Q & A Friday: Why does my husband lack sex-drive?

I get lots of questions sent to me from many amazing people around Canada – and even from around the world. Everything from general advice about marriage and life choices to leadership, church planting and theology. Today begins a new segment on this blog, which is that I am going to answer one of these questions every Friday.

To kick it off, a question from my hometown of Toronto:

Why does my husband lack sex-drive?

Thanks for writing the Radical Sex book. I would like to hear your thoughts on my case of ‘reversed’ desires. My desire for sexual intimacy is much stronger than my husband’s. He considers sex is to be an expression of love and that there are many ways to express this love. My desire for sex is more like a man’s and his like a woman’s. In terms of frequency, at best, he desires sex only once a quarter. I’ve raised this issue with my counsellors and had multiple talks with my husband. I’ve grown to be more patient and be more understanding most definitely. Not having that intimacy is extremely difficult and indeed, temptation is a daily struggle.

Thank you for your honest question. First, you are not alone. There are many couples who have ‘reversed’ desires when it comes to sex. There is a spectrum among both men and women. I know many men who desire sex every day and many who are fine to have sex once a week or once every two weeks. For them their sexual desire is more tied to circumstances of life, emotional connection, level of busyness, stress, etc., So it is not completely ‘abnormal’ in that sense. And if you and your husband were aligned in regard to sexual drive than it wouldn’t be a problem, but you happen to be a woman who desires sex more than your husband, and are experiencing temptation and dis-satisfaction because of it, so there is intentional work to be done.

Secondly, I want to affirm your husbands conviction that there are many ways to express love, and sex is just one of those. In many of my marriage counselling sessions I talk to couples about the Love Languages (quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and gifts). Notice ‘physical touch’ is one among many ways we give and receive love. So, for him, he may not be motivated to connect sexually unless these other forms of love are being experienced first. His emotional connection to you is directly wired to his desire for physical connection, so if the way he feels loved and connected to you are not happening (lots of quality time with you for instance), his sexual drive won’t fire up very often. Make sure you study your husband and love and respect him the way he needs you to, not the way you, or others, may feel love. Sexual desire is part of eco-system of emotions and affections, and if one part is not firing on all cylinders, the others will be effected. So, ask your husband what ways he feels loved, and make sure to work on those.

I met with a couple recently and the husband was in the same boat as yours and when we got into it he confessed that he wasn’t motivated to have sex with his wife because of a number of seemingly disconnected, orbiting factors (the fact that she just sat on her phone all evening not talking to him in her old ragged pyjamas she’s had since she was thirteen). He couldn’t connect to her physically because there was an emotional disconnect. The two things were connected, which she never had thought of.

Lastly, I would counsel your husband in the same way Paul exhorts the Corinthians when he tells them that there may be short times when they don’t have sex with their spouse for whatever reason, but that that time shouldn’t last very long (1 Cor. 7) precisely because of what you have shared here. If sexual desire is not being satisfied, people are more tempted to stray, look at pornography, and fantasize about others, etc. Be honest with your husband and let him know you are very attracted to him, show him respect by loving him the way he feels loved, and let him know about your fear of being tempted if you guys do not get to a healthier place sexually.

Don’t lose hope though!

I have seen marriages get on track from this and much more complicated challenges. Keep resting on Jesus and pouring into your marriage and it can be better on the other side of this!