“I have no desire for my husband”: What to do when you drift apart from your spouse

Relationships can provide numerous benefits—support, love, acceptance, belonging, companionship, and understanding, to name a few. However, they don’t come without their hardships.

As time passes, people change, and sometimes it can be difficult to adapt to those changes when you see them in your partner or even yourself. If you and your partner aren’t diligent about checking in with each other and communicating your needs, it can be easy to emotionally drift apart, which can affect your physical and sexual intimacy levels. 

As scary as it can be to address change and shifts in desire for your spouse, talking about what’s troubling you or asking your partner about their own feelings is the best way to find a solution and close the gap between you.

Can a Marriage Survive Without Desire?

It is difficult for a marriage to survive without desire. Without longing, emotional intimacy, and the desire to spend time with your loved one, it’s difficult for a marriage to go on in a healthy way. 

It’s okay to lack desire for your spouse occasionally—fluctuations in mood and libido are normal and can affect things like desire—but if it’s missing for long periods of time, it may be a bit concerning. A marriage can certainly be surviving, but it is not a sign of a thriving, loving partnership.

Why Am I Not in the Mood With My Husband?

It is difficult to have physical or sexual intimacy without establishing the foundation of emotional intimacy. If your intimate life with your spouse is struggling, think about how emotionally close you feel to them at that moment. Have you checked in with them lately? Have they checked in with you? Do you trust them with your emotions? You might be missing the pull of sexual intimacy with them because you’re also lacking feelings of emotional closeness.

It’s one thing to feel physically attracted to someone you don’t know well, but when it comes to your spouse, you know them well. You are likely closer to them than most people in your life,  which is why physical/sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy are linked in your relationship. Because of this, it’s recommended to build emotional intimacy, trust, and closeness in order to increase levels of sexual intimacy. 

Often, physical and sexual intimacy is quite vulnerable and the closest one can get to their partner. Jumping into sexual intimacy without establishing a baseline of emotional intimacy can be difficult—likely disjointed and strained. If you feel emotionally detached from your partner, it is likely that you will not be “in the mood” for physical or sexual intimacy without feeling closely connected on an emotional level.

I Don't Want My Husband to Touch Me Anymore—Why Am I So Turned Off by My Husband?

You might be turned off by your husband because love can be a hard thing to keep hold of. Over time, relationships experience ups and downs—people grow and change, and attraction shifts and changes as well. Especially with the aging process, standard beauty changes. 

Attraction is not built on physical standards, but can be based on observing and admiring your partner for their integrity, how they carry themselves, their internal values, how they show or express love, how they show up to be present with you, and so much more. 

Over time, it becomes necessary to shift perspective as physical and spiritual changes occur in both you and your spouse, such as weight gain, personality changes, wrinkles, gray hairs, sun spots, dips in confidence, and the like. Think, “How can I embrace my partner as their body changes?” “How can I be loving and kind?” “How do I show up for my partner when things are changing?” You may, for example, notice their gray hairs and say, “Wow, these are signs of life lived, experience, and so much wisdom,” as opposed to telling them to cover that up with hair dye. 

However, if your concerns and differences seem deeper than simple changes in appearance, it might be time to see a mental health professional, either individually or as a couple. They can help bring clarity to the root of the issue and give each of you a space to air out what you’re feeling, allowing you to better understand each other and come together to decide what the future holds.

My Husband Has No Desire for Intimacy—What Do I Do?

First and foremost, check in and ask why. It’s best not to assume that there is “no reason” — every decision, action, or feeling has some kind of reason behind it, even if it isn’t apparent. 

You can ask them an open-ended question, like, “Hey, I notice that you have been drifting and pulling away from me when I lean in for a hug. Can you tell me more about this?” Offer a compassionate ear and listen to what they have to say; you may learn a lot from your partner’s experience. 

Maybe they are falling out of love, but maybe your partner has been overthinking about their inner insecurities—fears that they are no longer attractive, or that you are no longer attracted to them, or that your spark is gone. Talk it out and see where it leads. 

If the problem becomes more complex than simply needing to reassure one another, talk to a couples counselor about what you both are going through. Having an objective, trained third party present can be very helpful when working through fear, insecurity, and even resentment.

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Advice for Couples Having Trouble With Intimacy

The best thing for any couple to work at is open communication. Honest and open communication is the key to resolving intimacy issues in any relationship. Share your feelings, fears, and desires with each other. Be willing to listen and understand your partner’s perspective without judgment. 

Another helpful thing to focus on in order to help with intimacy problems is rebuilding your emotional connection. Intimacy is not just about sex or physical closeness—it is also about emotional connection. Ways to improve emotional intimacy with your partner include: 

  • Spend quality time together: Making time to focus on and be with your partner is an excellent way to build emotional intimacy. Do something you both enjoy doing, or something you used to enjoy doing together.
  • Engage in meaningful conversations: Talk to each other about your feelings and mental health. Talk through your concerns calmly and respectfully, or make a point to check in with each other more regularly.
  • Show genuine interest in each other’s lives: Be your partner’s cheerleader. Celebrate their successes, comfort them when they need it, and ask questions about their life outside of your relationship.
  • Grow in fondness and admiration for one another: Both of you make a practice of noticing the good things in each other, things you appreciate or are grateful for that the other person provides, whether that be physically or emotionally.
  • Explore new things together: Trying new activities or experiences together can help bring some excitement into the relationship and often reactivate a spark. 

With this, there is a general caveat here: Be sure to compromise. Finding a balance that works for both partners is crucial. Be open to working together, find common ground, and honor each other’s needs as you explore new things together. 

If the issue persists or seems too overwhelming to navigate, again, seek professional help. Consider seeking couples therapy — couples counselors can help identify underlying issues and provide guidance on how to improve the intimacy between you and your partner. Adapting to change can be overwhelming—don’t be afraid to seek extra help and support.

Table of contents

Can a Marriage Survive Without Desire?

Why Am I Not in the Mood With My Husband?

I Don't Want My Husband to Touch Me Anymore—Why Am I So Turned Off by My Husband?

My Husband Has No Desire for Intimacy—What Do I Do?

Advice for Couples Having Trouble With Intimacy

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Christine Ridley, Resident in Counseling in Winston-Salem, NC

Christine Ridley, LCSW

Christine Ridley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in adolescent and adult anxiety, depression, mood and thought disorders, addictive behaviors, and co-dependency issues.

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Theresa Welsh, LPC

Theresa Welsh is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a passion for providing the utmost quality of services to individuals and couples struggling with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, ADHD, stress, family conflict, life transitions, grief, and more.

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