Sexual needs in a relationship
June 12, 2019 6:45 AM   Subscribe

Your partner's libido is not as high as yours, what do you do?

My wife and I are together for more than 12 years. We have 2 kids, a good relationship and everything else that's "standard" in a family.
I'm more into sport and I'm working out (swim, bike, run, strength) every day.
My wife doesn't do anything, she's another type of person.

Me being more active, I kind of always had more sexual needs, hence me initiating most of our intercourse, activities and so on.
I do masturbate when I can't handle it anymore but, guys/girls - what do you do when your partner's libido is not as high as yours?

posted by passionate to Human Relations (35 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

I talk to them about it. I'm working through this book with my new partner right now and date 3 is a frank conversation about sex.

I'm curious what exactly this means. "My wife doesn't do anything, she's another type of person." If you mean just exercise or... more generally. It sounds dismissive and judgmental to me. If it isn't, cool. If it is... I would look inside why you feel that way about your partner and how else you might be expressing it.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 6:54 AM on June 12, 2019 [7 favorites]

Thanks for your answer. Will look at that book.

That comment was about physical activity, not in general. I've read many times that exercising increases your libido, not sure if this is true though and if this is actually why I want it more often.
posted by passionate at 7:03 AM on June 12, 2019

If you love her, express it in ways that work for her. I'm guessing her list of these items is longer than "intercourse."

This is the difficult work that makes things easy in the long run. It may lead to more intimacy, if that is in the cards, but almost certainly it will make a better relationship.
posted by Glomar response at 7:17 AM on June 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

In my experience as a woman who's read a bunch about this, it is not likely that if your wife exercised more she'd want to have sex with you more often, no. It's super common for women to want less marital sex than men; that's why that whole "not tonight honey I have a headache" thing is such an old chestnut, and it isn't a function of exercise. (It's not exactly the question you asked but it could be helpful for you to know that this isn't something that she can solve by going to Zumba.) I'm sorry I don't know the answer to the question about coping.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:18 AM on June 12, 2019 [17 favorites]

For the record, my husband exercises every day of the week for 2+ hours and his libido has always been very very low. So get the correlation between physical activity and sex drive out of your mind and especially any conversation you have with your wife.

The only way to handle this is to talk it through and even then it's very difficult. I haven't found a good solution to this problem in my marriage yet either, even after talking frankly about it. Sometimes there's just a mismatch and, unless you can make your peace with that, there's always going to be some longing for more. Masturbation doesn't help me because what I'm craving is not an orgasm, it's sexual connection.

Therapy does help me, though, but only because it's getting me to understand that my desire for more sex is legitimate and not selfish.
posted by lydhre at 7:19 AM on June 12, 2019 [8 favorites]

Everything I've read about couples and sex points to women having a greater list of household and child related tasks that push intimacy further down the list.
One way to approach this could be seeing if there are things you could do to make your home more equitable.
posted by k8t at 7:22 AM on June 12, 2019 [101 favorites]

Exercise (especially lifting) slightly increases testosterone in everyone, also endorphins, and it’s known to have an anti-depressant effect. My experience has been that yes, if everything else is equal, it does increase libido. If everything else is not equal - per k8t, or if there are grievances or resentments related to imbalance anywhere else, it probably won’t help. But the exercise factor doesn’t matter if your SO doesn’t actually want to exercise, that’s her choice, not much you can do about that (and I don’t suggest pushing her that way if she’s not inclined!). So it’s really down to communication. This is probably a thing a therapist could help with.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:32 AM on June 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

One way to approach this could be seeing if there are things you could do to make your home more equitable.

If this is a thing that's affecting your relationship, understand that this is not a chores for sex arrangement. This is a "rework your mental framework entirely so that you are not treating your wife like a maid/mommy and she may be able to rework her mental framework so that you're a viable sexual partner again, but this is a radical change for most people and it takes time and a tremendous amount of effort". This is neurochemical, in a way that most men don't seem to experience so vividly, and it also just sucks to be treated that way by the human being you thought was going to respect and care about you, so once that seal is broken it's a lot of work to get back to a partnership state.

I will say, as a fat woman who has been complained about in a hundred subtle ways, it sure sounds like one of your complaints is that she's fat, and if you can't get past that she will know.

I think in the most successful monogamous mismatched-libido partnerships I know, the higher-speed person is allocated some private space and time (usually their own bedroom or bedroom/office, if there's enough space for that) for as elaborate a masturbation practice as they want. A lot of people give well-meaning advice like "maybe your wife" but for a lot of people it's traumatic and humiliating to be forced to perform sex acts outside of arousal, so I think that kind of thing is Advanced Intimacy stuff to work up to if she's amenable but you can't just demand it. For a lot of people, that first step of acknowledging openly that one person has a freestanding solo sexual existence can open additional doors of discussion and break the tension of Not Talking About This.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2019 [49 favorites]

I'm more into sport and I'm working out (swim, bike, run, strength) every day. My wife doesn't do anything, she's another type of person.

Is she by any chance the "type of person" who, while you are expending all of this leisure time, is doing more than 50% of the cleaning, cooking, shopping, homework, kid ferrying, doctor appointment making, and child wrangling?

I kind of always had more sexual needs, hence me initiating most of our intercourse, activities and so on.

Does "activities and so on" include talking to her about her day, telling her she looks nice, being affectionate outside of the bedroom, and generally reaffirming her value to you?

I do masturbate when I can't handle it anymore

Why only then? Masturbation is perfectly healthy. Your sexual relationship with yourself has exists outside of your sexual relationship with your wife, who is not an alternative to masturbation.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:39 AM on June 12, 2019 [86 favorites]

I gave this some more thought... I also think reading Come as You Are is helpful for men as well as women. And I forget if it's that book or another that describes for people feeling "sexy" and "in the mood" is often a process and not a switch that's flipped. I am a man with a high sex drive, but I often don't feel like it until I'm kind of nudged into it (either by myself or my partner). Touching, kissing, complimenting, an act of service, showing off are all ways that a partner can encourage that in me at least. (I am actively doing these things as well but tailored to her because I love when I see a genuine spark of spontaneous joy.)

So if "Want to bone?" isn't working, try other things. I know long relationships get kind of bogged down in the day-to-day but I think a continual effort to delight your partner (in any way!) will be seen and appreciated. I don't mean in a I did this now I deserve sex way, but I think that appreciation will encourage more intimacy.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 7:44 AM on June 12, 2019 [11 favorites]

My libido fell when my non-sexual and then sexual needs were not being met.

Non-sexual: is your house clean, does your wife do most of the labour in the house, does she feel secure and taken care of? Is your bedroom a welcoming space? Have you given her time to herself?

Sexual: are you doing anything to *inspire* desire in your wife? Why should she desire to sleep with you? Are you groomed well? Do you take care of all her senses? Have you read any book on female desire and pleasure? Do you take the energy you normally use for learning a new skill, and apply it to making your wife feel sexy or to you giving her earth-shattering orgasms?

From anecdotal experience, her libido is not dead, but it's been deadened. She can't spontaneously desire you. You're going to have to work for it and it should be something you want to do for both of your sakes.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 7:45 AM on June 12, 2019 [30 favorites]

Building on K8t’s excellent comment, another specific thing to think about is whether your life is set up in a way where your wife feels equally able to make time for herself the way you make time for exercise. Many people have a hard time taking time for themselves and an even harder time when they have caregiving responsibilities such that there is always more they can do for others. Over time this can really hollow a person out and make things like intimacy hard. If you think this could be happening with your wife, try to find ways to tell her how much you appreciate being able to exercise and let her know that you want to step up so your family can find the space for her to have time for whatever it is that will help her feel a similar connection to herself. Be aware, that since there are only 24 hours in a day, this will likely mean you have to make changes to your own schedule, so be sure you are actually willing to do that work before brining this up.
posted by ElizaMain at 7:46 AM on June 12, 2019 [10 favorites]

As a woman who's been on your side of the problem, I'm wondering if you're asking because there's been any kind of change in the situation that you're responding to -- you say that your libido has kind of always been higher, but has the difference always been great enough to be a problem? If you are responding to a change, I think it might be a good idea to think about counseling. Possibly the problem is along the lines suggested by other people already (roughly, that you need to put more effort and attention into caregiving within the relationship), or maybe there's something else going on. But a significant change is worth going to a marriage counselor over, if you can't get it figured out by just talking with her.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:46 AM on June 12, 2019

I avoid agreeing to monogamy. Incompatible sex drives isn’t the MAIN reason why, but sex is enormously important to me and no one is obligated to provide it to me, so it’s definitely relevant. If this is important to you and you’ve tried the obvious things to increase her interest, renegotiating your arrangement may be in order.
posted by metasarah at 7:48 AM on June 12, 2019 [4 favorites]

When I exercise my mood gets better and my libido goes up (like, a lot!)
Speaking as a woman.
Conversation and making sure her needs are met in various aspects of life will also help.
What turns her on? (Don't answer here)
Have fun
posted by PistachioRoux at 7:50 AM on June 12, 2019

I'm more sexually needy in our relationship than my husband. Ways we've worked on this problem have included changing the definition of what "Sex" is. We also have the "I could eat" rule in place. ie Sometimes you're not hungry but if someone starts cooking something that smells good around you, you could eat. If one of us feels like sex & tries to initiate with the other the other person has three options, yes,no or I could eat.

Basically they're happy to invest in some foreplay to see if they could be transitioned to a yes (ie they could eat if someone cooks up something they find tempting). If for whatever reason (they're tired, not really in the mood etc) when things are ready to ramp up a notch if they're not in the mood to continue to full blown PIV they might be up for some mutual masturbation, snuggling while one of us solo masturbates, oral sex or or even giving the partner a kiss & leaving them to their solo pursuits. This only works if both partners understand the no is to sex at that time in that place, not a rejection of the partner. By expanding our definition of sex to basically mean intimacy of this sort both of us are happier, we both feel less rejected by a no as we understand it's not a rejection of the intimacy or the person, just sometimes, no matter how much you love a dish, you might not feel like eating right then & there.

Edited to add. The others comments on libido being tied to other needs not being met is super important & needs to be addressed before anything I've suggested would work as it needs to come from a place of trust in the other person.
posted by wwax at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2019 [52 favorites]

I agree with other commenters that it sounds like while you are out being active, she is probably doing housework, childcare, and various other emotional labor. You sound weirdly resentful that she doesn’t exercise the same way you do (surely she doesn’t do “nothing”, her energy is probably expended managing the household), and if she’s picked up on this criticism, then of course she won’t be interested in sex.

There is no quick fix for this. You need to have a conversation with her about if there’s something in the relationship she’s unhappy with because that is most likely the root of the problem.
posted by a strong female character at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

I remember reading something about the interplay of oxytocin and dopamine in sexual relationships.

Dopamine comes with novelty and excitement. Oxytocin comes with companionate love and bonding. It comes with safety.

Often women feel less sexual desire as oxytocin increases, but paradoxically may also need the security and stability that triggers it.

So I totally agree that you need to look at division of labor. My husband can have a bad headache or a cold and still want sex. For me the sex comes way down the list after other needs being met. I need to feel desired. I need to not feel like mom. I need to not feel like made, chauffeur, supplies manager, etc.

But I also need to feel some novelty. Some spice. I need to be surprised. Marital sex can get so boring and routine. I need to see my spouse in a new light. I need to not ever feel like HIS mother/secretary. I need leisure time and I need my partner to proactively work at closing the leisure gap without reminding from me. Volunteer to do bedtime and tell me to go do something nice/fun/relaxing for myself. Draw a bubble bath for me and say he's got bedtime for all the kids. Tell me the night before a weekend that I should sleep in the next morning and he will get the kids AND TAKE THEM SOMEWHERE so I have the house to myself. To tell me I've got them until noon, enjoy yourself. Literally make it impossible for the kids to still come at me with their needs, while he comes at me or texts wanting to know where supplies are located. Just go away and let me just be responsible for myself for a few hours. Otherwise I am perpetually too exhausted and then sex just becomes one more persons neediness getting met regardless of what I might need.

Love languages are big here as well. Do you know your spouse's? Mine are words of affirmation and quality time. But quality time can't happen until all the domestic and parenting crap has been accomplished. I can't concentrate on a "date night" if the to do list is niggling at me.

Also, I need to hear something about innermost thoughts, feelings and dreams. I need emotional openness and vulnerability. My spouse laughs at how well his vulnerability turns me on and says that it is SO different for men. So maybe if your spouse isn't physical she is more abstract, more in the imaginative realm, and might respond better to something like this.

I'm not your wife and don't know if she works like me a little or a lot. But I am offering more food for thought that may inform future communication between you.
posted by crunchy potato at 8:11 AM on June 12, 2019 [35 favorites]

Me being more active, I kind of always had more sexual needs

Regardless of the housework situation, I'd resist thinking about it in these terms.

First off, it just doesn't work this way. I've definitely been in relationships where my partner was less active than me but had a higher libido. I've gone through dramatic changes in physical activity and not had my libido change. I've gone through changes in libido while my physical activity stayed the same. There might be a little bit of correlation, but one doesn't determine the other.

And second off, thinking that way makes it seem like your wife's fault. "Oh, if only she'd get up and do more physically, she'd be more interested in sex." Not only is that likely to be false, but I imagine it's probably fostering resentment, by making the low-libido life out to be something she's choosing by staying indoors.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:26 AM on June 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

I would ask how much time your wife gets every day to do things for herself, and how equitable that is when compared with the amount of time you go to the gym every day. There is likely something there to work on and it would surprise me if it didn't have direct impact on your sex life, after a time.
posted by sockermom at 8:28 AM on June 12, 2019 [19 favorites]

It's rough. I feel for you. I also think there's a lot of great advice in the thread above. My partner and I read the book about love languages and I think it was, if nothing else, a great framework to discuss how we feel about sex and love and domestic life. Things change over time. What worked 12 years ago, maybe doesn't work now. Your needs from 12 years ago are different. On a cellular level, you are a different human than you were 12 years ago. Taking a big step back and re-evaluating your relationship and needs and goals and desires at this point in your life is a great thing to do. A needed thing to do. I urge you to think about how you can spearhead this conversation and this transition to a new part of your journey together. Getting some of these books, stating that you are frustrated but want to start fresh, being open about what your needs for sex and intimacy are and then being open to hearing what your wife has to say is probably the place you need to be right now.

A lot of people are saying already that if you don't do enough to contribute, your "fair share" or more (because we all feel like what we are burdened with is so very difficult) that your wife will likely have less energy for you. A lot of moms get their "me time" after the kids go to bed. But if there's another obligation in the bedroom, it can really just kill their spirit. But, so, men think: I will step up and do more! And then maybe they get more sex. But maybe not. Because, guess what, in those scenarios, the other partner is already doing so much! If her sexual needs are lower and she's contributing huge amounts of domestic labor, what does she get for all that effort? Does she get respect for her sexual needs?

But really, this is a conversation that you two need to have openly. Books can help to frame the discussion and take some of the pressure off. Include in that topic masturbation. Masturbation is different than sex with your wife, but it's not weird or lesser or a sad substitute. It's a totally different thing and you should work on removing the shame you feel around it and enjoy it for what it is. Your wife is not a masturbation device. And masturbation should not be a shameful, last ditch thing that you do when you are desperate.
posted by amanda at 8:58 AM on June 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

First, yes, masturbate more because there is nothing wrong with your level of desire, and expecting or requiring another person to fulfill whatever level of desire you have is...problematic. It seems that you recognize that, but we can't really tell from your question what activities you're engaging in to initiate.

So, second, if you're nagging your partner, or making subtle or snide remarks about your differing libidos, stop doing those things. They don't help.

Third, demonstrate to your partner that she is more to you than a sexual vessel for your lopsided desires. Email her funny articles you find. Remind her of your first date and why it was special or awkward or whatever it was. Take her out for dinner. Spend a week consciously, genuinely, and enthusiastically thanking her for every thing she does for you/your home/your family. (bathroom is clean? "Thanks honey." dinner is made or procured? "I appreciate that, this is delicious." Dry cleaning got picked up "wow, it's really great to have all this clean stuff to choose from, thanks!") Make yourself busy being a parent if you have kids, a caretaker of your home. Spend so much energy on laundry and meal planning and remembering to wash the bath towels before they stink that you are too tired for sex. All of that might take you 50% of the way there. Seriously, go check out a home maintenance and cleaning list for the what and how often. Sheets. Sheets get washed every week, maybe every two weeks. Kitchen counters get wiped down possibly many times a day. Toilets get scrubbed a lot. I get that it's really easy to say "I don't notice that it needs doing" But it has to be done before it's visible. When most people are able to notice, the stuff is really stuck on there and it's a lot more work to get it off.

Fourth, one thousand percent yes to making space for her to be a full and complete person and not presenting her as a person who "does nothing" even if you are sure you meant to say "doesn't work out as much as I do in an organized physical activity setting." She is probably doing a ton of bending, lifting, walking, and other activity that is real even if it's not concentrated in one two hour burst.

Fifth, yes to the Five Love Languages (it does have some heteronormative and other problems but focuses on the reality that if you and your partner don't have the same love languages you have to use theirs to show your love to them) Does she like getting flowers, other gifts? Does she like having her feet rubbed or her hair washed in a bath with no expectation from you that it will lead to any sex act? Does she like getting voicemails or little love notes? Would she enjoy a long walk with you or a quiet nighttime picnic? Would she like you to do the grocery shopping without choosing to call her one to a dozen times to ask Which brand of spaghetti sauce she likes, was she serious about organic apples, they're TWICE THE PRICE? What are chicken quarters? Why are you getting three kinds of cheese?
posted by bilabial at 9:34 AM on June 12, 2019 [9 favorites]

Something else you might try, depending on what she likes in bed, is offering to do whatever that is without reciprocation if relevant. Go down on her for 15 minutes and then give her a massage; intercourse until she's done and then stop; etc. I've had partners with whom sex is WORK because they take a long time to come and it requires me to either put in significant effort or be very bored while they're pounding away at me or whatever. If this is relevant to her, doing this for a while might get her more generally interested in sex so eventually she'd be more game for the kind of sex you like.
posted by metasarah at 9:42 AM on June 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

What's the division of labour in your household? Or what about self-actualization... does your partner have a career (or whatever) where she feels like she's moving forward?
posted by JamesBay at 10:15 AM on June 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Masturbate. More often.
posted by Neekee at 10:15 AM on June 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dude, you swim, bike, run, and strength train? Unless you're doing very little of each, that must take up a significant portion of your waking hours. I swim and run and have to get up at 5:30 to be able to fit both into my day. I'm guessing that, like my wife, yours is spending a significant amount of that time you get to spend on yourself and your interests on the kids and keeping your family "standard." I basically consider any time mrs. allkindsoftime has the energy and zest for intimacy to be a pleasant surprise, FWIW.

Have you ever spent a full day at home caring for the kids instead of working out and going to work? Serious question. I have done this for our kid and it is HARD. FUCKING. WORK.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:11 AM on June 12, 2019 [28 favorites]

"what do you do when your partner's libido is not as high as yours?"

In the dynamic that you shared (we need more info: Does she work outside of home? Who takes care of kids and household?) you could try this:

Every morning upon waking up:
1. Smile at her, tell her she is so beautiful in the mornings, tell her you are so lucky to be waking up next to her, other applicable compliments.
2. Ask her: "What can I do today to make your day better?" Ask this every morning.
3. Do that thing, and more. If she sais grocery shopping - do that, and do food prep as well, buy her a little treat not on the list. If she sais taking the trash out - take the trash out, put in the new bag, mop the kitchen floor, make a mental note when new bags will need to be bought, and do that. If she sais massage - give her the best massage you can, and then sort laundry while she is resting.
4. Wash all toilets and all bathtubs and sinks in the house with bleach, until they are spotless, every week, as a rule, without being asked. Make it your thing.
5. Take her out to dinner. On days when she cooked, do all dishes - wash, dry, put away - all stages. Learn how to cook her favorite things and do that a couple of times a week, starting with making the grocery list with which you will go shop for ingredients.
6. Tell her randomly "Damn, you are so hot!" "You are so sexy, I couldn't help thinking about your sexy ... or ... or ... all day long today." Give her a quick kiss on the neck when passing her by. Give her a warm hug. All of these without any groping, and without any expectations of sex.
7. Ask her about her day. Think how the things that happened in her day must have made her feel. Let her know you understand. Think of ways you could make her days better without her having to ask.
8. Tell her how much you appreciate her. Every day.
9. Send her a mid-day text from work with words "I miss you!" Hug and hold her (not sexually) when you reunite at the end of the day.
10. Do you know what she likes in bed? If yes, do that, and expand on that. If not - FIND OUT.

This could be a good start?
posted by LakeDream at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2019 [32 favorites]

I've been on both sides of this dynamic (same relationship, a marriage of over 43 years, kid-raising, parent-tending, mid-life crises, grad school, etc.), and all the suggestions are good. I'm a competitive athlete, and that really took time away from our sex life, honestly; it didn't add anything. I've weighed forty pounds more than I do, and thirty pounds less, and that didn't affect anything. I'm currently at the stage of trying (for the last, oh, ten years? twenty?) to help my partner understand that a kiss on the neck really really really goes a long way to getting me "in the mood" - they feel as if it's not spontaneous if they didn't come up with the idea themselves.

Much of the time it hasn't worked all that well, but it has worked well enough. I have no idea how people manage to work it out and stay together except that we apparently have and I'm pretty fine with that. As I tell people, relationships aren't about sex, necessarily.
posted by Peach at 12:57 PM on June 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

Seconding the book come as you are. Cis female here who had the higher libido in my marriage. The author addresses this issue and others. Read it pronto. Also, masturbation is not cheating; do it all you want. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:06 PM on June 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hot Monogamy by Patricia Love addresses differences of desire in marriage. It's based on research and clinical experience.
posted by cross_impact at 1:29 PM on June 12, 2019

My husband makes random declarations out of the blue, like:

"Your face is so beautiful, it reminds me of a renaissance painting!"

"I'm so lucky to have you!"

"I love you so much!"

"Thank you for everything you've done today!"

"Let me know if I can help you in any way, I'm here for you."

And he will rub my feet, or give me a shoulder rub if I ask. He also listens to me talk about things that I care about.

When he's at work, he calls on his breaks and says how nice it is to hear my voice.

We often hug, just out of affection, with no sexual pressure.

In contrast my ex's have done things where they make fun of me in subtle ways, talk over me, tell me what to wear, tell me my stomach is too fat (weeks after having a baby) and why don't I do more sit-ups, walk up and grab me and expect sex after days of no compliments, then ignore me after sex, spend lots of time outside the house, leaving me to take care of everything at home, read a newspaper when I trying to take care of the kids (i.e. bath and diaper time, putting children to bed, etc.) -- in other words, take me for granted and then expect that I will feel like having sex after being touched by children all day and having a demanding day planning and cooking meals and doing dishes, etc. Also: gifts were stingy, and when my friend got flowers from her husband and I'd mention it (hint, hint), one said "what a waste of money!" And I was like, oh, okay, you'd rather save money than surprise me with a spontaneous gift, and filed it away in my head, along with my other hidden and silent list of grievances.

We don't always mesh with the timing in my current relationship. Sometimes he wants sex in the morning, when I am planning my day and doing my morning routine, sometimes I want sex when he is sleepy at night, but we manage to make it work, throw a towel on the bed in the afternoon and have fun times.

One thing that used to infuriate me was asking for a massage and then the guy expecting sex afterward. But I'm relaxed and sleepy! I just wanted affectionate touch with out demands put on me. I want to drop all of my worries and just be taken care of for once. So I in turn make it clear if I am willing to engage in sex after such an activity or if it's just for relaxation. Or I will schedule a couples massage for the 2 of us once in a while. My husband likes to be pampered too, and sometimes he won't indulge in it for himself, but will happily tag along with me if I do it (but it might be nice if you would do some sort of thing like that for her).

I get a pedicure once a month and that's my time to take care of myself, and he supports me in doing so enthusiastically, with zero complaints about the money I spend. He'll drive me, and sit in the car and wait so I can have a glass of wine and then compliment my toes when I am finished.

When I complain about being too fat, or old, or feeling ugly, he says I am beautiful no matter what, that shirt looks fine on you, it's very sexy, etc. He has all the right words, and he's sincere about it, he really is.

We don't have sex as much as we used to, we're both getting up there in age, but we have a lot of non-sexual affectionate touch, which is super important to me. I think you need to ask your wife what she needs, and then listen to her and do what she says.

I had a babysitter once, and her husband once surprised her with a limo ride and a dinner out at a fancy restaurant, to thank her for all she does. I'd stop to pick up my son and he'd be vacuuming the living room. He was all in with the co-parenting and appreciating her worth as a wife and mother. He had a big fancy job in the city, but he sure was down-to-earth at home, and it showed.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:45 PM on June 12, 2019 [18 favorites]

A lot of the responses here suggest that your partner's libido might be lower than yours for reasons that you can address. It's not a bad idea to think about that, because it's true for some people.

But I don't think it's a good idea to assume that her lower libido is a problem and that you can fix it. It could be that she just has a lower libido than you, in which case your libido is equally the problem. If there are issues in your marriage that could be lowering her libido, you should fix them, because it will make your relationship stronger and more fair - but not with the expectation that this is being done in exchange for more sex.

There is a lot of baggage around this topic. Making her libido out to be the problem could have the reverse effect of what you want, and more importantly, might make her unhappy. There can be a lot of emotional baggage here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:26 PM on June 12, 2019 [22 favorites]

I am the low libido partner in my marriage. It dropped when our daughter was born and my husband (now admittedly) did not help as he should have. But also, and equally importantly, after our daughter was born, he stopped having deep intellectual conversations with me. I mean yeah, sleep deprivation obviously played a part for a while, but even when we were all sleeping well, the conversations never came back. Not for a very long time. And by then, intimacy had to be rebuilt. My husband is SO GOOD with emotional labor now, and household chores and all that, but we’re still working on those conversations, which are what made me fall in love with him in the first place.
posted by Ruki at 8:00 PM on June 12, 2019 [11 favorites]

Let’s establish that you are the only one responsible for meeting your needs and that one person is never owed access to another’s body.

Next, maybe google for “reactive desire”. There are some great books about how libido actually works for different people, depending on how their brains are wired. It’s not about gender, so it’s not a woman vs man thing (we all know that’s super reductive by now, right?).

Next, I agree with previous advice to talk to each other and listen to each other, in a neutral environment where you are both as well rested and well fed and low stress as possible without the kids. Especially you listen.

Finally, I’ll share that I was married to a man for 15 years, together for 18, and this was a problem for us for our entire relationship. I was the low libido one. I spent hundreds of dollars and hours reading books, trying things, therapy, medication, etc. He was also convinced that the problem was me and that I was rejecting him. It turned out that I’m a lesbian who was even in the closet to myself. I don’t share that because I think that is the case for your wife. I share it because there could be something way bigger underlying what you see as mismatched libido.

Therapy is great. It isn’t a failure. It isn’t a last resort. Maybe it should be one of the first resorts. And not only for your wife, but maybe for you and maybe for the both of you together. The two of you probably have all the info you need to figure this out together, if you can get some neutral guidance to help you manage the emotions while you are doing so.
posted by flannel at 9:21 AM on June 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Ok, humbled to see that many replies coming in, I decided to take a break from checking each message and just get back later. This was especially more of them started to feel like a "household" issue.

Yes, i'm waking up most days at 5 or 5.30 AM to do my daily workout and then go to bad. Usually, by the time i'm back home, everyone is still sleeping and i have few minutes for a shower and to prepare coffee for my wife and breakfast for kids.

And yes, our "household tasks" are divided between us. She's not doing all the work and i'm thinking only about me and so on. Reading this many comments about this, it makes me think most of families have a big issues with this. Luckily we'd sorted this out at the beginning of our relationship. Our tasks are done by whomever is free and can do something since most of the things have same timings. Like kids go to school at same time every week day, groceries few times a week, laundry, dishes (well, this one is on always since she doesn't like it and i don't mind doing it) etc.
I would say our family has this sorted, thanks god. What really helped from all the comments here, is the "talk to each other" advice, care more, love more, be more affectionate etc. This helped and helps. Besides all the things at home, we started to hug more, we flirt more, etc. This did not increase our sexual intercourse 2x, 3x, but it's better and we enjoy it again.
And we got back to something we liked years ago, "quick and dirty" sex .
"kids are out, next 10 minutes i'm yours" works every time :)
posted by passionate at 6:20 AM on July 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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