How to Meet the Emotional Need for
Sexual Fulfillment (Part 1)
Dear Dr. Harley,
I am married to a very patient and understanding husband. The only major problem we have involves our sex life. I just seem to have no interest in sex whatsoever. I have tried many things to help get me interested. I have bought stacks of books, magazines, movies and have even talked to my gynecologist. Nothing seems to help.
I believe part of the problem is due to an episode from my childhood but am not sure. I got married right after my 18th birthday and was in a marriage that was similar in that there was little interest in sex on my part. But I also did not love him the way I love my current husband. I knew my first marriage would never last, but now I know my second will if I can get some help with this problem.
I know it is not fair for my husband. It has gone two months now without our being intimate, and I can tell that it bothers him. I don't miss the sex, but do feel bad that I am not giving him what most people consider something that comes naturally. I want my marriage to last forever, for I love my husband with all my heart. We have two children of our own and one from my first marriage, and I find him attractive. I just don't know what to do. He is a kind and caring man, and I feel I may lose him if I can't change my attitude toward sex, even though he says he won't leave. I enjoy sex when I can get in the mood, its the getting in the mood part that is the problem. I just don't see it as an expression of love the way my husbands does. I just do it to make him happy and because I feel I am suppose to. I would love to hear any comments you may have on our situation. I just don't know what to do.
One of the most important reasons that husbands and wives fail to meet each other's emotional needs is that they don't share the same interest in them. Men want marriage to emphasize the needs that they have, such as sex, and women want marriage to emphasize needs that mean most to them, such as affection and conversation. Truth is, they can do it all. Marriage can meet a man's need for sex and a woman's need for affection and conversation, even when the wife has little interest in sex and the husband has little interest in affection and conversation.
The key to understanding how men can meet women's needs and vice versa is to understand that one's own needs or interests are not required to meet someone else's needs. A man who has no need for affection can learn to be an affectionate husband, and a woman with no need for sex can learn to be a great sex partner. In my Q&A column on affection (June 24th), I describe a method I use to teach unaffectionate men to become affectionate. It really works, and it often increases a man's interest in affection as well. I use the same approach to resolving sexual problems like yours: Just do it!
Why don't you have more interest in sex, you may ask. Why should you, is my answer. It's like peanut butter. Some like it, some don't. There are a host of reasons why some people have very little sexual interest, but very few of those reasons need to prevent people from having a frequent and satisfying sexual experience.
What you describe is probably a case of low sex drive. What that means is that as far back as you can remember, you did not find yourself easily aroused sexually. You may find it very difficult to climax, you rarely fantasize about sexually arousing experiences, and, for you, sex is more pleasurable as affection than it is for sex per se.
Low sex drive doesn't mean that you find sex to be disgusting, nor do you get all tight inside just before you make love. Those reactions would indicate a sexual aversion which I will discuss a little later.
The solution to low sex drive is to make love only at the time of day that you have the most energy. The recommendations I made to a woman whose husband has a low sex drive (How to Meet the Need for Sexual Fulfillment (Part 2, Letter #1)) might apply to you. Also you might want to order the book, Women's Orgasm: A Guide to Sexual Satisfaction by Georgia and Benjamin Graber. I know you have already read books on the subject, but this one is written for women who don't have much interest in sex, like you.
Most of the women I've counseled report to me that the more often they make love, the higher their sex drive becomes. It is usually the opposite for most men. One suggestion would be to try to make love to your husband every day for a few weeks, with you deciding the time. I recommend that you take the superior position (top). Do it your way making the experience as enjoyable for you as possible.
I wouldn't be compulsive about it. For example, if there are occasions that you simply don't have a good opportunity to make love, skip a day. But even if you make it 3 out of 7, you will be way ahead of anything your husband was expecting.
Don't ignore the problem. Start right away and don't worry about whether he is satisfied, pay more attention to your own reactions to the situation. Make it as pleasant for yourself as possible, but do it.
If you find yourself dreading the time that you make love, you may have a serious aversion to sex, and that may be what's keeping you from making love to your husband. If that's the case, practice relaxing during early stages of love-making and don't go on to later stages unless the unpleasant tension you experience is gone. Sex therapists are usually trained in helping people overcome sexual aversion by teaching you effective methods of relaxation.
The most important thing to remember about marriage is that both you and your husband have a great opportunity and responsibility to meet each other's most important emotional needs. Learn to become experts in meeting those needs.