Decreased Sexual Desire in a Husband or Wife

Photo credit: "Couple had Lovers Tiff" by Ambro
Photo credit: Ambro of

Are you dealing with a spouse who has decreased in his or her sexual desire for you? Or maybe it appears that your spouse has lost all desire to make love to you. The question is, what can you do about it?

If decreased desire in a husband or wife becomes a problem, couples need to begin the solution by having a heart-to-heart talk outside of the marriage bed. Some feel they are wrong to expect their marriage partners to have sex with them. Yet 1 Corinthians 7:3 makes it clear that the husband and wife have a responsibility to meet each other’s sexual needs. If your partner lacks interest, begin by praying for help in having a difficult but necessary conversation. Then together explore the possible cause or causes.

Ask if There’s Something Wrong

Ask your spouse, “Is there anything I can do to help you be in the mood more often?” Perhaps he’s bored with the routine. Perhaps she needs help with the kids. Consider together whether lack of interest in sex is a new problem, or if it’s always been this way. Is he getting his needs met elsewhere? Does she seem to have no desire at any time? Is work particularly stressful lately? A man will often avoid sex because he’s having potency problems and is afraid of risking failure. This is why it’s so important to discuss his lack of interest in a supportive and loving way.

Medical Help?

Seek medical help if the lack of desire is not a temporary difficulty. Physical reasons for low sexual interest in men include conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, extreme stress, and a history of alcohol abuse. Often the medication history can give clues, as a variety of drugs can impact libido and function. Anti-hypertensive medicines, medications used for migraines, and most of the SSRIs (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft), so useful for certain anxiety and depressive disorders, can dramatically lower libido. If brain serotonin levels are relatively high —as is true for many patients on antidepressants —sexual dysfunction may occur.

Stress or Job Performance?

People with high-stress jobs or very physical jobs can, indeed, be physically tired. A phenomenon that appears unique to men, though, and that seems similar to a general depression, involves an unsatisfying work experience, or a sense of “failure to accomplish” something significant in a lifespan. For many men, job performance and sexual prowess are tightly linked.

In addition, failure to perform up to his own “standards” can begin a downward spiral of ongoing failure. If a man tries to have sex when tired or distracted by job or other concerns and can’t maintain a satisfactory erection or reach ejaculation, it can plant deadly seeds of doubt in his mind. These can be powerful enough to cause him to prefer not trying rather than trying and failing. Encouragement, support, and “another time, another place, another try” without pressure may resolve the issue.

A husband who experiences these episodes is hardly alone. The e-waves and airwaves are inundated with advertisements for erectile dysfunction aids —both prescription and non-prescription approaches. This change in publicity is striking. Erectile dysfunction has, in fact, surfaced as a major male issue and is frequently followed by seeming lack of interest in sexual expression. Erectile dysfunction along with premature ejaculation cause considerable male sexual difficulties. However, there are may successful therapies ranging from biblical counseling to specific medications for particular patients.

Hormonal Issues or Aging?

Hormonal issues can play a role for both men and women. As a man ages, the testosterone slowly decreases which may cause a noticeable change in libido, size and firmness of the erection, as well as force of ejaculation. For the man who has been able to perform “on demand,” these changes can be anxiety-producing, even frightening aspects of the normal aging process.

For aging women, besides the hormonal effects, body image seems to play an enormous role. As a woman feels less attractive and less secure, she may resist advances and be more reluctant to initiate sexual expression. So we find husbands with failing confidence in their ability and wives that are insecure in their appearance —a recipe for decrease in the number of intimate encounters.

For men, obesity may also be a factor. In a study of nearly 2,000 men at the Harvard School of Public Health, “those with 42-inch waists or larger were twice as likely to have problems getting an erection as those with 32-inch waists. Researchers suspect that’s because they had risk factors for heart disease —high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inactivity —which compromise not only blood flow to the heart, but also to the genitals. The solution? Frequent work-outs and low-fat diet.”

Seek competent counseling

One woman wrote, “When my husband takes his arousal pills —about four times a month —we have great sex. But I’m angry at his need to take ‘something’ to have sex with me.” Her words demonstrate how easy it is to take his low desire personally, but if he needs medication to achieve an erection, his lack of drive is probably out of his control. The available medications increase blood flow to the pelvis, and perhaps boost his confidence. Her anger would seem to be misplaced in this situation. This couple could probably benefit from a third party to help them have some difficult conversations in a supportive atmosphere. It’s not easy to talk with someone else about your love life, but sometimes a neutral party can help a lot.

Many counselors and most pastoral counselors, however, have no experience in sex therapy or dealing with these intimate issues. So try to find someone with training and expertise in treating sexual problems. Checking with your physician might be a good first place to start.

Help in Other Ways?

When the wife has a lower sex drive than her husband, she can still usually help him experience sexual release in a relatively brief time. Providing sexual release is more complex, however, when the one with the lower libido is the husband. Because sexual satisfaction for her generally takes longer, requires more concentration and ambiance, and is a reflection of the intensity of her feelings toward her man, the uninterested husband must involve himself for much longer to satisfy his wife. And her partner’s enthusiasm is more closely linked to her ability even to experience orgasm than it would be for many men with less interested wives. Nevertheless, it’s still worthwhile to have intimate contact, if only to assure her of his love, affection, and concern for her welfare.

Bear in mind that there are alternate ways to achieve orgasm even when the husband suffers from erectile dysfunction. Couples should feel free to explore and experiment in these areas. Perhaps once the husband is successful in these ways, his lagging libido will be less of an issue.

Painful Conversations

Some husbands are trying to be sensitive, but they often find themselves having painful conversations that go something like this:

HIM: “Do you need me to meet your needs tonight, sweetheart?”
HER: “It would be nice if you actually wanted me.”
HIM: “Hey, I’m doing the best I can.”
HER: “I don’t want some sort of sympathy session —doing it because you have to. You’d just be pretending.”
HIM: “Then what do you expect me to do? Lie and tell you I can’t wait? I’m willing to meet your needs. That’s the best I can do right now.”

The neglected wife will probably feel insecurities such as, “If only I were more beautiful” or “If only I were more sexy.” Even if doctors can identify a medical cause for the husband’s seeming indifference, these feelings are difficult for her to overcome. Yet it’s important for her to remind herself that God created her in His very image, so she is a beautiful creature, fully desirable, despite her husband’s medical or emotional issues.

Feelings of Rejection About Decreased Sexual Desire

Because a spouse’s lack of interest usually brings feelings of rejection and even insecurity for the more interested partner, he or she may be especially vulnerable. 1 Corinthians 7:5 gives the clear command not to deprive each other for this very reason —because it leaves one’s spouse more vulnerable to sexual temptation. If your spouse refuses to or can’t help you achieve sexual release, you as the deprived spouse must recognize the additional moral vigilance that must accompany such difficulties in your life.

The way your spouse decides to respond to your need, though, is largely out of control. If he or she ignores your pleas despite attempts at communication and intervention, seek the help of a third party. If your spouse remains unresponsive, you must live with the devastating realty of life as a celibate married person. The ongoing support of a trusted friend will be essential to helping you deal with such a loss.

Express Your Ongoing Desire for Oneness

In this case our Savior’s submission to the Father serves as a source of enablement and encouragement. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23 NIV). That is not to say you silently bear it, opting never to bring it up. Periodically express your ongoing desire for marital oneness. Yet recognize that if your spouse fails to respond, it’s out of your control.

For many women, their husbands’ lack of interest is a source of ongoing grief, as sexual oneness was created as an essential piece in the marriage equation. If this is true for you, express your emotion to God, knowing He will honor your for exhibiting a quality that reflects the heart of God Himself —loyal, faithful love that cares for those who cannot reciprocate.

This can go both ways. Many wives are no longer available to their husbands after the kids are grown and gone. A man in such a situation must learn to live godly in the midst of her selfish approach, as well.

Sexual Difficulty

Jesus Christ understands the difficulties of the celibate life. In Ronald Rolheiser’s book The Holy Longing, he notes, “When Christ went to bed alone at night, he was in real solidarity with the many persons who, not by choice but by circumstance, sleep alone. And there is a real poverty, a painful searing one, in this kind of aloneness. The poor are not just those who are more manifestly victimized by poverty, violence, war, and unjust economic systems. There are other less obvious manifestations of poverty, violence, and injustice. Celibacy by conscription is one of them.”

As we’ve said before, the number-one sexual difficulty couples experience is the inability to talk about it. This appears to be a pattern that continues through the years unless couples make a specific effort to communicate about their intimate lives. Physicians estimate that nearly half of their menopausal patients suffer from a loss of sexual desire or satisfaction. And while approximately two-thirds of the men have noticed a decrease in sexual activity since their partners entered menopause, only half of the couples have discussed these changes together.

Communication and Knowing is Important

So the first line of defense of communication. The second is knowing what to expect. The third is knowing to seek help any time you experience discomfort or ongoing anxiety. Finally, focus on benefits of loving well at each age. In their time of youth, couples experience new, exciting sensations, and awaken to worlds of self-discovery. With maturity comes skill, confidence, and deepening intimacy. In old age, couples bring to each other the wisdom and joy of love learned over a lifetime. As the authors of Love and Sex After Forty remind us, “Love and sex are twin arts, requiring effort and knowledge. Only in fairy tales do people live happily ever after without working at it. But sex does not merely exist after the middle and later years; it holds the possibility of becoming greater than it ever was.”

Like the bride in Song of Solomon who felt free to say, “Dark am I, yet lovely” (Song of Solomon 1:5), we face growing old together by working to create a secure atmosphere to reach other. In that place, loving eyes look beyond physical imperfections and exclaim, “This is my lover, this my friend” (Song 5:16 NIV).

This article came from the book Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, written by William Cutrer MD and Sandra Glahn, published by Kregel Publications. “This easy-to-read book has blended the glory of sex with the realities of life. It addresses real people in a real world without compromising God’s wonderful design and purpose for His gift of sex.” 

— ALSO —

Here are additional articles on this marriage issue, which you may find helpful to read:


•  WHAT DOES 1 CORINTHIANS 7:5 —Do Not Deprive Each Other —Really Mean?

•  DO NOT DEPRIVE EACH OTHER – Part 2: What is Regular Sex? 


•  “DO NOT DEPRIVE” Round Up


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125 responses to “Decreased Sexual Desire in a Husband or Wife

  1. Hi, I am an indian and am also facing the same problem although I am working and got married last year. We did have intercourse hardly 12 to 15 times. I’m not able to find out what is the reason behind the disinterest now. Ours is an arranged marriage. I am very tense. Please help me to get out of this situation.

  2. Before I reveal my problems, to introduce myself, I’m a 39 years old woman, married with 33 years old man and have two kids. I married in the age of 35 and have a baby in the same year and again after 1½ years I gave a birth to another baby. We four of us are living together.

    My Husband is very sexy and has a high sexual desires, he always wants to have sex with me -three to four times a day, where I’m not interested and he always masturbates -three to four times a day. I’m not at all interested in having sex with him and he gets annoyed and masturbates then and there in front of me.

    The problem with me is that I don’t want to have sex. My sexual desire is very low and it does not at all arise within me. Please advise me with the possible solutions to increase my sexual desire and make my Hubby happy. With regards

    1. Three or four times a day seems unreasonable at this stage in your relationship. I think demanding that much sexual gratification indicates a selfish and childish nature. No sex is selfish, and demanding sex multiple times a day is selfish. God teaches balance.

  3. Hello to all, I will keep this brief. My wife and I absolutely love each other and the only area lacking in our marriage at the moment is our intimacy. She doesnt get aroused by anything I do and the frustration prevents me from approaching her. The Lord spoke to my heart one night to let me know it was not our fault and what is responsible for lack of desire is a demonic spiritual INFLUENCE (not possesion) that we have somehow allowed into our marriage.

    You see, before marriage, the devil wants us to commit all sorts of fornication that breaks God’s heart, but now once we are married and playing it by God’s rules, he wants to break up our sexual encounters with our spouses (which also breaks God’s heart) that will lead to many of the stories found here. The devil and his demons are very cunning and operate behind the curtains where we cant see them or sense them. They want us to believe something is wrong with us when it is their doing.

    Remember that our fight is not against flesh and blood but against evil spirits in the heavenly realm. We have given the enemy a foothold somehow someway in this area and we have to take it back. The Lord has told me (and now I tell you) that this can only be returned to us through PRAYER and FASTING. Repent of your sins and break all soul ties with previous sexual partners you might have had before your marriage. Do all this in Jesus’ name and for his glory and you will see victory in your Christian marriage.

  4. What about when a wife has an incurable cancer and multiple disfiguring surgeries and is in constant pain? We are going through a dry spell due to those things right now and I’m constantly being told I’m ‘withholding sex,’ when I’m physically or emotionally unable too much of the time. I DO try and meet his needs at least every couple weeks (despite paying for it, physically, every time) and I feel like my efforts don’t count since they’re still not every day, which I simply cannot possibly commit to. I don’t like feeling like a bad wife because my best isn’t good enough right now, and I don’t want to feel guilty for however many years I have left.

  5. Marriage is just vanity… you give your all to someone who doesn’t even appreciate it. And now you are tied up with them… just withdrawn to himself. Sex is such effort if at all, no relationship with the kids. It’s frustrating. He won’t even share with me very crucial happenings in his life. In fact I have quit praying for him and about him. I will just concentrate on God, myself and the kids. Life is too short to keep trying to seek approval. If it works out, let it be God’s will but I am done praying about it. If only I knew this is how lonely marriage would become!!

  6. My husband doesn’t understand why I don’t have the urge to have sex. He makes it seem like such a chore. Especially when he counts the days that he hasn’t had it. He gets really angry towards me to the point where I give him what he wants and then I rush into the bathroom cause I feel awful afterwards.

    1. OK, do you understand why it’s so important to him? I believe you when you say he doesn’t understand why it’s not that important to you. What I’m not certain about is if you understand how important it is to him?

      You have to find a way to understand each other and try to meet each others needs. That probably means accepting that it’s perfectly normal for him to desire sex with you and that he’s not an animal or somehow less developed emotionally for wanting sex with his wife. He will need to change his approach as well. But if you both keep viewing the other as defective for their level of desire, nothing will get resolved and resentment will rise.

      If what he’s doing takes you out of the mood, you need to teach him what he can do to RELIABLY get you into the mood. At the same time, you may need to step up the frequency so he doesn’t feel like he’s starving for what is likely his top emotional need.

      Starving him doesn’t make him love you more. Him acting like a starving man begging for his next meal is unlikely to increase your libido.

      Sex is the only emotional need that can only be legitimately met by your spouse. If you’re not meeting that need, he has no where else to go to have that need met. Any other need, conversation, companionship, financial support, domestic support and others can be met by friends. But sexual fulfillment is designed by God to be met ONLY in marriage.

  7. My husband has a demanding job. We’ve been married for 36 years. We’ve always had children in our life. But now I’m 58 and he is 64 and I have more of a sex drive then he does. My health prevents me from driving and working so he works in Theatre and I feel like his job comes first. His job has always come first but before I had my children to raise.

    Now we moved to a new area for his job. Sometimes he’s so romantic then I think it will be like this everyday
    but it’s not. Once I wanted to make love but he said really. That hurt my feelings so much. I’ve talked to him about it and told him how I felt. He said he doesn’t know if he can handle my sex drive. He’s talking a pill to enhance himself, but what hurts more is he never tells work No. But he does me.

  8. I am a husband with a lovely adorable wife, married happily. However, I’ve always struggled to understand the role and importance of sex. I think Paul’s admonitions in the Bible were purely his opinion.

    I have a lower sex drive and my career is demanding. She is very understanding and I think she understands. In fact, I really enjoy travel as I don’t have to think about sex -basically enjoy my space.

    I believe I’m speaking for many men here. We don’t always think about sex all the time especially when we’re focused on achieving a target – and anyway, there is always a tomorrow…she’s your wife, isn’t she? Blessings

  9. I married 26 years ago in 2002. We have a last born boy since. My husband has a problem; he’s not satisfying me anymore. We start right but when the work is done, he stops. He’s finished at that time but I’m still hot, and he is asleep.

  10. My wife left because of erectile issues and said she wanted more, not even oral. Our passion was always the best I thought till she said I’m not trying anymore. I want what all my friends have. I’m in deep dpression and feel I’m lost. Why even bother to try and date? If I wanted to no woman will want me.

  11. Life changes when your husband of 12 yrs starts to decrease in sex with me. He gives excuses. I try to do research and have a sit down talk and try to understand who he can see for the problem, if it’s ED or because he’s a daily drinker. I’ve read this can be a cause as he ages, that drinking will effect your erection in a male. My husband is 65 and he when he thinks he can perform will come around but the rest of the time trying to have a conversation in how to deal with it he gets mad and says why can’t you just let me do this my way and shut up and sit back and wait? It will come back. Well he’s not realizing this affects my self esteem as I am a 58 yr old nice looking petite woman of 100 pounds. I stay faithful and I’m in counseling and even being spontaneous.

    I’m told we have priorities, so we end up fighting and get nowhere, due to he doesn’t want to talk with me to see what are his options and he doesn’t try to even ask how I feel; it doesn’t matter; it’s all about him. I’m done trying to help. When I stop talking he will know that the longer he rejects my love or attraction the further away I am getting.

    He’s on hormone replacement so there should be no problem. His testosterone level is high of 500 and 600 is at the top. Maybe he’s using erector is hard to keep as a excuse, he can masterbate to porn if I’m gone he says. I feel he’s maybe not sexually aroused by the same woman because not with me but he tells stories of previous marriages that they had another couple in there bed. I haven’t and wonder if you do that why be married? He says I have too much in morals. I’ll keep my self respect. Thanks for listening.

    1. I’m proud of you Pam, for sticking by your moral stand. If you give into this temptation, I can guarantee you that you WILL regret it for the rest of your life –you will live with regret and repulsion… on and on. We’ve seen it happen over and over again. You can’t erase what you’ve done once you’ve done it. The State of Regret is a terrible place to sink into and reside for life. Your husband has been reprogramming his brain with what he is doing. I’m sure he has no idea. There are many more viable and healthy options. There is a web site that I recommend you go into, so you can better understand what I’m saying here. It’s a web site that approaches all of this from the science part of it:

      Your husband is reprogramming his brain –his way might make sense to him but it’s actually doing more harm than good on many levels. He can reprogram his brain but it’s MUCH more difficult to do this than to do it right the first time. It’s a much tougher road to healthiness. Pam, whatever you do, don’t go down the same path as him. It would be better to work on keeping your own temptations in check than to go in the very wrong direction your husband is proposing. I hope you can stand strong on this, pray for him and for you and your marriage, and do what you can to stay out of temptation yourself.

    2. Hi Pam, Your husband is very fortunate with you! You have morals and you are loyal! Please do not ever give these up, no matter how difficult the temptations become…easy for me to say, but for sure the best way to go. His stories of previous marriages sound like he has gone in a very wrong direction. Porn is terribly addictive and his other practices as well, for sure not good. You keep your self respect!! Please!! Drinking for sure has a negative effect on erection…for sure does not help ED if he has that as well.

      I am a husband married 36 years with 2 adult children. At some point he needs to realize that your feelings do matter, and that if he doesn’t recognize this, then you may “stop talking.” He needs to know that you are drifting farther away, not because you want this but because it is an inevitable outcome of your situation. Please understand that I am not suggesting threats or ultimatums. All I am doing is reiterating what happens with wives neglected by their husbands. At some point the wife tends to simply give up. You are not far from that point, it seems to me.

      I hope these ideas are helpful! May God guide you, protect you and help you keep your morals and self respect!! WP (Work in Progress)