“When Your Husband Doesn’t Want Sex” Part Three: How Erectile Difficulties Lead to Lack of Desire

This is the third in a series of blogs on the topic of husbands with low sexual desire. If you are a wife seeking to understand why her husband isn’t interested in sex, you need to first understand that men and women typically have very different introductions to sex. Males usually begin to masturbate between the ages of 10 and 14, and by age 16, most guys are masturbating. In contrast, many women delay masturbation until adulthood or never masturbate at all. Thus, a typical husband will have been introduced to sex through self-stimulation, leading him to believe that sexual desire, getting an erection, and orgasm are easy—they happen automatically, frequently, and without the need for another person. As most wives will attest, this is not an accurate description of sex for women or sex in marriage. When it comes to married sex, frequency is often a source of conflict, and, by definition, there are two people involved.

This learned pattern of easy, frequent, and automatic sex can lead a husband to:

  • Value quantity over quality of sex. Instead of emphasizing pleasure, he focuses on performance—a recipe for future sexual troubles.
  • Believe that independence is better than intimacy in sex. Instead of emphasizing shared emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy during sex, he focuses on his sexual performance and meeting his sexual needs.
  • Develop a sexual dysfunction. As men reach their 30’s and 40’s, most discover that they now need their wife’s stimulation to achieve and maintain an erection. Achieving and maintaining an erection used to be easy and automatic, but now requires “effort.” If a man isn’t aware that this is a normal part of aging, he may become anxious about his sexual functioning and end up with a sexual dysfunction, such as erectile difficulties. The authors of Rekindling Desire indicate that “one in three men finds this transition difficult and develops arousal (erection) problems.”

When a husband becomes self-conscious about his performance in the bedroom, he turns an interactive, erotic experience into a spectator sport. He ends up “watching” his own performance (and I don’t mean mirrors over the bed) which distracts him and interrupts the flow of sexual desire, pleasure, and arousal. The same thing can happen with a wife, but she can still physically have intercourse even if she isn’t aroused. Not so with a husband—if he doesn’t achieve and maintain an erection, intercourse won’t happen. That can feel like a lot of pressure. A few failed intercourse attempts can easily lead to a self-defeating cycle where he now feels anxious when anticipating sex and worries during sex about his erection. This leads to erectile difficulties, failed intercourse, and eventually, avoiding sex. He used to eagerly anticipate sex because it was a source of pleasure and satisfaction. Now it’s something he avoids because it is a source of embarrassment, worry, and frustration.

Here are suggestions from Rekindling Desire for remedying this situation:

  • Establish positive, realistic sexual expectations.
  • View your spouse as your intimate friend.
  • Enjoy nondemand pleasuring (that means caressing one another without the expectation or “demand” of intercourse or orgasm).
  • Allow pleasuring to flow into erotic scenarios and techniques.
  • Enjoy both your own and your spouse’s arousal.
  • View intercourse as a special erotic experience, not a performance test.
  • Let arousal naturally flow to orgasm.
  • Enjoy afterplay.

Restoring the Pleasure: Complete Step-by-Step Programs to Help Couples Overcome the Most Common Sexual Barriers by Cliff and Joyce Penner is an excellent Christian resource for learning more about the above strategies. This book is like going to see a sex therapist; however, if you don’t think you will follow through on your own with the sexual retraining exercises it provides, please consider getting some professional help from a counselor who has experience helping couples with sexual issues. Sexual problems rarely get better on their own, so act now before the problems become even more entrenched. You can find a trained sex therapist in your part of the world by going to http://aasect.org/directory.asp. You can also look up your state’s psychological association’s website (e.g., Kentucky Psychological Association, Missouri Psychological Association) or your country’s psychological association’s website (e.g., British Psychological Society, Canadian Psychological Association) and search through their membership database for counselors in your area. Your pastor might also be able to refer you to local counselors.

The next blog will cover additional information about erectile difficulty and its impact on husbands’ sexual desire.

What do you think are the pros and cons of going to see a sex therapist? 

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