Question 2-2021 from Mr Still-loving-you

She loves but doesn’t desire me. Why?

Full question: (Ending part of question 1-2021) We have differences as years go by. She says she still loves me, but she is questioning our relationship: are we husband-and-wife or just good friends or relatives or mere partners for the convenience … as of now, intimate relationships have stopped.

Dear Mr Still-loving-you,

First of all, it is good to hear that she still loves you. But one sure sign that the love is waning is that physical intimacy has stopped. We assume this has nothing to do with a medical condition or performance issues, or you would have mentioned it. And that any reticence towards intimacy is on her part and not yours, or you would have mentioned that too.

We would not be surprised if you have no problem responding to her advances, even if your mind is boggled by the status of your relationship. But the same does not apply to her. In his book “He Comes Next”, the sexual therapist Dr Ian Kerner, identified a key difference between the male and female desire. In men, desire travels on a two-way street. Obviously, desire stimulates the bodily and emotional pleasures associated with sex. But, the absence of desire can be reversed by bodily stimulation like caressing or fondling and such or mental stimulation like imagination and fantasies, and definitely by both. In men, stimulation can bring back an absent desire.

However, for women, only the first part is true. If desire is absent, no amount of physical, visual, mental, psychological, spiritual or whatever kind of stimulation can bring it on. In fact, without desire, all forms of stimulation can be irritating to her, at best, and traumatic at worst – but never pleasurable. In women, desire travels on a one-way street.

Women’s desire answers a simple question: do I want this man? And if the answer is “yes”, the reasons for this “yes” have little to do with sex per se but rather his personality, characteristics, qualities, behaviour, values and such. If your wife is responding to your advances or even initiating them, not knowing these reasons makes little difference. But, if she has lost interest in physical intimacy with you, knowing these reasons is inevitably the first step to getting your intimacy back.

And it is only the first step. After which you two have to figure out what had changed through the years. Is it you, or is it her? Or were these changes merely the external circumstances or outward appearances or peripheral issues, but at the core, both of you are still the same. Or for that matter, are these changes reasonable and is there room for either or both of you to understand and accept each other’s changes. After all, you have been married for an incredibly long time, changes are bound to happen. You need to have a heart-to-heart talk to express and then understand each other’s current perspective about each other and decide where to bring your relationship next.

It appears you have tried to talk this out with her, but to no avail. Perhaps she too may have tried to express her dissatisfaction, but words fail her. That’s a good effort. But it may be time for both of you to realise that you actually have a very complex situation at hand. It is clearly beyond your analytical skills to figure a way out of your current situation and you may not have the communication skills to express your inner thoughts in a positive manner. You may keep trying. But before you reach the point of giving up, it may be prudent to seek professional help. You can google for marital counsellor or contact a voluntary service organisation that provides services for families in your locality.

Most importantly, do not take the need for professional help as a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it takes wisdom to know that you need help and courage to seek it.