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.

10 Comments

  • 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.
    Sincerely,
    Sirelle

    • 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!

    Bathsheva

    • 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.
      Sincerely,
      Heather

  • 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.

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