Q: My wife and I have been married for two years. We are both in our late twenties and very healthy and active, and we always had awesome sex in the past. However, in the past several months, her desire for sex has completely tanked. She doesn’t even want me to touch her or kiss her anymore. It’s wreaking havoc on our relationship, and I am really starting to resent her for turning me down. I know she is going through a lot (her parents are going through a nasty divorce), and I don’t want to be selfish. I just want to know what the heck is going on!
A: I appreciate that this is a very hard time for you. When sex falls by the wayside in a relationship, it impacts more than just sexual pleasure. It can impact a person’s well-being and self-esteem, and it can put an otherwise happy relationship on the rocks. But there are several things you should consider that may offer you some comfort during this time:
It’s not you. Part of the reason that a lack of sex can impact a couple’s relationship is because one or both partners might wrongly assume that they are no longer attractive or desirable to their mate. Talk about hurtful! Yet this assumption is often completely off-track and untrue. In fact, I would bet that your partner isn’t shutting down sexually because she no longer wants to be with you but that there is something else at play here. Keep that in mind when she shuts down and try not to let it make you resentful and angry. She needs your patience and unconditional love right now (and one day you’ll probably need that from her!).
Consider her current emotional state. You say that you and your partner are both healthy and physically active, and that you had amazing sex in the past. This tells me that the problem probably isn’t physical. Yet you also mention that her parents are going through a divorce. Presuming they have been together since she was born, this is probably a devastating blow for her indeed.
Everything she has ever known about love and marriage she learned from watching them, and now their decades-long relationship is in tatters. This can be scary for anyone, but for a newlywed, it can be downright terrifying. She is likely afraid that her own relationship is headed for a similar fate. The fact that the divorce is “nasty” is probably adding immeasurably to her stress and her pain. And when women aren’t emotionally open and available, they tend to be physically unavailable as well (which explains why she doesn’t even want to be touched or kissed). She is in “shut down” mode and just trying to make it from one day to the next.
People often wrongly think that divorce doesn’t impact older children, but this simply isn’t true. Although these children have moved on and have their own homes and families, they still rely on their parents and look to their marriages as an example and as a source of stability. It would be very helpful to your partner to seek therapy during this time so she can learn how to navigate this new terrain with her parents and learn how to open up her heart to you once again. In the meantime, try to offer her physical comfort in a nonsexual way, such as by giving her a backrub or cuddling with her on the couch. Let her know that there is no pressure and that you just want to be close with her. When she realizes that you aren’t going anywhere and that divorce isn’t in your future, I bet the walls will start coming down and she will warm up to sex again. Good luck!