It's Good For Both of You

Dear Karen,

 I want your opinion on something: I’ve been married for 22 years.  We get along fine, our kids are happy and well-adjusted, and we have no real issues in our life together.  Here’s the deal – I just don’t have any interest in having s-e-x, and I haven’t had any interest for quite a few years now.  I have to admit that I actually stay up late enough that, by the time I go to bed, my husband has already gone to sleep.  This ensures he won’t get any ideas about getting frisky with me.  Every once in a while he waits it out, and on those nights I’ll go along with it, but honestly, I’d be happy if it never happened again.  Do you think this is a workable situation, long-term? – Mary F., RI

Dear Mary,

I applaud you for your honesty.  Bravo!

You asked me a direct question (is this a workable situation?), so I’m going to give you a direct answer: probably not.

Let me tell you why.

1) Regardless of how you feel about s-e-x, you are a woman, and so you’re probably like the majority of women on the planet – you want to feel a deep connection with the people you love.

Note: If this doesn’t feel like it’s true about you, then skip this and go directly to #2.

Now it’s true that there are other ways to feel a connection with your husband; you could talk; you could hold hands; you could snuggle in bed while watching TV; you could go on walks on the beach/in the woods/somewhere in nature; you could go on relaxing vacations where you don’t have a care in the world.

But you can do that with your friends and family, too.

The deep connection you have with your intimate partner – the man you married “’til death do you part” (if you used the traditional vows) – is different than any other relationship in your life, because it’s the only one where you are not only emotionally intimate, but physically intimate.  You share experiences that you don’t share with anyone else (well, that’s the idea, anyway).

Being intimate with each other, in ways that neither one of you will share with anyone else, is like the glue that binds you together (in fact, physiologically, that is exactly what happens when you first become physically intimate with your man).

2) When we take our vows of marriage, we make a promise that is (usually) not spelled out, but is implied: you will meet each other’s sexual needs.

In most marriages, one of the expectations is that neither one of you will step outside of the relationship to get those needs met.  (I know there are exceptions to this, but it’s extremely rare.  And I’d even bet that in some of those cases, one of the partners has gone along with that plan against their own heart’s desires, in order to make the relationship work.)

So, unless your husband is no longer interested in s-e-x*, which, based on your question, doesn’t sound like that’s the case, you have a choice to make:  either place his sexual needs as a high enough priority that you figure out how to revive that part of your relationship, or make the decision to “close up shop”, and let him go elsewhere to get that need met.

By the way, if you choose plan “B”, it would be good to let him know you’ve made that decision.

There are some fabulous books that you could read as a place to start.  Explore what is really true for you.  Maybe it’s been so long you’ve got no hope of revival.

Here’s a fact that you may find interesting (maybe even inspiring): many people are having the best s-e-x of their lives, once they’ve reached their 50s, 60s, and beyond.

One last thought here: our intimate relationships can be our most powerful teachers, if we allow them to be.

What it takes for us to be successful and satisfied in our marriages is nothing less than becoming our best selves…and helping our partner do the same.  How fabulous is that?

Marriage is not an easy journey, but it certainly is a profound one.


* According to Dr. Willard Harley, multi-decade marriage counselor and author of “His Needs Her Needs”, men’s number one need in relationship is sexual satisfaction (and not just succumbing to his sexual advances, but being an engaged partner.