Aunt Vadge: How can I get my wife to want sex again?

Dear Aunt Vadge, 

I got married in 2008. I have one son aged six years. My wife is aged 30 years. After the birth of my son, my wife does not like sex, and most of the time her vagina is dry after foreplay also. How I can get through this problem? 

India, Age 38

Dear Sexless,

This is a very common situation that couples face all over the world. A baby comes, a relationship matures, sex disappears… But, with the right sort of canoodling, it can come back, better than before.

A lack of sexual desire in your wife isn’t something that you can overcome by yourself – you and your wife need to do this together, and it is going to take some work, and some effort from both of you, but particularly her. Sadly there is no magic button for you, but below we offer you some tips on how to assist change.

Talking is critical or nothing will ever change

Reigniting the sexual fire means talking about the situation in a warm, loving, and kind way, and a lot – talk about your relationship, your heart’s desires, talk about how you feel, and ask her how she feels. Make it less about sex and more about closeness when you talk to her. The sex comes from closeness.

You have mismatched sexual drives, which must be acknowledged, but that may not be the real problem. Low sex drive has many causes, and sometimes is easier to fix than you thing. It just takes talking to find out what’s really going on in there.

Talking openly and honestly about the situation is critical. Start off slow by opening the topic in a non-sexual scenario (so don’t be naked in bed trying to kiss her and then say, “Darling, I think we need to talk…”), don’t push anything (be gentle – your wife will have a lot of feelings about this too that she doesn’t feel able to talk about), and let your wife know that you want her to enjoy a healthy sex life with you in your marriage, whatever that looks like for you as a couple. Because, you know, sex is supposed to be fun!

There are no rules that insist we must feel sexual desire and satisfy our partners, but there is a sense of obligation in an intimate partnership – if you are in a monogamous relationship, you only get (usually) this one outlet for your sexual desires, your partner, and that’s part of the deal. If this can’t happen for medical or other reasons, that’s something you have to deal with as a couple, but outside of any obvious impediments, you’ll need to do is figure out what you can do – as a couple, and separately – to help your wife’s sexual desire blossom, or at least pop up every now and again.

Therapy, professionals, helpers, courses, coaches

There is no magic cure for this, and you certainly aren’t alone. Speaking to someone who is trained in this type of scenario is a great idea (a sex therapist, couples counsellor), since it can help draw out the reasons behind your wife’s lack of desire, which could come from many sources. This is the sort of therapy you go to either together or both separately, particularly if talking is difficult between you both due to shyness. (Talking about sex can be really, really hard, especially when there is an issue with it.)

Ask her if she would consider visiting a sex coach or therapist, or even a counsellor or a doctor – whatever seems most appropriate based on her response and what she feels comfortable with – to help guide you through this process, which could take a long time.

There are also great sex workshops and classes and courses for couples of all types. This doesn’t have to be a big deep counselling session – it might be great just to have a couples class where you learn to massage each other or be close in non-sexual ways, or sexual ways, or whatever, kamasutra styles! Look into the spiritual side of your connection with your wife and see how you can foster it. It could be magic.

Reasons why your wife may have an absence of sexual desire

Perhaps she feels tired all the time (is she healthy? is she depressed? is she stressed?), perhaps she wants more closeness and affection from the relationship, maybe your sexual techniques no longer work for her, perhaps she has a medical condition that is disrupting her normal arousal patterns.

There are many options, but you need to get the bottom of it if you want to solve it – problem solving 101 is to at least establish what the true problem is. Your wife may not know the reasons, or she may not want to tell you the reasons. Perhaps she is no longer sexually attracted to you, perhaps your habits now annoy her, perhaps she wants help with your son, or more attention from you. The list is endless.

Any reason is a good reason, and must be respected – if she tells you truthfully why, don’t try to say she’s wrong or unreasonable, but ask more questions – investigate. Problems can all be overcome in some form or another, even if that is making concessions for one another to help keep the relationship healthy, or perhaps even deciding to get your sexual fulfillment outside of the marriage with her blessing. There are many options (even some that sound scandalous at first!), and working on your communication should be the first. It fosters closeness, understanding, and a sense of warmth.

The female sexual response and sexual attraction

There is no magic pill for this. It’s simply true that as our relationships grow longer, we get bored and annoyed at each other, being stuck living together with no excitement. It gets boring for everyone! The challenge in marriage is figuring out how to keep it interesting, which takes effort and time (and often money!).

Interestingly, the female sexual response is heavily tied up in things other than their genitals – just heading straight for her vagina for foreplay means a crucial component – her mind – has not been engaged. Get her head on board, and you’ll have a better chance of getting her wet and hot.

A couple of good books about how sexual attraction works are A Billion Wicked Thoughts (Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, 2012), or if you prefer, Why Women Want Love and Men Want Sex: Solving the mystery of attraction (Barbara and Allen Pease, 2010). My personal favourite is A Billion Wicked Thoughts, but both books will enlighten you to the way to get into a woman’s pants.

Using the books, you can find ways to tap into the love-fest lurking deep inside your wife if you use her pretty standard female sexual cues to get there. They may seem bizarre to you, but the very interesting research inside A Billion Wicked Thoughts should lead you in the right behavioural direction to get your wife’s attention, should you take the information presented and use it wisely.

How to proceed

Keep smiling throughout this process, don’t get mad, and fight the frustration. If you figure out what your wife needs, with her help and participation as an active, dynamic, loving, communicative partnership, you’ll at minimum learn new things about each other and become closer. Be open. Prepare yourself for things you may not like to hear and be gracious, and ask the same of her.

Your wife has a lot of decisions to make. The main issue with the partner whose sex drive is low or non-existent, is they aren’t missing out on anything and can remain perfectly happy to be sexless for long periods of time. It just doesn’t bother them. Trying to get her on board, then, can be hard, so you have to frame it in another way besides “I’m horny and I want sex with you, so let’s find ways to make you more horny so I can have sex with you!”. That won’t go down well, since it is you wanting something from her that she feels unable to give, since she just isn’t feeling it.

Approaches need to be tailored to your wife’s temperament and ask the broader question regarding her expectations of sex in your marriage, and if she wants it to remain sexless for the rest of your lives, and if so, what were her expectations of you? This isn’t a trick question for her, but she probably hasn’t thought about it in that way before; that you guys made a deal by getting married, and what you want matters too; that there are options she’ll like.

You shouldn’t be expected to live a sexless life. Nobody wants that, since sex is a basic human need. We arrange ourselves socially so that we are in long-term, supposedly monogamous relationships where our sex lives can become seriously unsatisfying pretty quick. Talk about expectations, possible solutions, how you as a couple, as a unit, can make the situation happier for you both in whatever way that means. Then do it. Try things – try everything, try anything. Be bold and daring and brave. Venture into new frontiers.

Also, if you like podcasts, listen to Dan Savage on the micro version of the Savage LoveCast (free on iTunes) – he talks frankly about sex, answers sex questions from a variety of people, and you’ll find from him a super liberal and interesting view of sex that could help change your mind about what sex means to us all, including your wife. There are lots of ways to have sexual relationships in this world, with marriage being one of the most difficult to pull off well, so kudos for trying!

Thanks for writing, and let us know how you go.

Warmest regards,
Aunt Vadge

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

Jessica is a degree-qualified naturopath (BHSc) specialising in vulvovaginal health and disease, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Jessica is the owner and lead naturopath of My Vagina, and is a member of the:

  • International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease (ISSVD)
  • International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health (ISSWSH)
  • National Vulvodynia Association (NVA) Australia
  • New Zealand Vulvovaginal Society (ANZVS)
  • Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS)
Read more about Jessica and My Vagina's origin story.
Jessica Lloyd - Naturopathic Practitioner, BHSc(N)

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