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When couples are sexually out of sync

What's a guy to do when his partner has an insatiable appetite for sex — or wants to give it up for good? Any advice for a woman stuck in a passionless marriage? Sexploration answers your queries.
Duane Hoffmann / MSNBC
/ Source: contributor

What's a guy to do when his partner has an insatiable appetite for sex — or wants to give it up for good? Any advice for a woman stuck in a passionless marriage? Sexploration answers your queries.

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Q: I am 30. My fiancée is 28, and she desires sex all the time. I am in the United States Navy and we just moved back to the U.S. from Japan. The whole time we were over there, we would have explosive sex at least seven to 10 times a week. Is it possible for me to be “tired” of it? Does it mean I don’t love her or desire her anymore? What I feel is, well, just not in the mood.

A: Since you are in the Navy, my first piece of advice is to never tell your fellow sailors you wrote to a sex column complaining about explosive sex 10 times per week. Don't want the guys to think you're a weenie.

Second, read the two questions below about sex-deprived relationships. Do not let this be you.

Start talking now and keep talking in the years ahead. Not desiring explosive sex 10 times per week is not necessarily a sign of flagging love or desire, but you have to explain this to her so the two of you can work out a sexual relationship that makes everyone happy.

Who knows, maybe more non-sex intimacy is really what she’s seeking, and she'd be happy with some more cuddling or other forms of affection. Maybe she thinks YOU want the explosive sex.

Q: After five children and 10 years of marriage, my wife declared she never enjoyed sex and intends to avoid it in the future by being unavailable to me in general. No talk of divorce, just no sex.

A: I’ll get to the “poor, poor boy” sympathy head-patting in a moment, but first I would like to point out the words “five children and 10 years of marriage.”

You have had a combination of newborn and 2-year-old in your house for about eight years. You get this combination by having sex. Connect the dots, my friend. Sounds like your wife has. I’d get myself a vasectomy, then show my wife proof from a lab that my boys are permanently chained to the starting blocks.

OK, now … you poor, poor boy. To be told by a woman you (presumably) love that she’s cutting you off is a cruel fate. But you are hardly alone. American University professor Barry McCarthy, a leading authority on the “sexless marriage,” says that one in five American couples are in one if you regard “sexless” as having it less than 10 times per year.

There is hope, however. McCarthy uses a therapy technique that stresses the “team sport” nature of sex and a broadening of one’s view of what sex is. Couples "get into the struggle of sex being intercourse or nothing, and nothing will beat out intercourse,” he says.

He advocates exploring five forms of touch: affectionate, sensual, playful, erotic, non-intercourse and intercourse. If the partner who wants to avoid sex (and it may very well be a man) can see sexuality as being less goal-oriented toward intercourse, a new foundation of intimacy can be built “so that name of game about sex is giving and receiving pleasure … It can energize the bond so we think of ourselves as both intimate and erotic friends.”

Q: My husband and I have been together for 21 years. I have never really felt excited about him in bed. Now I want more. This is delicate with three kids. I want love, romance and passion.

A: Wait. From the time you were dating, through the engagement, and in the last 21 years, you have “never really felt excited about him in bed?” If that’s true, what the hell were you thinking?

Questions like these are by far the most common we get at Sexploration because we all want love, romance and passion. But they don’t spring out of the soil like mushrooms. They have to be cultivated.

Maybe he has work to do, like turning off the TV, paying more attention to you, getting his teeth whitened. Maybe you could stand a little self-examination, too. Could be he’s not inspired. What McCarthy says about sex is true for love, romance and passion. They’re all team sports.

Have you two talked to each other about this? I mean really talked about wants and needs and how to go about achieving them? If three kids are not motivation enough, think of how challenging it could be to start a new relationship after 21 years. 

Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. Alexander, also a Glamour contributing editor, is traveling around the country to find out how Americans get sexual satisfaction for the special report "America Unzipped" and in an upcoming book for Harmony, an imprint of Crown Publishing.

Sexploration appears every other Thursday.