My wife’s sex drive is gone

-- Question for John --

My wife and I have been married seven years. Since our second child was born about 3 years ago my wife’s sex drive has deteriorated. We use to make love 4 times a week but the last 2 or 3 years we make love maybe 2 times a month. I asked her about this every few months to see what’s going on and she says that she is stressed out or tired.

I asked her if it’s me and she says it not but I could try taking her out of her mother role more often. We do go out without the kids 2 or 3 times a month, I often by her flowers and leave notes for her telling her I love her and I’m proud of her, but nothing ever changes.

When we do make love she is not interested in foreplay, she does not want me to give her oral sex and she does not do it for me. She says she is worried that she smells but I tell her she does not and I enjoy pleasuring her. She is only interested in one position, missionary, and every once and a while she will get on top. I don’t know what to do.

When we do make love it’s when she wants and it’s bitter sweet because I know it will be a while before we do it again. I try to initiate sex but most of the time she has an excuse. For the first several years we were married she was very sexually adventurous, she never had a problem with anything and now I feel like I am married to a different person. If this is what I have to look forward to I don’t think we are going to make it.

-- Answer from John --

You are looking at a serious issue in the relationship that is complex and will take both of your energies and courage to change. Take heart, you can work with this situation. It holds within it the seeds for making positive changes to both of your lives and in making your relationship better. But you will both need to face it — and work with it — and most likely get third party help to do so. There have been some psychological and emotional impacts of the 2nd child and those may or may not even be correctly understood by her. You also have your own part of the puzzle to unravel. This may be a physical thing — a shift in body chemistry — and it may be worthwhile to look at that angle with a medical doctor. But most likely, there are underlying psychological factors that you both need to work with to shift the sexual nature of your relationship.

Your first step is to get her agreement that this is worth working on and that she is willing to do so. You need to create a sense of partnership with her to change this situation, which doesn’t work for either of you. It is very important that you need to make that request for partnership in a way that gives her total equal power to call the shots. In other words, if you make this all about her not putting out sexually — and if you make it seem like the real goal of doing this work is that she will have to put out more — then I think you will not be able to motivate her. That only continues the current problem. And you already know how that is going.

Instead, if you say that the two of you are suffering a challenge to the relationship — and that the sexual energy is only a symptom of that challenge — and that the solution is totally unknown (it’s not just having more sex) — and that each of you will have to do equal amounts of work to change things (including you) — and that whatever the results of this work, it will be mutual in benefit (good for her, too) — then you will have a better chance to motivate her to join you.

Realistically, the general response that people have to situations like yours is that something is really really wrong. This in itself is threatening and leads to fear that can immobilize the attempt to change things. So it will be important to try to overcome this idea that something is wrong. The only way to do this is by seeing that there is a very very important opportunity for both of you to improve your personal lives by doing this work. In that sense, what you need to do is to create a powerful shared vision with her around the importance of facing this challenge and doing some work together to improve things.