Ed. note: Today our columnists are answering two similar questions that came in within days of one another.
Dear Love InshAllah,
I am happily married, and have been so for the past six years. Our sex drives, though, were never compatible; last year we had a very open and loving discussion where I suggested that he might be asexual. After some consideration, he agreed. Sex wasn’t very often (maybe 1-2 times a year) but now it is nothing. I’m not comfortable discussing this with my Imam, who is fairly conservative. Although my husband doesn’t have a sex drive, I do. I’m a sex-positive person, but don’t know how to navigate this issue in my life. I’ve been praying (for years) but am still stuck. I’m not interested in divorce; we’re very compatible in almost every other way. Is touching and physical intimacy no longer a part of my life?
My Husband is Asexual
Dear Love InshAllah,
I have been married for nearly three years now. The problem is that I have a high sex drive while my husband has little or at times no sex drive. We go 2-3 months without having sex. It leaves me so frustrated mentally and physically! When we do have sex, it is over within a minute or two which is even more frustrating. Lately I have been thinking about satisfying myself because this frustration is killing me, but I don’t feel like going down this path. I have started working out to vent out that pent up sexual energy but still sometimes it gets overwhelming. I have tried dressing provocatively, talking dirty, and discussing this problem with my husband but, according to him, I am the one who has a problem. Please help me. What should I do? I am going crazy.
A Lonely Wife
Shy Desi Boy replies:
One of the best things about writing this column anonymously is that I can reveal things about myself that I would normally not disclose, like this: I had a nearly sexless marriage.
So many other things worked—we had great intellectual chemistry, we liked the same TV shows, we enjoyed sleeping in late on Sundays, we prayed together, and most essentially, we both believed that nutella is, indeed, a balanced meal. But we had lousy sex.
I thought it’s cool— everything else is working out so why end something that is otherwise so beautiful? I had been with other women before marriage (and really enjoyed being intimate with them) but never had intercourse.
There are lots of reasons why my married sex life was awful. Part of the reason is that I never addressed my depression or my unhappiness at work. I carried so much stress from my shitty boss and I returned home so defeated that all I wanted to do was watch Jon Stewart, laugh, and go to sleep. Another reason is that I had stopped exercising and my energy level dropped. So even when we did have sex, it rarely lasted more than a few minutes. I started thinking: no sex is better than bad sex. Or I will just masturbate. Neither of these are healthy choices, I later learned.
The fault was not all mine. My partner had never been with anyone before marriage and I tried to teach her about performing/receiving oral sex or experimenting with different positions (all things I very much enjoy) but our bodies’ chemistries never aligned. We bought books, saw a counselor but everything was just off. I thought—maybe I am gay? But that never made sense because I have never found myself physically attracted to other males.
For a variety of reasons (not just sexual), the marriage ended. A year later, I began dating but unlike the dating I did before marriage, this time I decided I would have sex.
It was spectacular. I realized how much I love having sex and how much my mood, my concentration, my patience, my health is all better when I have great sex. And I learned that a great sex life must be a central part to any relationship that I am in. Till this today, I have wonderful sex and I owe it all to my previous life of, well, miserable sex.
What I realized from the experience was I did not know what good sex was like and so it was easy for me to say, “it is OK for me to have lousy sex.” Now I realize I cannot be happy in a relationship without great physical intimacy. It simply means too much to me.
So what advice can I give? You have expressed a desire to stay in your marriage so here are a few ideas: get your partner to start exercising, explain to him how hurt you feel when he rejects your advances and how much you miss sex, consider asking him to see a therapist and consider doing the same for yourself to cope with his low libido.
Because you, dear reader, are not the problem. It is not what you wear or how you look or what things you do/do not whisper in his ear. This is his problem and his unwillingness to perform a duty—yes I used that word duty—of marriage.
I know you both expressed a desire to continue your marriage and I respect that. But as Dan Savage writes brilliantly in his column, there are only really two options: “living with it” or “working around it.” Otherwise Savage echoes the same advice I offer you: “If it turns out that neither option works for you as a couple—because the first option sucks for you, the second option sucks for him—then you’ll have to end this marriage.”
I am very sorry you are both experiencing this. Regardless of what you chose, I wish you both many happy days ahead and more importantly, many pleasure-fulfilled nights
Ms. Sunshine replies:
To My Husband is Asexual:
Asexuality, or the absence of sexual attraction, is often self-diagnosed. Asexuals can have romantic attractions, and some even become aroused, but they do not experience sexual attraction to other people. I can see why you may think your husband is asexual. And while it is possible that your husband is truly asexual, depression and low testosterone levels are just a couple of the many reasons your husband may lack libido.
Sexual frustration can lead to feelings of resentment for you and guilt for him. Over time those emotions can creep in and poison the aspects of your relationship that are currently nurturing and fulfilling. Before you decide that your only options are a lifetime of sexual frustration or life without the man you currently love, I suggest you discuss getting some professional help. Begin with your general practitioner to rule out hormonal or other physical issues. If there are no physical issues, then you may want to invest your resources in finding a sex therapist, a psychotherapist that specializes in sexual issues, who can help you find solutions. Some asexuals are comfortable engaging in sexual activity to please their partners. You’ve invested six years of your life in what seems like a lovely marriage; it’s worthwhile to invest the time, money, and effort in solving this problem with an sensitive and qualified expert.
To Lonely Wife:
You have the right to sexual fulfillment within your marriage. Wanting to have sex with your spouse is not a problem; it’s a critical part of a happy marriage for most people. Your husband’s response is cruel. He may be feeling defensive, and that is understandable, but it is not acceptable for him to ignore your needs or toss accusations your way when you want to work through things.
In many– if not most– cultures, sexual prowess is inextricably linked with masculinity. It’s possible that you are saying “I’m not fulfilled,” and he is hearing “You’re not a enough of a man.” It’s crucial for you to have this discussion with your husband in a frank, and respectful manner, but it is clearly a very touchy subject for him. It may help to change your approach.
A carefully worded letter, handed to him to read in private, may help him process your feelings and deal with his without feeling as threatened as he might if you were standing in front of him. You should focus on “I” statements and avoid trying to diagnose him. Writing things like “I miss making love to you and I feel alone and sexually frustrated,” or “I am worried about the impact this is having on our marriage” may help him empathize with your struggle without feeling like you are blaming or shaming him. You can’t tiptoe around him forever, though, and while a change in approach may help, there is no guarantee. As things stand, he has been very disrespectful toward you and whether it’s through a letter, a conversation, or meeting with a third party, you’re going to have to get to the bottom of this.
I also recommend counseling for the two of you. As I suggested above, there may be a medical reason for your husband’s low libido and it would be wise for him to see a qualified medical practitioner.
I wish you both the best!