Sexless Marriage

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Hi, this is apparently not uncommon, I have been checking the internet and a lot of women have this issue: My husband doesn’t want to sleep with me. The reason I am writing is because this has been going on for about a year and I have brought it up only a few times, very gently. I have asked if it’s me – he says no. I have asked if he thinks it might be him – he thinks so. I have asked what he thinks it might be, but all he says is it might be that he’s gained a lot of weight in the past few years or a medical problem and I told him I could start running with him, going to the gym, we can stop getting junk food or I can make him a doctors appointment, whatever he needs. He is open about talking about it he even offered to go to the doctor. My problem? HE DOES NOTHING! He is all talk and I don’t want to talk about it anymore and I am out of options. I feel like we can have another sad discussion about it but it’s not going to get better anyways.

I was wondering what I can say to him to get him to do something? I have told him this makes me sad and I feel unwanted and he just feels bad about that and I don’t want him to feel bad. Once a month is not normal in my opinion, but I am starting to think I’m going to have to live with that.

I know he won’t go to a therapist, I have thought of making him and appointment and just telling him when it is and he might go, but I don’t like to be pushy.

Please tell me if I have gone about this the wrong way or if there is another way to get through to him. Thank you so much!

A: “In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.” –Robert Anderson

You have taken the first step in moving forward. Acknowledging the fact that the marriage is sexless, and declaring it by writing to us, takes a great deal of courage. Often shame keeps the issue underground for too long. And no, you are not alone. The sources and information vary, but the number of sexless marriages hovers in the 15-20% range in the U.S., and some experts believe that number is higher worldwide. Here is an interesting site on this topic.

The question here seems to be if this is a physical or psychological problem with your husband. It is unfortunate he is unwilling to go for a physical or individual or couples therapy, but this does not mean you can’t get some support. Self-care becomes an important endeavor when a spouse is isolating. I’d tell him that you are going to make an appointment for therapy and would prefer if were for couples therapy, but will keep the appointment for yourself if necessary. There is only so much you can do when your partner has shut down. I think the prudent thing to do is to let him know where you are emotionally, what your disappointment is, and that you are determined to deal with it in therapy, with or without him. This isn’t meant to be a threat, just being clear about the reality of the situation. You are simply letting him know the impact this is having on you.

Your instinct about making an appointment is a good one. I would set up a therapy appointment and invite him. Let the therapist know your plan so he or she will be aware that it might be couples or individual therapy. Hopefully your husband will go with you. But if not, it may be time to receive some support for coping, and begin planning more fulfilling activities and events in your own life.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Apr 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Sexless Marriage. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 27, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/04/24/sexless-marriage/

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