First, the men asked, “why doesn't she want sex with me after having a baby?” So I wrote about it, here.
Then women asked, “hang on, but why doesn't HE want sex with me?”
I get it. We've grown up hearing that men want sex, however they can get it, all the time, and frequently.
So when a man rejects a woman's advances, she may not only feel the sting of rejection, but another sting from the belief that something must be wrong with her, because all men want sex — as much as they can get.
Male sexual dysfunction and low libido are no longer limited to those who are well past their childbearing days. While some cases may be due to medical conditions (such as cardiovascular problems or diabetes), low libido usually — but not always — has an underlying lifestyle or psychological cause. The good news is many sexual problems are not only preventable, but reversible too.
Usually when sexual problems arise in a relationship, we first turn our thoughts to possible medical causes. The roaring success of Viagra just goes to show how quickly we'll look to medicine for quick solutions, rather than seeking to understand why something is really occurring in the first place. A similar pill for women has just been announced too, which is worrying. Our society seems lost and in desperate need of quality sexual and lifestyle advice and education.
So let's get right into it– here are 13 reasons why fathers and fathers-to-be (even men in general in some cases) may turn down sex and intimacy with their partner:
#1: Changing Roles
Just as a woman has a massive adjustment into the role of a mother, men experience a huge adjustment into fatherhood too. Because we're all unique individuals with unique upbringings and past experiences, adjusting to parenthood can impact us differently too. Simon, a new father, explained how his instinct to parent impacted on his sexual relationship:
“In my case the intimacy was very much still there but the sex wasn't. She was up for it, but alot of the time I wasn't. I don't know why, but I'm assuming it was because I was just in parenting mode and was focused on my son. Now I realise that I'm also a partner and not just a dad, so I need to have that “sexual” relationship with my partner.” — Simon
When we become parents, both partners need to remember the very two people that started the relationship in the first place. It must be nurtured, because one day, the kids will pursue their own lives and relationships, and you as parents will be again left to your own devices, wondering what the heck just happened.
If you've always put parenting first, your relationship will suffer — and you may even grow apart.
#2: A Lack Of Confidence
Darren Mattock, creator of Becoming Dad, says that sometimes a lack of confidence can come about with the new and changing landscape of your relationship:
“Pre-pregnancy, most men have developed a sense of confidence in how to be with their partner, and how to please her sexually. When her pregnant body and the way they as a couple connect intimately both change, this once solid ground can slowly begin to crumble away.
The mature masculine will appreciate the changes in his partner’s body, move and grow in connection with her and continue to share intimacy and sex with her throughout pregnancy and beyond, without any major interruption.
For the immature masculine, whose self-esteem is largely built upon his sense of sexual confidence and his sexual power in the relationship, this change will be a profound and disturbing shock. Such men often long for the partner they had before, her body and the sex they used to have. He is being called to evolve his ideas about sex and relationship to it (both in himself as a man and with his partner), but is struggling to come to grips with the reality of their changes.
This can be a real trigger for inadequacy in men. If a man succumbs to his fear and vulnerability in feeling sexually inadequate and can’t find a way to turn to his partner to maintain connection with her, he’ll shut down and/or either turn away from her emotionally, psychologically, physically and sexually.”
#3: Fear Of Hurting Their Partner After The Birth
Some new dads feel genuine concern about their partner, and how she experiences love making after the birth. It's one of many unknown territories new parents face — and these dads don't want to cause any discomfort or pain.
As Seamus writes on his “Dadinating” blog:
“For me, sex after birth was a little scary. It wasn’t because I’d seen [my son] emerge out of her vagina — I have heard this causes issues for some men. Not so me. Instead, I was nervous about how it would feel, and that it might hurt her somehow if she wasn’t physically ready yet. It was a bit like having sex for the first time all over again, it was a similar kind of trepidation. “Will she like it? What do I do? How do I know if I’m doing it right?”. And all without the help of wine. We had to re-discover each other a bit after that first attempt. But with patience, understanding and acceptance we got through it together.”
#4: Fear Of Hurting The Baby During Pregnancy
It's not uncommon for men to worry about how sexual intercourse will impact on the baby. After all, lots of the action is likely to be happening right where we know baby's head is usually located. Add a little creative thinking about what could possibly go wrong or what might happen to the baby's head, and you have a worried or anxious dad-to-be.
Some simple reassurance and a little education is all that is usually needed here. If your partner comes along to your midwife or doctor visits, bring it up. Don't embarass him — simply ask if your careprovider could explain how the baby is protected when you make love, and under which circumstances it would be an issue worth stopping. Your baby is well protected by your strong uterine muscles, closed shut cervix and a mucus plug to ensure no bugs get in. Mother Nature has it all sorted!
#5: Low Testosterone Levels
Low testosterone levels can result in low libido for men. Yet it's something you'd think is a problem for older men, right?
Professor Gary Wittert, study co-author and professor of medicine at the University of Adelaide said, “Declining testosterone levels are not an inevitable part of the aging process, as many people think… Testosterone changes are largely explained by smoking behavior and changes in health status, particularly obesity and depression.”
Today's lifestyles wreak havoc on men's testosterone levels. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found that testosterone levels in American men have been steadily declining over the past two decades.
A poor diet can impact on testosterone levels, as can stress, alcohol, and even drinking unfiltered tap water. This is due to the after products of hormonal and contraceptive pills that end up in our waterways (excreted in urine and hard to filter out). Read this story about how whole catchments of fish are becoming female due to hormones in the water — and it's not an isolated case.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals like BPA and phthalates have been shown to lower testosterone levels too, even for young boys. Low testosterone is common for men with diabetes of either type. Processed carbohydrates (grains) and sugar can mess with your insulin levels.
If your partner is obese or has a diet high in processed sugars and grains (e.g. wheat products), then this could be contributing, as could lack of exercise. If you smoke, you're not going to be healthy. It can also significantly increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.
As you can see, what food and drink we put in our body is very important. Every cell in our body relies on healthy air, water and nutritious foods, to not only survive, but thrive.
New baby or not, stress is a huge libido killer for men. Sleep, exercise, time out and healthy eating habits all tend to go downhill when a new baby arrives. On top of that, some men feel a great deal of pressure to provide and fix, in this new and unexplored responsibility of being dad. Add financial and work pressures to the list, and he can end up feeling like a top of the range pressure cooker.
Stress, unhealthy eating, lack of exercise and other things all combined can feed each other, and lower testosterone levels too. Women will well know that it works the same for them too — when they feel very stressed and overtaxed emotionally, it's very difficult to feel sexy. In fact it's often the last thing that's on your mind. While sex and orgasm is often a great stress reliever, high levels of stress can get the better of any man or woman.
#7: Lack Of Sleep
Studies have shown that a woman's interest in sex and libido dwindles when she has less sleep (let alone complete sleep deprivation after having a baby). The same happens with men too.
A study found that just one week of interrupted sleep resulted in lower testosterone levels for healthy young men. These men weren't new dads! Even if you're sleeping well, he may not be. Perhaps he spends time awake at night worrying about his responsibilities — you never know unless you ask.
#8: He Finds Pregnancy Or Post Birth Bodies Unattractive
Some men find pregnant women beautiful and glowing. Some even find them sexy. However, a tiny percent of them may struggle with how a woman looks during pregnancy and after the birth.
On the Reservoir Dad blog, blog owner, Clint, posted a disturbing letter that one father wrote about his wife's body during pregnancy and after the birth. Clint was just as shocked as I was. The letter is definitely not representative of the vast majority of men out there. I love Clint's comment:
“Although I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone like this. All my friends have been right by their partner’s side for all the terrors and joys of pregnancy, labor and birth, and all have emerged more in love and more committed to their partners.”
There are loads of men out there who find pregnancy and motherhood to be a time of beauty, inside and out. Even if they don't find it specifically sexy, it's not hard to be respectful and to find ways to connect and build intimacy with your partner, no matter what they are going through. Supporting and embracing your partner's healthy changes is demonstrating commitment to the relationship.
#9: Feeling Traumatised After The Birth
Just as we're seeing an increase in traumatic and disappointing birth experiences (including incidences of PTSD), men too are left trying to process their difficult feelings — alone.
Men do feel and experience birth trauma. Unfortunately with the very high level of intervention going on at birth (both the US and Australia have double the c-section rate recommended by the World Health Organisation), it doesn't seem to be coming to an end any time soon.
If your partner is struggling with birth trauma, it's important to work through these feelings with a professional. As a new mother, possibly one who has her own trauma, this is too much to take on by yourself. You both need support. You can't be responsible for supporting the both of you, plus your new baby. Birthtalk.org is a good place to start if you've experienced birth trauma.
#10: He's Addicted To Porn
Porn addiction is a very real reason why men — young and old — suffer from sexual dysfunction and may not be interested in having sex with their partner. When they do have sex with their partner, it can feel like a very disconnected form of sex. Porn use can result in lowered sexual attraction and desire for their partner.
Unfortunately, this is the new big problem of our generation. We have such easy access to high speed internet porn, which, lights up the brain the same way that it does a drug addict. The brain is flooded with dopamine in smokers, alcoholics, drug users and porn users.
Porn addicted men (and women, which is sadly starting to happen now) can become ‘desensitised' and have more trouble getting aroused by their partner. They tend to objectify women, be picky about their partner's appearance and they may scan for sexually arousing images around them (e.g. women in their surroundings).
However, a partner's porn addiction has nothing to do with you or your body being good enough. This is about them and their brain changing due to exposure to porn.
Any form of addiction is a symptom of an underlying problem. It may not even be about getting enough sex. Just like any addiction, it becomes a quick and easy way to stuff down uncomfortable and painful feelings (stress, overwhelm, low self esteem etc). If your partner watches porn (which you may not be aware of), you may need to have a delicate discussion with him. Addicts tend to deny their addictions, to save face, to protect their addiction and because of the shame and guilt associated with it's use. Some resources to help bring up this topic are www.fightthenewdrug.org and www.yourbrainonporn.com. Both have informative pages on Facebook.
An addiction is a very tough situation to be in, for both partners. It's important to seek professional help if this is a problem in your relationship, as willpower alone is not enough to solve an addiction. Counsellors and psychologists are now specialising in working with this issue.
#11: Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are known libido killers for both men and women. So too are some anti-depressants.
More men are reporting to have postnatal depression, but aside from that, we know depression is a big problem in society as a whole. If your partner is taking anti-depressants (which may be a cause of his low libido), a visit to the doctor to try something else might be in order.
Self help is super important here too. Don't leave it up to the meds, it's simply a life raft until you get back to the shore, then you can ditch your raft. While you're in recovery, it's important to focus on personal growth and development and lifestyle issues, such as diet and exercise. Your gut is where most of your immune system lives, and it's your ‘second brain'. When the gut is out of whack, the brain tends to be too, and vice versa. Foods like sugars and grains (wheat etc) are inflammatory to the gut and can mess with your emotional wellbeing. This is a good start to eliminate from your diet. Maybe people find after quitting sugar — even after a week — they have much less brain fog, or it disappears altogether.
See the How Is Dad Going? website for more information on depression in new dads. If you or someone else feels that they may be depressed, they can try the online Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale, which is commonly used to assess if a mother may be suffering from depression. Fathers can try it too.
For self help resources, check out The Work by Byron Katie and learn about mindfulness and meditation for starters. These three things are super helpful to feeling more in control of your mind and to help fight anxiety and depression.
#12: Previous Sexual Abuse
This is something definitely worth a mention — just as I mentioned it in the article about why women don't want sex. It's not talked about and it should be. In Australia in 2012, an estimated 4% (336,000) of all men aged 18 years and over had experienced sexual assault since the age of 15. Partners may find men dissociating or with no sex drive (others may have high sex drive).
No matter if it's a woman or man experiencing sexual abuse, it's equally as traumatic. It also needs experienced, professional help to work through, so please don't think you can fix this all on your own. You will need support for both yourself and your partner.
#13: He's Channeling His Sexual Energy Elsewhere
Yes, it's a possibility that something sinister may be going on, and I certainly hope that's not the case. However at times of high stress and pressure, men can also channel all their sexual energy into work. Just as you would know as a mother, it's a huge amount of work with no kudos, pay rises or praise. A man is able to get such fulfillment from his job. He may be putting in excess hours or bringing work home to avoid the difficult feelings he's experiencing. We know men like to fix, and when it comes to pregnancy, birth and parenting, you just can't fix many things! All new parents learn a big lesson on going with the flow with babies and kids in the house.
He may also be channeling his energy into pleasuring himself, which can also become an addiction. He may be so overwhelmed and stressed that it's giving him relief without having to worry about any other responsibility. This may leave his sexual energy at zilch when it comes to the bedroom with you. If this is the case, you need to chat to him and let him know that you miss your sexual relationship, and you'd love it if he could save his sexual energy for the relationship. Find out what is the source of most of his stress and overwhelm, and brainstorm some ideas together.
Opening Up About Sexual Issues In Your Relationship
Of course, all of these things can only be of help if he opens up with how he's truly feeling. If you're both in a bad place in the relationship and there is little to no intimacy, he may not feel safe being vulnerable.
Darren says: “A lack of sex can feed a cycle of disconnect that becomes a downward spiral, ending in complete relationship breakdown. By the time it becomes a relationship-breaking issue, it’s no longer about sex — it’s about connection. Yet that can be a double-edged sword, as men tend to need sex to experience connection with their partner (whereas women tend to be the other way around).”
Therefore it's important for someone to just go first (note: that's you) at trying to rebuild intimacy and trust. Only then can you make progress. If a partner is unwilling to resolve any big issues and you've given it your very best, then you need to start making some serious decisions.
What Can You Do?
Now you may have a better understanding as to why your partner doesn't seem to be as interested in sex, but what can you do to turn things around? The first step is just like any problem in a relationship: openly communicate in a non-threatening and non-demanding way. You may like to share this article with him, and ask to discuss it. You can sit down and work out if one or several things on this list could be a possible problem. It may surprise you how he's really feeling.
The majority of the causes are health and wellbeing issues, and can be greatly improved with better health and lifestyle choices — and support from the right people. The best thing you can do is to support your partner to work towards a healthier lifestyle, and encourage him to get involved in a hobby he's passionate about (if doesn't have something already).
- Exercise is very important — a daily walk for 30 minutes can help with mood, insulin resistance, weight loss and more.
- For even more impact, weight resistance can help build muscle and boost testosterone.
- Go for a walk after dinner to help lower your blood sugar levels.
- Get 20 minutes of non-peak sun exposure (without sunscreen) to ensure your vitamin D levels are sufficient.
- Cut out inflammatory, libido killing and disease causing sugars and refined carbs (“whites” like white flour, bread, pasta, potato).
- Choose protein, vegetables and salads for meals, with plenty of good fats (coconut oil, avocado, omegas), nuts and seeds.
- Check out our 13 healthy and delicious breakfast ideas.
- A good quality water filter will benefit the whole family and get rid of any nasties. Easy Water Solutions has lots of fantastic options.
The Importance Of Good Role Models And Men's Groups
Because many of us grew up without a good supply of role models (and those on t.v. can be downright shocking!), being around great men is very important too. We become who we spend most of our time with. Here are some fantastic Facebook pages for dads and dads to be, several of which offer great support (especially Becoming Dad). Find out if there are any men's groups in your community. There are plenty around designed to help men become the best partner and father they can be.
A Final Note: Please understand that you can't ‘rescue' him or be responsible for his decisions or choices, especially if it comes at your own happiness and expense. You can open the door, but he needs to walk through. If you feel stuck in a relationship where you feel disrespected or your partner is an addict of any kind, please see this article on co-dependency.
If you're not coping with his lack of interest in sex, it can also be worth considering what reactions, thoughts and feelings are going on inside your body. Do you feel rejected? Do you feel like you're not good/attractive/sexy enough? Are you worried that you'll never be loved? Sometimes feeling these things can result in fear disguised by anger, due to being worried that something is wrong with you.
Sex does not define you, who you are or how attractive you are, so don't get stuck in the trap of thinking that if he doesn't want sex with you, you're not worth it. Because I can guarantee that there's way more than one man in this world that finds you ravishing and gorgeous, just as you are.
Recommended Reading: Check out this MUST see video from JP Sears “Pregnant And He Doesn't Want Sex” to find out what could be the underlying problem underneath all these layers.