My Husband Is The Breadwinner & It's Killing My Sex Drive

Welcome to Ask A MWLTF (Yes, that’s Mother Who Likes to F*ck.), a monthly anonymous advice column from Scary Mommy. Here we’ll dissect all your burning questions about motherhood, sex, romance, intimacy, and friendship with the help of our columnist, Penelope, a writer and mental health practitioner in training. She’ll dish out her most sound advice for parents on the delicate dance of raising kids without sacrificing other important relationships. Email her at

Dear Penelope,

When my husband and I met, we were more or less equals when it came to financial earning. I worked as a freelance consultant. He worked in technology and had a 9-to-5 job, but we each brought in roughly the same monthly salary. When we got married and started our family, merging the majority of our income just seemed to make sense. I continued to work after our first kid was born, but a year after our second arrived, the world was in the grips of a global pandemic, and childcare, which had always been a challenge, became impossible. Since his job provided our health insurance and benefits, it made sense for me to stop working until things were back to normal, which meant that for over two years, he became our sole earner.

Now, my kids are both in school and I’ve begun to rebuild the career I abandoned. Progress is slow. I know I’ll get there, but it’s going to take time. Overall, my husband has been empathetic and supportive. He appreciates the professional sacrifice I made for our family and tells me so. He also says he’s fine with me sticking to a part-time work schedule, now that I’ve become the primary caretaker for the kids. He says however much I want to work is okay with him and that we can adjust our spending accordingly. He’s a pretty great guy, you see, which makes what I’m about to tell you all the more mysterious.

For some reason, around the time I stopped working and he became the primary “breadwinner,” I found that I no longer wanted to have sex with him. Our sex life had always been vibrant and satisfying, even during pregnancy and after the birth of our first child. The only thing that changed was my work life. A friend suggested that maybe I was depressed, and the depression was causing a dip in my libido, but I don’t think this was it. It felt more specific to my relationship, though I still don’t understand what is at play? Is it possible I feel infantilized by this new economic dependency on my husband, or even resent him for it? Maybe. I guess what I’m most interested in is the question — why do my work life and my libido feel like one, big, confusing swamp? I’m flummoxed.

Dear Flummoxed,

The Latin term libido literally means sexual desire or lust, and in common parlance is used as you yourself use it — to describe one’s general interest in sexual activity. But here’s the thing: when Sigmund Freud made the word a touchstone of psychoanalytic theory, he broadened it to refer to all instinctual psychic energy applied in conscious activity. In other words, libido came to be regarded as the life instinct, which includes sex, but also includes all the other impulses we rely on to keep us alive. Think of it as the energy that makes us seek out sex, yes, but also the thing that helps us get out of bed in the morning, pursue a career path, write a novel, take up a new hobby, or go after some other passion or pursuit in the world. As rewarding and fulfilling as child-rearing and homemaking can be, they’re real libido killers, in both senses of the word. I speak from experience.

After my kids were born, I decided to take a couple years off to focus on childcare. It made financial sense for me and my then-husband, and I don’t regret it, exactly. A couple years, however, became several, and several became six. By the end of this period, my marital love life was about as exciting as bingo night at the local senior center. Then, a combination of fortuitous circumstances conspired to resuscitate my floundering career. I had to buy new clothes and get my eyebrows tinted. I got to travel and meet new people and remember how to talk about things besides toilet training. None of this had to do with sex exactly, but be that as it may, I was shocked to find myself hornier than I’d been in a decade. Obviously, this isn’t every working woman’s experience, but it was mine, and I suspect the reverse might be some of what’s at play for you.

Since you and your husband began your relationship with similar levels of commitment to work-life, it makes sense that a sudden shift in this dynamic would destabilize the flow of sexual energy in your relationship. And you know what, maybe this is fine. Despite what popular culture tells us, we don’t all have to be humping all the time to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted. Libidos naturally ebb and flow. But if the ebb starts to become a stall, then maybe it’s time to think about redirecting some of your psychic energy out of the hearth and into the world to see how that shakes things up. The fact that you find your husband to be empathetic and supportive suggests that what you’re experiencing may not be indicating a problem in your relationship, but something like a libidinal life transition. Transitions can be hard and scary. But they can also bring opportunities for deeper intimacy and growth.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top