Maybe your marriage started out on fire. You couldn't keep your hands off each other. But somewhere along the line, your husband lost interest in sex. Or maybe the signs of his sexual sluggishness were there all along; you just assumed things would get better, but if anything, they've gotten worse.
You've grown tired of always being the one to initiate, always being the one who cares. The fights have become exasperating. The loneliness is killing you. And he just doesn't get it. Or worse yet, you wonder, does he get it? Is he doing this to punish me? You ask yourself, what's wrong with me? Am I not attractive? How did you find the one man in the world who would prefer doing just about anything other than making love to you?
The truth is your husband isn't as unusual as you think. In fact, after almost three decades of working as a couples therapist and learning what really goes on behind closed doors, I'm convinced that low sexual desire in men is America's best-kept secret.
Here's something you need to know: Your husband's indifference to sex probably has nothing to do with how attractive you are or how much he loves you. He may have a personal issue, such as depression or stress, that's sapping his sexual desire. Or the culprit could be a physical problem — such as illness, obesity, or trouble maintaining an erection (just to name a few). Finally, many men lose interest in sex for the same reason many women do: unresolved feelings of anger, resentment and hurt that make the idea of making love not very appealing.
If you suspect that biology or personal issues may play a part in your husband's lack of interest in sex, he should start with a visit to a doctor or a therapist. But even if he refuses to get help, there's a lot you can do to change the "I'm hot, he's not" dynamic in your relationship.
There are no one-size-fits-all universal methods for boosting sexual desire. So don't get too bogged down trying to figure out the perfect place to start. Just start somewhere.
Sex Starter: Focus on the exceptions
I always ask couples, "What's different about the times the two of you are getting along better? What are each of you doing differently?" People are typically stymied. They simply haven't been paying much attention to problem-free times — or if they notice good times, they assume the good times are flukes. But good times don't just happen. When things are going better, it's because at least one partner is doing something differently.
Jeff had become less and less interested in sex. When I asked his wife, Zoe, what had changed, she told me that before they had kids, sex was more spontaneous. Now they had to have planned sex dates, and that was a turnoff for Jeff. Then she said, "The only other thing I can think of is that in the past, I said dirty things when we had sex. I sent him e-mails with erotic messages. I stopped because I've been mad about his lack of interest in me sexually. Now that I think about it, he really used to get fired up when I talked dirty."
It became clear that by doing two simple things, Zoe could help heat up their sex life again. First, she could find ways to introduce spontaneity into their lovemaking. Without telling Jeff, she got her kids invited for sleepovers at friends' houses. When he came home, she seduced him with lingerie and a sexy video. Zoe also used her surefire passion-building technique of the past: talking dirty. Once she realized how well the old trick worked, it was easy to put aside her resentment for the sake of her sexual satisfaction.