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‘My wife is a fantastic woman, my soulmate and an incredible mother, but our marriage is sexless’

Tell Me About It: Daring to talk about deeply personal issues creates intimacy and of course it comes with the risk of rejection

Question

I am a man in my 40s and have been married to my loving wife for over 10 years but over the past six years or so our marriage has been essentially sexless. Up until then we a had a good sex life, having sex weekly, even after the arrival of our children and the natural change in routines and lifestyle that this can bring on any relationship.

We went through a particularly stressful period a number of years ago for a few different reasons, none of which were relationship related, just job changes, house moves etc, that seemed to go on for a number of years and our weekly sex reduced to monthly sex and pretty quickly turned into a couple of times a year at best. Over the past six years, since our late 30s, I would say we have averaged maybe once a year, sometimes less.

I have absolutely no doubt that my wife loves me and I certainly love her but any form of intimacy is almost always rejected, not the right time, too tired, something else important to do, from a simple peck on the cheek to the suggestion we might try and get close again physically. She will often go to bed at the same time as the children and occasionally when she does keep me company in the evenings there is no desire to connect physically. I have tried to bring up the subject for discussion at different intervals, but just like my advances, it is always instantly dismissed with the same reasons as above.

On one side we have a fantastic understanding of each other’s wants and opinions about everything from raising our children to navigating our way through all the usual ups and downs life throws at any couple and she is a fantastic woman who is my soulmate and an incredible mother. On the other side, I have an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, rejection and a void in our marriage but I am at a loss on how to address this given the subject is instantly dismissed any time I have tried to raise it either directly or indirectly.

I often wonder if I am expecting too much, I know how lucky I am, am I being selfish and maybe this is a common pattern in most relationships and I feel guilty when I find myself withdrawing into myself through frustration at the situation.

Naturally, the thoughts of finding sex elsewhere have crossed my mind but that’s as far as it has ever gotten, it would be purely for the physical need and not because I have any desire to begin a relationship with someone else or cheat on my wife.

Answer

This situation is made particularly difficult by the fact that so much is working very well in your relationship and if physical closeness could be resurrected, then you would have everything a person could wish for.

It seems that you have been very gentle in your efforts to raise the issue of sex and intimacy and this may be due to fear on your part that any insistence on discussion would upset the delicacy of your good life together. But you are lonely and sad at not having any physical closeness and this sense of distance is likely to increase if no discussion at all happens.

Daring to talk about deeply personal issues creates intimacy and of course it comes with the risk of rejection, but all relationship development requires vulnerability and nothing much happens without it. So be brave and tell your wife that you need to find a way to start a discussion on sex and intimacy and that you are willing to get support from an external person if that is what is required to help you both get on topic.

A couple’s therapist will be trained to assist with difficult conversations, it might take the pressure off you to be the one pushing the agenda and also allow your wife the chance to express and explore what she is feeling. There may be many reasons for the loss of sex in your relationship, including cultural upbringing, loss of habit, tricky desire patterns, shifting expectations, pain on penetration and many other possibilities. We are complex creatures, it is likely that many avenues will need to be explored and, if your wife is willing, time will need to be spent on gradually increasing the physical contact between you. At the very least, you will not need to cheat as your wife will be a participant in any outcomes or agreements you both reach. This new intimacy (even if not physical) should tackle that loneliness you feel and perhaps allow for unexplored options for both of you.

Some reading that might be of assistance to you (and there will be further references in these books) are, Come as you Are, by Emily Nagoski and, The New Male Sexuality, by Dr Bernie Zilbergeld.

Look up the Irish Council for Psychotherapy, or the Psychological Society of Ireland, for lists of accredited professionals and type in “couples” and “works with sexuality” into the search sections.

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