In a question to me on one of my webinars, Melanie writes: “My husband is very loving, but not very sexual. I’ve tried to talk to him about this many times in non-threatening ways, but his lack of enthusiasm toward sex makes it very difficult to engage myself when he finally does get around to feeling sexual. We have zero intimacy mentally and very little physically.”
We often hear of men complaining that their wives are not sexual. It might surprise you that I often hear this complaint from women as well.
In my experience, there are a number of reasons why a man might not be sexual in his relationship:
He might have a very low testosterone level. This is something that can be tested and there is medication to raise testosterone level.
• He might have a fear of engulfment regarding sex. If he had an emotionally and/or sexually incestuous mother, he might be terrified of being smothered.
• He might be in resistance to being controlled by his wife. If his wife is critical or demanding, he may shut down sexually to avoid being controlled her.
• His wife might be needy and he might feel pulled on by her to make her feel good about herself. Just as a woman feels used when her husband uses sex addictively to feel good about himself, a man can also feel used when his wife uses sex to feel lovable.
• He might have learned to avoid both rejection and engulfment by being sexual on his own, using pornography as a safe way of being sexual without triggering his fears.
• His sexuality might be connected with emotional intimacy, and he might not feel emotionally intimate with his wife.
• There may be a control issue within the relationship regarding sex.
• Sex just might not be important to him.
• He might be impotent due to some of the above reasons.
Melanie states that her husband is very loving, but that they have zero intimacy. For both men and women in long-term relationships, sex can become boring when there is no emotional intimacy. The first thing I would do if I were to work with Melanie is to explore why there is no emotional intimacy, and if any of the above reasons could be contributing to the problem.
Melanie also states that when her husband is finally interested in sex, she has a hard time being involved. To me this indicates that there might be a subtle control issue going on between them: she wants sex when he is not available, but when he becomes available, she pulls away. Sometimes, having control over having sex is more important to one or both partners than actually having sex.
I would also question Melanie regarding whether she knew this before marrying her husband. People often do know these things about their partner, but convince themselves that either it’s okay with them, or that they can change it. I always encourage people to fully accept how things are before marriage, as there is never any guarantee that things will change. One thing is for sure: we cannot change anyone. People can change if they want to, but we cannot make them change. If someone is not very sexual before marriage, it is unlikely that this is going to change.
Given this fact, I would explore with Melanie what she knew before marriage. Since we attract a partner from our common level of woundedness, there may be a part of Melanie that is okay with a lack of sexuality, but she might be taking her husband’s lack of sexuality personally, which may be why she is having a problem with it.
Sexuality is sometimes a barometer of what is happening in the rest of the relationship, and since there is no emotional intimacy between Melanie and her husband, this is likely at least one cause of their sexual issues.
Whatever the reason, there is always much to learn if both people are open to learning.
By: Margaret Paul, Ph. D. Article Dashboard