I Get Irritable When my Wife and I Don't Have Sex

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“If my wife and I don’t have sex for 2 or more weeks, I start to get irritable, frustrated and every little thing about her bothers me, it’s like pouring gas on the fire. How do I cope with this frustration?”

This is a complex question with many potential answers.

One of the ways we can explore this is to understand the part of you that gets frustrated. We all have parts and that one part that experiences frustration may have very specific reasons why it feels that way.

Is that frustration coming out of a deeper feeling of being rejected?

Are you taking your wife’s lack of interest in sex personally?

As a sex therapist, I’d like to know that part’s story. 

It may be useful to explore your attachment style with a therapist. People with an anxious attachment style can be more prone to taking a ‘no’ to sex personally, as they are playing out an attachment need from childhood.  

Sometimes men feel that their sense of self-worth is dependent on their partner saying ‘yes’. It may be useful to explore how you feel about yourself depending on if the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and how that impacts frustration levels. 

From a relational perspective, in this case, when you take a lack of interest in sex from your partner personally and express frustration, how does that impact your partner? Most women feel less sexual desire if a frustrated partner is projecting that experience onto them as their fault or responsibility (intentional or not).

I’d also encourage you to consider that foreplay is broad in a relationship. It consists of everything that has happened since the last sexual encounter. Being frustrated most likely doesn’t produce very arousing foreplay. It is important to create the conditions in which the partner who has less sexual desire is more open to sexual engagement. When one partner has desire, the couple must co-create the conditions necessary for the partner who has 'responsive desire'.

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It is important to look at the quality of the sexual experiences for both partners. Sometimes women are not responding sexually or feeling desire because the sex that they are having is not worth wanting. It is important to look at what the woman’s needs are. There are a lot of useful techniques and skills that can be explored and developed on your own or with a sex therapist to improve the quality of the sexual interaction. 

From a socio-cultural dimension, consider how we are socialized about how to think about sex. It can be common for a cisgendered male to have beliefs (conscious or not) about partnered sex being an essential part of their reflected masculinity, and/or have views of their partners as people who on some level need to meet their needs in order to demonstrate love and attraction. In some patriarchal cultures, there can be strong messages for women to be a ‘good wife’ and provide sex and men may have internalized those messages as well. 

In addition, for many men in our culture, emotions such as anger and frustration are the primary ‘safe’ emotions to express. From a psychodynamic perspective, many men want to see themselves as patient and loving, but when they feel lonely and rejected they can project those emotions onto their partner. It is important to explore the true multi-dimensional and layered nature of emotions rather than focusing on the first feeling you feel and stick with that.

I would encourage anyone who is not getting all their sexual needs met in a monogamous relationship to masturbate more frequently. We see significant changes in the semen analysis dependent on the frequency of sexual intercourse. In addition, levels of testosterone in the body do change depending on the frequency of ejaculation, i.e. testosterone levels will go up without ejaculation. There are other biological factors involved in ejaculation that would lessen the biological need for intercourse that could be contributing to the feeling of frustration. 

In short, this is no one answer.

All of these perspectives provide very rich therapeutic material to understand what is happening in this dynamic, who is contributing which parts, and how to strengthen the couple’s sexual and overall relationship. You can meet with any of our Sioux Falls sex therapists as an individual or as a couple to work through any frustrations, attachment issues, or unknowns. We work toward healing and restoration for individuals and couples so they can lead a fulfilling life.