3 common reasons women stop having sex with their husbands.
Hi, I’m your host, Frank Sasso, I’m a Clinical psychotherapist from Chicago, IL. Aside from my work as a mental health counselor, I’m also a board-certified drug and alcohol counselor, who has worked in the field of addictions for a long while. Folks, I know the title of this podcast on some of the reasons your wife won’t have sex with you, but I want you to know this podcast is open to all listeners. Everyone is welcomed.
You know, this podcast is focused on three specific groups of people.
The first are couples over 30-40s who are considering having children.
So that’s 1.
The next group are mothers and fathers out there who are all about psychological and physical wellness and would naturally be attracted to a show that’s focused on self-improvement.
So that’s group 2.
Then there is a third group of people.
These are parents who are feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenting and just looking for some place where they can listen and maybe relate. This 3rd groups encompasses everything from relationship problems to everyday challenges raising kids. Just a brief disclaimer before I begin, this podcast is not a replacement for mental health counseling. I’m also not acting as your personal therapist. Okay, let’s get started.
Ahh, marriage and sex. You know it can be quite a complicated subject. As male mental health counselor, I generally see a lot of men in my private practice who are just naturally more comfortable talking with another guy about stuff going on in their lives. And that’s understandable right? It’s not that a female therapist can’t be helpful -because they most certainly can be- but some of the men who come to my psychotherapy practice want to feel like they can openly chat with another guy and sometimes engage in a little masculine talk, without feeling like they might be judged by the opposite sex.
Speaking of the opposite sex, I just want to mention that it’s been a crazy week for me. Since some of the Coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, I’ve been running my 4-year-old all across the city to different activities. She’s finally back at daycare, gymnastics on Saturday, and starting next week, martial arts. I’m so excited for her that she will be able to get some of that personal interaction with other kids back after everything that has happened.
Anyway, I’m so glad you’re here.
One of the most common problems I hear at my counseling office comes from men who complain that their wives have just stopped having sex with them. These are generally dads, who are good people and are who are just feeling stuck about how they should approach the situation of intimacy with their wives. And some of these men become so internally frustrated with the devoid of physicality in relationships that they openly contemplate getting a separation, or worse yet – a divorce.
If that’s you, if you’re feeling like you’re ready to just walk away, try to hang in there a little longer. I’m going to share some approaches that may – keyword may – possibly help.
On many occasions, I tell my patience that- getting a divorce is the very last they want to do if it can possibly be avoided. Divorce is painful – no matter how you dice it, it’s unbelievably expensive, and it can have very deep emotional consequences on both you and your kids. Having said that, I also tell my patients that NOT every marriage is salvageable and depending upon the circumstances of the relationship – divorce is sometimes the only viable option.
Often, after the first session, I’ll ask the man in my office to think back to the day when they asked their partner to be engaged – back to a time when things weren’t so complicated.
How about you out there, can you remember when things were different in your marriage? I have a hunch you can. Imagine what it would be like to be able to get some of that magic back. How good it would feel to get some of that magic back.
That provides a nice Segway into the first reason your wife stopped having sex with you and that is: Stop trying to fix her problems.
#1 Stop trying to fix her problems.
Several years ago, I had a patient who I’ll refer to ask Jack. Jack was struggling with his marriage and was at his wits end because his wife had stopped having stopped sleeping with him. He was 36 years old at the time, - been married for around 5 years and he and his wife had a 3 year old son together.
I remember him being a nice guy who liked to play golf on the weekends and workout at the gym a few times a week. Now for Jack, the fact that his wife stopped having sex with him only exacerbated his quandary because it triggered deep emotional trauma from his early childhood. You see his parents went thru a terrible divorce when he was 14 and his mother disappeared from his life. As he matured - any sort of perceived rejection from a woman –no matter how slight - bubbled up into his personal relationships. In therapy, he was able to identify this obstacle and do the self-work to become more introspective about his feelings.
So, Jack shows up to the office, sits down on the couch and begins to tell me he’s frustrated with his wife, and that he’s been thinking about giving up on his marriage.
He desperately voices out to me, Frank - Ever since we had kids, my wife just doesn’t want to have sex anymore. I’ve been patient about it and not pressured her or anything – but I have needs too. We used to do it all the time when we were dating - and even after we were married. But now, after our son was born, she just doesn’t seem interested in it. She parades around the house in that little nightgown, and it drives me so crazy. It’s gotten to the point now where I don’t even bother to look at her anymore because I know the answer is going to be an automatic no!
Guys have you ever been in this position? Do you ever feel so attracted to your wife that it drives you crazy because you can’t be physical with her? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. A lot of husbands find themselves in this predicament.
Well, as I was saying – a few minutes into the conversation, I learn that Jack works full time as a software engineer and his wife is an elementary school teacher. He goes on to tell me that his spouse cries in the bathroom at night when he comes thru the door because she’s frustrated with the pressures from teaching 4th graders all day and worn out from taking care of their son.
So, I ask Jack - what do you do when she cries to you about the pressures of her job? I remember him quickly replying to me and saying- I tell her if she’s not happy that she should just leave that job. I don’t see what the problem is. Why does she have to make it so complicated? I then ask, well what about the part where she tells you she’s feeling exhausted from watching your son? Jack, sinks back into the couch, pauses for a few seconds, and says, well, that’s what happens to moms. Every mom feels tired.
Now, if you’re a woman out there listening to this show, you can already see the problem here. I know for you, that it’s quite easy to identify here that Jack has completely minimized his wife’s feelings and that he totally missed an opportunity to emotionally connect with her. Men, have you ever reacted this way when your wife vents to you? Do you try to just give a quick fix her problems? If you have, don’t beat yourself up, this happens more often than you think with a lot of my male clients. But do you think your wife is really going to feel like to jumping into bed with you to have sex after you completely cut her emotions off at the knees?
You see as guys; we seem to have it built into us that we need to fix every problem. Part of that is because our culture, and other parts of it is due to biology. Well guys, I’m going to tell it to you straight – your wife doesn’t want her problems fixed. She doesn’t need to be fixed. What she really wants is to for you to allow her the freedom to talk, without blowing off her concerns with some kind quick solution. More than anything else, she wants to feel INSIDE of her that you’re listening to her problems. That you care – and that you’re trying to understand. It really all comes down to being empathetic. In other words, putting yourself in her shoes.
And this can be simple right? It can feel like a relief. You don’t always have to be the problem solver or the fixer. This isn’t the 4th quarter of a football game where you come in and throw a hail Mary for the win. Instead, try sincerely listening to what she says, without offering a solution.
Here are some ideas on how you can approach this. After you get home from work- your wife will sometimes ask you about your day. I’m sure you know the routine. Instead of just saying, it was fine, or it was okay – try telling her a few highlights about what happened at work – even if it was just another boring day at the office. You see that word fine, or phrase it was okay, is sort of a red flag for a lot of women. For example, if I ask my patient, “how have you been feeling?” and they say to me, “I’m fine” then I pretty much know that there is something going on that they want to avoid. The thing is when your spouse asks you how you’re feeling after work - that’s her way of trying to bond with you and make a n emotional connection. As men, we don’t always catch this. We’re more apt to take questions like that as literal. So, try sharing a little bit about your life with her. It doesn’t take much effort.
On the other side of the coin, and more importantly – ask your wife about her day. This time, when she starts to tell you about whatever happened, keep your ears open for nuggets about what’s important to her. So, in Jack’s case, his wife expressed to him that she was frustrated with the pressures of her job and that she was burned out from taking care of their son. That didn’t mean she wanted to quit being a teacher. In fact, it turned out that his wife loved teaching.
So, I tell Jack, the next time your wife tells you about her day, I want you to try and empathize with her. Instead of giving a quick solution, reflect to her what you think she’s feeling.
Of course, Jack then asks me what do you mean by reflect to her? At that point I decide to do a role-playing exercise with him so that he can have some practice at empathizing. Role is something I often do in psychotherapy because the process can allow the patient to learn skills that can improve their interpersonal communication skills. So, in this case, I played the role of Jack and I have Jack, play the role of his wife.
Jack laughs at first, but then does his best impersonation of his wife and says to me “I’m really tired from the pressures at my job, and I feel like there isn’t enough time left in the day for me to be a good mother to our son”.
As the therapist, I carefully watch the body language and I simply tune into the emotions of her words and say back to Jack’s wife, “It sounds like your really frustrated from work and when you get home, and you’re feeling overwhelmed.”.
As Jack, is continuing to play the role of his wife he says back to me, “Yeah, I’ve been teaching an extra class this week because another teacher has been out sick”.
Again, as the therapist, I just reflect to his wife what I think she might be feeling and say, “I can’t imagine what that must be like, it sems like they put a lot of responsibility on your shoulders”.
Guys, did you notice something that happened there? Jack’s wife was sort of given this unconscious permission to keep talking about her feelings. It’s like the door was left wide open for her to share. You might also notice that as I played the role of Jack, I didn’t attach any judgement to my reflection back to her. I didn’t try to fix the problem. And the best part was, Jack’s wife feelings were validated.
By simply listening to your wife, and validating her feelings, you’re telling her on both a conscious and unconscious level that you are trying to understand.
After a few weeks of practicing this skill on his own with his spouse- Jack started to notice that his wife began talking to him more. They even started to laugh again and cuddle with each other- Something they hadn’t done in a long time. With even more time, there was enough change for his wife that she started to feel an emotional bond with her husband again. And eventually, they were able to become intimate.
That brings me to the second reason your wife maybe stopped having sex with you:
You’re Not Doing Your Fair Share of Work in the Household.
You know, over the years, I’ve had hundreds of confidential psychotherapy sessions with married women who are feeling stuck in their marriages. And by far one of their chief complaints is they are feeling way too burned out to even think about having sex at the end of the day. I mean these women are just exhausted and a lot of times madder than a wet hen over their situation. Assuming there isn’t a medical problem that’s hindering her from having intercourse, I try to make a series of suggestions based on the circumstances.
Their stories inside the walls of my office goes something like this: Frank, you know I get up in the morning, get the kids ready for school, then I try to get myself ready for work. I make the kids something to eat and then drop them off for school. I then go to the office -work all day -then pick them up on the way back home and after working all day – stop at the grocery store so we have something to eat in the house. After I get home, I straighten up the huge mess that’s waiting for me, then maybe have a bite to eat and before you know it – it’s time for bed again.
Does that sound familiar to you? Is this some version of your life right now?
So, the last thing on their minds is being intimate. Their too tired.
I then follow up and ask these moms: What about your husband? Where is he while you’re doing all this?
They usually reply with a long sigh and say something to the effect of: He just wants to veg out after he gets off work. I mean he loads the dishwasher and takes the kids to soccer on Saturday mornings, but that’s about it. Then he expects me to be in the mood to do it with him.
Now, I know there’s a lot of men listening to this right now and thinking – What’s Frank talking about? I’m a stay-at-home dad myself. No, no, this isn’t about man shaming. I’m talking about the dads out there who do the bare minimum around the house and leave everything else up to their wives.
You don’t need me to tell you that your wife is going to need a little bit more support.
Remember earlier when I talked about how many of us guys are wired a certain way? How we are predisposed to have certain behaviors. Well, much of that is due to what we saw and learned during childhood. We call this in psychological circles – vicarious learning.
To help my male clients get a better understanding of this concept, I ask them to complete something called a genogram as homework. The genogram is a powerful tool that was invented by psychiatrist Dr. Murry Bowen during the 1970s and is used in a field of psychology known as family systems.
It’s basically a pictorial device that allows a person to map out the behavioral and psychological patterns of their family members going back generations. For example, did your mom or other female family members take on the primary child raising responsibilities growing up? If the answer is yes, then you can assume that this kind of family dynamic is normal because it’s what you saw in your own life.
Episode 1 on tips for starting a family later in life focuses more on this subject.
The genogram is full of information that can even identify generational patterns of mental health disorders, addictions and in this case – basic relationship patterns. I’ll leave a link in the show notes so you can see it for yourself.
Now, I don’t want to get too down into the weeds with this, but after completing the genogram, a lot of husbands are able to identify what they vicariously learned about the role of being a husband. And much of that came directly from what they experienced during childhood. Many times, they saw the female members of the family doing all the work around the house, including spending time with the kids- while the men went off to do something else. And that makes sense, right?
The problem is husband/wife roles have changed an awful lot over the past several decades and your wife would probably greatly appreciate the help.
So, if you’re a husband in a situation where your wife is exhausted and isn’t in feeling like being intimate with you – here’s what you can do about it.
Simply talk with your wife and ask her what else you can do to relieve some of her stress in her day-to-day life. Offer to spend more time with the kids or take a few chores off her hands every week. I hate to be cliché here, but that saying, “Happy Wife, Happy Life” really does ring true for a lot of couples.
In my own experience working with couples, this simple gesture makes a huge difference, and allows the wife a little time to de-compress and have time to experience her own relationship.
Just imagine how great your wife will feel when she’s less stressed out and has more mental space to focus some attention on you.
#3 It Feels Robotic
Ok now onto the third possible reason your wife stopped having sex with you – and this one can be an ego bruiser- and that is Sex Feels Robotic.
Now what do I mean by that word: Robotic. I mean that’s one hell of a word to describe making love to your wife, isn’t it? – It’s right up there with – I’d rather be rearranging my sock drawer.
But as a clinical therapist who has listened to many married couples – the truth is that’s exactly how many wives feel. They might sometimes go thru the motions of doing the deed, but as their doing it, they are feeling empty inside.
Now if you’re a man in this situation, don’t lose your lunch because you think your wife doesn’t like being intimate with you anymore. That’s certainly not it. In many cases, this is just an indication that she might need more of a mental connection with you.
When I hear this presenting problem from the wife, that sex feels robotic, or some variation, I then ask the couple, “When was the last time you had a real date night?” I’m not talking about watching Netflix together and ordering a pizza, I mean real quality time where you enjoyed each other’s company?
Sadly, about 90 percent of the time these couples can’t remember the last time they truly put aside time to be with each other.
So, I’ll usually give the couple the following instructions. First, I’ll ask them to clear their calendars for at least 30 min every week. Generally, this will happen in the evenings. The most important thing here is that the couple stick to their plans and try as much as possible not let anything get in the way of that special time they’ve set aside.
Next, I’ll tell them that date night doesn’t have to mean going to a movie and dinner. Often, they are surprised that they don’t even have to leave the house and they don’t even have to spend any money.
So instead, date night means in this context that the couple turn off all electronic devices, and yes this means cell phones and computers and put the entire focus of their attention on each other. The purpose here is to have the husband and wife learn how to re-connect again on an emotional level. After working all week and watching after the kids, it’s extremely easy to get lost in the tunnel of life.
Does this sound like something you can do? Can you put aside 30 min a week to spend some quality time with your wife?
Next, I usually give them some conversation starters they can take turns asking each other - keyword – take turns. I by no means created these conversational questions myself. As a clinical therapist, I like using a tool called The Couples Therapy Workbook, written by Kathleen Yates – Youngman. It’s a fantastic workbook just for couples - full of conversation starter that inspire romance and laughter.
Questions like “Do you remember the first time we met? Or deeper ones such as, “When did you realize you had fallen in love with me?” As they work through the chapters of this workbook each week - they eventually get to the subject of sexual intimacy. If you’re interested in this, I’ll make sure to leave a link in the episode notes.
Now, you don’t necessarily have to have the workbook to see progress. Many couples I’ve helped have found success by just dusting off an old board game and having some laughs rolling the dice.
Others prefer to light a candle, turn on some soft music, and spend a little time cuddling.
Husbands out there, the whole purpose of putting aside just a half hour a week is to try and re-connect your relationship. It will give both of you and your spouse something to look forward to during the week because you’re purposefully tuning everything else out.
Before I close this subject of intimacy, I’d like to say that there are lots of other valid reasons your wife stopped being intimate with you. The three I mentioned are just the most common I’ve seen in my experience as a psychotherapist.
Before I being to close out today’s show, I want to say thank you to everyone who has been hitting that subscribe button to hear more useful about parenting and relationships. I don’t know if you will hit the subscribe button now or after this episode, but I’m glad you came here today.
Well, we covered a lot in today’s show, wouldn’t you say? We looked at some of the reasons around why your wife stopped having sex with you, and you learned some of the ways I help couples during marriage counseling sessions solve intimacy problems. It was quite a lot of valuable information, wouldn’t you say?
I want you to know that there are lots of ways to reach me online. You can contact me directly by emailing. I do get a lot of messages from around the world, but I always try to respond to everyone as soon as possible. You can also find the show on Instagram and Facebook.
One of the other ways people like to keep in contact is by visiting my website by going to Anxiety Therapist Podcast.
I also want to say thank you to everyone who have been leaving me their reviews on Apple Podcast, and other listening apps. The feedback means a lot to me and helps inspire me to keep producing more episodes. Because I’m a parent, and work full time as a therapist, it isn’t easy for me to always be able to create new shows. But I’m working hard on putting out more practical subject matter that you can use in everyday life.
Well, that’s it for today’s episode. And remember the three things you can do about a lack of intimacy with your wife. 1. Stop trying to solve her problems, 2. Offer to help her more around the house and with the kids, and 3. Put aside a half hour each week to re-connect your relationship.
Take good care of yourself, I’m Frank Sasso, and this has been another episode of the parenting over 40 podcast.