I hear a lot of people talk about getting back to the way things were in the past — passionate and sexy. But, what if there isn't necessarily something to get "back" to because it wasn't there in the first place? Can a marriage last if everything else is fantastic, but has no sexual chemistry? Or at least one person isn't into the other? I don't have a low libido. I'm just not into my husband even though he's a great person, very attractive and my best friend. What should I do? I care about sex but it's non-existent in my life.
— Not Feeling It (for him)
I get asked this question almost every week. When you love your husband, but don't feel sexually attracted to him, it's very challenging. If your husband desires you and you're not aroused by him, he might think it's because you have a low libido. It sounds like this isn't the case in your situation. You're interested in sex, but not with your partner — and this isn't new for you.
It's assumed that newlyweds have frequent, passionate sex. While it's true that New Relationship Energy is a phenomenon that typically involves heightened emotional and sexual feelings of excitement, not everyone who gets married experiences this effortless (and often fleeting) elation and passion.
Some people who aren't turned on to their partners consider trying consensual non-monogamy. But, as I've mentioned here in the column in the past, consensual non-monogamy works best when the relationship is overflowing with sexual energy, not when the couple is sexually depleted and disconnected.
So here you are, in a loving relationship with someone who's your best friend and who wants to be sexual with you. You're feeling stuck. In your case, you describe him as a great person who's also attractive. I hear you. I'm completely against what some people might call "duty sex" — participation in sex ONLY because one person feels obligated to the other. The reason that I'm so against duty sex is that I've worked with many people (mostly women) who have participated in duty sex over years and even decades. Often their bodies end up feeling completely numb when they're touched by their partners at all. This is because they've overridden their body's natural feelings. When this happens, they can feel resentful or even disgusted by any kind of touch. Eventually they have a very difficult time getting any pleasure from sex. Some people also identify as asexual. This isn't usually exactly the same situation as what I'm describing here, but duty sex is also very damaging to asexual people.
Sexual turn-on is something that's multi-layered. There are things about our bodies that impact our desire. There are things about our homes (our "sex nests") and our relationship that impact our desire. Most importantly — our previous experiences, emotions, sense of eroticism and energy combined with our mindset have a huge impact on what arouses us. I recommend finding a sex specialist (sex therapist or professional sex coach/sexologist) so that you can dig into what's been going on between you over time. If we were working together, I'd want to know what happened in your life before you met your husband, how your upbringing influenced you both sexually, and how specific things about your sexual history with your husband have impacted you. Sometimes knowing what these things are can make a big difference in how you feel.
You're not alone in this. But if you continue your relationship without getting help from someone who can shine a light on what might be really going on, you could end up with significant problems. Sometimes situations like this end up in emotional distancing or even infidelity. This is an important part of your life. Take time. Look inside and you can both have the relationship of your dreams.
You got this.
PS: You haven't mentioned how your husband feels about this situation. For some partners, what feels like a great (but sexless) relationship is actually very painful — even soul crushing.
—Dr. Jane Guyn (she/her) is a well-known relationship coach who received her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and is trained as a Professional Sex Coach and Core Energy Course. Send her your questions at [email protected].