The question below is answered by therapists, Dr Clifford and Joyce Penner:
Question: My husband and I are newlyweds, but we only have sex about three times a month. He just says he is unwilling to become more affectionate toward me. Sometimes when I bring up the subject, he pushes me away or gets sarcastic. Am I doing something wrong?
Answer: Eventually, you might need to see a counselor, but you can start with self-help. Begin by sorting out with your husband the source of his resistance to sexual intimacy. Ask him if you are doing something wrong. It will be important for him to feel that you genuinely care for him as you attempt to understand what is causing him to avoid sex. Review the following reasons men are resistant to sex.
Childhood experiences —Men who were raised without intimacy (especially the lack of bonding during the first years of life) end up resisting sex. They have sexual drive but no capacity for closeness and warmth with a woman. The sexual retraining process of gradually learning to give and receive pleasure can help a man gain the capacity and desire for intimacy. However, he has to be willing. The decision to pursue sexual closeness may require the help of a therapist.
Sexual addiction —If your husband is uncomfortable with intimacy, he is probably finding sexual release through self-stimulation. A sexual addiction may lead him to get sexual release by looking at pornography or engaging in some other sexual preoccupation. If so, he probably feels conflict and guilt about his secret life. Your sexual approaches then only irritate him because they remind him of his sexually destructive behavior. If addiction is the problem, you will get the most help from one of the 12-step programs.
Personal issues —Some men avoid sex because of a personal issue, such as their wives’ bad breath or an aversion to vaginal secretions. If that is the case, your husband may not feel comfortable telling you. You will need to free him to express whatever he is feeling, even if it hurts you. A personal issue can usually be resolved by changing the habit.
Sexual inexperience —Your husband might feel sexually inept. The good news is that a sexually inexperienced male responds quickly and positively to education about sex and to sexual retraining. If you feel competent, teach him by talking him through a sexual experience as you would enjoy it. If not, the two of you would benefit from reading aloud together and following the sexual retraining program in our book, Restoring the Pleasure
Past influences —Perhaps your husband grew up with a dominant, controlling mother who depreciated men; or he might have received rigid anti-sexual teaching as a boy. If he came to marriage with deeper emotional sexual blocks caused by destructive influences such as these, you should see a counselor.
Feeling crowded —If your husband senses neediness from you instead of sexual desire, his sarcasm and pushing away may be a reaction to your approach. A turned-on woman is a turn-on for a man, but a needy woman is a turn-off. If this is the source of the problem, get help with understanding the gap in your life that you are trying to fill with sex. In addition, allow your husband to initiate all sexual experiences and work on ways to connect with him non-sexually to fulfill your longing to feel desired.
Overwork —If your husband puts all his energy into his career, he may have no energy left for you. This is clearly an issue of priorities. You will have to schedule time for just the two of you—even if you become an appointment on his crowded calendar.
As you can see, the solution you pursue will depend on the source of your husband’s resistance to sex. If the steps you take don’t achieve the results you desire, find a counselor who specializes in treating sexual problems. You can’t make your husband want you; you can only address the issues that interfere with his desire for you.
This article (along with other great articles) is posted on the web site for Dr Clifford and Joyce Penner at Passionatecommitment.com in the “FAQ’s about Sex” section. If you have additional questions about this article or other sexual issues you may want to try to contact them through their web site and pick up a few of their books to see what additional information you can glean from what they write.
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To give you further insight, there are several articles you can read through on this subject, which are featured on various web sites. Please click onto the links provided below to read and glean through:
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Sheila Wray Gregoire, who wrote the book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex: (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun) has more to say on this subject and answers the question:
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For an article (and then comments below) written to HUSBANDS on this subject, please click onto the Familylife.com web site to read:
If you have additional tips you can share to help others on this issue, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.