you're a good boy, you get . If you don't met up to this weeks expectations, then you don't get any . It's the oldest game out there. The only women who don't play the control game are the women who are in a marriage where THEY are the high drive spouse, that aren't getting enough themselves. To get what they want,... they use as a reward. Just take a look at the book "Why women have " (by Cindy Meston and David Buss). Love or lust,.... was WAAAAY down low on the list of reasons why. The rest of the reasons conveyed a motive of control over their mate.

Tired June 23, 2013 | 9:01 PM

My wife hasn't told me she loves me in over three years. Last year I started working out and got in very good shape. She never encouraged me, or provided any encouragement. She had many more partners before we got married fifteen years ago. I had few partners in anticipation that marriage would fulfill my needs. It's funny, but she once said she was concerned that I didn't have a lot of partners. She had sown her wild oats. Little did I know this meant she thought marriage was the end of great . I guess I fell for the old "honey trap." We have two boys, ages 8 and 11. I love them very much. She always has excuses like "she is in the mood at night." However, when I try at night, she's not in the mood. I feel rejected all the time. I'm at the point where I just want out of this situation. I really want to be around for my boys, but I feel like I was sold a bill of goods when we got married. If I had it to do all over again, I would have done it much differently.

Been three June 21, 2013 | 3:09 PM

i enjoyed and related to the comments.Sometimes i feel our partners treat us the way we let them.More often the same person may act differently with different people.We need to guard ourselves from becoming to familiar also.When people feel that u are at their mercy it often becomes a power struggle.We have to always be ready to make love to our partners but @ the same time be ready to drop a "no i dont feel like it " now and then just to level the playing field(especially if u are always asking).Remember we all have the same basic needs but we must not encourage the notion that we will be disrespected and overlooked.I will share more personal info later.You will respect yourself better when u shake the mindsett that he or she has of u.Show him or her that they dont really know u as much as they think they do.Basically they are just to comfortable.i have tried this approach it seems to have helped me.'Shake IT UP '.A touch of wisdom,patience,forgiveness and u on your way.I was able to 'turn the table on my partner' and it was nice to hear her beg for a change.

jaykay December 17, 2012 | 11:50 AM

Take it from a 62 yr young starved man whose wife, after 35+ years of marriage, admits that our libidos are mis matched. She's a very busy and extremely over-worked school teacher. Coming close to summer break I lay it all on the table: either you get yourself a female doctor you're comfortable with to discuss this, or we get counseling, or I'm not sure what...but something. You younger folks....fix it now...fix it now...fix it now! It won't fix itself over time...I guarantee it.

Cammy December 05, 2012 | 11:22 AM

This is exactly how my relationship is. I am the deprived one and my Fiancee is the one holding out. I constantly find myself unhappy and ready to snap over the littlest things, I find myself angry with him, and hurt at the same time. We haven't had for almost a month now, and every time I bring it up, every time I try to communicate with him about how our less relationship makes me feel I get snide remarks such as, "you're just a addict, you should get help" "everything is about with you" "you only care about " and many other comments along those lines. Many times I leave well enough alone, but I try to get to the root of it ( we used to have multiple times a week, the last year or so I'm lucky to have it once a month, and I have to do most of the work, I have to give 20 minutes + of oral ( which never gets returned ) to receive 3 minutes of intercourse. ) And he always has a different reason, "I'm sore from working out" "I'm tired" "I'm just not in the mood" And most of the time, if I try to initiate it, I get yelled at, pushed off, rejected, and it hurts. I love this man, I wanted to marry him, I still want to marry him, but I can't imagine being this deprived for the rest of my life.

verybadgirl July 18, 2012 | 3:46 PM

My husband and I are newyleweds and this was a issue even before we got married. I have to say, it's all my fault, it's me with the issue. Everything in this article is exactly how it is for us and I have no one to blame but myself. To read all these comments about other husbands/wives who are depressed for the lack of in their marriage, I feel horrible. I really can't give an insight on the other side of the spectrum as to why I have a lack of intimacy? When we first met there was a lot of , it wasn't a problem. I think I just settled into life and just got lazy. I'm very attractive to my husband, he is very loving to me and is a very good man but for what ever reason when it comes down to having , I get plain lazy. I just need to stop being selfish and think about him too. I've been wondering why he isn't as affectionate with me as he was in the beginning and I can't help but wonder if it's because of the lack of intimicay on my part. I will do my best to stop being this way and give my husband what he deserves...a healthy life...because he deserves it.

scarnednhurt June 16, 2012 | 9:27 PM

I've read this article a couple of times now to try and steel myself on what my husband and I need to do to fix our problems. Yet, with our multiple conversations about how deprived I feel, we have made little to no progress at all. When our relationship first started in 2008, I didn't realize his libido was lower than mine. We were in a long distance relationship and we only saw each other on weekends, so we had every time we were together and multiple times. It was great!!! We fell in love and I couldn't have been happier. Less than a year in to our relationship, he deployed to Afghanistan for about 5-6 months. We handled it well, but when he came back (and no, he did not see combat), his libido was completely gone. I mean non-existent. I went to stay with him over my winter break from school and we didn't sleep together once. This wasn't like us at all, but I remembered that soldiers transitioning back to life state-side often have trouble getting back into the swing of things, so I was patient with him and told him I understood. To this day, however, even with moving in together, getting married, PCS'ing together (that's military for getting moved around) and establishing a life together, the department still hasn't budged. We still have , but I'm lucky if it's once a week. Sometimes, it's once a month. My husband doesn't understand how incredibly painful it is to not be with him. It's even more painful when he NEVER initiates contact with me. I have to tell him. I don't want to have to coach my husband to show me affection, to touch me, to be playful with me, to be intimate with me... He should want to do that, right? He is well aware of the problem and I feel sympathy for him since addressing the issue has often made him question why his libido is so low. Me talking to him about him makes him upset, and I know it's because he feels guilty and doubts his masculinity. I don't doubt his masculinity at all. I love my husband dearly and want to be with him for forever. But I just don't know what to do to make him do the work that we need to do to fix this problem before it really drives us apart.

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