Top 10 Reasons Married Women Don’t Want Sex

Top 10 Reasons Married Women Don't Want Sex

Why Married Women Don’t Enjoy Sex

As a sex therapist I spend a lot of time with couples that are having difficulty in the sexual part of their relationship. Most of the couples I see are coming to me, at least in part, because the wife is not interested in connecting sexually as frequently as her husband (though 1 out of 5 times it’s the opposite). 
When I start assessing the situation I usually find a combination of the following 10 causes for low sexual desire in women. They are all generally related to violations of the pleasure principle. Fortunately, they can all be treated with a high degree of success. 

Pleasure Principle

All barriers to sexual desire for married women are usually related to the universal Pleasure Principle. The pleasure principle is simply this: We desire to engage that which we enjoy. We do not desire to engage what we do not enjoy. 
It’s because of the pleasure principle that I never have a deep burning desire to be poked in the eye. I don’t enjoy it, so I don’t crave it. Each of the barriers to a women’s sexual desire make sex not enjoyable for her. If it’s not enjoyable, why would a woman want it?
Side note: To help you understand these 10 reasons I need to define for you the 2 types of sexual arousal. The first is subjective arousal. This is the awareness or feeling of being horny / sexually aroused. The second is physical arousal this refers to the physiological changes that happen in the body as it becomes sexual aroused (dilation of the pupils, increased heart rate, blood filling the genitals, increased body temperature, perspiration, increased genital sensitivity). It is possible to have one kind of arousal without the other, and each can lead to the other.  

1. Fatigue

Men and women are different. One of the differences is in the way fatigue effects sexual arousal in women. Both men and women’s physical arousal is effected by fatigue, but women’s bodies are effected to a much greater degree. If a woman is exhausted physically, her body wont respond with physical arousal, which means she wont want or enjoy connecting sexually. If you don’t enjoy connecting sexually – you wont want to connect sexually. 

2. Hormone Cycle

A woman hits her sex hormone peak in late teens to mid-twenties. As this starts to trail off over time, there’s usually still a hormonal surge that happens 1-3 days a month right around ovulation. The body says “Hey, I’m about to drop an egg, go find your man so you can fertilize it.” 
It’s pretty normal for a mature married woman to only experience what we call initiating desire (ie. a spontaneous desire out of the blue) a few days a month during this hormonal surge. The rest of the month it is very normal for woman to connect sexually out of receptive desire. We’ll discuss these further in an article on overcoming the Hormone Cycle for better sex. 

3. Anorgasmia

An inability or difficulty achieving orgasm, that’s what Anorgasmia means. If you’re not experiencing sexual climax and release when you connect sexually, that significantly impacts the pleasurableness of the experience. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy sex at all or that it’s even normal to orgasm every time you connect sexually. Sexual frustration from a lack of release, however, does diminish the sexual experience- especially if it’s chronic. If unaddressed it will likely leave you feeling less and less interested in sex as time goes by.

4. Lack of Emotional Connection

Sex is an emotional experience. God designed sexual desire to lead a women into an emotionally intimate relationship and to enjoy sexual expression in the context of an emotionally safe and connected relationship- i.e. Marriage. If a women’s marriage doesn’t feel safe or if she doesn’t feel emotionally connected to her husband, she’s probably not going to feel a desire to be sexually vulnerable with him. 
Being disconnected doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bad relationship. Couples who love each other very much and our safe with each other can get emotionally disconnected just from the busyness of life getting in the way. If we’ve been to busy to nurture the relationship, then we’re probably emotionally disconnected. 
If we do have serious communication difficulties or breaches of trust in the relationship, it’s unlikely that we will ever have a healthy, passionate, sexual relationship until this is addressed. 

5. Physical Pain

Does anybody desire physical pain? If you do, you should probably see a counselor about that, it’s not healthy. If sex hurts, I mean really hurts not just a little rough in a playful way, you’re not ever going to desire it. Nor should you. In fact, if you “play through the pain” you can do serious long term damage to your sexual relationship by pairing pain with all things sexual and romantic in your brain. That pairing can even bleed into an association with your spouse in general, which can lead to resentment and loss of respect for your spouse. 

6. Trauma

If you have had negative emotional experiences associated with sexuality, this can significantly impact your sexual desire. Examples of sexual trauma that might impact your sexual desire include:
  • Feeling pressured by a boyfriend to have sex when you weren’t comfortable doing so. 
  • Being sexual in ways that left you feeling guilty or ashamed at an earlier time in your life. 
  • Having been touched or made to act in sexual ways as a kid that made you feel uncomfortable by friends, siblings, baby-sitters, a parent, or another adult.
  • Sexual experiences that have been painful physically or emotionally. 
  • Being forced to engage sexually when you didn’t want to by any one, including your spouse. 
  • Exposures to pornographic material as a kid. 

7. Fear of Pregnancy

If you really don’t want to become pregnant sometimes the fear of becoming pregnant can get in the way of desire. This can be true even if you are taking steps to prevent pregnancy. 
8. Body Self-Consciousness
Feeling attractive / sexy is an important driver for a women’s sexual desire. If you don’t feel sexy, you’re probably going to have difficulty desiring to engage sexually. This is different than men, who are more driven by how attractive they find their spouse then how attractive they think they themselves are. 
If you feel uncomfortable with your body or believe it is unattractive this is going to get in the way of you wanting to be naked with your spouse. This can also take the form of you lacking confidence in engaging sexually. If you are afraid your attempts at being sexy will come off as awkward and embarrassing, you are more likely to avoid sexual encounters. 

9. Sexy = Dirty

Growing up we can sometimes receive the message that sexual desire is lust and only whores / prostitutes want sex. This belief that sex is slutty / dirty and that you are bad for having sexual feelings, especially as a single person, leads us  to feel bad about the sexual part of ourself. Pleasing God and being horny are seen to be incompatible. 
This is especially true for those who grew up in a very religious home. Sometimes the message that “sex is holy” is interpreted to mean that sexy feelings or the desire to engage sexually any way other than “missionary style” is a sinful corruption of God’s design for sex. 
What follows is feeling bad about yourself any time you experience sexual feelings. So you learn to shut down your sexual feelings. This tends to get in the way of desire for sex.

10. Busyness

Work, kids, church, groceries, dinner, laundry, Bible study, small group, friends, family, Facebook….sleep. Who has time or energy for sex? Even on vacation we’re running from one activity to the next. Finding time or mental focus for romance is harder than it sounds. 

You’re Not Alone and There is Help.

If you find yourself in any of these bullet points, you’re not alone. There is a reason they are on a top 10 list – because they’re common. They’re also treatable. Many people just like you have struggled with these things getting in the way of their sex life. As sex therapists, we know how to trouble shoot your difficulties and help you with a plan to overcome them. 
Stay tuned for upcoming articles on how to overcome each of these common reasons for low sexual desire. 
Curious why sexual desire seems to change for a woman after marriage? Check out this article: Why Women’s Sex Drive Declines After Marriage

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Why Women’s Sex Drive Declines After Marriage

why womens sex drive declines after marriage

Why don’t I want sex anymore?

I used to get horny. Before marriage or early in our relationship I would think about sex and want sexual touch / intimacy. Sometime after marriage or the relationship settling-in that seemed to decrease and now is maybe a fleeting thought once a month or so if ever. Why is that?

Where did the horny go?

Early in a relationship there are a variety of circumstances that can supercharge a woman’s sexual arousal. 

Youthful hormones

Women hit their sex hormone peak in their late teens to mid-twenties. This hormonal high water mark serves to intensify the frequency of sexual thoughts and drive. 

Feeling Sexy

Female sexual desire is closely related to how sexy a woman feels. It’s likely as a single woman you were more intentional about exercise, fashion, underwear selection, make-up, and flirty behavior as you thought more about impressing the opposite sex. These things made you feel sexy, which in turn increased your sexual arousal. 

More Time

As a single person you generally have more time to focus on the things that make you feel sexy and to take care of yourself in ways that counteract stress and fatigue. The additional confidence and energy you have as a result gives your body what it needs to experience arousal. 

Relationship Excitement

Being love drunk in a new relationship is super exciting. The intense amount of time you spend thinking about and connecting with your new love means a high degree of emotional connectedness. The excitement of the new also creates a surge of adrenaline when around your love that mixes with sex hormones to electrify your body.  It’s also likely that your partners is more attentive to you during this time , which fuels the fire.

Married Life

Once settled into married life, especially after children come along, many of these things change. Our sex hormones begin to decline, we become less focused on impressing our man, our body changes with age and pregnancies, we’re increasingly busy, and nurturing our relationship can move to the back burner. The arousal superchargers for single women can also hide underlying sexual problems that are bound to appear once the hormonal high tide recedes. All of these are contributors to reasons why married women don’t want sex. 

Keep the Fire Alive

What once came effortlessly takes intentional focus to sustain across a lifetime. As you and your relationship mature you’ll need to address common barriers to sexual desire that most women face. They can definitely be addressed, but they probably wont fix themselves. 
Learn more with this article: Top 10 Reasons Married Women Don’t Want Sex

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Wives Sexual Desire | What you need to know.

Wives Sexual Desire | What you need to know

Parts of this article were written by Rick Reynolds, LCSW and appeared first as Recovering from infidelity: Difficulties with Intimacy

Wives sexual desire is a subject misunderstood by nearly all men and most women. 

In recent years, one of the hottest topics in sexology has been female sexual desire disorders. For the past four decades, women have been pathologized for not being like men. For instance, according to University of British Columbia psychiatrist Rosemary Basson, “sexual difficulties are particularly prevalent among women seeking routine gynecological care.2 In population surveys, some 30%–35% of women aged 18–70 have reported a lack of sexual desire during the previous 1–12 months.3,4”

The traditional assumption for both men and women has been that desire precedes sexual arousal. Therefore, if a woman is no longer experiencing desire, it is assumed that she now has some sort of sexual hang up or disorder. While this may be true for men, research in the past 10 years reveals a different pattern for women.

Men tend to be more like a loaded gun ready to fire. All that’s needed is someone to pull on the trigger. A man’s libido acts as a drive similar to hunger or thirst. For the past hundred years, sex professionals have assumed that a woman’s libido was at least similar, and that if a woman didn’t feel desire something had to be wrong.

Contributing to the problem are the messages delivered through media. Women are sexually portrayed in books, movies, articles, and even in church circles as men in female form. This mistaken belief concerning female arousal and response patterns has left generations of men and women believing something that’s false. Hardly a day goes by that some couple doesn’t come in to my office arguing about the wife’s lack of sexual desire. This leaves women feeling that they are somehow flawed because they don’t share the same sexual interest as their husband.

But what if desire does not precede arousal?

That is exactly what Basson discovered after interviewing hundreds of women. Contrary to the conventional model, for many women desire is not the cause of lovemaking, but rather the result. Basson’s research revealed that women often begin sexual experiences feeling sexually neutral. But as things heat up, so do they – and eventually desire is experienced.

This explains why Viagra doesn’t work for women, and why sex-boosting supplements are only minimally successful. Products that change the physiology of sexual arousal do not affect desire. At best, they can only increase blood flow into the genitals. It’s easy for men to be aware of increased blood flow because erections are hard to miss. From there it’s only a short step in a man’s mind from erection to the assumption that they have desire. Women, on the other hand, are often unaware of gentle blood engorgement, and even when they are aware of it they frequently report no feelings of arousal.

If women don’t experience a sense of desire, as most men know it, then most guys might wonder why a woman would even want to be sexual. According to research, women tend to be sexual for reasons that affirm their relationships, but their reasons are not inherently sexual. These might include wanting to please their lover, a desire to feel close, to prevent strife, to reconnect after a fight, or because they feel a responsibility. Research supports the old adage that men become intimate to have sex and women have sex to become intimate.

The critical question becomes not how do you ignite a woman’s desire for sex, but instead, what kind of interaction arouses women sufficiently to enable them to experience desire?

The types of interaction that fuel desires in women are playful, leisurely, sensual (lovemaking based on whole body massage that can include genitals but certainly is not focused on them). In surveys, the primary complaints of women are about interactions with their husbands which are non-sensual, too rushed, too focused on breasts and genitals, and too quickly plunged into intercourse. Rushed lovemaking fails to give women the time most need to respond to become aroused enough to experience desire.

Further complicating the issue is the culture created by Viagra. Men mistakenly believe they are sexually aroused when they have an erection. Therefore taking Viagra and having an erection means they’re good to go. However, erections have nothing to do with psychological arousal. Any erectile medication can give a physical erection, but does it create an excitement to be with your mate and to experience the wonder of who they are? Far too often a man’s genitals on Viagra will be at 100%, but his psychological arousal remains at 10 or 20 percent. Once the erection is in place, he proceeds on to intercourse, skipping the steps which would create psychological arousal for both himself and his wife. This creates a growing sense of dissatisfaction for the woman since she is not experiencing the necessary relational interactions and arousal to make the experience pleasurable for her.

Research shows that many women do experience spontaneous desire and interest when they’re involved in a new relationship or when coming back together after long-term separation from their partner, but it also indicates that most women in long-term relationships rarely think about sex or experience spontaneous sexual desire. Therefore, women seem to operate more out of a point of sexual neutrality–where she is receptive to being sexual, but does not initiate sexual activity. Many women report that the goal of sexual activity is not necessarily orgasm but rather personal satisfaction, which is then experienced as physical satisfaction (orgasm) and/or emotional satisfaction (the feeling of closeness and connection with a partner).

There is not something necessarily wrong if a woman is not experiencing the same desire and arousal patterns as a man. Men and women are not the same.

Women need to quit being so hard on themselves if they don’t experience the same desire as their husbands. And men need to quit thinking there must be something wrong with their wife if she doesn’t experience sexual desire as he does.

If men or women experience a lack of desire in a marital relationship. Multiple factors need to be explored: The following is a list of factors from Rosemary Basson’s article.

Women’s sexual dysfunction: revised and expanded definitions

Interpersonal and contextual factors

In a recent national probability sample of American women 20–65 years of age, their emotional relationship with the partner during sexual activity and general emotional well-being were the 2 strongest predictors of absence of distress about sex. Women who defined themselves (using standard psychological instruments) to be in good mental health were much less likely than women with lower self-rated mental health to report distress about their sexual relationship (odds ratio 0.41, 95% confidence interval 0.29– 0.59). The healthier women were therefore 59% less likely to report distress about their sexual relationship. Feeling emotionally close to their partner during sexual activity decreased the odds of “slight distress” by 33% relative to “no distress,” and “marked distress” by 43%; in other words, the stronger the emotional intimacy with the partner, the less distress. Other contextual factors reported to reduce arousability included concerns about safety (risks of unwanted pregnancy and STDs, for example, or emotional or physical safety), appropriateness or privacy, or simply that the situation is insufficiently erotic, too hurried, or too late in the day.

Personal psychological factors

Frequently a woman’s arousal is precluded by the nonsexual distractions of daily life, but also sometimes by sexual distractions (e.g., worry about not becoming sufficiently aroused, reaching orgasm, a male partner’s delayed or premature ejaculation or a female partner’s lack of orgasm). Empirical studies have shown a high correlation of desire complaints with measures of low self-image, mood instability and tendency toward worry and anxiety (without meeting the clinical definition of a mood disorder). Differences between a group of 46 consecutive women with a diagnosis of desire disorder without clinical depression and a control group of 100 healthy women were significant for 6 out of 8 scales in the Narcissism Inventory (a standardized self-administered instrument). The scales indicated that the women with desire disorder had self-esteem that was weak or even fragile, emotional instability, anxiety and neuroticism. Sexual arousal and orgasm, especially in a partner’s presence, necessitates a certain degree of vulnerability, which is impossible for some women who cannot tolerate feelings of loss of control generally, and loss of control specifically of their body’s reactions.

Further inhibiting psychological factors include memories of past negative sexual experiences, including those that have been coercive or abusive, and expectations of negative outcomes to the sexual experience (e.g., from dyspareunia or partner sexual dysfunction).

Biological factors

The biological and pathophysiological underpinnings of normal and abnormal female sexual response are only recently receiving attention. Most of the basic science and animal experiments in this area are beyond the scope of this review. Some promising attempts are noted, however, in part because they relate attempts to ameliorate sexual dysfunction by means of off-label use of available drugs and to avoid the negative sexual side-effects of medications such as antidepressants.

Depression is strongly associated with reduced sexual function. Of 79 women with major depression surveyed before treatment with medication, 50% reported decreased sex drive; 50%, more difficulty obtaining vaginal lubrication; and 50%, far less sexual arousal when engaging in sex. Only 50% had been sexually active during the previous month. In addition, sexual dysfunction can constitute an adverse event of antidepressant use, especially among patients who had low levels of sexual enjoyment before the onset of their depression. When patients are specifically asked about sexual side-effects, they are acknowledged by as many as 70%.

Sexual dysfunction is also a common side-effect of treatment with antidepressants. Among women being treated, it has been found to be more common in those who are older, married, without postsecondary education, without full-time work, or taking concomitant medication (any type); those who have a comorbid illness that might affect sexual functioning, or a history of antidepressant- associated sexual dysfunction; those who deem sexual function unimportant; and those whose previous sexual engagements had afforded little pleasure.

Currently under scrutiny is the role of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in influencing sex hormone receptors and how the neurotransmitters are, in turn, influenced by sex hormones. Estrogenized female animals change their sexual behaviour when administered progesterone; studies have shown that the same changes can result from dopamine or the presence of a male animal. Among 75 non-depressed women with a DSM-IV diagnosis of hypoactive sexual desire disorder who received bupropion (a dopaminergic drug; average dose 389 mg/ d) or placebo, improvements in pleasure, arousal and orgasm were statistically significant for those administered the active drug. Interestingly, these changes were unaccompanied by increased desire.

Testosterone itself is being investigated as to its role in sexual function and dysfunction. About half of daily testosterone production in women is from the ovary. Some women with sudden loss of all ovarian production of androgens lose their sexual arousability. Supplementation to high physiological (as opposed to pharmacologically evident) levels of testosterone recently has led to increased arousability and more intense orgasmic experiences, but not to increased sexual thinking, fantasizing or spontaneous desire. Of 75 surgically menopausal women aged 31–56 participating in a randomized clinical trial of testosterone versus placebo, those given testosterone (300 μg transdermally) in addition to estrogen reported increased frequency of sexual activity, sexual pleasure and intensity of orgasm. So, reminiscent of the animal model, supplementation with a dopaminergic drug or testosterone can increase some women’s sexual arousability; but so too, as in the animal model, can environmental change (a new partner).

This may be far more information than you wanted, but I hope it helps you begin to understand the complexity of this issue.

References

Basson R. Female sexual response: the role of drugs in the management of sexual dysfunction. Obstet Gynecol 2001;98:350-353.

Basson, R. Women’s sexual dysfunction: revised and expanded definitions. CMAJ, 2005; 172:1267.

Whipple B, Brash-McGreer K. Management of female sexual dysfunction. In: Sipski ML, Alexander CJ, eds. Sexual Function in People with Disability and Chronic Illness. A Health Professional’s Guide. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, Inc.; 1997, pp 509-534.

Parts of this article were written by Rick Reynolds, LCSW and appeared first as Recovering from infidelity: Difficulties with Intimacy

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Free Sex Therapy Help

Professional counseling is a big investment with a big benefits. It will cost you: time, energy, and money. In return you can…

  • Find healing for the hurting parts of your life
  • Enjoy more satisfying relationships
  • Learn how to better enjoy the sexual part of your life
  • Break destructive cycles
  • Better understand who you are as a sexual being
  • Gain the skills to be the best you possible

These Free Sex Therapy Resources – Recommendations can help you get the most out of your professional counseling experience.

 Helpful Sex Therapy Links

  • HealthySex.com / Wendy Maltz

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  • Bethesda Workshops

    -Marnie Ferree and the team at Bethesda Workshops have put together a world class 4 day intensive treatment program for men and women who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction. The program is extremely effective and affordable. This program is Biblically Christian and clinically solid. Highly recommended.

  • Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity (ISSI)

    Mark Yarhouse and the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity are the leading authorities on sexual identity issues including same-sex attraction and gender identity confusion. Their model for helping people with distressing same-sex attractions or gay, lesbian, bi-sexual issues (Sexual Identity Therapy) is cutting edge and completely compatible with the Christian faith.

  • The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse

    The Sexual Healing Journey helps survivors to:

    • identify the sexual effects of abuse
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    • learn a new approach to touch and sex
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  • A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds

    – NOT JUST FOR NEWLYWEDS. This is a guide to enjoying God’s gift of married sexual pleasure. A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds answers specific, often unasked questions about sexual topics, and presents newly-married couples with detailed techniques and behavioral skills for learning sexual pleasure and intimate companionship. This book offers invaluable information in a professional yet sensitive style. If you have sex, or will be having sex, or hope to someday have sex ~ This book will help you! It maybe the best $10 you spend this year.

  • Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction

    – Dr. Mark Laaser is the leading Christian expert in sexual addiction. He and his wife (author of Shattered Vows) are founders of the ministry Faithful and True that helps thousands who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction through resources and workshops.

  • When Lost Men Come Home

    – This book offers a Christ-centered application of the powerful 12 steps, developed and popularized by the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous for those who struggle with pornography and sexual addiction. Dave Zailer has created a new, unique handbook for the journey, marrying the biblical context to the proven spiritual 12 steps program.

  • Shattered Vows: Hope and Healing for Women Who Have Been Sexually Betrayed

    – This sensitive and practical guide offers proven tools that help women struggling with sexual betrayal make wise and empowering decisions. Shattered Vows is inspired by the author’s personal journey through betrayal, her extensive work with hundreds of hurting women, and her intimate marriage two decades after the disclosure of her husband’s infidelity.

  • Sexual Identity: A Guide to Living in the Time Between the Times

    – Most people who attempt to change their homosexual attractions and behaviors experience only partial success despite their best efforts. Written for Christians whose beliefs and values support their work towards chastity, this book offers a unique look at how they can manage and develop their sexual identity through a number of practical strategies.

  • The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

    – You may think you don’t know anyone who has been sexually abused, especially if most of your friends and acquaintances are Christians. But the statistics indicate otherwise. The Wounded Heart is an intensely personal and specific look at this most “soul deadening” form of abuse. Personal because it may be affecting you, your spouse, a close friend or neighbor, or someone you know well at church; and specific because it goes well beyond the general issues and solutions discussed in other books. Dr. Allender’s book reaches deep into the wounded heart of someone you know, exploring the secret lament of the soul damaged by sexual abuse and laying hold of the hope buried there by the One whose unstained image we all bear.

Take the first step towards a better tomorrow, today.

Start Your Journey

Learn about how our counseling services work and how to get started.

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