January 2008

Dr. Patricia Love offers expert advice on spouses with low libidos, the effect of divorce on children and how to rebuild a relationship after an affair.

By Divorce Magazine
Updated: March 06, 2015

My husband's libido has always been so much lower than mine. We haven't had sex for many months now, even though I recently lost 40 pounds and feel great. He won't talk about it or even touch me. We have other issues, too, and I'm seriously thinking about divorce. Any advice?

First, know that you are not alone. There are about as many women complaining, "He doesn't want sex," as men complaining, "She doesn't want sex." Please take heart, this difference doesn't have to mean divorce. Before you think separation -- think solutions. You mentioned that you had recently lost 40 pounds. This is a big change. Is your husband overweight? Does he feel good about himself? Weight gain can have a negative affect on sexual desire in men as well as women. Are there other physical causes, such as cardiovascular disease? High blood pressure can inhibit sexual desire and performance. Anxiety, depression, or stress can, too. Sometimes the medications used to treat these conditions can also lower sex drive. It may also come as a surprise that job loss and underemployment can contribute to a man's low sexual desire. Even in this modern time, men still evaluate themselves based on how much money they earn and their status at work. Regardless of the cause, desire discrepancy does not have to ruin your marriage, there's plenty of help available. Start with a physical check-up. Meanwhile, there are four things you can do to help. (1) Give it time. You have just raised the heat index in the bedroom by looking good and feeling great; give him time to catch up. (2) Touch him. Men need three to four times as much touching as women to feel close and comfortable. (3) Be tender. Avoid all criticism and tell him what you like. (4) Give him attention. He needs your approval far more than you think. Since you feel great about yourself, share the wealth: help him feel great about himself too.

What's the current research on the effect of divorce on children? We're not feuding with one another, but there's really nothing left to our marriage and I would like to ask my wife for a divorce.

Thank you for asking about current research; it's not only highly responsible of you but it provides an opportunity to reiterate that since I do not know any of the individuals that write these questions, I always base my answers and responses on the latest research data. Of course the downside of research is that it predicts for groups better than individuals, and there are always exceptions to the rules.

Here are some general research findings related to the effect of divorce on children:

  • Unless there is ongoing abuse that cannot be stopped, divorce is never good for children. Can they recover and have productive lives? Of course, but it takes effort.
  • We don't know a lot about the effects of divorce on children under the age of two but any break in the parent/child bond will have a negative effect on the child. Parental distress translates into distress for the children. Even infants sense a change in mood of the caregiver. School age children often blame themselves for the divorce and internalize negative messages. Teens of divorced parents often have a tough time with adjustment and social relationships.
  • Some evidence indicates that divorce in low-conflict marriages (such as yours) has a more deleterious effect on the children. Children don't need perfect parents; they need good-enough parents. Children don't care as much about your happiness (or your "nothing left" marriage) as they do about having both their parents together. Staying together for the children often gets couples through a rough stage of marriage then later they are surprisingly happy.
  • All in all, a child's adjustment is highly correlated with the quality of the parent-child relationship, regardless of whether the parents are married or divorced. If you make this a priority your children will be very fortunate and be better prepared to manage any life transition.

My wife's affair led to the breakup of our marriage. We're divorced, but she says she wants to give things another try. What should I do?

The fact that you are asking this question implies that you still have feelings for your former wife, however this will unlikely be enough to forge reconciliation. If I were in your position, I would want to know the answer to a few questions before I entertained another try:

  1. Is she still with the other person? If she is, then don't go there! The other relationship has to be over before you two can proceed. If she is not with the other person I'd want to know why not? Was it her choice to leave, or did she get left? If you are the consolation prize, safety net, or back-up plan, this doesn't bode well for long-term love.
  2. Has she come clean with all the facts about what happened and why she left? If she's not being honest with you now, chances are she won't be in the future.
  3. Does she understand how much she hurt you by leaving? Does she feel remorseful about her actions? No remorse: stay divorced.
  4. Do you trust her? Building trust has three steps: (1) Say what you are going to do; (2) Do it; (3) Repeat steps one and two.
  5. Have you forgiven her? Can you move on from this? Few people live out a long life with a partner without being tempted by another person. Tip: Most couples who move on successfully after an affair do so with professional help.
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By Divorce Magazine| January 21, 2008
Categories:  General

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