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Dan B.
Dan B., Counselor
Category: Relationship
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Experience:  Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
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My boyfriend and I have been trying to work through an issue

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My boyfriend and I have been trying to work through an issue in our relationship concerning his lack of a sex drive. I am in my early 40's and he is in his mid-40's. While I know this is something that many couples go through it is the first time in my life that I have gone through this. It has been hard for me to accept that it's not personal and that it's okay for me to have to initiate sex all the time. The initiation phase is the only problem that he has. Once things get started everything is really great. We have a good relationship outside of the sexual intimacy and I would hate for this one issue to end our relationship. The pressure and stress of the issue weighs on him and it is of course, frustrating to me a times because as I said; I haven't had to deal with this before and sometimes feel "unwanted" and a little disconnected from him. However, I try my best to overcome those feelings and focus on the other good aspects of our relationship. He is affectionate and loving toward me other than through sex and that is important. He tells me that he loves me very much, that he's attracted to me, and that although he sees where it may be hard for me not to take it personally, that I shouldn''s not that he doesn't want to have sex with ME, but wouldn't want to have sex with anyone. Medical insurance is not an option at the moment so he is unable to seek medical treatment for this and we have tried a natrual herbal remedy from GNC but that did not prove successful. My question regarding this issue: Is it possible for our relationship to survive and be a happy, successful one?

danb :

Hi. My name is Dan. I am a licensed professional counselor who works with families and couples. I would be happy to help with your question.

danb :

It sounds like this is a bit of a challenge in your relationship, but it sounds like you two have a lot of other positive things to build on. I will wait for a couple minutes to see is you come back online. If you don't then I will switch over to q&A format to answer you question as best I can.

The problem that your describing is a fairly common one, but frustrating none the less.

At different points in their lives people experience changing levels in their sex drives. In general, men reach their sexual peak, as far as desire, much earlier than women. Women tend to experience their sexual peak later in life such as in their 30's to 40's. In addition to this there are individual differences within the same gender. It sounds like you guys are experiencing the effects of these individual and gender differences.

So that is the first important point to remember: That there is not necessarily anything wrong with your boyfriend, he is just experiencing a normal phase of life where his sex drive is a little bit lower. This does not have anything to do with his attraction or desire for you, which you also stated, but it is good to emphasize this point.

Another important point is that, as you said, he can still perform sexually, just that he doesn't initiate this. As I pointed out before, a man's sex drive reaches its peak earlier, but this is typically in terms of desire only. A man's performance may get better with age as he is more experienced he is better able to delay his own orgasm, focuses more on his partner's pleasure, and has a better idea as to how to pleasure his partner in general. So, it is still possible to have a satisfying sexual relationship at this stage in one's life, it just takes a little understanding and adjustment.

Based on what you have said, it sounds like you guys have other areas of your relationship which are very good. I don't see any reason why your relationship couldn't survive and even thrive while you deal with this challenge. Sex varies in terms of importance at different times during a relationship. Generally, it is most important when relationships are new and then again after several years when people are looking to inject new excitement into the relationship. Keep your open dialog going. This will be the best thing that you can do. I think it's great that you are both working together to solve this and that he isn't defensive and is willing to try to fix this. For some men sexual desire and performance can be a very touchy subject and is often off limits for discussion. This is just further evidence that you guys can be OK. After all, if you stay together long enough there will be a time when your sex drive wanes as well, and his may be higher again. These are all challenges that arise and you will be able to overcome.

This all being said, sex is still an important part of a relationship, so you may want to continue trying to find some ways to increase the number of times that he initiates, so that it is not always up to you. You don't want it to be a chore. Here are some things that you might try:

1.) Change it up a little bit. There is evidence in both humans and animals that repeated similar situations eventually tend to decrease the over all sex drive. Solving this may involve different approaches to sex such as finding a different time to do it, surprising each other at different times of day, trying it in a different place such as different locations in the house or a hotel or romantic get away. Even just experimenting with different positions can increase the level of interest. Just vary your routine a little bit and see what happens.
2.) Try making an agreement such as one where he will agree to initiate at least one time in a week, or whatever seems appropriate but make it attainable and not too much. Then get a book with different ideas for creating romance. This will help to reduce the pressure on him to just initiate without being excited or having any ideas. He can use this to plan ahead and make it special.

This can all be a challenge, but you can also use it to your advantage. Many couples have sex, but it just becomes boring or something that they have to do. You guys can use this challenge to make it exciting again. To talk about it in a way that is exciting. You can use this to really explore and find some fun with sex.

Good luck. It sounds like you have a solid relationship. You will be OK. Keep talking and try some of these ideas. Good luck.

Quality service and helpfulness are my ultimate goals. Please let me know if you need further information or clarification. Feed back is also appreciated so that I can improve my answers and overall service. Thanks.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Hi Dan,

Thank you very much for the helpful advice you have given in answering my question. I was hopeful that this issue that my boyfriend and I are dealing with could be worked through, to know that we can still have a happy and successful relationship. We have only been living together for about 8 months now (and the amount of time we have been together as he moved from the other side of the country to be here with me and so we had to jump in with both feet sort to speak). We knew each other as teenagers and reconnected after 20+ years being apart. We have a wonderful opportunity that most people don't get in life (a second chance for love after so long). We spent a week of vacatoin together prior to his move out here and sex was very different at that time (it was constant) so it left me confused once we moved in together that there was this huge drop off in his sex drive. Of course, the excitement of finally being together after so many years, being in a "on vacation" state of mind where nothing else was interferring probably had a big impact on the frequency of sex at that time. When I mention that he has a lack of a sex drive, I mean that he does not initiate it at all. It's difficult for him to do that because he doesn't have the feelings of arousal to want to initiate. Although, he has told me that when we do have sex that he enjoys it very much. That is important to me. You are so right when you point out that we have a lot of other good things about our relationship to focus on. I know that sex isn't love and as I age my sex drive is going to wane as well so I remind myself of that fact and know that eventually we are going to be more near being on the same page in the respect of sex drive level. Your perspective of the situation is comforting to me. Especially that you are a man and you have insight of the opposite sex to better explain that side of things. I think as long as the bigger picture is kept in mind rather than focusing on the problem (not that it doesn't deserve attention, but shouldn't be treated as a thorn in the side, or chore as you said) that I can keep a positive outlook. I appreciate your time and advice! Tammy

I am so glad that I could be helpful. If you have any questions that I can help with in the future, or if you would like to follow up just put my name (danb) in front of your question and it will be brought to my attention. Thanks again for your positive feedback and I wish you the best of luck.