Expert Advice: Withholding Sex

QUESTION: In your article "When Sex Stops," you discuss why men end the sex in a relationship, for one reason or another. Yet in my own life and the lives of friends and acquaintances, it seems as if it's the women who end the sex -- usually immediately after the wedding ring is put on their left hand! I'm assuming that once their needs for companionship and security are met, women have no further need for sex except for procreation. And once that is accomplished, there seems to be no desire to continue having sex strictly for pleasure. But I'd like to hear your thoughts on this subject, since I'm sure it's a much larger problem than the one caused by men.

ANSWER: Let's start by saying that loss of interest in marital sex is a serious problem for both men and women. Hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD, is defined as having sex less than 10 times a year, by choice. This is the case in 20 million American marriages; indeed, it is considered to be the No. 1 sexual problem in America today, affecting about 20 percent of the male population and 33 percent of the female.

Yet these numbers might not tell an accurate story. When doing research for our book, "He's Just Not Up for It Anymore: When Men Stop Having Sex, and What Women Are Doing About It" (William Morrow, 2008), some of the nation's leading sex therapists told us that in their patient population, loss of desire is equally divided between both sexes. However, men are less likely to admit a loss of desire to friends or even therapists, since low libido is something to be hidden by the adult males in our society.

That said, some recent research might interest you: In 2002, German medical psychologist Dietrich Klusmann published a paper that supports your theory, finding that after four years of marriage, libido decreased in 50 percent of his female subjects, but in few of the males. (Subjects were heterosexual students ranging in age from 19 to 32.) He theorized that once in a stable relationship or marriage, women minimize sexual encounters to ensure their partner's constant interest and desire to procreate, while men try to maintain a high level of sexual activity to keep their partners faithful. It should be noted that the young subjects were questioned about themselves, not about their partners. Therefore, it is likely that the men were diffident about expressing low libido, although they did mention a decline in tenderness. We believe that, without question, men are frequently the ones who decide to stop being sexual with their partners, often "immediately after the wedding ring is put on their left hand" -- or even before. In our survey of thousands of people in a heterosexual committed relationship where the man was the one to end the passion, an astonishing 24 percent of the female respondents told us that their partners stopped having sex with them almost from the beginning. Fourteen percent said that their husbands ended physical intimacy in the first year of marriage, 8 percent said that sex stopped prior to marriage, and 2 percent said that it ended on the honeymoon. (Only 8 percent of the male respondents claimed they stopped being intimate during or before the first year of marriage.)
But let's say for the sake of argument thatyou're right, and that some women might lose interest in sex after thewedding because "their needs for companionship and security are met."Couldn't it just as easily be argued that some men's desire for sexmight wane early on for the same reasons? And there are many otherreasons why a husband may stop being sexual with his wife. Some men,once married, love their wives so much that they experience a fear ofabandonment that lovemaking, of course, intensifies. It thus becomespreferable to abstain from partnered sex. Or perhaps after saying "Ido," he sees this woman not as his lover but as his wife -- that is, nolonger a hot, sexy girlfriend. As one 30-year-old woman told us:"The minute I became his wife, I feel he stopped seeing me as asexual being. He told me that wives do not dress in sexy underwear,etc. I am only 30 years old and feel a part of me has died. I believein the marriage vows, but within a year of marriage I was thinkingabout divorce, due to the stress of my husband not wanting me."Other men are unable to be passionate after their first childis born. This is known as the "Madonna/Whore" syndrome, by which themother of his children is transmogrified into a nonsexual being. A51-year-old female respondent put it like this:
"As soon as we married, even on the honeymoon, his sexual interestin me plummeted. Once we had kids, it was like he didn't need to havesex with me anymore. Either that was all he wanted from me, or Ireminded him too much of 'mother' and made him feel old."There are a wide variety of things that cause men to loseinterest in sex. Depression (or ironically, many antidepressants) canlower libido. A number of high blood pressure medications do the same.Erectile dysfunction may cause a man to stop being sexual for fear ofhumiliation. And some guys are just plain angry.The point is, there is absolutely no reason to assume that ina sexless marriage, it is usually the woman's choice to stop beingsexual. Loss of libido is an equal opportunity problem, and one thatcan only be solved by talking and listening to your partner withhonesty and compassion.
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Source: Relationships & Love

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