"So much of the problem with sex is anxiety – men are too anxious to get an erection, women too anxious to have an orgasm"

Dear Virginia,

We have been married for four years and, in the early months, made love quite often. More recently, however, my wife has become less and less interested in sex and now only seems to be able to make love when she’s drunk. But when this happens, it’s all just as it used to be and she appears to enjoy it very much. Even she is starting to see this as a problem. If it were just a couple of drinks it would be okay, but as time goes on she seems to need more and more alcohol to relax. Normally, she is not a heavy drinker. What can we do?

Yours sincerely, Gerry

Virginia says...

Well, trying to look on the bright side, at least your wife can have sex. There are more sexless marriages around than we realise – and often it’s because the wife is too nervous to be penetrated, with the result that her vaginal muscles clench up, making intercourse impossible. And at least your wife likes sex with you – it’s not as if she only likes sex with other men. And at least, again, she likes normal sex, and doesn’t need you to perform strange rituals or involve her in bizarre sex games before she’s turned on. The only problem is, it seems, the alcohol.

I’m sure it would be worth your wife talking to her doctor to see if she can’t be prescribed some kind of relaxant – probably a tranquiliser – that would calm her down before sex. This would obviously be a better idea than downing a bottle of Jack Daniels. Or it could be that she’s depressed – another reason why people go off sex. Perhaps she has an underlying fear that she could only confide to her GP.

But in the long term, I’m sure it would be a good idea to talk to a sex therapist. So much of the problem with sex is anxiety – men are too anxious to get an erection, women too anxious to have an orgasm – and it may well be that a therapist could prescribe some kind of exercises that would make your wife feel less stressed when it actually comes to intercourse. Sometimes, a therapist will recommend that you spend a few weeks simply kissing and cuddling, with no penetrative sex at all. Or it may be that your wife has had some unpleasant experience in her past that makes her anxious about sex. It needn’t be child abuse. It could be examinations by a doctor that frightened her when she was young. It could be, too, that your wife has some problem with sex that she wouldn’t like to mention to you on your own, fearing you might become angry or upset. But she might find it easier to talk about it in front of a third party.

It could be that marriage itself has put the brakes on her desire, as it does for some men. It’s not uncommon for a man to be very keen on sex before he’s married – while it’s still illicit and exciting – but then, once married and, reminded, possibly, of his parents, he feels too upright, grown-up and responsible to enjoy the playfulness of sex.

She may, of course, have become bored with sex. Most couples find sex less exciting once the initial thrill has worn off and the number of couples who have fantastic sex lives once they’ve been together for a few years is not as many as is often made out. But, by then, the couple is so knitted together in other ways, such as the love of children, shared experiences and deep friendship, that their sex lives no longer take priority in their lives.

Readers say...

She may be depressed

It is not uncommon for people to lose interest in sex, especially if they are depressed. This has probably caused her a lot of anxiety, too, and hence she becomes anxious making love, and then self-medicates with alcohol, which will eventually make her more anxious, or even dependent, causing a vicious cycle. In a nutshell, she sounds like she might be suffering from depression and secondary harmful alcohol use. She needs to see her GP to be assessed, and maybe she needs short-term medication. Take one step at a time, then let her GP review her alcohol use, and maybe refer her for either counselling or Drug and Alcohol Services.

Step back, let her relax, no pressure, just spend time together when she does not feel under an obligation to perform in the bedroom. It does not always have to be about sex, it can just be a cuddle on the sofa…

Louis Nel, by email

She needs love to make her feel sexy

This problem is such a common one and it really is about the difference between men and women. A female friend confided to me recently that she and her husband had the same problem that you have described. I’d like to tell you what it is that most women need in order to desire sexual intercourse once the newness of a relationship has passed. My friend said that her husband would be fairly indifferent to her most of the time (they have a busy life and he works hard), then they would go to bed and suddenly he would get all attentive start to touch her in a sexual way. This, she said, would completely turn her off sex. She said if only he had talked to her a bit more in the day, smiled at her, given her a (non-sexual) hug. In other words, show affection at other times other than when you feel you would like sex. That’s what makes a woman feel sexy. Women need to feel loved to feel sexy.

Name and address supplied

What’s the problem?

I cannot see you have a problem, as you clearly know the right amount of alcohol to administer to get the required result. I once had a girlfriend whose tipple was sherry; getting the right amount into her was an art and varied by day to day. 

Seriously, though, you have a real problem if your wife will only make love when she is drunk, as you could be accused of rape. You have to make sure she is aware of what she is consenting to.

Malcolm Howard, by email

Next week's dilemma

My mother, a widow, married a widower. After she died, he moved into sheltered accommodation, but just before, he asked his children, who live abroad, to sort through his stuff. They took some furniture and then made a pile for the dump, which really upset my stepfather, because they chucked a lot of stuff he loved. So he brought it back from the dump. Now he has died and my brother and I have been told that these things will fetch £9,000 in the saleroom. Do we have to give the money to his heartless children? They’ll never know if we don’t.

Yours sincerely,


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