Carolyn Hax: Coping with a husband’s seemingly diminished interest in sex

Carolyn Hax
Columnist May 18

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

When you had a question regarding women with higher sex drives than their husbands, it really hit home. I am lucky if my husband and I have sex six times a year. I have tried to initiate it in the past and have been told many times that if I stop asking for it, I will get it more often.

Well, I have tried that and it just is not working. He is also more likely to cuddle with a body pillow than me. This is ruining my self-esteem, and I just don’t know what to do. Any thoughts?

Anonymous


(Nick Galifianakis/The Washington Post)

First, you recognize this is not about you or your attractiveness. His is just one person’s opinion. Granted, it’s an important person, but that doesn’t make it the last word on anything.

Next call [road apples] on the “If you stop asking” deflection. If he’d actually tried to do his part, then that would be a different story, but since he didn’t, he was essentially buying time, both pushing you off and postponing tough conversations and consequences — at your expense. You can add 2 plus 2, and you certainly don’t need to be sexually neglected and treated like a dope.

Next, say you want to talk about this honestly, then start by saying out loud that you grasp that he doesn’t want to touch you as often as you want to be touched.

Then ask him to take part in an equally honest conversation about what each of you would like to do about it. Maybe he just wants to stay in his nice married rut and leave you to deal with your unhappiness; maybe he actually wishes he were more interested, but the idea of getting help is too daunting to him. Figuring out what he actually wants and needs is necessary to distinguishing viable options from baseless hopes.

There are no pretty solutions to this problem — which you obviously have figured out, since you’ve lived for years with the truth that he’s not going to give you what you want. But, when there are no pretty solutions, the next best thing is to put the truth out in the open so you can evaluate which of them at least makes sense.

That at least makes your path, instead of something you got stuck with against your will, a conscious choice — which tends to be a happier one, no matter where it leads.

Re: Sex drive:

This is probably more than just differing sex drives. It may be different sexual orientations; it may be additional people involved. It is most important that he be free to tell the truth, whatever it is, since it is likely to be embarrassing and not pretty. Questioner should listen, prod gently, reassure that the truth is acceptable, but patiently wait — sometimes the silence will be deafening and partner may act out before he tells the truth, because it is a big secret being held.

Anonymous

And it may be something mundane, like losing interest in her for any of the common, often impersonal reasons people lose interest in each other. But, “Reassure that the truth is acceptable”: This can’t be said enough, thanks.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.

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