Depressed or lack of sex?
How can I tell if I am depressed or just suffering from a lack of sex? I’ve noticed a distinct pattern in my mood and thoughts after Wifey and I make love (in a connected engaged way):
Day 1-3: I feel relaxed and happy. I am able to take things in stride and not let the stressors of life get to me. I feel connected and energetic, and have a lighter mood.
Day 4-7: I start to feel more agitated. I typically reach out for sex again to feel that loving connection. Wifey senses my agitation and declining mood and retreats. If we do have sex or she snuggles me while I MB, she is reserved and withdrawn. I don’t get the connection and pursuit I’m desiring, so I slide even further down.
Day 8-14: I keep sliding down in mood and agitation. We have multiple “discussions” about sex and I try to explain how I need to feel pursued and valued sexually. She responds that she doesn’t feel safe with me because I am coming to her from a place of darkness and putting pressure on her. She feels I am coercing her into having sex with me and punishing her with bad moods if she doesn’t.
Day 15-21: I start losing hope of feeling desired and wanted sexually. I quit bringing it up and finally reach the bottom.
Day 22+: I can’t feel anything anymore. I’m just numb. I’m not motivated to do anything. I just feel like an empty shell going through the motions of living. (We’re currently at day 23)
I’ve been talking with a therapist since January, mostly about our struggles with sex and connection. He’s given me talking tips and suggestions to build connection and intimacy which usually backfire. Before the pandemic, I had started a bi-weekly mini date-nght where we would get a babysitter and get an hour away without the kids. I have a Gottman card deck app on my phone with conversation starter questions to build intimacy. They were either too shallow (what street did you grow up on?) or too deep (what’s your deepest fear?) or brought up sex (What turns your partner on sexually?) I was always the one to bring up the conversation cards and it usually ended with her asking if we could stop because the conversation was getting too heavy. I quit bringing them up after just a few tries. Since the pandemic I’ve been working from home and have lost my place of refuge where I could put it all out of my mind and concentrate on work. In our last round of “discussions” she said if I really feel that low I should be on medication. I’m talking with my therapist about that and am leaning towards it, because I can’t see a downside: if I lose my libido from anti-depressants then she won’t feel pressured, and I already can’t feel anything so if they numb my senses it won’t be much different.
Wifey says I put too much emphasis on sex and brings up that if something happened and we couldn’t have sex she still wants us to have a connected relationship. I feel like all of our conversations barely get past level 2 communication (pingback to the previous conversation where someone brought up levels of communication) where we’re reporting facts and sometimes dip into level 3 (sharing ideas and judgments). But heaven forbid I share the pain and anguish I feel from being ignored and disengaged sexually with my Wifey.
I’ve written here before about Wifey’s struggles with bipolar 2 depression and anxiety. We finally have the depression in a more manageable state, but her anxiety is even more hightened from the pandemic. I’ve been praying for years for a more intimate connection with Wifey, and now that she’s finally in a better place mentally to make that happen, I’ve exhausted all of myself and have nothing left. I cry out to God for comfort and feel nothing. I read scripture and devotionals and feel no connection. I just finshed a devotional on the bible app about Finding Freedom as Sons and Daughters of a Perfect Father and it feels just like my sexual relationship: something that other people get to experience, but not me. I feel so alone.
I’m not really qualified to say whether or not you’re depressed. However, when I’ve seen depression in others, they’re usually not able to function. The fact that you seem to be functioning suggests that you possibly don’t have depression, but you are struggling to cope and your relationship is under strain because of lack of sex.
It sounds like your wife’s struggles with bipolar depression and anxiety are a big part of this. It sounds like you’re doing the right thing by seeking professional help, can your pastor or someone in your church family help you too?
DW and I went through an extended sexual hiatus several years ago, at the direction of a councilor I was seeing. I went through just about the same feelings and physical upheaval you describe – in about the same time frame. It got bad before it got less bad. I can’t say it ever got “good.” So I would say you’re reacting mostly normal for a man seeking and needing sexual/emotional connection. I don’t think it qualifies as clinical depression. At least mine didn’t. I won’t go into all the wherefores and whys, but I will say the exercise brought some things out of hiding, good and bad. Didn’t solve all the problems though.
Learning proper self-soothing is a healthy goal. That’s one thing I got out of it.
It might help, if you don’t already, to exercise regularly to help with the depression. I think the fish oil supplements are supposed to be something that might help with depression also. There are no guarantees of course.
Is your wife so shut off to sex that if you tell her what you told us, she is still not interested?
Why don’t you try scheduling sex. Instead of you wanting sex ‘from a dark place’, you’ll be having sex on schedule. If it helps prevent the depressed feelings, that’s fine. If she’s bi-polar, depressed feelings or being manic might mess up the schedule, but you two can try.
And pray a lot together. Pray about these issues and other things.
I’m sorry jpops. Much of the first couple weeks of the crazy cycle you describe is one I have felt before in my previous marriage and I’m sure many can relate to. The constant rejection is brutal and emasculating. It’s like a constant neutering every time a wife says no without hope for or an opportunity in sight.
You have a lot of differing issues going on plus the pandemic situation which is creating a lot of stress for all couples. I’d encourage you to continue seeing the counselor and chk into meds for yourself. (Meds made a world of difference for me after my divorce.) I’d also suggest a professional Christian counselor for couples counseling because both of you have deep seeded issues and hurts that have grown over the years. I think you were taking some good faith efforts to deepen the relationship but it may take outside help to turn things around and break out. It also may be that she wants to see if this is a fad or manipulation and therefore, you need to be consistent and constant in you love & relational investment to show your love for and devotion to her and your relationship no matter what.
I agree with scheduling. Sometimes things are not complicated – you need more sex and more connection and she doesn’t want to give it. The question is why does she not want to give it.
I am coming to her from a place of darkness and putting pressure on her
You are not coming from a place of darkness for desiring sex and connection with her, she in a place of darkness by remaining where she is and not wanting to do what is good and give it.
She feels I am coercing her into having sex with me and punishing her with bad moods if she doesn’t.
Let’s look at this. You are “wrong” for desiring what is good, and then you are also “wrong” for not being happy about her doing the wrong thing? Ridiculous. She is the one doing wrong here, not you.
If you want my opinion, and I am not a doctor, I think you going on medication would not improve your situation in any way.
Pray for wisdom brother, not only to see clearly, but how to proceed. I am praying for these things for you and also healing for her.