I am on vacation for all of July. But I've invited Dr. David J. Ley to handle the Savage Love letters of the day. Dr. Ley is a writer and clinical psychologist who has written very smartly about sex, in his books The Myth of Sex Addiction and Insatiable Wives. Find his other writing at Psychology Today and his Twitter: @DrDavidLey. Dr. Ley will be answering your questions all this week. —Dan
My husband and I have been together for 12 years, married for 7 and our libidos have always been mismatched. Even in the first few months he was never that driven for sex and I would be happy to get it on three times a day or more if I could. We get along well in most other ways and travelled together, ended up marrying and having children. For a long time I told myself that sex wasn't the most important part of a relationship so maybe I should just count my blessings. It always comes up in arguments or to be fair is the main source of our arguments. There have been months without any intimacy and it used to affect my confidence and make me question the relationship.
I figured having children would even us out a bit but it hasn't. I have tried to reinvent our sex life, introduced toys, adult films, discussed fantasies and talked frankly about what he would like. My husband is keen to leave things as they are, says he is perfectly happy with what we have already. This consists of sex once a month that is usually not very satisfying for me. He is keen for a blow job as long as he doesn't have to put any other effort in. I tried giving lots of pleasure to this to see if it would kick start him but it didn't and he got tired of it.
I have asked about an open relationship, introducing a play partner, anything that could make our sex life fun and our marriage work. He wasn't keen. He denies having much drive and says he barely masturbates. The other day I found he had been downloading porn videos at least twice a week for the last year and watching them daily. I don't know what to do, it seems he likes porn and masturbation more than getting intimate with me. I have pretty much told him he could try anything with me but it's not enough. I am in good shape, I keep up appearance and I am a driven person who works hard. I want a sex life, or at least more than 3 minutes every month.
We have children and property together and I don't believe my happiness is more important than my children's so I feel stuck and desperate. What can I do to resurrect this marriage? What am I missing that he needs to want to be with me as a lover? I have asked if he wants to separate and he was adamant he didn't and that it would be the worst thing he could think of. Help me please!
BORED OF LOVING AN APATHETIC HUSBAND
Dr. Ley's response after the jump...
Mismatched libido is a common, excruciatingly undiagnosed problem. It’s at the root of many labels of sex addiction (has your husband suggested you’re an addict for wanting more sex than he does?), but also contributes heavily to infidelity, and marital discord. But, in our current idealization of monogamy, the obvious fix (getting some outside the marriage until the imbalance self-corrects) just isn’t in the cards for most people, or if they do, poses a risk of losing the marriage.
Here’s the thing, BOLAPH, I think that this itch could be building into a huge, raw, gaping wound that will lead to such an inherent level of dissatisfaction, that it may at some point go nuclear and blow up your marriage. Why shouldn’t your health, emotional well-being, personal fulfillment and sexuality be AS important as that of your family? On the plane, when we fly, they tell us “Put the airmask on yourself first, THEN put it on the person you’re traveling with.” If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. Ignoring that rule is the stuff that life crises are made from.
Your husband is being a bit of an asshole, telling you he’s not interested in sex, then jerking it to porn on a regular basis. Now, why would a guy choose to watch porn instead of fucking his hot, exercising regularly, kinky, desperate wife? I hear this question often. Believe it or not, the problem’s not the porn. Sometimes, people just don’t want to have sex – sex (good sex) is work (often, it’s great work if you can get it), it requires you to focus on satisfying your partner, hold back your urge to ejaculate, put your needs secondary. For some people, sexual intimacy is just too, well, intimate, too personal, too exposing, too intimidating. Masturbation to porn is relaxing, easy, selfish (but not inherently in a bad way), safe, and even lazy. None of these things are bad things – they are only a problem, in individual context.
Is your husband intimidated by your sexuality, and could that be why it’s easier and safer to masturbate to porn? Maybe, but let’s be clear, if he is, that’s his problem, not yours. It’s up to your husband to be responsible for his own sexuality, and to express these things to you, saying “Honey, I love you and love being married to you, but real sex is just not something I’m all that interested in right now. I’m in kind of a selfish (or insecure, or stressed out, etc.) mode at this moment, and masturbating to porn is about my speed for right now.”
At the same time, it’s your place to do the same thing, and say the mirror version of that, “Honey, I love you, I love being married to you, I don’t want to break up, but I can’t put my sexual desires on hold permanently. I gave you the opportunity to consent to an open relationship, and to talk with me about your sexual needs, but you chose to pursue them in secret. Now, I’m giving you notice that sexual satisfaction is important to me, in or outside our marriage. Until you feel like re-engaging with me physically and meeting me at least halfway, I may choose to look outside our marriage for that satisfaction. I promise to be discreet, not rub this in your face, and I might even still be willing to give you your monthly blowjobs.”
This probably sounds scary and terrifying to say. But it’s really a choice of saying something like it now, or risking that desperate nuclear explosion of desperation at some point in the future. I understand you are worried about your kids. Hear me on this – when a parent is desperately unhappy in their marriage, the kids know it. And research shows that these kids do better when their parents take steps to reduce conflict and increase personal wellbeing, even of that means the marital relationship ends. Remember, you gotta put the mask on yourself first.