“I miss sex with my husband”

Michele,

Oh, my God! I watched you on the 20/20 show, and I cried all the way through it. I wish that my husband could have watched it with me so that he would know how I am feeling. I feel like we never have sex. It has been almost four months, but he doesn’t have a clue that it has been that long. We have been married for fifteen years and have three children. We both work full-time jobs, and he is able to find time for everything and everyone but me. I told him the other day that I feel as if he doesn’t love me. We hardly ever touch or kiss. I am just overwhelmed after seeing the show that I am not the only wife crying herself to sleep at night because of rejection from my husband.

Michele,

I should like to thank you for addressing such a sensitive subject on prime-time television. My husband and I have been together for nearly thirty years and we have five beautiful children. He is thirteen years older than I am. He used to be very sexually active, but in the last ten years it just abruptly stopped. I cannot tell you how lonely it can be. I just wanted to personally thank you so much for opening the door and making me realize that I am not alone.

Something else interesting happened: during the promotion of The Sex-Starved Marriage, I was interviewed on countless call-in radio shows. Guess who called in. HD men called to complain about their unsatisfying sex lives. LD women wondered what they could do to increase their sexual desire or to get their husbands to better understand their feelings. Grateful HD women called to thank me for letting them know they’re not alone and to discuss their frustration about their husband’s apparent lack of empathy. But conspicuously absent were LD men. Not a single man who was lacking sexual desire called in for information or to simply discuss his feelings. Although these phone calls were anonymous, no LD man felt safe talking about this taboo subject. Even when the shows’ hosts specifically invited these men to call in, there were no calls. I knew something had to change. As long as the topic of low sexual desire in men is off-limits, women’s pain and shame will also remain largely unaddressed. And that’s not okay.

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Furthermore, it became increasingly obvious to me that even when women were willing to risk talking about their situations, there was precious little effective help available to them. Although The Sex-Starved Marriage offered guidance and reassurance, it is largely unisex in its approach and left more highly sexed women with many unanswered questions. And while some of the experiences, emotions, and strategies for overcoming a sexual divide are similar in all marriages regardless of gender, apparently not all are. Sex-starved women face unique challenges, requiring more guidance and support.

So you now know the genesis of this book. What you don’t know is what you’ll learn by reading it. Maybe for the first time in your marriage, you will see that all the emotions you’ve been feeling are both understandable and normal. You will learn about what really goes on behind closed doors in bedrooms across America, and you might be very surprised, you will recognize that you are in very good company. You’ll start feeling better about yourself as a person and as a sexual being, your festering insecurities caused by the dynamics of your interactions around sex will be replaced by feelings of confidence and empowerment. But this isn’t just a feel-good book. By the time you’ve finished reading it, you’ll know more about low desire in men, what causes it, and what you can do to motivate your husband to become more proactive in boosting his desire. You’ll have a game plan. You’ll stop thinking about divorce or fantasizing about having an affair. And if you’ve gone outside your marriage to satisfy your sexual needs, you will probably rethink your actions and reinvest yourself in your marriage.

That’s because at bottom, you really know that you want your spouse, not someone else, to want you.

The Sex-Starved Wife will also answer questions that many women in similar situations to yours have asked me. Although men experience low sexual desire for a variety of reasons, sexual difficulties are one of the most common causes. Almost 30 percent of men have persistent problems with climaxing too early or have difficulty achieving erections. It’s easy to understand why a man would avoid sex if he associates it with failure. I will offer you information that will help you approach your husband sensitively, making it more likely that he will be willing to get help for this very solvable problem.

Or perhaps you feel certain that sexual desire isn’t the problem; the problem has to do with his lack of desire for you. He may be involved with pornography — both online and offline — and you simply can’t fathom why he would be masturbating rather than making love to you. You want to know how to get your husband to stop putting energy into his self-interests and focus on you and your marriage. The Sex-Starved Wife offers answers to these problems and provides a fascinating look into this growing problem in our society: Internet sex and self-sex as a substitute for marital sex.

In Chapter 1, you will read the surprising results of a poll conducted by Redbook magazine and myself. We teamed up to find out what women have to say about their sexual appetites, their husbands’ sex drive, and their sexual relationships. Once you and your husband have the facts at your fingertips, you will be armed with information that will be freeing. It will enable you to approach your sexual desire gap more openly and more collaboratively.

Chapter 2 will help you see why your feelings of shame, anger, hurt, and resentment have made reaching out for help so difficult. It is here that you will learn ways to stop blaming yourself (or your spouse) for your less-than-satisfying sexual relationship and start getting ready to create major changes in your life.

In Part II, “Why Men Say No,” you’ll read about the many explanations for low desire in men.

Chapter 3 will help you understand how hormone deficiencies or sexual dysfunctions might be causing your husband’s dip in desire.

Chapter 4 explores how issues such as depression, stress, or poor body image may be at the root of this problem. And in Chapter 5, you’ll learn that common relationship problems such as resentment or anger may be the desire busters. You’ll also read about the ways in which pornography, masturbation, and infidelity might be the cause of your sexual distance.

Now that you know about the reasons there is a desire gap in your relationship, it’s time to do something about it. And that’s what Part III is all about that.

In Chapter 6, you will find new ideas about how best to approach your man. Perhaps you haven’t wanted to hurt him, or more likely, you’ve talked until the cows came home, and the only responses you’ve gotten are defensiveness and anger. Let’s face it: you’re dealing with a fragile male ego, so I’ll show you how to say and do things that will allow him to keep an open mind and heart.

Chapter 7 describes treatments for helping your husband overcome a drop in desire stemming from biological issues or sexual dysfunction. You will learn ways to approach your husband to get him to go to your family doctor or a marital or sex therapist and the best way to encourage your husband to follow through on suggestions from his health care professionals. You’ll find strategies couples can use together to solve their sexual problems as a team.

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In Chapter 8, you will learn ways to help your husband cope with and overcome such problems as depression, poor body image, unresolved childhood issues, grief, job loss, and stress, which may be dampening his desire. While you can’t resolve your man’s problems for him, there are things you can do to pave the road for his feeling better — and therefore more sexual.

Show me a couple with a desire gap, and I will show you a couple with relationship challenges.

In Chapter 9, you will learn how to tackle these problems in loving, effective ways. You will also read about specific techniques for being more open about sex and resolving your sexual differences.

Getting one’s sexual relationship on track is one thing, but keeping it that way is quite another. Chapter 10 will help you sustain the changes you’re making in your love life. This chapter outlines some of the major challenges to keeping passion alive in a marriage, especially when differences have divided couples. It sets out specific steps in order to resist taking positive changes for granted.

Chapter 11 is designed especially for the woman whose husband has stubbornly defied her efforts to make their sexual relationship more satisfying. Sometimes, despite a woman’s best intentions, her man won’t listen or follow through with well-meaning suggestions. If you find yourself in a go-nowhere situation and you feel that you’ve been spinning your wheels, this chapter will offer hope. You’ll read about alternative strategies you can use when your passion-boosting campaigns have hit dead ends.

In Chapter 12, you will learn about situations where your husband’s lack of interest in sex with you may not be an indication that he has low sexual desire. He may be involved with masturbation, cybersex and other Internet activities, or infidelity, or he may be confused about his sexual identity. It’s important for you to learn about these possibilities so you know where you stand and what you can do to chart your course.

And because no single book can answer all of your questions about boosting and nurturing sexual desire, Part IV provides you with lots of additional helpful resources to help you and your husband achieve the results for which you are hoping. It includes self-help books, methods for finding qualified sex therapists, and useful online resources.

So that’s the whole enchilada. Are you up to the task of making real and lasting changes in your sexual relationship? I bet you are! Well, let’s get started. Sexier times are right around the corner.

This article was originally published in January 2008. Reprinted from “The Sex-Starved Wife” by Michele Weiner Davis. Copyright © 2008 by Michele Weiner Davis. Excerpted by permission of Simon and Schuster Books. All rights reserved.