couple with sexual disparity

Q. I am 54 and my husband is 58. I have a healthy sexual appetite. My husband’s libido has vanished, however.
He says it’s psychological rather than physical and refuses to consider medication. He’s heard stories about Viagra not working and won’t take it.
He has not been checked by a doctor but says he will make an appointment. I’m still waiting. This is beginning to cause real problems between us. What course of action do you recommend?

A. Viagra is not the only treatment for men with sexual difficulties. In fact, Viagra won’t work for lack of libido, but only for erectile difficulties.
Low libido can be caused by many factors including performance anxiety, low testosterone levels and medication side effects. Some drugs that may have a negative effect on sexual desire include antidepressants, blood pressure medications or anti-anxiety agents.
Check out our FREE Guides to:
Drugs That Affect Sexuality
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Since this issue is causing trouble in the relationship, the two of you may benefit from counseling. You can find a certified counselor in your area by contacting the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists in Richmond, VA (online at
Many other women are going through similar difficulties. Here are just a couple of examples of similar stories:

“Hey everyone, I’m glad I’m not the only one with this problem, though I wish none of us had it. My boyfriend and I have been together for almost three years and for the most part our relationship is really great. He is very considerate and affectionate in general but for the last year his sex drive has been about zero. We’ve had sex fewer times this year than I can count on both hands.

“When we first got together we couldn’t get out of bed. Then at the beginning of the year he was going through some personal problems and we didn’t have sex for over five months. At first I was understanding and didn’t even bring it up for three months. I finally said something and he said it was just because he was severely stressed. He said that he couldn’t even get aroused anymore at all and if it continued to be the case he would go see a doctor.

“Now he is physically capable of…ahem ” parking the car in the garage” but he still has very very little interest. I try talking with him about it and he just gets hostile or blows me off. I’ve tried every trick in the book; surprising him with little outfits, sending dirty pictures, taking sexy showers, and most of the time I’m rejected or I can tell he’s just doing it to make me happy. I know we won’t go back to twice a day but I wish I could get once a week. I understand not always being in the mood, but if roles were reversed I would get myself in the mood for him. In fact, even when we do have sex we do all of his favorite positions because I figure its the “least I could do”. I can’t remember the last time I was on top.

“Last night we watched “Take This Waltz” and the couple in it has the same problem. She said to him at one point “it takes all of my courage to seduce you and you’re teaching me not to be brave.” I’ve been crying on and off for a day straight because I have said that exact thing to my boyfriend. I don’t understand how to make him understand how it makes me feel when he turns me down and how by him not initiating anything ever, I feel rejected again. It’s getting worse and it’s starting to put strain on our relationship. I find myself being suspicious of him all of the time because I convince myself he’s cheating on me or that he doesn’t love me and just doesn’t know how to tell me, though he swears neither of those things are true.

“I don’t want pills and frankly it bothers me that I’M the one who has to change when I don’t feel like I’m the problem. I’m hoping there’s an exercise or an herb or something that would help.”

“I have been married for eleven years and am very much in love with my husband. He is no longer interested in me.

“t is really strange I believe he loves me with all his heart and me vice versa but sex or satisfying my specials needs are not important. He has problems with erection and states that the drugs for this condition are just to expensive, but he spends money on what he wants to spend money on.
“I guess since he does not need or want sex any more that that is not a priority to spend money on erection drugs since it seems to be only my problem he doesn’t care.
I want and need sex and just need attention. Is there a drug to kill my Libido? I am going crazy without his attention sexually.”
Just sign me “Miserable”

“I have been with my boyfriend for two years. Our sexual relationship was good when we first started out. I was more horny than he was, but I put that down to the fact that before getting with him, I was a virgin so I thought it was normal.
“Then things started to go down hill. First it went down to once a week, then once a fortnight then once a month and now, we haven’t has sex in half a year. I’m telling you this to let you know that you’re not alone and also to urge you to get this problem sorted ASAP, because it doesn’t get easier with time.
“I’m not saying you should dump him, but I suggest you try to get him to see a doctor or something if it gets much worse. I left it too long and now I am at a point where I feel like we will never have sex again and it is killing me inside. It’s lonely and I have no self esteem left. Now I am scraping the barrel for ways to change myself, because I can’t get him to do anything. I am unwilling to cheat and I am unwilling to leave him. I am also very unhappy.”

You may wish to read other stories at these links:
We hope you can get some support and find a path forward. Perhaps if your husband gets some counseling or actual treatment it could restore your relationship. You may also find our interview with Dr. Ruth on this very topic of great value. Getting your husband to listen to our interview might make a big difference in his attitude. Here is a link to the one-hour broadcast titled “Sex After 50” radio show # 680.

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  1. Also Frustrated

    As I read the comments from the other women…I see elements of my own situation in it. My husband is now 69 and I’m almost 62. We’ve been together for 33 years (married 30)and I’ve been sexually un-fulfilled the entire time.
    When we began dating, it became obvious that I had had more sexual experience than him…but he seemed to have a good sexual appetite when we saw each other on weekends, although even then he was quick to ejaculate! Sometimes we could have intercourse 2 or 3 times a day…and by the 3rd time he would last longer.
    As time went by, if I mentioned trying a technique that would help him last longer…it wasn’t appreciated. I decided to bring books home and suggested that perhaps we could do some things to “spice things up” in the bedroom, meaning more erotica, or sensual play. The books would go unopened.
    About 12 years into our marriage, I went through natural early menopause at age 42. Because I didn’t use any kind of HRT for the first couple of years, and I experienced vaginal dryness – any attempts at intercourse hurt…even with lubricants. So we basically quit doing it and had only oral sex instead. In my mind I thought, “well fine, he never could satisfy me anyway”!
    To me,”oral sex” is just not the same. I really miss that sensation of having a firm penis inside me! Actually he doesn’t even get much of an erection during oral anymore.
    Let me ad here, that my husband is very healthy, thin,exercises and is on no medication that should cause ED problems. He finally went to a doctor about his problem about 2 years ago. He wasn’t prescribed a pill…instead he was given a medication in a pre-filled syringe that he was suppose to put directly into his penis before sex. He did this twice, but it really didn’t help. He’s never gone back to a doctor and asked for something else.
    Bottom line: #1: I think most of his problem early on was “performance anxiety” because he was raised in a household where “sex was dirty” and he never saw affection between his parents. #2: when I recognized that we were not going to be sexually compatiable…I wish I had insisted on counseling and/or medical intervention at that time. #3: if I had it to do all over again, I would not have married him. Denying one’s own sexual needs for so long is wrong. It’s in our DNA and basic biology to find sexual pleasurable and it helps keep us sane!

  2. Happy Now

    My husband went through loss of libido also (in his early 40s). He said he wasn’t even thinking sexy thoughts. I blamed myself for not being attractive enough but he could look at the sexiest woman and not feel anything. He saw a urologist who tested for all kinds of things. Testosterone was great but he had a high level of prolactin. He now takes a prescription for that and all is well. In fact, it took only about two weeks before he was reaching out to me again. Urge him to get a check-up. He deserves to feel normal again.

  3. Wondering...

    As I read these scenarios, I wonder if the women changed somehow. I apologize for thinking this way, but it’s happened to me too. I have gained some weight… and so has he.
    When we were first dating we went on a weekend away and nothing happened (before any weight gain). When I asked about it, he told me to let him know when I want to have sex. My response was that we should BOTH let each other know. I initiated a few times, but being the only one, as others have said, it doesn’t make me feel desirable, so I stopped and I’m still waiting… it’s his turn.
    He refuses to talk about it, won’t go see a doctor (he is a manly man… doesn’t ask directions, doesn’t talk about things like this) and so we are now many, many years into a very kind, loving relationship, but nothing.
    Is is something I did (gained weight)? or something I said? or is it just the natural course of things that at age 60… nothing? I was raised to believe that a sexual relationship is normal, healthy and a life long experience. Now I’m thinking that it is normal for someone not to want a sexual relationship and so I’ve turned my self off, too. I only hope that he doesn’t find someone younger, who he finds more attractive than me and off he goes…

  4. Helen M

    You have to realize that your partner’s problems do not mean that there is anything “wrong” with you. You are still the same person you were when your sex life was more active and his libido more in tune with yours. There is no reason for your self esteem to suffer, the problem is NOT YOU!
    You have several choices: Stay and be frustrated. Stay and build a strong relationship based on commonalities of interests. Stay and become more involved with friends. Girl friends are more sensitive to our issues than men any day. Develop a good support group of girl friends. Find interests of your own, you are not joined at the hip and can have a good life that does not have to include sex with your partner. Learn how to satisfy yourself in this area. Men do it all the time, why not women?
    Leave. If you are young, want marriage and family, do not stay with this partner. That’s too many years of misery. My advice above is for older women, many of whom also have had a lessening of libido. Their relationships with their husbands have either grown in other areas or withered on the vine. Other compensations in life leave them well enough satisfied that leaving is not a viable option. Plus economic considerations also play a part.
    A young woman has a libido that goes on strong for many years and this problem will loom larger and larger, effectively killing a relationship. Leave now, before there are other reasons to stay, such as children, mourn the death of the relationship, then move on.

  5. Mike

    Some men are more sensitive. He may not love her anymore…pick a reason…and the turn-on was making love with this special woman. To not consider viagra or other possibilies seems like he’s really not interested in her.

  6. Karen

    There is so much more to this story than the details provided. “He says it’s psychological?” Perhaps he’s right? Viagra doesn’t “work” for psychological problems, exactly…
    Posting mostly to see what other readers have to say about this.

  7. DWD

    Definitely get a doctor’s checkup but I want to ask a question. Is it really low libido and not just frustration from ED? Erection is not mandatory for orgasm. Be creative. Snuggling, caressing and old fashioned necking and petting can lead to climax with out erection for both parties. And a few climaxes this way may make the ED go away or recede. I suggest a trial of FLVL (Fingers, Lips, Vibators and Lube). It is a home remedy, does not cost much and can do no harm.

  8. Kevin B.

    Could a lack of libido be due to a prostate problem? I understand that you can have a blood test for prostate cancer.

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