Not having much libido or having issues with sex is actually pretty normal for combat veterans. There’s many reasons why. Meds, relationship stresses and tensions, exhausted bodies and adrenal glands — all potential causes. But there’s one that you may not have considered and it’s an important one. Because it not only impacts your sex drive, but other aspects of your life as well.
It has to do with your ability to talk about your true feelings. Don’t click away. Stay with me and this will start to make sense.
First off, it’s a myth among women (and men??) that men don’t know how to express their feelings. I’ve talked with literally hundreds of combat veterans — 95% of them male — and every single one of them has been able to articulate exactly how they feel in such detail and nuance that I soon realized this idea that men don’t know how to talk about feelings is bullshit.
The men who talk to me express themselves beautifully — and these are some of the most combat hardened warriors that exist.
It IS true that most men don’t feel the need to talk the way women are often accustomed to. Personal communication has different meanings and values to men and women. But what I have found is that while men may not talk for the same reasons women do, they readily do know how to express their deepest, most concerning feelings.
When they feel that doing so is important. When they feel there is no threat to their reputation or the security of relationship. When they believe that they are accepted. This is true for women as well.
Whether you are introverted or extroverted also plays a role into how much of your inner world you share with others. Every person is unique and everyone has their unique need levels for how much they communicate with other people.
All of this is well and good. Here’s why I’m talking about this (besides how it relates to your sex drive, which I’ll get to in a bit).
Warriors are hurting. Rightfully so. But, keeping it (all to mostly) to themselves. Not sharing with their buddies. Not sharing with their spouses. Not sharing the depths of it with their therapists.
And killing themselves.
We see it happen over and over again. Despite how often they are told “Call me. I’m here.” Despite buddies reaching out and checking on them. Despite small groups where trust is high. Despite every effort being made.
Warriors are tough. Not talking about shit is standard operating procedure. Feelings have to be fought back and pushed aside to get the job done. Appearances and reputations need to be upheld. There is an ethos of masculine energy (men and women both have masculine and feminine energy) … that keeps feelings hidden when facing the world and potential threats. It’s part of the armor.
For warriors, it’s all about the armor.
Most of us are well-armored and guarded. That’s just how warriors operate. You don’t give away anything that might give your enemy the upper hand. And often, that enemy is your Self — when its fear threatening to defeat you. So, you give nothing away.
To reveal how one is feeling is to put yourself in a vulnerable position. Warriors do not put themselves in vulnerable positions. Not on purpose. It can get you killed.
You do everything possible to avoid that potentiality. Not because you value your own life, but because if you go down, your brothers are at risk.
Warriors carry this warrior code in their emotional DNA; it is who they are even when they are not in combat, not in the service, not facing any true threats. It’s encoded in your way of being.
You may not even realize it; until you do. It’s just your natural way of being.
So, warriors are not staying silent because they don’t want to talk. They are staying silent because it’s second nature to do so and the idea of revealing anything that makes them vulnerable is so foreign it doesn’t even enter their mind.
You can see — and feel — the problem here. It’s a warrior’s nature not to reveal anything that would make him or her vulnerable. And not revealing what makes us vulnerable is killing us when combat or duty ends.
The answer is not to stop being a warrior. That’s not a possibility. The answer is to shift what we believe about what makes us vulnerable vs what makes us stronger.
Let’s break this down and get to the sex part:
What cannot bend, will break.
A belief system that insists that you can never reveal your true inner self or feelings to anyone in order to be safe, will ultimately result in you breaking. As human beings, we’re not wired for that extreme isolation. And while warriors are reknown for being stoic, they are actually deeply wired for emotional connection. Far more than most civilians.
In the warrior brotherhood, there is deep, intimate connection and bonding. This bonding is energetic and emotional. It’s not built on words, but on feelings and presence. You were there together, went through it together, relied on each other’s actions and presence, trusted each other. It wasn’t what you said, but what you experienced together that created this deep, deep bond. That’s the kind of bond you crave and miss when you’re out.
It’s not, however, the way true emotional intimacy is created in romantic relationships. Which can trip you up if you aren’t aware of this. In romantic relationships, intimacy is built through expressing inner thoughts and feelings, in sharing your inner Self, which results in the deep sense that you are known beneath the surface of it all. The best romantic relationships allow you to be your whole self and elicits this deep inter-knowing of one another. And yes, sex is part of building that intimacy.
You are accustomed to feeling the deepest brother-bonds with your fellow warriors and find it hard to transition the feeling of that kind of connection to a romantic relationship with your spouse or partner. But they are two different types of intimacy. And they aren’t build the same way.
What I hear over and over is that wives who spent years devoted to supporting their warrior husbands leave because 1) he’s not the same man anymore and 2) she doesn’t feel like she knows him anymore.
This chasm between being a warrior and being able to bend into emotional intimacy and vulnerability has to get bridged if you are to experience true intimacy in a romantic relationship.
The only way I see to do this is to change what you believe about whether revealing your feelings makes you vulnerable and thus weak; or vulnerable and thus stronger.
Revealing feelings to someone you deeply trust requires vulnerability and makes you stronger. But you have to give yourself PERMISSION and assurance that it’s okay to let yourself be vulnerable. Your warrior heart won’t do it on its own accord.
You get stronger when you let your inner truth become a lived expression outside of your mind. The truth is the truth whether or not you acknowledge it or not. What you really feel inside is what you really feel — until you give it the chance to be exposed to someone else and create the possibility of changing it. Hiding inner truth does not make that truth less real; it makes it more dangerous. Eventually, it will grow stronger than you and it will come out.
This may already be happening to you — your grief and pain over who you lost and what you experienced is kept locked up inside, but is it exploding out of you as anger now?
Your tears are hidden and kept from all others — but are they now making you have no libido? This is where it impacts your sex life. Because sex that means something requires you to be vulnerable and if you’re not able to be vulnerable with your own inner thoughts and feelings, your body is not going to get vulnerable in sex.
What you repress and suppress inside you doesn’t just stay there. It finds a way to express itself in your life. It just may not look like what you think it is.
There is a truth I know holds true. We are not wired to make ourselves vulnerable to anyone we do not innately feel is trustworthy and accepting of us. You can’t force yourself to talk to someone you don’t innately feel is someone you trust to be capable of holding you safely. It’s not going to happen. You can reveal facts and events, but if your being and spirit do not instinctively feel safe, you will not reveal the emotions and deeper truths behind those facts and events. And this will also play into your sex life.
If you’re disconnected at the deeper levels of the relationship, sex will be disconnected, too. You can’t force it to work. If you’re trying to force sex to work, it’s not going to work.
And, it’s not the sex that is the issue. It’s something else in the relationship, a deeper truth that your body knows even if your heart and mind don’t want to face it. Don’t blame your body. Don’t blame your Self. Or your partner.
Look beneath the surface at what’s really going on.
If you’re in a relationship where you both love each other and are devoted to the relationship, then you need to give your love the trust it deserves. If you can’t reveal the experiences that haunt you, try revealing how you feel. Usually, feelings just need to be listened to and validated as real for them to start to shift a bit toward healing. They don’t need to be solved or changed. Just allowed the room to breathe and be.
If you’re not in a relationship that offers this possibility, reach out to me or talk to your therapist or even a good buddy. It’s a myth among warriors that their brothers are not “as bad off” as they are — you’re all feeling pretty much the same things and if you dare to talk about it, you give others permission to talk about it, too.
You’ve been through the most real shit; your feelings are just as real. If you have the courage to go through hell, you have the courage in you to talk about the real shit.
And remember, these struggles feel so solid.
They are made of thoughts and feelings.
Thoughts and feelings can be changed.
Be the warrior who dares greatly. And dare greatly for your own Self.
You are worth it.