Are Stress & Fatigue Killing Your Sex Life?

I considered titling this post Sex? What sex? to describe what’s been happening in my world lately. Yes, we have had sex this month, but not like we usually do. It’s been a dry spell, so to speak.

And while I’d love to say that I’m eager and excited about getting some “rain,” I’ve really been a bit ho-hum about it lately. Not because I don’t enjoy sex with my husband — I certainly do! — but because this past month has been filled with stress and fatigue.

Here’s a short breakdown:

  • Hurricane Harvey brought 50 inches of rain and halted our usual routines
  • Spent days helping friends whose homes were damaged by the hurricane
  • House guests arrived days later
  • Week-long writers cruise (and hubby didn’t come this time)
  • Three more nights with house guests the following week
  • Weekend conference I chaired for my local writing chapter
  • Hubby’s job demanded quite a bit of overtime

That doesn’t include any parenting duties, household responsibilities, church duties, etc. But you can see that it’s been particularly hard for us to find time together to talk, much less have sex.

blog post title + couple crashed in bed

When we did get together, we were exhausted — both of us. We wanted to make love, but it felt like another mountain to climb. It was hard to take that first step, or leap, to get going.

All this to say, I get it.

If this is where you are in your marriage, I get it.

I’ve been there too.

Stress and fatigue can be libido killers. Sometimes people argue with that statement, likely because they don’t personally experience a lowering of their sex drive in those times, but I believe stress and fatigue are responsible for a lot of marriages going through dry spells.

Stress and fatigue are responsible for a lot of marriages going through dry spells. Click To Tweet

It’s not that we don’t love each other and want to make love; it’s just finding that oomph to take the first step is difficult when you feel drained by life itself.

The paradox, of course, is that sex gives you more energy, increases the quality of the sleep you get, and relieves stress. But if you can’t get your gumption in gear, how do you reap those benefits?

I’m struggling along this path with you right now. My husband and I had even planned a date on Sunday evening — thought our calendars were cleared and we could devote attention to quality time, flirtation and anticipation, and lovemaking. And then it was announced at church that we had an event that evening we couldn’t miss. I looked over at Spock and literally teared up. My blubbering later was like, “I know I’m just tired and stressed and probably hormonal, but I just really wanted to spend time with you tonight. Yet I know we need to go to that event.”

We postponed our date.

We attended the event.

We didn’t make love.

When we got home, again we were so exhausted, mentally and physically, that we fell asleep. In each other’s arms, thankfully, but still asleep.

You have your own stories. Times when you wanted to or should have been together, nurturing your romance, your connection, your sexual intimacy. But life interfered, tapped your energy, left you exhausted.

Those moments happen.

But ask yourself this question: Is this the exception or the norm in our marriage?

Spock and I are going through a dry spell, but it’s a spell. It will cease. Soon.

In contrast, I remember when my sex life sucked, and it wasn’t a short spell but rather a long drought with no end in sight. I was exhausted all the time, and we had no strategy for how to deal with it. All that stress and fatigue was killing our sex life.

If that’s where you are, you’ve got to change some things in your life so that you can prioritize what matters — your marriage and intimacy with your husband. Not just sex, but sex is one important factor connecting you and your mate. It has to be a priority.

I’m looking with great hope at October, a mostly free month, where we can get back into our groove. I’m also evaluating what I’m doing to see if there’s anything I can cross off my list or delegate to others. Hubs and I have cleared another date night in the very near future.

What’s your plan? What are you doing to get past the haze of stress and fatigue and invest in your marriage bed? What do you need to change?

44 thoughts on “Are Stress & Fatigue Killing Your Sex Life?

  1. Stressed Out

    Thank you for your honesty in this post. I can definitely relate to what you’re saying. The past several months have been chaotic for my husband and I…we’ve been so busy with helping friends move, visiting family out of town, house hunting, and husband working overtime at his job. On top of all this, we have been grieving the death of a close friend this year. All of this has culminated in us being constantly emotionally and physically exhausted, and our physical intimacy has been pretty much nonexistent. We still have a good relationship and we still love each other deeply, but it’s been difficult to get “in the mood” while dealing with all of these stressors.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I think solid, connected marriages can handle dry spells from time to time. We just need to be cognizant of it and make sure there’s a plan for being intimate whenever we can, with a goal of getting to more frequent sex for our marriage bed. You have a tough load. Many blessings!

      Reply
  2. Cara

    Ha!! Add to all of this (stress, fatigue, lack of alone time…) that we live in a travel trailer with 3 of our 4 kids. One of whom is a 15 year old boy who has told me (nicely-not rude at all!) that he knows when we do it. “But it’s ok, I know that’s what married people are supposed to do” 😳😳😳

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      WOW! A travel trailer with a 15-year-old? I feel like raising money to send you two on a couple-only vacation. Kickstarter, anyone? 😉

      Reply
    2. Amy

      Wow, that would be a mood killer! LOL It’s hard enough with my 22-year-old son living at home with my husband and I. We never know when we’ll have the house to ourselves, I cannot imagine being in a travel trailer.

      Reply
  3. Amy

    This is a great post! It’s tough for my husband and I to find much time for intimacy since he’s working out of town M-F, and then we always seem to have something going on over the weekend when he is home, or people dropping by, company from out-of-town, or my son home…it’s tough.

    Last weekend I had a complete meltdown over the lack of time for just us and the hardest part for me is when it doesn’t seem to bother my husband like it does me. During dry spells I need to feel that he is craving and desiring sex as much as I am, and when he seems nonchalant about it, I feel completely undesirable, even if that’s not the case.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      It’s hard to interpret such moments, because we tend to think “if I acted like that, it would mean ___,” and that’s probably not the case for our spouse. But I suspect he appreciates the time you do have together and would like more. Blessings!

      Reply
  4. 'fox' trapper

    Nice to know that we aren’t alone in upside-down homes. For 21 months we have shared our medium size house with 5 relatives and 5 pets. BTW, family pets are not dissimilar to humans in that with their personalities and demands (neediness) they too require much attention each day.

    I am so reminded of the “little foxes” mentioned in the Song of Solomon! Very difficult to ’round them all up’ and try to fence them in some place. The toll on every aspect of marriage is significant, as you might imagine. God has been gracious and forgiving of grumbling and discontentment (that I have not been proud of). Not having an understanding male confidant all this time has not helped either.

    Thank you for your blog! You do an excellent job for Christian spouses, and God must be pleased with those like yourself who devote much to helping others.

    Reply
  5. B

    I’m sorry to hear you’re in this season, but glad to hear you know it will pass.

    I think part of the issue in my marriage is that it’s the norm, not the exception. And most of the stress and fatigue is my husband’s. So yeah, it can definitely feel like I’m just not a priority, or even that important to him. Then I do feel badly, because I really should be understanding and supportive that he’s stressed out all the time and works so many hours. (And I’ve told him I’d be totally okay with him taking a less stressful job even if it meant less money, but that’s not what he wants to do.)

    I’ve lamented before about his lower interest (which yes I have seen as a lack of love, lack of interest in me). I’m working on it, but I agree with Amy as far as I think I’d feel better if he truly were “into” me if he would express it more often in a way I could hear and believe.

    I kinda believe him because he seems genuinely sad when I don’t believe him. Who knows.

    The thing that’s been bothering me lately is the date box. I don’t know if you recall, but someone on here shared about making a box full of date ideas – like one a month – and giving it as a gift. So for Christmas I came up with an idea for a date for each month (to save my husband the guesswork or the planning) and I gave it to him at Christmas. He claimed that he loved it. Guess how many dates we’ve gone on. One. January. Reason? Work is more important to him.

    Now when I addressed this, and asked him to give me the box he said something like “what? Why? I love that box. We can still do your ideas.” I told him they long expired – well – most of them. And he tried to be sweet and be like “no they never expire.” But it’s September. He obviously doesn’t want to go on these dates. Not if they’d interfere with work. Work takes priority. There’s always time for work. If a job has to be done on weekends, or overnight hours so as not to interfere with business hours – so be it! He can make that work. Because that’s important to him. You make time for what is important. But if I’d like to go out at night, he falls asleep.

    Part of me feels like an ogre saying this. He works very hard and does get tired and he does have a stressful job. But I wonder if I were to die if he’d say “thank goodness I spent so little time with her and so much time working.”

    When you take a backseat to work every time, when you get told “next time” – but the boss always gets his time – you learn very quickly your lack of importance and how little you are loved.

    So yes, stress and fatigue ruin our sex life. All the time. I’m used to it. Not happy about it, but used to it. And he wonders why I don’t believe he loves me or that I am important to him. Because it’s been proven over and over and over that I am not.

    Trying to find some worth or value in Christ instead of in my husband is the only thing that has helped me not give up.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I think the date box is a great idea! One suggestion: Think of the date box as one at a time. Just pull out your calendars, pull out a date idea, and ask when’s the next time you can get that done. Instead of lamenting what all hasn’t been done yet, try to effect the next date. Step by step, date by date, you’ll begin to spend more time together and see that he really does want to be with you.

      And yeah, I get the work thing. But many men in particular feel an internal drive to provide for their family, do well in the workplace, and secure their position. Even that isn’t about you. It’s quite likely something inside him. Just try to get him to clear some time in the next 2-3 weeks and enjoy that date.

      Always praying for you. Really like hearing the progress you’ve made, B!

      Reply
      1. B

        Hi J, thanks for the prayers. I’ll try. And the idea is good, but it doesn’t work that way. For example, say I ask, “when could we go to the lake for lunch?” First, it’d have to be a Sunday, because Mon through Sat are non-negotiable work days. Anything after work and he’s too tired. (He does go in around 4 am and gets home around 4, on a good day.) I do try to understand his fatigue, but it’s hard not to feel not important. He doesn’t HAVE to go in so early, he claims he does it to beat traffic and get a head start before his jobs start running. He’s always been a very early riser, as was his father

        He used to work every Sunday as well, but slowed down a couple years ago, so I guess that’s progress.

        Anyhow, often he will come to me and say something like “I’m sorry, but the university called and this Sunday is the day they’ve finally agreed to shut down the garage so we can finish xyz. Can we do the lake another time?” This happens more often than not. So planning ahead really does nothing but get my hopes up, only to have them crushed by the business people who matter to him far more than I do.

        If this happened once in a while, I’d actually understand. But it happens All. The. Time.

        I wish he cared about me a little more, but he is who he is. I am starting to believe he loves me a little, but not as much as he loves work.

        So I suppose I could take your suggestion and try to start with the next date, but I feel like I’d be setting myself up for more disappointment. In a way, its easier to expect nothing than to hope and have your hopes continually crushed.

        I felt like I took a big leap even creating the date box, filling it with things I know I’d like and I hoped he’d like. So the fact that it meant so little to him has been very telling. He says it means so much to him and he got really upset when I wanted it back, but he doesn’t ACT like he even likes it at all.

        If I could find a way to help him destress and not think work was the most important thing in the world, I think we’d both be a lot happier.

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          Wondering: Have you said, “Yes, we can do the lake another time. Let’s set a date right now, and I really want you to keep it.”

          Look, I’ll give you an example from my own life. We went to church on Sunday, and we’d brought the car (sedan). Some people we’d helped after the hurricane had brought back our wheelbarrow, and it won’t fit in the car. My husband looked at me and said, “I really need to run home and exchange the car for the truck so we can take that home.” I immediately felt hurt…because it was the first time we’d been able to attend church on time for weeks (due to various reasons). My mind went: Why doesn’t he value being with me like I value being with him? Doesn’t he know how long it’s been since we’ve sat in church together? Is he really going to leave me here alone? BUT I calmly said, “Can we come back and get the wheelbarrow later? It’s really important to me that we’re here in church together today.” He said yes, and we moved on. Now I know he could have said no, and my story would have a different ending. But my point is that I’ve learned to (1) not assume his actions mean for him what they would mean for me if I did the same thing; (2) therefore, not take it personally; and (3) speak up for what I desire with my reason why.

          Reply
          1. B

            Well, I could try. But the “lets set a date right now” part sounds kinda bossy. And there’s no way he can know if he’d even be available that far in advance. I guess I’ve always figured if he wanted to be with me, he’d make it happen. Maybe I have to be more vocal. I hate that, because I’d feel like I was begging for his attention.

            I guess I could start by trying not to take it personally. I’m reluctant to demand his time. I’d rather him give me his time of his own choosing, but he’s not that kinda guy.

            But I’ll think about it. Baby steps. 😜

          2. J Post author

            So I’ve talked about my husband not realizing he needs to compliment me, SO I ASK. Is it a little pushy? Some might think so. But in my marriage, it works. It’s not that he doesn’t think I’m beautiful — he does — but rather that he doesn’t think to say it. He also wants to spend time with me, but he’s not good at arranging our calendar, so I’m usually the one to say, “Hey, it’s time for a date.”

            We just play to our strengths. Maybe that’s what’s happening in your marriage, and it’s not “bossy,” “begging,” or “demanding,” but rather playing to your strengths.

          3. B

            Hi J, you could be right. Maybe I need to just swallow my pride and my romantic ideals, and play to our strengths. I need to understand that he is not me. You said:
            ” (1) not assume his actions mean for him what they would mean for me if I did the same thing;”
            I think I need to learn to think that way.

            My hubby is an INTJ. They stink at showing emotion. I am the exact opposite, an ESFP. I have no idea how we’ve made it this far, a little bit of love and lots of the grace of God!

            I think I need to give up on my desire to be pursued, and to be shown love the way I’d like to be shown love, and learn to accept it the way he is able to show it.

            I was taught growing up that asking for anything is the height of rude behavior. (I remember once when I was about 9, asking my grandmother if I could have a sleepover at her house. I was swiftly punished by my parents for my rudeness.) Perhaps I need to get over that. I hate asking, and I wish my husband cared enough to just figure things out. But maybe I’m being too hard on him.

            Thanks a lot! Now I’ve got all this new stuff to think about! 😜😊

          4. J Post author

            Oh, honey. You’re married to an INTJ? Say no more! Spock is an INTP. 😉

            But yeah, it’s okay to ask. Think of all the Bible verses in which God says for us to ask for things, like these:
            ►And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us (1 John 5:14).
            Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matthew 7:7).
            ►Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
            ►If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (James 1:5).
            And it’s okay to ask others for what you need: “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). If asking was bad, Jesus would have rebuked the asker. Rather, he instructed others to help when asked.
            The only caveat is asking from pure motives (see James 4:1-3).

        2. alchemist

          Female INTJ here. Yes we DO stink at showing emotion. You know what else we stink at? Figuring out other people’s needs and emotions. Heck, I can’t even figure out my own half the time.

          The strongest point of our personality makeup is our analytical and driven behaviour. This is also our weakest point (that and arrogance and failure to take people’s emotions into account). We want to world to be logical and we want to live our lives by what is logical and efficient. We like things to work. It’s super easy to get sucked into work to and extent where we don’t even eat or sleep. So it’s not just other people’s needs that gets pushed to the side.

          One of the greatest disappointments in my life was when I figured out that adults don’t act in a logical and sensible manner. And that you can’t, in fact, just shut of or ignore your emotions. It’s incredibly hard to deal with that.

          So yes. Use. Your. Words. If you need something, let the poor man know. We HATE mind games and we don’t really get the social contract thing. He probably wants to please you, but failure is extremely painful for him and how can he know what you want if you won’t tell him. He literally has no frame of reference from which he can possible know what you need. He’s not female and he’s the opposite personality type to you.

          My husband is a INTP. If I want attention (touch is my #1 love language), I go up to him and tell him he should hug me right now. I need touch. If I want more time together, I ask him for a walk/ date. If I want something for Christmas, I tell him, here is the link to the thing I want for Christmas. If I want sex, I ask. It works really well. You should try it.

          Praying for you.

          Reply
          1. J Post author

            Thank you so much for this! It really helps to have someone on that side explain how it works for them.

          2. INTJ

            I´m a female INTJ as well. I wouldn´t say I suck at mind games as much as I hate being controlled by hints or disappointed faces. Just please tell me what you want and allow me the opportunity to give it to you of free will. When you ask upfront you give the other person freedom, when you pout or sigh you manipulate. The person you´re married to loves you and will probably say yes.

          3. B

            😊 So I read this: “If I want something for Christmas, I tell him, here is the link to the thing I want for Christmas. If I want sex, I ask. It works really well. You should try it.”

            And my first thought was Ouch! – that was kind of rude! And then my second thought was “nope, she just told you she was an INTJ.” They see a “problem” and they analyze it – and here’s an answer!

            Makes sense to you, but can be incredibly frustrating for an ESFP. You’re just going for what seems to make the most sense without taking in the feelings, emotions, or thoughts. At least that’s how it comes across at times.

            I am so thankful these personality types have been discovered and explained. For the longest time my husband and I just thought one another was crazy.

            Thanks for chiming in though. Your perspective is helpful.

          4. B

            @INTJ, that’s just the problem for me. You say “just please tell me what you want and allow me to give it to you of free will.”

            But I feel if I have to ask, or tell him, then he isn’t giving it to me of his own free will, but because he feels obligated to fulfill my request. For example, he knows I like fresh flowers. If he surprises me with them, I am so happy, because he thought of me and he wanted to get me flowers. If I have to say “I’d really like some flowers” then he didn’t actually want to buy me flowers, he’s just fulfilling an obligation.

            Life is so much more fun and everything feels so much more special when your spouse cares enough to figure it out. I’m so sorry, I don’t see it as mind games. To me, it’s taking the time to know and understand your spouse.

          5. J Post author

            But here’s the thing: You’re saying your personality type gets to rule the day. I can say that so bluntly because that’s exactly what I used to think! But why not play to his personality, and then accept that he has a choice with the information you give him — to ignore it or to fulfill your request. It’s not an obligation, it’s still a choice.

          6. INTJ

            Maybe he doesn´t want to give you flowers specifically? He want to make you happy because he loves you. If he learns giving you flowers now and then makes you happy, he probably will. Not because he has to, but because he wants to.

            But it´s tricky when one person orientates the world by feelings and the other by thinking. Neither is wrong or one superior over the other, but you have to learn to see the signs of love shown and interpret one another benevolently when it comes to different expresssions of love.

            When me and my husband first got engaged it took him a while to learn my date of birth. I just told him “it´s important to me that you learn my date of birth, it makes me feel loved”. He just said OK and took the effort to learn it by heart. I was happy he learned, he was happy he hade found a way to please me. This is just an example.

            If you were married to me and said “it would really make me happy if you bought me flowers about for times a year when I don´t expect it”, I would happily make sure to do it, out of love, not obligation. The love is not in how the gift is chosen, the love is in doing what makes the other person feel loved and secure.

            But your personality is equally important of course and the challenge is to find out how to best show love to the other. But the most important thing is learning to discern the other person´s way of showiing love, even if it´s not the way you would prefer.

  6. Doug

    So true. I work a back-to-back 12 hour night shift schedule which takes me out until my days are done. For husbands, at least, I’d recommend sexting the wife during the interim. It builds anticipation and helps keep the fire burning.

    Reply
  7. Michael

    This article is so right on time. My wife and I have hit a wall recently. I’m super stressed right now with work and kids and once again my wife’s job is impacting her sex drive negatively. She’s a school counselor and each year during the school year her drive takes a dive. That’s adding to my stress more. I seem to have no interest in having sex right now. And I know she feels the same about me. I’m depressed and moody and don’t know how to restart our sex life.

    Reply
    1. Chris

      Dude, you and i are in the same boat. My wife is a high school teacher and she shuts down for 10 months out of the year. Then come summer, it takes 3 weeks for her to come down from the school year, then i get her back for a few weeks, usually a period in there. Then she starts to freek out about the upcoming year and its celibacy time again for 10 more months. Been there man, been there.

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        I never thought about how the school year could sap away sexual energy from teachers. That’s a shame! I would hope at least the weekend would be better. Sunday afternoon? When the stress from the prior week has died down a bit? Seriously, guys, I’m pulling for you. (And I have teachers in my family, so I’m now wondering about this for them.)

        Reply
        1. Chris

          Weekends are when she catches up on grading. She goes to school and locks herself in her room to grade. Then she comes home and has a jacked up back from the bad chairs at the school. Kids and i have dropped in from time to time to bring her food/coffee etc. so school year is out for all intimacy. Just to tired/stressed/behind on grading. The joys of teaching high school. Her life would be easier if she just didnt care about the students that much but of course thats not what she wants to hear.

          Reply
          1. J Post author

            Is there a way to affirm and even praise her dedication to those students, while also reminding her that you long for some of that attention as well?

          2. Learner

            Hey really sorry to hear about it…I understand the stress of being a high school teacher, especially when it comes to grading. Teaching is a complicated job and she needs to come to the realisation that this will eventually cause burn out in the future, if not to her, then to her family. It’s not worth it…there’s something about teaching and martyr syndrome but the teacher has to realise that it is causing damage to herself and her family (most of them do eventually realise though). Personally, I would recommend her to put in strategies to be more time and task efficient (do not reinvent the wheel, give little chunks of hw for easier marking, do work in every spare moment she has, do not take work home and have a cut off time mentally because there’s never-ending tasks to do). I would say that a balanced approach is needed and sacrificing marriage/kids for other people’s kids is not worth it – at the end of the day, she needs to actively put in some strategies and shift her mindset.

          1. J Post author

            When will the madness end?! No wonder my kids sometimes come home from school and say, “We watched a movie in class.” Now I’m going to be thinking, “Hopefully, this means the teacher chucked the lesson plan and got lucky instead!” Lol.

          2. J Post author

            🙁 I’m not sure you have, or at least, want to accept it. After all, you’re reading a sex blog… Just sayin’.

          3. Chris

            A fair point J. Although it is getting easier with time. I go through seasons with it but i have been noticing that my seasons of accepting the situation are getting longer and longer. The point is well taken though.

  8. Happily Married

    Two kids under two…and we are hanging in there…barely. We manage a few times a week. Not like our preferred every night. But it’s something, right? 🙂

    Reply
    1. B

      Oh my! @HappilyMarried you are blessed beyond measure! If you “manage” a few times a week that is wonderful and beautiful!
      I’m thrilled if my husband and I are together once a week. A few times a week would be heavenly! And our kids are teenagers.
      You must have an incredibly strong marriage, filled with love. That is awesome! Congratulations!!

      Reply
  9. Five Under Six

    I SO appreciate this post! It’s been months since our sex life has been something more than a sleepy obligation, and while I hope its temporary, it’s been so hard. I am pregnant with our fifth baby, and had terrible morning sickness. Then, right as that cleared up I got very sick with a bad cold. And wouldn’t you know that when I began to get better, both of our rentals were suddenly vacated, and my husband has spent the last six weeks fixing them up and getting them rented. This means he has worked about sixteen hours all day every day, including Sunday, because he is a pastor, while I am doing all the care and schooling of our four little ones in the middle of the hardest pregnancy I have ever experienced. It’s been hard. And I’m not complaining, because in the midst of all this,I see tremendous growth in myself and my husband, and our love for each other is probably at its highest point. But I still feel guilty sometimes about our sex life, and it’s oddly encouraging to know we are not alone. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Wow. I want to send you elves or minions. That’s a lot y’all have going. Just enjoy the times you have, know this is a season, and invest in the future. Blessings!

      Reply
  10. Pingback: A Loveliness of Links ~ September 2017 - The Forgiven Wife

  11. Anonymous II

    Thank you so much for this honest post. It’s encouraging to know even experts have dry spells! For many years our dry spell was the norm – we were a couple with children, one full time job betweeen the two of us, part-time studies, and juggling life with a seriously ill child… this year that has settled down (quite serendipitously) and it’s incredible how easy it is to focus on the intimate side of our relationship. Praying we put good practices in place so our intimacy doesn’t suffer in the next season of hardship…

    Reply

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