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

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?

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

  1. 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 ;).

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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???

  9. 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.

  10. 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?”

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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. ♥

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

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