Married and celibate: Adjusting my relationship expectations in a sexless marriage

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Anonymous
Photo by spablab – CC BY 2.0
Photo by spablabCC BY 2.0

My husband (let's call him H) and I have been together for seven years, and I am still madly in love with him. I find him just as smart, funny, and sexy as I did in those first heady days of flirtation and courtship. I would happily make love to him as often as he liked. Unfortunately, this means that we have sex only a few times a year.

We're barely in our thirties, but H and I are currently in a “sexless marriage” (defined as a couple who have sex “10 times a year or less”). I'm writing this because I want other partners in similar situations to know that they aren't alone. Most media representations portray men as crazed sex-beasts with insatiable needs. So when you're rejected by a supposed sex-beast, it can seriously shake your own sexual confidence.

In the first two years of our relationship, we had amazing, beautiful sex. I didn't expect that giddy passion to last forever, but I was totally unprepared for the sex to stop almost completely, as it has in the last several years. At first, being rejected by my partner confused me. I spent a lot of time worrying: What's wrong with me? Does he still love me? Does he still find me attractive? Is there someone else?

I have a pretty healthy sexual appetite, but H no longer desires any form of sexy kissing, touching, or physical intimacy. Sometimes we hold hands… but that's it. And I'm not going to lie: I grieve for this loss.

Losing our sex life has felt like a small death. Though I still deeply love and respect H, and I'm trying to accept him for what he can and cannot give right now, I don't want to live like this for the rest of my life. At times, this loss feels unbearable. I stay up for hours after he goes to bed — reading, doing work, looking at Facebook — because I've had my hopes crushed too many times. If we're awake in bed together, there is a small chance that he might touch me or kiss me.

But he very rarely does. And since the occasions are so infrequent, when we do have sex, the stakes are much higher. I make dark jokes to myself in my journal (“the old '180 days without incident' sign is hanging up by my vagina again, ticking off the days”), and I can talk about the problem with one or two close girlfriends. But mostly, I feel very alone.

In desperation, I have tried to find explanations/solutions online. Most of the advice is truly terrible. Most sex advice boils down to incredibly superficial solutions: Surprise him with lingerie. Make the first move. Massage each other. I wish it were otherwise, but desire can be so much more complicated than that, especially in long-term relationships.

After a series of painfully awkward rejections, it became clear to me that H was not waiting for me to “initiate desire.” Nor did he give a damn about lingerie, coy suggestions, or frank proposals for sexytime. If anything, I learned that this pressure made things worse. It took me a long time to realize that there was really nothing that I could do or say that would make a difference and that in fact my overt attempts to seduce him were huge turn-offs.

If one partner is suffering from physical/emotional exhaustion, stress, or depression, pressuring them into sex is only going to lead to heartache and resentment for both partners. I am sure that H did not enjoy turning me down. Though perhaps it would have been easier if he had just talked to me about how he felt, I understand in retrospect why he didn't. Trying to explain why your desire has disappeared, when maybe you don't understand exactly why yourself, is probably a pretty fraught task. Especially when your partner feels hurt and angry about being repeatedly rejected.

Despite this heartache, I still fiercely love H. There are some really good reasons why he has just not been interested in sex, though I won't go into them here. But in general, dealing with death, financial hardship, and stressful work/life situations are all pretty big boner-killers for everyone. Though it has been very difficult, I have initiated long discussions with him about how we can get rid of some of these stresses and hopefully one day get our sex drives back in sync. Having these conversations was really scary; we both cried. But over time, these conversations also have made us more emotionally intimate and comfortable with each other in a new way.

In a few weeks, our lives will change significantly: new jobs, new schedules. We're planning to take a short vacation together — something we've never before had the resources or time to do. If these big changes aren't enough, our next step is counseling.

I hold out hope that things will eventually get better. That there is some light in the dark. That no matter what, I will keep choosing to love and respect my partner, the person I cherish above all others.

Sex without the sex? Lots of masturbation? Writing of sweet letters? How do you cope with a sexless marriage?

  1. Me too OP. You are not alone. It hurts. I am hoping that him quitting his job will help turn things around.

    • Hey yall, as a man who sits in many sexual brokenness groups with other men. A low sex drive FOR MEN in a heterosexual relationship comes down to three usual suspects (presented in the order to be suspected)…

      1. The Porn
      2. Childhood sexual trauma
      3. Same sex sexual template

      • Josh, what about low testosterone? My husband has low T and doesn't want to address it at all with injections or anything else because he fears side effects. He says it will get better naturally when he loses weight and I'm not sure that is true plus he isn't really doing anything to lose weight. Despite the fact that I know via blood tests that he has low T, I still wonder if your usual suspects contribute too. Namely, porn, but maybe others as well. When I was pregnant with our first child and super horny all the time, I would wake up to him watching porn even though he knew I was ready to go all the time. That was the beginning of the hurt. Now we are 10 years in and he blames the kids, busyness, etc. but I know it's been a problem for much longer. He has had exactly one moment of admitting the problem lies with him and it's when I was ready to be done. But nothing has changed since then and he still repeats the party line about it being normal and a side effect of being busy parents. It's so hard.

        • I had the reverse problem, my xwife was on social media 16-18hrs a day came to be 3-4 hours after I did. When I touched her she played the im going to sleep or im tired act. she was a stay at home mom too the kids now teens have online video game addiction playing minecraft for 95% of there awake hours. Well its been 4 years since she touched me and 3 years since we had sex. I left and moved out, the cozy stay at home mom now needed to get a job.

          Now I'm with a new girlfriend who is a mom, works has kids and she does everything my xwife didn't and she does it for free and wants me loves me needs me. Things my xwife never did. My take on this is don't marry and people try harder to keep things good, when you marry people get cozy and crap and think marriage is forever and the fact is , its not. I left my xwife of 18 years because she deliberately withheld intimacy, affection, and sex.

      • Josh It was not that neither my husband or I did not want sex. Prior to marriage it was fantastic and I had hopes when the Navy was done with him he would come back and we could starte a family, Three and a half years after our wedding I had been diagnosed as Bi Polar, I was at his fathers house the last six months before his discharge and outside pressure started from his father and I chose the wrong side In a family squabble that had started a decade before over respect and rights on the Job hhe was returning to off a military leave, It was a big three automotive manufacturer in the mid west under a UAW contract He was moving way to fast to get his way. . I admit His first morning home I should have ran out and lead him back out of his fathers house and taken him to a hotel or motel. and let him have the 30 days he had by contract to go back But his father and others wanted him back in the military and started our marriage that day instead of trying to get him under control or what I thought was a need for control. 24 years latter he's in a TSA office being told his father and I had canceled his vacation on the orient express That we knew that it had been since 1981 when he had his last day off without being on an operating table> But his coworker with 32 years less seniority Needed the Vacation for himself and his four month pregnant bride we were offering the same vacation slot the next Mid winter we had always tried to get him to take since 1987.

        HE had always refused that time frame saying it was useless In 2009 We had tried to make it a less useless time to him by arranging for his then five week vacation to take off on January The Second for Five weeks on ST Croix I had never used the vacation pay from 24 years for my vacations to Europe I just saved out of his weekly pay for them. That time however he was not letting us get away with it He wanted the refund for his canceled time and He did not want me to take any vacation that year unless he went. He dislocated my shoulder getting The Check The money and credit cards I was going to take and ripped my boarding pass in half. Then he bounded across the room yelling he was going to take the direct flight and make our life hell all the way across to the golden horn> HE was screaming at his father where is my passport As he strangled him and he got his passport leaving me needing my shoulder set and his father needing o2 to regain conscious thought. I could not believe he was willing to kill us because we had prevented sex and a day off for 24 years.

        I knew we were not reasonable about his time but had hopes for years he would take options he had for different times instead of trying to take the prime vacations just because he had seniority and Hoped we could work a way out for personal time to be used for holidays But he felt that time was his to use as he pleased and he did not have to use it as dictated to him. He wanted the decision to be his and his alone. He made himself so depressed he was not getting what he felt he had earned He compromised his immune system before we could tell him we had made a vacation he would like. We had been told our use of intimidation would not get him into work any longer on holidays The Company was locking his card out during them. Them He bruised his back deep and developed a MRSA abscess in his spine That was October 2009 And It finished him working in the plant and left him crippled with no nerve impulse from leg top down We were told that he would be in a wheel chair the rest of his life For three years and to major surgeries and a set of strokes he fought his way out of that wheel chair telling the doctor he was not letting a one third micron bug beat him and from then on he was not letting anything hold him back from what he wanted,

        The doctor told us privately he was not going to beat this, We were the ones to get a huge surprise three years latter when he came home walking with the help of a cane, He also had to relearn how to use his hands, To do that a nurse had bought in a red oak branch that had broke off a tree in her yard for two years he carved and turned that cane into a work of black art, It was toped with a Dragons he with old titainium drill bits for teeth, it has red inset crystal eyes and the tail runs from near the floor to the head. Is done in Black laquer and Is truly an evil thing, It stands 4'4" tall and weighs 13 pounds.

        I was pretty down since we came back the year before from the mid east vacation, We left after a bad fight with my husband about what he was going to have rights in the family and our marriage, It was bad enough that His father went with his face black and blue from a bed pan hitting him thrown by my husband yelling get out of his room. He was not waiting for any thing any longer. I came back and put my trip on my face book account and I got a contact from a man I had not heard from in 35 years an old boy friend. HE asked me for my phone and email and we started corresponding He told me about a week into that he was coming to my city on a work trip the next week and he wanted to get together for a dinner. I know I was feeling sorry for myself, Kept thinking I was never going to have a real marriage and it was my fault for not having one, Thinking like lady chatterly I was going to be caring for a man in a wheel chair and I started seeing this old boy friend every few weeks and sleeping with him. The affair lasted until the day after my husband came home from rehab and much to every ones surprise my husband came home as he said he would walking with the help of that cane. .

        I was out with my friend that day and when we arrived at my house the next morning my husband was waiting to spring a trap I begged to take the coming argument off the street, and into the house My friend said watch this as my husband went past leaning heavy on his cane My luggage was packed and The guardianship that had forced him to stay in our marriage he was going to make my friend assume He sweept my husbands cane from under him dropping him on his chest tio the floor, I could tell he was hurt, when he roled over after getting to a place he could sit up against the coffee table He Took the Rubber grip off showing the ice spike as I tried getting my laughing friend calling my husband a pathetic looser I was trying to get him at least out of sight when that cane flew past my face and fractured my friend right behind his left temple. My husband was in such a rage He took out 31 years of abuse on me and my friend I was slapped to the area beside the phones as he continued a beating om my friend screaming whos the pathetic looser now. I was forced to call 911 to keep my husband from murdering my friend. My husband was taken to a stress center for his rage and my friend to a hospital.

        His father and I were asked to come talk to the lead doctor at the center the next week. We were in that office while his mother went to try and talk to my husband in the day room. The Director had My husbands history both from work, the navy and the army. He had the time keeping and notes from his job he was retired from and he had my husbands statement of fact , and he started off by asking if it was a delusion my husband created or was he emotionally, mentally and physically abused for over four decades His father started speaking in our defense telling the doctor he did not understand that the community needed my husband to be in a certain place, to keep him there we had to use every method we could to see to it he was never able to disrupt the lives in the community with his wants.

        The doctor looked at both of us and said so you abused your son and husband to let everyone else have what they wanted, his father said it was not abuse it was seeing that he was a man and looking to the needs others had.

        He really made us feel an inch tall telling us he was sending his findings to the DA about the long term abuse of an adult.

  2. Oh, I can sympathize. The last four years or so, we've had sex once a month in a good stretch, once every three or four when it's bad. I'm at the point where I don't even want to bother anymore. My body is so unused to that kind of intimacy that it's painful and not fun anymore. I love him, though, and I understand that there are medical things likely at the root of this. He apologizes for never having the energy. And we do have other kinds of physical intimacy – snuggling before bed, lots of hugs and kisses. But I miss the wonderful sexy-times we had at the beginning of our relationship.

  3. This was a sad read. As the one whose sex drive has dropped significantly in my relationship, (though not to this extent) I can completely understand how life can sometimes get in the way of desire and sexy times, and clearly no one is owed anyone else's body. At the same time, I have a harder time understanding not really wanting to touch one's partner at all. Sometimes I'll go weeks without any desire to have sex or be sexually intimate with my husband, but we still touch one another — cuddles, hugs, back rubs/scratches, holding hands, face caresses (yes, I like to touch faces), etc. Touching doesn't have to be sexual, and it almost seems like the author would be more content with the loss of the actual sex life if other forms of intimate touching were a still a part of her life. I hope the job change/vacation helps, but I think it's likely this couple is really in need of a good therapist/sex therapist.

    Then again, what do I know? I dumped the last guy I dated before my husband after about a year and a half because of this very problem. My mental health just couldn't handle all the rejection. I'd like to believe I'd hold up better if it was my husband, but this issue can take a huge toll on any relationship.

    • Disclaimer: I'm gonna make some gender stereotypes based on anecdotal evidence. I realize they are not sweeping and do not apply to everyone.

      I think women are more strongly conditioned to think of those things you mentioned as separate acts that are occasionally followed by sex.

      Whereas men like my husband think of all of them as foreplay. Sometimes it's foreplay that doesn't pan out, or foreplay that happens a few hours before there will be any chance for follow up, but it is all thought of as stuff meant to lead to sex.

      If you really, really, don't want to have sex, then all of those other things start to come off as unpleasant as well.

      There was definitely a time where my husband cuddling up to me or petting me would make me irritated. As much as I loved the sensation and the (perceived) intimacy, I knew that if he was doing *that* then in a few minutes he would be trying to have sex with me.

      My aversion to the latter made me incapable of enjoying the former. Since then my husband has put more effort into occasionally petting with out expectation, and my sex drive has largely recovered and things are pretty great right now. But it was definitely a rough patch.

      • I totally agree with " If you really, really, don't want to have sex, then all of those other things start to come off as unpleasant as well." I am not really a touchy, feel, kind of person and it is really hard for me to even let people "in my bubble" without feeling violated. Being in a sexless relationship makes me NOT want to be touched or cuddled by anyone other than my son, giving me hugs and kisses. It has ruined relationships for me and made me feel as though I will never please anyone sexually again so there is no point in trying. It does make me feel 100% better that I am not the only one in that kind of relationship but it saddens me that others are going through it.

        • My husband and I went through a similar situation, except I was the one who never wanted sex. It did get to a point where I didn't want to be touched at all either. It took my husband going out and finding someone else for me to realize what an issue this was. We had talked about it, but I did not understand just how much the lack of intimacy was hurting him.

          The first thing we added back into our relationship was touching. We made sure we held hands if we were out together, we cuddled all the time. All of this was done with the understanding that it probably wouldn't lead to sex.

          I also worked very hard on myself and figuring out why I was so turned off by sex. For me a large part was an issue with pain during sex, I got off hormonal BC and it got much better. Except for right after my period, Now I also stopped using tampons and switched to a cup and I have zero pain ever and sex is amazing. It turns out that I am extremely sensitive and not broken. I really thought I was broken for a long time.

          I hope changing up your lives a bit will help put some spark back, but in my personal experience it took both that (vacation, changing up routines) and a lot of hard work. Therapy was the best thing I ever did. I think our situation was more complicated because of the infidelity, but I really think therapy is awesome and that most people would benefit from finding the right person to talk to.

      • this is what i have been trying to explain to my hubby.. i am the not so much interested in sexy time in our relationship.

        He is always touching and grabbing and poking and prodding and expects that it lead somewhere , and gets mad when i am not gushing all over with a ass squeeze or a boob grab. I have a 4 yr old son who rough houses me all day, i am just over touched. I feel like my body isn't mine! and when hubby touches and grabs, its what HE LIKES squeezing my boobs or butts, and I am always saying OW cuase it doesn't feel good.. and he gets mad and says I can't ever touch u. I try to explain to him that he does what HE LIKES to me, instead of thinking if i would like it, tho he THINKS he is doing it for me, when its not sexy or romantic becuase he does it to me ALL DAMN DAY!
        he expects any moment we are alone or semi alone its supposed to be sexy time.. i have a bad back and prefer sexy time just in bed, but when our son shares our room its hard to make sexy time after fighting him for a nap~ most time i just need a mental break to put myself back together!

        i try to explain how i feel and what causes me to not have interest.. stres, being tired.. i am a SAHM so i am the primary care giver.. sometimes i don't get a break to breate its a break for my Direct sales events, or a PTA mtg but life just gets in teh way! he would do it as many times a day every day if he could but i am not there anymore. we have been together 10 yrs now, married 6 in sept. pregnancy was hard on my body with my bad back (i had to have herniated disc surgery last year) and I am still not lost the baby weight nor fully recovered my back. Sometimes being intimate causes me pain or being uncomfortable, so then we are not as fun sex wise as we used to be. He makes me feel guilty and i feel like i have to give in becuase he turns it into how awful it is for him and i just get tired of fighting over it.. i am pretty easy going and then he will drag it out forever it seems, and then it becomes painful for me so then that is a turn off….

        reading this and comments gives my feelings some validation and new ways to explain how i feel to him… thanks everyone

        • My most recent ex treated my body somewhat similarly to what you describe. The question to be asked of him is whether he wants to touch you, or whether he wants you to WANT to be TOUCHED. If the former, then this is the result. If the latter, then he needs to touch you in a way that is pleasing to you, not just how he thinks 'should' make you respond positively. That means listening when you tell him about what feels good and what doesn't and not whining because he thinks he should be able to do whatever he pleases and have everything work out perfectly.

          Personally, I wish I'd responded by breaking my ex's damn fingers when he treated me that way, but that's my baggage, not yours, and I completely understand if that isn't how you choose to respond.

          More practically, I'd ask him why he apparently thinks you would feel sexy being touched that way when you have clearly asked him to stop and explained why it doesn't work for you. Then I would ask him why he thinks you would be comfortable being sexual with someone who clearly doesn't respect your stated boundaries and preferences for how your own body is treated. Ask him how he would feel if you just reached out and grabbed his testicles really hard or stuck a finger up his butt (pick a method of touching you think he wouldn't like very much), and then got upset when that didn't make him feel sexy.

          NO ONE should feel guilty for not wanting sex, particularly when their bodily autonomy is not being respected.

      • This is exactly my situation! I'm a man, married for over 20 years in what has been a virtually sexless marriage (maybe once a year if lucky) and I have just recently decided that instead of struggling with it, I'm going to be OK with it and now I don't seek sexual contact any more. But neither do I want to touch or be touched, nor do I wish to physically express affection, such as holding hands etc. She has always felt sex was a chore and wasn't important… comments like "you want sex but you don't NEED sex" have been the norm. Now I have a way forward, but unfortunately it doesn't involve affection or touch. She wants touch, but she doesn't NEED it, right?

        My new mental place has me a whole lot calmer and happier!

        • How do you cope mentally with this? I'm going through something and I'm trying to keep sex from my mind but it's very hard!

    • Not everyone is a touch person. The thought of back rubs or scratches makes me super uncomfortable. And I seriously hate kissing.

      • Which is all fine and good if you've chosen to be in a relationship with someone else who doesn't like it, but if they started off having physical intimacy (not just sexual) in their lives and that has dropped off too, that's probably not the case.

        I could probably live without much sex, but I couldn't live without cuddling and touching. So many studies have shown how important touch is to wellbeing (at least, the vast majority of us.) To the extent that they recommend that people who don't get touch elsewhere at least get regular massages or pedicures or SOMETHING where someone is touching them.

        OP, if he hasn't already your husband might want to rule out medical causes, but if not that… it does sound like some couples therapy might be a good thing. Or even individual, to help him with the stress. I'm usually the partner with the lower sex drive, and I can sympathize with that, but your needs are important too.

        • My husband and I take turns and it feels like we are rarely on the same page at the same time.. I have several health conditions that result in me sleeping a lot when I'm not working, having pain, and require a couple meds that really interfere with my sex drive.. And my husbands sex drive is closely linked with his stress levels and he's even had some issues uh keeping it going when he's stressed.. He's been going thru some depression the last couple years which obviously doesn't help.. So what we are left with is VERY mismatched moods.. And I suck at initiating things at baseline, so when I finally bite the bullet and try, it usually coincides with one of his really off days and I'm left feeling rejected.. Even tho I know it's not personal.. It's just hard to deal with and keep trying.. He was cheated on a lot previously so he also has paranoia that if we don't have sex enough, I'll find someone else though that'll never happen (I AM content to take matters into my own hands and did just fine by myself in the years before him lol).
          Now we have life, stress, mismatched sleep schedules (complicating things I also work night shift), teenage step kids(we always have more sex when they are gone in the summer cuz we can be more spontaneous and spend way more time Nakked I think)..
          I like the idea of wearing sexy underthings and he'll appreciate them but it always feels like when I get the urge or try to be bold.. It'll be off day for him, which adds more pressure.. No good. Anytime we've tried to PLAN, it never works out.. Our sex drives never fit together.. Been together 7 years, married for 3.. We probably average 2 times a month?
          We are very touchy feely so least we have that.. And esp with my decreased libido it doesn't bug me as much as it probably should.. (My meds also end up making it so we need lube every so often and I always feel.. Odd about that, or guilty or something.. )
          I haven't talked to anyone about all this.. It's hard to talk about.. I just wish we could be on the same page more often..
          (It did get bad enough at one point that he went to the doctor and found out his testosterone levels were low and he had low thyroid but the thyroid meds didn't make a difference).

          This is long but one thing I found has helped my sex drive… Has been my new found love of reading Pervy books on my iPad lol gets me thinking about sex more I think tho he misunderstands and thinks it's a replacement for him but really it just gets me in the mood a lil easier/better, esp if it's one of MY off days and his on days lol who wouldda thought I'd be interested in reading books about alien and vampire sex lol..

      • Haha. That statement is so funny, how you said it. Are you a germophobe? Why do you "seriously hate kissing?" Can't say I've heard anyone say this. O man. Maybe you don't love this person or are attracted to him?

        • Hey Karen that came off as really insensitive. My parents are very much in love in their 70s, but my mother has a real aversion to kissing open mouthed or any kind of spit sharing. She's not a germophobe – you can't be a primary school teacher and not come into close contact with all manner of gross. I find any kind of proscriptive 'If you really love 'X' you'd do 'Y' thing social coercion at best.

  4. I've been on the other side of this issue. Early on in my marriage I spiraled into a crippling depression and anxiety that stemmed from things outside my control. I withdrew into my head and pretty much shut out my husband. When we were first together I'd enjoyed and craved sex but now my anxiety made sex terrifying. I couldn't enjoy it and my sex drive plummeted. My husband was convinced that I no longer loved him or found him attractive. Neither of those things were true but I also couldn't explain why I didn't want to have sex. We had horrible fights about it that left us both angry and crying. The issue pushed us apart, and neither of us were happy, and there was no end in sight. For months I considered getting a divorce if it meant he'd be happier. But the thought of my life without him was unbearable. I knew if we wanted to stay together something had to change.

    Eventually I sought therapy for the depression and anxiety which helped. I figured out how to explain to him how the anxiety was affecting me and learned ways to cope with it. When he saw that I was willing to work on the issue he was very supportive and started opening up to me again. We were able to reconnect with each other. It took almost two years for our sex life to return. It's still not perfect but we are at a much better place in our relationship now. For us the keys were understanding, communication, patience, and persistence. While it was a stressful and painful time to go through, in the end it brought us closer together. (I realize this isn't everyone's experience but it was ours.)

    • Thanks for posting. I have chronic illness mixed with depression and anxiety. As I've been feeling better through therapy, my drive has come back, but my husband remains distant. You give me hope that with time it will get better.

  5. Thank you for posting!! My situation is the other way around. Having a chronic illness has taken all desire away. When you're hurting all the time it's kind of hard to feel like this beautiful goddess who wants sexy time. Again, thanks for telling your story and making me (and others) feel like we're not alone.

    • yes i agree with my back problems since giving birth my back hurts ALL THE TIME.. the surgery i had for herniated discs lessen the pain, but i still have sore back, cna't lay on my back for long time, nor my stomach, when i lay on my side my hips hurt, so i am constantly uncomfortable and he gets so MAD hearing it, he says he understands my pain (he had back surgery in 2000) but becuase it keeps him from sex with me, he turns it into i never care about anything he wants.. all becuase of sex.. and yet he says our relationship isn't about just sex, but our fights start about sex and turns into you don't clean the house enough (i have a 4 yr old!) to you are too hard on my stepson, to money to we stay at home too much on the computers…etc.. every fight is about sex, yet he says its not the only thing in a relationship but he will start every fight over it. its just exhausting dealing with a 4 yr old and a hubby acting like a 4 yr old not getting his way….

  6. As someone who has been in this situation – but on the other side – I urge you to take the step towards therapy now, before everything changes. That way you can think about enjoying your vacation, rather than risk being disappointed if things don't magically get better.

    A few years into therapy, we're not perfect but it's a lot better. The therapist helped me realize that just because I don't feel like having sex doesn't excuse me from showing love and affection to my partner. My husband learned that sometimes I'm just not into it, for whatever reason, and that's OK. It was awkward talking to a stranger about our sex life, but it was worth it for the improvements in our marriage. My only regret is not doing it sooner.

    • Yes. I have been through this, and therapy helped tremendously. And it is not a straight line. Sometimes it gets far far better and then we backslide awhile. I spent years going through this, and therapy was a turning point on what has been a very long road.

  7. Thank you for writing this. I went through this and have never felt so alone or so like there must be something wrong with me that my husband had absolutely no desire for me, even though I knew there were other reasons. After 9 years of a sexless marriage and only having sex twice in the last three years I realised that I had to choose between never having sex again and leaving my husband. I left. I really hope you can work things out – my husband wasn't open to communicating or counseling or any of the things I suggested. Believe me, I tried it all. We are now good friends and co-parents and my new husband of three years and I have a consciously committed sex life. I realised reading this though that I still carry some hurt from those sexless years – they took a toll on me and my self esteem. Leaving was the right choice for me but there were other issues in our relationship too. The sexless marriage is something no-one talks about so I appreciate you opening the conversation and helping me to heal some of that baggage that I still carry from those years and realise that maybe it really was his thing and not about me.

    • Proud of you for leaving because you weren't sexually fulfilled, especially because you're a woman. There are lingering fucked up cultural beliefs that make the assumption that it's usually the woman who shuts down the sexual relationship in a marriage, and that because "men have higher sex drives" it's ok for them to leave, or cheat, because how can a man live without sex? Bullshit. While a healthy sexual relationship is more important to some people than others, if it's important to you and you wind up in a sexless marriage, your partner needs to be open to finding a solution that works for BOTH of you. On person shouldn't have to suffer forever, it's unfair. And if they aren't willing to communicate or try to find a solution, then although I'm sure it's always a tough decision, you should feel free to leave. So good for you, Cat.

    • Oh wow Cat I could've written that comment. This was similar to my situation compounded by having a miscarriage & various medical issues on both sides. We both kind of gave up & I had to leave – there were other issues but until reading this the lack of sex wasn't something I focused on. Irony – my job involves training professionals to teach Sex & Relationships Education (SRE) to teenagers. 4 years on & I co-parent with my ex husband & my relationship with my current partner is so much more open & honest around sex and emotion & it's had a profound effect on me as I'm considering training in relationship counselling to help other people going through the same.

    • "Consciously committed sex life." I love this phrase. My husband and I both had prior relationships that turned sexless due to rejection from the other person — his ex wife stopped sleeping with him as their marriage dissolved, and my partner's sex drive took a back seat to addiction. It was intensely painful for both of us. We were in our 30s when we got together, and in the 18 months leading up to getting engaged, we talked about everything relationship-related, like finances and parenting and core values and sex. We're both pretty sexual people, and we agreed over and over again to have a consciously committed sex life. Our marriage vows even included a safe-for-grandma line referencing it — "I will joyfully share my heart and body with you." It was really informed by our experience of how much it sucks to be sexually abandoned by your partner. We agreed to honor each other as sexual beings. And we agreed that part of our marriage vows included being a good sexual partner. That doesn't mean forfeiting our right to say no — sometimes we're tired or we have a headache or we're not in the mood. But it means that overall, since we've promised to be sexually faithful to each other, we have a duty in the marriage to provide for the other person sexually. For us, in our marriage, going months without sex, barring a significant medical issue, would be a violation of our marriage vows. And it's been great. We've been together 5 years, married for 2, we have 2 kids including a young baby, and we still get down at least a couple times a week. We're also very physically affectionate with each other and affirm our connection through touch. This it what works for us, and I know it wouldn't work for all couples.
      I know a lot of people who identify as asexual, and I wonder if that's the author's husband? It's a really difficult situation and I hope counseling and life changes help.

      • Nerdy fun fact: the old-school Book of Common Prayer vows had a little grandma-appropriate code as well. "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow."

  8. I'm currently having this issue in my relationship. But it's me that's the problem. I've never been a very sexually orientated person and my partner and I have been together for 3 years now. At the beginning we had fun, but him being rather well endowed and me being a very small person it made things very uncomfortable. It's always been the case for me with previous partner too. As time went on our sex life diminished, everytime we do anything I stress, anytime sex is mentioned I feel myself getting anxious. Even the thought brings me to tears. He feels like I don't love him or want to be with him, but I do. I've just pushed myself into a level of anxiety as soon I think about it. I've been offered therapy but the waiting list is between 6 months a year where I live unless I found private and it costs a hell of a lot of money. I'm not happy within myself, even though I'm young, healthy and successful I know my issues stem from something locked inside me. I don't quite know how to get past it to be completely honest but he's still with me, supporting me and loves every bit if me. I constantly feel awful when I have to reject him. Even the thought of it brings me to tears. I wish I knew what to do x

    • Have you talked to a dr? I know you said you're on a waiting list for therapy, but it sounds like you may have an actual physical, medical issue as well.

    • Also, I wonder if making non-penetrative sex the focus of your sex life would really help. If the size issue is causing you to associate sex with pain and get nervous any time it seems like a possibility, why not take awhile to do other things–whatever you both like– that don't involve penis-in-vagina sex at all. It might take awhile for you to understand emotionally that the presence of sexual touching and arousal will not lead to this painful experience (which I imagine is causing the intense anxiety you feel), but if you completely decide to have NO penis-in-vagina sex AT ALL for several months, or a year, or until you say so, I think your body might start to believe that sexual pleasure is possible again and doesn't have to be scary. There's so much sex that isn't this particular act! And that way, if you want to work penis-in-vagina back in eventually, you will already know that it's just one part of a really satisfying sex life, not the thing without which sex doesn't exist.

      • I agree with this 10000%. I also have a partner whose genitals don't quite match up with mine, although not to the extent that you seem to be experiencing. But it was made way worse when I gave birth – let's just say I needed a lot of time to heal. It was 8 months before I could have sex comfortably, and even then it wasn't always great. During that time we had very little penetrative sex, but we still tried to enjoy each other's bodies in other ways. Knowing that I didn't have to feel anxious about painful sex (because we were going to feel good without it) made dealing with that dry spell a million times easier.

      • This! We have a similar issue. We've been together 7 years and are still technically virgins, but I just can't do penetrative sex. I'd be really anxious and cry when I thought we'd "try" again, but after talking it out and explaining that it literally can't happen (I've self-diagnosed myself with Vaginismus or something similar, but it's hard to find doctors who know anything about those), we began to do non-penetrative things. Mostly with vibrators. And hands 🙂 I'm no longer terrified of condoms and intimacy anymore like I had been, because I know the penetration won't be coming. It's a really, really long process (we've been 100% not trying penetration for like two years now), and I still don't think I'll be ready to try again for another year. But things ARE improving. I actually instigate sexy times much more now than before!

        • I have vaginismus and 2 chronic illnesses that affect my pelvis, so TRUST me when I say you're not alone! There's a large large large portion of the vagina-owning population out there who have painful or impossible intercourse who don't know why. Vaginismus is a very little-known condition but there is some help – a referral to a local women's health physical therapist is a great place to start. This goes for the OP, too. 🙂 It's taken me years and years to find an answer, but with support and help, I know my body and what I want/need more than ever, and that more than anything makes our sex life sexy!

        • Like J said as well, you are not alone. I'm a sexologist and have spoken to many women who have vaginismus, so I highly recommend finding a sexologist or sex therapist in your area if you want to explore that further.
          Additionally, PIV (penis in vagina or penetrative sex) is not the be all and end all of sex. Sex can take many forms and can all be equally as (if not more!) pleasurable, so don't let anyone convince you that you're "missing out" or "have to try it". Like I mentioned before, if you DO want to explore PIV sex again, a sexologist can help you come up with ways as to how to try to overcome and improve your vaginismus.

    • I agree with all the comments you've received. This sounds like it could be vaginismus or vulvodynia. I have vulvodynia/vestibulodynia and a bit of size mismatch too, but I've recently been able to really significantly decrease the pain through physiotherapy. Seriously, it's been amazing: I went from not having sexual intercourse for years to being able to do it with very little/no pain. I really really recommend finding a pelvic floor physiotherapist. It's not cheap, but usually you don't need many sessions and you'll be able to do exercises from home. If you want any more information let me know.

      In the meantime, I also agree that focusing on non-penetrative sex might really help. My partner and I had only non-penetrative sex for years (like 7 years!) and he was very understanding.

      I really hope you find a solution. You are definitely not alone, and I think there are lots of avenues you can explore, if you haven't already and if you are interested. Good luck!

      • Pelvic floor physical therapy! I had issues with vestibulitis/vaginismus and PT was life changing. Not all doctors even know to refer you to it, but be persistent! It was covered just like the PT you would get for a back injury under my insurance.

  9. This must be very tough for you, and you have my sympathies.

    You describe how your husband doesn't even touch you anymore. That sounds so cold. I'm not attacking him, just stating how the situation comes across to me. Is there a way to convince him to start touching you again, without the pressure of sex? I.e. you don't expect it and he knows you don't expect it? That can be a first step to restoring intimacy in your relationship.

    I am going to assume you've considered finding sex somewhere else, but if you haven't, it might be a way to save your marriage. You don't have to tell him. Your husband, right now, is forcing you to be celibate and sexless because he is/wants to. This is not fair to you. Naturally, you have all the nuances and viewpoints I lack, so there's only one person who can tell whether having sex with someone outside your marriage may work to preserve it, if that is what you really want.*

    I hope the changes in your life are going to make things better between the two of you, however, I do want to counsel against getting your hopes up too much. I understand you love him very much, but it might be necessary to set a deadline for yourself and divorce him if things don't improve. Doing so would NOT make you a heartless shrew. Again, I hope things improve, perhaps with therapy. Best of luck.

    *Full disclosure: I didn't think of this myself, this is wisdom I pass down from Dan Savage of the Savage Lovecast.

    • Dan Savage does suggest that cheating on your partner (i.e. getting sex somewhere else without telling them) can somehow save relationships.

      This isn't a sex positive outlook, it's advocating for selfishly betraying your partner and putting your sexual needs before the foundation of trust that a relationship is built on. It's not cool and frankly, can be abusive.

      OP, you may eventually find that an open relationship is the right fit for you and your partner, just remember that in order for that decision to be made in a healthy way both of your have to be in on it.

      • Yes to this a thousand times. I think open relationships are a great solution for so many different relationship difficulties, but I believe opening the relationship HAS to be built on honesty, even if what you and your partner decide is, "Yes, we are allowed to pursue other sexual partners and no, I never ever want to know about it.

      • Actually, Dan Savage says something more like: if you are in a sexless marriage (which you reasonably assumed going in would be a sex-ful marriage), and you have tried everything else, and you have been shot down every time, and divorce is undesirable/impossible, going discreetly outside of the marriage for sex might be the only option you have left, and taking it instead of forcing yourself to go insane doesn't mean that you're a horrible person.

        This is, as far as I understand about this position, valid ONLY in situations where someone is really trapped. Where the person denying sex has either flat-out refused every other option to deal with the issue (including discussing an open relationship), OR keeps making "promises" to work on/try things, but is moving super slowly or deferring any work until "a better time" so that the promises are actually just a passive way of keeping the status quo.

        Basically, if the person who is being denied sex is effectively being emotionally abused, then it's absolutely inappropriate to suggest that finding a release valve is abuse. That's blaming the victim. HOWEVER, if the person who wants more sex is falsely inhabiting the "victim" position as an excuse to manipulate or lie to the person who wants less sex, obviously that is, in itself, abusive.

        It all depends on an "objective" look at what those dynamics look like, which is obviously impossible to get. According to the OP's letter, though, it sounds like they are talking about stuff, trying to work out solutions, AND that there are extenuating circumstances that will resolve after awhile. If the OP's husband is genuinely trying and working to get better, and their job/stress situation is in the process of changing, for the OP to find sex outside of the relationship without discussing it with her husband is probably rather shortsighted, and also not really consistent with what Dan Savage says about the conditions under which you can "cheat" and feel totally okay with it.

        I agree, though, that counseling NOW is a much better idea than putting it off.

    • Um, no. Taking this advice will most likely only make a bad situation much, much worse. Unless you have an open marriage, seeking out sex outside of it will probably end it. If that is what the OP is hoping for, then that's fine, but it really doesn't seem like that's what she wants at all.

      • Well, obviously the OP should make sure no one ever finds out. I'm not a big fan of cheating either, but it's unfair to label cheating as abusive while the OP's husband's cold withdrawal from her bed could, in my eyes, be labelled just so. She's being refused, cold-shouldered and it has been going on for years. If he's really all she wants in life in most other aspects, then she has to find a way to make this work without suffering herself. Sure, a relationship that's open with mutual consent is better than cheating but something's gotta give.

        Gabrielle, you mention "This isn't a sex positive outlook, it's advocating for selfishly betraying your partner and putting your sexual needs before the foundation of trust that a relationship is built on. It's not cool and frankly, can be abusive."
        At this moment, the husband is selfishly putting his sexual needs or rather the lack thereof before his wife's obvious hurting. Yes, it may be the result of a hormonal imbalance or mental problems, but those problems are now shouldered by the OP as much as they are by the husband and as far as he can tell, that's fine by him. Just because the OP chose to marry her husband doesn't mean she has to put his needs before her own in all cases all the time. Sex is something many people actively want in their lives. Perhaps if the OP finds it outside the relationship then the pressure is off for her (no pun intended) and she may be able to help her husband in a more constructive way.

        • "Well, obviously the OP should make sure no one ever finds out."

          A marriage based on dishonesty is a really, really crappy one. Would getting sexually fulfilled at the expense of her partner's trust really make the OP happy? I'm sure only she would know the answer to that question.

          We don't have the whole story because she has chosen not to share the details, but it sounds like her husband IS being honest with her about his feelings, which says to me that the two of them really do value trust. She has mentioned counseling as the next step, and I think that is a really, really excellent idea, but I think that he should start NOW, and not "wait and see if it gets better." Nope. He already has a very negative reaction to stress, and the changes that will be occurring shortly will not automatically make it go away after so many years.

        • I'll preface by saying that I really enjoy Dan Savage's essays, but I tend to break from some of his Lovecast listener advice, which seem like they make assumptions about a couple without much context and come off a little old-man-yelling-at-clouds at times.

          The OP mentioned that this isn't an often-discussed topic, so you could be completely right that her spouse is emotionally withholding and refuses to engage and discuss what's going on upstarts and below the belt. It's also possible, as we've read from other posters, that when you are deep-down in the trough of sorrows, you don't have words for what your feeling, much less the ability to tell your spouse what they are. We can name a lack of intimacy as the problem, but the isolation is from a lack of communication about the problem. I think most commenters don't object to an open-marriage arrangement (if you both still want to be together but have different needs, this is definitely one way to address that) — but do object to no-tell sex because it's seen more as a pile-on to the we're not communicating problem that's worsening the intimacy differences problem. I also think people find it problematic to start putting ultimatums out there by stating a deadline and indicating divorce. I think ultimatums are something that Dan Savage typically advises against too.

          • Carolyn Hax (the Washington Post's advice columnist) recently had a discussion of ultimatums that I found really helpful. She says, basically, that giving an ultimatum involves actively creating a "punishment," which is different from informing someone of a natural/necessary consequence. There's a big difference between saying "do things exactly my way by this deadline or else I'll divorce you," and "I think I can emotionally hold on until around this deadline, but we can't find a way for me to feel better by then I will have to protect myself by removing myself from this situation (i.e. divorce)."

  10. It's really good to see someone write on this subject. I feel like according to the media, not only are we getting the idea that men are insatiable sex-beasts but that everyone really should be, like a high libido is a virtue. It's really easy for some of us to get cock-blocked by life. I'm surprised to see the definition of a sexless marriage as "less than 10 times a year." I guess we have that, but I think it's misleading, because it's not sexless (i.e. with no sex). If I bake nutless brownies with 9 peanuts, it could still kill someone with an allergy! Apart from my quibble with the definition, I'm interested in knowing how anyone else with a low-sex marriage deals with trying to get pregnant. Some couples just stop using protection, but that doesn't work so much if you only have sex every few months to begin with.

    • Track fertility, figure out your peak days, and suck it up and do the deed when you're ovulating? Or, yeah, you could turkey-baster it. (But I'd hope this is a situation where both partners aren't into sex, or I'd worry more about those issues before trying to bring a child into it.)

    • My husband and I have both a very low sex drive, and with the "less thant 10 times" a year thing, we'd probably count as a sexless couple. We're both ok with it, though.

      When it came to trying to conceive, we did track my fertility and then just "did the deed", at least most of the time. There were occasions when there was just too much going on, one or the other was or had been sick and/or we didn't feel like having sex at all, and on those occasions we did use the "lesbian way" (it's on this site, seach for it).

      By now we've given up trying it naturally because I have diagnosed endometriosis plus, apparently, hostile cervical mucus, so we don't even bother any more. After going through 3 IUIs without succes, we'll soon be starting our first round of IVF.

    • Once we had addressed the libido/anxiety issues we still had trouble making time for sex. For us trying to conceive helped us get back into having sex regularly. We ended up having more sex more often (also during non-fertile periods). I know it's not that way for everyone but for us it got us back on the sexy times train.

    • It's frustrating how popular culture has gone from compulsory abstinence to compulsory sexuality (not even neatly; both ideas exist together in many places, it's incredible).

      I don't understand why society is proving to be so resistant to the idea that it's being pressured one way or the other (or both), rather than having open and compassionate negotiation between oneself and ones partner/s, that is wrong, rather than how in/frequently anyone is having sex. (I mean, I guess much of the media thrives on creating insecurity in its consumers so that's probably its motivation.)

      I think also there's still a lot of confusion about asexuality; it seems usually to be believed that how high your sex drive is automatically translates to how often you want to have sexual intercourse specifically or even, weirdy imo, how many people you find attractive*.

      When actually someone can have a fairly high libido but never want *partnered* sex at all, but want to be in a romantic relationship. I think not realising that it's even possible to feel that way gets a lot of people into very hurtful situations.

      Also I would agree with the quibble over the definition of "sexless"; I think it's disrespectful and invalidating both to people who have sex rarely and to people who never have sex. (Not that it should stop anyone self-identifying that way if it feels right, of course.)

      *As someone who does want lots of partnered sex, but hardly ever meets anyone I want it with, this misconception irritates me enormously.

    • My husband has a very low sex drive and it definitely led to problems with us conceiving. We met in our late thirties so we knew our reproductive years together were limited. From the beginning our sex life was also pretty erratic. Trying to match my cycle with his willingness/ability to do the deed led to one failed pregnancy. After that, the frequency of sex dropped from "every now and then" to "almost never".

      Now I'm past the age of baby-making and I had to learn to accept that having a biological child was not in the cards for us. It wasn't easy and I did sometimes feel resentment but we've worked through that. There is so much more to our relationship and for that I'm grateful.

  11. This was really beautifully written. I feel you–having been the partner with the lower libido for all of my past relationships, it was a shock to me to have my partner turn me down. We also qualify with a sexless marriage, and have agreed to counseling if it becomes something that is causing me significant pain. It helps that when we do have sex the sex is good. It's difficult to talk about because there is so much personal value tied up in being desirable, and for my partner, he has so much social pressure to be the ravenous beast that it isn't something we discuss with others.

  12. Hi Writer, thanks for sharing your story.

    What you are going through is rough, and there's nothing I or any internet person can say to make it better. But there is one way to say it that you, I think consciously avoided, but it's the only accurate place to start from, and thus the only way to begin the process of healing.

    What your husband is putting you through is rough. It's cruel. It's abusive.

    I know all the reasons you will want to push back and dismiss this way of looking at your plight. It doesn't take into account the many wonderful things about your husband and your marriage. It doesn't make allowances for the struggles he's going through. It takes someone who you love, someone who is hurting, and makes him into an instigator. It turns you from a partner trying to help to a victim trying to endure.

    I know all these justifications, because I have used them. But that's just what they are. Justifications. They are smokescreens put up between you and your feelings of hurt, anger and betrayal, and there is no moving forward, at all, until they are cleared away.

    Touch is the first method of expressing love we learn. To withhold touch in a romantic relationship – and I don't mean just sex here, you make it clear in your post that he is withholding nonsexual physical contact and condemning you when you try to initiate any – is to deliberately visit cruelty upon a romantic partner. Because our culture is so deeply sex-negative, this kind of denial and withholding is rarely held to the same standard of harm as things like saying cruel words or causing physical pain. But it is harm nonetheless.

    No one, of any gender, in a relationship should be expected to be a fuckbot or a tap for sex that the other partner can turn on and off at will. But this level of physical denial – where he is acquainted with the pain his rejection causes you AND MAKES NO GOOD FAITH EFFORT TO ALLEVIATE IT, FOR FIVE YEARS – is abuse. A friend who would not give you a hug would not be a friend. A parent who would not kiss their child would be cold and unnatural. It is not different when it's a spouse – except in that most spouses will do anything, jump through any mental hoop, to excuse this kind of behavior, because we are told from such a young age that it's wrong to regard sexual fulfillment as a requirement in a relationship.

    I am not saying he's a monster, or you should leave him. I believe you when you say you see that he is worthy of love, and only you can make the right decision for you. But all the romantic vacations and therapy in the world won't begin to address the problem if you cannot first come to terms with it – look at the state of your marriage boldly in the face and say that you are worthy of being loved and touched by your husband, and that his doing so is an absolute prerequisite for you being satisfied in your marriage.

    You deserve to be satisfied in your marriage. You deserve to be loved and touched. Please take those two truths forward with you as you determine your course of action.

    • Just quickly as someone who works in the anti-violence field – withholding touch is not automatically abusive.

      This behavior is abusive if it is being used to punish or control the other partner. But that isn't what OP has told us.

      From what OP has shared, their partner is dealing with a lot of outside factors that are making sex (and presumably other touch) difficult or undesirable. The fact that he is not forcing himself to give and accept touch he does not want is not abusive, it's setting a boundary, which he has the right to do.

      At the same time, OP your needs are also important. It sounds like getting help from a therapist might be a great opportunity for a 3rd party to help you two negotiated between your needs and boundaries.

      • Everyone has bad times and rough patches. Five years is not a rough patch. Five years where you refuse to acknowledge the harm of your physical absence from a relationship IS a form of punishment and control.

    • I guarantee that if the genders were flipped and a man were writing this, you wouldn't be calling the low-libido woman abusive.

      • Well interestingly there is a post further up from a woman (judging by the name she gives here which is Sara) where she says that she realised that she had been neglecting to give her male partner any kind of love and affection in during times when sex wasn't right for her, and that she had come to realise that she still needed to do this as he had an understandable need to be loved.

        Sometimes we can't have sex, sometimes we have become so withdrawn any touching is hard and much as no one should be pressured beyond their boundaries the only way out is for BOTH people to take a step towards each other over those boundaries. If one person is downright refusing to do that or even talk about it over a significant period of time (not same as being honest about feeling unable to in the current short term) or using promise of it to manipulate, then yes I think abuse is one ( and possibly the strongest) of several terms that could be used here, whatever the genders of the people involved. It's hard to move forward from that label though so it's not always helpful, after all if hurt and scared enough we are all capable of demanding too much in our pain. It's impossible to know what the situation is for the OP though, the post is understandably light on detail. Only she knows her situation and her boundaries, I wish her luck and strength.

        • I should add that I brought up Sara's post not to imply in ANY way that she was being abusive but to point out that there is discussion occurring here about women experiencing lack of sex drive and as well as men. Should have made that clear….

      • The lack of, and shunning of, affection, is what is being called abusive – not the lack of sex.
        She's actively asking for affection, and he is refusing.
        Yes, we can get into dangerous territory of people's desire for sex being rebuffed. Some humans need sex. Most humans need affection.

      • I would agree with this, simply because of how our culture is delineated.

        That being said, I do not think that it's per se abusive for either gender, as the person above points out.

        It is true that the sex-rejecting partner is controlling the sex life — particularly if there's an insistence on monogamy. But, it may not be their intention to be controlling (or punishing) and as such, as the previous poster asserted, isn't abusive.

        But even unconscious, the process is hurtful — and it's important for both parties to beware of this hurt.

        We can all agree, I believe, that body sovereignty is important — no one wants to pressure someone into sex, no one wants to rape anyone (i assume!) and ultimately, people want their lovers to come to them with joy and excitement, rather than a sense of duty or being a 'task.'

        the real cruelty comes in — in my mind — when the resisting partner will not hear the other partner's needs. This is the double-hurt. And, in addition, when the resisting partner also resists seeking help or treatment.

        In my own relationship, it was the overwhelming anxiety of my partner that inhibited our sex life. Because my partner refused treatment (medication and counseling), we struggled for years. I hadn't even realized how hurt and frustrated I was, but when I finally spoke it, and spoke that I needed to be released from monogamy (but not our relationship), that my partner finally sought help.

        My partner went to therapy; I went to therapy; and we went to therapy together. And it made a huge difference.

        My partner wasn't intending to control the relationship, or control me — it wasn't intentionally abusive. It was just hurtful — and people from both sexes and all genders who are in this situation report this experience. One party is simply unaware of how their rejections 'land' on the other person — how that person feels with the on-going rejection.

        With help, it really did get better.

  13. well, you just summed up my marriage. i've always had a very healthy sex drive and my wife could happily move through the year without having sex at all. i've tried talking to her, i've attempted seduction, blatant requests – you name it. at the beginning of our relationship, our sex life was active and fun and (damn!) hot! but then marriage and life … i'm completely in love with my woman. she's ridiculously sexy. but, i spend more time pleasuring myself than i do her. she has a crazy stressful job which makes it difficult for me to bring up the subject as the last thing i want to do is add stress to her already stressful world. but i do wonder – in the dark when all i want is to feel her – if a lifetime marriage to my wife without sex and intimacy will be fulfilling for me.

  14. I get that he might not know himself what's going on, or it might be stressful or fraught for him to try to explain what little he does understand.

    But, seems to me he owes it to you to try and figure out what's going on and explain anyway, even if that's difficult for him.

    It isn't clear from your letter whether you have really talked this out with him and made it clear that while you don't expect intimacy right now, you can't go on like this forever and you do deserve an explanation and an attempt to make things right.

    All the best 🙁

  15. Similar problem here for our first few it's of snuggling and kissing but not actual sex. Since he's had a lot of changes and stress, I decided DE d not to worry about it yet. For my needs, I kept my vibrator and invite him to join me with figure less stress for him and lots of stroking and touching. If it continues after he has a job and more confidence, I'm dragging him to a doctor Just to make sure but I'm fine with the status quo. Just want him to be healthy

  16. God yes, thank you! I'm lucky if I get laid twice a month, and trying to convey to my husband that I want more or want other options than just sex (with him) makes me feel super selfish.

  17. I think because this is something people are afraid to talk about, it is probably much more common than we realize. My guess is that many long term (10+ years) relationships have gone though this at one time or another, including the issue of not touching at all. Because we've romanticized "happily ever after", we worry that there is something wrong with our relationships when this happens. However, there is a reason the vows include "for better or for worse" – life is messy. Job loss, a death, illness, or even just the sheer number of tasks we have to accomplish everyday can cause long-term disruptions in our ability to share physical intimacy at many levels.

    Whether the cause is financial, medical, or emotional the important thing is to keep talking to each other – about everything, not just this problem. A medical exam and counseling are important. I would caution you to avoid expectations about the vacation. I can say from experience this can lead to more disappointment. Use the vacation to just relax enjoy each others' company without the pressure to perform. A new job is also very stressful even when it is a vast improvement over a bad one. It may take more time than you hope to get past this. However, real intimacy is much more than sex and a good marriage can survive this issue.

  18. I can speak from the other side of this situation, as well. But my sex drive problem stems entirely from taking birth control! Every kind I have tried (not just pills, but also implants, nuvaring, etc) have destroyed my sex drive. I often joke that must be how they work – by making you not want to have sex. I am too young for doctors to consider sterilizing me, and I take the birth control partially for medical reasons (PMDD). It's really a crappy situation and I feel like there's not much I can do about it.
    Luckily (well, not really) my partner has recently had to start taking a medication that reduces his sex drive too, so it's less of a problem now, I guess.

    • I was going to recommend the copper IUD but I guess that's no good if it's to treat PMDD too 🙁 Mirena supposedly has fewer hormoney side effects, but I also don't know if that would treat PMDD. My sex drive was DEAD when I was on any kind of hormones – getting off them was a lifesaver (though in my case my husband got a vasectomy, so I didn't have to come up with another option.)

      If you really want the sterilization, though, don't take no for an answer- try different doctors. It's bullshit that they'll give a 24 year old dude the snip with no questions asked but they give women a bunch of shit about it.

      • My sex drive was DOA when I took hormone-based birth control, too.
        I hope your docs find a way to correct the PMDD without hormones (which mess up our system in more ways than just libido. UGH). Good luck!

    • Hormonal birth control murders my libido! Especially depo provera, that's the worst. It's an anti-androgen and it's literally used to chemically castrate sex offenders. I really love my copper IUD, although it sounds like it wouldn't cover your medical needs.

    • I was on various types of birth control pills for a little over a decade, partly for birth control and partly for horrific PMDD. A doctor suggested I try going off them to see how my periods were without them. I was terrified, because PMDD is awful–then I got my first non-pill period, and it was totally normal.

      I've been off the pill for over a year now, and I have a regular, non-event period. Like the hideous cramps and torrential bleeding and rollercoaster mood swings and back pain and total irregularity and all the other horrible things–they're just not there. I have a little bloating, sometimes get a little moody, and have occasional cramps, but my flow and cycle are regular and not life-alteringly hideous. And I have a sex drive again! Halleluiah. I wish a doctor had sat me down and truly explained what a toll HBC can take on your sex drive and sexual enjoyment before I'd spent so many years wondering if there was something wrong with my libido. Loss of libido is a critical side effect of HBC that our culture just doesn't talk enough about. Having a side effect of total loss of libido is just as important to discuss as possible blood clots and gaining weight, I think.

      All this is to say that there is hope! Your body may be able to regulate itself and its cycle so that you eventually can go off hormonal birth control and have a non-hideous period, and have increased sexual desire.

      For now, I track my fertility and my husband uses condoms, although he'll be getting a vasectomy in the near future. It's not the greatest solution, but wanting to have sex and needing a condom is better than not wanting sex and not needing a condom.

      And if you want to be sterilized and are having trouble finding a doctor who will do it, search online for childfree-friendly doctors who will perform sterilization–there are databases/lists/sites out there with lists of doctors who won't give you the sexist excuse that you're too young to know your own mind. Good luck!

  19. Thank you- this in the heart beat. I'm in the same predicament. He's autistic so it is really hard with intimacy.

  20. I have no idea if you read Savage Love, but Dan Savage addresses mismatched sex drives on a nearly weekly basis. The solutions he brings up:
    -have the low libido partner be medically tested for anything that could be wrong (ie, HORMONES!)
    -get a sex positive therapist (there is a list somewhere, google?)
    -if the mismatch can never be overcome, either the high libido person needs to lump it, they need to split up, or the low libido person needs to allow the high libido person to get their needs met elsewhere (let's be VERY clear that sex is not a "nice thing one does in a relationship", sex is a human need), through opening the relationship (it can be a don't ask don't tell kind of thing if that's how you want to frame it)

    By just kinda coasting along and never dealing with it you doom your relationship, as the high libido person eventually becomes resentful.

    To OP, your husband actually sounds REALLY selfish. Your post breaks my heart, since you are very clearly not even getting your basic needs met. You guys need counselling now, not post vacation (uh hello pressure!!!). His libido is not going to spontaneously recover overnight… I hate to say it, but it sounds like he may not be attracted to you anymore… Best wishes for the future (and lots of sex!)

    • Quadruple seconding the medical exams, especially the hormone tests.

      We were expecting a thyroid problem, testosterone was only tested "per spousal request."

      Don't be afraid to try different doctors if the first one isn't very responsive to questions, or if valid concerns about things like libido get dismissed.

      That, and avoid Androgel like the freaking plague. Nothing like having your spouse on a drug that kills what little libido he has while at the same time sending yours through the roof. That was… "miserable" is too mild a word, but I think most of the ones I want to find are best left unsaid.

      Current medication isn't covered by insurance at all, but it's worth every penny. Things aren't perfect, there's still a lot of baggage being worked through, but it's better.

  21. I've experienced this from the side of the person with little to no desire. I recently picked up "Come as you are" by sex therapist/PhD Emily Nagoski and it has been INCREDIBLE both for helping my relationship and helping me with my guilt and stress about not wanting sex more. It is specifically addressed to women who lack or have low desire but there is some universally helpful sex science and information in there. I really highly suggest it for anyone dealing with this situation.

    • I'm working my way through this book too, and it's been incredibly helpful. I'm still recovering from a borderline abusive previous sex life, and struggle with my libido being lower than I'd like it to be. There have been several times when reading that I've said out loud, "Oh shit, is that what that is?!"

    • I was just coming on here to recommend that book too. I haven't finished it yet, but it has already led to a big improvement in my sex life and just my overall understanding about sex. Her sections about the stress response made me be like, "Why isn't EVERYONE learning about this stuff in school?"

      Her voice is also fun and funny so that even though there's lots of science in the book that could seem intimidating or confusing if you're a lay reader (no pun intended), it's enjoyable to read.

  22. Like many others here I have experienced periods of slow-down in amount of sex in a long term relationship, sometimes I have been the one that slowed down as it were and sometimes my partner has. What didn’t ring true to my experience and what others have picked up on is other non-sexual physical intimacy also stopping and I can’t help but notice how little emphasis you place on that, when for me that would be massive, bigger than loss of sex.
    I agree that pressurising a partner who is experiencing loss of libido is not helpful or fair but intiating, or attempting to is not in and of itself unfair pressuring and you shouldn’t feel bad for trying. It’s not nice to have to tell a partner that you don’t want to have sex but it’s sure as hell not the partners fault for offering you pleasure! Clearly when things hit a slow/difficult patch it’s a good idea to back off and not pressurise both of you, it can be a great relief all round to actually jointly declare that there will be no sex attempts as it were. It usually gives you back the other physical intimacy as that is now safe as it won’t lead to unsuccessful sex initiation attempts. In my experience it’s getting back the safe unpressurised physical intimacy that is the gateway to the sex eventually coming back, in fact I’d go as far as to say getting sex back is pretty impossible without getting non-sexual physical intimacy back first.
    It sounds like this kind of sex ban is where you are in effect although I’m not sure if you decided that together or if you’ve accommodated your partners position and ended up here on your own, but there is still no non-sexual physical intimacy between you. While everyone is entitled to their own level of comfort it’s massive to withhold all physical intimacy so unilaterally and asking a partner to live with that is a huge ask anyway let alone without any kind of explanation or acknowledgement that is this is a temporary emergency situation that you are both committed to moving through. I honestly don’t think it is unfairly pressurising (acknowledging totally that like all requests it carries some pressure) to ask for this commitment and if you are getting the message that it is then the sender of that message is not being fair. This is not about one partner adjusting their expectations it is about movement on either side. Good luck and take care

  23. I have struggled with a partner who does not want physical intimacy as well, and I also strongly encourage you both to see a therapist, because from what you've said there is still a lot of room for compromise in your current situation. The right therapist can help you both communicate your needs better. Also I think a lot of people with a lower sex drive do get into the mindset that they have to be very turned on before initiating sexy times, I have had good experiences after my partner gradually became more comfortable with the idea of "seeing what happens" during foreplay. And we never would have made that realization with out the communication skills I learned in therapy

  24. Thank you for this! I am in your boat… Actually tried again last night and heard "we just had sex" after I complained. We "just" did 3 months ago. Getting into lingerie is about the most depressing thing because it's one thing to be turned down without any effort but I'm sure you understand that getting turned down after putting in that much effort is so much more depressing. I think the worst part to me is that I can't go to a bar without being hit on…so basically with my husband is where I feel the least sexy and attractive. I live with a roomate who loves me and that's more than a lot of women can say. Like you, I do love him but the hurt continues.

    • That sucks. I'm repeating what earlier posters have mentioned, but please check out what Dan Savage of the Savage Lovecast has to say on the matter. He addresses this issue on a regular basis. Your partner should at the very least be willing to have open and honest communication with you on this issue, and be willing to find a solution that satisfies BOTH of you. If he loves you, he should be willing to do that. He's causing you to suffer and it is unfair.

  25. I would definitely recommend ruling out physical causes of low libido. Many medications can result in lack of interest, or even difficulty climaxing. Also, I would strongly suggest a cardiovascular exercise program, if you guys don't have one already. It doesn't need to be too rigorous, keep it fun. Go for an easy run or walk, but then throw in a few fartleks (speed intervals) by playing tag with each other. Exercise may or may not improve the issue at hand, but it reduces stress and increase blood flow to all areas of the body ;).

  26. This post breaks my heart.

    I've been in this situation, and we ended up breaking up. I was in a polyamorous relationship, and the strain was still too much. I don't know how a monogamous relationship could handle it. Good luck, OP.

  27. OP, I have never commented here before, but I just had to comment and tell you that there is hope. I think that some relationships go through these periods during times of high stress. My best friend and her husband did not have sex for about 2.5 years: the entire time they were engaged, and then for about a year afterward. His father was dying, and he was the primary caretaker. After his father passed and he recovered from his grief, they were able to have a physical relationship again.

    It wasn't easy for my best friend at all, and I think she almost cheated on him. But she didn't, and she is really happy with their sex life now. I think it is totally possible for people to find their way back to each other after dry spells.

    I am sending you internet hugs and lots of warm wishes.

  28. I feel your pain, although the roles are reversed in our relationship. I highly recommend the book "Come As You Are" by Emily Nagoski.

  29. I am also in a sexless marriage. Not for any particularly good reason. Mostly because he had an affair, I have 5 young children and no way to leave him, and I just don't want to have sex with him or anyone.
    The affair was some years ago, and I still love him, but I don't trust him enough for him to know the sexual side of my personality anymore. I don't let him see any vulnerability. His affair was much more than sexual… the first 7 years of our marriage were spent telling terrible lies about me to anyone who would listen, including my own family.
    Years of counseling, him being diagnosed and treated, has made things tolerable. We hug each other goodbye and say I love you.
    But there is no way in hell that he is getting any further than that.

    … okay so that actually contributed nothing to this conversation, but felt good to get off my chest.

    • That sounds hard R, I am so sorry that happened to you. What an amazingly strong and kind person you must be to have got through all that. I really hope you start to get something yourself soon, you really deserve it.

  30. I just got out of a relationship with a pretty similar situation, for reasons other than just the lack of sex, but that was a contributing factor.
    When we first started dating, the sex was fantastic… sort of. It was mostly actually about him pleasuring me (a lot), which managed to (mostly successfully) distract me from the fact that he hardly ever got off. I almost felt like I didn't have a right to complain about his non-participation because I was getting a heck of a lot of fantastic orgasms out of it. But after a while that quit happening too, and became something that only happened once in a blue moon, usually after he'd had a few drinks.
    The rejection was hard. I spent a lot of time convinced I was so bad in bed that he didn't want me to touch him. Even once I came to understand the extent that his issues with depression and anxiety had on him, I still constantly struggled with insecurity and feeling undesirable.
    But I put up with it because I cared about him as a whole person, not just who he was in bed. There was still affection there. He was a champion snuggler.
    In the end, I left because we are really different people, in different places in our life, who want different things. We just didn't have much in common anymore, and simple conversations felt stilted and forced. Not having a physical relationship anymore meant that there wasn't anything at all that we still shared.
    I left a little over 3 months ago and I still wonder almost every day if I made the right choice, because I still care about him, but I'm pretty sure that giving myself the option for a relationship that will be fulfilling in a variety of ways (no pun intended) is worth it.

  31. Good luck, everyone.
    I hope you all can get the affection you need, and whatever level/amount of sex is appropriate to your desire.

  32. I could have written this. Mr husband had what I can only describe as a complete mental breakdown at the end of 2012. Since then, he has gotten better, but his medications take all the desire away. I thought it was me, so I lost 100 lbs (which was great for me because I feel so much better), but that didn't fix the problem. In the back of my mind I knew it wouldn't change anything, but you try to rationalize and fix things. But I can't fix this. At least not in the traditional sense. Maybe one day he will be better without all the medications, but he still has crippling bouts of anxiety and depression.

    • Congratulations on losing the 100 pounds, that's quite a feat. I hope you and your husband find a constructive way to fix your problems. Many internet hugs for you.

    • My husband is a lot older than me. He began having difficulty having sex as his heart disease set in. I am patient, I can handle that. Then his twin brother died. I think he is permanently damaged now. For years he has been on drugs for depression and anxiety. These have killed his desire to have sex, and any lingering ability to have sex. Again, I am patient. I am exceedingly kind and understanding. I love him completely. But the lack of sex has me climbing the walls. I try to turn it off, but I explode into anger. I have low self-esteem even though I also lost an enormous amount of weight for him. I want to say "Ta da!! Look at me! All for you!" He says I'm sexy, I'm beautiful, but it means nothing to me because it apparently means nothing to him. I will not leave his side for anything, but how do I keep my own sanity???

  33. We alternate between who has the lower libido due to anxiety and other life stresses, but it’s usually him. What helped us was frank and specific honesty. It sucks being turned down, and that was leading to neither of us trying to initiate sex for a couple of months. And like most things in our relationship, more communication helps. “Listen, I am in low-bidoville right now. I don’t know why, probably stress. I don’t think P in V sex is going to work right now.”
    Other person: “Is there anything I can do to help you be less stressed to feel better in general and not expect that it will lead to sex?” Maybe yes, maybe no, depending on the situation. Sometimes taking care of a task or helping make a decision lowers the stress level enough.
    Then the conversation progresses to the suspended libido person asking “What else can I do to help you get what you need?” For me, he makes me still feel sexy by watching me undress, telling me I look good, or giving more specific compliments. And he will also give me some time or space or toys to take care of the other stuff. Sometimes he offers non-P in V sex, which then occasionally leads to normal-for-us sexytimes.

    Also, as an aside, I hate the x number of times you have sex means things distinctions. I feel like it should be based on percentage drops from what is “normal” for different people, rather than an absolute number.

  34. THIS! We have been together for years and now recently got married. This means, according to everyone with whom we interact, that we are supposed to be wild sex machines. Seriously. The lunch ladies at the school he works at give him extra food "for energy *wink, wink*…" My 89 year old grandmother makes jokes about getting in the sack. I now change the subject anytime someone begins talking about the wedding because it always leads to an elbow in the ribs and wiggling eyebrows. Was "I do" supposed to be followed with "…now screw!"?

    I am embarrassed, frustrated, but most of all hurt. A lot of the same topics brought up by others totally resonate. "Oh, God, am I no longer desirable?" "How are we supposed to start a family?" "Are there any alternatives I should consider?" "What if he rejects me again, will that make him shut down completely?"

  35. Thank you for sharing this! I'm constantly down on myself for not having a sex drive, because I worry it feels like a rejection to my partner. One of the less-than-lovely things about chronic illness is that it takes your sex drive down to zero (apparently, my body would rather put its limited resources into survival…pah!)
    We've talked frankly about it, and he's very understanding and doesn't pressure me or even initiate sex anymore (familiar pattern?) but I still feel bad that I'm not showing him how sexy he is through my desire. (guilt, as it turns out, is also a mood killer). I hope your away time relieves pressures and allows you and H to connect intimately again. I also hope there's solutions for myself and other people in my situation. It certainly doesn't help to be surrounded by people (and media portrayals) that indicate 'healthy couples' have sex multiple times a week.

    • Sometimes very, very clear communication can help a little bit with things like this. Specifically, you could have a talk where you tell him that you want to be able to tell him when you notice that he is sexy or attractive, but that it's not an invitation for sex unless you very explicitly say so, i.e. the difference between "hey, you've got a nice butt!" and "hey, you've got a nice butt…. and so we should have sex right now!"

      This would let you tell him that he is still attractive and desirable to you, and let him hear that you still find him sexy and attractive – without making him expect sex and then get disappointed, and without making you afraid that you're going to disappoint him by making him think that you're into sex when you're really not. It doesn't solve everything perfectly, and of course there are always hitches and miscommunications, but it can really help.

  36. Thank you for your post, although I wish I had at least those 2 years to look back on. I've been married 3 months now, I saved myself for marriage, we thought medically it would be okay, and now I'm pretty much still a virgin and it's nothing it is cracked up to be. I didn't realize how much it would drive me crazy to the point of fearing that I will have an affair because I might never experience sex. Firstly he isn't interested and all the lingerie and taking the imitative does nothing… I feel ugly and like a slut thinking about what I can't have all the time. From my religious background which pretty shames sex before marriage then magically its okay after marriage, that doesn't help, neither does his disability and stupid doctors and hospitals which won't fix his medication so he can't have sex without a heart attack… But it isn't even just the intercourse, its the touching and intimacy we had before marriage that seems to be dead. I feel so depressed if I have to go off alone to try and find relief. This isn't how it was meant to be. Everyone asks how marriage is going with that gleam in their eye… "okay" "takes some getting used to" I say, and inside I'm crying its crap! I hate the hospital and doctors who won't book an appointment because sex isn't high on their priority list. And I hate the purity doctrine which meant I have so many hangups about it. Maybe it's cause I married an older guy and he has lost his sex drive and I'm still young with 29yrs of pent up frustration… I don't know but I know I'm not happy and I don't know what to do about it.

    • Oh Jay, I'm so sorry. I come from a purity background too, and even though I broke away from it before marriage, I still have all kinds of baggage to slowly work through. I remember having sex with my boyfriend in college, and then laying next to him (or on the floor) after he'd fallen asleep and crying as I tried to deal with the guilt and disappointment. It laid the foundation for some really unhealthy emotional habits that I'm still actively trying to unlearn.

      You are not ugly, you're not unworthy, and you're definitely not a slut.
      Sex is a basic biological need for most people, just like eating and sleeping, and it's okay to take care of yourself. I would really highly recommend "Come As You Are" by Emily Nagoski as a really great scientific (but readable!) primer on women's sexuality. You're not broken. If you can swing it, I really think it'd be useful to talk to a sex positive therapist (maybe not a religion focused therapist …) about your transition into marriage, how to cope with your frustrations, and how to talk to your husband about all of this. If you haven't already, now is also a really good time for a heart to heart with your husband so you can let him know what you're going through, and make a plan going forward. If you can convince him to try a couple of sessions of couples counseling, even better. You got married for a reason, and hopefully that means that you guys are good at working together – this is just the first major hurdle in your marriage. You deserve to have your needs met too, and communication is so, so important.

      Good luck, and a huge support hug!

      • Dear Valerie,

        Thank you so much for your very kind post and understanding. Fortunately we do have good communication together and talk at length regarding the issues, hopes and fears. I'll have to look up that book. I know the physical disability doesn't help, but our anxieties are certainly not helping either. I'd love to talk to a sex therapist about it if/when we can get into one.
        He won't even tell his GP about the exact problems he is having even though they are pretty serious in my books… if we have sex he might die (intense migraine due to dysreflexia which can lead to an heart attack eg. last year when we were just walking/wheeling by the river and he had a dysreflexic attack and spent 5 days in hospital suspected Heart Attack). Would love to chat with some other disabled/ able bodied couples on how they cope with intimacy and disability, care aids, sleeping arrangements etc.

        • Jay,
          Did you check out the posts linked at the end of this article. You might find this one particularly helpful since sex is physically not possible for you guys right now:

          I have big virtual hugs for you because I also had post-purity-doctrine-disorder for a long time. It took my about 8 years after I became sexually active to work through the ingrained shame reflex I was experiencing and it really only happened after I stopped going to church altogether (which makes me very sad).

          I have a few thoughts that may be helpful depending on your specific personality types/relationship needs. You say you have great communication which is a HUGE plus so that's awesome for you guys. If your husband isn't comfortable talking to his GP about these issues, you need to find one he can talk to ASAP because I really believe your sex life may need to be a threesome so to speak 🙂 Ok not necessarily literally but it sounds like a physician needs to be in on this conversation so you guys can start to experiment safely.

          To start, find out if it is same for hubs to have an orgasm. If so, you have the wonderful world of manual/oral stimulation that requires less physical exertion. If that's an issue, find out if it will be dangerous for him to experience arousal or stimulation at all. Having sexy time without an orgasm can ABSOLUTELY be sexually satisfying (there is a percentage of folks out there who physically cannot orgasm who still have healthy sex lives).

          If it's dangerous for him to be stimulated at all, why not try having him watch while you masturbate? This can be incredibly intimidating especially when you come from a background that says masturbation is evil and "displaying" your sexuality in this way. But it can be done and it can be FUN. He can participate by telling you what to do or commenting on how it looks, how he enjoys seeing you enjoying yourself sexually. Once you get over the awkwardness, you might find that this kind of sexual relationship is really fun for you. My partner and I will do this just as a way to mix it up sometimes or if one person is turned on and the other isn't.

          I'm sure you've researched this a ton, but have you found any support groups for folks who may be in the same situation? Maybe you can just connect with one other couple and talk frankly about the challenges you guys face.

          I didn't know anything about dysreflexia so I did a quick "sex and dysreflexia" google search and found these two sites:

          But THIS ONE IS ALSO A FORUM!!

          I'd suggest submitting your situation to Offbeat Home directly. I'm sure you'd get a ton of support and probably even some really good advice and resources.

          Big loves to ya!

    • I married an older guy, too. However, we had massive amounts of sex before and during our marriage. It was awesome. Sex is awesome. He has since gotten heart disease (cholesterol clogging up arteries) and had two heart attacks. His ability to have sex is greatly diminished. His twin brother died a few years ago. I sincerely believe a part of him, or his personality, also died. The problem for me is that the medicine he takes for his heart controls his blood pressure, blood flow, and heart beat–his ability to have sex. His depression medication has absolutely killed his libido. I am also not happy. I am also very frustrated. I get angry and start fights.
      I absolutely hear you about doctors and hospitals. I don't think sex is on their list of anything at all, much less a priority. We finally got one doctor to okay a medicine, which the insurance company flat out denied. However, now that my husband's libido has completely disappeared, he no longer fights. Sex is incredibly important for mental and physical health. I would know–I'm going crazy! But the answer I keep getting is that he has to heal himself first to have sex. Fat chance. It feels like he's given up. And I've taken up running.

  37. Our relationship went sexless before the wedding when my husband came out to me as asexual. I've never had a huge libido nor an appetite for sex, but I did have the same fears that you did when a whole year went by in our engagement and we hadn't had sex. I respected his confession and that in turn helped me realize that I was asexual as well, well Grey-Asexual. I still get the urge from time to time, but not the drive to do anything about it. I don't even masturbate more than once a month or so.

    I am sorry that this is happening to you, and I hope that it can be worked out and that things will work out for the best!

  38. I have been in a similar situation. My husband really is my dream guy in most areas but I've always felt like I wanted him more than he wants me. I'm not sure it could ever have been called a sexless marriage or dating relationship (yes it was an issue before we married), but we have definitely been through periods of little to no sex. In our relationship, I'm usually the one with the higher sex drive. When we started dating, we had sex pretty regularly. It hurt like crazy when first the sex seemed to dry up, and then the rejection started. I had to sit him down several times and communicate to him that, when he turns me down for weeks on end, I start thinking he doesn't love me/find me attractive anymore. As it turned out, there were some medical issues that were killing his sex drive (not going into them here), and getting the right treatment helped bring the numbers up to an average of 2-3 times per month from less than 2.

    About 18 months ago, we decided to start trying to conceive. This has been an interesting journey in a marriage where sex tends to occur less than once a week on average. After 12 months, we visited a RE (reproductive endocrinologist) who ran a bunch of tests on me to find out why I wasn't conceiving (why do they always blame the woman first?). Anyway, after making both of us feel personally violated and turning us into pincushions, we discovered my DH had Low T. The doctor put him on HCG shots which have been helping. After a month of those shots, his testosterone went from 1/4 what's normal for a man his age with no other health issues to the low end of the normal range. Already, his sex drive has risen, and we're averaging once a week (though most of that is currently happening in about a 5 day span each month).

    I know this is quickly turning into a novel, but here's the important part: if his low sex drive is hurting you, seek professional help. Whether it's a counselor for him or both of you, or a doctor to diagnose a physical/hormonal issue, don't just live with it. As much as you love him, you will come to resent his lack of attention. I finally told my husband if I don't get regular hugs, my spine starts to shrivel (one of my daddy's sayings). He didn't come from a hugging family, I did. As it turns out, he really enjoys hugs and cuddling, and we have had people ask how long we've been together, and whether we're actually married because we hug, hold hands, and give chaste kisses in public (not to show off). That affection has gotten me through some dry spells.

    There are many things you can do to rekindle the romance/intimacy so a sexless marriage doesn't become a loveless marriage. It will take a lot of hard work on both sides but not having sex doesn't mean you can't be intimate. You just need to find out what works for each of you, and find the middle ground. I hope you both find the sweet spot of physical versus emotional satisfaction.

  39. I must say I was quite shocked to learn that I have been in a sexless marriage at times. Call me naive, but I thought sexless meant… Well… Sexless. There have definately been years in our fifteen year marriage where we had ten or less sexual relationships.

    As you said, life is a bitch sometimes. Has the sex life drop been the focal point of our issues?

    No. I think it is more of a symptom than the actual disease. When one or both partners is having problems, when work schedules are too crazy, when kids take up all the space, when one partner is less invested in the relationship, when communication sucks… Those are the real issues for us. And yes, our sex drives fluctuate based on all these factors and more.

    As the person with the higher sex drive, of course I get frustrated! Even in the early stages of our relationship, there was a marked difference between our libidos. I write porn, I read porn, I watch it. I masturbate. Sometimes, I still want to tear my hair out.

    Thankfully, there has rarely been full on rejection in our couple. There have been times when sex was fabulous and passionate, there have been quick hand-jobs aimed solely at getting the other partner off our back. From both of us. And no, it is not as bad as it sounds. It is about finding balance between your partner's and your needs, like most everything else in a relationship. And if what I really need is a hasty orgasm to physically help me sleep, my husband will indulge me once in a while. And some other time, I will blow him because it's what HE needs. Even if Game of Thrones is on. Of course we can tell the difference with the intense communion of sex that takes time and commitment and "in the momentness" that sometimes eludes us. But when it is hard to make our needs meet in the middle sometimes we settle for the gift of a partner thinking of the other for a while.

    But I think the big difference between us and OP is hope. We know, eventually, that there will be a right time and place for that rare sparkly sex that is intensely satisfying for both of us. Like a fancy date at a fine restaurant. It is not our everyday now, but that is fine. The bottom line is that our love runs deeper than ever and that we fundamentally respect each other.

    Boyfriend knows I get release for pent-up sexual feelings by writing erotica. If he starts complaining or asking me to stop because he doesn't feel like sex, then we have a problem. It works for us. Oh and yes, there has been talk of opening our relationship. On and off, for ten years. We are not there yet. Because yes, I would love to have a young lover fuck my brains out. But we are not prepared for the inevitable complicated emotions that will arise. Because a lover is not a vibrator, he would have needs and feelings of his own.

    We have found our balance. And we will continue to adjust to whatever the years throw at us. OP, I hope you can too.

  40. Novel alert below. Help?

    I'm in a 6-year sexless marriage. We had some average sex at the beginning, but it tapered off quickly. I've been clear that this doesn't work for me (particularly with the impact of getting rejected constantly, despite putting all my creative energy into inspiring some arousal), but it has only resulted in a long stream of half-hearted Band-Aid attempts on his end.

    We've had an open relationship since the beginning, but while having sexual fulfillment with others is wonderful, it is NOT THE SAME as having the person you love most in the world sexually interested in you. I resent the situation so much- particularly because I am a fetish model, and it turns out that people all over the world are interested in me physically, while the person I love is not.

    Once he got to work on the anxiety that was causing all areas of his life to suffer, I was proud! I voluntarily took the sex issue off the table to help him focus on that work. He then continued to neglect this area after massive success working on the anxiety and a discussion about bringing sex back into the discussion. Basically, over the last 6 years, I've had to convince myself that sex is not important to me, that it's far inferior to other aspects of a relationship, that things are ok as they are. I've done what the author above has done- accepted a sexless marriage. This, plus all the negativity around even the conversation about sex, has caused me to lose all attraction for my partner and become resentful and offended at even the thought of sex with him. So now the problem is on both ends.

    We did therapy, with both a singular therapist and another couple. They were nice and all (and kink-friendly, of course), but mostly pointed to things that either a) were very obvious ("omg, the sex thing is rooted in his anxiety too!!") or b) the cliche things mentioned by other commenters above ("give each other non-sexual massages! fill out long questionnaires about things that turn you on and then swap! try some time away on a trip! try allowing him to take charge of this area for a while!"). Blah. Therapy also made things much worse for me, as all my hurt and angry feelings surfaced together. I thought maybe things would get worse before they got better, but it's been over a year since we'd started, and no improvement in sight. So, just worse. And, I don't jive well with the structure of therapy, so I'm no longer participating.

    At one point during the couples work, I got so sick of the focus on the negative that I positively declared that I just wanted to move on and start "us" over again. He arranged a very sweet little ceremony where we threw out old ideas, declared new visions for the future (notably, his didn't include anything about passion or sex, so I added it to the list)- and things were OK for a couple weeks. Then he did the same thing he's always done, and neglect the area of sex while making dozens of excuses. The new start, it appeared was a sham as well.

    And now I don't know what to do. I do love this person, and he is a good person to live with and spend time with. I made a promise to him and our friends and family to keep this thing going even when it's hard. I should have waited until this issue was more sorted before doing that, certainly, because I'm not sure I like what I've signed up for. But I'm miserable. The stress of this is affecting every area of my life. Most friends and family think we're doing fine, since we still hang out together and have fun doing things, but there's an elephant in the room they don't know of. I'm still so hurt. I'm still angry. Things still trigger me (a piece of lingerie falls out of a cardboard box in the corner where all of my sexy stuff is shoved into, reserved only for photo shoots for other people who actually find me attractive, and I resent that time when I tried to wear it to inspire a sexy moment, etc.).

    I don't know what to do next. I don't want to waste any more years being unfulfilled, and certainly don't want to spend any more time being as miserable as I am now. He SAYS he wants to move forward and work on things, but I don't trust him after all these false starts crying wolf and after I put all the little hope I had left into the "new start". I'm out of hope, and I'm out of energy. But I love him and the life we've built together. I don't like this limbo any more than he does, but here we are.

    Has anyone been here? What have you done? What can I do? 🙁 🙁 🙁

    • i have no words of advice for you, M.
      but i do know that not being able to communicate with your person is horrible, seeing them change (in a way they probably didn't want or like either!) is horrible, feeling cheated is horrible. i hope you find a way to breathe again.
      for me (i'm in a very different situation than yours, but still) this means waiting for things to be calm and get clearer, even if things don't happen at my pace. i am not happy and i know i can't live like this for long – but i also know i am not able to make good definitive decisions now. gather your energies, skills and resources until you know what to do with them.
      all of my love.

    • I feel for you, so hard.

      Once resentment, pain, and anguish set in, these feelings are extremely hard to overcome. Especially if the other partner is not willing, or not able to give you what you need, emotionally and physically. To overcome so much negativity that has set in a relationship, both partners need to do so much heavy lifting. I've been there. By the end I have managed to convince myself that I was asexual. Something was wrong with me and that's why I could not get my needs met. I was afraid to leave. I loved that person and surely there was another solution. In the end, it fell apart anyway.

      My only regret is not walking away much sooner. I am engaged to my supportive, loving, wonderful partner. Having a fulfilling sex life is priceless. I'm working on healing the scars left by the previous marriage. Lots of work yet to do, but life goes on.

      My very best wishes to you, whatever you decide.

    • my two cents to share. it took a long while before i realised that you cant expect one person to fulfil your every need (emotional, spiritual, psychological, sexual, financial, social etc). hard pill to swallow, but you can certainly remain madly in love in a sexless marriage with a high sex drive (your own) and still be fulfilled. First: stop beating yourself and your partner up. its frustrating and fruitless. Second: be selfish – take the time to nurture yourself to be the best person for you and your relationship. Third: be ready for what comes from being true and loving to yourself. long term relationships are made of these kinds of hurdles. you are not alone. xxx

  41. I just want to say thank you. Although I'm the one with low sex drive it is truly a relief that I am not the only one in the world like this and that there's hope. I'm going to order "come as you are" right now.

  42. I can relate to your husband. Maybe I'm part Vulcan because I am mainly asexual but every few years I want to binge on sex. Because I do most of my dating when I want sex, it can be very confusing when I go from insatiable to totally uninterested. I don't see marriage in my future for this reason but I was engaged twice (I didn't follow through for non-sex reasons) before figuring out my pattern. Maybe he's still figuring out his.

  43. My ex husband flat out told me he wasn't attracted to me anymore because I was fat (I'd gained about 20 pounds) and that's why he rejected me over and over. If you know for a FACT this isn't the case, I suggest therapy. No, he doesn't owe his body but withholding every physical affection even knowing how it hurts her IS abuse. He isn't even trying.

  44. I was the low-libido partner, and both of us blamed me for it for years, til I considered myself broken on bad days, asexual on good days. It was a new normal for so many years, I forgot that before this relationship, I'd had at least an average libido, though never a high one. Some other issues (individual and combined) brought us to counselling, where I came to realise the low libido wasn't the cause of our relationship issues, it was the result. After realising that, I ended the marriage.

    Funny enough, I'm now in about a year into a relationship with an amazing, loving partner where sex is a fairly fantastic and regular part of our life. I hope it stays that way, the emotional and physical connection is just something else 🙂

  45. HEALTH!!!!!!! I was the very low libido partner for years. Once a month was fine. We went 2 months without once. I know there are people who have less. Turns out myotherheath issues and low libido wew from an autoimmune disease. Got healthier and libido went up! He had beeso unhappy. We still ended breaking up. I have been the higher libido partner in the 2 relationships since. My problem with that is they contrioll the if and when. I have sexwhen I am not craving it cause I ay not get it later.

  46. I'm so grateful that you were brave enough to post this issue. My husband has a very low sex drive and mine is insatiable. It's been a huge struggle between us, and I often feel unwanted and unloved, like something is wrong with me that he doesn't want me. It is a great relief to at least see how common this issue is, to know I'm not the problem; I just need to be patient and understanding of my husband and be open to working through it with him.

  47. When my husband lost interest in sex, I had to mourn our once-amazing sex life, too. Now, after years of fighting, then a year of mutual exploration, he's embraced his asexual identity and I have learned to love our sexless marriage. My sexual needs are thankfully met by the third in our triad, whose sexual appetite *almost* rivals mine. Almost.

    Sex is so difficult sometimes. Good luck to you and your libido, fellow wife. ♥

  48. The lack of physical intimacy in a relationship is hurtful if both partners don't feel the same way about it. I say, if someone's not chronically ill, and the person just "doesn't feel like" having sex, it's borderline cruel. If you're married to a nice spouse, and your spouse wants to have sex, it's best for the relationship to have it. Your spouse isn't asking for a kidney, and sex often makes up for the little annoyances we all put up with in a relationship.

  49. I read this when it was posted and it has come back to me often since then. I am in a sexless relationship with my very soon Husband to Be. We've been together 6 years and basically have had no sex life for the last 3. In the beginning it was just as much my lack of desire as his, dealing with general unhappiness, chemical imbalance due to poor birth control and my own body image issues. I dealt with all those things in time, by getting help and making changes, and managed to break the cycle of "he never wants to have sex when I want it so I am not going to put out on his schedule" that I found myself trapped in. At some point we had a conversation where I tried to own my part it, and asked him to think about his part and make the changes that he needs, and to please tell me if there is anything I can do.
    That has been less then successful. I love him, I am invested in our life together and I am fully committed to marrying him in less then 2 months, but sometimes I lay awake and think about the elephant in the room. He doesn't like to talk about it because it makes him self conscious which makes him even more disinclined, and I don't want to harp on it. But I am not quite 30 and I am not ready for my sex life to be over. He almost never comes to bed at the same time as me, and our dog is a convenient excuse not to get intimate, we hold hands and smooch but don't cuddle anymore. And the rare time he does initiate anything, he is so awkward and fumbling I feel like I am making out with an adolescent.
    It's nice to know I'm not the only one.

    • My husband has the same problem. He's inexperienced and awkward and it's just a total turn off for me when it feels like I'm with a teenager. And there's not any non hurtful way to tell him that.

  50. guys, you know what? i sent my husband this post, and it gave us a new impuls in talking about our sex life once again – and now things are rolling! yay!

    • Sex (or lack thereof) is a symptom of something else.
      The key ingredient in a couple is to keep a connection, keep talking about what's bothering us. I never particularly shut myself off sexually with my wife, but there have been periods of 'slow downs', in which I was passive-aggressively pushing her back. She suffered very much. She even slapped me once. But she made me see: in my case I was working myself to death, and I started identifying with career too much, forgetting my better self. I was finding excuses to keep working. I had a panic attack and threw a tantrum like a kid because we were in a national park and I could not check my mail! Yes I was an asshole. But I didn't see myself that way at the time: I had a perfectly good excuse to be one, because I was the bread winner in the house and I was trying to work… while on holiday with my family… that sounds stupid, and yet I was abusive… but I didn't know.
      As I was too busy working, at times I actually felt I didn't have the energy (for a man, even a single orgasm burns a lot of energies, and if you are 'nice' and also care for your partner and put effort in making her come as well, you might just burn your whole dinner in 20 minutes, and need some extra sleep the morning after)… the point is that I was giving all my energies to my employer (out of various fears) instead than keeping some to myself and my partner's enjoyment and well-being! I was literally ruining the relationship myself, spiraling down in a stupid train of thought about my wife being better off with someone else who didn't work so much (!?!?!)… I was unconsciously hoping she would cheat on me so that I would be legitimized to push her back and keep working. I was going mad. I was driving her mad too. She helped me get out of it – I was not seeing, but she did see mine was an addiction.
      I have seen other comments about porn additions in this thread… that one, or cheating, or alchool, work, shopping, even checking on facebook continuosly… they can all be various 'addictions' that eventually drain our souls out and confuse us and lead us astray from each other. And different of those can arise at the same time in both partners, in which case it is probably even harder.

      But in my mind, sex appetite doesn't just 'fade' after the kids are born or at any time – if it does, it is almost always an indicator of an underlying (but unrelated) issue… THAT needs to be figured out and talked about.

      Talking of ALL issues in our lives and analyzing them with our partners – even WHILE even sex, sometimes is very nice – and maintaining the connection open for each other is what makes it proceed.

  51. Hi Everybody,

    I hate the stupid advice too. I got turned down in lingerie on Valentine's Day because he was too tired. This hurt a lot and I bring it up when we talk about sex and stuff even though it is almost 3 years later. The truth is, my husband's libido (and mine too!) took a hit after having kids. We had two kids back to back and we're freaking tired. Mine just didn't hit my sex drive, his exhaustion did. I know he's not cheating (women know these things), I know he's not looking at porn (I am with him all of the time), and I know it's not personal. He loves me, but sex is not the way he shows the love in this time in our lives.

    I think that every woman on this board needs to makes some choices for themselves. Another person (even your husband) is not responsible for your personal happiness. Only YOU are responsible for your personal happiness. You have some choices: leave, stay, cheat, or find a way to safely satisfy your needs within marriage. For me, leaving and cheating are not good options (cons far outweigh the pros), so I choose to read books. The point is, I learned how to make MYSELF happy in my life's situation. This is called acceptance.

  52. I was crying reading this. I am so immensely attracted to my DW but she literally cringes at my advances. She says it's her: the weight gain after the kids, her exhaustion at the end of the day, and so on. She sure loves popcorn and ice cream though, which I bring to her by the bowlful, only because that's the only interaction with me that doesn't generate a look of disgust or disapproval … When I give her food.

    I am a good looking guy, 40, tall, and in relatively good shape, and am very successful in a unique and challenging career where I make my own hours and have loads of time with my family. My friends all used to call me Brad Pitt, because I used to look just like him …. Whether that's good or not I don't know. But I liked feeling sexy and desirable. But now I just feel inside like an unloveable and disgusting celibate, like my erection is some sore that needs to be squeezed so it just goes away. I've taken to masturbating, but it's just to clear my head so I can work.

    I can't even start a conversation at this …

  53. As someone who has been on both sides of the equation- I used to be a wife who didn't want sex, and now I'm married to a man who doesn't seem interested very much, I have this to say: seek medical assistance!!! In my case, I needed antidepressants to help with some depression, as well as a divorce and a remarriage (but that's a different story). Now, with my husband, please please go get his hormone levels checked! In our case, we did that and discovered he had low testosterone. Don't go by the big range that is considered normal, as that encompasses both young 20 something men as well as 90 year olds. Testosterone naturally decreases with age, and while his was not that far below the bottom, that bottom end of the scale is normal if you're like 85 or 90! Definitely not normal for a mid 30's to 40 guy. Really really go get checked. If that turns up issues then there are things you can do! (Don't do testerone replacement unless you are done having kids or don't want any because that shuts down their natural sperm production processes). There are other therapies to try to help. We are in the midst of this now, and while I don't think we are "sexless" we on average only have sex about 1 or 2 times a month which is still really really low.
    Sex is truly "relationship glue" and if medically you are both fine, then please fight for it and get help if you love each other. I've been there.

    • How did you get the supplements? My husband has been diagnosed several times with testosterone almost at zero "4" and normal is in the double to triple digits, but the local doctor, the sexual rehab doctor none of them are allowed to prescribe because it is restricted. We also were told it will lower his fertility so our chances of having kids will go from 5% to 0.

      • Since we were trying to have kids, we first went to a Reproductive Emdocrinologist who prescribed Clomid for him. There are also a number of supplements and vitamins they can take which sometimes helps. It didn't in our case. The most recent thing was injections of HCG (pregnyl was the name of the medication), which also can help. Again, in our case it didn't help. So, we are going to bite the bullet and do the testosterone therapy because the relationship is more important. I'm looking into embryo donation to try to have the kids I still want more of. Good luck to you!

        • Thanks Laurel, and so sorry to hear the supplements and injections didn't work 🙁
          Its just such a long process we've been married a year , together 3, and go from one referral to another referral to another referral, they lose the first 5 referrals… I was really hoping we could consumate our marriage on our first aniversary but not to be… No idea what my reproductive system is like. Good luck with the embryo donation and testosterone therapy! I never realised how important testoterone is not only to sexual health but muscle tone, bone strength, nerves, energy levels and depression…

  54. Wow. I could have written this. I'm actually sat here wondering if I got drunk one night and did write it and then forgot??! My name is Hayley and I am in a sexless marriage. There I've said it. Secret's out. I can't actually bear the rejection anymore and so I haven't made a move on my husband since before we were married. I totally get it when u say that u mourn the loss of ur sex life, I do too and I deffo don't want to live my whole life like this (I'm 26 and hes 27). I have felt so so alone with this for so so long. And like u I am still deeply in love with my husband and my knees still go weak when I think of him. I am so saddened by our lack of sex life, but I'm glad I'm not the only one 🙁

  55. My wife and I have been married for three years and since the birth of our child a little less than a year ago there has been zero inintimacy.

    We haven't had sex in more than a year. No intimate cuddling, no touching, nothing.I know she loves me, that is not in question. I love her as well. However I worry that this is more than just coming off of pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones. I genuinely worry that my wife simply has no appetite for sex. Sexytimes scenes in movies and TV turn her off.

    I'm barely in my 30's I want to have sex. I have been patient. I am waiting. But she doesn't even look at me like she used to. I feel like I don't so much have a wife as I do an affectionate roommate with whom I raise an infant.

    Not going to cheat in her. So I guess I am just going to be celibate for a little while.

    Just a vent.

  56. To me, physical intimacy/affection is a big deal. I had no affection as a child and I've noticed as an adult, I just NEED it to be well rounded and happy.

    There have been times in my 20+ year marriage where I wasn't able to have sex due to some health issues but I still wanted to please my husband so I would initiate intimacy because even though I couldn't have intercourse, there was still a strong desire to please my husband and I craved the emotional connection that comes with being physically intimate.

    Honestly, I don't think I could hang in there forever, even though I adore my husband, if the situation continued with no end in sight. I think eventually it would erode our relationship to the point of divorce. That's just me though.

    I would definitely do everything possible to get some counseling were I in your shoes.

  57. Rest assured that you are not alone. After my daughter was born, my sex drive just about disappeared completely. It's been over 2 years since my husband and I last had sex, and before that it was infrequent at best. I still love him just as much as I ever did, but I know it's really hard on him. Reading this article was like hearing his side of this, so thank you for sharing that. I think it's equally hard for the people on both sides. I know my husband wants our sex life back, and so do I, but the desire just isn't there and his attempts to initiate sex make me so uncomfortable. We tried counseling for a while, but just couldn't afford to keep dropping $100 a week to have someone suggest different ways to "spice it up". I hope that we and you can find a solution to please everyone involved.

    • I hope you try another counselor. It seems like the one you had did not grasp that sex issues are often caused by deeper things than superficial boredom of routine.

  58. I had this issue with my husband and it was so soul-destroying. I think it's a big reason my self esteem is lacking and I became depressed. The stereotype is that men want it all the time, but mine didn't. Lingere made no difference and I was so sick of being hurt and rejected when I initiated things that I just stopped. 6 years into our relationship he finally told me he had all day porn addiction. I was shocked because I didn't think he even had time to watch porn as we were around each other so much, but obviously he managed to find time. I was so hurt that he'd let me think it was me for 6 years. We had talk after talk about how much our low-sex marriage was hurting me and he never had to guts to tell me or to deal with his problems. We're now about to get divorced (other issues too and it all got too much). Maybe this could be something worth asking him about? I definitely think you need to do something like therapy or consider an open marriage because the lack of physical affection just killed me inside.

  59. I feel a lot of the people replying to this article would benefit from reading up on Emotional and Physical Sexuality. The idea is that people that are very sexual and emotionally open are most likely to end up in serious relationships with people who are exactly the opposite. I've found this to be the case in my past relationships, where I was always the more sexual and attentive partner. I had to learn that there's nothing wrong or bad about people who are more private and desire less physical stimulation, and that a lot of my efforts to try to force affection and sex were actually pushing my partners away. These are important issues to work through– if you leave your partner because they're not attentive enough, it's very likely you'll simply end up right back in a relationship with the same type of person.

  60. I was in a sexless marriage for six years. I remember that pain so sharply. Nothing I've been through has hurt as badly as laying in bed next to the person I loved most in this world, sobbing because I was ashamed to want him so badly when that want was obviously not mutual. I felt degraded, worthless, undesirable.

    The end of that marriage was a great gift.

  61. We've been married 49 years and our sex lives has been terrible! My husband ended our sex life after our wedding night, telling me he discovered that he hated all sex porn, cheating, gays, and me. He thinks sex is disgusTIng, vile, smelly, messy,boring, meaningless, to much work for so little. So he moved to our basment and I was told to never bothered him, don't talk to him, and don't make any noise. He also went on the night shift so he didn't to be home or be in bed with me. We've not ever really slept together. I should've left years ago but I had no where to go, plus I was scared to be out on my own. I chose to stay even though he suggested that I move on. So some where in my head staying was a better option. Best friend is my shrink and antidepressants.

    • Dear Amy I wish I could give you a HUGE hug!! That's not a marriage that sounds more like prison. Need to find you a good friend besides the shrink. Depending what country, culture or faith you are could make it very hard so escape, and it's daunting going out on your own but can it get worse than the controlling husband you're living under/ well technically above. Is there anything we can do to help out?
      I'm scared I might be like that in 49 years.

  62. Hello Amy…We our in our 24th year of marriage , and we haven't had any sex or physical intimacy for 5 years… Our intimacy turned about abruptly, when I found my partner had an affair 'of some kind' with a co-worker. Although it's never been spoken of since the evening I found out and confronted them, they said it was just emotionial (like that's better).
    …No holding hands, no hugs, no kisses , cuddles or butterfly kisses. I am so lonely, and my partner is reticent to try counselling.
    My situation; I'm completely financially dependent , so leaving would be extremely difficult , and unimaginable .
    Any wisdom you can offer will be appreciated and seriously considered.
    Thanks Amy…

  63. It sounds like there's a lot going on here. Firstly, a lot of online or magazine advice is rarely helpful – the suggestions of lingerie etc are very superficial solutions to what could be a much deeper problem. And you've taken some excellent steps to initiate conversations about his feelings and mental state. The problem is rarely a surface level "I just don't feel like it". It also sounds like there's going to be a lot of change happening with the new jobs, etc. so perhaps wait until you are both feeling settled again to revisit this issue.
    The bottom line is that everyone in the relationship needs to be sexually satisfied, whether that means frequent sex or no sex at all – whatever the level of desire is (and all levels are okay!).
    Taking some small steps like increasing intimacy with no expectations can help to improve the general intimacy between the two of you to help you reform that physical bond. And physical bonds and sexual ones are not necessarily the same.
    Secondly, start to identify some road blocks – what is the root cause of his lack of desire? It could be anxiety, depression, circumstances, intimidation, fear of failure, lack of desire or interest, a whole range of things.
    I do recommend seeking assistance from a sexologist/sex therapist. I am a qualified ST and these are the first steps that I always recommend – you can't solve a problem without identifying where it is actually coming from.
    Sex can be a big part of relationships (as can intimacy) and it is important that you are both open and honest with each other. If you are not satisfied, I would not recommend the Dan Savage advice which is individual focused, and seek sex outside of your relationship without discussing this with your partner. Some therapists may recommend you do this (after all, YOU are their client, not the both of you) but I would always suggest trying to find a solution with your partner first. If they have no interest at all, you can discuss other options together, as a team, in a partnership.
    I hope you can find a solution that works well for both of you soon, and good luck with your new jobs, etc!!

  64. Oh man, I am in the same boat. Couples therapy has helped a lot, but we are still working towards a normal sex life. And it sucks because my partner has stopped initiating, too. So I feel very unwanted and it is depressing. Try therapy. It can't hurt.

  65. I am sorry you;re dealing with the horrible feelings of rejection and stuff. Its very hard. I didnt read all the comments but I just wanted to say that we experienced something similar in our marriage, but because when it started we had the most amazing sexual connection, I actually brought hubs (willingly) to the doctor because I had heard men can have testosterone crashes in their 30s/40s. That was actually the case and we were told his had crashed so low it made him a candidate for various cancers because they need testosterone for their health. Once they got him levelled out, our sex life returned to normal. He suffers from winter depression badly from Jan to Mar and it dips again then, but mostly it's as good as it was year round. Whenever it dips badly, we check his bloods and balance his T out again.

    I know people can be asexual or crave sex very rarely, but if ye had a healthy frequent experience in the earlier years, its worth checking out. Not just for sex, but also for his health.

    I wish you all the best and hope things are resolved in a healthy happy way for both of you <3

  66. I for one know what everyone on this post is going through! We've been married almost few months from 50 years. My husband has always had problems with intimacy since his late 20s till now he's 71. Never had sex before we were married that was something that never happened in those days. His doctor told him it was just his nerves that wasn't the case. We did manage to have sex he couldn't get hard for complete sexually experience but it was sex. Over the years he went to many doctor's trying to get to the root of his problem. He even spent time like almost a week at a clinic dealing with sex problems. He went threw all kinds of mental tests and physical type tests and was normal healthy guy. Still sex and intimacy was not for him he's not gay or hiding some sweet thing on the side. Time marched on and over time with out any thing was normal. I should have left him but I didn't that was my fault and will never really forgive myself.

  67. Hi everyone–I'm the OP. I just wanted to thank all of you for the support and love; on difficult nights, I would sometimes read your comments and cry because I still felt deeply sad, but now I also felt understood. I just wanted to tell you that H. and I have been in therapy for a year now, and it has been amazing–thank you all for urging me to seek this counseling. You were right–that vacation didn't change anything, and neither did the new jobs. It is laughable to me now that I thought these small things could bridge such a canyon.

    We were lucky enough to find a compassionate therapist who specializes in sex/intimacy issues (and also lucky that our insurance covers regular visits). I won't say that this year has been easy–there were many dark days when we left therapy and I felt shattered. I won't say that our sex life has returned yet, either; it's been two years since we last had sex, which was very infrequent before that.

    BUT. I want to stress that therapy has helped us find ways to give each other strength, and to keep reaching towards each other. If you have been in my situation, I would strongly recommend specifically finding a sex therapist who uses cognitive behavioral therapy. Though it has been useful to talk about our feelings and figure out how to communicate better (like, actually communicate), it has been even more important that our therapist gave us intimacy-building homework exercises (as well as doing these exercises during a session).

    I have also figured out one very important thing: though I still fiercely love H. and obviously am committed to him, I have also made the choice to love and care for myself. I do not mean seeking sex outside the marriage (I find the thought of being so intimate with anyone else repellent). I mean that I make a point every day to try to take care of myself–getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, painting my nails, taking a walk, going out with friends. Instead of being sad because I miss being touched by my partner (or because I really want a child and I am afraid that I will run out of time, another issue that I did not address in my original post), I try to tell myself why I am awesome and deserve to be love and cherished. This has made me free in a way that I had not imagined.

    But above all, fellow readers–I have a lot of hope for the future. H. and I are making more lifestyle changes, with the support and guidance of our therapist. Obviously I hope that he figures his shit out and realizes how amazing his partner is (and truly, I have put up with a lot of crap), but I am taking care of myself and preparing to live my best life without him if he chooses otherwise.

    I hope that we all find our happiness, whether it is with ourselves or with our partners.

  68. It's great to hear that your partner loves you enough to following through with the therapy sessions. Best of luck to you.

  69. Hello… been trying to find a topic about my current situation, never thought I'd have this problem, and I'm sorry in advance if my English is not perfect, since it's my second language.
    I'm practically a "newlywed", my husband and I just got married 2 months ago, I'm 29,from Mexico and he is 30, from the U.S. Long story short, we met online, we visited each other a couple of times and sex was awesome, even our sexy video chats were, I love him with all my heart, and I don't see me leaving this marriage, we both experienced long (7 and 8 year) past relationships, he was even engaged once, he was really young, she cheated on him. In my case my ex was 10 years older than me and he ended up cheating on me and breaking up with me because of my weight gain(found out the next day he broke up with me that he had been cheating, also I lost all the weight that I'd gained after the breakup). Back to our situation nowadays, of course at the very beginning everything is awesome and sexual, I get that, but our sexual drive has decreased a lot, I have my personal issues that I'm still trying to work on (being rejected and cheated on in the past because of my appearance) , I know there's a lot of reasons why things aren't "ideal" right now, I talked to him about a certain topic a couple of weeks ago… boobs.
    He won't touch them, I finally had the courage to ask him why, since it's a very sensitive part of me, and after all the pressure I put on him he ended up telling me that he believes that it has something to do with the fact that his ex fiancee wouldn't let him touch them, she had breasts implants and she'd say they hurt, so he is kind of afraid of touching them now, told him that that's a very sensitive part of me and he shouldn't be afraid but he still won't touch them 🙁 . I think he is just not into breasts (ironic since I'm a 36 DD and I get lots of compliments on them hahahaha, but now seriously, I'm worried, I think he might have ED, his penis size is not desirable but we've made it work for us, I don't care about it since he gets me to orgasm other ways… but we always have a hard time getting "him" up, he gets frustrated and even throws his fist to the wall and I feel horrible for him because he really wants to try to have regular sex but most of the time we can't, I end up blowing him and making him cum by masturbating him, it takes me a while and I feel so frustrated because I love him and I want to please him but I don't feel sexy… I know I'm not "that bad looking" in past weeks a couple of men have respectfully approached us just to tell him "how beautiful his wife is" , boosts my ego and makes him feel so proud of having me by his side … but then, at home, I feel like I used to feel in my previous relationship, now I don't even feel like having sex , because I know how that will go. We've talked about it a couple of times, he's really sensitive about the topic and I don't want to make him feel bad, I don't know what to do, how to approach him, how to help him…us.

  70. I sure can relate all this, I've been in a sexless marriage almost 40 years. We basically live alone I have the house he spends his time in his work shop that has a apartment attached to it. He does his things and I do mine! Most people would say that's a horrible way to live and I agree, but we are in our early 70s and set in our ways.
    I ve had a hysterectomy and he has ED we have no interest in sex or intimacy or each other. It's been a tough life for me no kid's or love of any kind, I could move on but why bother. Moving on earlier was my problem and will never forgive myself for. I guess we as humans make mistakes and I made a big one

    • That’s about where I feel we will be headed. However I desire sex and intimacy. I feel so alone and if it were not for our children and now grandchild, I would have left. So I have traded a life I want to have the life I have because I can’t push him out of the life we started together. If that makes sense? I just have so much I wanted to do, if I fulfill that I leave him behind. That causes an entire issue with family, and I can’t put everyone thru that.

  71. Yes, yes, yes. Now just add that I have Borderline Personality Disorder to the mix and you have a pretty accurate picture of my life. I feel hopeless. Thoughts of ending this rejection and pain has tempted me repeatedly by taking my own life (yes, I am on meds…have been for years). But if you don't know anything about BPD and rejection then you should do some research. It's the one thing that can send us into a dark spiral downward. I just hope I can survive this.

  72. Thank you for posting this. You are not alone. For me it started a couple years into our marriage. He used to initiate but that fizzled away. He would acquiesce when I initiated, for a while. Then came the thousand yard stares and eye rolling when I would flirt with him. That's when the heartaches started for me. We went through a couple of years of things not going well due to his back spasms and fatigue. I just kept gaining weight. Nothing was going for us. Then he had a heart attack. After treatment and recovery his interest was back because he could perform without losing his breath. It was wonderful, for a while. Gradually he quit responding to flirtation (but no malice involved like before). I would try to initiate things but he would hold my hands tight to his chest so I couldn't touch him "THERE". I started feeling rejected and angry again. One day I thought to Google his meds. Turns out one of them lists loss of libido as a side effect. The side effects of the alternatives weren't any better.

    Frankly the last 4 years have been a long goodbye of sorts. The last year we were down to mutual masterbation about once a month. Now that has been failing him as well. He can take care of me but now he can't maintain an erection anymore. I really think we have already had our last sexual intimacy.

    Over the years I have gone through every thought listed in the comments and then some: Is there someone else? I've gotten too fat and disgustingly obese for him to be aroused by me. Why, why, WHY? … … … none of the above were the answer. It's just fate; the hand we were dealt.

    I wish there was more information on the Web about how to cope with the situation. All the advice is toward "putting new spice in your sex life" or "getting the fire back". It's all about fighting what is and constantly reaching backward for things that are gone. Frankly, I've done my reaching backwards and I'm done with it. I'm sick of it. I want to go forward even when it means accepting I'm never having sex again.

    I want doctors to put research into meds to reduce libido for those of us living with loved ones on life saving meds that have it as a side effect so neither of us suffer. Not just a side effect to some other medicine, actual medicine to help this situation. I don't want to coerce him into situations that make him frustrated because his body doesn't work the way it used to. If the situation were reversed we'd be calling that rape. I want to know how to cope with the now and the future; not cling to the past I can't have. Where is that advice?

    • "It's all about fighting what is and constantly reaching backward for things that are gone. "
      Exactly. There is truly no hope for us. My situation mirrors yours–down to the back spasms and heart attack. I yearn for sexual intimacy so bad it's crushing me. I'm crying. Then I'm angry. Then I'm depressed. Then I can carry on pretending for about another week. And the cycle repeats itself. As horrid an drastic as it sounds, loosing my own libido would be a huge blessing. What a relief to not fret about this aching and longing anymore.

  73. I have been with my husband for 7 years too. In the beginning our sex life was amazing too, and within the first year it stopped almost completely. I never knew why, and I tried everything in my power to make sex happen. If we ended up having sex once in two years it was a victory. A huge part of me had died along with our sex life, but I married him nonetheless because I just loved him so much. I felt like if we work on it, it will get better. I did everything I could think of to better myself for him; I was convinced the problem lied with me. However, I recently discovered my husband is actually a sex addict. For all this time I so adamantly believed I was the problem (reinforced also by him, that I should perhaps wear this or rather do that etc etc). And the problem was him all along. Just please, be very careful and honest with yourself in a sexless marriage. Make absolutely sure you know all the facts and factors in play. I didn't, made a choice on the very limited information I had, had no support, and I lost so much of myself because of it.

  74. My boyfriend and I are currently going through a situation similar to this. We are both in our late 20s and we got together during a particularly trying time in both of our lives. There was a very significant "before" and "after" with us as my bf is a recovering alcoholic. When he was still drinking, he was a little more affectionate and we would have sex fairly regularly. I lost my virginity to him (I waited until I was in love – just happened to be with an alcoholic) and that awakened my fairly healthy sex drive. He has since quit drinking and has led a sober lifestyle for quite some time now. However, a month after he stopped drinking, he made it clear we wouldn't be having sex for awhile. He was the victim of childhood sexual abuse and he states that for the first time he is truly dealing with it. We've had A LOT of conversations about it due to my feeling of constant rejection. He isn't affectionate in any physical way. We don't do anything remotely sexual anymore, even kissing is just a peck.

    I know that we signed up for a long healing process when he got sober. But I can relate to the pain it causes the other partner who just wants that physical intimacy. He grew up in a very dysfunctional home, so hugging, kissing, anything remotely affectionate is foreign to him as a sober man. He was extremely sexually active from the age of 15 on, and now he feels as though, at the age of thirty, he no longer has a sex drive.

    I love him madly and I can't imagine a life without him. He shows me love in other ways, but its incredibly difficult. Especially since my sexual awakening happened just 2 months prior to his new lack of sexual desire.

    I support him as best I can and I learned quickly that it must be his decision and choice before anything will ever happen physically between us again. We haven't had sex since he got sober, and you can imagine the questions that race through a girls' mind. It's a blow to self-esteem and has led to much self doubt about his love and commitment to me. But until he's ready, I must wait. And it's way more difficult than I ever imagined.

    I honestly just pray that God helps me accept a life of celibacy because I feel that he might never truly want to have physical intimacy in any way again.

  75. The details of my marriage and what OP here describes is so similiar it is actually scary. We were also together for 7 years, me late 20s, my husband early 30s, married for almost 2, and we also had a sexless marriage. We were both also on the verge of starting new careers too. And I was also madly in love with my husband despite us never having sex. But see, I discovered that he had a sex addiction. I knew nothing of it, as he had hidden it so well. My advice is that having no or very little sex is NOT normal, no matter how you try to slice it. It is not. It will never get better for you, in fact, it will always get worse. Have a look, do some investigation, because there MUST be some reason as to him not having any desire. If it's medical, it explains it. But I see too many similarities in my own story and yours to think that it is innocent. You deserve a good life filled with love (physical, emotional). Do not make the same mistake I did by trying to come to peace with a sexless marriage, trying to explain it away or trying to think it will get better. I repeat: IT WILL NOT GET BETTER. EVER. Get out of that situation. Much love to you.

  76. Married 50 yrs and now retired and what do I have? Nothing as far as i'm concerned, I do have a nice home which I never helped pick out, depression, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, ulcers and a very lonely and depressed wife and a sexless marriage. This SUCKS! I worked hard and super long hours 60-80 hours a week including the weekends. I had no free time to even be alone for a few minutes. When i did head for home sometimes I would fall asleep before even getting out of the parking lot. I could have gotten a different job but jobs were hard to come by at the time. Its to late to feel sorry about anything its all in the past. Being retired isn't any great shakes, I don't want to do anything, talk to anyone, or touch me.

  77. Sorry to hear of your unhappiness. I'm 68, live alone (divorced since 2000) and I am certainly happier now than when I was married. Yes, I get very lonely at times and envy those who are happily married, but i'd rather be single than endure an unhappy marriage. Been there! I learned to ride a motorcycle 10 years ago and that is now my passion. And I love to read and watch news programs. I try to keep busy and count my blessings. I'm still alive and many at my age are dead! I live for my son…and that's what really keeps me going. Please find something in life that brings you joy and get away from your wife, you don't owe her anything. But you do owe yourself happiness. Seek it! Christine

  78. Wow. Just wow. My husband of 36 years has rejected ALL of my initiating sex our entire lives. He is 63 I just turned 57. My husband suffers from anxiety and depression and has always had a lower sex drive than me. We have raised two children with both of us working, me as the wife and mother working 40 full time night shift and part time work while our kids were in school and the rest of the time was spent caring for our kids and my aging grandmother. This was difficult for all of us, but my husband could have carried more of the burden to help. Instead, he became introverted and blamed me for neglecting him. Money has always been an issue for us, but I am the one ALWAYS picking up the slack.
    This has been very hard on me and when I asked him he summed it up like this: “Sex to men is physical . Sex to women is emotional, that’s why it bothers you more than me to go without it.” Okay, I still didn’t understand. I am told it is a two way street and I know what turns him on. When I try that, I am rejected and told that it was a turn off. Dealt with a one year of no sex when he finally saw a doctor and had a minor problem addressed. We have had basically a 1-2 times a year sex life but we held hands, kissed and cuddled all the time. I just always thought something was wrong with ME. Why did he not want me.
    I had a hysterectomy 9 years ago and I think that also had an effect on him. On me it actually increased my sex drive as now the possibility of pregnancy was gone.
    Money has still not changed. I received a fair inheritance and it was spent in 4 years as my husband lost his job and decided to semi retire, officially retiring two years ago. So he is now home while I babysit our granddaughter and still work 3 days a week. So I am always busy and he sits around the house. He is upset when I am not home, yet when I am he ignores me. I have to work to compensate for his retirement as it has put us in a financial bind….yet he spends money like crazy.
    We took a big road trip this year and the entire trip was to be a camping experience. He backed out of that, opting for hotels. I was upset until the last few days as He actually ended up having sex 4 times on this 10 day trip.
    But we have not had sex since. When I bring it up he is angry and then doesn’t want to talk. I bring up retirement and his sitting around may be causing depression. So I have now been told I am mean and that we have grown apart. This was not what I expected to hear and I was crushed. I felt all my love for him everything that kept me with him…leave my heart. I stopped wanting to be here with him. When I conveyed this his response was not positive toward our relationship, but rather “I am not giving up, what am I suppose to do? Live in someone’s basement?” So glad to know his priority is where he will live, not how do we fix our relationship.
    Needless to say there has been zero discussion, zero effort on the relationship. I am kissed on the head or cheek, but our usual cudlyness is non existant. I can’t bare it, due to his actions and words, I now feel my whole marriage was together only because I did everything. I waited on him. I made sure we had enough money to pay bills and afford his hobbies. I waited for him to change, to”feel better”. And now I feel that I gave up so much of what I wanted in life trying to love him, support him, and have patience while he never considered me or my feelings once.
    So a sexless marriage in my experience, means a loveless marriage. Don’t wait until life is half over to realize this.

  79. I don't have any expectations in our marriage! married 51 years and the last 40 years have been loveless and sexless. I didn't know before our marriage that he was heartless, sexless and loveless wanted no kids. I think he put up with me for the first 10 years, I wasn't the perfect wife but he never said anything. But one day he said that he never really was in love with me, he liked me as a friend only. Also he stated that he couldn't get an erection any more not even morning wood. His doctor said it was nerves now sex wasn't great any way but something. He seemed really happy to be able to not have sex again, this upset me horribly. Also he said if I wanted to leave I could, he had no problem with that. Back then there were no little blue pills! He told me he wasn't interested in sex or intimacy ever again and I was to leave him alone and say nothing. He changed his whole life moved his job to the midnight shift, worked all weekends, holidays and all his vacation and moved to our basement that way he wasn't around me. He turned his job into his wife and lover and only friend. I should have left when he offered but I didn't, but I learned to love myself, do my own thing. I don't have any interest in men any more, I can't even talk to them any more. He scared me but its also my fault for not leaving. What a stupid mistake I made!

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