Email On your wedding day you assume you'll have a long future together filled with love, intimacy, maybe kids, and of course, sex. Cheryl Wolfe assumed sex would be part of her marriage.
Marriage therapists estimate as many as 20 percent of couples are mired in low-sex or no-sex marriages, and surprisingly often it's the men, heterosexual men, who don't want sex. Wolfe ultimately left her husband because he lost sexual interest in her. In both cases it's the women who are frustrated that their sexual needs aren't being met by their husbands. Barrett said, "I feel like we're living like brother and sister, because we don't have sex. I'm like what kind of relationship is this?
He's a motorcycle enthusiast, and a volunteer firefighter. He says sex has simply never been a high priority for him. He and Lori have two children, and they do have sex maybe 10 times a year, which is too seldom for Lori, but plenty for Jim. He says sex has just never been that important to him. But it is important to Lori and to Suzan Cummings. Susan says sex is the "foundation" of a marriage.
Suzan and Chris Cummings have been married for six years. She has a daughter by a previous marriage and together, she and Chris have a son, Connor. Susan says sex was infrequent before Connor was born and afterward, Chris seemed less and less interested. Now it's been 15 months since they've had sex.
Chris says he doesn't see why sex has to be such a big deal. In fact, he's happy in their marriage without the sex. I would say that if sex wasn't important for Susan, if she never wanted to have sex again, I think, I would probably be very happy," he said. The Barretts' and Cummings' problems aren't surprising to Davis, who's been counseling couples for two decades and is author of Sex-Starved Marriage.
According to Davis, women in low-sex marriages tend to think their situation is unique. Lori Barrett said her husband's lack of desire has been tough on her self image.
Jim said he feels like he's walking around the house on eggshells. Lori and Jim both say it's usually Lori who's on Jim's case. Lori thinks there'd be less tension in their marriage if there were more sexual intimacy in it. She begged Jim to go to a doctor to have his testosterone levels checked and see if his problem is physical. He won't do it. He's broke," he said. But he doesn't think there's anything wrong with him physically. He thinks it's an issue of trust, and that he can't just be himself.
They're caught in a trap. Lack of sex makes Lori frustrated, and Jim says he's not in the mood for sex because Lori is so critical. If she weren't so critical, Jim says, he might be turned on to his wife. We'd probably have a lot better physical relationship," he said.
Don't Ignore the Problem There are many factors that can cause low desire in men, say the experts. It might be anger toward a spouse or a physical issue, but all say whatever the cause, the worst thing to do is nothing — especially when sex is a priority for your partner — as it is for Suzan Cummings. Chris says he loves Suzan but he worries about not being able to please her sexually. He says he always suffered some level of performance anxiety, and it's only gotten worse over time.
He tried Viagra, but it didn't work. Chris hasn't initiated sex with Suzan in about three years and he says it's gotten to the point he's afraid to initiate any physical contact with Suzan.
She performs at a strip club, where men pay big bucks to watch women strut around in sexual ways. Suzan is one of the star attractions — lots of men come to the club just to see her. At one time Chris was one of them.
That's how they met. Chris says he still finds Suzan sexually attractive but his anxiety dampens his desire for her. But he hasn't entirely lost his sex drive. He says "it gets satisfied through masturbation. It's extremely humiliating to get up and speak publicly about the fact that I'm not good in bed or that I can't satisfy my wife.
I'm not proud of it," he said. Suzan says she used to try reaching out to Chris sexually, but she's given that up. She said it was painful for her to feel rejected by her husband.
And to have it turned down over and over repeatedly says you have no value as a sexual being. And I feel loved through sexual contact. There was no physical affection, and barely any interaction between them.
It was almost as if they were leading parallel lives. After dinner Chris went downstairs to play video games, while Suzan sat by herself at the computer, surfing the Web. Suzan said this is what happens night after night. More importantly, Suzan said she thinks there's a good chance they'll break up if things don't change. Working It Out Davis sat down with the Barretts, and Lori quickly revealed how deep her sense of rejections runs.
It's been very, very hard. Davis says it's important for high-desire partners like Lori to understand that some people just have low sex drives and her husband is probably one of them What Jim has to do, she says, is to act sexually toward Lori even at first if he's not in the mood for sex. She says low-desire partners should try to just do it.
Use it or lose it. According to Davis, "The more a person is sexually active, the more it actually stimulates testosterone production, which is one of the primary hormones responsible for sex drive. He knows it hurts Suzan. During their session with Davis, Suzan told Chris, "I don't understand how you can you love me, and not be there for me physically. How you could let me feel that way about myself? That will take pressure off Chris. Suzan said she'd be happy just to have simple affection, and Chris said he was surprised and relieved to hear that would be enough.
A month later, things were definitely better for Lori and Jim. He had initiated more sexual contact, and she said she made an effort not to nag. Suzan and Chris were happier too. The couple says their renewed intimacy has brought other benefits.
Suzan said, "You feel good about yourself. When you feel good about yourself you can show love to your partner. You know it might not last forever until you're 90 but it gives you a warm, loving basis to go on, you know you feel loved.