How To Get Your Wife To Talk About Your Sex Life

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man and woman smiling in bedroom

Many men struggle with the fact that their wives shut them down when they start to talk about sex.

Their wives have heard their complaints before, and they want to be left alone and not pushed. They feel the conversations go nowhere, and their husbands will never be happy with what they are comfortable giving.

Men end up feeling ignored, invalidated, and dismissed, and act rude and passive-aggressive in response. The cycle of mutual resentment ramps up with every one of these interactions. Fortunately, there are ways to flip the script and make it more likely that you will not get shut down.

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The reason that you get dismissed so quickly when you bring up sex with your wife is that she feels exactly like you do: like her needs are not important to you.

She has likely been saying the same thing for a long time, although she may not be expressing it clearly enough for you, which is:

1. She does not feel comfortable with doing whatever it is you want her to do in bed, and

2. She feels you do not care.

On the other side, you are trying to say:

1. I do not feel comfortable with our sex life as it is, and

2. You don’t seem to care.

See how similar that is? The key to understanding why your wife won’t talk with you about sex (or won’t anymore, as the case may be), and getting her to engage on this topic in a team-oriented way is empathy. When you see that she feels exactly as you do about this topic, you can understand why she feels as resentful and frustrated as you do.

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Within a loving relationship or at least a pretty good relationship, I do not buy into the idea that sex, or physical touch, is a less valid love language, although, in our cultural climate, many do. Even if your wife believes that other love languages, like verbal affection, should come before physical touch, you will still have a chance with her really engaging with you about sex if you approach her in an empathic way.

In order to fully empathize with your wife’s position, do some research. Read about female libido within long-term monogamous relationships.

Read Esther Perel’s books, especially Mating in Captivity. Read Wanting Sex Again by Laurie Watson, all about how women’s desire goes away over time and how it can potentially be reawakened.

Think back through the conversations that your wife herself has had with you on this topic and try to summarize her perspective. Only when you think you truly understand her position should you approach her. Here is an example of something you might say:

“Hey, I know you are sick of hearing me bring up our sex life.

I am really trying to understand where you’re coming from. I know that you feel burdened and touched out and overwhelmed. I am learning that stress is terrible for women’s sex drives and I have added to that stress with these conversations.

I do want us to work on our sex life, and it is important to me, but I want you to know that I am ready to hear you and work together on a way we can both feel close and get our needs met.”

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The trick is that there is no trick. You genuinely have to come from a place of empathy and understanding about female desire and how your wife in particular feels about your sex lives and your prior conversations about it.

You should also be trying your best to accept what needs to be accepted, given your research (for example, that women often only feel responsive desire once sex starts, versus desire before being touched, or that women have no sex drive while nursing).

There are few situations where your wife isn’t going to respond to your changed tone and increased empathy, which are likely in marked contrast to your previous air of aggrieved complaint. Conversations like this often lead to new directions for couples, whether that is going to couples or sex therapy, trying new things together, or even reading an article about how to spice up your sex life.

Nobody should accept that their needs will go unmet for their entire married life. Empathizing with your wife’s feelings and recognizing their overlap with your own frustration and anger is the first step toward coming together in a productive and close way, about this topic or any other. 

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Dr. Samantha Rodman Whiten, aka Dr. Psych Mom, is a clinical psychologist in private practice and the founder of Dr. Psych Mom. She works with adults and couples in her group practice Best Life Behavioral Health.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.