While you were dating and during the honeymoon years of your marriage, you lovebirds likely couldn't keep your hands off of each other. Physical attraction and sex are trademark signs of a healthy relationship, according to research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. But how does sexual intimacy between partners adapt with age?
As men age, it's natural for them to experience a somewhat decreased sex drive, says Jeanne O'Connell, M.D., cofounder of Sylvana Institute for Medical Aesthetics in Frederick, Maryland. According to a review published in the Journal of Nurse Practitioners, sexual intimacy declines around age 45 and continues to decline with age. Physiological components can be at play, such as age-related changes in blood flow and shifts in hormones. Other barriers to sexual intimacy may include health conditions, an inability to orgasm, a lack of confidence in the bedroom, and a decline in the desire to engage in sexual activities in general, regardless of your feelings towards your partner.
Perhaps you're still trying to keep things exciting in the bedroom, but you can sense your husband's sex drive beginning to tank. For starters, it's likely not because of anything you're doing differently, but we completely understand the hurt and confusion. Here are the top reasons why your husband may have lost his libido, according to experts.
1. His work life may be overwhelming.
When you think of a mistress, you likely automatically think of another partner entering into the picture. But the "mistress" taking up all of your man's attention and affection could actually be his occupation. "When men are passionately involved with their careers, they can sublimate sexual excitement that would normally be directed toward their wives," says neuropsychologist and life coach Sydney Ceruto, Ph.D. "The accolades, money and ego boost from being regularly praised, or promoted, can be a turn-on." Try talking to your partner about some ways you can balance out his work-life responsibilities, and what boundaries you can establish to keep work out of the bedroom.
2. He could have lower levels of testosterone.
Did you know that testosterone is one of the most widely prescribed hormone medications in the U.S.? According to a recent review published in Urology, testosterone levels decline with age as rapidly as 0.4 to 2 percent annually after age 30, and around 13 percent of the male population has hypogonadism, which is a failure to produce enough testosterone. In addition to a low libido, symptoms of low testosterone can include decreased energy, low mood, fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and even erectile dysfunction, says Abraham Morgentaler, M.D., associate clinical professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and a urologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. According to Dr. Morgentaler, as many as 97 percent of men who have low testosterone levels report a negative impact on their sex lives. Fortunately, Mayo Clinic says the condition can be treated with hormone replacement therapy, stress management, and counseling.
3. He could be experiencing male menopause.
Male... what? According to Mayo Clinic, the term "male menopause," medically referred to as "andropause," describes the age-related decreasing of testosterone levels in men. Not to worry, though — it's not as sudden or intense as the bodily changes women can sometimes face. Dr. O'Connell suggests trying to avoid taking it personally if he used to want to tear off your clothes when you walked in the door and now he hardly notices the new skirt you're wearing. The reason may simply be biological, not psychological. Instead of closing up, talk to him about his sexual feelings and needs — and yours.
4. He could be looking to pornography for sexual satisfaction.
The proliferation of pornography is a natural consequence of the ability to both upload and watch uncensored internet content in today's increasingly digitalized world. According to researchers at Indiana University and the University of Hawaii, men who consumed porn experienced significantly lower levels of satisfaction with their partners, in terms of intimacy, romantic attachment, love for your partner, happiness, commitment, and relationships assessment. What could be turning them to porn in the first place? "Men who suffer from loneliness often find a huge reduction the amount of opportunities for interactions with others and intimacy," Dr. Ceruto says.
Worse yet, porn addictions can have some devastating consequences on relationships. "When porn becomes addictive, a man relies on it to become stimulated instead of relying on his spouse," says Les Parrott, Ph.D., a Seattle-based psychologist and the author of Crazy Good Sex. That's because the neurochemicals flooding a man's brain during a porn fix (also called eroto-chemicals) may be as addictive as cocaine, Dr. Parrot explains. "Studies have shown that porn fuels unrealistic expectations about what sex should be like," he says. "It makes men less satisfied with their partners." If you suspect that your husband may be getting sexual gratification from pornography instead of you, you can find resolution by acknowledging the problem, talking it out, and perhaps meeting with a sex therapist for counseling, Dr. Parrot recommends.
5. He might have anxiety about his low sex drive.
Premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation can be common problems for men with erectile dysfunction (ED), and it can definitely affect his confidence. "Erectile dysfunction, early ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation might have diverse causes but their common factors — a man’s frustration, worry and feelings of inadequacy — can shut things down sexually between you," Dr. Ceruto says. According to WebMD, 95 percent of men with premature ejaculation are helped by behavioral techniques that help control ejaculation. ED is mostly treated with various medications and psychological counseling.
6. He may have a health condition.
Loss of sex drive for a man doesn't just mean problems in the bedroom. His low libido could be a clue to other concerning health problems, says Phil Nguyen, M.D., an erectile dysfunction expert with the Boston Medical Group. "The penis can be considered a barometer of overall health for men, and if there are problems in this area, it could be symptomatic of larger health issues such as diabetes, prostate cancer, or heart disease," he says. "In fact, diabetes hastens sexual decline in men by as much as 15 years," Dr. Ceruto says. While a loss of sex drive doesn't always mean he has a health condition, it wouldn't hurt to mention your concern to him so he can pass along any questions to his doctor.
7. He could be overweight.
Yes, it's possible that weight could be diminishing your partner's desire to be intimate. A study published in Journal of Education and Health Promotion found that obesity and a lack of physical activity led to an increase of sexual dysfunctions in 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men. "Diabetes and obesity reduce sexual activity," Dr. Ceruto says. "Large body mass and poor body image ruin intimacy, which is core to the opportunity of having sex." According to Eric Plasker, M.D., author of The 100 Year Lifestyle, exercising increases endorphins and can make people feel better about themselves, as well as eating healthy foods. "Those who eat heavy, fattening, greasy or overly sugary foods may feel tired and sluggish, not sexy," he adds.
8. He could be stressed.
Could job overload or financial insecurities really interfere with libido? "Those under an extreme amount of stress often lose their sex drive temporarily," Dr. Plasker says. Clearly, you can't remove the source of his stress or turn investments from red to green on the stock charts, but you can encourage him to make simple changes that will boost his health, and his libido.
9. He could be doing fine on his own.
In other words, your partner could be masturbating too much, instead of sharing that pleasure with you. "He doesn't want to negotiate sex and so takes his desire, literally, into his own hands," Dr. Ceruto says. "Some men feel exquisite vulnerability at being dependent on another person for their desire to be quenched." As a result, men may masturbate to porn or their own fantasies because it's quick and efficient, Dr. Ceruto explains.
It could also be the case that he receives more pleasure on his own time. "If a man is spending a lot of time masturbating, he can become accustomed to a higher, more intense level of sexual stimulation, which is stronger than he can get from the vagina," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., an ob-gyn and the author of What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex. "This can eventually make it hard for him to enjoy sex with you." Talk about ways the both of you can switch things up to make sex more enjoyable for the both of you.
10. He isn't receiving enough physical affection from you.
Though this point is more directed at you, it's one of the easiest things you can change to make your sex life so much better. According to Raphael Darvish, M.D., MBA, a physician with Concierge Medicine in Los Angeles, his disinterest in sex could be because you're not showing him enough everyday affection. "Not feeling wanted and no or limited physical can really hurt a relationship," she says. Try a spontaneous hug, kiss, or back rub, which could have big payoffs for your sex life.