Question: My husband has a very low sex drive, and this has been a source of endless pain and frustration for me. It’s confusing, too, since my situation doesn’t seem to fit the reports I hear about sexual problems in marriage – usually it’s the man who’s complaining about his wife’s lack of libido. I would love to have sex "only" once a week! We’ve gone months and years without it! Can you help me understand what’s going on in my husband’s mind?  


You’re right – despite popular perceptions to the contrary, this isn’t just a complaint from husbands about wives. Problems with low sex drive, neglect of "conjugal duties," and consistent failure to satisfy a spouse’s need for physical intimacy can run either direction in a marriage. When issues of this kind raise their heads and disrupt a marital relationship, it’s good to have some idea of what may be causing them. 

10 possible causes

Where men are concerned, our counsellors’ observations have led them to conclude that there are at least ten major reasons for decreased male libido. Here they are:

Medication. Surprisingly, this reason is often overlooked. Prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter drugs can have a distinctly suppressing effect on a man’s desire for, and interest in, sex. Prescription medications that belong on this list include antidepressants, tranquilizers, anti-ulcer drugs, diuretics, anti-hypertensives (for high blood pressure), psychotropics (for mental illness), opiates (for pain) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. Over-the-counter drugs to remember are those used for coughs, colds and allergies.

Depression. This factor is the second most commonly overlooked, despite the fact that depression is the most frequently encountered emotional/psychological problem in modern America. It’s a real sex-drive zapper, and it can easily escape the notice of driven, motivated, high-functioning individuals who don’t realize that they’re depressed.

Pornography and sex addiction. This villain is making its evil influence felt in the lives of an increasing number of otherwise respectable Christian men (and women). Many therapists report that pornography is moving to the top of the list as a cause for husbands’ decreased interest in their wives. Ironically, sexual release through porn addiction and self-stimulation, combined with deep feelings of guilt over a secret, double life, often lead to the development of a kind of "sexual anorexia."

Childhood experiences. Many men make the mistake of thinking that they were not sexually abused if they were never sexually touched. But simply seeing sexually explicit material at a young age can sometimes result in permanent mental scars, unless the individual in question is treated by a qualified therapist. Other negative childhood influences include poor body image, too little bonding with parents and family members or too much smothering by a boy’s mother.

Sexual inexperience or performance anxiety. Believe it or not, many men are extremely insecure when it comes to sexual prowess. Self-doubt can cause a husband to feel defeated before he even starts. Fears arising from inexperience can often be resolved with education and the patient understanding of a loving wife. Performance anxiety, on the other hand, is sometimes connected with deeper issues unrelated to sex, and in such cases it can only be overcome with the help of a qualified therapist.

Stress. Stress is such a familiar part of modern life that many couples end up accepting it as a "third marriage partner." Over-commitment and over-work leave husbands and wives with no time and no energy for the fun part of marriage. Even life changes that are usually perceived as positive – a promotion, a new home or the arrival of a baby – have a way of consuming energy and thus hampering a normal sex drive.

Erectile dysfunction. It’s important to point out that impotence is not technically the same thing as loss of libido. Still, when one is present, the other is usually soon to follow. Hormonal issues also play a role in this frustrating drama – lowered testosterone levels can add to the vicious cycle. Here, as in so many other areas, health problems rarely occur in isolation.

Street drugs and alcohol. Despite their reputation for reducing sexual inhibitions, either of these can also have the long-term effect of decreasing libido.

Illness, aging and pain. It should be obvious that all of these factors diminish a person’s ability to experience sexual pleasure. As a result, they also chip away at sexual desire. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to detect a connection between them and a loss of healthy libido. You and your husband may need to consult two or three different physicians before finding one who is competent to diagnose the real problem.

Relationship problems. In some cases, the role of relational issues in precipitating sexual dysfunction is fairly obvious. In others it’s harder to discern. Some couples mistakenly believe that they can leave their unresolved conflicts at the bedroom door. Perhaps you and your spouse need to do some soul-searching. Do you have good conflict resolution skills? Are you subtly putting your husband down or disrespecting him in other ways? If you are, you shouldn’t be surprised if his interest in you begins to wane.

Naturally, this "top ten list" is offered here only as a starting place. As a matter of fact, there can be a myriad of complicated reasons for a husband’s loss of interest in sex. Not least among these is failure to understand God’s purpose in creating marriage and sexuality in the first place – the sealing of a one-flesh union between man and woman which is in turn designed to reflect Christ’s self-sacrificial love for the Church (see Ephesians 5:31-33). In our society, both husbands and wives frequently lose sight of this aspect of their relationship. 

Seek counselling if needed

If you need referrals to counsellors who are qualified to assist you in this area, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Focus on the Family Canada’s counselling department can provide you with a list of professional Christian counsellors in your locality who specialize in issues related to sexual dysfunction. Our staff would also be more than happy to discuss your situation with you over the phone. You can contact them Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time at 1.800.661.9800.

© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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