Sex: When one partner wants sex and the other does not

My husband has no libido! We have been dealing with this problem for three years and I'm at the end of my rope. He has seen two urologists and is now seeing a therapist, none of whom have been able to help. I have tried to be patient, but when you only make love about eight times a year it gets more and more difficult. I've talked with him about how I feel, but we always end up in an argument. I am desperate and I have even thought about having an affair. What can I do?

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

Sex is often the place in a relationship that we seek validation and a sense of being "special" to our partner. If you have thought about having an affair, it is probably not just the amount of sex that is bothering you. It may be that the quality of the sex you are having is not giving you a feeling of connectedness that you want with your husband. Have you thought of going for couples' counseling to a reputable marriage therapist?

Romance and passion do not begin or end in the bedroom.

  • What is the quality of your relationship?
  • Are you affectionate with one another outside the bedroom?
  • Do you feel that your husband has a special place in his heart for you and no one else?
  • Is the overall energetic quality of your communication or rapport with one another passionate or dull?
  • Can you express and resolve anger in your marriage?
  • Are there any power struggles between you, covert or overt?

Overt power struggles spawn arguments, which if resolved adequately can add sparkle to a relationship. Covert power struggles that never surface can deaden passion in a marriage. The hallmark of these silent struggles are relationships in which all potential disagreement is masked in compliant behavior. Often, one spouse has quite strong preferences and the other does not want to make waves so passively goes along with most of what his or her spouse wants. Individuality is compromised and sexual desire suffers. Saying no to sex may become an expression of autonomy and power when all other areas have been forfeited to keep the peace.

Equality in relationships may also be a critical area for you and your husband. If a spouse feels their partner is the one "in control" of the dynamics in the relationship, sex can suffer. Couples' therapy can help the two of you explore the history of your relationship and what kind of passion you have had, as well as what vision each of you carries for the marriage. If romance, power, communication or other areas of intimacy need attention, you can work to develop or revitalize them together.

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