Not Quite Sexless, But I'm Pretty Unhappy

Hi all, I've been visiting this group for months but am only now sharing my story. I have been monogamous with the same woman for 15 years. We're married and have a primary-school aged child.

We had problems early on in the relationship because she found out that I compulsively view adult materials. I joined a 12-step group and attended meetings for several years, but after about 7 years I gave up, decided that I can't be black and white about it, and that I would rather keep this issue from her and try to moderate my viewing of adult films. As far as my wife knows, I am "abstinent."

There was maybe one or two instances where early in the relationship she felt that I judged her body by the way that I looked at her, and certainly she felt I was comparing her to unrealistic media images.

That being said, I have rarely turned her away from sex. I am sexually attracted to her and am 99.99% able to stay aroused with her no problem. She knows I always want sex. (Although she reminds me that sometimes I am not aware of her signals because I am, for example, too focused on doing stuff on my laptop.)

However, our sex life after the first two years has never been as frequent as I would like. If I had to guestimate, I'd say once every three weeks, but recently it's been a good two months that we haven't had sex.

We've argued numerous times about this issue, and never seem to come to some sense of resolution. (We've been in couples therapy before.)

Here is what I understand:

1. She is currently perimenopausal, and I'm not really certain how that affects libido.

2. She is, on a daily basis, exhausted from being the primary caretaker of our child. In addition, she has a chronic immune deficiency illness, of which lack of energy is one symptom.

3. The cincher is probably this: She feels that I approach her in such a linear manner that she feels she has to make an immediate decision whether she will have sex with me. According to her, I don't try to seduce her in a playful, flirtatious manner in which it doesn't really matter if we have sex or not, because we are enjoying the process. Thus, since she doesn't feel it's appropriate to just say "stop" in the middle of whatever we're doing if she decides she doesn't want to proceed, she just shuts down.

4. I have learned the hard way that complaining about lack of sex (expressing bitterness, resentment) only makes the problem worse.

5. Sometimes she feels that I'm just horny, and want to have sex with her because well, she's *there*, she's my wife. She doesn't want to feel obligated to fulfill "wifely duties," she wants to have sex because she wants to have sex, not because she has to.

That being said, I know she loves me alot, I do believe she's attracted to me, and she does ****** most of the time when we are sexually active. I do suspect that my use of adult materials affects how I interact with women (it's created a template in my brain, how can it not?), but I do not believe my use of it interferes with my availability to her. In other words, given the choice between sex with my wife and pleasuring myself, I would choose sex with my wife. I use self-pleasure to minimize stress and anxiety, discharge anger, escape from reality, and sometimes actually to feel pleasure!

I am currently just trying to be real patient, to not complain to her about our lack of sex, to spend time with her doing "no agenda touch," for which she has voiced her appreciation.

But I'm going crazy. I cannot bring myself to cheat (not that there's anyone to cheat with). I cannot bear to imagine moving out and not living with my daughter. It's really too painful to think about, yet I do not believe that I am only staying with my wife for the kid. Even economically, we cannot afford to separate.

In the past, we have at times been technically "open marriage," but the one time a second relationship became a real potential, my wife became extremely jealous. She is not willing to "share" me, even if we are not sexually active.

I trust from what she says that she is not purposely witholding sex from me.

I am going to ride this out until the fall, but after that I really don't know what to do. There are times I feel I have wasted my youth on her, which is a horrible thing to think, but I'm in my late thirties and have a high libido and I just have not had much sex. I reason, if I'm going to be in a committed partnership, I should be "getting it" at least twice a week, not twice or less a month.

Thanks for reading.

purplemagician purplemagician
36-40, M
11 Responses Feb 11, 2009

In response to Fun55, the standard average is an important detail when a couple is arguing about who is abnormal. It is normal for a sex deprived spouse to become obsessed with sex, and it is normal for someone who is perpetually pestered with sex requests to think that the other spouse is excessively sexual. Injecting a standard helps the pestered spouse realize where the cycle starts. It helps both of them realize that the absence of sex in their lives is abnormal, and something that should be looked into, and that the complaints of deprivation are valid, if perhaps poorly presented.<br />
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From what I've seen, most spouses who are uninterested in sex tend to think that it's the other person who has the problem, not them. They often need a bit of prompting to realize that their spouses problems ARE their problems, especially in this category. Recognition of an abnormal situation helps this.<br />
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Once recognized, the couple still has to work together to figure out what the root cause is. It might be because the deprived spouse has become fat, ugly, stinky, and with too many pustules on their face. It might be because the uninterested spouse has a hormonal disorder. It might be because the deprived spouse scares the hell out of the uninterested spouse. Regardless of the cause, little or no exploration is possible until both people recognize that it's something that should be fixed.<br />
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And, for reference, here's a quote from the Kinsey Institute:<br />
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18-29 year olds have sex an average of 112 times per year, 30-39 year olds an average of 86 times per year, and 40-49 year olds an average of 69 times per year (Piccinino, Mosher, 1998).

You know - I wish that I had read these posts and stories a LONG time ago - when I was wanting to please my hubby and make him happy but was letting little things get in my way - including my pride! But, I'm afraid that my heart has hardened considerably and I don't know if I will ever be in a place with my husband again that I will want to work on my response to his sexual advances - but I do now see another side - just a little too late for me - maybe I will get another opportunity in this lifetime to remember these comments/stories and apply them to MY relationship! I am definitely more sympathetic because of all that I have read! You know they say if your sex life is good in a marriage it is only 10% of the marriage, but if it is bad - it is 90% of the marriage - I think that is right on!

Thanks all for your feedback. I *do* compliment her when she looks sexy, and last night (after I wrote my post) I spent the whole evening after our daughter's bedtime talking, snacking, stretching, some touching ... but still no sex! I know that it doesn't always have to lead to that, but recently it's never. Funny enough, she said I shouldn't be having sex because I pulled my neck. Like I farking care! So this morning I was just angry, it came out with little things, which I know just sabotages, but I'm at wits end here.

hmm.. no agenda romance.. why don't you take the kids out for the evening and let her have a night at home alone to rest and relax all by her little self once in awhile? Or do the dishes while she watches the game? Or rub her feet while you watch tv...and never once go up her leg, let her make the next move..if she wants to.

Hi, well i would say that your situation is very simular to mine. I have been with her and the situation for 18 years and feel like you that i have lost my youth and my sexual opportunities to be free and have fun with my wife. Well, i'm just finding out that i was part of the problem. I bought the 5 love languages male version and start looking within and i found have been trying to change her for all these years and not changing myself which i have over the past 6 months and would you believe the sex has gotten alot better. I will never figure out my wife and have stopped trying but what i suspect is she feels like she's boxed in and fighting her way out. feel free to email or message i will try to help anyway i can. i feel your pain.

Sorry if that seemed like an attack. I shouldn't have phrased it to suggest that your romantic habits are solely from ****. I meant it to point out the huge range of romantic expectations. Really, it's hard to determine from an outside standpoint. The best you can do is talk to various friends and find out what the norm is. I think, though that having to work on touching her without an agenda indicates that you probably have some progress you could make in that area.<br />
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KFC makes a good point that romance doesn't necessarily mean flowers and candy, and it doesn't necessarily involve touching. Long conversations about nothing in particular can be just as romantic as time in a hot tub, as long as it builds connections between you. The absence of such conversations can be a good indicator of a relationship gone off track.<br />
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She may still wind up being uninterested in you sexually, but building a non-sexual but emotional exchange with her would be a good place to start. Look for several examples to figure out what a happy medium is, and then put in efforts slight above that just so that she notices. Talking with friends about how they show appreciate for their wives. I wonder if there's a "I want to be more romantic" EP goal out there.

My biggest problem (at first - now there are bigger ones) is that when my husband made some efforts to romance me - it was ALWAYS with a motive - if I do this - I get some! So, no necking on the couch or a massage without an expectation - that's not very relaxing or romantic really - and if it doesn't work the first time - he gives up and says, well, knew that wouldn't work! And after we do have sex - do I get rewarded with a man in a good mood for at least 1/2 day - NOOOO! He says that he knows it's going to be a long time before he gets any again and it makes him mad - well, that makes me want to do it again. So, I feel for you but I feel for your wife too - I love sex when I feel loved by my husband and the sex is good then too, but it has been a really really long time since I felt loved by him!

There are many ways to romance a woman. Try texting her, leaving her a love note in the morning, one single rose. . . <br />
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I used to cut little hearts out and put them in my husband's lunch. I never got laid from it, but he felt the love.

I'm feeling on the defensive here. It's not like I just grab her breasts or expect her to get on her knees. I'm usually very slow and gentle with her before anything happens (I've learned that much from her feedback) but she still feels that I am a "train on a track." She doesn't like "hey let's have sex" so usually one of us will say, "Do you want to go upstairs?" or "Do you feel like a massage?" and then we see where it goes. So in answer to Strangeling's question, I probably attempt to meet her romantic needs by, as I mentioned in my post, doing "no agenda touch," light kissing. I'm sure if we had the will and the funds we'd get more babysitting, so unfortunately we don't have many dinner dates out alone or anything. She's not into the flowers and chocolates thing, in fact she doesn't fall for the stereotypically romantic trappings.

Hi, Purple. You are definitely in the right place. It sounds a lot like you two are in a situation where you've set up negative feedback mechanisms based on unrealistic expectations. I think it's awesome that you've provided such a strong description of both sides of the story. Here are a few observations.<br />
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First, and I repeat this often enough, the average frequency in the 31-40 range is roughly once every four days. Two months is an anomaly. As you've pointed out, she has reasonable reasons for her anomaly so you're going to have to work with her if you want both of you to be happy.<br />
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One possible cause of this might be your approach towards romantic interaction. **** is the inverse of sappy chick flicks in that it provides a completely unrealistic perception of what it takes to get a woman interested in sex. Sappy chick flicks suggest that a guy should provide flowers and a ride on a carriage every time he wants a kiss, whereas **** suggests she should be good to go the moment we get her attention. I'm not going to suggest you stop watching **** (I'm sure you've heard plenty of that already), but I will suggest you find another source for your romantic notions. Most women value the romance more than they value the sex, so not getting it can be a severe turn-off.<br />
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Within that, do you feel like giving us more details about that aspect of it? What do you do when you want to meet her romantic needs?

It seems that you have answered your own questions here by your candid appraisal of your wants and her needs. <br />
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It appears that your needs are taking precident over hers plus you are still comparing the fantasy world of **** with the realities of your marriage. <br />
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I think your statement number five pretty much sums up her impression . She feels as if she is being used and consequently she has litlle value to you beyond sex.<br />
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You have explained your position so well that it seems strange that you can't correct your situation by simply accomodating her a bit more. She seems to still love and trust you but beware that can evaporate quickly.<br />
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I do wish you both well in this.