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Not tonight, dear ... or tomorrow

What's a guy to do when he's living in a sexless marriage? When can a woman expect to get her libido back after baby is born? Sexploration answers your queries.
F.Birchman /

What's a guy to do when he's living in a sexless marriage? When can a woman expect to get her libido back after baby is born? Sexploration answers your queries.

Have an intimate question? To e-mail us, click here. He'll tackle select questions in future columns.

Q1: Over the last six years my wife has gradually lost interest in sex. Since January, we have had sex four times, the last time in July when she said, “This is mainly for you.” Boy, that made me feel terrible! What do I do? I have asked her and she only gets hostile, and an argument results. I am so tired of living in a sexless marriage!

Q2: My wife, who recently went through menopause, seems to have a very low sex drive, even though she doesn't have any trouble reaching orgasm.  She says having sex once a month is enough. What’s a guy to do, other than get a blow-up doll?

A: Sometimes I wish I could pair up all the women who ask about hubby’s low desire with all the men who complain about wife’s lost libido.

But this would not solve the problem, according to Dr. Stephen Levine, a psychiatrist at Case Western Reserve University and co-director of the Center for Marital and Sexual Health in Beachwood, Ohio.

At some point, he says, "every couple has an incompatibility of sexual desire after courtship.”

Levine, who is the author of "Sexuality in Mid-Life," estimates that monogamous married people can expect to have about 3,000 sexual experiences with each other. Over time, you start to repeat yourself. Ho-hum.

Desire is also affected by our age, health, psychological states and biology. It’s complicated. But in a list of things that stimulate desire, Levine places psychological intimacy at No. 1.

Every expert agrees. If there’s a problem in the relationship, sex drive goes all to hell, especially for women. So look there, first. Sounds to me like you may have a problem in that department, Mr. Sex in July.

As for you, Mr. Blow-up Doll, don’t head for Big Al’s Garden of Pleasure just yet. Stop “waiting.” Take action.

In case you somehow missed this in health class, men are different from women. Men can get worked up just watching TV, but, says Joy Davidson, a Seattle therapist and author of "Fearless Sex," "she isn’t going to have that sudden surge of desire just because you walk in the door. You have to be responsible for creating scenarios to excite her so she will be inclined to be more sexual.”

Don’t discount the effects of her menopause. But meantime, Davidson has a tip: “If she does 75 or 80 percent of the grunt work around the house, that turns you into a child. She takes care of you, makes the bed, cooks the food, dusts the house, so she sees you as another child needing care, and there’s nothing sexy about a helpless man … You don’t have to sweep her off her feet with diamonds; try sweeping the kitchen floor.”

I hear ya, brother. It was so much easier with dinner and a movie. Middle-age sucks. But from now on, if you want it, you gotta earn it.

Q: My first baby just turned 1 year old, and I still have no sex drive. Is this a common problem in women? My husband and I have a good relationship. Because I am breast-feeding I have been given a birth control pill by my ob-gyn that is entirely progesterone. Is it possible this pill is causing my low libido? Or is it because I am now a mother — with all the responsibilities and emotions that come with it? This amazing libido change is frustrating. Help me understand.

A: How about all the above? For most new mothers, hot desire gets tossed along with the dirty diapers. Study after study shows that many women experience a steep drop in libido for some period of time after giving birth.

Breast-feeding is one possible culprit. The reasons why are complicated and may have to do with hormones that stimulate milk production, but in one study, 62 percent of nursing moms reported less or no sexual desire.

Second, many women experience body-image problems after carting around a watermelon for months and then pushing it through a pelvis that is suddenly different from your average high school cheerleader’s.

The pill you are taking could be affecting your desire, too, and finally, aren’t you tired? Most new moms I know spend at least a year just being exhausted, God bless 'em.

If things do not pick up after you stop breast-feeding and return to a combination pill, by all means ask your ob-gyn.

Meanwhile, Davidson suggests a kind of erotic workout to recharge your sex pump. Just as most of us don’t really look forward to going to the gym, but feel good once we’re there, you may have to try watching erotic videos, reading fantasies or setting the stage for sex with your husband (and making sure he’s meeting your erotic needs) even if you’re not aroused.

Once you get used to the rewards of sex again, your drive ought to return on its own. 

Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. He is a contributing editor at Glamour and the author of "Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion" (Basic Books).

Sexploration appears every other Thursday.