The Natural Consequences of a Sexless Marriage

I’ve had a lot of emails in the last week that are all essentially asking the same question with minor variations. It goes something like this;
“I’ve been married for [years] and for the last [awfully long time] I’ve had a problem with my [husband or wife] and the [huge intolerable relationship breaking problem] and they refuse to do anything about it. I’ve tried [all manner of things] to try and get them to change [the huge intolerable relationship breaking problem] but they still refuse to do anything about it. How do I fix this?”
Usually the huge intolerable relationship breaking problem that people write to me about is a lack of sex. I’m getting emails from both men and women as many as five years into a sexless marriage and they are heartbreaking to read. My view point on sexless marriages is that this is just as serious as having a full blown affair in terms of its insult to the partner wanting sex but not getting it. I’ve had two recent emails where women have said it’s to the point where they just want to hear that their husband is gay because that would explain things better and soften the blow to their ego.
Marriage is at its heart a sexual relationship. Without the sex it’s just a legal friendship, which is to say a needlessly complicated way of having a friend. The basic agreement of being married is to meet each others sexual needs and not to run about getting them met anywhere else. Both affairs and no sex marriages break that agreement.
The main difference between discovering that your partner is having an affair and the sex just being turned off on you is how the injured party reacts. If you discover you’re being cheated on the shit typically hits the fan, there’s yelling and shouting, crying, threats, angry squealing of tires in the driveway as people “take space”. Threats of divorce and other drama. It all comes to a head very quickly. But most times when a spouse cuts the other off sexually, the other spouse just takes it quietly and suffers, save for the pleading for sex or requests to visit a doctor to see if anything medical is going on. Then they wait and hope that magically the sex returns, and when it doesn’t years can pass by.
I think that when you are cut off from sex by your spouse, the marriage is in critical condition as one spouse has started actively working against the marriage. (You DO need to rule out medical issues first asap.)
There are only three possible outcomes to the sexless marriage story. First option is that the ignored spouse just continues on and suffers for the rest of the marriage. This is the default ending that most people live though for a while. The second option is that the spouse leaves the marriage seeking new love. The third is that the spouse stays in the marriage, but pursues other relationships for sex.
I don’t advance any of these options as being superior to the other, I’m just saying that these are the natural consequences of one spouse cutting the other off sexually.
Now you may feel like you’ve been banging you head against the wall for months or years in asking for them to change. Pleading, begging, asking, telling them how intolerable the intolerable problem is. The trouble is that all these are just words. Just words. The problem is that by sticking around and staying totally engaged with your partner by focusing on the problem, your actions and behavior are making it clear that the problem is in fact NOT intolerable… you’re sticking around and tolerating it. The louder you squeal about the issue the deeper commitment to option one (sticking around and suffering) you make to your partner.
The solution is to make it clear by your actions that the problem is in fact intolerable, and that while you don’t know whether you will make a move towards option two or three, option one just isn’t going to happen anymore. This is where you just stop pursuing the dead end of sex with your partner and start preparing yourself to pursue things with other people in general. So you work out, upgrade the clothes a little, open up a dating profile, go out a little… just “out”, smile, be happy, friendly, carefree, text some new friends, socialize… play.
The goal is to stop chasing and pursuing your partner, and generally make it clear by your actions that you are no longer held emotional hostage by them and you will be capable of making a movement towards a life without them, and that you genuinely have the will to do so. Once you have that attitude down, there is a reasonable chance that your partner will have a significant change in their level of interest in you. You don’t actually have to cheat on them, just make it clear you have the potential to move on without them. This sounds like a dangerous anti-marriage ploy, but I figure after a marriage has been sexually dead for no good reason for a year or more, it’s essentially over and you’re justified in taking such bold steps.
So maybe they respond to you, maybe they won’t. I can’t promise that they will. Either way though you win in that they either respond to you and you have a proper marriage, or they don’t and you’re positioned to move on and find new love with someone else. This is a deeply pragmatic perspective, but there we go.
Unless of course when push comes to shove, when whatever good in the relationship outweighs the bad, the lack of sex and love your partner has for you is ultimately… tolerable, you will stay locked in option one.
If you have nothing to lose, try it.

Comments

  1. haleyshalo says:

    Great post, Athol.

  2. chocdrop says:

    Great post.

    Your statement below:
    I've had two recent emails where women have said it's to the point where they just want to hear that their husband is gay because that would explain things better and soften the blow to their ego.

    I can say that is not what I wanted to hear but it is what I eventually found out–whether he admits it or not. (when you are soliciting males for sex then you are GAY, and finding all his gay porn–no straight porn)
    I just wanted to know what the hell was going on, or not going on in our relationship. He wouldn't go to the doctor, he wouldn't go to marriage counseling, and he wouldn't remember things (like saying I should initiate more, and I do over 6 times in a row and he says NO every time) He doesn't even remember me being on top of him one of those times he said no.

    I can say that it was a relief to find out and after some STD testing I knew it was over. I don't care that he is GAY what I care about is he destroyed the relationship with the LIES. I told him I knew everything and he still denied it.

    When only one of you is trying to work on the marriage or relationship it can't go very far. It took me a while to get that in my head.

  3. lanabunz says:

    I love your blog!

  4. Athol Kay says:

    @ Chocdrop – how sad that you've had to live through all that. I hope you're doing well now.

    Thanks Haley and Lana

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think one film, "American Beauty", is essentially about what you prescribe as the potential solution.

  6. Love the "American Beauty" reference.

    Athol, after ruling out the direct causes (e.g., medical issues, one spouse is gay, etc.) I suspect a lot of sexlessness in marriage is a passive-aggressive act. Instead of overtly complaining or asserting their needs (an assertive act) the acting spouse decides to deny or become disinterested in the needs of his/her partner (a passive act). The thinking goes… "If I can't get my own needs met, my spouse sure as heck won't get his/her (sexual) needs met either". And as this is all accomplished through omitted (not committed) behavior, it gives the sexually-denying spouse supposedly guilt-free, plausible deniability.

    In the face of all this, yours is good advice, Athol. Once you "stop chasing and pursuing your partner" in order to make him/her change or become more communicative, you invoke a sort of emotional judo move. Once you agree to no longer be held emotionally hostage to their (lack of proper) spousal behavior, you, in effect, suck the oxygen from their passive-aggressive fire. Mind you, this attitude needs to come without malice; your decision to not participate needs to be made without guile. After so doing, you no longer offer the sexually denying spouse anything to parry against. Their weak emotional tool no longer gets them any leverage.

    In response, the sexually-denying spouse will either have to adopt a more adult communication style or else tip their hand completely and become even more overtly childish. Meanwhile, you, the sexually-denied spouse, are now in a better spot either way. Most importantly you've become a more attractive person/spouse yourself. You've also indirectly encouraged a more adult-level communication style on the part of your spouse (and possibly a return to sex!)

    And if that's all you do, fine. But for the graduate-level course…

    In a lot of cases, if the sexually-denied spouse digs deep, s/he likely knows or could correctly guess what that original unmet needs are on the part of the passive-aggressive spouse (i.e., the unmet needs that triggered the sexual denial in the first place). In this manner, the sexually-denied spouse shares some guilt in the whole relationship fiasco. But for many, that's too painful or too much work to acknowledge. Either they too don't want to acknowledge their spouse's needs, they fear they can't fill those needs, or those needs conflict with their own. It's easiest to lay the entire blame on the more immature, least communicative spouse. But in order to become truly emotionally free, one first needs to acknowledge one's own guilt and participation in the process (i.e., answer what it is you yourself are failing to do). After one confronts this inside themselves, the strength and ability to overcome the power of the passive-aggressive (sexual denying) acts on the part of one's partner, will follow much more naturally. You'll become emotionally free to no longer tussle with them over it.

  7. Athol Kay says:

    I agree the actions I suggest have to be made without guile or malice. In a real sense it's just "giving up" and basically saying "ok sorry don't know where this all went wrong, but obviously you're through with me and I can't change that and I can't keep fighting to change that, so I'll be moving on".

    It probably is a passive-aggressive act over some hurt, but by the same token they are actively seeking to scorched earth the entire relationship because of it.

    Someone has to to break the emotional grdilock.

  8. Wifelydesires says:

    "Marriage is at its heart a sexual relationship. Without the sex it's just a legal friendship, which is to say a needlessly complicated way of having a friend" – great blog, thanks for making this point so clearly!

    I'm in one of these legal friendships currently-I'm the wife.I've decided to start blogging about it now, as a woman who is an informed, sensitive, attractive partner in the painful situation. I relate to the 3 options you outlined and I don't really condone or condemn any of these. I don't know the answer yet!

  9. Athol Kay says:

    @ Wifelydesires – I'm honored. Stay in touch. 80% of what I talk about here is going to work for women just as well for men.

  10. Bhetti says:

    Just because I find that the idea is present in Islamic nations interesting:
    [Islam] prohibits a man to be so angry with his wife as to discontinue sexual relations with her for a period which she cannot bear. If this abandonment of sexual relations is accompanied by an oath on his part, he is given a limit of four months in which to calm down and revert to her. If he comes to his senses and resumes sexual relations before the expiration of the four months, it is possible that Allah may forgive him for his excess and open the door of repentance to him; however, he must still do the penance prescribed for a broken oath. If, on the other hand, this period expires and he has not returned to her, his wife is divorced from him as a just punishment for his neglect of her rights.

    Anyway, yes, you make the effort to be attractive (getting fit, initiating) and you make the effort to be open about whatever problems there are: either between you two or they have that might be causing their lack of desire. After that, what more can you do, really?

    I think a better option than cheating is giving them the signal that you're going to move on. Some people can't accept that they have to end the relationship because they do in fact still love their partners, so they cheat.

  11. Athol Kay says:

    I think even a month of no sex needs to be seriously discussed, as in, "no seriously WTF is going on here?"

  12. steyraug96@yahoo.com says:

    Interesting topic. I've ended up here as the man in the relationship (not married), who feels he has been cheated, insulted, and burdened far too long with a woman who, as far as I can tell, is interested in my wallet and my sex, and not much else.
    The responses have been good, I especially liked MNL's Passive-Aggressive analysis.
    Situation is, I've been the passive and the aggressive, and she is just domineering. Very good at spending my paycheck, not too good at mothering or respecting anyone or anything but herself. After 4 years of taking care of her, paying the legal bills to get her daughter back in a custody dispute, taking jobs that were increasingly difficult (and sometimes beyond my skill levels) – which led to being fired, and finished my credit rating -> bankruptcy and foreclosure…
    Well, at what point does her disrespect and controlling behavior become an aggressive act on its own? My aggression in response would break her physically – she weighs more, I am stronger and know more, and been around long enough that "chivalry" isn't in my vocabulary any more. (Mostly because chivalry requires respect from the other party, and I don't think she does.)
    Her idea of foreplay would get a married man imprisoned. Her idea of femininity makes gay men look effeminate – and I mean leather men, not swishes. I commute to work; she hasn't worked a real job in four years now. A few temp positions or seasonal employment at a local amusement park does NOT equal my software testing job, no matter what she wants to think. Earning a wonderful salary of over $100K, and we can't keep our account in the black? She has a "business" doing scrapbooking and wedding invitations; so far, it hasn't paid for the show outlay (cost of show + cost of table + cost of gas + cost of cashbox). Then there's the outlay of materials – all financed on my dime. The use of one room in the house for her "business" that still hasn't sold anything, while I had to put my gym in the basement, and can't work out without showing her every move and explaining what's going on… She weighs 240, I weigh 220, and I'm fat – with no time to work out, mind. That time has been used for laying floors, installing doors, being a consultant for her card business (inherited my artist mother's eye for colors and ideas for classical form of art), being tech support, taking care of the animals, fixing whatever needs fixing in the house – like working on live circuits, demolition of the kitchen, rebuilding the kitchen, etc. She can be upset with anyone for anything, I shouldn’t even frown.
    We can't cut our expenses (Satellite TV with FiOS phone and internet) or consolidate. I had to basically get permission to get my mother something for Mother's day and her birthday (may 8 is her B-day). I haven't seen my family in over a year, haven't talked to them in about 6 months, trying to cater to her insecurities.
    From my perspective, there is no relationship present. Any time I want to broach the subject of finishing things officially, there's another issue – kid needs a medical appointment, car is in need of repairs, dog is sick, she's going blind. (These are real incidents, BTW – she IS going blind, the dog has been sick, the kid is failing out of frosh year HS, car has needed a Trans rebuild, new tires, brakes, etc.)
    (continued.)

  13. steyraug96@yahoo.com says:

    But still – either she can suck it up and go back to school and learn a skill to get a job, or she can't – or WON'T. I've given up getting my MBA, kept the car running bare steel on the brakes for a year, put off tires until they were almost racing slicks, we got the mortgage refi'd, and it's HER kid, not MY/OUR kid. But her name is on the mortgage, so I can't throw her out. She couldn't keep the condo clean (2 BR/2Ba), she needed a cleaning lady. She blamed the depression. Can't handle the laundry, can't handle the cooking, can't handle the cleaning, can't handle the dogs, and can't be "idle". WTF she does all day besides watch TV is anyone's guess, but it seems to involve napping and lots of phone calls…

    So at what point is it reasonable to say there's no mutual respect, no actual relationship, and I refuse to have sex with someone I cannot respect, enjoy the company of, or even TOLERATE because of her arrogant, aggressive attitude?

    As to the gay part – I think she's a butch lesbian and just doesn't know it.

  14. hambydammit says:

    Athol, I think this strategy is part of the broader strategy that we internet types have begun to call "inner game." It works for both men and women in all kinds of relationships, not just sexual. The basic idea is that you believe and act upon the knowledge that you are a prize worth winning.

    You're absolutely right that marriage is first and foremost a sexual contract. We can dicker over the history of marriage and whether or not it has been primarily about reproduction, but in today's world, the main thing that separates very close friendships and "relationships/marriage" is sex.

    You know I'm not especially fond of marriage from a legal perspective, but I'm all for long term committed monogamy. The trick to it, though, is realizing that "monogamy" is the object that all the other words are modifying. If there's no sex, there's no monogamy.

  15. Athol Kay says:

    @ steyraug96@yahoo.com – I don't often reach for the divorce option, but assuming you're painting an accurate picture, it seems obvious in this case.

    @ Hambydammit – "If there's no sex, there's no monogamy" ooooooh that's a good line, I'm gonna have to remember that one.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I got divorced over this issue. My wife started this early in our marriage. I think her plan was to drive me crazy until I "cheated" and then get everyone's sympathy as she took me to the cleaners.

    I stopped trusting her as soon as she cut off sex & filed for divorce after a year. This technique is a great way for a cold digger to steal one's money and still come off as a sympathetic "victim". I didn't fall for it but I'm still going to lose a fortune in the divorce. Gotta love our sick legal system.

  17. I clicked back here by accident and found I'd already commented… And unfortunately was one of those "TMI" comments, even though it's all true.
    But the response, stating divorce right off? THAT was interesting.

    I am becoming more extreme in my sexual wants (IE, there's more to it than "breathing, breasts, vagina"), and I'm probably now beyond Vanilla – IE, no interest in those who present as males, period, but some gray areas where the feminine (not flamboyant gay, but FEMININE) is more and mroe attractive…
    Though that could be that American women don't value their femininity, whereas transgendered and transsexuals have to actually WORK to seem feminine. Hard to tell, it's a correlation/causation question. (Comparison would be femdom in relation to feminization: they are presented together, even if the viewer has no interest in being dominated – by man, woman, or beast is irrelevant.)

    So, weirdness aside…
    Perhaps this will conect a few more dots:
    http://minarchyblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/are-you-being-abused-or-are-you-vying-with-a-man-for-dominance/

    Basic point is, how are you interacting with the man? Are you presenting yourself as a competitor, and vying with him for dominance? 'Cause if you do, he ceases to see you as someone to protect and work with, and starts to see you as, "One of the Guys," in that broad, nebulous sense – IE, a competitor, someone who may try to dominate him.

    That would be my woman. She's the demanding one in sex, non-responsive when I make requests, irrational, etc – as per above. And I don't know if I mentioned I'm no peach, but – I DID enter the relationship being a Type-B personality, a computer geek, VERY interested in dating, sexual play, just regular physical play…
    Can't get much more Beta-Provider than a software tester who's willing to take on the responsibility of raising someone else's child.

    So there's a warning there – demand the man step up and become more than what he was, become more aggressive, more dominating, more Alpha – and then try to test him all day, every day, and at the same time make the female demands and use the female manipulations – and when that man demands you in turn step up and do the female thing, you balk at it – Well, you raised his SMV, and refused to raise your own, of COURSE he's going to go looking. Especially if you're going to lower your desirability, not even SMV, just your likability overall, by making home just another battlefield… You'll be lucky if he doesn't become Sodini one day.
    -SteyrAug

  18. As an update – paycheck is this friday, I think I'll under-pay the mortgage and talk to a lawyer. The mortgage has both our names on it, but the paychecks have been mine (almost) exclusively, and the mortgage funds HAVE been exclusively mine. Worst case is horrible, as the account was joint – some imbecile judge might decide the law means that I'm supposed to pay for her eternally.
    Now would be a good time for a short sale or even a strategic default, though – mortgage is for more than the house is worth, relationship isn't worth salvaging, and the wear and tear on ym mind and body may cost me the current job… Which wouldn't be too bad, actually. When a man's willing to think in THAT frame of reference? You have no control over him. You probably never did, either – per Christ's comment to Pilate, "You have what power my Father has given you." (Paraphrased; point being, the power came from God, and can be just as easily taken away. A man can do the same; Push a man who is not looking for a fight, and he will back up. When his back hits the wall from repeated pushes, he may come out swinging, and he might know a thing or two about fighting. First "swing" might be a kick, throw, or joint-lock, and it's all over but the screaming.)

    so my task list becomes, talk to lawyer, find out about the real estate laws in NJ, find out about short sales, "arrange" the sale, walk away, ignore the screaming. Try to salvage the job. Continue to increase abilities so as to become more valuable; find alternate income streams when possible; find better/more palatable job. It's also a good time for a career change, as I'll be harder to track should her revenge fantasies turn out to be more than fantasies. Shows like "snapped" are good at telling her what NOT to do…

    -Steyaur96 -at- Yahooo.com

  19. Athol Kay says:

    I don't advise underpaying the mortgage, that will create an additional problem of damaging your credit. Short sales are also very difficult to get done.

    You first step would be to talk to a divorce attorney.

  20. Not married, NJ doesn't have common law marriage.
    Credit already in the crapper due to bankruptcy taking care of her issues. She'll find a way to spend any cent that comes in, I swear.

    Example: A friend of hers came down two weeks back, introduced her to Geocaching. It's basically little boxes of cr@p out in the wilds, idea being you go see a place you'd never go to, and clean up the wilds along the way.

    so, we have some fun, not too bad. Monday, without even ASKING, she jumps on ebay and buys a GPS for $75. Not cheap. Yet she figures _I_ am the one spending the money. Let's see, we get our food from Schwann's, get satelite TV, have $500/mo commuting fees, plus wear & tear on the car/bike… And i'm the one earning. I told her when we started off of my oddities (that resulted in a 4-hour diatribe against her ex-, fueled by alcohol – in my car, she didn't want me to go up to her apartment. Needless to say, my wants and needs don't get discussed much.)

    I don't comprehend how she can argue that she's made my interests primary, when her actions speak to the opposite intent: to keep me bringing in money and support, and unable to go anywhere else.

    Although, it might be useful to look into a marriage scam to force the sale of the house in the long run. :-P

  21. Athol Kay says:

    So talk to a real estate lawyer. You're basically looking to avoid buying out her half of the house.

    Is she on the deed or just the mortgage?

  22. She's on both.
    My mistake.

  23. Oh, and I'm fine buying otu her half of the house, I could easily make it a rental property. 4 BR/2Ba, I could cover the mortgage at least, and cut like $400 off commuting by renting near work. Not to mention 2+ hours/day, and be happy to come home.

    I never thought it would be possible to HATE coming home.

  24. Athol Kay says:

    Um wow… that's bad.

  25. I was in a marriage for 15 years where after the first year, my ex told me he wasn't into sex. There ARE the very rarely asexual cases. I took the ego blow for years and years, thinking it was me, but I finally up and left. I'm happy because I made that choice. We're actually GREAT friends and co-parent our children well. No conflict. I think in my case, it was a fluke that I (an extremely sexual person) ended up with him (an extremely asexual person). I forgave him for the 2 years (1 dating, 1 married) where he went along with me to keep me happy and basically "lied" about the sexual desire part. Life goes on.

  26. Athol Kay says:

    Thanks for the comment LL. It's just sad that it went on for so long for you.

  27. It is sad, but I thought it was me and if I could do enough to fix it, things would turn around. Who believes a 19 or 20 year old man has no interest in sex? After we had kids (my children are 6 years apart with no birth control so that tells you right there how often we had sex), calling it quits was pretty damn hard. How do you explain to friends and family that your seemingly awesome marriage comes down to "if I wanted to live with my best friend, I'd be living with her raising our kids together, not hoping to have sex more often than on holidays with my husband?" Do you know how long the interval between Christmas and Mother's Day seems to last when you're getting rejected over and over again?

  28. Athol Kay says:

    It's not exactly the same LL, but Jennifer and I spent three years of being engaged to each other in separate countries. Just gnawing endless agony.

    I couldn't imagine the pain if she just lay there next to me and I couldn't have her more than a few times a year.

    Hopefully, others find this blog and find a way out too.

  29. Anonymous says:

    "Mind you, this attitude needs to come without malice; your decision to not participate needs to be made without guile. After so doing, you no longer offer the sexually denying spouse anything to parry against. Their weak emotional tool no longer gets them any leverage.

    In response, the sexually-denying spouse will either have to adopt a more adult communication style or else tip their hand completely and become even more overtly childish. Meanwhile, you, the sexually-denied spouse, are now in a better spot either way. Most importantly you've become a more attractive person/spouse yourself. You've also indirectly encouraged a more adult-level communication style on the part of your spouse (and possibly a return to sex!)

    And if that's all you do, fine. But for the graduate-level course…

    In a lot of cases, if the sexually-denied spouse digs deep, s/he likely knows or could correctly guess what that original unmet needs are on the part of the passive-aggressive spouse (i.e., the unmet needs that triggered the sexual denial in the first place). In this manner, the sexually-denied spouse shares some guilt in the whole relationship fiasco. But for many, that's too painful or too much work to acknowledge. Either they too don't want to acknowledge their spouse's needs, they fear they can't fill those needs, or those needs conflict with their own. It's easiest to lay the entire blame on the more immature, least communicative spouse. But in order to become truly emotionally free, one first needs to acknowledge one's own guilt and participation in the process (i.e., answer what it is you yourself are failing to do). After one confronts this inside themselves, the strength and ability to overcome the power of the passive-aggressive (sexual denying) acts on the part of one's partner, will follow much more naturally. You'll become emotionally free to no longer tussle with them over it"

    This is much better advice, I think, in leaving out the suggestion to "play" around and open a dating profile while still married. You said the latter needs to be done without guile, but many of your suggestions to flirt or ACT like you're moving on have just that. Yes, DO let them know the marriage is dead/dying and you won't be living in a shroud. But don't flirt with others or advertise yourself until AFTER you're divorced, especially if you're secretly hoping they'll come around, basically stalking off and peeking over your shoulder at them while you flirt up someone else; that's not fair to anyone. Let them know the marriage is in trouble and you're not lying low, and if there are NO other options, bring up divorce, but don't play around or connive to flirt with others to get their attention.

    Jennifer 6

  30. I like this post. I will confirm that the person being denied sex must not let the refuser think everything is just fine. Don't let her (or him) go on her merry little way. My husband never let up on me about not having enough sex. He made me VERY uncomfortable about it. Enough so that I wanted to do something about it to stop being made so uncomfortable. I did do something about it. I started having sex with him, as much as he wanted! I talk about it in my blog. http://sexandtheldswoman.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/why-is-my-husband-always-always-asking-for-sex-sex-and-more-sex/

    Good blog!

  31. Anonymous says:

    my husband and I have been sexless for 45 years. Our wedding night was the first, last, only sex we ever had. Also that was the last time he slept with me. He said he hated sex, disgusting, no excitement, and not worth the energy put forth. He told me there is no sex or discussion about it. All these years he has eaten and slept down in the basement plus hes worked 40 plus years on he midnight shift. I don't even know what sex is all about I've only had sex once. I still consider myself a virgin. I do know I've been lonely, confused and angry on the way I've been treated. Now I'm in my 60s now and I really don't care anymore.

  32. Being in a sexless marriage for over 10 years now and its just terrible.

    Sexless, I consider really classifies the relationship as a friendship.

    As its basically a friendship, I have stopped wearing my wedding ring, I give my kids a really big hug when I come home and just say hi to her, we don’t kiss, cuddle, hold hands, I don’t call her during the day, I refer to her by her name and not as my wife, I don’t tell her how beautiful she is…. its just sad.

    I chased and nagged for too long. Looking back at myself now I am really disappointed in myself. Once the kids are older, I am out of there.

  33. While searching for answer i came upon this blog, man! its like you’re describing my marriage, so i don’t need to go into details.
    Fred especially your comment, that’s exactly what i’m thinking and what i’m going to do once the kids are gone, if not before. Just tired of feeling guilty for wanting to be with her. The constant broken promises of change. i’m just tired mentally, physically, emotionally.

  34. I was sent here by an acquaintance, and found the post very interesting, mostly because I’m a “sex withholder”.

    A little background on me: I’m a fairly attractive guy, 40, in pretty good shape. I’ve had a tough go financially, in the sense that I can not seem to work at a company that doesn’t go out of business after a few years- this has made money tight comparatively with friends of mine who are a similar age, but I manage my finances pretty well. Women seem to like me, I’m a decent dancer and kinky when I used to date.

    So, I’ve been living with my girlfriend for about 3 years now, and the sex is almost completely gone. I say that in a passive way, but let me elaborate a bit. When we started dating, we saw each other every weekend, and had sex 1-2 times, frequently doing novel activities. She is very cute, most guys would love to get with her. Once we moved in… my desire plummeted.

    I got my testosterone tested a few months ago – they said it was fine. I definitely look at porn, but stopped myself from masturbating to see if things changed. They did not.

    When, in the article you express withholding sex as an active thing, I think that is helpful for a lot of people who in our sex-negative culture get blamed for seeking satisfaction elsewhere. In my case though, it’s not an act of emotional hostility. I like her, we share values – I wish I desired her. This Valentine’s day I made myself go through the motions, and see seemed happy – for me, it was ok. I had an orgasm, but my libido is still dead.

    Obviously, this conflicts with my desire to be alive – a guy that feels passion at an age he can still physically enjoy it. My interest in this topic has me paying special attention to any time I hear friends talk about similar subjects. I have a friend who was dating a very attractive female friend of my girlfriend’s – he is about 5 years older than me. They dated for about a year and she confided in me that the sex had stopped for them as well – he doesn’t seem interested, though he obviously still likes her, and after her recent move, he went to see her on vacation. Another female friend of mine (my age) complained to me recently that another friend of mine (also my age) stopped having sex with her (they are dating). She has been reading Fifty Shades and is yearning for some action.

    I’m still feeling this out experimentally myself, but I’m starting to develop a theory: moving in together in a small apartment has created so much intimacy it has removed all “otherness” and tension from the relationship. I find myself drawn to other women when I’m out with friends. I know there is nothing special about these “other women” beyond my physical attraction to them, and have an inkling that if I dated and moved in with one of them, I’d be back in the same conundrum in a year. It might violate the concept of monogamy, but is it possible that some people (maybe a lot of people, given I casually know a 3 40-50 year old guys that seem disinterested in sex with attractive partners) lose interest with lack of novelty? I’m trying to figure out what kind of future I want to have in the second half of my life, and currently, it seems like balancing intimacy and desire with long-term relationships almost requires I date someone that I see maybe a couple times a week OR see multiple people OR see someone who has a desire to always be reinventing sex into a novel crazy experience (which seems like a lot to ask to be honest).

    I just want some of you to know there are “sexually withholding” people out there (and a lot of 40ish guys) that do not do this with malice and WISH they were their 20 year-old sexual selves, but don’t know what to do about it. I think it’s especially tough for guys because we are idealized to be in the driver’s seat in straight relationships, and it dings our masculinity in a way that doesn’t happen with women.

    Comments? Advice?

  35. Here are my thoughts on the matter of being in a sexless marriage after fifteen years. I wrote this on my 53rd birthday:
    Oh fucking boy. I’m 53. My attitude is in the toilet but I’m trying not to let it show. I will again get more stuff from my dear wife; a shirt or two from my favorite sports team, etc. I won’t get what I really want. Sex. She can’t give that to me because it makes her feel “weird” to please her husband while expecting nothing in return. She can’t seem to have actual intercourse anymore because it hurts although the doctors can’t find anything physically wrong with her. Nothing is stopping her from pleasing me with oral sex except her own attitude and that is the burning issue that has been eating at me for years now, about ten long and frustrating years. How many more years, months, or days before I say something? Today, like many before it, I’m thinking to myself, “Maybe today I’ll tell her how unhappy I am and how this is just an untollerable situation.” But then she will get all upset and who fucking knows what she will try to do? Will she say how bad she feels about herself or say how she does love me but can’t please me? FUCKING BULLSHIT! Can’t or doesn’t want to? 
    So, what’s it going to be, another year of pent up frustration or a year of change? Either she has to change or I need to find someone else that actually does love me in a way that is meaningful and intimate. This nicey-cutesy non-sexual relationship just isn’t working for me. I can’t get healthy myself because I’m having to substitute masturbation for real sex. 
    She thinks she can give me stuff and just ignore my sexual needs. WTF? If I ask for sex, I’m selfish. A blowjob is “dirty” now even though she gave me one in the car while driving once when we were dating. Wow. How things have changed.  And it’s all my fault because I looked at porn a couple of times, years ago, or because I look at other women once In a while, or because, let’s see, oh yeah, I’m a guy. I would love to look at her but she covers up like we are living in Iran. Maybe I should buy her a burka.
    And it isn’t just about me. I would love to please her sexually. Nothing is more sexually exciting and gratifying as a partner than pleasing your partner. I don’t even get a chance to do that because she thinks it’s all about me. She wants nothing to do with sex but there’s something wrong with me??? Wait a minute? Am I wrong to want things to change?
    This situation SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS, SUCKS. My life as a man sucks. My self confidence is gone. My drive is gone. I feel like I’m fucking dying way before I should. Fifty-three and no sex – ever again? Might as well be dead. Un-fucking-acceptable. 

  36. Hi, I am at the “not able to want/not able to perform” side of the issue. But it’s not physical ED or withholding as a form of passive aggression. I struggle with a high, HIGH level of anxiety and self doubt around sex now. even when in my past life I was a very sexual person. Many, many times my fiancé and I fight, or rather, my she tells me that what I do in the relationship is not enough, that I freak out (which for me it means I disagree with her sometime), that I provoke her rage, that I am happier around other people, that don’t show enough enthusiasm for spending time together, or just right out that I am “a scare little boy”, that some of the things I say “are stupid” and at least once in the past to “go fuck myself” and that she “does not respect me” (though she apologized about those last things a few months later). This conversations are highly emotional and can last from a few minutes to several hours and have a frequency of once a day to once a month. I try different ways to stop them, apologizing for my short comings (even if I don’t think I should apologize), sometimes I try to use self deprecating humor, stonewall, defend my position, or reason through the arguments. Other times I just agree and say that I’ll try harder to be better, some of these strategies work some of the time, but very infrequently. Most often she stops b/c she is tired and “can’t take it anymore” or is hungry/sleepy. So we go to sleep or I’d cook something for both (yeah, I do most of the cooking and some of the cleaning when I am at her house). Then we don’t talk about the issue if I don’t bring up that I was hurt, mostly because doing so might result in a continuation of the argument.
    This has a very particular consequence, we stopped having sex, at first it was because we went to be angry, aggravated or hurt. Later, even on good days in which we enjoyed each others’ company and were able to connect and be emotionally intimate, I still can perform. Getting naked, making out and touching further than just a pre-sleep or early morning cuddle makes me very anxious, and all the unacknowledged hurtful moments comeback in flashbacks… We’ve seen several therapist, but many times her side of the argument is framed as her right to express herself, be honest, and speak her mind. So, there is little change. I’d appreciate any comments.

  37. Great post. I love my wife, which made me feel basically selfish and guilty for asking for more sex – which causes animosity in its own right. The fact is that sex is important to me. I want is from her because I love her. If I don’t get it, it will eventually lead to infidelity. I used to think that these guys who cheated on their wives were scum, but now I find myself in the situation where I am looking to patch a need that my wife will not fill. I am not trying to have my cake and eat it too, I’m just trying to maintain a relationship with someone I love while getting what I need to be happy myself. I do not want it this way and I do not want to leave her, but the status quo is not sustainable.

  38. I’m in my third marriage. Finally have a wife that is my best friend and we are very sexually compatible. Before wegot married I had sex with a stripper. Call it male ego, last hoora, whatever. We married regaurdless had sex on the wedding night, then zero for about 6 to 8 months. Then we had sexual contact neither of us got off and I was barely hard. Now it’s been 6 to 8 months my desire to help out around the house is almost nill. My desire to hit the gym none excitant. For her there is the hurt of the infidelity and she dose have discomfort with sex. We have talked about sex and I was told she has no interest in it. Except for having a baby. Problem there is I’ve had a vecectamy years ago with my 1st wife. She has no problem with me watching porn and masterbating as long as I dont hide it. We are very affectionate and touch and snuggle a lot. She says she wants to have sex but cant follow through. Here in lies my problem. I know I’m a good husband and really want and desire my wife, but no sex is having me thinking about the unthinkable. Other factors in our relationship is I’m medically retired from the military because of PTSD, now in school and restarting my life. She is a business women and is building her business. I need some advice badly.

  39. I have been married for 14 years and dated my wife for two years before we married. We had sex a lot while dating . In fact, she was very angry / hurt if I was not always trying to get her in the bedroom. We got engaged and she suggested that we not have any sexual contact for the 4 months leading up to the wedding to build excitement. I played along. Wedding night came and she was too tired. Two weeks in Hawaii and she was too tired. Got home and she was too busy and tired from work. We actually did not have sex until our first anniversary. I tried initiating just like I did when we dated but now she always said “No”. we had sex 3 – 5 times per year in years 2 – 3 or marriage. Then she wanted kids – had sex a lot for one month. No sex four 18 months after she became pregnant. Then she wanted a second – lots of sex for one month – then no sex for 21 months. Then she decided I was cheating (not true and no reasonable evidence), then she decided I was horrible because I looked at porn (in the absence of any other sexual stimuli). Then I must be “gay” – not sure where the heck that comes from. So we have sex maybe 25 times in 14 years of marriage. We use condoms and the last 12 pack expired with 7 unused.

    I have read books, gone to counselors (alone), I have been patient, angry etc.. I help and she would agree that I am doing 50% of household tasks and child care. I make good money, I am fit.

    We have two children and I would never wish to be apart from them nor to have them hurt by a marriage breakdown. My wife and I rarely fight.

    For years all I wanted was for her to notice me, desire me and be close to me. Now I want to have no feelings for her at all (although anger still persists) and I long for the day, when the kids are old enough to not be as affected by it, when I tell her I am leaving. She finds time to do everything she wants/needs to do but ignores our relationship. People find time to do want is important them (she waters the damn flowers) – her flat out refusal to address this issue in any meaningful way says it all – she just doesn’t care.

    J

  40. We have not had sex in over 6 years. The advice offered seems great if one actually has options. What about the lower middle class guy living check to check that can’t really afford divorce even if he wanted one? We are very close emotionally. Who the hell would want a 53 yr old guy, that after a divorce would be living in a studio apt in a not so great part of town and is still close friends with their ex wife? Right now I have no sex, but I do have companionship and a decent lifestyle. After a divorce I’d likely have nothing.

  41. JDaniels says:

    None of this is applicable once infidelity IS in the mix.

    Are we sexless? You betcha! Why? He cheated, I am still attempting to recover.

    Were we sexless before? Yep, for about 5-6 months… I was going through menopause and it screwed my libido something shocking and he was travelling for work and was away over 70% of the time. We talked about it but he was NOT honest with me and told he was “fine” and he understood and was OK with waiting until things improved. No, he wasn’t!

    While he was overseas for work, travelling for 2- 4 weeks at a time for nearly a year he lived life as a single guy on the prowl. He “dated” other women, drank and partied the night away in bars dancing up a storm and being the “big spender” (all on the company credit card) and then went out and bought a threesome with two prostitutes.

    I am still recovering from the devastation this has wrought on me… after 30 years of marriage I am still working of getting the images of him having sex with two women at once, women younger than our own daughter **blerk** women he PAID to have sex with… we were one and onlies before this… Sex? Farthest thing from my mind at the moment.

  42. Silently waiting... says:

    Sex. Intimacy. Touch. Affection. It is so damn important.

    When, after 14 years together & married, as a Man you get to the point of even considering paying a prostitute, or cheating, you must admit something is wrong. So, truthfully, why are these guilty thoughts pervading me all the time now?

    The last 4 years have plummeted from a ‘couple of times a month’ sexual encounter, sometimes with a little passion, to a desperate 7 or 8 times a month, hurried & frustrated along by the tired & annoyed wife. We’ve got a beautiful 2 year old. Boy, from that heavenly gift of a daughter, the emotional pain & heartache of a dissolving relationship has paradoxically come. The passive-aggressiveness has hit an all time high. The insults cut very deep. And the absolute denial of affection or light intimate interaction is starting to hurt. For a man who’s supposed to simply be kind & supportive to his spouse, and wants to be all that, this is cognitive dissonance at it’s best.

    Sex, it’s abstract manifestation of emotional & physical need, has made me realise how powerful it really is. For some, like me, it must be a reasonable part of a long term relationship. Why can my beautiful lady not understand this? Being the best & almost cliche ‘listener’ still has not provided the answers I seek.

    I understand she’s tired. Very tired sometimes. I understand she feels regretful that some of her dreams & practical desires are pushed aside by our responsibilities to our child. And work. And work. And stress. From work. And stress. From her unloading her burdens on me. And stress. From my attempting to carry them.

    But, now, I cannot, from her commandments, initiate or engage or propose anything physical or remotely sexual with her. The warnings of this current status were from years ago, prior to marriage even. For a relatively strong & feisty woman, she sadly now has zero energy to utilise in physical attraction. Years & years of unfolding abstention. To discuss it has proven deadly.

    So… after carrying a long, deep emotional disturbance I cannot describe , I find this article & am compelled to write. The love for my wife is, and has been, pious & all-perveying. Now, strangely silently watching.

    Do I procure the services of a local escort? With money I shouldn’t spend.
    Or find a willing, secret sexual partner? With time or money I should not spend.
    The ‘need’ can only be intellectualised for so long. As I said, Sexual need is more powerful than I imagined.
    Am I just a dirty 40 year old male? Is Sex no longer allowed for me?

    I’m on precipice now. Does that simply make me an immoral fool? From a previously, decisively moral individual. The thought, and even the contract, of Love is not enough in the realm of the physical. So it seems.

    How do I tell my wife who cannot listen?..

  43. Silently waiting... says:

    [ammendment]
    ‘couple of times a month’ meant ‘couple of times every few months’.
    7 or 8 times a month – meant a year.
    you can see, I cannot gauge the apparent long gaps.

  44. JDaniels says:

    Do I procure the services of a local escort? With money I shouldn’t spend.
    Or find a willing, secret sexual partner? With time or money I should not spend.
    Am I just a dirty 40 year old male? Is Sex no longer allowed for me?

    Why are these your only options SW?… Have you considered marriage counseling?… And if all else fails… divorce and find a partner more in tune with your sexual needs. Cheating on your spouse should NEVER be an option.

  45. I just married three weeks ago…My husband and I waited until marriage to have sex. We had sex once the night after our wedding night and that’s it. He has no desire for sex at all. He does have ED and perhaps low T. He took Viagra and it didn’t work. He says he wants to have sex, but just can’t. He doesn’t do anything else to satisfy me either, though. I told him how important sex is to me before we got married. I feel bamboozled and betrayed. I feel tricked. Now I am trapped in a sexless marriage. I vowed to God I would always be with this man. But, how can I possibly live like this??? I started watching porn again heavily after abstaining from it for four years. I have also considered outsourcing. ..which I know is wrong. I feel like I am going crazy. The thing is, he isn’t being spiteful or deliberate about this. It’s a physical condition, but still.. He told me the Viagra would be the answer and I believed him. I don’t know what to do. I love him and he is a great husband otherwise.

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