This is the second in a series of blogs on the topic of husbands with low sexual desire. Yes, that’s right, there are husbands who aren’t interested in sex—statistics suggest about 20% of husbands have sexual desire problems. According to Barry and Emily McCarthy, the authors of Rekindling Desire: A Step-by-Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages, there are many causes of male desire problems, including, but not limited to:
- Pressure for perfect sexual performance
- Fear of pregnancy
- Embarrassment due to sexual dysfunction (e.g., premature ejaculation, erectile difficulties, ejaculatory inhibition)
- Greater confidence with masturbation than with partner sex
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- A way to maintain emotional distance or punish the spouse
- A secret such as a fetish arousal pattern or sexual orientation issue
- Being distracted by work or money concerns
- Being involved with children or extended family to the detriment of couple time
- Not valuing marital sex
- Side effects of medication
- Few spontaneous erections so he is hesitant to initiate sex
- Feeling intimidated by the wife’s sexual desire
- Feeling that it is unmanly to ask for stimulation to facilitate arousal
- Low self-esteem
That’s quite a list, isn’t it? Some of these causes overlap with the causes of female desire problems, such as medication side effects, fear of pregnancy, and depression, while others are unique to men. It helps to “think like a man” when trying to understand why your husband lacks sexual desire. If you try to explain his behavior based solely on reasons why women might lose interest in sex, you may fail to see the true underlying causes for his loss of interest in sex.
Most of the time, sexual desire problems in men are what we call “secondary.” That means he once had sexual desire, but something has changed, and he now has little to no sexual desire. It’s uncommon to see men who have never been interested in sex (that’s called “primary inhibited sexual desire” and it’s more common in females), although it does happen in males. For the purposes of this blog series, I will assume that the husband has secondary inhibited sexual desire: he used to show interest in/want/have sex with you, but now he doesn’t.
As the McCarthy’s explain, “for the great majority of males, the causation is clear—sexual dysfunction results in desire problems.” That means something isn’t working correctly in his sexual functioning, and this difficulty has caused him to lose interest in sex with his wife. Men have three main sexual dysfunctions:
1) Premature ejaculation
2) Erectile dysfunction
3) Ejaculatory inhibition
A typical pattern would include a husband experiencing one of these sexual dysfunctions, followed by worrying that it will happen again (called “anticipatory anxiety”). This anxiety leads to him performing poorly during the next sexual encounter. If this happens repeatedly, he may begin to avoid sex due to embarrassment and failure to perform well. It’s much like what happens when a basketball player misses a few free throw shots. He starts to worry that he will shoot poorly again, and this anticipatory anxiety interferes with his performance the next time he is at the free throw line. He misses more shots, feels ashamed and even more anxious about his next performance which leads to another poor performance. If the damaging cycle continues, he may eventually come to avoid or dislike basketball—a sport he once enjoyed.
According to the McCarthy’s, another pattern for men that can cause sexual desire problems in marriage is called “variant sexual arousal,” which includes:
- Compulsive masturbation (often accompanied by the use of “900” numbers, online sex, or pornography)
- A paraphiliac arousal pattern
- An issue of sexual orientation
Subsequent blogs will address all of the above and how they can lead to a husband who doesn’t want to have sex with his wife. If you would like to read Rekindling Desire, please be aware that it is not a specifically Christian resource and does have a few recommendations that I do not agree with because they are not biblical (e.g., watching erotic movies with your spouse to increase eroticism); however, it is a good resource for husbands or wives who have low sexual desire. The writing style is straightforward with clinical terms, and the book has no objectionable photos or drawings.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions.