Tag Archives: Libido

When Your Sex Drives Don’t Match: From the Perspective of a Woman Who Wants More Sex

18 Sep

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women'...It seems the topic of sex – and mismatched libidos – is swirling around in the blogosphere today.  I feel that I have something unique to add to the discussion (or really not so unique, if you keep reading).  I have touched on the topic of sex more than a few times here since it has been an issue in our relationship and our recovery.  Even if you aren’t married to a sex addict, though, sex is a topic that you should be talking about.

I won’t waste too much time on the great importance of sex and intimacy in a relationship. There are thousands upon thousands of articles about that. I will, however, point out that sex and intimacy create a bond, a connection, between two people that can make them feel closer and carry them through difficult situations.  Intimacy and sex are incredibly important to a marriage.  It’s one of the aspects of a relationship that takes it to the next level – to the realm of romantic love versus platonic friend or family love.

So how is it that around 20%* of married couples in the United States live in what is what is defined as a “sexless marriage?”  What is a “sexless marriage,” you may ask…  It is a marriage where sexual intercourse occurs 10 times or less each year.   In marriages where sex has dried up to that extent it’s a vicious cycle, and often no one can remember what exactly came first: “lack of sexual desire, lack of trust, anxiety, financial issues, misunderstandings, pressure from children,” or a myriad of other factors.**

Even when things haven’t gotten that bad, couples can find themselves frustrated or feeling rejected from their partner when there is a difference in how much sex each person thinks is “normal.”  In the first 6 months of a sexual relationship both parties are tearing each other’s clothes off with the same intense passion and vigor. Once things settle into a comfortable place and those “lusty” brain chemicals die down, our natural preferences will start to emerge.  It’s actually common for spouses to have different amounts of sexual desire.  Sexuality is a complicated, delicate thing.  Each of us have our own ideas of how much is “enough,” and those ideas do not always mesh.  However, not addressing those differences or talking about sex with your partner can be devastating to your relationship.

Now that the groundwork is laid (haha), I’m going to jump right into the heart of my topic.  Whenever a marriage is struggling with sexual intimacy the finger is automatically pointed at the wife.  If the sex isn’t frequent enough or someone is sexually dissatisfied, it must be HER fault!  Society in general loves to joke about how once a woman gets married she stops wanting sex.  Women are overly sexualized in magazines, movies, posters, entertainment, etc., yet conversely we are told that we really aren’t very sexual beings.  When a woman is open about her sexuality, she is treated like a freak or a whore.   If you want sex more than your male partner, there must be something wrong with you.  Make up your minds people!

Women do love sex.  And sometimes we want it more than the man in our life.  In fact, as one article put it, “It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common” for a woman to want sex more than her partner.  That’s right, folks!  In many, many cases the wife is the sexually dissatisfied one in the relationship.

Our culture doesn’t want to talk about it and certainly doesn’t want to accept it, but there are a lot of us out here.  In fact, that very same article says that in about 1/3 of the cases where a couple sees a sex therapist it is the woman who wants sex more frequently.  In those cases, fighting against cultural stereotypes in addition to an imbalance in sex drives is incredibly difficult.  Here’s an excerpt that I just have to share:

“Any chronic desire difference can drive people crazy. But in our culture, when the woman wants sex more, the couple descends into a special circle of hell, the place reserved for those caught in culturally unexpected circumstances. It’s bad enough to have a chronic desire difference, but when the situation contradicts the highly prevalent assumption that women—all women!—are erotically coy, while men—all men!—are insatiable horn dogs who can never get enough, desire differences feel even more distressing.”***

The stereotypes and public perception that men should or do want sex more than their female counterpart make it more difficult for women like me to find an outlet to talk about this type of thing.  I have connected with more women than you could imagine who also have higher sex drives than their husbands.  It is very isolating because you think there must be something wrong with you…  Men are SUPPOSED to want sex more.

It’s just not true, though.  Think about it.  If the woman in 1/3 of couples wants sex more than her spouse, then the number of women like me who are left disappointed and sexually frustrated when our husbands are “too tired” at night has to be in the millions.  There are millions of us!!!  Are we still in the minority?  Maybe.  But if this wasn’t such a taboo issue, maybe more and more of us would speak up and that 1/3 number would inch up closer to 50%.  I have no empirical proof of that, but the logical, reasonable side of me is screaming that if sex and sexuality is so varied then why couldn’t that be true?

Just check out this message board on Women’s Health with 38 pages of responses to one woman who was concerned that her sex drive was too high.  Or read this response from an advice columnist to a woman whose high sex drive was causing friction in her marriage.  In the beginning of her answer she says, “You are far from being the only woman who finds that her partner’s sex-drive is way lower than her own.  I get more questions from women on this subject than from men.”  Maybe that’s because we are the ones who write to advice columnists.  Maybe it’s because we are seeking to find out whether society is right and there is something wrong with us.  Or maybe it’s because there are a lot of us out here.

I don’t deny that there are a lot of studies that point to the fact that men think about sex more than women.  That’s probably true.  I’m not sure how much any male thinks about sex because I am certainly not in their brain.  I am also not some sex-crazed woman who is lost in sexual fantasy all day.  I just love sex, and I want it frequently.  I don’t stop and think about it obsessively – I just make a move on my husband, send him a flirty text, go in for a long kiss with a little tongue, or any number of other actions.  I’m a woman of action, though.

So what about the evolutionary theory?  Men are programmed to spread their seed and all that, right?  Well, there might be more to it than just that.  In Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, authors Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha talk extensively about early human sexuality.  I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if I would agree with every single conclusion they draw, but I have read several articles that touch on their findings.  Surprisingly (to some), the psychological and anthropological evidence they gathered shows that without the constraints of society women were just as sexual as men (or more so).

So what changed?  In an interview with Dr Snyder’s PsychologyToday’s blog “SexualityToday,” lead author Christopher Ryan said, “Even as we speak, clitorectomies are taking place in North Africa, women in Iran are being stoned to death, and American girls are committing suicide because their classmates call them ‘sluts’ online.  The world is hardly a safe place for women to express sexual curiosity, and hasn’t been for a very long time.”  So very true.  I really think a lot of this boils down to our society.

Today I was referred to this article about how men and women’s sex drives differ.  They conclude that “men score higher in libido, while women’s sex drive is more ‘fluid.'”  I found it very, very educational and interesting.  There were a lot of valid points made, some of which I have addressed above and some of which I am not going into.  One thing in the article really jumped out at me, though.  The #4 difference between men and women’s sex drive is that “Women’s sex drives are more influenced by social and cultural factors.”  All of the bullet points under there were spot-on, and I would highly recommend that you take a look.

This is my interpretation.  Women’s sexuality is more influenced by their peers, church, education, age, and other outside influences.  If you create a role for women like, “The wife never wants to have sex as much as the husband,” some women will go ahead and fill that role.  They will suppress their sexuality and let their husband take the driver’s seat because that’s how things are supposed to be.  If, by chance, they step out of line, another woman is more than happy to call them a “whore” to put them back in their place.  Men and women alike are there joking and whispering in their ear that men are more sexual, and they just need to accept that fact.

That bullet point also explains a bit why I might be more open sexually than a lot of people – male or female.  I am well-educated, not religious, and don’t care what everyone else is doing or what anyone else thinks is “normal.”  That makes me able to fulfill my entire sexual potential (or at least a lot of it).

When it all boils down to it, I think the baseline sex drive for men and women is more equal than people think. While men may think about sex more often and may be more direct or less complicated sexually, I think both genders equally want sex.  We both crave good sex in it’s fantastic, intimate form.  It may be a higher priority for some men than for women, especially when children enter the picture.  Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that, either.  In a vacuum, though, I think men and women’s sex drives would be very, very close (and pretty darn high).  Unfortunately, we don’t live in a vacuum.  We live here, in this society, and every single one of us has a completely different sexual experience and background.

Today I just wanted to be a voice for women like me.  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are not alone.  Remember, men peak sexually at around the age of 17 while women peak in their late thirties.  It just is what it is.

As for what to do about it?  My answer, no matter which way the imbalance of sex drives goes, is to open up about sex with your partner.  We both need to be communicating about sex.  We both need to be initiating.  We both need to be finding ways to connect sexually.  We both need to realize how important it is.  We both need to make time and make sex a priority.  So go home, give your man or woman a deep, romantic, passionate kiss, and get busy!  Talking that is…  If that leads to more, then more power to you!

Footnotes:

* According to the National Health and Social Life Survey and Newsweek magazine
** From MSNBC.com, “The Big No: The truth about sexless marriage” (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/32735936/ns/today-relationships)
***When She Wants Sex More than He Does: It’s culturally unexpected, but surprisingly common. Published on December 4, 2011 by Michael Castleman, M.A. in All About Sex

Being Open About Sex

15 Jun

I have to warn you now, this topic is personal.  I have grappled a bit with if I should post it, but I decided to take my own advice from my last post and be honest.  I know this will probably make my husband uncomfortable, so I apologize in advance to Mr. Mess.  I just feel like I need to get this out there and talk about it so maybe someone else in a similar situation won’t feel like they are all alone.

I have heard from lots of people about their hysterical bonding after DDay.  That never happened for us.  We maybe had a slight upswing in our sex life a few months in, but nothing drastic or immediate.  Now things are back down to pre-DDay levels which is around 1-2 times per week if I’m super lucky.

I’m a very sexual woman.  I have always heard that men are supposed to have a higher sex drive than women, but that is definitely not the case in our relationship.  My husband often turned to pornography and masturbation rather than actual sex with me.  When I was interested he was always “too tired” or some other lame excuse – except for about once or twice a week (usually on the weekends) when he couldn’t think up a lie I would believe.

Like I said, there was a slight upswing in sexual activity a few months after DDay, but nothing sustained.  And nothing to write home about.  The fact is that it doesn’t take much to have an “upswing” from nearly never.  Part of the disparity in our libidos may be that I am 20 years younger than my husband.  I am 27 and he is 47.  Women are just hitting their sexual peak at my age.  If you consider his sexual addiction issues and his age I guess I can see where my sex drive might be a little higher.  But he’s a sex addict for goodness sake!  A s-e-x addict who never seems to want s-e-x!

I have voiced my concerns in the past about the lack of sex in our marriage.  That has been when some of the upswings have occurred.  He has now been on anti-depressants for a little over a year, and I know that those can effect sex drive.  However, I just keep feeling like there is something more.  I can’t put my finger on it, but there is something.  It’s just not right.  I’m here.  I want sex.  I’m open-minded and flexible (in more ways than one).  I put myself out there.  Still, when it comes to our sex life, I get crickets…

The other night my husband was ready to head off to bed early – at around 9.  He never wants to go to bed that early, and it hadn’t been a particularly long day.  His work was normal, and he didn’t have to go to school.  I was thinking that maybe I might get lucky!  Alas…. no.  He basically wanted to get in bed, put on his CPAP machine (he has sleep apnea), and go to sleep.  I was beyond frustrated.  It’s not like we don’t connect or touch.  It’s not like he isn’t affectionate.  We kiss, he slaps my butt, we hold hands on the couch, I had snuggled up to him and was wearing barely anything… but it rarely goes much further.

Wenesday night it was just too much.  I told him that I am frustrated.  He thought it was because he wanted to go to bed so early.  I told him that wasn’t it.  I can almost always sleep because I am stressed right now, plus I like us to go to bed at the same time so we can unwind, talk, and connect.  I feel like if we start going to bed without each other we may as well just get separate rooms – something I am not willing to do.  I told him straight-out that I am disappointed by how infrequently we have sex.  I told him that I am not ready to be in a sexless marriage at 27!  And to me once per week is basically that – because there is no passion, no need, no feeling of hunger or desire from him.

He was quiet for a long time.  I thought he had just decided to go to sleep and ignore me, which was making me even angrier.  Then he finally said that he can understand.  I said something like, “oh, really?” in a slightly (okay, very) sarcastic tone.  He just replied “Yeah.”  That was the extent of our conversation.  Sometimes it is like pulling teeth with that man!  I was still frustrated, but let it go for the night.

Yesterday at lunch he gave me a call.  He said that he has been thinking about what I said.  He said that he is sorry that he has been neglecting me.  Then he said that he thinks he is really just afraid.  I asked him “what of?”  He said that he is afraid that if we have sex more he will start thinking about sex more and he is worried that will lead to acting out and cheating on me again.  He was teary – I could tell from his voice – and it gave me a little pause.  I thought about it, and told him that I can see where that might cause some anxiety.

I pointed out that there is a difference between healthy sex and unhealthy behavior.  He should be able to have sex with me without that making him want to have sex with someone else, too.  He said that he does know that.  So I asked again what is it that makes him feel afraid of sex with me (the healthy, normal, necessary to sustain a marriage sex).  At first he said he wasn’t sure because he knows that isn’t the same as his unhealthy, obsessive, unsatisfying, secret porn/ chat room/ affair-driven sex life (if you can even call it that).  I asked if he really feels like he has addressed those issues.  He said yes immediately.  Then I asked him if that is really true… has he dealt with them or has he just been avoiding anything that would make him have to confront them.  He then admitted that was probably it.

He is so afraid of messing up again that rather than develop healthy coping skills, confront those triggers, and do the work to heal himself, he is just trying to avoid sex altogether.  Once it reached a timeframe where he felt like he needed sex or he should be giving it to me, he would give in briefly and have sex.  Then he would bottle up all of his sexual feelings together and store them away somewhere.  He would only allow himself to feel sexual during that hour (or whatever) he allotted for us each week, then he would lock everything down.

He told me that he knows that isn’t right.  It isn’t fair to me.  It isn’t healthy for him.  It’s not what he really wants.  He said that he wants to be more open and sexual with me.  He is just afraid that once that box is open he won’t be able to control it.  I told him that I can understand now that he is talking with me about it…  That it definitely allows me to give him more grace around this matter.

I also told him that I’m not the person who knows what the solution is.  I’m patting myself on the back for that one a little bit because in the past I would have tried to come up with some “game plan” or started researching and looking for an answer.  Today I just told him that I think he is feeling that way because he hasn’t really addressed things.  I suggested that he talk with his IC today in their appointment to get guidance.  I didn’t push.  I didn’t call and get the schedule.  I didn’t dictate to him anything that he needed to do – other than reach out and start figuring this out with appropriate people who can provide assistance.  I said that I am really glad he shared that with me, and I want him to keep talking to me about those sorts of feelings.  But I didn’t try to become the “rescuer.”  I think that is a healthy step for me.

What I am wondering is if anyone else has had a similar issue with their spouse.  I know not everyone is dealing with this kind of situation, but I am curious about if other people’s partners have fear around sex.  Do they worry that letting go in one area will cause bad habits to pop out in another?  I haven’t heard a lot about this, so I’m not sure the best way to support my husband through this.  All I know is that it’s frustrating as hell.

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