Archive for January 2nd, 2008

January 2, 2008

In response to: “He’s lost all interest in sex,” Tim writes…

by Rod Smith

This is coming from someone who’s about 6 months away from his 25th wedding anniversary. I apologize in advance for the long response.

First of all, this is the kind of issue that can be extraordinarily complicated. We (humans) bring a lot of stuff to the table when we develop emotional and physical intimacy, and some of that “stuff” doesn’t make itself visible until we’re well down the road.

Here are a few observations, both to the original post, and to some of the follow-up comments:

There are many, many reasons for someone to lose interest in physical intimacy (regardless of the potential partner). Some of these are physiological, and some are psychological. Erectile dysfunction and hormone imbalance are some of the more well-known physiological reasons. Performance anxiety and excessive stress are a couple of the well-known psychological reasons, but there are many others, such as childhood trauma. (I have several friends who are adult victims of child sexual abuse, and those experiences often created intimacy issues for them as adults.)

Moving on from such broad intimacy issues are situations where someone still has an interest in sex, but not necessarily with their current partner. For the sake of discussion, I’ll assume this applies in the cases above.

As someone else has pointed out, there may be infidelity involved when you’re not attracted to your partner, but I would be cautious about jumping to that conclusion too quickly. (By the way, I would disagree with someone who says “this is his problem” or “this is her problem.” If you’re married, the problem belongs to both of you, even if there is infidelity involved. Rather than looking for someone to blame, it’s more productive to see if there’s a path toward resolving what has become a problem for both.)

What happens outside of the bedroom? Are there unresolved issues in the kitchen (or living room, or dining room, or garage) that are playing themselves out in bed? If someone is getting on your last nerve with a particular behavior, it might be difficult to look past this and suddenly find them attractive (even if the lights are out).

One change that most couples can’t ignore is the sudden presence of children, but this affects different couples different ways. Some new mothers find themselves too worn out with caring for a small child (especially if they’re working outside the home) to find the energy for intimacy. On the other hand, some men, feeling “jilted” by the sudden introduction of someone else who has a very intimate relationship with their partner, are so overwhelmed with jealousy that they lose interest.

Another change that brings complexity is a sudden change in employment. Men who are suddenly unemployed or under-employed will feel guilt over not living up to society’s expectations for them to be a provider for the family (particularly if financial needs from children have changed the budget without a corresponding increase in income). Likewise, many men are emotionally ill-equipped to handle making less money than the woman they’re involved with, which sometimes becomes a stress point even if there’s enough income to handle expenses (i.e. the man isn’t the one making the larger portion of income, so his ego takes a hit).

Sadly (and this is particularly true where men lose interest in their partner), we may lose interest for the superficial changes in our partner’s appearance. This is a problem for many men who are suddenly confronted with the physical changes that their partner goes through post-childbirth. Making matters worse is that nature isn’t equally kind to all mothers, handing some a body shape that (for whatever reason) the father finds unattractive, but allowing other women to give birth and return to basically the same physique they had before.

(You’ll note that I’m ignoring here the “Did you just let yourself go?” question because of the chauvinist overtones. Besides, this is just as true for men as it may be for women.)

This leads us to the internet. Great as it may be for many things, the internet has become a significant problem for a large percentage of the male population with respect to the easy availability of pornography. (This seems to be more of an issue for men than women, probably related to male receptiveness to visual stimulus). Along with easy access to porn has been an altered perception about fantasy and reality.

As a result, there are many men who have developed an unrealistic view of a “normal woman” in terms of appearance. If guys were honest about it, they are tickled to death that women still value non-physique attributes as highly as they do, or most of us wouldn’t have a chance at any intimacy at all. You can even see this played out on sitcoms, where my wife noted the number of fashion-model-thin wives married to overweight (but funny) husbands.

Now, presuming that both of you feel “there is a problem” (and by that I mean that something in your relationship isn’t satisfactory for one or both of you), things can usually be resolved, but it may take time. In such cases, it may be good to sit down and “lay everything on the table.” This type of situation sometimes calls for a professional to assist, but if there’s still good emotional communication going on, that may not be necessary. The real question is whether or not both partners are committed to finding resolution, and not just placing blame.

On the other hand, if one of you perceives that there is a problem and the other one doesn’t, then you definitely should consider contacting someone with professional experience in marriage/relationship counseling. A divorce or breakup is in no way “on the horizon,” but this is the kind of problem that does not (generally) go away by itself. If you ignore it, things will only get worse.

Ultimately, dramatic differences in sex drive pop up in just about every sexually intimate relationship. While there’s no easy answer for all situations, the differences can be resolved if both partners are truly interested in doing so.

For more from Tim, go to:

January 2, 2008

What would be a “radical” shift?

by Rod Smith

“Regarding abusive behavior you write: ‘Resist using reason with the perpetrator of such behavior – you will not, using reason, convince a perpetrator to stop abusive behavior. The only way to stop it is to radically shift your response to it. While you cooperate with what you do not want the behavior will not cease.’ So how is one supposed to ‘radically shift’ their response to an abuser? The abuser in my household is my youngest son (21). He often treats both my husband and me very badly, he shouts and snaps at us, or does not speak to us. I don’t know how to deal with it. I’m going through menopause right now and often I’m very emotional. His behavior can put me in tears. It’s all weighing heavily on me.”

Now that he is an adult, perhaps it is time for him to move out. He can then continue his unpleasant behavior with whomever he chooses to live. I wonder how long other people will tolerate his behavior? You, having completed his parenting, are not compelled to accommodate someone who treats you poorly. Many 21-year-olds live independently of their parents’ home and do so with great success. This, dear reader, would constitute a “radical shift” on your part.