The Sex-Starved Wife: Chapter 1
"New love is the brightest, and long love is the greatest, but revived
love is the tenderest thing known on earth. "
Chapter One: Introduction
Are you a sex-starved wife? Are you a woman who deeply desires more satisfying sex with your husband? Or to put it more accurately, would you just settle for more sex? Better yet, would some sex do? If so, I am not surprised that this title piqued your interest. You are absolutely craving a loving, passionate, juicy, sexual relationship with your man. And you deserve it! The good news is that you’ve come to the right place. Although we’ve never met, I know what you’ve been going through and how the difference in your sex drives has taken a toll on you. I also know that, until now, solid, effective help has been in short supply. But that’s all about to change. I am going to be your personal coach and help you become an expert on getting your love life on track.
But first, I want you to read a few letters from women who have been struggling with a desire gap in their own marriages. You’re about to learn that you, my friend, are not alone. See for yourself.
My husband is just not interested in sex. He has no desire for me. Unless we go away and stay at a hotel or it is a special occasion he will do anything to avoid the sex. When we do have sex, he won’t touch certain parts of my body. He won’t kiss. He won’t say, “I love you” either. I feel worthless, ugly, undeserving, like a doormat or a checkbook, like I made the biggest mistake in my life. I am obsessed by the lack of sex in our relationship. When I bring it up, he gets angry and says that he should just leave, that all I want to do is create drama where there is none. Most days I just wish I could run away and not feel anymore. I am dying inside and don’t know how much longer I can hang on.
My husband's libido has been at rock bottom for years. Always believing it would get better, I’ve stuck it out. But now I feel I am losing the best years of my life, as well as my libido. Am I not allowed to feel feminine? We have sex three to four times a year; he orgasms upon penetration, leaving me wanting more than a 'clean up' job and a good, silent cry in the bathroom. He knows I’m upset. He is laissez-faire about seeking help.
I am attractive. I am very lonely with my children grown. I desperately need to feel the arms of a loving man around me once again. My husband's attempts are robotic, in an effort to keep me from divorcing him. Where am I in his emotional absence? Where am I in his life? I'd give my eyes and teeth for good sex once a year!
Does any of this sound familiar? Are you longing for more touch, sex and physical closeness? Are you overwhelmed by feelings of hurt, rejection, loneliness and frustration? Do you find yourself wondering endlessly what’s wrong with you because your husband doesn’t seem interested? Have you been so desperate that you’ve even considered (or you are) having an affair? Do you feel ashamed that your husband isn’t like other men? Have you grown increasingly exasperated that you haven’t been able to get your husband to understand what’s missing in your relationship? If so, hear this- there are millions of women out there who, contrary to popular belief, feel exactly the same way you do.
Now, perhaps you’re wondering where all these women live because all you ever hear about are horny husbands who chase their wives around the dining room table with nearly permanent erections. Your friends at your health club complain that their men’s sexual needs are a moving target, the more they get, they more they want. They can’t stand their husband’s need for constant physical reassurance. And then there’s the media. Hardly a day passes without some magazine or newspaper article, medical study, or relationship expert offering women advice for stoking their sexual flames and rekindling their desire. The message is clear: Men have insatiable sexual appetites. Women have headaches.
And then there’s your marriage.
Perhaps it started out on fire; you couldn’t keep your hands off each other and lovemaking was frequent and passionate. But somewhere along the line, things changed. Maybe it was when you got pregnant or when the kids were born. Or perhaps the problem started when his job became ultra-stressful. It might have been around the time you started arguing about money, in-laws or who does what around the house. Maybe it was the last 20 pounds you gained or the medicine he takes every day. Or could his lack of interest in sex have anything to do with his difficulties maintaining his erection, you wonder. You got dizzy trying figure things out.
Or maybe your marriage is different; signs of your husband’s sexual sluggishness were there all along. Looking back, you now realize that you just rationalized, assumed things would get better. But time did pass and nothing changed. In fact, things even got worse. He almost never seemed interested in you. So, out of desperation, you resigned yourself to the role of Initiator. You had to. If it weren’t for you, you’d never have sex. But now you’ve grown tired of always being the one to reach out, always being the one to risk rejection, always being the one who cares. And the fights about sex have become exasperating. The loneliness is slowly killing you. But he just doesn’t get it. Or, you wonder, “Worse yet, does he? Is he doing this to punish me?”
Finally, when analyzing your feelings, his feelings, your marriage, your motives, his intentions, has gotten you nowhere, perhaps you have tried to get your husband to do something about his lack of desire- talk to your family doctor, get a check-up, go to a therapist….something, anything to break out of your sexual rut. But he won’t. He can’t understand why you’re making such a big deal about this sex thing and why you simply won’t stop nagging. Everything would be okay, he tells you, if you would just back off.
Or maybe he has gotten medical or psychological advice in the past but his follow through stinks. You’ve grown weary of your mantra, “What good does testosterone do sitting in a night stand?” And, to confuse matters more, you don’t want to pressure him and damage his fragile male ego. You just don’t know what to do anymore.
So, you tell yourself, “I need help,” but shame has held you back. How can you openly admit that the man you married, the man you love, the man with whom you plan on spending the rest of your life doesn’t desire you? You ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me, aren’t I attractive?” How did you manage to hook up with the one man in the world who would prefer doing just about anything other than making love to you? Why isn’t he like all the other guys?
Well, he may not be like all other guys, but you’re about to discover that he isn’t as unique as you think. In fact, after almost three decades of working with couples and knowing what really goes on behind closed doors, I’m here to tell you that your guy isn’t unique at all. Believe it or not, there are millions of men who, for a variety of reasons, just aren’t in the mood. In fact, I’m convinced that low sexual desire in men is America’s best secret. But why, you ask yourself, should this topic be so hush-hush when women talk openly about their “Not tonight, dear” declarations with anyone who will listen? Although I will explain this to you in greater detail later on, I will give you my short answer now. It’s different for men.
A woman is expected to have dips in her desire for sex and she can talk about it without her femininity or sanity being called into question. She can commiserate with her women friends about her annoyance with her husband’s one-track mind and how she can’t really hug him without his thinking sex is imminent. She can do this and be in really good company. (Or as one man in my practice put it when I tried to normalize his wife’s low desire by saying that she’s in good company, he said, “I wouldn’t say she’s in good company, I’d say she has lots of company.”)
But because in our culture, masculinity and virility are inextricably connected, men don’t share that level of comfort with self-disclosure. In fact, it strikes terror in their hearts to even think that they don’t desire sex, let alone admit it publicly. Imagine a guy sitting around with his male buddies in the locker room saying, “I just hate my wife’s one-track mind. All she ever thinks about is sex. I can’t even lie next to her in bed without her starting to grope me. I wish she would be interested in me as a person and not just interested in my body. Women are such jerks.” It doesn’t happen. Men are scared to death that they don’t appear manly. Feeling less than a man is a fate worse than death. So, no wonder men are tight-lipped.
What’s the fallout of all this? I feel certain that the incidence of low desire in men is vastly under-reported. Why? There’s too much shame and embarrassment. And that’s a tragedy. If, when men don’t talk to their wives, their friends or their doctors, why in the world would they talk openly to researchers? They probably don’t! And because we don’t have accurate statistics, men who lack desire believe they are in a very small minority. Feeling like freaks of nature, they remain isolated and don’t get the help they need. And as a result, their self-esteem and their marriages suffer.
Secondly, since men don’t talk about this, their wives- numbering in the millions- wonder what’s wrong with them. They believe they’re flawed or unattractive. They feel trapped, desperate with nowhere to turn, that is, until now.
I have been a marriage therapist for almost three decades specializing in marriages that other therapists declare dead on arrival. To me, there is no such thing as a marriage that can’t be resuscitated. Although helping couples on the brink of divorce is challenging work, I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything. I see miracles happen every day; couples who truly believe divorce is inevitable only to discover that with a little information, a lot of coaching and a willingness to leave blame behind, they can reinvent their marriages. I never cease to be amazed at how quickly couples rebound when given the proper tools.
Some years ago, I noticed that many, many couples in my practice were experiencing major relationship breakdowns because their levels of interest in sex were worlds apart. One spouse was hot while the other was not. Certainly, this sort of disparity happens from time to time even in the best of relationships, but there was nothing temporary about the sexual divide wreaking havoc in these marriages. There were long-standing issues of rejection and misunderstanding that spilled over into every aspect of the couples’ lives together. I called these relationships, sex-starved marriages.
Sex-starved marriages are so prevalent that I decided to write a book on the subject and called it, that’s right, you guessed it, The Sex-Starved Marriage. I wrote about the problems that occur in marriage when one spouse is vastly more interested in sex than the other and more, importantly, what they could do to fix things. The book created quite a stir- I appeared on every talk and news show imaginable, and in nearly every newspaper and magazine. I was on the road so much that my own marriage became sex-starved. Why all this attention? I will tell you why, but before I do, I want you to know what I mean by a sex-starved marriage.
Contrary to what you might think, a sex-starved marriage is not necessarily one that is void of sex (although abstinence can and does occur), it is a marriage where one spouse desperately longs for more touch, physical connection and sex, while the other spouse, for a variety of reasons, just isn’t interested. The partner with lower desire can’t understand why his or her spouse seems so obsessed with their sexual relationship and thinks, “What’s the big deal? It’s just sex.”
However, to the spouse with a higher sexual drive-in this case, you- (for the sake of simplicity, let’s refer to you as the HDS- higher drive spouse) it’s a huge deal and it’s not just about sex. It’s about feeling wanted, loved, appreciated, sexy, and attractive. It’s about feeling close and connected. Sex is truly the tie that binds; it leads to intimacy. And when the spouse with a lower sex drive doesn’t get this, it spells trouble for the marriage.
Longing for more physical closeness, the HDS tries to get his or her partner- the LDS (lower drive spouse) - to understand the importance of having a good sexual relationship. Since s/he doesn’t feel the same way, the words fall upon deaf ears, and as a result, nothing changes. So, the HDS tries again to get through to his or her spouse. Now the LDS feels pressured, angry, and resentful. At this point, intimacy on all levels drops out of the marriage. They stop sitting next to each other on the couch. They stop laughing at each other’s jokes. They stop making eye contact. Their talk is perfunctory. They quit being friends. Their marriage is placed at risk of infidelity or divorce.
THE SEX-STARVED MARRIAGE was written for both the HDS and the LDS, helping them understand each other’s feelings and offering a game plan for taking their sex life off the back burner and making it more of a priority. Among many other things, I was very outspoken about the value of a robust sex life for both spouses, not just the HDS.
It was in that book that I also spilled the beans; I confirmed that women don’t have a corner on the low desire market. Based on my observations in my clinical practice with couples, I knew that many, many men just weren’t in the mood for sex. I felt certain that we, as a society, have perpetuated a myth about the ever-turned on male. During my travels on the seminar circuit, I spoke to countless sex and marital therapists across the country- the gatekeepers of marital problems- and asked them about their observations about LD men. They all agreed that, while more men than women complain of not having enough sex, the differences between genders aren’t as great as we’ve been led to believe. They reconfirmed my belief that more reliable data is necessary to demonstrate how commonplace low desire in men really is. Only then, will women stop feeling unattractive and come out of hiding to seek the help they need to have richer and more satisfying sexual relationships. That’s why I’m so passionate about getting the word out that men have headaches too.
Soon after the book’s publication, I was flooded with letters, emails and phone calls from people from all walks of life whose lives had been changed and whose marriages had narrowly escaped the black hole called divorce. I felt grateful for having been able to impact so many lives in a positive way. There were expressions of gratitude from more highly sexed spouses for my having given them a voice, for taking a strong stand about the importance of sexuality in marriage, for gently but firmly nudging spouses with a lower sex drive to take a more active role in bridging the desire gap, along with countless requests for more information and marital help. Most striking, however, was the overwhelming reaction both in terms of numbers and raw emotion from women whose husbands have lost desire, women just like you. Here are some examples.
I just recently found your book "The Sex Starved Marriage" in a local book store, opened the book and began to read. My heart began to thump and beat quickly while tears fell from my face. I tried a few times to put the book back but continued to read, finding it very difficult to put it down. By the time I struck up the nerve to purchase the book, I had already read 60% of it. You see it is very rare (as you know) for women to talk about the lack of sex in their marriages. It would be wonderful to have more focus on this "role reversal" so that men with low sexual desire are not ashamed. Plus, I need more help! My husband & I are 'stuck.' We seem unable to find that perfect time to talk. We have been married for 15 years this August, with two children ages 11, & almost 9. We are high school sweethearts and I believe we are meant to be together forever; however, I can’t go on this way. Can you help?
“I miss sex with my husband”
Oh my God! I watched the 20/20 show and I cried all the way through it. I wish that my husband could have watched it with me so that he would know how I am feeling. I feel like we never have sex. It has been almost 4 months, but he doesn't have a clue that it has been that long. We have been married for 15 years and have 3 children. We both work full time jobs, and he is able to find time for everything and everyone, but me. I told him the other day that I feel as if he doesn’t love me. We hardly ever touch or kiss. I am just overwhelmed after seeing the show that I am not the only wife crying herself to sleep at night because of rejection from my husband.
I should like to thank you for addressing such a sensitive subject on prime time television. My husband and I have been together for nearly 30 years and we have 5 beautiful children. He is thirteen years older than I am. The last time we made love was in February 1994. He used to be very sexually active but in the last ten years it just abruptly stopped. I cannot tell you how lonely it can be. I just wanted to personally thank you so much for opening the door and making me realize that I am not alone.
In addition to the letters that seemed to have no end, something else interesting happened. During the promotion of The Sex-Starved Marriage, I was interviewed on countless call-in radio shows. Guess who called in. HD men called to complain about their unsatisfying sex lives. LD women wondered what they could do to increase their sexual desire or to get their husbands to better understand their feelings. Grateful HD women called to thank me for letting them know they’re not alone and to discuss their frustration about their husband’s apparent lack of empathy. But conspicuously absent were LD men. Not a single man who was lacking sexual desire called in for information or to simply discuss his feelings. Now, keep in mind, these phone calls were anonymous! I found it amazing that even though their identities were completely protected, no LD man felt safe talking about this taboo subject. Even when the shows’ hosts specifically invited these men to call in, no such calls materialized. I knew something had to change. As long as the topic of low sexual desire in men is off-limits, women’s pain and shame will also remain largely unaddressed. And that’s not okay.
Furthermore, it became increasingly obvious to me that even when women were willing to risk talking about their situations, there was precious little effective help available to them. Although THE SEX-STARVED MARRIAGE offered guidance and reassurance, it left more highly sexed women with many unanswered questions. That’s because it is largely unisex in its approach. And while some of the experiences, emotions and strategies for dealing with and overcoming a sexual divide are similar in all marriages regardless of gender, apparently not all. Sex-starved women face unique challenges, requiring more guidance and support.
So, in a nutshell, you now know the genesis of this book. What you don’t know is what you’ll learn by reading it. Maybe for the first time in your marriage, you will see that all the emotions you’ve been feeling are completely understandable and normal. You will recognize that you are in very, very good company and hopefully, that will give you some solace. You won’t feel lonely anymore. You will learn about what really goes on behind closed doors in bedrooms across America and, I’m telling you, you might be very, very surprised. You’ll start feeling better about yourself as a person and as a sexual being. Your festering insecurities caused by the dynamics of your interactions around sex will be replaced by feelings of confidence and empowerment. But this isn’t just a feel-good book. By the time you’re done reading it, you’ll know more about low desire in men, what causes it and what you can do to motivate your husband to become more proactive in boosting his desire. You’ll have a game plan. You’ll stop thinking about divorce or fantasizing about having an affair. And if you’ve gone outside your marriage to satisfy your sexual needs, you will probably rethink your actions and reinvest yourself in your marriage. That’s because at bottom, you really know that you want your spouse to want you, not someone else.
In addition to providing you with information about what really goes on behind closed doors, THE SEX-STARVED WIFE will answer questions posed to me by many women in similar situations to yours. Although, as you’re about to learn, men experience low sexual desire for a variety of reasons, sexual difficulties are one of the most common causes. Almost 30% of men have persistent problems with climaxing too early or have difficulty achieving erections. Premature or early ejaculation is the most common sexual complaint or dysfunction reported by men. It’s easy to understand why a man would avoid sex if he associates it with failure. I will offer you information that will help you approach your husband sensitively; making it more likely that he will be willing to get help for this very solvable problem.
I will also answer questions you might have such as, “Why does he have to get so upset when he loses his erection? Why can’t he just take it in stride?” “Is erectile dysfunction a life-long sentence?” “Is there something my husband can do to become more self-confident about his sexual abilities?” “Is there something I can do differently that might help him get erections and keep them long enough for us to make love?” “How can I get him to understand that sex isn’t about performance, it’s about connecting?”
Hi. My name is Christine. I just wanted to ask if you have any books that deal with performance anxiety. My boyfriend and I have been together for 8 months. He has the anxiety performance problem. I wanted to know more about it. If there is something I can do to help. He has been to see doctors in the past, in his last relationship. He was told it was anxiety and not physical. The doctor had told him to take the Viagra and eventually he would be able to perform without it. I just wanted to know if you have any books that deal with this issue.
Or perhaps your husband has no difficulty getting or keeping an erection. In fact, you feel certain that sexual desire isn’t the problem; the problem has to do with his lack of desire for you. He may be involved with pornography- both on and off-line- and you simply can’t fathom why he would be masturbating rather than making love to you. You feel outraged, hurt, totally disillusioned and most of all, dejected. You want to know how to get your husband to understand your feelings, stop putting energy into his self interests and focus on you and your marriage. The SEX-STARVED WIFE will offers answers to these questions and provides a fascinating look into this growing problem in our society- Internet and self-sex as a substitute for marital sex.
My husband has chosen porn over his family. He has distanced himself, doesn't love me, chooses his fantasy life, and is putting his career at risk. We have 3 young children. Any help you can give me would be appreciated.
The other night I woke up & found him downstairs masturbating to porn. I have been trying to get my H to find more interest in me but he says things are busy or he's tired but to me he is getting his needs met with himself and has no need for me. He says he has always dreamed I would come downstairs and finish him off but I don’t believe him. Please help!
In “Behind Closed Doors,” you will read the surprising results of a poll conducted by Redbook magazine and myself. We teamed up to find out what women have to say about their sexual appetites, their husband’s sex drive and what their sexual relationships are really like. Once you and your husband have the facts at your fingertips, you will be armed with information that will be freeing. It will enable you to approach your sexual desire gap more openly and more collaboratively.
In “So, I’m Not Going Crazy?” you will gain a great deal of insight into all the feelings you have been having in regards to this problem in your sexual relationship. You will see why your feelings of shame, anger, hurt, and resentment have made reaching out for help so difficult. It is here that you will learn ways to stop blaming yourself (or your spouse) for your less than satisfying sexual relationship and start getting ready to create major changes in your life.
In the next section, “Why Men Say No,” you’ll read about the reasons men lose interest in sex. Although when you’re angry or hurt, you might think that the only reason your husband doesn’t want sex is to punish you, it isn’t true. There are many explanations for low desire in men. “Physiology Matters,” will help you understand which of many biological factors such as certain medical conditions, hormone deficiencies or sexual dysfunctions might be causing your husband’s dip in desire. In “It’s all about him,” you’ll read about personal problems such as depression, stress or poor body image that may be at the root of this problem. And last, but not least, in “Couples Conundrums,” you’ll learn that common relationship problems such as resentment or anger may be the desire-busters. You’ll also read about the ways in which pornography, masturbation, and infidelity might be the cause of your sexual distance. Because this section will enable you to become clearer about these causes of low sexual desire, it will steer you in the direction of solutions. And that’s what the next section, “Reaching Out: The Solution Section” is all about.
Since it is infinitely simpler to improve your sexual relationship when your husband is your willing teammate, “Bud, This One’s For You,” is a chapter written specifically for him. I know you’ve been trying to get through to him, so I want to lend you a hand. I figured that he might not be motivated to read the whole book so I wrote one chapter to motivate your hubby to work with you on this issue side by side. When he reads it, you can just sit back and relax because I will let him know the importance of having a loving, satisfying sexual relationship. So, let me take over for a little while, okay?
In “What’s a Woman to Do?” you will roll up your sleeves and read new ideas about how best to approach your man. Perhaps you’ve been too uncomfortable to speak openly and honestly about your desperate feelings. You haven’t wanted to hurt him. Or more likely, you’ve talked until the cows came home and the only response you’ve gotten is defensiveness and anger. Let’s face it. You’re dealing with a fragile male ego and you have to learn the optimum ways to get your message across. You need to say and do things that will allow him to keep an open mind and heart. This chapter will offer you general tips for having productive conversations. It will also give you the nuts and bolts strategies for any kind of relationship changes.
In “Biological Issues,” you will read about treatments for helping your husband overcome a drop in desire stemming from biological issues or sexual dysfunctions. You will learn ways to approach your husband to get him to go to your family doctor, or a marital/sex therapist. And once you’ve gotten him there, you will need advice as to the best way to encourage your husband to follow through on suggestions he’s been given by health care professionals.
Additionally, since you will receive information about the cutting edge therapies for testosterone deficiency, early ejaculation and performance anxiety, you will be able to guide your husband towards solutions rather than simply complain or become emotional- a surefire turn-off to men. Since some of the methods for overcoming sexual dysfunction are couple-oriented, this chapter with describe strategies couples can use together to solve their sexual problems as a team.
Sometimes a man loses interest in sex and it has nothing to do with biological issues or the relationship. He might be experiencing personal issues that are dampening his desire. In “Helping Him Deal with His Issues,” you will learn ways to help your husband cope with and overcome such problems as depression, poor body image, unresolved childhood issues, grief, job loss and stress. Although you can’t “fix” your husband, he has to do that himself, there definitely are things you can do to pave the road for his feeling better and therefore, more sexual.
Show me a couple with a desire gap, and I will show you a couple with relationship challenges. This is not to say that all desire gaps are caused by relationship problems, it just means that when one person is unhappy sexually, there is bound to be tension in the marriage. In “Working It Out Together,” you will learn how to tackle these problems in loving, effective ways. You will also read about specific techniques for being more open about sex and resolving your sexual differences.
In “Keeping It Up,” you will see that getting one’s sexual relationship on track is one thing, but keeping it that way is quite another. “Keeping It Up,” will help you sustain the changes you’re making in your love life. This chapter will outline some of the major challenges to keeping passion alive in marriage, especially when differences have divided couples in the past. It will outline specific steps you must take to resist taking positive changes for granted.
“When He Resists,” is especially designed for the woman whose husband has stubbornly defied her efforts to make their sexual relationship more satisfying. Sometimes, despite women’s best intentions, men won’t listen or follow through with well-meaning suggestions. As a result, nothing changes and pain and hurt linger. If you find yourself in a go-nowhere situation and you feel like you’ve been spinning your wheels, this chapter will offer hope. You’ll read about alternative strategies you can use when your passion-boosting campaigns have hit deadends.
In “When Low Desire Isn’t Low Desire” you will learn about situations where your husband’s lack of interest in sex with you may not be an indication that he has low sexual desire. He may be involved with masturbation, cybersex and other internet activities, infidelity or he may be confused about his sexual identity. In other words, he may be married with children, but gay. It’s important for you to learn about these possibilities so you know where you stand and what you can do to chart your course.
And because no single book can answer all of your questions about boosting sexual desire, I’ve included the final section, “More to Come,” to provide you with lots of additional helpful, luscious, juicy resources to help you and your husband achieve the results for which you are hoping. It includes self-help books, methods for finding qualified sex therapists, and useful on-line resources.
So, that’s the whole enchilada. Are you up for the task of making real and lasting changes in your sexual relationship? I bet you are. Well, let’s get started. Sexier times are right around the corner.