Find Out What You Can Do to Fix Your Sex Life

Read an excerpt from a new book that can help you improve your sex life.

ByABC News via GMA logo
September 24, 2008, 12:49 PM

Jan. 16, 2008 — -- An estimated 20 million couples have stopped being sexually intimate.

In their new book, "He's Just Not Up for It Anymore," best-selling authors Bob Berkowitz and his wife, Susan Yaeger-Berkowitz, offer explanations and advice for getting your sex life back.

From surveys and interviews with more than 4,000 men and women in this situation, they identified various psychological, physical and emotional causes. Their book provides helpful insight, individual examples and tips for solving your personal problems.

You can read the first chapter of their book below:

Most women are raised to believe men want sex all the time, a belief the media consistently reinforces. So when a woman suddenly finds herself in a sexless marriage, it not only hurts a lot, it's bewildering.

It seems irrational. That same man, the one who couldn't wait to get you alone, couldn't wait to make love to you, now acts either annoyed or exhausted if you even hint at intimacy. Sex should be such a natural, pleasurable, loving, simple thing, shouldn't it? How did this happen?

Sex, of course, isn't simple at all. It may be an expression of love, a whole lot of fun, irresistibly sublime, and the high point of your day, but simple it's not. Some anthropologists suggest it was, once upon a time. When the objective was procreation and a male perhaps shared meat with a female in exchange for as much sex as he wanted, both were far too busy hunting, gathering, and outrunning what ever creature might hunt and gather them fi rst to worry about whether or not sex was happening on a regular basis. And, after all, who knew what a regular basis was, anyway?

Today we know, or at least we think we do. Women's magazines seem to constantly be giving results to polls that ask the inevitable question: "If you are married or in a committed relationship, how often do you have sex?" The average is one to two times a week, a figure that hasn't changed since Kinsey first published his data on men in 1948 and women in 1953. Data are data, but what about all the couples who wouldn't score quite so high on this test? If you are in a relationship where once a month is the norm, or for that matter, once a year, do you even want to take the test?

Why is it that so many married couples find themselves living a life of celibacy?

Today we live in a world where every available form of media seems to scream out that people, and men in particular, want sex, and more sex. That trite and hackneyed expression "sex sells" still seems to be the mantra for pushing everything from soda to cars, to, well, sex. And the majority of us buy into this. We want to be those elusive things—desirable and sexy. The ultimate goal, what most of us really want, or think we really want, is to fall so much in love, to be in a relationship so committed that we become one special person's own private sex symbol. We get a house together, and maybe a family, and lots of sex. Forever.

So why is it that so many married couples, those very people able to have as much sex as they want, find themselves living a life of celibacy?

These same couples probably once had sex on a regular basis. They thought each other interesting, attractive, and desirable enough to commit to sharing a bed forever. What stopped the passion?

"It's good to know there are other women who experience this. I thought it was really rare." (Female, 35)

Surveys tell us that 40 million Americans live in a no- sex or low- sex marriage. Some believe the number might be even higher. After all, we live in a culture where everyone, or at least everyone in a committed relationship, is supposed to be having sex, and lots of it. Not having sex equals failure, a lack of desirability. Who wants to check the "never" box on that magazine quiz?

A sexless marriage is defined by experts as making love ten times a year or less. Whether or not that is a problem, of course, depends on the couple. If both are content, if "ten times a year or less" meets their needs and expectations, then they have no problem.

Unfortunately, this usually is not the case. Often the loss of sexual pleasure and intimacy results in depression, suspicion, anger, resentment, and sometimes, infidelity and divorce. Although it is clear that this issue is rarely one- sided, it is nevertheless surprising to many that it is just as often the man who puts the brakes on sexuality as the woman. The late Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld, who was one of America's leading sex therapists, suggested it was more often the man when he wrote, "…in the vast amount of couples consulting me about desire complaints it's the women who want more and the man who always has a headache." These same men who used to do what ever it took to get their fiancées or new brides into bed no longer desire them. What happened?

Why do men stop having sex with their wives? The reason is seldom simple and may have a physiological, psychological, or cultural foundation; recent studies add a ge ne tic component. Often these elements combine.

We looked at the statistical reasons our male survey respondents, who self- identifi ed as choosing not to have sex with their spouses, gave us for no longer being intimate, and we studied their comments carefully. Let's fi rst take a look at some statistics. We asked men to rate a list of reasons on a scale that went from strongly agree to strongly disagree. The following table lists in descending order the percentage of men who agreed with each of the causes.

reason percentage (%)

She isn't sexually adventurous enough for me - 68
She doesn't seem to enjoy sex - 61
I am interested in sex with others, but not with my wife - 48
I am angry at her - 44
I'm bored - 41
She is depressed - 40
She has gained a significant amount of weight - 38
I am depressed - 34
I no longer find her physically attractive - 32
I suffer from erectile dysfunction - 30
I lost interest and I don't know why - 28
I prefer to masturbate, but not online - 25*
I prefer to watch pornography online and masturbate - 25*
I am on medication that lowered my libido - 21
I am/was having an affair - 20
I suffer from premature ejaculation - 16
I have difficulty achieving orgasm - 15
I am too tired - 14
She is/was having an affair - 9
I don't have the time - 6
I wasn't interested in sex to begin with - 3
I am gay - <1
*These figures may overlap.

Even an anonymous online survey might cause some people to reshape or shade the truth. Although the men know (or at least think they know) the reasons for their voluntary celibacy but the women are only guessing, either way the situation is embarrassing and painful. It is therefore not surprising that both men and women agree most with statements that shift responsibility away from themselves. Indeed, men indicate a lack of sexual adventure (hers, not his) as primary. It is difficult to believe that this lack of erotic excitement is completely one- sided, and that these men who identify their wives as unadventurous are themselves imaginatively passionate guys, just somehow mysteriously unable to inspire the one woman they chose to marry.

Both men and women agree most with statements that shift responsibility away from themselves. After all, they probably knew her acceptable level of tolerance for erotic exploration before the vows were exchanged. We suspect that boredom or other factors is closer to the truth, or they are confusing the pornography they see on DVDs or the Internet with reality.

The overwhelming majority of men who responded to our survey seem to indicate that they are still sexually active beings, or would like to be. The few exceptions are those with seriously debilitating medical conditions, and the 3 percent who said they never wanted sex to begin with. Slightly less than half say they are interested in sex, but not with their partners, which might be valid but could also mean boredom, anger, or per for mance anxiety. The majority masturbates, online or off, indicating a possible predilection for solitary over partnered sex. And although only 25 percent indicated a preference for masturbating to online porn, 58 percent said yes, they looked at it.

For many of these men, a fantasy world is replacing an actual sex life with their spouse, bringing to mind the Oscar Wilde quote: "One's real life is often the life one does not lead."

Here are some of the main reasons we believe men in partnered relationships choose celibacy or solitary sex. The issues are rarely one-sided or stand alone; indeed, they often combine. This is an overview, and all will be discussed in greater depth later on in the book. It should be mentioned here that the following list is by no means complete, it just represents the majority. A few men appear to come from backgrounds so traumatic (e.g., sexual, physical, or emotional abuse) that a fear of intimacy or de pen den cy makes sustaining an intimate partnered relationship impossible without extensive psychological counseling. Others are alcohol or drug dependent to a degree that disallows a satisfactory sexual relationship, and still others suffer from physical illness and disease that precludes sex.

He's Bored/She's Bored

Drs. Max and Della Fitzgerald are clinical sex therapists who studied with William Masters and Virginia Johnson and are founders of The Fitzgerald Institute in North Carolina. We asked them why they believed some men stop having sex with their wives. Max replied that the main reason is boredom. "Same place, same station. We do it the same way every time. Men like variety, and when a couple gets stuck in a routine, the man is the first one to get dissatisfied with it." Della agreed, saying, "Definitely, boredom."

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is that wonderful defi nition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein. It often is what happens in the conjugal bed. What seemed exciting once upon a time now seems just plain dull. Some men may not be having sex with their wives because sex simply isn't worth the effort. They'd rather watch television. Their wives may feel the same way, not really missing mediocre sex, just missing that feeling of being desired.