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He comes home from work drained. He enjoys dinner and family time and is ready to hit the sack. His wife comes into the bedroom wearing a sweet little nightie and his heart sinks. He just doesn’t want sex. He loves his wife and is attracted to her, but sex doesn’t hold the same fascination it did when he was younger. Not only that, it’s more difficult to make things happen anymore. That alone is enough to make him avoid sex. He’s left questioning his manhood as he tells his wife, “How about another night, babe? I’m beat.” He rolls over quickly so he doesn’t have to see her eyes fill up with tears.
“Most nights, I feel like I could exist happily without ever having sex again. What is wrong with me?!”
Well, that’s the thing now, isn’t it? As moms, if we don’t want sex, we feel it’s because we’ve had a baby drooling on us all day, a toddler to wrangle or a teenager’s attitude to overcome. Many times, we’re exhausted and overwhelmed and we just don’t want to.
But you know what? This can be true for our husbands as well. When men experience low libido, it can be even more difficult for them to come to terms with it. We all know men think differently (Can I get an amen?), so here at CMC, we’re diving into this tough topic to try to provide some insight into how to cope when your man has low libido.
What’s wrong with us?
One CMC contributor described the struggle of dealing with her husband’s low libido. She felt like she tried everything to “fix” their sex life – increased flirtation, scheduling sex for earlier in the evening before he was too tired, sexy lingerie – the whole nine yards – without success.
After dozens of failed attempts on my part, it really started to get to me…What’s wrong with me? Am I unattractive? (This began before babies, so you can imagine how it feels now). And then the voices in my head took over: Is he addicted to pornography? Is he having an affair? I asked the hard questions and his answer was always no.
As sex became less frequent, she felt less connected to her husband. Since many men equate sex and touch with intimacy, it’s quite likely he felt disconnected as well.
Finally, while at the doctor for other reasons, her husband was diagnosed with very low levels of testosterone, so low they were barely in the range for someone his age. Good news! A biological reason that’s beyond his control – and is treatable – is a positive, right?
Maybe not in his eyes…
‘It’s like I’m less of a man or something.’
Our contributor recounted.
I remember him telling me “It’s like I’m less of a man or something”, and I finally got it. I understood why he’d been avoiding dealing with the issue for so many years. His sex drive is part of his masculinity, and without that, he feels less than. Incidentally, he’s an excellent partner, a terrific provider, and he handles crisis like an expert, but this personal issue proved to be more than he could bear. He was afraid, and he felt alone – feelings I know well, and feelings I wish I had considered sooner.
Light bulb! Especially after giving birth, we’re relatively used to our bodies constantly changing. It can be hard for us to see that our husbands are experiencing changes as well. In fact, both men and women begin to notice changes in their bodies in their 30s and 40s. In men, it’s called andropause and is a decrease in the production of vital hormones, including testosterone. (CMC Insider tip: If your man has his testosterone checked, have them measure Free Testosterone. This is the testosterone that brings benefits such as building muscle, burning fat, increased metabolism, stamina, recovery and increased sexual performance. Your Wellness Center tests for this and helps men manage it.)
These lower hormone levels can directly impact energy, moods, libido, and ability to enjoy intercourse.
In our uncertainty (and often hurt feelings), it’s easy to jump to conclusions, so take note of these common misconceptions about low libido.
Three myths about low libido
- Low libido means there is something wrong with the marriage.
Again, biology. Besides age, careers, kids (Right?!), and declining hormone levels, mood problems such as stress, anxiety and depression can contribute to lack of libido. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong in the marriage.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED) means I can’t have a satisfying sex life.
Thankfully, this is incredibly far from the truth. Depending on the cause, ED is extremely treatable.
- A conversation with the doctor would be awkward. It’s not happening.
Doctors have heard it all. Alllll of it. If your man can understand that his doctor is not going to judge him, the conversation will be a lot easier. (If he does feel judged, it’s probably time to look for a new doctor.) Additionally, ED can be a sign of more serious health issues, including heart problems, high blood pressure or even nerve disorders like multiple sclerosis. Giving the doctor complete health information is key to getting good care.
What if he really isn’t interested in discussing it?
Another CMC contributor told us,
“…He’s 47 and starting to deal with ED issues. He refuses to seek medical care about it and refuses to really discuss it much. If a discussion does start, it usually ends with an argument of some sort. So, I don’t bring it up much so as to not rock the boat…but by the same token, I’d like to have my boat rocked again if you know what I mean!!
That’s tricky. While we don’t have all the answers, we put together a list of tried and true tips from our community to make the road a little smoother.
CMC Tips for Awkward Conversations with Your Life Partner
- Give him space and time to act on his own.
Remember the contributor whose husband had low testosterone? She suggested that her husband visit the doctor. She told him it was important to her and to their marriage to figure out their sex life. What did she do next? “And then I kept my mouth shut. I said nothing about it for months, all the while fighting to quiet the voices.” Her husband had to decide to act in his time, not hers.
- Tread carefully.
It goes without saying, but this is a difficult topic. Be careful how you approach it with him and what you say. Don’t bring up the topic when he’s exhausted or upset. (Or hangry. One can never be too careful.)
- Be mindful of his priorities, your priorities and your shared priorities.
One CMC contributor said, “My husband used to want sex to make him feel better after his favorite football team lost. I made a snippy comment about expecting me to ‘fix’ something as silly as a sports team losing with sex. He was very hurt, to the point where he no longer wanted the intimacy he had just requested. I was perplexed that an off-the-cuff comment could be so detrimental. I finally realized it wasn’t really about the loss. It was about him turning to me for intimacy, for closeness. He wanted to feel connected and loved and instead, I made fun of him. That one exchange taught me a great deal about the differences in male/female communication strategies.”
Sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye on the little things, but as long as we’re focused on the big priorities together, we can cut each other a little slack for those irrational obsessions. (Speaking of obsessions, I haven’t missed an episode of Outlander. How about you?)
Bottom line, we want happy, healthy husbands and sexual health is all part of it. If we can help them manage the hard conversations and get back to intimacy, everyone wins!