How do you deal when your husband doesn’t want to have sex with you?
With Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com and Reid Mihalko from http://www.ReidAboutSex.com.
Cathy: One of our viewers wrote in and said, “My husband and I have had frank discussions about our lack of sexual relations for the past several years. His final answer is, ‘I’m just not interested.’ That took me by surprise and I don’t know what to do next.” This is Reid Mihalko from http://www.ReidAboutSex.com.
Reid: Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com. Thanks for writing in.
Cathy: I love the vulnerability. It’s a really tough question and it’s hard for people to talk about. To admit that someone who’s so close to us doesn’t find us sexually attractive or doesn’t want- Well, he didn’t say that, I’m just not interested. To not be interesting sexually to someone that’s been a sexual partner, there’s a lot of social stigma around that and there’s also a lot of identity loss.
Reid: First things first, for me going through, like when I work with people, coaching and whatnot, I ask them are people on new medications, is somebody getting over a health issue, kind of going through the checklist of why somebody might not be interested in sex. If somebody’s on some sort of anti-anxiety medication or heart condition medication, or whatever, just got done with chemotherapy or something-
Cathy: Or massive stress at work.
Reid: Then all the sudden their libido and their sex drive’s gone, which isn’t about you. It still sucks, but at least you’re like, “Oh, okay, so this is what’s going on.” That helps you not take it personally. If somebody else is not interested, it still, not to take it personally-
Cathy: It’s hard.
Reid: I know it’s hard, but for you to think that it’s something you’re doing, when you’ve been together for a long time … It sounds like they’ve been together for a long time, and the loss of having been in love and that new relationship energy wanes over time, that’s a phenomenon now that we know is real, with brain studies and things like that we’re learning the love high and the lust wanes over time …
Cathy: That doesn’t mean the sex can’t be incredibly hot and you can’t want it.
Reid: No, but it also-
Cathy: The compulsive …
Reid: Well, our culture also says, our overachieving-ness around sex, especially in American culture, has now seeped into the bedroom, so that if you’re in a sexless marriage, something’s wrong …
Cathy: You did something bad.
Reid: … Because you’re supposed to be having multiple orgasms and all these things until right before you die. I just want to acknowledge that we have a lot of bad information culturally speaking and preconceived notions that are just fucking up everybody’s good time in the bedroom. Then, we can have a conversation about, so you’re not interested, what does that look like? Is there a way for us to be interested, which a lot of people don’t have tools to figure that stuff out, so we just cut our losses and just decide not to have sex at all because doing the emotional work and the exploration to bring it back into the relationship is challenging and too painful.
So if you don’t have the right tools, it can feel near impossible. It’s not and I just want to acknowledge that it’s okay to not want to have sex too, even though I’m the Sex Geek. You might be dating somebody who, for whatever reason, kind of done with sex. Which brings us to this which is, well, if your husband or your wife or your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your partner or whomever doesn’t want to have sex anymore, what do you need, and do you have the tools to have a real conversation about, “Well, hey, I want to stay together but I need to get laid, and if it’s not going to be you, we need to have a conversation, because I have needs.”
Cathy: I think … You ran a webinar about if a partner doesn’t want to sleep with you, there were great responses, a lot of people wrote in. It occurred to me that some of the people writing in wanted you to tell them how to make their partner want to be with them.
Reid: Which, for those of you who are in long-term relationships, you know that trying to make your partner do anything is a really great strategy-
Cathy: To make them do …
Reid: Nothing. The opposite.
Cathy: One of the things I’ve been experimenting with for myself and also with my clients is, “Am I treating myself like someone who’s interested? Am I making my life, not to influence the other person, but am I making my life interesting? Am I being the kind of person that I would be interested in?” That helps me because I have power over what I do. I don’t have power over what my partner might to, and if I’m doing things that make my life interesting, I’m at least proactively filling my life and that makes me more alive and vibrant. That may cause someone to want to be sexual with me, it may not, but it’s a more productive thing to focus on than, “Why won’t you sleep with me? You must want to sleep with me.”
Reid: Oh, I see where you’re going with this. I don’t like that advice.
Cathy: No, it’s great. Tell me.
Reid: No, it’s because it would be too easy for you to figure out, now that I’m being interesting, if you don’t want to sleep with me, then it must really be me, because if I was just more interesting, you would want to sleep with me.
Cathy: I’m not saying to be interesting so your partner sleeps with you, I’m saying be interesting so you’re happy with your life, so even if he or she doesn’t want to sleep with you, your life is more fulfilled. It gives … One of the questions was, “I don’t know what to do,” is what she said.
Reid: Got it.
Cathy: In that moment-
Reid: So one place to start is-
Cathy: Yeah, in that moment, deer in the headlights. “Oh my God. I can’t make this person want to sleep with me.” For me, I turn to myself and go, “Hmm. Have I been doing things that I would view as interesting in my life?” Just for me, not for my partner.
Reid: I see what you’re saying. Okay, can I respond?
Reid: My version of this is, start figuring out the life you want to live and the things that you want to do that would make you happy and nourish you and take care of your needs, and then you have a real discussion with your partner, being like, “Here are the things that I want to be doing with my life and my body. You get first dibs-
Cathy: If you’re passing …
Reid: … But if you’re passing, we need to have a conversation about how I’m going to go get my needs met and for us to be in integrity with whatever our agreements are.” For some people that means, “Well, then we need to break up,” for some people it’s like, “Well-
Cathy: Open relationship.
Reid: … We can open it up.” You have options. They may not feel culturally approved options, but the piece for me is, you shutting yourself down and not giving yourself what you need over a year, 2 years, 5 years, 15, 20 … If you’re going to live the next 20 years of your life nourishing yourself, what’s that going to look like and then if you’re in a committed relationship, it’s kind of like, “Well, you get first dibs, or right of first refusal and we’re having a real conversation about me getting my needs met. I would love to create a way for you to like that, but this is going to happen whether you like it or not and this is real, so what do we do next?” I would advise for most people, if you’re not communication geeks, is you probably bring in a third person. You may want to see a therapist solo as well. Get support. For most people, like with my mom and dad, having that conversation solo would not have gone well, but you need to start having some real conversations about these things.
Cathy: Yeah. Be gentle and take care of yourself. Go get a massage. As silly as it sounds, self-care when you’ve had a shock is a big deal. You’re like, “Oh my God, this identity piece that I had that I thought was going to get fixed doesn’t look like it’s going to get fixed. How can I soothe and comfort myself through this so that I can handle it better?”
Reid: Yep. Good luck. Sometimes we have to be adults and have real grownup conversations. They’re not always nice, but having the tough conversations and going through the tough times will often bring you and whomever to better places because you’re being real with each other.
Reid: Good luck.
Cathy: We really appreciate you asking.
Reid: Leave a comment below. Bye.