Unrequited passion

He is in every other way a great husband but he refuses to have sex with me.

Cary Tennis
June 8, 2004 11:05PM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

My husband and I married more than 20 years ago when we were 19, just as we were starting college. We've been able to build a good life together, with two wonderful boys and good careers. Here's the thing: he doesn't want to have sex with me at all and he refuses to see this as a problem.


He was never the most ardent of lovers, at least after the first year or so of marriage, but in the last 10 years, I've been the only one to initiate, the only one who seems to desire a sex life. I've tried confronting him about our lack of a sex life, trying to understand him, very directly asking for what I need, asking him to get a checkup to rule out any physical problem, buying books and asking him to read them. No dice. He explains his lack of interest as the result of work pressures and other life stresses and advises patience. The continued rejection became so painful that I eventually gave up. It's now been nine months since we had sex. In the last two years, we've had sex maybe four times.

I am a passionate person. I need to be touched, sometimes so much so I can barely stand to be alive. This is really painful and I'm really angry. I don't know what it's like to feel attractive to a man anymore, though I look in the mirror and I see a pretty woman. I'm only 45, but I feel old and thrown away. I don't think I even know what it's like to be wanted, desired, by a man and I'm afraid I'll die without ever really exploring my sexual self.

Here's the weird part: As long as I don't ask for sex, my husband is the nicest guy in the world. He's patient, calls me "honey" and acts as though nothing whatever is wrong. I feel like I'm going crazy.


We have a long history together, tough times, sweet times. We have the children. He's a great dad and they love him enormously. I feel trapped by the love I still have for him, and yet I feel as though I'm barely living. I've suggested counseling, but he says he just wants me to be patient, that it will all work out eventually. I want to leave and I'm afraid to. Help.

Stuck in Neutral

Dear Stuck,


If he won't agree to counseling and he refuses to acknowledge the problem, maybe he is the one who is stuck. Maybe he needs to be forcibly dislodged.

If I were you, I would get some counseling myself, regardless of what he thinks about it. A counselor could help you understand your options. It might be that you need to present him with some stark choices: Either he acknowledges your pain and his role in it, or you leave.


He's got to see that he's causing you real pain. If he can't see that, then you owe it to yourself to try to find a happier life.

How would he acknowledge your pain? By agreeing to go to counseling, or by at least agreeing to "work on it" and stop asking you to just have patience. If he works on it himself and things don't improve, then I think he would have to go to counseling with you. If he refused, then, again, I think you would have gone over the options with your own counselor and you would have to make the difficult decision to move on.

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Cary Tennis

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