Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Husbands Who Extinguish Their Wives’ Libidos

February 18, 2013 1:21 am 10 comments

Modern wives often lose the sensuality of womanhood. They are feminine when they marry but are quickly relegated to the roles of caretaker, wage-earner, housekeeper, and waitress. Burdened with responsibility, fatigue, and what can feel like a monotonous, uneventful grind, many experience a loss of libido and the gradual diminishing of the deep yearning of youth. They exist but are not fully alive. They live up to their responsibilities but fear that every day will present the same, uneventful grind. After a while they are no longer women but wives, no longer females but mothers.

Paradoxically, the grand extinguisher, often, is the wife’s own husband. Financial instability, moral uncertainty, consumerism, and shifts in the essence of masculinity have led husbands to exchange the untamed sensuality of a woman for the predictable safety of a functional wife. In an attempt to maintain control over an uncontrollable world, the husband’s need for order, routine and a sense of competence has been displaced onto his wife and he has reduced and contained her in an attempt to forestall his fear of confusion and inferiority. The result is a wife who meets his basic functional needs, but whom he may find uninteresting.

The wife is trapped in a double bind. If she acquiesces to what her husband wants of her, she becomes boring to him and a shell of her true self. There is little room for her to express her authentic sensuality or self-actualize. Why pursue beauty? Why pursue wit, insight, creativity, personal sensuality? Is she forced to choose between marriage and selfhood?

The individual psyche of the woman is particularly important to her expression of sensuality. To be desirable, she must be separate from her husband. She must have a sense of herself. She must know, at a visceral level, the presence and power of her beauty. Too much familiarity and functionality, undermines her sensual nature. A woman wants to be wanted, longed for, and lusted after.

In my counseling of married couples, I have seen this phenomenon at work. What often robs a marriage of erotic longing is a husband’s subconscious desire to transform his wife from a woman into a homemaker and from a seductress into a nanny (without the sexy nanny outfit). I say subconscious because most husbands would vehemently protest that, to the contrary, they want their wives to be sultry and sexy. But irrespective of what they say, they end up turning turn their wives into housekeepers.

Why would any sane man sexually extinguish his wife?

Because buried deep within the male psyche is the fear of not being able to fully possess his wife, not being able to control her natural attraction to other men, and not being able to snuff out a woman’s sexual insatiability. A husband’s greatest fear is that as a man he will not be able to measure up, sometimes quite literally. This is especially true once men confront the sheer erotic power and multi-climactic nature of the female libido which is so much more potent than a man’s. By domesticating her, he robs her of her passion. He may now possess her without much effort because she is diminished. By slowly extinguishing his wife’s libido and making sex into a once-a-week encounter lasting seven minutes at a time (the American national average) he gains proprietary rights to her body even as he guarantees that she will never excite him as much as an illicit love.

How tragic that the modern American male has little clue as to the consequences of his actions. Does he realize that by failing to compliment his wife he teaches her to think she is not special? Is he aware of the fact that by failing to go shopping with her for beautiful clothing he makes her feel she is not worth the effort? And is there no friend who can tell him that sex without foreplay ensures that her body will go through the motions but will never come alive with real sexual lust?

And why doesn’t he see all these things himself? Because he cannot look past his own insecurity. He does not realize that he is uncomfortable being in a relationship that will really challenge his masculinity. He looks for challenges at work on and the sports field. But at home he looks for nirvana and bliss. A compliant wife will provide it. A seductress will not.

The sexually insatiable woman generates excitement for her husband, but excitement that is always accompanied by the pain and panic of incurable tension. His comfort zone is gone. He must now permanently pursue her, woo her, and compete against paramours even after he is married. Sexual tension may get a husband’s engines revving, but it can also make him feel as though the floor is collapsing beneath him. He spends his days trying to impress his boss, does he have to spend the night impressing his wife as well? Give the man some peace! Did he not get married so he could enjoy a tranquil domestic existence? Why should he have to put on a show at home, too?

If he sees his wife as a woman who could get another man in a heartbeat, not only does he have to worry about keeping her as his woman, but also that there’s a possibility that he is not up to the job. And this he fears more than walking a tight rope over the Grand Canyon. To get out of feeling inept and inadequate, and more importantly, to stay in control, he subconsciously and systematically douses the embers of her sexuality.

Being married to a seductress means that he will forever be at war to retain her fidelity. As a man begins to recognize how his wife, like all women, is desirable to, and desirous of, other men, and that attraction increases commensurately with the degree to which she feels unappreciated or ignored, he will be shaken with feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

Men are naturally competitive. They don’t want to have to compete for a woman they’ve already won. Sure, they want the erotic thrills that come from seduction and pursuit. But they also want to know, now that they’re married, that they have a comfortable, safe haven to come back to. So they want to know that their wives are not attracted to strangers or attractive to strangers, at least not in a way that’s in any way unsettling. Also, if they want to pursue their own erotic thrills by finding women outside of the marriage, they don’t want to feel that their neglect of their wives will lead their wives to pursue other men in order to satisfy their own erotic needs. Much better, therefore, to subtly and even subconsciously extinguish her sexuality.

What ensues is the boring domestication that most married couples suffer. Two people who live in the same house, share a life, share kids, have perfunctory sex, but never make love. Two people who are married but never generate true erotic friction.

Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published his newest best-seller, “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


  • Dear Rabbi, What about when a Jewish husband has little desire for sex due to chronic health issues? I have been married for 18 years and all but 2 of those years have been with a scarcity of sex,about 8 times a year. I do not want a divorce, but this is very upsetting. I am thinking of a discreet affair with a man whose wife is also I’ll and unable to have sex. This is only because I do not want a divorce, but I’ve been waiting so long and realize things are not going to change.

  • why can’t i leave a comment?

  • Hello,
    Just found this article through another website and all I can say is WOW! You really nailed every single aspect of my life from the beginning 37 years ago until recently. This is exactly how I was treated, he wanted me so badly in the beginning of our relationship, marriage, children, & juggling a career, while all his needs were met. Making more money than him I never brought that up – then I was diagnosed with a progressive/disabling condition which forced me to leave my executive position. After being married 31 years, a female co-worker of his did something so disgusting and perverted (his back was turned) while that “thing” covered it’s now bare upper body (with my husband’s t-shirt) and even though we were in the parking lot of a funeral home, went on to do even more disgusting and pornographic things. When I told him what ‘it’ did, he said that was his ‘friend’ and I made it up because I was jealous, even though I had no idea what ‘it’ looked like. He continued to defend the actions of his ‘friend’ – calling me a liar, berating, degrading, humiliating me then started yelling, screaming at me which he had never done before this incident. Looking back I remember meeting that ‘thing 5 years prior at a business event and my husband saying that name several times a week in addition to a 4 year period of receiving phone calls from an unavailable number twice a day. Then after seeing that it started driving passed my house several days a week for 4 years afterward. a few months ago I found that it he had with that ‘thing’ for 20 years. Rude awakening, lost my husband, best friend, marriage all in one day. It didn’t end there, he would not did not and will not stand up for me. That’s not what a man is supposed to do. I am my own woman now with needs and desires, coming into my own sensuality and sexuality and there will be no divorce. Let him watch me!
    Thank you so much for this wonderfully written article, more men should see it.

    • Edit of the above – he worked with thaat ‘thing’ for 17 years, still has never admitted to any type of affair, however, all the evidence is there. On what level, I probably will never know.

  • Mr. Shmuley,

    I feel intensely moved reading your words. You have described a cultural epidemic that has twisted the souls, and crushed the natural radiance, of the people involved – women and men both.

    I have felt agony from being a woman in the situation you describe. Filled with love and with untapped, unappreciated sensuality, filled with the desire to please and to be faithful, I suffered greatly.

    What you are describing is real.

    Thank You for bringing it into the light.

    Thank You for being fearless enough to talk about it.

    I believe people can heal this.

  • The Jewish ideal is supposed to be that man and wife are “one flesh”, that a person’s spouse is like a part of his/her own body (ishto k’gufo). Doesn’t that imply that they should feel comfortable enjoying one another’s body and mind, and seeking mutual pleasure, without requiring the thrill of the hunt?

  • Bathsheva Gladstone

    Rabbi Schmuley,

    This is great, I see your wonderful words as a dialogue starter. I am neither religious,(spiritual yes)nor married at this point, yet I can find a great deal of meaning here for my own life…

    As always thanks for the wisdom!


    • I agree with what David Hoffman has e-mailed here. My husband has past away just over a year ago and I can say without any doubt that he treated me well . As a lot of my friends has told me , we were inseparable and that he Loved me very much. So I know that there are good men out there. We courted for one year then married. We were Married for thirty-two (32) years.

  • Yeah, sure, Shmuley, it’s all the fault of the men.

    Men have to initiate the relationship, buy the presents, pay the bills, get screamed at, and at night, face the Imperial No.

    Perhaps what you really mean is, it’s a man’s duty to be humiliated, and take it, and never complain, and never leave, and never, ever, be uppity and ask to be treated well in return. All of this with the threat of immediate divorce hanging over your head if your wife, for one minute, thinks she is making as much money as you are.

    Half of the men of my generation simply gave up and decided that they would never, ever, date a Jewish woman again.

    I did, after my orthodox fiancee invited me to her wedding — to somebody else — and expected me to bring a gift. (Our families were furious — at me. I wasn’t being “chivalrous.”)

    Take your “men are to blame” philosophy and shove it up the dark ages, where it belongs.

    • For Scot Adlers or others that have cultural bias:

      I am not Israeli, nor am I employed at this time, but I do have an illness that leads to migraines and muscle weakness. I do not complain at home, but I do fall behind on domestic chores. I never refuse sexual relations with my husband even though he requires rigorous activity for myself. I am the weaker sex mate who holds a higher degree than her husband. And I can very much identify with this article. You may not understand why I would allow myself to be treated by my husband the way I do. But if you really can grapple with some of the aspects of scripture and reflect on why a woman should please her husband. Then re-read this article and you will believe what you are reading to actually be true for most and probably true for you.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Arts and Culture Features Opinion Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Playwrite Iddo Netanyahu: ‘Hitler Always Talked About Peace’ (INTERVIEW)

    Late Friday night, on November 13, I was headed for bed when an ominous news bulletin flashed across my computer screen – something about a shooting in Paris. It wasn’t long before the “small number” of shootings and casualties began to double and triple and quadruple. The locations of attacks seemed crazily disorganized, and the tweets and videos became more and more horrifying. It was a long night for many stunned observers. We tried to understand what was happening, and […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →