Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Dismaying Story #63: Repulsed by Sex
I am married and I don't want to have sex anymore. I find it repugnant. When my husband kisses me, I feel like he is trying to swallow my face. When he touches my breasts, I want to swat his hand away.
How can I recapture that loving feeling?
Signed, Just ... Ugh
Dear Just Ugh,
I have heard it said that when the sex is good, it constitutes a small fraction of your relationship. When it's going badly, though, it dominates your thoughts and feelings. Sex probably seems like THE big issue in your marriage right now. There is a good chance, however, that your lack of libido is actually a symptom of some other underlying problem. My short answer for how to recapture that loving feeling is to identify this problem and address it directly.
Many types of life issues can cause what you describe. You could be struggling to feel good about your husband and your marriage for any number of reasons, such as the way he treats you or how he makes you feel generally. It's hard to feel like being intimate when the relationship itself is on the rocks.
Alternatively, this could be a symptom of strong emotions like fear or guilt. Some folks are raised up in ultra-strict households where sex and guilt are tied hand-in-hand every step of the way growing up. It can be difficult to let go of this association later when sex is "supposed to be okay now."
You could be suffering from a trauma in your past. If you have been raped or abused physically, sexually or emotionally, then physical intimacy can trigger strong memories and a powerful aversion.
Even plain old day-to-day stress can wring the sex drive right out of you. Drag yourself out of bed at six a.m., rush around to get everyone off to school, work, whatever, work all day, worry about the bills and the housework and the groceries and your in-law problems and goodness knows what else, and by the end of it you feel like a wet noodle. Then just when you get a chance to relax he starts feeling frisky. (There are strategies for dealing with this, such as making dates when you actually have a little time to relax and connect emotionally before worrying about the physical stuff.)
Regardless of the root cause, your first step is to be honest with your husband. You need to admit to him you have a problem and ask for his help in addressing it. You may have been reluctant to bring this up with him until now, not wanting to deal with his hurt feelings or perhaps fearing you will damage your relationship irreparably. These are valid concerns. You should be able to deal with them effectively if you position the issue appropriately. Simply saying, "I don't want to have sex anymore because I hate it" will be difficult for him to hear. A likely interpretation of this is, "I no longer find you attractive -- I am repulsed by you." A less threatening approach might be to say, "There's something going on with me and I'm not sure what it is. I need your help to fix it." Then when he (hopefully) shows concern and offers to help, explain that your sex drive has hit rock bottom and you're convinced there must be some reason that has little or nothing to do with sex, but you don't know what it is.
Your underlying problem may actually have plenty to do with sex, in the sense that your sex drive depends in part on your emotional state. Talking with your husband in the manner I suggested, however, may help reduce the perceived threat from his point of view. You want to put up as few barriers as possible to getting him into a helpful state of mind.
You need your husband's help for several reasons. He is your life partner and should be there to help you during your times of need. This issue affects him and your relationship directly, so it is only right and fair that he should know and have a chance to help work it out. The most immediate and pragmatic reason, though, is that you need to stop having sex right away. We all become conditioned by our positive or negative experiences. Every time you have sex and find it repugnant, you are becoming more and more conditioned to view sex, your husband and your marriage as negative. The emotional ladder you must climb is growing taller each time you continue to have sex in your current state. If your husband understands this, hopefully he will be able to support you in what you need to do to heal yourself.
I recommend you see a professional therapist or psychologist. Hopefully this will enable you to understand whatever is behind your sagging libido and begin charting a path to a better place.
All the best,
If you haven't already done so, don't forget to check out this week's Ask the Faithful Readers question. I'd love to hear about the special friends with whom you always re-connect instantly regardless of how long you've been apart.