My husband is suffering the sexual doldrums of early middle age. Unfortunately, it's a catch-22: you have to be motivated to seek help...but when your sex drive is that low, you really don't care. How can I help him even want to have sex again?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My husband and I are in our mid-forties, married for two decades. No kids. (He got a vasectomy about a decade ago, and I am no longer on the pill.) After all this time, we are very much in love, have always encouraged and supported each other, and are very close emotionally and on each another's wavelength intellectually. However, our sex life has never been quite as good as I would have liked--I love having sex with him and he's all that I think about, but I apparently want it a lot more frequently than he does, which has been frustrating to me.
I realize that part of this may simply be his age. Another part of the problem is that he has been continually under stress for decades--since he started graduate school, actually. He also suffers from depression and has been taking various medications both for that and for high blood pressure (a side effect of the antidepressants) for a couple of years now. Finally, he got tenure and is pretty much at the top of his academic game, which has taken a lot of the pressure off, but it has taken kind of a toll so that now not only does he have trouble getting and staying hard, but he also just doesn't really have much interest in sex anymore.
This, of course, has been very upsetting to me. We've had a number of discussions about it: he assures me that he is indeed attracted to me and likes to watch me undress; he gropes and fondles me frequently when we're alone, whether I'm naked or clothed, and we are very physically affectionate with each other both in private and in public (within the bounds of good taste). It's true that I have gained some weight over the years, but so has he, and he insists that my body is absolutely not the problem. I am fairly sure he is not having any sort of sexual identity crisis; he tells me that he is very straight and has always been. And he is not having an affair with someone else--I am as absolutely certain of this as any wife could reasonably be--he's a good man and has never given me any reason to doubt his commitment to me. I've even asked him, point blank, and he's said no, absolutely not, and I believe him. Our marriage is otherwise very loving and affectionate, and we both look forward to growing old together.
He tells me he's happy to pleasure me, but I can't imagine it's all that interesting for him if he can't get aroused, and if I don't think he's enjoying it, then I don't enjoy it, either. When we do manage to have sex, it's very cut-and-dried--he fondles my clit and tries to get me wet, but I can't really enjoy it much because I'm constantly worried that he's going to lose whatever erection he has, and so is he. He's also lost complete interest in oral sex, which he used to enjoy both giving and receiving.
I had a kind of sit-down, come-to-Jesus talk with him about a month ago and told him that he needed to talk to his doctor about this. He seems to be under the impression that the only option open to him is taking something like Viagra, and he really doesn't want to have to take another medication--and it's not clear to me that Viagra will solve the problem, anyways. But he has agreed to talk to his doctor and ask her opinion. We have both begun exercising and eating better and have become somewhat more physically fit, but so far that doesn't seem to have made much of a difference to his sex drive.
So, in the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what I could possibly do that might help get him in the mood, enjoy sex, possibly get him aroused effectively, without exerting too much pressure on him to perform. I realize that everyone is different and responds to different turn-ons. But have you ever succeeded in coaxing a reluctant erection into existence? What did you do? What helped? I want to do whatever I can to help him enjoy sex again, for both his sake and mine. The Internet is abysmal in this regard--all I'm finding are superficial suggestions like, "Tell him you're not wearing any underwear!" And I'm getting to the point where I'm actually afraid to try anything unusual, because I don't want to face rejection and humiliation.