Both men and women are affected by stress. Yet, in general, when it comes to the desire for sex, they are affected differently. Men will, in general, seek out sex to soothe their nerves. Women generally need to be relaxed before they can become aroused. And it is this difference can magnify tensions in and out of the bedroom between loving spouses during times of stress.
As I have written previously, foreplay for a woman begins long before sex does. The whole husband/wife dynamic is the foreplay. It forms the background tapestry of a marriage. So, what does a wife need to get in the mood? She needs to feel loved and appreciated, supported and understood. Regular nonsexual affection does wonders as does meaningful communication. That heartfelt loving embrace in the morning and the one before bed at night build a desire for physical intimacy, sometimes hand-holding or cuddling, sleeping in each other's arms or intercourse.
For Susan, making love is a physical way to demonstrate the love she feels for her husband. Yet, she only gets in touch with it in response to Phil's showering her with tender affection. Unfortunately, with a day spent getting the kids off to school, working at the office, preparing supper, making notes of what needs to be purchased and supervising the kids' homework, there is always something on her mind. Note that Phil isn't shirking his domestic responsibilities. He picks the kids up after school, cleans up from supper, puts the children to bed and later in the evening, he will do the shopping.
Nonetheless, Susan's day has been long and she is very tired. In her mind, she replays having to do the same all over again the next day and the next. All of that mental churning makes it difficult for Susan to get in touch with her more sexual side. "I love you Phil, but really?" She thinks as she anticipates Phil turning to snuggle and hoping for more. On the other hand, Phil also considers his life and how his days leave him feeling like a hamster on a wheel. But Phil can lose himself making love with Susan. Nothing makes his day more special. And for a while, nothing exists but the two of them. As he lies in the afterglow, Phil is even more appreciative of Susan.
The problem though is that Susan is often rebuffing Phil's overtures. And the tension between them is increasing. Susan feels guilty but put upon by her husband whom she thinks should be more understanding. Phil, for his part, is trying to be patient, but is starting to associate his wife with yet another stressor. In other words, they are developing negative feelings for each other. Their love is far stronger than the tensions at home, but they can prevent future problems by making smart decisions now.
Ideally, Susan and Phil need to sit down together and really identify what's happening. If they can brainstorm ways to minimize Susan's stress, they'll obviously be doing both of themselves a favor. Additionally, if they can come up with a plan to relax Susan in the evenings, that might also be very helpful. A long bath or a nonsexual massage are just two options.
At this point, you may think that Susan has to be in the mood whenever Phil is. That's not so. Every couple faces issues of differences in their desire to make love. Hopefully, Phil and Susan have already resolved theirs. But times and circumstances change. Perhaps before they had children, Susan wanted to be intimate more often than Phil. She might have been initiating either directly or indirectly. But two children later, Susan feels the pressures of daily life differently than Phil does. She just doesn't feel the need to be together sexually as often as previously. More than that, she doesn't imagine getting in the mood even if Phil were to try and excite her. Then what? Leave Phil all excited or do something she really isn't in the mood for? Susan says, "It's better just to let things be and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day."
Maybe the bath or back rub or even a regular exercise schedule will be of help. But no plan works all of the time. So Phil needs to make sure that he is not making a burden of himself by pressuring Susan to make love before she's really ready, emotionally and physically. Doing so would diminish the love that Susan feels towards him. Likewise, Susan, who loves their intimacy, needs to prioritize the time she allots to her routine of relaxing. If Susan can remember that she really enjoys her intimacy with Phil, then hopefully she will remember that even though she may not be in the mood on a given occasion, she can get there and enjoy the closeness. If they can ensure that the love the other feels is both real and constant, in time, Susan may periodically pursue Phil and take him into the bedroom.
One has to remember that although this is a frequent scenario, there are plenty of women who lie in bed feeling unfulfilled because their husbands are too stressed and preoccupied to make love with their wives. The same general advice would apply to them as well.
In all cases, couples needs to be open and honest with each other. What if there were other factors involved? Anger with a partner or other issues can also affect the desire to make love. Situations do arise where the drop in desire is not caused by the relationship or even stress. A couple should be able to openly discuss when a physician should be seen. If a couple is having issues with performance anxiety then again a professional should be sought.
Getting back to Phil and Susan: what could go wrong if they don't turn to each other to honestly evaluate and deal with their stressors? They may be tempted to look outside of their relationship to feel better. Or they may simply realize that someone else is now meeting needs that should only be met by their spouse. Perhaps a colleague at work is very appreciative of Susan's contribution. Or maybe the cashier at the supermarket is attracted to a man who can commit.
Be smart and make sure that you are rewarding each other. We must all remember that we thrive on feeling loved and taken care of. Keep those positive interactions going.