Dreams Are Dreams, then Comes Reality

 I live in a sexless marriage.

History: I met the girl of my dreams in 1969; married her in 1970.  Within a year, I realized that we had totally different needs for "physical intimacy"; I complained a lot, then talked to her a lot to try to 'resolve' the issue.  We even talked about separating or divorcing.  We tried counseling.  No resolution, ever.

Becoming Informed: I tend to talk (i.e. have difficulty 'keeping things private').  The 'sexual' difficulties that we (as a couple) were having, I shared with my mother.  Born in 1911, married to my father until his death, and with him as his company transferred him from city to city, she shared with me a wealth of stories from many and varied people from these many cities.  In her experience, it was a very unusual marriage wherein both partners had "sexual" or "physical" desires so similar that they considered themselves to be sexually compatible.  In her experience, most couples - almost all couples - had issues.  In other words, it was most likely the case that one person in the relationship was not happy (satisfied) with the amount, the frequency, the type, the variety (whatever) of their mutual sex lives.

I have a best friend (married male) with whom I share almost everything.  Over the years, it has become apparent that he, too, was living in a relationship that was becoming sexless.  Plus, I have a 'strange' (unusual) relationship with a number of colleagues from my own profession, and from my best friend's profession.  We share time together in a cottage setting, and more importantly, we share very personal feeling, ideas and thoughts within this 'setting'.  Their stories of their relationships echo my mother's wisdom: it is a very unusual marriage of a man and a woman that demonstrates great sexual compatibility.  (Put another way, sexual compatibility is a rarity.)

I've got a problem: So, what does one do when faced with such knowledge?

My desires, I could not change.  Some male readers will understand when I say how unbelievably difficult it is to be near the girl of your dreams as she does all of those things that are so loaded with emotion - walking, talking, dressing, undressing, combing her hair, climbing into bed, sipping coffee, smiling sweetly, sharing the day's experiences, and a million other simple actions - and being unable to elicit any 'romance' or 'sexual encounter' with her.  I wanted to be near her, to hug her and love her, and it was important to me that this involve sexual intimacy.  Yet, nothing that I tried or did seemed to work out for us.

Her lack of desire, she could do nothing about.  She wanted to please; no question about that.  But sexual intimacy was just not important to her.

There IS no solution: I have gone through many gyrations on what I might have done differently over the years.  I blamed her at first; that wasn't nice, nor was it right (correct).  I sought 'solutions'; there were none that had significant impact.  I blamed myself: had I been more attentive, romantic, loving, a better listener, more attentive to mood, and so on, might things have been different?  I've walked many paths, thought many thoughts, and I have no answers.

Back to the present: We are approaching 40 years of marriage.  I could not have chosen a better partner.  I remained faithful, monogamous, always; I do not regret that. I am happy that I did not end our marriage because of our lack of sexual intimacy.

This is not to say that I have no regrets!

Do not misunderstand me.

I am furious with myself for not having found a 'solution' to our lack of physical intimacy (and at the same time, I remain convinced that there is, in fact, no solution).

I am aware that our relationship has suffered because of our lack of sexual intimacy.  I went through a period (a long, long stretch) when I protected myself by not caring, by not giving a damned, about romance and non-sexual intimacy (specifically - by not really trying on birthdays, Valentine's Day, Christmas, whatever!).  I fantasize that we'd be closer, talk more (or, more meaningfully), that we'd have less disputes (or fight 'nicer'), and so on, if we had a romantic sex life.  But, who really knows.  Maybe, what is, is what would be.

The dream is: Marriage will be what I want it to be.

The reality is: Marriage is.  It's not wonderful; it's not a dream.  It's just marriage.

A Question that I ask myself: What, in my marriage, could have been worse than the 'sexless' marriage that I have?

The answers are oh so many things.  A loveless marriage would have been hell.  Totally different attitudes toward the raising of our children would have been hell.  Infidelity, cheating, lying, gambling, uncontrolled spending, illness and health issues, sickly children, physical abuse of one by the other, sexual abuse of the children, and so many more things could have been hell on earth.  Any of these things could/would have been hell on earth.  But, my only problem was a difference in sexual desire.  Put that way, it seems a smaller problem.

Am I saying that sex is not important?  NO!  It was.  It still is (even though I'm in my 60's).

I must re-emphasize: Having a 'sexless' marriage was difficult.  Very difficult.  It hurt.  It hurt us both.

However, the reality of a marriage demands that the two who are married work out between themselves that which is not the best for him, not the best for her, but that which is best for them (both, together).

Neither of us got the dream marriage.  I'm not certain that any married couples do.

Both of us got reality.

What the heck is a sexless marriage?  On re-reading that which I have written, it has occurred to me that some reader will pick up on the "our children" and have difficulty relating that to "sexless".  So, what is a 'sexless' marriage - to me?

In the first year of our marriage we had sex as much as "I" wanted.

In the second year, I got less than "I" wanted.

In subsequent years, sexual intimacy decreased to roughly monthly - or less often.

In the 20th to 29th year of our marriage, sexual intimacy went from bi-monthly to bi-annually - or less.

In the last 10 years, zip.

Am I in a "sexless" marriage?  Yes, and no.

However, it really doesn't matter what YOU think; I tend to think that I am (in a sexless marriage). 


Here in the Experience Project,

I am Ingenescu.

Talk to me.

Ingenescu Ingenescu
70+, M
8 Responses Feb 27, 2009

absolutely amazing...our stories are so similar, even down to ages, and when we met our spouses. I differ in that though I am almost constantly angry, i never forget dates, or try to withhold affection. My bride, feels, there is no problem, i sleep in a separate bedroom. Her gynecologist, insists that this is a perfectly natural situation in marriage and not having any type of sexual contact ie oral, by hand, etc is her choice....(boy I love that Dr). Wife is completely against even talking about it. She is a good woman, and I love her, but am frustrated. She is moody, and likes to take out frustration on me. Hell, I don't know what to do if your partner won't even give 10%. I keep trying but no luck, I have, recently, I am ashamed to say, on a daily basis, now say under my breath, but loud enough for her to hear, well....no sex or intimacy for me today.

Your story is a carbon copy of mine...but i'm just at year 4 of no sex.<br />
Neither my wife nor I had any issues health wise or weight wise. But after 4 years I seem to have let myself go a bit. I have gained some weight and my wife doesn't like it and makes me aware of it any chance she gets.<br />
I withdrew from her emotionally after she cut me off. I now spend a lot of time by myself...on the computer...maybe not eating as healthy as I should now.Its been a terrible blow to my self esteme

FayettevilleDad's post was outstanding. I don't think that we have to accept this sort of situation.<br />
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I'm noodling with an analogy. One could live (for a long time at least) on little more than oatmeal and water. Does that mean that any of us could or would accept it as reasonable that the cooking partner in a relationship would insist that no other food be served ... Ever ? For that matter, bowls and spoons are quite unnecessary; the oatmeal could simply be flung on the floor and eaten with the fingers. It would be simple survival with no pleasure, but that should be enough, right? There'd be no basis for complaint, would there? We should just be grateful that we were being fed at all. <br />
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Once you can work yourself into that state of mind, a sexless marriage is pretty easy to endure...<br />
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Unfortunately, I am not able to sustain that level of asceticism.

I'm 44 now, and I am NOT going to live like this until I'm 60!

fayettevilledad, thank you for the empowering post. i agree completely that a sexless marriage is not normal -- there will always be compromise between varying drives, but no one should be so selfish in a relationship as to cut off his/her partner and ruin what should be a positive and healthy part of adult life. we're not priests or nuns -- i didn't sign on for this kind of life and i don't deserve it! once the lack of physical intimacy in a relationship starts destroying the other portions of the relationship that works, then the problem is not simply sexual but emotional.

"it is a very unusual marriage of a man and a woman that demonstrates great sexual compatibility. (Put another way, sexual compatibility is a rarity.)"<br />
<br />
Mates with differing libidos is natural.<br />
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It is the degree of difference that changes it from being typical or normal and it being unhealthy, damaging, selfish, and anything but normal. Too frequent, perhaps, but not normal.<br />
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Further, it is normal for a person to become less fit as they age, to put on weight, or any other number of changes. That does not mean it is inevitable or that it has to be accepted. But those are things that impact primarily the self. When one partner suddenly or gradually retreats from intimacy, they are not primarily impacting themselves- they are impacting themselves and the person who they supposedly love the most.<br />
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I reject the notion that a sexless marriage is normal. I reject the notion that a sexless marriage is just another consequence of the fact that any two people are going to have different appetites and desires. I reject the notion that there is nothing that can be done. *I* may not be able to enact change in the relationship by myself, and I may not be able to convince her to enact change in the relationship, and the relationship may not survive. However, if that is the case, then THAT will be what is normal-- the normal collapse of a relationship when one party decides that maintaining one of the primary pillars just isn't something they will do.

Some of your points are what makes this so difficult. My wife is, with one exception, pretty much everything that a husband could ask for. She chose to be a housewife while I had the "career". She has done a GREAT job in that role. But, is that all there is? I have done a pretty good job of being a husband and father, but I still want more. Is that wrong?

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