How can I encourage my low-drive man?

How can I encourage my low-drive man? June 22, 2010

Two comments:
I posted the original question about my husband’s low desire. I found this post on sexual tips very helpful in the sense that it made me feel less alone, but I’m wondering if you have any further thoughts on what to actually do about the issue? Thank you so much for this wonderful blog!

This post on sexual tips was so helpful! Like the previous commenter said, it made me feel less alone in my situation; less hopeless. You included a statistic that most men who are the ‘low drive’ ones in their relationships are less likely to seek help. How can I encourage my low drive man to do anything about the situation?

Encouraging a low-drive spouse to take action about their libido can be a tricky balancing act. On the one hand, you don’t want to come off as critical, demeaning or demanding. On the other hand, sexuality is an important aspect of marriage and your needs and desires are important and count too. Your situation gets even trickier because it doesn’t follow the social gender “norm.” Don’t get me wrong: there are many couples where the wife is the one with a higher sexual drive. It’s just not as commonly talked about in our culture and the stereotypes we are fed on a regular basis are very much on the side of the man wanting sex and wanting it all the time. These stereotypes can leave men who are struggling with legitimate libido issues feeling unmanly and with low self esteem.

The #1 thing that is going to help situations such as yours is open and honest communication in a safe setting. Is your marriage a safe place to have these types of discussions? If not, then maybe it’s time to consider counseling and get the help of an objective 3rd party. It can legitimately feel like “dangerous territory” (even in the healthiest of relationships) when we are trying to discuss something as personal and emotionally charged as our sex lives. Especially if there are issues surrounding physical attraction, sexual dysfunction, self-esteem, etc. Some basic advice that may be helpful:

  • Be willing to talk about it and do so respectfully using “I” messages (i.e. Honey, I’ve been noticing that we are not making love as often and I’m concerned. I don’t know if there is something that is bothering you, or something you don’t feel safe talking to me about but I would like to open up this topic for discussion. Even if there are things that we think may hurt each other’s feelings, I think it’s important that we still talk about them. This is important to me and I’m sure it is to you too.).
  • Express your needs (i.e. When we have sex, I feel very connected to you. It is an important way for me to show you love and to feel love from you. This is something I need to feel content and satisfied in our marriage.).
  • Stay away from blame – blame only engenders defensiveness (and there is nothing sexy about getting defensive).
  • Stay calm.
  • Be prepared to hear something hurtful. You can express feelings of being hurt while still remaining calm and providing a safe environment (i.e. It’s difficult for me to hear what you just said, and it does hurt, but I’m still glad you told me and that we are talking about this). It is also perfectly appropriate to show emotion (i.e. crying) while having a discussion. It’s impossible at times not to.
  • Validate (i.e. So what I hear you saying is….)
  • Focus on your strengths as a couple. Although your sexuality is an important part of your relationship, it need not define it.
  • Focus on your own strengths.
  • Focus on solutions. Where can we go from here?

I recommend the following books as resources:
The Sex-Starved Wife: What to do when He’s Lost Desire
The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting your Marriage Libido
both by Michele Weiner Davis

On a side note I will briefly address other possible reasons why some men (and women) may be showing lower signs of libido:

  • They are getting their sexual needs met elsewhere (i.e. affair, pornography viewing, solo masturbation, etc.).
  • They are homosexual and are trying desperately to make the heterosexual lifestyle work due to their religious values and desires to have a family.
  • There is an underlying health concern (i.e. heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, vaginismus, etc.).
  • There is an underlying mental health concern (i.e. depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD, etc.).
  • There is a medication being taken that affects libido.
  • There is a history of sexual abuse.

Print off this post, show it to your husband and use it as a “checklist” of sorts. Go through and have a discussion on these different issues. What resonates and what doesn’t? Is he as confused as you are? Or does he know the reasons why he is experiencing lower drive? Let your husband know that although you want to be understanding of his situation and respectful of his space, “not talking about this” is not a viable option for the health of your long-term relationship. Be willing to wait a few days or even weeks to let him approach you on this when he is ready to discuss. But any more time than that is unacceptable. Good luck and keep us posted.

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