Q: Hi, I’m 40 and married for 20 years. I have a stable marriage and a friendly relationship with my husband. From the beginning my husband’s sex drive has been much less than normal. He isn’t very adventurous or outgoing. I’ve had many discussions with him and tried to address this issue. Now I’ve reached a place where it doesn’t bother me much. Is that ok? Have I reached an impasse?
A: You are speaking the fears of every woman who has ever been in a passionless relationship.
Chemistry is a wonderful feeling. It consists of an increase in dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, estrogen, and oxytocin and makes you feel really high. This high – which we call chemistry or attraction – generally lasts from 18-36 months. And while it is a wonderful feeling, it is not the same as love, although most folks call it being “in love”. Additionally, this “in love” feeling is not necessarily a good predictor of your future, because, well, you’ve had it before in relationships that ultimately failed. What I’ve observed as a sexologist is that people are slaves to chemistry, ignore compatibility (the ability to get along and build a future), and wonder why they’re so unhappy if they’re “in love”.
When you’re planning a 40-year relationship, compatibility – the ability to compromise, make thousands of tiny decisions as a couple, and build a life together – is ultimately more important than white-hot chemistry.
As to what you do now? I think it has to be a hard conversation with your husband, in which you figure out your endgame before you talk, and lead him to your desired conclusion
1. Compliment your husband on being a great husband, father and teammate.
2. Tell him that you feel sexually deprived. Tell him that while you love him dearly and have no desire to break up your family, you are starving for affection and don’t want to live the rest of your life without it.
3. Ask him to collaborate with you in coming up with a solution. This is a team effort to preserve your marriage AND make you feel sexually satisfied, and if he values your happiness, he has to help solve it.
What will you come up with? That’s up to you as a couple.
I wish you well as a doctor, and thank you for illustrating that no sexual chemistry should be a non-starter in relationships, and that is it also an important part of a married life.
Please relax and focus on your happiness and cultivate hobbies and do things that bring you joy.
All the best!