From The Times
May 2, 2009
Sex advice: my wife has lost her sex-drive
My wife of ten years has lost her desire for sex. We have a son, 7, and I don't want to wreck his life by getting a divorce, but I am not ready to give up a normal sex life. My wife has been to counselling and it did not help. What should I do?
The team concluded that some women with low sexual desire do not want intercourse but agree to have sex with their regular partner anyway. However, their partners still feel they need a sexual outlet outside the relationship, and, subsequently, they transmit a sexually transmitted infection back to their primary partner.
To state the obvious — unlike male arousal, female sexual desire is not visible. That makes it difficult to measure. Scientists have carried out many tests using probes to measure lubrication and responses to sexual imagery, but clinical tests ignore the fact that female sexual desire can have less obvious triggers. Trust, intimacy, the ability to be vulnerable, non-sexual touching, communication and affection are key motivations for female response.
Clearly the last thing that a woman suffering from low sexual desire needs is a metaphorical gun to her head loaded with threats of divorce or extramarital sex. It is also worth clarifying that when it comes to sex, satisfaction should never be confused with frequency. Many couples, particularly those over 40, have sex once a month, or even less frequently, but importantly, when they do get around to it they really enjoy it.
There is a wealth of evidence to support the link between sexual dissatisfaction and unhappy relationships. Several studies have shown that partners' experiences of unresolved conflicts, not feeling loved and emotional distance are associated with lower sexual satisfaction . Few women will be surprised to learn that other research has shown that marital therapy which focuses on non-sexual relationship issues are likely to result in significant increases in sexual satisfaction. When people are happy in their relationships, they are happier in bed.
Unfortunately, however, it can take a long time for couples to reach this happy conclusion. It takes an average of six years for troubled couples to seek help (Gottman) and by then it is often too late. It sounds to me as though you and your wife could benefit from immediate professional support ( www.relate.org.uk). It could help you to understand your individual contributions to this situation. It is only when you both take ownership of the problem that the way forward will reveal itself. In the meantime, be kind, and be do be mindful that your son is learning from your behaviour.
You say that your wife has been to counselling but you don't say what this is about. If she is unhappy or stressed for reasons unconnected with your relationship, it would still have an impact . Depression, for example, would certainly explain her lack of interest in sex. Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, SSRIs (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft), can lead to a loss of interest in sex. If this is a question of sexual function rather than a relatioship problem, I would recommend the Jane Wadsworth Clinic at St Mary's Hospital, which provides an integrated approach to the treatment of sexual function problems for individuals and couples.