Dear Beth

Sex problem--husband's low libido

Happiness is: gorgeous wild flowers adorn Ontario meadow

Marriage counseling not helping husband's low sexual desire

Dear Beth,

I read your 'Sex Problem' entry on your web page. It's the first thing I've ever read anywhere that is even close to my problem. My husband isn't interested in having sex with me. We've been married 6+ years, and there have been periods of 4, 5, 6, 12, and 14 months between sexual interactions.

We each have individual therapists and now we're seeing a couples therapist together in addition. My husband says that he would like to have sex a couple times per week. But he just doesn't initiate. The last time we had sex was really great, but it was over 4 weeks ago.

Up until a year ago, I got very creative in my ways of initiating sex, thinking that I could find a solution. But he NEVER accepted my advances. At the urging of my therapist, I formally gave the responsibility of solving the problem to my husband, and he accepted the responsibility. But the only difference in the past year is that I feel less frustrated because I've reduced the number of times that I feel like a failure.

He had a physical about a year ago, and his testosterone level was mid-range normal. He has been suffering from depression for about two years and was taking Prozac at first, then switched to Efexor. He says that he now feels more sensation. But still, no change in desire.

I'm willing to try anything, and I've told him that. I've acted on every suggestion from him, his therapist, our couples therapist, my therapist. Nothing makes a difference.

It seems that he just doesn't think about sex. He doesn't get nocturnal erections as far as I can tell. But the first 6 months of dating, he initiated and we had sex 3 - 4 times per week.

I'm nearly positive that he is not having an affair. I'm reasonably sure that he does not have homosexual tendencies. We're both physically attractive people. None of the therapists have pointed to any behavioral problems on my part (including a previous couples therapist). I'm at a total loss...

I'm suspicious that this is an extremely rare problem. I can't find any books that even mention it. Sex therapy books just assume that the woman is the one with less sexual desire. Those books only acknowledge male sexual problems that are physical in nature. I have physical and emotional needs that are not being met, and I'm nearly ready to go outside the relationship to fulfill them.

Any advice?

Beth answers: Firstly, this type of situation is not at all rare. Sex therapists and marriage counsellors work with sexual problems of this sort all the time. (See the sexual dysfunctions section in sex therapy.)

I see you are at a loss to understand why this is happening. The reasons are different for different couples. Your very clear and informative letter suggests some possibilities to me, but I do not think that guessing would be helpful. I suggest that you ask your therapists what they see as the cause of the problem, what potential they see for change, and what they see as the route for bringing it about. If you are not satisfied with their answers I suggest you seek an assessment from an experienced psychotherapist and marriage counsellor who is familiar with standard sex therapy. The therapist would probably need two or three hours with you and your husband, and would probably request input from your therapists regarding how they see the sex problem.

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If you live in English Canada see online help for sexual problems. I might be available to help you.