Sexual health experts Laura and Jennifer Berman are regular contributors to ABCNEWS’ Good Morning America. In this weekly column, they will answer your questions about sex, relationships and the challenges of intimacy.
This week's question comes from a 29-year-old woman who is disturbed by her boyfriend's lack of interest in sex.
Q: Help! My boyfriend and I have been together for over two years and he has lost the desire to have sex. Our relationship started out with us having sex at regular intervals, but for the last year, I'm lucky if we have sex four times a year.
He's 30 years old and has a high stress job. He refuses to discuss it or go to see a doctor. He says there's nothing to discuss — he's just not interested. He doesn't have time to see other women and he is masturbating maybe twice a year. We have a great relationship other than this problem.
I'm worried, hurt, confused and frustrated. I also feel like I am the only woman in the world with this problem. Men are suppose to be the aggressive ones, right? Please tell me I'm not the only one and what can I do to preserve my sanity and my relationship. – Frustrated in Kansas City
A: It is clear that you are really frustrated. And you are right, a myth does exist that men are always supposed to be the sexually interested aggressors — not true!
First of all, stress has a lot to do with it. People cope with stress in different ways. Some men (and women) experience sex as a stress reliever and use it to release some of that pent up energy. Others feel so overwhelmed during periods of stress and feel so insecure or inadequate that they can't even imagine sexually performing.
But even beyond stress, it is simply not true that all men are interested all the time.
The main thing that concerns me about your situation is that it doesn't sound like your partner is that willing to talk with you about the problem and it seems like you still wonder if his lack of interest has something to do with you. This is really important, because it will be very easy, under these circumstances, for you to feel rejected, insecure, and then start feeling angry and acting negatively in the relationship. Then you run the risk an even bigger rift building between the two of you and it will be that much harder to get to the bottom of this.
I don't know all the details of what you have or have not tried, but here are some starting points for bringing this issue up with him and getting to the bottom of it.
Bring up the conversation at an optimal time, not when he's just returned from a hard day, and not after you've tried to unsuccessfully initiate a sexual encounter! Wait until he is relaxed or you are spending some non-sexual quality time together.
When you bring it up, make sure you do so in a way that won't make him feel defensive. He may already be feeling guilty, or he may feel pressure due to the same myths you are struggling with, feeling he should be interested all the time when he's not. If he's feeling insecure, attacked, or inferior, he won't be receptive to a conversation.
Tell him how you feel. Instead of accusing him by saying, "What's wrong with you? You never want to have sex … do you need help? Should we go to a doctor? etc. etc." You can say, "I really care about you and am committed to this relationship. But I am feeling sort of insecure. It is hard for me because I am starting to wonder if lack of sex in our life has something to do with me. When I start to feel that way I get scared you aren't attracted to me or you don't really love me, or you want to end this relationship. I don't want to feel that way and it would really help if we could talk about this."
When talking to him, ask honestly if there is something you could do to make it easier. Maybe it would help to take the pressure off for a while. Maybe he needs you to be more of an aggressor. Maybe he has some fantasies or some new things that he'd like to try that would make him feel more inspired. The main key is that he should feel supported, not attacked and unless you are truly at your wits end and have exhausted all means of resolving this, he should not feel like this is a make or break situation in your relationship.
Once you've opened up the lines of communication in a non-threatening way, you can become a team in dealing with the problem, as you should be. Sex is always a couples issue and should be dealt with in that format. Once you are working together instead of against each other you can start exploring all the options, including therapy, medical evaluation/intervention, etc.
Best of luck and keep us posted.
Dr. Jennifer Berman and Laura Berman are co-directors of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at UCLA Medical Center and of the The Network for Excellence in Women's Sexual Health NewShe.com Jennifer is a urologist with specialized training in Female Sexual Dysfunction; Laura earned her doctorate in Health Education and Therapy — specializing in human sexuality — at New York University .