Dear Life Matters,
I feel a lot of anxiety and a bit of embarrassment to write to you about this. It is hard for me, it feels terribly upsetting and I am not one to wear my heart on my sleeves. Thank you for treating my identity with utmost confidentiality.
My problem is that I am in a long-term marriage with a number of children. We are a close family and love each other and this is all great. No family problems, but, and a big but here, my spouse and I rarely have sex anymore.
It was great in the beginning; we couldn’t get enough of each other. But as time wore on it became quieter and quieter and less and less. I know that sex tends to lessen in long-term relationships, but when it gets to zero, and for years now, I do not think it is natural and I am most unhappy about it.
I have not strayed, but I am starting to have fantasies, but honestly I only want to be with my wife. She is everything to me, but I am feeling frustrated, lonely and I feel hurt inside. Somehow it seems to me that if she loved me she would want to make love with me. If I try to discuss this with her she either changes the subject or picks a fight with me.
I think you will probably tell me to go to marriage counseling, but I have tried that and so far she says she won’t go. She says that I am overly sensitive, that I make too big a deal of sex and, simply put, in her eyes we don’t have a problem.
The only thing I know for sure is that this is not working for me. I feel very rejected. I think, in the end, it could tear us apart.
Hurt, hurt and hurt!
I can feel your pain! This is a very serious problem and your wife sounds like she is being very defensive.
Sexual connection with one’s partner is a natural and necessary part of life and of a relationship. You are very normal in your feelings and it is really interesting that she is so defensive. It begs the question, what is she defending?
It is very nice that you have a great family relationship and are close with your children. This is truly important and something you hope to have forever, but a divorce could change all that.
A marriage of no love making, year after year, is not normal or healthy.
Everyone can site an example of someone they know who is married forever and hasn’t had sex in decades, but that is not the norm and we have no way of knowing what they are really feeling inside. Conversely, there are many couples married for years who are very active sexually.
It really comes down to what works for both of you. In all relationships there must be room for two. Your needs are as important as hers and it is important that she realize this. It is not that one is right and the other is wrong. It just is a matter of caring about and being empathic to your partner’s needs and desires. From the way you describe this, there has only been room for one and it’s her!
This simply is not healthy and it definitely does not make for a good relationship. Your feelings are very understandable, but now the trick is to get her to understand them and to try to figure out what is going on with her that has made her so unavailable to you.
I am wondering about her age or her personal history. Is she at an age where she is no longer feeling good about herself and her body? Maybe she has no sex drive because of low or lost hormones.
Does she have a history of sexual abuse? I have worked with couples married for years where sex has gone by the wayside because the wife was really never into it because of an abuse history. Do you tell her she is attractive to you or do you just complain about not having sex?
Finally, underneath sex problems, often there are unresolved resentments.
You really do need to seek marital therapy and preferably with someone who is experienced, if not certified, in sex therapy. Tell your partner how important this is to you. You need to get through to her and “not wearing your heart on your sleeve” may be working against you at this point. She needs to know how deeply hurt and rejected you feel and how much you want to connect with her.
If she still won’t go, go without her and get some resolution for yourself. Often one partner going ends up helping both and it is not unusual for the other to follow.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or e-mail your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let me help you with your life matters, because it does!