I Was Asking My Wife for a Vow of Celibacy

holding hands with spouse

Pete Beisner’s lack of a sex drive almost cost him his marriage, but he couldn’t let his wife go without doing everything he could to win her back.

My wife and I are in a sexual time-out.  That is my polite way of saying that right now I would rather do the dishes than make love to her. This isn’t about my wife, as much as she sometimes wants to make it about her so that she can fix it. The most beautiful woman in the world could show up right now ready to fulfill my wildest sexual fantasy, and I would say, “Eh, there is some leftover pasta in the fridge. I am going to heat some up. Want some?”

Why am I telling you this? I believe that our ideas about marriage are distorted by how little we hear about the true inner workings of functioning marriages. Normally, you would only hear about something like this after the marriage has imploded. It is my hope that by talking about these things as what they are – a normal part of marriage – that we will not panic or despair when we encounter them.

This isn’t the first time that we have gone through something like this. However, it is the first time that we have been able to communicate about it clearly. And it is the first time that a dry spell has not left my wife feeling unattractive and deeply insecure.

♦◊♦

It started not long after we fell in love with each other. There was a few heady weeks of pleasure, but quickly we sank into the routine that I had with my ex-wife: I avoided and she got frustrated and confused. The major difference between my current wife, Lynn, and my ex is that Lynn does not abide avoidance. She insisted that we talk about the issue.

I have to say that I didn’t see that one coming. I thought that she would be relieved that I was not going to impose on her by asking to have sexual needs met. But I was wrong. My wife loves sex and withers without it.

I was requiring of my wife what religious organizations were asking gay people to do: Have all the feelings and desires of sexuality but never act on them. It was not acceptable when they asked for it and it was not acceptable for me to ask this from my wife.

And so we talked about it for years. We tried marriage enrichment workshops and the exercises found in sex advice manuals.  When that didn’t work, I talked with a therapist. Lynn’s pet theory was that some of the sexually traumatic things that I had experienced when young had led me to cut off my sexuality.

I would like to say that I was fully cooperative with all of this. But in truth, I found it a bit annoying. I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about. The idea of sex didn’t particularly fill me with joy any more than exercise does. But like exercise, I was glad to have done it when I was through.

In retrospect, I can see where my responses must have been very painful to my wife. I didn’t just want to avoid sex; I also wanted to avoid being asked for sex. So if I thought that she was even moving that direction, I got anxious. And that anxiety came out as hostility or even shaming.

♦◊♦

About six years into our marriage, my wife did something utterly unexpected. She told me simply and clearly that barring a major change in our relationship, she would never again initiate sex. It was too painful, she said, to keep putting herself out there and being rejected. It was breaking something deep inside of her to have something so core to who she is, her sexuality, routinely rejected with seemed to her to be a hint scorn. She had gained a lot of weight and felt worse than merely unattractive. She felt like she must be grotesque.

She had not made the decision lightly. She had considered the fact that in the three years since she had been keeping track, I had not once initiated sex. Given that, she assumed that we would now be entering a sexless marriage.  After a few months of consideration, and a period of mourning, she had decided that for now, she was willing to put aside her sexuality and live as a married celibate.

I expected her pledge to last a few weeks, and then things would go back to normal.  But I had clearly underestimated just how hurt she was and how determined she was not to make herself vulnerable to me again. There was not the slightest hint of sexuality between us. She was my friend and seemed happier and more relaxed than I had seen her in a long time.

Lynn said something that really stuck with me: “The person with the ‘no’ has all the power in the relationship.” She had taken back her own power by taking the question off the table. Her sexual needs were no longer any of my concern.

That was a wake-up call for me. I was not okay with a sexless marriage, not even in theory and not even when I didn’t particularly want sex. It sounded like a recipe for eventual divorce. And I love this woman more than life. There was no way I was going to let her go when I could do something to win her back.

As I mulled it over, I came face-to-face with what I had been asking of my wife. Without thinking about it, I had been asking her to stay in a vow of fidelity that was truly a vow of celibacy. She was in her sexual prime, and I was asking her to amputate a part of herself as casually as I might ask her to do the dishes.

I was requiring of my wife what religious organizations were asking gay people to do: Have all the feelings and desires of sexuality but never act on them. It was not acceptable when they asked for it and it was not acceptable for me to ask this from my wife.

I tried just being a good sport and going along with sex. It worked about as well as you would imagine it. That is when I decided that I was going to find an answer. I would either find a way of becoming a full partner in our marriage, or I would release my wife from her duties of fidelity.

♦◊♦

My first step proved to be the most important one. I went back to our family doctor and demanded a testosterone blood test. On previous visits, when I had asked for one, they had told me that I obviously had plenty of testosterone. After all, I have enough hair on my body to pass for a Sasquatch, and I had classic male pattern baldness. This time, I insisted.

Later that week, we found out that my testosterone levels were those of a pre-adolescent boy. No wonder I was uninterested in sex. My body was still in grade school where girls are icky.

I won’t tell you that our life was all wine and roses after I started taking testosterone supplements. Lynn still had a lot of years of hurt to overcome. But it helped a lot that I suddenly turned into a horny teenage boy. I discovered the wonders of the female body and what the fuss about sex was really all about. As the months went by and our sex life became something that bonded us, that was fun and that fostered rather than destroyed intimacy, I watched my wife blossom. The weight peeled off of her, and she practically radiated happiness.

So why are we back in sexual time-out? A few months ago, my insurance company required that I switch to a generic form of testosterone. It didn’t occur to me to be on the look-out for changes in my sexuality. But as my levels slipped so did my interest in sex.

Last week, Lynn calmly told me that she was aware that I was no longer interested in sex. And I was beginning to exhibit the same subtle shaming behaviors that I had years before. She pointed them out to me, and for the first time I realized just how far I slid into scorn of sex when I had too little testosterone. I supported her decision not to bring her sexual needs to me until something changed. I didn’t want to hurt her anymore than she had already been.

I now have the correct dose of testosterone in a form that my body can absorb. I expect to be chasing Lynn around the kitchen by the end of next week. I look forward to watching her re-emerge from her shell and blossom again.

Lynn says she is sort of glad that this happened. It proves to her that my lack of desire had never been about her. She said, “I know now that there was nothing that I could have done to save our marriage if you hadn’t gotten testosterone treatment.”

I am somewhat grateful as well. It gives me mercy on people who are overtly prudish, and it makes me less scornful of men I know who cheat. I can see how someone in Lynn’s position, who knows that sex would obviously be an imposition on her spouse, could try to save her marriage by breaking her marital vows.

For the record, Lynn never cheated on me, although I would have forgiven her if she did. And, I am not in any way condoning cheating. I believe that spouses have the responsibility to do as my wife did for so many years: Keep talking about it and insisting that you work on it together as a couple.

♦◊♦

I think I should also be clear in stating that of course no spouse has the right to demand sex from his or her partner. But marriage is a contract that covers sex, among other things. And if you cannot meet your obligations under the agreement, you need to at least be addressing it as a problem. You don’t get to just say “no” for months on end. You are obligated to at least say, “No, and I will do x to address this problem.”

I love Lynn, and I am truly sad about all the years of great sex that I missed out on. But I hope to make up for lost time now that the kids have left home and I have a good testosterone supplement.

 

 Also read On Withholding Sex by Joanna Schroeder

More by Pete Beisner: 23 Tips for Men on Supporting a Partner in Pain

 

Lead image: Flickr/Denise Krebs

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About Pete Beisner

Pete Beisner is a father, husband and veteran who works in the field of information technology. He has a bachelor's degree, two master's degrees and hates writing.

Comments

  1. Thank you for being brave enough to write this post and share it with us. You may have helped many men who figure that losing interest in sex is just the way things go. It’s not.

    For someone who hates writing (or so says your “about” bio), you do it very well!

    Joan Price
    Author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex

    • It would be nice if a few women read this and took heed as well.

      • Done and Heard. this is me, except I am He.
        Must find a solution STAT !

      • I read it, but didn’t need to ‘take heed’ – I lived with the problem the author’s wife had for 10 years, while staying faithful to my then husband – with some difficulty. I have a fairly strong libido, but loved my husband dearly and didn’t want to cheat on him. I brought this up many, many times over 10 years, and my then husband often agreed that we should ‘do something’, although this was never followed up upon.

        This is a problem that is under-acknowledged. Many of my woman friends have since experienced the same, and I can only conclude that I either have friends that are unusually highly sexed, or that the problem is much more common than what is assumed by many, including men. This of course doesn’t make it easier to endure – you feel like you are the only person scorned in this way, and feel ashamed to talk about it to others. The authors deserves massive kudos for writing this.

  2. Pete Beisner says:

    I would like to thank my wife, Lynn, for encouraging me to share this incredibly personal part of our relationsip and for helping me to put my thoughts into well-phrased words.

  3. Alyssa Royse says:

    Pete, I already love your wife, and now I am just in awe of you. Thank you. You have touched on so many things here, but the most important is that we have the right to be true to who we are, and to what we want, and to work through things to find a solution. The solution to this could have come in many forms, but none of them would have felt good if they hadn’t been arrived at with communication and patience. Well done, and thanks for sharing!

    • Pete Beisner says:

      I wish that I had been more clear in saying that I happened to stumble across one solution, and that it will not work for everyone.

  4. Thank you for sharing this and bringing the matter to light. Your story proves the marriage-saving value of communication. I’m hopeful this will improve several marriages!

  5. You moved me deeply. As a really young woman I have been in a relationship with a man who never initiated and even rejected sex with me. Being already vulnerable (low self-esteem childhood matters) this has had a bigger effect on me then I dared to admit at the time. In the end (after a very unfulfilling year of trying to live together it became clear he had a lot of problems. Some of them physically (not recognized Pfeiffer, an abscess in his jaw) that made him feel tired and weak. And some of them psychological. We were simply to young and to burdened with our past to be able to address what was going on and talk about it. I am happy to be much older and wiser now, yet you inspire me again to never just close off without finding out what is really going on. Since I started reading the writings on the Good men project I learned so much! Unexpectedly. Please give my love to your wife. I know just what good and intimate lovemaking can do for your well being. I am like her. May you both be radiant and happy!

  6. JoAnne Dietrich says:

    That was an excellent article. I am glad you got help. Many men have the same problem but are ashamed to seek help. It is good that men talk about it and get help.

  7. Valter Viglietti says:

    “It was too painful, she said, to keep putting herself out there and being rejected.”
    This.
    This is something that most men experience, and many women just cannot get (because they’re used to feel desired, at least when they’re still young). Hence they say that’s “natural” that men should be the ones taking the initiative (and, in doing so, the burden is all on us).

    “The person with the ‘no’ has all the power in the relationship.”
    How true.

    Pete, thank you for your honesty and courage. This is really enlightening, and helping to break many stereotypes.
    Thank God I always had a high libido but, now that I’m 50, I see it’s waning away. It’s amazing how those tiny molecules are powerfully pulling our strings (or not).

    • Pete Beisner says:

      One of the reasons that I wanted to write this is because I can imagine how hard it is for men who are in the same situation as my wife. She had a whole host of stigmas around women and sex that she had to deal with. But there is a whole other set of stigmas around men and wanting sex. I think it would be very hard for a man to say to his wife what my wife said to me.

    • John Anderson says:

      “The person with the ‘no’ has all the power in the relationship.”
      “How true.”

      And this is why I believe that so many women reject a man’s use of pornography. Like what Pete said “She had taken back her own power by taking the question off the table.” When the question is no longer on the table, he takes back his power.

      • Hi John Anderson
        You write:

        “✺The person with the ‘no’ has all the power in the relationship.”
        “How true.”
        And this is why I believe that so many women reject a man’s use of pornography”✺

        As a woman I can assure you that it is not the reason for many of us.
        Even the argument is strange. Do men really think women dislike their partnes use of porn while they have a love reltionship ,simply because they want power sexually ?
        Maybe it is exactly the opposite, they want a health sexlife.
        http://yourbrainonporn.com/chris-kraft-phd-johns-hopkins-sexologist-dicusses-porn-induced-sexual-dysfunctions

        • John Anderson says:

          Hi Iben,

          “Maybe it is exactly the opposite, they want a health sexlife.”

          I think that’s true, but only after the onset of a porn addiction. I think prior to that most women are at least uncomfortable with a partner’s solo porn use. Part of it is probably insecurity. Comparing herself with the actresses / models. Part of it may be a feeling that porn is “dirty”. Part of it is probably a feeling of missing out. Her partner is having fun and she’s not involved. Part of it is probably disappointment in her partner not waiting for her. It’s the last two parts where I think the control comes in. It may not be strictly a control issue or even a conscious control issue, but I think there is an element there.

          • Hi John Anderson
            I guess you are right. Many women are negative to pornography for lots of reasons, and some women do have control issues. My women friends and I have never discussed it,but one divorced her husband because of his porn use and his very active sex life online with others.

            Why aren’t men uncomfortable if their woman use porn alone a lot? She can get in close contact now,using web cam porn and communicate online. Where can we draw the line and say it is sexual infidelity?

            I do not watch porn,so let me ask you a question . Is the male porn stars the kind of men many women dream of? Are they geourgus sexy men ,or below average to prevent others male viewers jealousy ?

            • John Anderson says:

              Hi Iben,

              I think guys don’t care if their wives watch porn because they don’t consider it infidelity, which is kind of weird in that I know women, who like to dance, and don’t because their husbands don’t like to dance and they’re jealous of their wives dancing with other guys. It’s just a dance, but they’re with another guy and he’s holding your wife.

              Some of the guys in porn movies have impressive physiques. Quite a few are 60 ish and I suspect that they’re also the producers of the films. A lot of the guys are verage looking and I’ve heard some say Ron Jeremy (a very famous porn star) is somewhat unattractive. They tend to have large sex organs (it gives the camera more air pace). Although I’ve felt the size pressure, it’s been more from off-hand comments from other guys than feeling intimidated by watching porn.

          • I wouldn’t tell a boyfriend not to use porn. However, if I knew he was using it, I probably would lose some interest in sex with him. If he used it a lot, it might be a deal breaker. I don’t want to compete with porn stars. Why should I have to? If that’s what he wants, he should go pursue those kinds of women. Who am I to hold him back? I’m physically quite average. I just don’t want to have to compete. I opt out of that race. They win.

            • Porn enjoyer says:

              Obviously I can’t speak for you, your boyfriend, or your relationship. Not for what works for you and him or doesn’t work. That said, in my experience, porn is a competition a real in-the-same-room-as-me woman can win rather easily.

              Porn stars have nice bodies. I enjoy watching. No shame in that. But, what’s most missing in my married life, is enthusiasm and variety. If my wife showed half the interest in sex, and any interest at all in mixing it up in the bedroom–it wouldn’t be much competition. A “physically quite average” woman can be spectacular in bed. If she’s adventurous, uninhibited and open-minded. Because, the sexually quite average woman seems to be timid, shy, and complacent.

              I don’t watch porn because my wife is some how less. I watch it because I want more and I’m not getting it from her and she shows no interest in upping her game.

            • Fortunately, I’ve always had a strong sex drive and I’m willing to try almost anything once. So that has not been an issue. At the same time, I don’t have much interest in a lot of what I’ve seen in porn . It’s not the kind of sexuality that turns me on. The women seem really incredibly fake and I can’t identify with them at all.

            • JenniferJ says:

              I don’t know the particulars of your situation, but it’s possible that your wife’s lack of adventurousness and confidence in the bedroom is partly caused by your porn use, just as your porn use is caused by her resistance. Would you be willing to stop using it if she were more willing?

              I’m honestly curious, because my husband and I went through a similar thing. He’s very visual, and he’s always liked sex that, for lack of a better term, put me on display. He even liked taking pictures and video of me to use later. I enjoyed being looked at and trying new things, but it made me feel very vulnerable and exposed, and eventually his porn use just killed my libido and confidence. I couldn’t face putting myself out there like that and then being “left on the shelf” in favor of the hot young porn star of the week.

              After a lot of discussion and debate, the fear for both of us that we’d end up in a semi-sexless marriage (one in which his primary sexual outlet was porn, and I grudgingly gave him vanilla sex with the lights off once a week) made us change things. He gave up the porn (yes, it was hard, and yes, there have been slips, although not for a year now) and I’ve become more available to him in every way. I’ve stripped for him, posed for him, bought lingerie and tiny thongs and thigh-high boots. We’ve had sex in new places and new positions, and I try to be available to him for at least a blow job whenever he’s interested. When I’m not available, he has use of the media we created together, which I’m fine with.

              Do you think that you and your wife could discuss your sexual needs and fears honestly, and maybe find a way to bridge the gap? I doubt she’s happy with things the way they are, either.

            • John Anderson says:

              I remember 2 bachelor parties where at the end of the night, the future groom gave away his porn stash. I remember reading a craigslist ad where a guy was getting married and his fiance didn’t want him to keep it either. It’s probably related to how some people insist that their future spouses throw out all the pictures of their past love interests. I don’t think I would ask a person to throw out memories, but I certainly wouldn’t want them out in the open or easily accessible.

            • Lynn Beisner says:

              Well, to be perfectly honest, I only have an issue with it if it is truly distracting from the relationship. What I have heard from a lot of women, is that the sexual anorexia comes BEFORE the porn addiction. It is almost like a binge and purge cycle.

            • FlyingKal says:

              What about if you already lost your interest in sex with him?
              As per similar reasons as the author describes here, or whatever other reasons might develop. Would you then care if he used porn or not?

            • Hi Flyingkal

              This is a tricky question!

              I have never asked a man not to use porn,or had his porn use as a deal breaker. But in my experience something happens to a sexual love relationship when porn enter as a part of it. (Porn the way we can see it on the Internet today. )
              I am surprised that men don’t understand that they change.
              Sometimes I even think I rather have a man that has his flings than a man very into porn. That has never been a deal breaker for me even if it can hurt. At least he relates to a human being with feelings, it is more ” normal”.
              Even polyamorous families has more dignity in my eyes that a couple that can not function without porn. Sorry but I do not want to offend anyone. It is none of business to mean anything about other couples love life.

              You asked if a man can use porn if the woman has lost all sexual interest in him.
              My first response was yes, but then I became doubtful. He may close the door to her forever and give up. Her disinterest can be temporary. Or maybe they it is possible for them to negotiate and redefine the relationship ? It is a friendship ,maybe cohabitation for life , but it is no longer a sexual love relationship.
              If they are married and see marriage and sex as a religious sacrament then all they can do is pray for a change to come.

              But what about erotic literature?
              Old Japanese art drawings and things that is beautiful.
              At least it is not based exploitation of men and women in a filthy porn industry.

              As a woman it is impossible for me to understand how porn can fulfill any need at all for a man. I do understand that sexuality is important, but for me porn has nothing to do with sexuality even if it arouses.
              Is porn important to men because they want or need to experience arousal as often as possible to feel OK? I do not understand men’s love for porn.

  8. This article was incredible. And could have been written about my previous marriage which to some extent ended because of issues described in this article.

    Your wife and I could be twins from the emotions, to pain and anger to weight gain, weight loss and blossoming and to that incredible sexual appetite. It’s taken me nearly 50 years to find someone as evolved as what you describe yourself (in this article) to be now. But I’m still cautious. Thank you and your wife for sharing this.

  9. Do women write articles in this vein? Honestly acknowledging that their husband’s sexual dissatisfaction is going to cost them their marriage and then doing something about it? I don’t ask in a snarky way. I’d really like to find a few to read and possibly share with someone I know.

    • I believe women do, indeed, look at their own role in a relationship and the relative importance of sex to the couple.

      Some of us know both sides of this equation. Perhaps that makes us even better suited to understanding the complexity of what may be taking place – relationship issues, building of resentments, stress-induced hormonal changes, other causes of hormonal changes, and the importance of talk – as the author here has shown – in getting anything on the table so it can be dealt with.

      Note that in this instance, hormone levels appear to be the culprit. “The fix” isn’t always so straightforward, and both parties in the couple need to be willing to look at their interaction to determine what comes next.

      I hope the author will not mind these two references. I believe these discussions are critical if we want our committed relationships to last. And again, I am delighted to read this column, and to hear how things have turned out.

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/d-a-wolf/do-we-owe-our-spouses-sex_b_927484.html

      http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/2013/08/25/help-me-get-in-the-mood-for-sex/

      • Pete Beisner says:

        I deeply regret making it sound quite so straightforward, and I will be talking to the editors about including a link to a post-script or perhaps a follow-up piece. I will also need to discuss with my wife what she is comfortable sharing. I know that she has been very guarded about some things even though she writes under a pen name.

        For now I can say this: I used the words, “I won’t tell you that our life was all wine and roses after I started taking testosterone supplements” when what I should have said was: “What followed was years of work that is still ongoing. Even if the source of the problem was biological, that many years of a biological disorder created automatic reactions that I needed to examine and change. There have been multiple set-backs, and the process exposed the some deep and painful issues in me and in my wife. It has taken years of work during which we did a lot of talking and we even tried a few extraordinary measures. But we have made great progress, and the process of making that progress is making me a better man.”

      • FlyingKal says:

        @D.A. Wolf:
        Some of us know both sides of this equation. Perhaps that makes us even better suited to understanding the complexity of what may be taking place – relationship issues, building of resentments, stress-induced hormonal changes, other causes of hormonal changes, and the importance of talk – as the author here has shown – in getting anything on the table so it can be dealt with.

        My experience is rather the opposite.
        Women losing interest in sex in a relationship is rather natural/biological, there’s nothing to be done about it (no point in even trying, as it has nothing to do with me…), and it’s certainly nothing worth talking about.
        That’s what I’ve been told every time I’ve tried to get the issue up “on the table” so it may perhaps be dealt with.

  10. This is an amazing, sensitive and insightful read. Thank you so much for offering such a candid and honest peek into a very intimate part of your lives. I think it’ll help a lot of people and really drives home the point that sex and libido is SO complex both emotionally and physiologically.

    I wish you guys all the best in the future for a continuing happy marriage (and sex life!)

  11. PursuitAce says:

    I refuse to have sex because as I’ve learned from the GMP enthusiasm is required from your partner. I’ve never had that and I refuse to be a rapist anymore. I’m so very glad for your story and the fact you have a solution in your marriage. I pray everything keeps working for you two.

    • John Anderson says:

      Seems to me you don’t need to stop having sex. just sex with others. Oh wait, then you’ll be accused of objectifying, never mind.

  12. Itwasallabig_misunderstanding says:

    I’ve been in two long-term relationships with men whose sex drives just completely withered away after about a year. Then they became deeply resentful and even (as you mention in your article) scornful of my desire. It took me a good half-decade to realize there was nothing wrong with me and my sex drive, it was simply our collective socialization that men were supposed to be the pursuers and aggressive and women were supposed to be passive and patient. This left them feeling emasculated and me feeling humiliated and rejected time and time and time again. It was only in the past few years (I’m now in my 30s) that I’ve met a man who was secure enough in his masculinity to simply say “No, I’m not feeling it tonight. It’s nothing about you, maybe tomorrow.” Instead of projecting his insecurities on me!
    While I do feel this is a great article, its unfortunate that the woman had to agree to suppress her entire sexuality to get someone to ‘wake up.’ Good job to pay attention at that time, but shouldn’t womens’ desires be noticed before we have to entirely suppress them to get mens’ attention? This is getting to be more and more of a problem, as I’ve heard from friends and in my work (I work in womens’ health). Men are growing more attached to internet porn and more unemployment – these are huge sexdrive killers. And then we have a bunch of dissatisfied women who are culturally expected to be subservient and not even be able to ASK for sex. It’s a big problem. And I hope the goodmenproject writes more on this topic.

    • FlyingKal says:

      While I do feel this is a great article, its unfortunate that the woman had to agree to suppress her entire sexuality to get someone to ‘wake up.’ Good job to pay attention at that time, but shouldn’t womens’ desires be noticed before we have to entirely suppress them to get mens’ attention?

      I also think it’s a great article. I do however miss comments from the lower-sex-drive part when the gender situation is reversed.
      Men with a higher libido than their spouse have been told for decades that they are just too eager, and that they need to completely suppress their own desire for a longer period of time, to “allow” for the woman to wake up her own desire.

  13. UpfrontSally says:

    “There was a few heady weeks of pleasure, but quickly we sank into the routine that I had with my ex-wife: I avoided”. I hate to be that brutally honest person here, but this already happened to you once before it seems and yet you started a new relationship “with passion” knowing that it had a very quick expiration date. Meaning, you started off with deception instead of full-disclosure. And taking a vow of celibacy for a flesh-and-blood person who is not asexual is very frustrating, I am speaking from experience having had an asexual partner once. I think taking testosterone implants at this point is the least you could do for her to rectify your initial selfishness of latching this woman with deception about your true nature.

    • JenniferJ says:

      Sally, I think he is saying that he had believed that his previous problems were specific to that relationship. And he did try to get medical help before, but was told that he was fine. It’s a difficult thing to confront doctors about something that you don’t feel they are addressing adequately, and doubly so when that thing is sexual. I think we have to give him some credit for pursuing a solution until he found one.

      Also, I think one of the points of the essay is that it’s difficult to define one’s “true nature” in regards to sexual desire, because hormone levels (whether produced by the body or by a pharmaceutical company) can make all the difference.

      • Lynn Beisner says:

        Sally, I knew he had that problem in his previous marriage. But like him, I saw it as yet one more sign that the relationship was utterly non-functional. And then I saw it as a problem with me, that he was unconsciously angry with me. Then I saw it as my lack of attractiveness. Then I saw it as him rightfully digging in his heals because I was being pushy. Then recently, I had the amazing discovery that it was never about me.

  14. I also applaud your honesty, but more importantly, your willingness to do what it took to recreate your marriage.

    Your wife deserves huge credit for being so forthright with you, and so loyal. I understand this sense of breakage when you initiate and you’re rejected – not occasionally or even during a brief period you can account for – but for years.

    I think the mention of weight is also key. Weight serves as a sort of protective barrier. As a woman, when you’re trying to feel less sexual (because you’re not desired by the person you love), subconsciously, keeping some extra weight on is a great way to (a) anesthetize and (b) feel less sexy / sexual.

    Obviously this isn’t true for some, but I believe it’s true for many women.

    These issues of libido mismatch (which occur for any number of reasons) are coming up more frequently. One has to wonder just how widespread the issue really is.

    http://dailyplateofcrazy.com/2013/08/07/the-low-light-libido-surviving-your-partners-low-sex-drive/

    • John Anderson says:

      “These issues of libido mismatch (which occur for any number of reasons) are coming up more frequently. One has to wonder just how widespread the issue really is.”

      IVillage did a married sex survey and it seems pretty common.

      http://www.ivillage.com/married-sex-survey-results-sex-week/6-b-520245#520264

      “Fifty-seven percent of women and 39 percent of men report having sex out of obligation at least sometimes — but it’s the guys who initiate action more often. Over half of men surveyed report they initiate sex all of the time or most of the time. Around a third of women and men report they initiate sex equally.”

      It seems that most people compromise.

    • FlyingKal says:

      Thank you D.A. Wolf, for the link.

      What I take away most is this “When you’re emotionally invested, when you get along well, when so many elements of a loving partnership exist – you tell yourself that sex is a small thing and you can adjust your expectations.”

      Sex is a small thing, as long as it’s working.
      To discuss it in a relationship, obviously both persons are (or should be…) emotionally invested!
      I have found it very difficult to actually bring it to the table and have an honest, solution-oriented discussion about it with a person who is not so keen on it.

  15. Dear Pete ~ Thank you for writing this. On the one hand I was grateful to read it, on the other – it hurt like hell. For eighteen years now my husband and I have been fighting this battle, and as I know you know, “battle” is the only word for it.
    I always thought that hearing a man confess his low libido and tell his wife he was sorry would be a soothing balm, that it would take away some of the hurt, rejection, and loss. Sadly, for now they only bring fresh waves of anger and pain.
    For us there will be no magic pill or patch, and my husband’s testosterone is supposedly “normal”. Imagine how your wife might feel today if the one thing that could explain it all away so easily was a no-go. Not testosterone. Just you. Just her. Just something.
    The following is something I wrote on how it feels to be the woman in this story. I will warn you that it isn’t pretty, it’s quite explicit, and I admit that I wrote while I was deeply angry. But it’s my truth. And sharing my truth through writing has made things a little better every day. ~ JT Devine @ wifelies.com
    http://wifelies.com/2013/06/11/liar-liar/

    • Pete Beisner says:

      I am so sorry for what you have been through. My advice is don’t give up.

      Also, you may want to ask your husband to try OM – orgasmic meditation. It is not onerous even when I am completely disconnected from my sexuality. In fact, I find it relaxing and moves me towards a sense of serenity. And often, I want to make love afterwards. Even if I don’t want sex afterwards, I know that I have at least been attentive to Lynn’s sexual needs, and that is important to me.

    • FlyingKal says:

      @Jackie Devine:
      The following is something I wrote on how it feels to be the woman in this story. I will warn you that it isn’t pretty, it’s quite explicit, and I admit that I wrote while I was deeply angry. But it’s my truth.

      I don’t think it was all that bad.
      In fact, I don’t think it was bad at all.
      It reflects my experience as well, and pretty much sums up my feelings of being the un-wanted and the un-desired in a relationship.
      But can you imagine the rage, the accusations of “privilege” and unattractiveness directed at a man sharing a similar story?

      • Absolutely. Yes. And I understand the frustration and pain of men who have gone weeks, months, and even years without their female partner “allowing” sex. And I understand that the mere fact that a man wants to be sexually intimate with his uninterested wife, partner, lover – somehow makes him a ‘monster’ often to her and to our society at large.

        I have hope that the twisted ideas and stereotypes we hold about male and female sexuality are changing.. Little by little, but I do believe they are. Yesterday, in another post here on The Good Men Project, RESERVOIR DAD, wrote,

        “I want to make sure my boys understand that their gender doesn’t come with an inherent badness and that male sexuality isn’t automatically predatory, selfish or cruel. That while some men are scary and dangerous, male sexuality itself isn’t. It doesn’t need to be cornered and restricted. It’s something to embrace rather than fear.
        http://goodmenproject.com/families/teaching-my-sons-the-meaning-of-sex/

        Articles like this give me hope that one day everyone will teach their children to be unashamed and unafraid of their own (and everyone else’s) sexuality, and that we will embrace sex as part of our humanity and one of the building blocks of a healthy life. ~ Jackie

      • @Flyingkal – I wrote you a reply, it was awaiting mod, but has since disappeared. Please feel free to post your thought at http://wifelies.com/ and I will certainly respond. You’ve brought up an interesting argument. Thank you ~Jackie

        • FlyingKal says:

          Thank you so much for your reply.

          Ys, it was (mostly) a great article by Reservoir Dad.
          And even if male sexuality isn’t automatically predatory, selfish or cruel, it is very easy (too easy..) to feel or be made to feel that way by just being “too much”, as measured by any arbitrary measuring stick.

  16. “The one who says no has all the power in a relationship”

    Yes, for the tiny little moment that the “no ” is said. Don’t go presuming that all women say no out of control. Keep in mind the slut-shaming culture we live in; female sexual enjoyment is so hidden that we can actually be horny without realizing it! On top of that, we live in a World where male sexuality is portrayed as that dangerous, unstopabble thing, that a man will quench through prostitution, rape or porn. To many women, that powerful “no”is the only lady-like thing to say or even the only control they are raised to think they can have in a relationship (in a world where, of course, women are not taught they can also say “yes”)

    Thanks for breaking the taboo on the flip side of slut-shaming; there’s the frigid woman and there’s the uncontrolabbly horny man. Not everyone is like that.

    • Pete Beisner says:

      My wife was referring to me when she said that. And you have to admit, I did have the power to keep her from getting her needs met even if I didn’t recognize it at the time. I had options, and later in our marriage I exercised a few of those.

      And you are welcome. I am glad that I got to put a little dent in that myth.

    • I don’t think the line was intended to imply that people (including women) say no to gain power, rather to claim that having to put yourself out there by making the first move is disempovering.

  17. Lynn Beisner says:

    Pete and I have been discussing the comment that he left earlier:
    his was Pete’s response after reading some of the comments:

    I deeply regret making it sound quite so straightforward, and I will be talking to the editors about including a link to a post-script or perhaps a follow-up piece. I will also need to discuss with my wife what she is comfortable sharing. I know that she has been very guarded about some things even though she writes under a pen name.

    For now I can say this: I used the words, “I won’t tell you that our life was all wine and roses after I started taking testosterone supplements” when what I should have said was: “What followed was years of work that is still ongoing. Even if the source of the problem was biological, that many years of a biological disorder created automatic reactions that I needed to examine and change. There have been multiple set-backs, and the process exposed the some deep and painful issues in me and in my wife. It has taken years of work during which we did a lot of talking and we even tried a few extraordinary measures. But we have made great progress, and the process of making that progress is making me a better man.”

    I share in Pete’s regret. So we have decided to interview each other and fill in those blanks, including what Pete referred to as “extraordinary measures.” We will tell you guys what worked, what made it worse and what it has happened since Pete wrote this.

    From the messages and comments that people have left, we think that it is fair to assume that you guys have a lot of questions. So send them to us, and we will answer as many of them as we can. You can leave them here in the comments section, send them to me on twitter or email them to Pete: [email protected]

  18. Paul Markevicius says:

    I will have to go a long way and time to read something this good and this frank on GMP or anywhere for that matter. Reading the exchanges, even this remark seems out of date, as it is so much about the emotions experienced daily between couples working with their own intimacy issues. I wondered if anyone would reference the publicity raised by Robbie Williams’ low testosterone levels, not to draw attention to him, but to be able to legitimise the act of checking this possibility and to de-sensitise it, as a result. Clearly, it is any age that this can be an issue, and Robbie himself would potentially be an advocate to promote this ( if he isnt already). Anyone want to get in touch with him?http://thehealthybear.com/could-it-be-low-testosterone/
    Other extremely sensitive issues, surrounding rejection I found particularly moving. The issues this discussion raises should run and run and be used as invaluable learning material for marriage guidance and relationships the world over. But hopefully, somewhere along the way, we can let these two extremely brave people have a privacy breather as background shepherds to helping so many people.

  19. Thank you. I am a woman in my 30’s who has been married for 13 years. While my sex drive is very high ( I like to have sex at least once a day), my husband’s libido is very low and has been for over 10 years. This has been so painful for me. I think because we are socially conditioned to believe that men always want sex, therefore I have allowed myself to believe that something is wrong with me if he isn’t interested. It has been devastating to feel rejected and undesirable. The idea of leaving our marriage because my sexual needs aren’t being met makes me feel selfish. I’m grateful to you for talking about this issue. I haven’t seen it adressed elsewhere.

  20. I only got to read this article a week ago and was astonished at how closely it describes the way I’ve been feeling now for 2 years, as well as the way my wife has reacted. My doctor has not identified this and has taken a path of treating me for depression. I’m definitely going back at the earliest opportunity to raise this possibility.

    If you do a follow up, I would be interested in how the testosterone supplement has affected your interest in other women. While I still notice women in passing, I’m kind of glad that my level of interest has dropped in that area and would rather not see it increase. Not that I’ve ever acted on that interest, but it was always frustrating for me in the past.

    All the best.

  21. Fantastic. Well written, honest, and authentic. Thank you for talking about an issue that isn’t getting enough attention. I hope men who struggle with this find support, answers, and safety here. I hope, too, that women who struggle with low or non-existent libido will move past acceptance and decide to have a talk with their doctors, as well. Great article. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  22. Thank you very much for writing about such a possibility period in your marriage. I’m glad that you got to the root of the problem. And, it proves one again that communication is key.

  23. I am a nutritionist and herbalist and I have to say Im not surprised that you doctor didn’t run a testosterone test immediately. Most doctors dont understand sex hormones. I have to have many clients switch to different doctors in order to get important blood tests ran. Even then after results have arrived the doctor doesn’t really understand them. They just look at the paper and say you’re good to go even if youre not. You really have to be your own advocate in this country full of doctors that are clueless. I’m very glad that you were able to get this figured out. I hope one day we can have doctors that know to run a testosterone/estrogen test at the first signs of sex drive loss. I hope they also understand that its not just about the individual numbers but the ratios between then as well. Thank you for sharing this.

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