Can this marriage be saved?
September 4, 2014 11:08 PM   Subscribe

I am a 35-year-old female, my husband is 44. We are having issues with mismatched libidos, but it goes deeper than that.

So, about a year+ ago, I totally lost my libido. Like, not on my radar at all. I thought, okay, it's a phase, it'll pass. In the past, I've been the one with the higher drive, but since my husband started testosterone supplements, his drive is much higher than it was. Well, this phase is not passing, and in fact is getting worse. I actively dislike it when he touches or kisses me skeeves me out. I resent when he gropes me or whatever because it feels objectifying. It just seems that I'm not attracted to him anymore, full stop. We haven't had sex in a couple of months, and it's all I can do to give him a handjob every now and then.

He does NOT know the extent to which this has gone, he just thinks that my sex drive is gone and hates it. I hate it too but I have no idea what to do. I do still love him, but it's more of a "friend" sort of feeling, not a "romantic" kind of love. I brought up the idea of couples counseling the other day, and he didn't know what to think about that. He actually said, "Why?" Well, DUH, things are terrible. But if he doesn't know now and we go to counseling, he will undoubtedly find out and I would feel even more terrible than I already do, which would be a neat trick because I already feel like the worst person in the world.

We have experimented with polyamory/swinging in the past, and met another couple last year that we thought would be a good match; around that time is when I lost my libido, though, so things didn't progress. We're still friends with them, and I know he's attracted to the woman. I would be FINE if they had a thing so he could have an outlet, but the husband of this couple is sort of a douche who resents that his wife has multiple partners and he can't find anyone. So, for now at least, that's off the table. And he hasn't had any luck finding anyone else.

Our sex life has never been stellar...I hold some resentment about that, I admit. I feel that he's never been super-responsive to what I want. He claims to be, and will do what I need for a little while, but there's never any follow-through. He also has issues with premature ejaculation that have not ever improved...he'll start "working on it" but again, no follow-through.

Also, since he started the testosterone supplementation (which was definitely a necessary thing, based on his test results), he's been more angry. He's always been a mellow person who will suddenly snap and go ballistic...I hate it and have talked to him about it MANY times, but it still happens. But now it just seems even worse. He shoved me once when we were arguing, even. He's just not all that fun to be with a lot of the time anymore. He snaps at our kids and then feels bad about it, but when he feels bad, he withdraws and doesn't do anything to make it better.

So, I have no idea what to do, but this is all eating away at me. Is this fixable? Could this still be a phase? Is counseling a good idea? (I know AskMe always says yes to this) I don't want to split up, I want to fix this because I do love him.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1. You see a doctor to fix your libido
2. He sees his doctor to fix his dosage so he isn't so angry
3. You tell him how bad it is
4. You go to couples counseling

Screwing other people will solve no issues at this point.
posted by flimflam at 11:23 PM on September 4, 2014 [32 favorites]

My understanding (and direct experience, TBH) is that testosterone supplementation makes people scary.

I don't know about the rest.

I would not be OK with my spouse snapping at me or our children. That alone would be reason for altering the testosterone prescription, seeing a counselor, and it would DEFINITELY be a libido killer for me.

posted by jbenben at 11:48 PM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I honestly just wish I could give you a big hug right now. Seriously.

I know you are hurting, and I want to let you know before anything else that you are not alone. I have struggled through very nearly this exact problems myself. Really! I even was, like you, perfectly happy with the idea of my husband having sex with someone else, and even suggested it to him, but that is not the kind of relationship we have.

In my case, surgical menopause was the culprit for my lack of libido. I used to be a high sex drive person by nature, so it was a major shift, very noticeable, and one I just couldn't accept. I felt like it had to be connected to my hormones, and I was right. As in my case, this can be a physical issue, though emotional factors are tied into it all because you feel guilty, which makes you depressed, and the depression makes everything worse. Sucks, doesn't it? If you feel like you are detached and rather than getting turned on by porn, or whatever, you are observing sex like something aliens engage in now? Yeah, that could be hormonal.

What I did, and strongly suggest you do too, was go to my ob/gyn. Get your hormones checked, talk to your doctor about possible physical causes. I have a very good, progressive doctor, and thankfully he listened to me and didn't just dismiss my concerns, but that was not easy to do. Even now it is not easy. I want to be upfront about that. I have had my HRT adjusted SO many times to try to get it right! Interestingly enough, if you are like me, at some point you might even be put on (very low levels of testosterone) yourself, just like your husband.

Which brings me to this: the only major difference I can pinpoint between you and me is that my husband was not taking testosterone, and he's never shoved me. And that yours did is simply NOT okay, no matter what he is taking, and he should know that! So him not understanding why you would want to go to counseling is kinda unbelievable. It is also Just Not Acceptable, period.

So you also have to stand up for yourself and try not to feel so guilty about what you are going through. I know that is easier to say than do, but you have just as much right to a satisfying sex life as your husband does. Feeling no desire is not normal for you. You are already feeling objectified--stop giving him handjobs and start looking for a good therapist instead! If the libido issue you are having is not physical (or not JUST physical), counseling might very well help your sex life, too. A counsellor can help you figure out how to get your own emotional and physical needs met. Your husband should be on board with that, if he wants a happy sex life and a happy marriage too. may ultimately decide that this relationship is not meeting your needs. I have to say that, from what you've written, it sounds like your husband is not giving you the understanding and support you need, and your lack of libido could be related to you reacting to that on some level. A counselor can help you decide what to do if that is the case, too.

Good luck, OP. Mefimail me if you just want to talk to someone who understands, okay?
posted by misha at 11:58 PM on September 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

Wow. This is a very challenging situation indeed. I know how hard it is as I go though the same thing with my husband. We've struggled with mismatched drives off and on the whole time we've been together, our roles flip flop now and then, so I've been on both sides of it.

Most recently hubs was ready to roll and I wasn't feeling it. He totally skeeved me out the same way you're saying. He started to get really short/cranky with me all the time. Finally, I just leveled with him. The next tantrum he had I responded like this: in a completely unemotional tone, "Baby, I love you, but your attitude is total bullshit. I need to know what is happening here because you're obviously pissed off and I have no clue how to help with this." I think the blunt approach kindof floored him (granted, it my not work on every man, but it was highly out of my norm, so I think it got his attention.) he thought for a second and let me know that he was feeling super criticized and rejected, not just in the sack, but everywhere. He was right, I wasn't listening to him at all recently, nor was I being very respectful of his ideas either. It make him act like a dick and the cycle perpetuated. Of course all this was exasperated by his stress from a recent promotion and work and his discontinuation of anti-anxiety meds (which messes with libido pretty badly). After talking, I realized that I needed to go easy on him and help him feel better about himself and consider how I spoke to him more. It took practice, and I'm still really skilled at messing it up, but it has improved. Once we got to talking and he didn't feel so defensive, I let him now that the angry outbursts (I think of them as tantrums, I don't say that to his face though) were unacceptable and they needed to stop. I let him know that he was not coping well since being off his meds and I let him know that he needed to go back of them. He did not want to try couples therapy, but talking to the doc about his raging was way less intimidating for him I guess. (He is apprehensive about couples therapy because he thinks the counselor and me will gang up on him). Things have been getting better in the last dew months. We do have to make a conscious effort to improve the sex...which requires lots of practice. hubs was pretty direct with me on this front and let me know, hey I'm gonna be premature if I get it on infrequently. It seems like a perfectly reasonable statement. At first I had to force myself into it, but one of the reasons my aversion was so strong was because of the pressure I felt to perform. Try to consciously diminish the pressure and this will help if you're patient with it.

Bottom line: have him talk to the doc about the libido thing . . Maybe he needs antidepressants. Is the testosterone really necessary in the dosage he is taking, ect.? Remind him that no solution needs to permanent, try something for awhile and if it works, great! If it doesn't work, just be prepared to try something else.

Good idea to avoid screwing other people at this point, you guys are too Vulnerable right now for that complication. Best of luck!
posted by neanderloid at 12:01 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

First off...shoving is NOT OKAY with a capital NOT OKAY.

For anything to work, you have to feel safe in telling him how you feel about things and if violence is something that can still happen in an argument with him, then you can't feel free to tell him.

So you both need to see your respective doctors. His to evaluate the T's effect on his mood and you to see if there's a medical reason behind the drop in your libido. Then you can work on opening up to him in a more safe way with the benefit of a counselor. .

If he balks at that, then you don't have a partner who cares about your needs and you have to decide if that's enough to leave. I think it is.
posted by inturnaround at 12:03 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

So, about a year+ ago, I totally lost my libido.

That's not normal and warrants seeing a doctor. Sudden loss of libido can be a symptom for a serious underlying condition. So please go get checked out.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:59 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I was in your position (down to being skeeved when he touched me) and we ended up getting divorced. But one of the things you can do (other than the suggestions above, which are all good) may be to tell him that he needs to touch you more - but when he is not expecting or intending sex. It might not be the situation for you, but for me I got so skeeved because the only time he touched me was when he wanted sex. It set up this Pavlovian response where I knew that he wanted sex when he would put a hand on me and it triggered innate revulsion at being treated like a fleshlight.

Because that is not something he is going to want to hear, it might be easier to deal with in the context of couple's counseling. Although shoving you is completely unacceptable and you also need to talk to him about the mood changes on his new drug - you should not tolerate physical violence even if you do love him.
posted by winna at 1:08 AM on September 5, 2014 [11 favorites]

Testosterone supplementation is a serious therapy that takes awhile to get right. It sounds like he needs his levels adjusted. Insist on this. He should not be taking so much that he is angry all the time. Typically, a woman cannot feel sexy if she also feels afraid. Swinging should be off the table. There is nothing less romantic than sharing your partner with someone else. And really, if he can't satisfy you, why subject any other poor woman to that?
The testosterone could be changing his natural smell, which could be affecting your attraction to him. Which is another reason his dosage should be adjusted. Ask him if you can go with him to his next appointment to discuss your concerns. If his doctor blows you off, find another doctor. I've observed that testosterone therapy only works well in men who take charge of their own research and figure out their proper dosage. His smell may be improved if he can sweat it out daily. If he isn't already working out, encourage him to do so.
posted by myselfasme at 1:55 AM on September 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

He's always been a mellow person who will suddenly snap and go ballistic...I hate it and have talked to him about it MANY times, but it still happens. But now it just seems even worse. He shoved me once when we were arguing, even.

No, this marriage cannot be saved.
posted by Gray Skies at 9:04 AM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

He shoved me once when we were arguing

Let me guess: he did not shove you in the middle of some very public place with a lot of other men present who could have stepped in and held him accountable? No. Of course not. Instead he picked the time and place to batter you, somewhere private, where you were defenseless. No, it did not just happen at random, OP.

Your husband picked the time and place to batter you. "The testosterone" did not do this. He did. He alone is responsible for his actions.

If you decide to stay with this man, then be prepared to be shoved again. And again. And then punched. Raped? Who knows how far this will go? It will get worse. Your children will be his next targets - he will escalate from the emotional abuse. You know this. Stop ignoring what your healthy inner voice has been trying to tell you. Get away from this man. That's what your body has been desperately trying to tell you - ever since it picked up on this ("he's never been super-responsive to what I want. He claims to be, and will do what I need for a little while, but there's never any follow-through.") Deep down you know it, too.

Your "libido" is not the problem. Your problem is you are married to an abusive asshole.
posted by hush at 11:44 AM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'll never say a marriage has a 0% chance of being saved, but the one who needs to do the majority of the work to save it here is your husband, I think, so take that as you will. It doesn't sound like he is romantically interested in you either; sexual interest isn't the same thing.

If you are physically repulsed by his touch, and then he responds to the suggestion of counseling with "why?", seems like he must be dense as hell.
posted by agress at 12:26 PM on September 5, 2014

From the OP:
To answer a couple of things:

I did ask my PCP about this the last time I was in. I asked whether I could have my hormone levels checked because this is out of control. Her response was that it wouldn't matter because in women it doesn't correlate, or some bullshit like that. I know it's bullshit, and I will likely be switching doctors, but this is where I am now. I don't think the hormones are the complete answer, though, because I'm able to be aroused by porn or fantasies and do masturbate (infrequently).

Regarding the shoving. Many of you focused in on that and I can't say I blame you. However, I don't believe he is abusive. I do think he has a problem expressing anger/frustration properly, though, and is something that needs serious work.

He is due for a retest of his testosterone levels soon, and depending on what that shows, we may explore reducing the dosage or even eliminating it.

Thank you to those who have answered so far!
posted by mathowie at 1:16 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're considering counseling for other issues and libido is just part of it, I think that the other issues will have to get closer to resolution before you can expect your libido to return. Libidos often need a satisfying emotional and mental connection as well as a sense of safe space to thrive. If there are problems in the marriage and they're coupled with a more angry partner, there can't be an expectation that the libido will be fine.

From what you described above, it sounds like your husband doesn't feel like it's a priority to consistently meet your clearly stated needs. The lack of follow-through in that department is pretty troubling. If you're interested in saving the marriage, I think you're going to have to prioritize being honest about being unhappy and not be so concerned about hurting your husband's feelings with the truth of the matter. Counseling can help with this as long as you both are honest and committed to making changes. If your husband isn't committed to real and lasting changes past getting more sex, I'm not so hopeful. You're not the bad guy in this marriage; you're the unhappy guy. There is a difference. Don't beat yourself up about it.
posted by quince at 1:44 PM on September 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

A "problem expressing anger/frustration" that results in snapping and shoving is exactly abusive.

I have no idea if testosterone supplementation normally has that type of effects and to what extent this completely and totally fucking unacceptable action might be slightly mitigated by it, but if I lived with someone and they shoved me I would not live with them anymore FORGET have sex with them. (Been there and done that, actually. I speak from experience.)
posted by celtalitha at 3:12 PM on September 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

This testosterone thing is scaring the shit out of me here. Did your husband act like this before he went on it? Or was he always kinda angry and push-y? Because while I think both you and your husband desperately need some hormonal adjustment, I also wonder if you are turned off by him because he's behaving like an asshole. I wouldn't want to fuck a guy who pushes me around and yells at me either.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:03 PM on September 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Regarding the shoving. Many of you focused in on that and I can't say I blame you. However, I don't believe he is abusive.

You don't think he's abusive because your judgment is impaired and/or you are delusional. There is no "however" here.

I'm sorry to be so blunt, OP, and I mean no disrespect. I was with a guy who shoved me once. I didn't want to believe it was abuse either. I looked up but did not call the number for an abuse hotline. Then he did it again. I left.

Many people, like you, experience abuse but don't think it's abuse. That's because you need help - therapy and/or an intervention.

Good luck.
posted by Gray Skies at 6:20 PM on September 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your libido is talking to you and what it is saying is you don't feel safe around this man.

THAT is what HE needs to fix before y'all worry about the sex.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:24 PM on September 5, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think you're afraid of him to some degree now and you're angry that he's never really taken your needs seriously - it's always been all about him. I think those hurts have been fermenting for some time and your libido was wavering, but when he went on the testosterone and began beating his chest and dragging his knuckles (joke) you went into full recoil because you could see no reason to hope he'd ever start caring enough about your needs - ever. Then when he gets angry and snaps and went so far as to push you, you've actually become afraid of what he might do next time.

No sex, no intimacy, no nothing with your husband. I'm so sorry - I feel very sad about your situation, but honestly I don't see anything except something worse coming around the next corner unless you can get both of you - willingly - into real therapy and complete medical checkups for both of you (YOU ESPECIALLY - to rule out anything physical causing the fall in your libido) - unless you can both walk into therapy with a commitment to get to a point of caring and intimacy and respect and trust with each other, you just don't have a marriage to save.

I think you probably already know this, and divorce is such a hassle, but here's the thing: You just might find your new life without the fear and frustration to be a joy and an opportunity for happiness that will surprise you.
posted by aryma at 4:00 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please do not call the OP delusional or berate her for her own perceptions. Jeez.

OP, you're right, it probably isn't hormonal, based on your update, but a new doctor sounds like a great idea because that one does not exactly sound informed and compassionate. Damn.

It sounds like you are saying that anger has always been an issue for your spouse, and that has bothered you, but only after the testosterone did it lead to shoving,,right? I am getting the impression from what you've written here that he has been pretty dominant in this relationship overall, but you also feel like that was because you contributed to that dynamic with your own choices. Like maybe if you weighed his needs and your needs, yours might come in second, but that is because you are a giving person by nature, anyway.

And you are trying to be fair in looking at that, and saying something along the lines of this:

Marriage involves compromise, and when you aren't in the marriage it looks different from the outside. Other people don't know US, really. And I don't mind putting his needs first, that's what you do when you love someone. He just cares more about some stuff than I do; he wouldn't get so worked up unless it was important to him. The anger, I don't like that, it just wears me out. So it's easier on me, too, sometimes, to just let some stuff go. I want him to be happy, anyway. And, hey, when I did? Everything would be better. He was happier, and then he would make an extra effort, too..."

Am I close at all ?

So now, you feel this resentment, and you are kinda blown away by how angry YOU are inside. You feel guilty about that anger and resentment--he's on testosterone, he has an excuse,,and ou don't really have anything specific to point to. You have no libido, either, suddenly, and you feel guilty about THAT, too. And you don't want to hurt your partner's feelings, but you are having this physical reaction of shrinking AES from him, almost one of revulsion.

These do all sound like they are tied together, you know. I mean, when you wrote this question, on some level you must feel they are, too, because you chose these details to share with us, right?

I have another suggestion for you. Please look at this page on Pleasers and Controllers and this one on Manipulation in Relationships. There's a tendency for pleasers to couple up with manipulative people, and over time the relationship can do a real number on your self-esteem if you are the pleaser in that equation. Resentment happens over time as a self-defense mechanism.

If you can relate to that, please, please do find a therapist or counselor YOU can talk to, at least. I worry that you are letting yourself disappear in this relationship.
posted by misha at 11:02 AM on September 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

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