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Dear John: His Low Libido is Bringing Her Down

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Dear John,

I have kind of the opposite problem from the woman who recently wrote you because she found out that her middle-aged boyfriend was using Viagra. My middle-aged boyfriend isn't using Viagra, and I kind of wish he was.

This is the situation. We've been dating for about two years. We are both in our 40s. We are very compatible on a lot of different levels, and we love spending time together. My boyfriend enjoys having sex, just not very often. If we have sex too frequently, his erection is not very hard and he has trouble reaching orgasm. So, generally he only wants to have sex once a week or less. I'd prefer it a bit more frequently. Unfortunately, he has high blood pressure and he can't take Viagra.

We've talked a lot about the issue and basically he told me that he has a low libido and it's been a problem for the last several years. It may be related to some medical conditions that he has. He's also taking anti-depressants. I really love him and want things to work out. Unfortunately, he mentions his low libido so much that it is killing my libido. I don't feel attractive or sexy anymore -- I feel like a perv-y, sexually frustrated "cougar" who pesters her boyfriend for too much sex.

Do you have any advice? I can tolerate having sex less frequently than I would like, but I am upset that my libido has evaporated. I'm afraid we are going to end up in a sexless relationship eventually.

Thank You,
Stressed Out

Dear Stressed Out,

There’s absolutely no reason for you to feel like a “perv-y cougar.” Different people want to have different amounts of sex, but the only “right” amount is the amount that makes you happy. Wanting to have sex every day still wouldn’t make you perv-y. The key is to have a partner who wants it approximately as frequently (or infrequently) as you do.

When a couple has different ideas how much sex is enough, they can certainly try to compromise. You say you’re willing to have it less often than you would like, which is great – is he willing to have sex more often than he would like? Frankly, I would be more optimistic if he were the one writing this letter, because he has to be motivated to address this if anything is going to change.

First, he should talk to his physician. This problem has a medical component that requires professional help. Perhaps there is a combination of medicines that can help with both his sex drive and depression. Perhaps his depression has a psychological cause that is also affecting his sex drive. These are questions that must be answered by a doctor.

And you should both change your ideas about what constitutes good sex. Thinking of it as penile penetration that inevitably leads to orgasm is hampering you both. Even if there is nothing that can be done to enhance his ability to get more frequent erections, there are lots of other things you can do together with, er, other body parts, vibrators, etc. So sometimes the two of you have sex and you have an orgasm while he doesn’t. He should be okay with that – after all, women have been okay with it forever.

The main point, though, is he has to want this situation to change. If he does, and he works on it, I suspect your libido will be back to where it was in no time. But if he doesn’t, then you’re probably right – you’re on your way to a relationship in which sex will be very infrequent. Don’t settle for that.

Dear John,

Hope you can get to this one fast because I’m in the dog house and I’m afraid my wife is going to nail the door shut. I’ll admit it. I did something dumb, dumb, dumb. Like every guy I know, I watch a little porn on the computer. Just normal hetero guy stuff, nothing weird or nasty. I don’t hide it from my wife and I don’t hide anything else from her either. She doesn’t really like that I do this, she has zero interest in porn herself, but she chalks it up to a guy thing she’ll never get the appeal of, like football. We have agreed on two ground rules: it wouldn’t get out of hand (I had one friend who seems a little addicted to it) and I would always close the browser and clear the history when I’m done because we have a 10-year-old son who uses the computer quite a bit. Now you probably see where this is going. Day before yesterday the phone rang, I closed the computer, forgot all about it, and my son opened the computer to use it (with my permission, ironically), and there it was. He laughed and brought it over to us and that was that. I grabbed it from him and told him that wasn’t for him to see and my wife was and is LIVID. We haven’t really done anything to address things yet but it seems like I have some explaining to do to two people here. How do you think I should handle it?


Dear Sorry,

I think your wife and you both have a realistic and open attitude toward your porn consumption, so I’m sure this will pass and things will get back to normal. As far as you and she go, this is just like any other screw-up. You have to offer her a sincere apology and give her time to stop being mad. She can’t just shut it off because you tell her you’re sorry, but that’s how the process has to start. You’d know better than I would how long it takes her to get over things.

At ten, your son is approaching the age when you (or you and she together) should be talking to him about sex, so for now, just tell him what you think he can process and let him know that you’ll talk to him about what he saw in much more detail when he’s a little older. (I found with my own kids that they were willing to accept “not until you’re a little older” because they knew I meant it and it wasn’t just a way to put them off indefinitely.) Then, when you do have that talk with him, you should include porn viewing as a topic because it has become ubiquitous and it’s unrealistic to expect him not to see it himself. Teach him the difference between imagery of people having sex who appear to be fond of each other and the misogynistic stuff that seems primarily created for chronically dateless angry basement dwellers.

Dear John,

I have a very delicate question, but before I can get to it, I have to provide a bit of context. I adore my girlfriend. She’s smart, funny, sweet, thoughtful, and has a perspective on life and the world unlike that of anyone I have ever met. I hope to marry her and to be by her side the rest of my life. She is also a very big girl – and I don’t mean big like the Olympic volleyball players who have been on TV. She’s very overweight.

Now, I’m not writing to ask how to change her. I find her incredibly sexy because of how attractive she is to me as a person. I’m not one of those guys who prefers heavy women, either. I’ve just been drawn to her from the moment I met her.

So that’s the background. Now the problem. She loves the sun and she loves going to the beach. When she does, she loves wearing a bikini. She’s utterly un-self-conscious and at ease with her appearance. And if we were alone on a beach, none of this would be a problem. But we’re not, and people are thoughtless and cruel. Every trip to the beach, and there have been so many during our two summers together, is ruined by all the smirks and stares she receives behind her back. You know how sometimes, when you lie on a beach with your eyes closed, you can hear people a couple of blankets away, even if they’re whispering? I’ve heard some terribly cruel things people have said about her that way.

For me, a trip to the beach is an ordeal because even when people are not reacting to her in some way, I’m just waiting for them to. I feel compelled to emphasize that I am not ashamed of her – this causes me so much stress because I love and feel protective of her. It infuriates me to think of her being mocked. So what on earth can I do? Talk to these morons? Think of other things for us to do? I just don’t want to have another summer of this next year. I need a different plan.

Love Her, Dislike Them

Dear Love Her, Dislike Them,

Your girlfriend sounds wonderful, and if she feels about you the way you do about her, you’re both very lucky. Unfortunately though, in our thin-obsessed society, a very overweight woman in a bikini is going to elicit this kind of reaction. It’s not fair, it’s not right, it’s certainly not kind, it’s nothing remotely positive…but it is reality. And your girlfriend loves going to the beach. You can’t deny her that. You can try to change the world, or you can try to change how you’re looking at this. Trying to change the world is noble and a good idea, but I think you’ll have more success changing how you react to these people. You have to try as hard as you possibly can to ignore them. (Of course, if someone openly insults her, you should certainly come to her defense.) Look only at her, think of her, listen to music, do whatever you have to do to obliterate their thoughtlessness and cruelty from your mind. This is something that will get easier with practice. You can’t change these paragons of physical perfection. You can only change how you react to them.

Another thing I think you should do is talk with your girlfriend about this. Share your feelings with her and see how she copes with this kind of ignorant behavior – she must be aware of it.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that there’s nothing wrong with wanting your girlfriend to lose weight for the sake of her health. I think lots of people can be very healthy with a stocky body type, so this isn’t about looking better in her bikini. But I get the sense that you’re sensitive to the suggestion you’re not accepting her as she is, and if the way she is ultimately shortens her life or causes her to develop diabetes, it’s okay to want her to change. 


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