Men, if you feel helpless when your wife isn’t “feeling it,” here are 5 common causes and ways you can help.
Does your wife seem more hesitant and less enthusiastic about sex than she used to be? Does it seem like her confidence in her body has plummeted? Do you sometimes wonder if she thinks about sex at all? If so, it may be that she doesn’t feel sexy anymore. Although you may think she’s as hot as the day you met her, she may not feel that way at all. In fact, it’s surprisingly easy for a woman to lose touch with her sensual side and believe she’s no longer sexy. It can happen to any woman, almost before she realizes what’s happening, even if she very much wants it not to happen.
If you’re like most men, you simply can’t understand how this is possible. The average husband can’t fathom how the woman he loves, the one he considers incredibly sexy, the one he could make love to every day of the week, could feel completely unsexy and lose interest in sex. It’s so far out of his frame of reference, he really doesn’t have a way to process it.
And very often, he’s not the only one. Wives who have loved sex and embraced their sensual side for years can suddenly realize that they feel about as sexy as an old flannel nightgown. Unfortunately, I know this all too well. During 28 years of marriage I’ve experienced this phenomenon more than once, sometimes for an uncomfortably long period of time. For years I didn’t understand it, couldn’t explain it, and didn’t know how to deal with it. I thought there was something wrong with me. And I’m not alone. I hear from women (and a few men) who read my blog, CalmHealthySexy, and from friends who write about sex and marriage, that many wives are struggling to understand what’s going on in their minds and bodies when it comes to sex and to figure out how to deal with it.
From my own experience and from reading and talking with others, I’ve learned some things about the reasons women lose touch with their sensual side. Any one of these things can dampen a woman’s ability to feel sexy and enjoy sex and intimacy. And if your wife is experiencing two or three of them, it’s possible for her to lose touch with her sensual side completely. That’s the bad news. The good news is – you can help her get in touch with it again. You can’t do it all – we can’t change other people, and she’ll need to take steps too – but you can do a lot.
Here are 5 reasons women stop feeling sexy, plus potential solutions for addressing each of them:
Once children begin to arrive or life otherwise gets crazy, women often walk around in a state of perpetual exhaustion. And for many of them, exhaustion exerts the same effect as an icy cold shower – it completely saps their sexual energy. When that happens, it’s not uncommon for women to feel incredibly unsexy and to prefer an extra hour of sleep to any sort of sexual activity.
Solution –Sleep more, relax more, do less. The short-term solution is obvious – help your wife get more sleep and rest. The longer term solution may be to create some space in your family’s life. Most families are trying to do too much. The kids are in too many activities. The parents have taken on too many responsibilities. And the daily workload of jobs, school, meals, laundry, and housework never seems to end. There’s no time to relax, no time to enjoy being together as a family, and no time to slow down and connect as a couple. For many women, that kind of schedule pushes their sexy side completely off their radar screen. In order for them to get it back, they need some time and space to breathe. But there’s no room in their lives for either. If that sounds like your family, work with your wife to eliminate some activities and obligations, to control your family’s schedule, and to create some space in your life
As couples fall into the pattern of packing their schedules with responsibilities and activities, they tend to spend less time really communicating. While talking used to mean “sharing our thoughts and feelings with each other,” it often becomes little more than “who’s going to do what, when and how?” For many women, this leaves them feeling unheard and disconnected from their husbands, which dampens their enthusiasm for feeling sexy and enjoying sex.
Solution – Talk about it. Make time to talk more in general, but also open a conversation about what’s going on sexually with her and in your marriage. Talk honestly about what you’re seeing and how you’re feeling, and encourage her to do the same. More than likely, everything won’t be addressed after one conversation, so plan to keep it going. Make sure the tone is open, honest, and encouraging. Let her know that you want to work together on anything and everything that will strengthen your marriage and increase intimacy between the two of you. And make it clear that this is about both of you. As life becomes exhausting, wives can begin to believe that sex is primarily about their husbands and not very much about them. It can deteriorate pretty quickly into nothing more than “meeting his needs and moving on to the next item on my “to do” list.” Believe me, that frame of mind will drain a woman’s sexual energy and interest in the blink of an eye. So make sure your wife understands that this is about both of you. Show her by your words and actions that your goal is both of you enjoying sex and building intimacy in your marriage.
Our culture creates an image of a “sexy woman” that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the average married woman. Most wives are not 20 years old, tall, thin, busty and blonde, so at some level they internalize the belief that they’re not sexy. Add in a couple of pregnancies or some extra pounds, and the possibility of ever again feeling like a sensual woman seems like a distant dream. Even if a woman’s husband finds her incredibly sexy and tells her so frequently, she’s likely to have trouble believing it. The messages all around her that say otherwise are just too strong to ignore.
Solution – Share what sexy means to you, and let her know you think she’s sexy. Women tend to measure their own sexuality by the way they view their body and appearance. But many men see more than physical appearance, especially when it comes to the woman they love. I know many husbands who consider their wives’ confidence, strength, accomplishments, love, and concern for others to be incredibly sexy. They think their wives are sexier after 10, 20 or 30 years of marriage than they were on the day they met. So tell your wife what sexy means to you, and let her know by your words and actions that you think she’s hot. She may not believe you, but keep saying it and showing it. And make sure she knows that you value and want all of her, not just her sexy side.
Natural hormone changes over a woman’s life can cause fluctuations in sexual interest and energy. Hormones in medications, including birth control pills and other hormonal contraceptives, can exert a similar effect in some women. But many women don’t know that. I wish I had realized years ago how much birth control pills were depleting my interest in sex; it could have prevented a lot of frustration and stress.
Solution – Learn, talk, and take a proactive approach to health and wellness. Do some research and talk about what you learn. Does your wife tend to have difficult menstrual cycles? Can she trace a lack of sexual energy to starting hormonal contraceptives? Has pregnancy or another life change wreaked havoc with her body? The answers to those questions (and others) could indicate that hormones are affecting her ability to feel sexy. If they are, an honest talk with her doctor may be in order. In the meantime, work together on things that can improve hormone balance and overall health for both of you – eat a clean diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, sleep 7 to 8 hours a night, and take time to relax and enjoy each other.
We live in an age of sexual information, and most of us probably assume we know everything we need to know about sex. That’s what I thought, but I was wrong. For example, I didn’t understand the ways women’s and men’s sexual responses can differ, or realize that men’s sexuality is often assumed to be the “gold standard.” So, because I didn’t respond like my husband, I thought there was something wrong with me. Nope, nothing wrong. As I eventually figured out, my response was typical and completely within the normal range for women. But if a woman thinks that something is wrong with her sexually, she’s going to find it harder and harder to feel sexy.
Solution – First, understand and appreciate your differences. Don’t be stupid like I was. Make sure you understand the typical differences between men and women when it comes to sex, and act accordingly. Treat her like a woman, and don’t act like there’s something wrong if her sexual response isn’t the same as yours. Do some reading about it, and share what you learn.
Second, embrace your own masculinity and sexuality. This may seem like an odd “solution,” but it really isn’t. Your wife’s attraction to you plays a role in her sensuality and sexual energy, and your masculinity and sexuality are part of what attracted her to you in the first place. So even though our culture often blames masculinity and male sexuality for every problem under the sun, don’t be ashamed of them or feel like you have to tamp them down. Instead, accept them and live them confidently. Few things can draw out a woman’s sexuality the way a sexy, confident man who loves her and cares for her can. And if you know that certain issues in your life are diminishing your sexual energy or attractiveness to her, deal with them
Feeling sexy and enjoying sex and intimacy is difficult for many women, but it’s not impossible. Although the conventional wisdom says that women feel less sexy and enjoy sex less over time, many women are proving the conventional wisdom wrong. Sexual interest and energy can actually increase during marriage, with women who’ve been married 20, 30 or more years feeling as sexy as they’ve ever felt. If your wife has lost touch with her sexy side, there’s hope. And you can take the lead in helping her find it again.
(NOTE: This article focuses on everyday things that can cause a woman to lose touch with her sexuality. Many more serious issues, such as previous sexual abuse, depression, medication side effects, and serious marriage problems, can cause significant damage to a woman’s sexuality, and often need to be addressed with the help of medical or counseling professionals.)
Looking for a relationship? The Good Men Project promises to have a really good one with your inbox. Sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter here.
Photo: Flickr/Enric Fradera