Relationship Connection: My new husband isn’t interested in sexual intimacy

Stock image, St. George News

Question

After months of marriage, my husband and I have not shared complete marital intimacy.

Granted, we are an older couple. Previously, we each married and raised children. We met in our early 60s. While dating, he was quite affectionate – he hugged me often and ended each evening with a warm embrace and a tender kiss. Then our physical relationship developed very slowly after we married.

Eventually I realized that he has erectile dysfunction. He has neither desire nor intention of treating it. He thinks that a woman of my age should be content with hugging, kissing and snuggling.

Am I doomed to live in a sexless marriage? My husband is otherwise healthy and physically fit. He often rides his bicycle 20-30 miles a day.

Your help would be much appreciated.

Answer

Your husband is likely struggling from embarrassment and shame from not being able to perform sexually. This is something most men dread and don’t want to talk about, especially with their wives. Avoidance is the main strategy men employ when they realize they can’t function sexually the way they used to.

Unfortunately, most men are socialized to believe that their worth as a man is tied to their ability to perform at work, on the sports field … and in the bedroom. When men who have internalized this belief retire from their jobs, lose their physical prowess, and develop sexual performance issues, they experience a deep sense of loss and often withdraw from their marriages.

Your husband’s emphasis on nonsexual touch is his way of trying to stay close to you without having to be humiliated with his inability to perform sexually. In his shame, he may blame you for wanting more, causing you to feel like you are high-maintenance or demanding.

Your desires to fully be one in the marital bed aren’t demanding or unreasonable. You’re just up against his shame, so it’s going to require a more indirect approach.

Instead of putting pressure on him to perform something he clearly can’t do, continue connecting with him in the ways he allows you to be close. It’s critical that you recognize that when women bring up their needs, men often instantly feel like failures.

This pass/fail mentality shuts down communication and leaves couples feeling more distant and alone. Recognize that this will likely happen when you begin to address this need for sexual connection. Stay with him and don’t give up on the discussion.

As you stay close to each other, let him know how important physical touch and sexual connection are to you as his wife. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge how difficult this must be for him to not be able to perform. Tell him that he’s not a failure in your eyes because of this one struggle. He will have difficulty hearing this and believing you because he most likely already sees himself as broken.

There are some conditions that can’t be treated and couples need to work on acceptance of new limitations. Erectile Dysfunction is highly treatable, so it’s worth it to keep addressing it with him in a loving, reassuring manner.

Your common enemy is the unhealthy male socialization he’s internalized as reality. Your husband needs your patience, courage, and ability to see through his fear that he’s a failure. You have to manage your own feelings of rejection so you don’t become reactive and leave him feeling more inadequate.

This isn’t about you not being enough. This is about shame. Please know it’s possible for both of you to stand up to these unhealthy beliefs and open up a new level of physical intimacy for your marriage.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

 

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11 Comments

  • ladybugavenger December 21, 2016 at 9:12 am

    We shouldn’t be this close to the problems of this marriage. Perhaps, you can privately answer this question. Since it’s public, I will weigh in. Next time you feed him dinner put a Viagra in his food….lol.

    • Real Life December 21, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Lol, Ladybug. That would certainly help straighten out the problem.

      • Henry December 21, 2016 at 2:11 pm

        Or at least raise the issue, and it becomes readily apparent….. LOL

    • ladybugavenger December 21, 2016 at 7:31 pm

      Oh Henry! LOL…Merry Christmas ?

  • comments December 21, 2016 at 10:01 am

    It’s very common for older men to get ED and a lowered sex drive–you could say it’s natural, just part of aging. Thankfully the pharma industry advertises their viagra and their Cialis during the evening news basically every single night, giving my very young niece and nephew a reason to ask about ED. what a world…

    Anyways, it’s far more unusual for a women in her 60s to have a high drive than it is for a man to have little or no drive. part of aging, that’s it…

    • anybody home December 22, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      You need to meet more women over 60!

  • comments December 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    I don’t know where Geoff gets the idea that the man thinks he’s a failure? I see no indication of it in this brief question. What’s the deal Geoff?

    • comments December 21, 2016 at 12:11 pm

      What do u know that we don’t, LOL?

  • .... December 21, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Go to Vegas lady !

  • comments December 21, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    One last thought on this: maybe she should cut down on her estrogen replacement meds and give poor hubby a break. A man that age deserves peace. LOL … 🙂

  • 42214 December 21, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    Maybe she is ugly and undesirable but has a good personality.

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