What To Do If He's Not Up For It (Part 1)
Popular opinion has women turning to face the wall but more and more often these days, it’s men who are trotting out the ‘Not tonight dear’ line. Why have men gone off sex and what to do if it’s happening to you.
Even if you only want sex twice a month, even if you actually went off it for a whole year when your firstborn arrived, years of your partner not wanting to have sex with you on a reasonably regular basis will leave you feeling demoralized, depressed and deeply upset.
I mustn’t be sexy anymore. He doesn’t love me. I’m crap in bed. He’s having an affair. He despises me. He’s punishing me. I’m too fat. I’m not adventurous enough. And the list goes on.
It feels bloody awful. And if you’re a gay man, you feel even worse because men are perceived to be the high libido gender and if it’s two men together, you should be shagging all the time, right?
Let me give you some good news up front. Firstly, his low libido often has nothing to do with him not loving you or finding you attractive, and secondly, your situation isn’t as uncommon as you think it is.
Shhhh. Don't tell anyone
When renowned US therapist Michele Weiner Davis, with 30 years of couples therapy under her belt, suggested 25% of American men didn't want sex, the response was indignant fury.
"It's America's best kept secret", she said refusing to back down. And Britain's, too, apparently.
Relate, a counselling service in the UK, has reported a 40 percent increase from the previous decade in the number of men claiming to have gone off sex. These weren't men with erection problems, these were men who weren't interested in getting one.
And guess what? Some people think it's women's fault! That men's declining interest in sex has got to do with our increasing enthusiasm. The old 'lie back and think of England' girl was pretty easy to please. Today's super-sexualised version expects good sex regularly.
You'd have thought us adoring what he's loved all along would make his heart swell with joy but turns out it just makes his penis shrink. Nearly one in five men are worried about performance and say they don't feel they've succeeded unless their partner has an orgasm. Given only 26% of women report they always experience orgasm during sex compared with 75% of men, that's a lot of disappointed men!
So contrary to popular opinion that has the wife in rollers turning to face the wall, it's often the man who decides to stop having sex in long-term relationships.
We just don't hear about it because no-one talks about it.
He doesn't because he's embarrassed (society says all men should be up for it all of the time).
You don't because you think it makes you look bad (you're a lousy lay, just not sexy anymore etc).
Look around your closest group of six girlfriends and I'll lay a wager that at least one other has a husband also saying no.
Most women will confess an affair to a close friend within two weeks of it starting but very few will offer up a sex drought as a topic of discussion.
I've directed these practical suggestions to women because it is more a problem in straight relationships than gay but the advice still applies!
Get him back in bed
Help him deal with stress rather than add to it.
Too much work and not enough play makes his penis feel very dull indeed. (British men are particularly vulnerable: studies say they work the longest hours in Europe.)
If he's not coping at work, his self-esteem takes a battering - lots of men define themselves by their status (their job), the money they make (their job) and how well they perform in bed (affected by his job).
If it's not going well, it's not uncommon for him to 'numb' himself sexually. One in five men generally say their libido is low because they're too stressed from work.
Then they kill what little desire is left by doing what most of us do when stressed: self-medicate with alcohol.
Excessive drinking affects the production of testosterone, the primary hormone responsible for our sex drive. Not surprisingly, the kick-on effect of all this is often depression.
So he pops off to the doctor, who hands out anti-depressants and maybe some high blood pressure pills, effectively wiping out any cravings that might have still been hopefully hanging around.
A common side-effect of anti-depressants and anti-hypertensive drugs is... you guessed it, a low libido.
So think about what you're saying and when you're saying it. "Honey, did you make that appointment for a prostate check" etc as he walks in the door at 9pm isn't going to have him tearing your knickers off with his teeth at eleven.
You must be exhausted! Fancy a beer?' just might. Encourage him to exercise to let out frustration and talk problems through with you.
Talk before you get too upset about it
Or it will end up coming out as an awkwardly blurted, 'Honey, why haven't you wanted to shag me in a year?'. Assume the chat will have a positive outcome rather than expect the worst - it will hugely affect how you deliver your message and his reaction to it.
The more confident you are that what you're suggesting will be met with approval and excitement, the more positive you'll sound. And the more likely he is to think it's a great idea.
Assume he's going to be offended, upset or angry and you'll be nervous, tentative and defensive – and likely to get the same from him.
Don't put words in his mouth however tempting it is.
Most women can identify and express their emotions along with what they'd like done about the situation in under a minute flat. Some men are equally as good but a lot aren't.
He might still be on, "Well... I think I feel... I don't know, I guess it's... It's sort of like, what's the word I'm searching for? I think it's?...No, that's not it..." ten minutes after you've asked any question that includes the word 'feel'. If he's seriously struggling, it's OK to say 'Maybe you feel frustrated/hurt etc?". But try to let him talk rather than you say what you think is happening in his head.
Talk about your feelings but don't claim to know his.
Ask for one thing at a time
Because women are so good at processing information and articulating thoughts, we'll often fire off ten requests and possible solutions in the one chat. Meanwhile, he's back at point one while you're rattling off number eight. You'll get a lot further if you break your ultimate goal down into steps and feed it to him piece by piece, rather than all at once.
Also try to make the requests action based. Say "I want you to be more sensual' and you might as well speak Swahili.
Instead say, 'I love it when you kiss my neck" or "If you don't feel like sex, would it be OK if you gave me oral sex sometimes?".
Anything that's based on 'do this' rather than 'say this' is usually a winner.
Stop doing more of the same
This insight again comes from the fabulous Michele Weiner Davis who specializes in low-desire relationships. And it's one of those things where you read it and think, 'My God. I soooo do that!'.
Michele says when something isn't working, we try to fix it. If that doesn't work, we try again - but use exactly the same method. And keep on trying, doing more of the same but thinking 'This time it will work, I just need to try harder'.
Women nearly always try to solve things by talking. And talking. And then talking a bit more. We try talking when his eyelids flutter open in the morning, just before they close at night and all the minutes in between.
"We're convinced somehow it's the timing that's wrong. It's not. It's that talk doesn't work for him," says Michele. If whatever you're doing isn't working, stop doing it! Having the same conversation 50 times is hell, not helping. Instead, says Michele, think about how he would solve the problem if the situation was reversed. He'd probably do something, take action, rather than talk about it. Follow his lead. Try something new.
Part 2, online next week, talks about practical ways to get him back in bed.