When 'I do' becomes 'I don't want to' - 1/22/03

Smartmarriages ® cmfce at smartmarriages.com
Wed Jan 22 19:29:14 EST 2003

subject: When 'I do' becomes 'I don't want to' - 1/22/03

from: Smart Marriages®

January 22, 2003 

This article features the new books of Michele Weiner-Davis and Barry
McCarthy who will each teach a pre-conference training institute at the
Smart Marriages Reno conference in addition to several other "sex" education
sessions, including McCarthy's two-day institute, "Couples Sexual Awareness:
Premarital and Marital Sex Education" and his workshops "Rekindling Desire"
and "Marital Sex As It Ought To Be".  We'll also feature "Hot Monogamy" by
Pat Love and Sunny Shulkin plus their institute on "The Passion Program",
and "Sacred Sex" by Tim Gardner, and "Sex and Romance in the Biblical
Marriage" by the Hon Jim Sheridan, or favorite judge from Adrian, Michigan.
We only bring you the latest, greatest, and best!    - diane

By Karen S. Peterson

More than 40 million Americans are mired in a low-sex or no-sex marriage.

Men associate virility with sex, so few are apt to complain of low sex
drives, or seek help.

And it is not just the women who say no. Sex therapists, researchers and
marital counselors ‹ as well as some divorce lawyers ‹ are concerned about
increasing numbers of men of all ages who rarely desire their wives sexually
or rarely have sexual fantasies because a variety of physical and emotional

"Despite men's uneasiness about discussing it, there are countless men whose
sexual machinery works fine, but they just don't feel like using it,"
marital therapist Michele Weiner Davis says.

Their wives, she says, feel deeply angry, hurt and rejected. Some of her
female clients express "rage and despair," she says. "They feel an
incredible loneliness in their marriages." And those marriages are "put at
risk for infidelity and divorce."

Women traditionally have been the ones cited as having less interest in sex
than their men do ‹ having "headaches" and other maladies that preclude
making love. They still are cited first in most research.

But now disinterested men are drawing attention as many therapists and
counselors search for ways to keep marriages intact. Looking for answers to
preserving marital bonds is even a goal of the Bush administration, which
supports federal money to promote marriage programs.

"This subject is bubbling up to the surface as marriage itself is put under
the microscope ‹ and thankfully so," says Weiner Davis, the author of
Divorce Busting and the new The Sex-Starved Marriage: A Couple's Guide to
Boosting Their Marriage Libido (Simon & Schuster, $24).

Disgruntled women also are less willing to suffer silently without sex.
Wives increasingly "feel entitled to step forward (at home) and say they
want sex," Weiner Davis says. "In the past, only bad girls did."

The attention paid to Viagra has also brought the subject of male low sexual
desire into the public domain.

But faith in Viagra as a magic pill is actually harming relationships, says
sex therapist Barry McCarthy, a psychology professor at American University.
Men mistakenly think it will boost libido, but the drug has no direct effect
on inhibited sexual desire. The belief that if a man gets an erection with
Viagra, desire will follow is "one of those great sexual myths."

The drug also sets men up to expect an "autonomous" erection without regard
to a partner's participation, while in fact it requires stimulation by a
caring mate.

"Viagra can set men up for failure," McCarthy says, particularly when it is
prescribed without adequate information. He is co-author of Rekindling
Desire: A Step-by-Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages
(Brunner-Routledge, $16.95) due in stores next month.

Statistics on sexual desire for both men and women are somewhat
pie-in-the-sky and are often challenged by various researchers.

One oft-quoted 1992 study says 16% of men and 33% of women are not
particularly interested in sex. McCarthy says low sexual desire is a problem
for 14% of men and 33% of women, with the figures for men increasing with

Men mum on topic

Many experts believe the incidence of low male sexual desire is greatly
underreported. "Few men in their right minds want to tell the world that sex
isn't very important to them," Weiner Davis says.

"Their identity is wrapped up in their virility," she says. Not being
interested in sex "strikes at the very core of their being." She believes
20% to 30% of men and 30% to 50% of women have little or no sex drive.

Weiner Davis shares some of men's demons in The Sex-Starved Marriage:

"My wife makes more money than I do, so we've agreed that her job comes
first. She doesn't appreciate what I do to make our family run. ... When my
wife comes home, all she does is nag. Then she gets mad when I have no
desire to kiss or hug her or even make love. I know our sex life stinks, but
what can I say? I'm not into it." "I'm a 52-year-old man who has no idea
what's happened to my sex drive. I used to think about sex at the drop of a
hat. But now I can go for days without thinking about it at all. ... None of
my golf buddies talk about their sex lives, so I don't really know if
there's something wrong with me or not." "Lately I have absolutely no desire
for sex. I have no idea why this is happening to me. I love my wife, and we
get along just fine. ... If it were left up to me, I'm not sure we'd ever
have sex again. I'm too uncomfortable to talk to anyone about this. Please

Cultural expectations harsh for men

The causes of low sexual desire in both sexes are often complex and

The problem for men is compounded by the cultural belief that healthy young
men are supposed to be able to perform on demand. "This just really does
violence to what men are about," says psychologist and sex therapist David
Schnarch, author of Resurrecting Sex: Resolving Sexual Problems and
Rejuvenating Your Relationship

The very fact that men are expected to want sex virtually all the time can
be one reason for a reduction in desire, Schnarch says.

"The common idea is that men are more interested in sex than women. The fact
is many men are intimidated by their wives' desire."

The culture teaches men to equate their masculinity with virility. As men
move into their 40s, the biggest sexual change that occurs, McCarthy says,
is that "they get fewer spontaneous erections. There is a big panic when
they have their first unsuccessful intercourse. The problems can get worse
and worse, and rather than the man seeing this as a normal change that he
should anticipate," he will not talk about it and may ultimately opt out of
the bedroom.

"When men can begin to see their mortality, when maybe their virility is not
what it used to be ‹ and it happens to guys younger than 45 ‹ they can go
into a big funk," Weiner Davis says.

McCarthy believes that many men with low sexual desire have other,
specifically sexual problems that lead to reduced libido.

Other experts point to a wide range of factors. Weiner Davis notes that
between ages 40 and 55 most men experience a drop in testosterone and other
hormones that affect interest in sex. Some prescribed drugs and chronic
illnesses can affect sexual interest as well as alcohol and some illegal
substances including cocaine.

Psychological problems can leave men as well as women feeling "preoccupied,
disengaged" and less interested in sex, Weiner Davis says. Both sexes can
feel "crappy" about themselves, she says, and suffer from low self-esteem or
a poor body image. Sexual energy can be sapped by grief over a serious loss,
stress at home or work and advanced states of fatigue.

The Jan. 13 issue of New York magazine features an article on "Generation
Sexless," on young marrieds in the Big Apple who are too tired, overworked
and focused on their young children to feel much like what they regard as
another chore: having sex.

But the real problems occur when one partner does want sex and the other
virtually never does. An unacknowledged "relationships issue" may be holding
the lower-sex partner back. "Anger, resentment, disappointment, hurt or
betrayal dampen most people's desire," Weiner Davis says.

A deep-seated anger can affect many men's sexual desire, Schnarch says. "A
sensitive man would rather give up sex than have it with somebody he is
deeply angry with. Then the normal difficulties that come up in
relationships will drive him out of bed."

A man's low sexual desire can be so damaging to his ego that he is unable to
talk about it with his partner, much less a professional. But low sexual
desire is best dealt with as a couples issue.

"Sexuality means shared pleasure," McCarthy says. "It is an interpersonal
process that involves more than intercourse and sex organs. We talk about
sex more than ever now, but not in a way that allows men and couples to
understand and work together."

Various counselors, from the family doctor, to clergy, to marital and sex
therapists, have various approaches to healing a couple. Methods include a
focus on physical techniques as well as delving into emotional quagmires
caused by shame, blame and guilt. Some experts offer wide-ranging courses
that create dramatic changes in the way couples interact.

The truth is, Weiner Davis says, "boosting sexual desire is a very imprecise
business. There is no scientific approach. It is trial and error. There are
different ways to go. The only way to truly screw up is to do nothing."

- - - - - - - - - - -
This front page Life Style piece also included a quiz to help readers
determine if they are in a low-sex or no-sex marriage from the McCarthy book
"Rekindling Desire".  I can't find it on-line.  But, imagine if you're in
one, you know it.  

Order these books on the smartmarriages.com Books by the Experts page
or click on links below:

The Sex-Starved Marriage:
A Couple's Guide to Boosting Their Marital Libido - Michele Weiner-Davis -
$16.80 on amazon.com

- - - - - - -  - - - -  -
Rekindling Desire: A Step-By-Step Program to Help
Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages -  Barry McCarthy
 - $15.95 on amazon.com


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