I’m often asked, “What should I do when there’s no sex in my marriage?” Fortunately, there is a lot of information about what to do when there’s very little or no sex in a marriage. Unfortunately, much of that information may have nothing to do with your particular situation. Before we talk about what you can do about this problem, I would like to put something on the table…Basically we pick our problems that we focus on and try to “fix”. There is not really a lot of information out there about how to solve unsolvable issues. When something is “unsolvable”, we have to go through grief therapy, instead of working on a particular problem. An example of this would be that an adult child has been in a terrible accident and must now be given constant care for the rest of his/her life. God forbid this should happen! I am not trying to pronounce doom on you! Yes, some counselor somewhere might try to advise you as a couple to schedule alone time together, and that might help, but my point is that there are a lot of things in life that are not to our liking, and there is no way to make them so. They just are, and no one knows why. I suppose there are people who go to their doctor and get “fixed” so that their sex drive returns. However, if your spouse is on some sort of medication that lowers sex drive, I am not sure much can be done to increase it. I think we generally expect too much from doctors. (I’m glad I don’t have a place for comments right now!) But on to what can be done about this very painful problem…
- Mindfulness: When something is dreadfully painful, we tend to grasp urgently for solutions. Our survival behavior is activated and we tend to shut down creative thinking and react from the primitive part of the brain. You may have noticed that explaining your extreme pain and fear has made little to no difference to your spouse’s sex drive. If that is the case, take a deep breath and decide to be kind to yourself. Notice your feelings, let them be present with you. Don’t reject yourself or your feelings. Be “hospitable” to these emotions you wish you didn’t have. Make a place for them. Make them welcome in your life. I know they are really far from welcome, but decide to stop resisting the pain. Sometimes the resistance makes the pain so much worse, that when we stop resisting, we feel the pain lessen, and then we can catch our breath and approach things from a different place. You may need to make a place for anger, hurt, rejection, betrayal and despair – all emotions we typically do our best to avoid.
- Filter out unhelpful information. Just because someone is an expert does not mean that their advice will be helpful to your particular situation. You do not have to get divorced. You do not have to have sex a certain number of times a week, month or year. All you have to do is breathe. I know you are worried about your marriage. But remember, your marriage is more than sex. And there is no other marriage in all the world that is exactly like yours. You are unique. In all of history, your marriage will never be repeated.
- Focus on what is good in yourself, your spouse and your marriage. I am not telling you to ignore the elephant in the living room, but it helps to look at the whole picture, and not just the problem. I can also tell you as a therapist that if you decided to end your marriage and find someone else, you might find someone you could have a good sex life with, but you would have other problems, and those problems are not going to be of the “(S)he leaves the cap off the toothpaste” variety. They too will seem “unsolvable”.
- Work with a counselor if needed. You can come by yourself if your spouse does not want to go to counseling. And please remember, you are not alone. No matter what you read, or what your friends tell you, this is a very common marriage problem. Other people have found a way through and come out on the other side the better for it. And you can too.