Nothing doing

Pub date December 17, 2008


Dear Andrea:

I’ve been married to my husband for close to 10 years. I admit, I didn’t marry him because we were head over heels in love. I was only 21 when we met, but I already felt that being "in love" was a lie. It was something you saw in movies or read in romance novels — something silly that doesn’t last. I did and do love my husband in my way, and he loves me. In the 10 years we’ve been together, I’ve seen many marriages fail. But we are still together and doing OK — at least, emotionally. My question is: can someone just suddenly become asexual? We’ve never had a burning-hot sexual relationship. When we first met, it was once every couple days. As time went on, it was once every two weeks or sometimes once every three months. Now it’s something like once every six months or so. It never lasts very long, but I chalk that up to it being so infrequent that he can’t last.

Then recently, he told me he didn’t like blow jobs anymore and didn’t want them. Then just about a week ago, we were watching a program on different relationships. When it got to this group of asexuals he said that sounded like him. I was baffled! He’s 40 years old. He’s been sexually active for more than 25 years (he started kind of young). Now, after 10 years of marriage, he suddenly loses all interest? Is he truly asexual? Or do you think there’s something else going on?



Dear Baf:

I think there’s something, and I think your story, which sounds so weird to you, is just the sort-of-extreme end of a typical pattern. People do tend to have less sex (a little or a lot less, depending) as the initial honeymoon high fades, and as other responsibilities (I’m looking at you, kids) and distractions accumulate. How much it cools and how cold it gets is to some extent under our own control and some extent not — if there’s not much flame there to begin with, it doesn’t take much to quench it, and pour water on the embers, and metaphor metaphor. There are so many factors besides simple neglect that could be in play here, though, that I hesitate to give you an airy pronouncement of "you didn’t use it, you lost it." There’s got to be some element of that going on here, though. You guys didn’t use it much, did you?

I was making some notes for a revision of my "sex after parenthood" class recently and when I got to the "use it or lose it" segment, I had that haunted feeling of something familiar, hovering just out of reach. What did this situation remind me of, and what had I done about it? Finally I realized it was hiking, of all things. Way back, when I had the leisure to go hiking with a friend every week, I used to look for excuses to put it off. It sounded hard, I didn’t have the energy, I just wanted to be left alone to read my book … and then I’d heave myself up and go and it would be the greatest thing ever. So. That’s my prescription for sexual atrophy/avoidance: get up, put on your boots, and just do it. Except maybe without the boots, unless you’re into that.

Contrary to popular supposition, lack of sex does not necessarily make people horny; it often makes them yawny instead. Sex breeds sex. A really hot evening’s entertainment leads to really hot memory/reverie over coffee in the morning and lascivious thoughts come sundown. But all of this is couples’ stuff, and there is something else going on with your husband on the unilateral side.

Asexuality in the recent, current understanding is more of a lifelong thing, an inborn tendency kind of like homosexuality except for the whole "sexuality" part. Sure, there are people whose traumatic sexual histories cause a total shut-down, but I’d call that sexual aversion rather than asexuality. And I’d guess that your husband is suffering from a combination of acquired low libido caused by not having much sex or much passion at home, plus low testosterone ( "doesn’t like blow jobs" all of a sudden is cause for concern). That last one can actually be tested, and I’d be happy to be proved wrong but even happier to be proved right, since all it would take is a little supplementation and, as they say (confusingly), Bob’s your uncle.

But you know what? This is a really stupid thing to play guessing-games about. Your husband is sitting right there and he doesn’t really look all that busy, you know? What did you say when he made his startling pronouncement? Did you actually ask him if he’s always felt pretty much asexual (in which case, sucks to be you) or if it’s only recently seemed like something other people crave in a way he just doesn’t get? Maybe you need to have more sex to get more sex, or maybe you need to come to terms with a sexless marriage, but either way you’d best get busy.



Andrea is teaching Sex After Parenthood at Day One Center (, Recess (, and privately. Contact her at for more info.