A Psychologist Explains A Common Factor She Sees Among Couples Not Having Sex

Co-Founder of Inner Bonding By Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
Co-Founder of Inner Bonding
Margaret Paul, Ph.D., is a best-selling author, relationship expert, and Inner Bonding® facilitator.
Image of couple looking unhappy in bed

"I don't care if I never have sex again."

I hear this often from my married women clients, especially those who have children or are in their late 40s. The women who say this have one thing in common: They don't feel emotionally connected with their husbands.

How lack of connection can affect your sex drive.

Not everyone needs emotional connection for sex to be great, but in long-term relationships, the lack of connection can be a huge factor in a person's desire to have sex with their partner. In relationships between men and women, there can also sometimes be a chicken-or-egg problem when it comes to sex and connection: Many men say that they feel emotionally connected after sex, while many women need to feel emotionally connected in order to want to have sex. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, of course—everyone's different—but I do regularly notice this conundrum among my clients.


The neediness problem.

Here's the interesting thing: Many of my women clients say that when they visit their husband at work and see him in his power, they do feel turned on by him. But when he comes home, he becomes an anxious, complaining, needy little boy—and they are not turned on by that whatsoever.

What's going is that their husband is powerful in the work arena but self-abandoning—and thus needy—in the emotional arena. He wants sex to relax and feel good about himself rather than to connect with his wife. Rather than taking responsibility for his own feelings of stress and anxiety, he's coming to his wife expecting for her to make him feel better (or worse, to use her for his own comfort). This dynamic invariably leads to his wife feeling used by him rather than loved.

There is nothing erotic about a needy person.

The situation is also often reversed, where a man wants more emotional connection with a female partner whereas she is disconnected, self-abandoning, and needy. When someone is coming to you for sex that's all about making them feel validated and soothed, it's not much of a turn-on.

Having sex to connect—not out of neediness.


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Sex in a long-term relationship thrives when both partners are loving and taking care of themselves and then sharing their love with each other. This means that each partner needs to do whatever inner work is necessary to come to their partner full of love for their partner rather than coming from emptiness and neediness. We cannot be loving and emotionally connected when we are rejecting and abandoning our own feelings and then expecting our partner to make us feel OK about ourselves.

This might be a hard pill to swallow—yes, you'll need to do the inner work before you're going to see your sex life really come back to life. The good news is, sexuality in general thrives when both partners are open to learning about themselves and about each other, which is what creates growth and newness in long-term relationships. Sex doesn't become boring when the relationship isn't boring, and it isn't boring when learning and emotional growth are an integral part of a relationship. 

Partners also need to make time alone together a high priority—time to share their day, to support each other, to share a meal, to do something fun, and to laugh together. This is how to emotionally connect with your partner. Emotional connection occurs when both people are open and loving with themselves and each other, with no agenda other than to share their love with each other. If one partner has a sexual agenda, the interaction won't feel loving and genuine. Sexuality will often emerge naturally from their authentic emotional intimacy.

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