April 17, 2015

Ask Me Anything: Woman Suffers in Sexless Marriage. {Weekly Advice Column}

Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected].

I look forward to hearing from you!


Dear Erica,

Okay, here goes.

My husband and I have been married for almost 13 years, and have been together in some form of a relationship for over 20 years. I love him. He’s a good man, a wonderful father, and just an all-around nice human being.

My friends (particularly those who are going through divorces right now, and that’s a lot of my friends) keep telling me how lucky I am to be married to him. He is thoughtful, considerate, and he pays attention to the little things: he makes me tea in the mornings, he helps out enormously around the house since both of us work full-time, and he would much rather spend his weekends doing something with our son as a family than being off with the boys.

My big problem? Our nearly non-existent sex life.

In the years since our son was born, our sex life has cooled off to nearly nothing. Like, I’m talking physical intimacy maybe once every three months. If I’m lucky. And if I initiate it.

Otherwise, nothing.

Sure, he gives me a hug every morning before he goes to work, and sometimes when he comes home, too, but unless I initiate in the bedroom, we just don’t have sex. And the times when we do actually manage to have sex, he’s always preoccupied—thinking about something that needs to be done around the house, stressing out about work, stressing out about his weight, stressing out about our bank account.

It had made things really, really rough for me.

I’ve tried asking him to go to counseling, to try to carve out time for just the two of us when we can be intimate, but he says that he can’t do it according to a “schedule.”

I’ve gone so far as to start counseling again for myself, trying to figure out just how important sex is to me in a relationship, and if I should even be considering throwing away 20 years and our family just because we only have sex four times a year.

I suggested that maybe if he just wasn’t interested in sex, I should look elsewhere to fill that need, with his knowledge and consent. But he looked as though I just suggested that we sacrifice a goat under the full moon on the front lawn, so I’m going to assume that’s not an option anymore.

I’ll be honest: the lack of sexual connection in this marriage—in this relationship—is making me angry and frustrated and just downright cranky. All the time. Yes, I have a little battery-operated friend, and I use it from time to time, but it is in no way a replacement for the connection with my husband.

I’m starting to feel as though we’re just roommates who happen to hook up once in a while, and it’s not a good feeling.

The last year or so has been extremely difficult for me. I’m only 40, and I just can’t get used to the idea that I have to give up on my sex life at this age. But I’m totally at a loss on how to get him to just meet my halfway on this one. Do you have any suggestions that I can try for getting my husband interested in sex again? I feel like I’ve tried everything – texting him naked selfies, lingerie, romantic movie nights at home when our son has a sleepover (my husband was awake for ten minutes, and then fell asleep), but I just cannot get his attention anymore.

I feel like an ass for even considering the possibility of leaving him at this point, but I feel like I’m running out of options if I don’t want to feel like a cranky sex-deprived housewife for the next 20 years. Any suggestions? Please?

~ JR

Dear JR,

I’m not going to sugar coat this—it sucks.

You are married to a great guy who is kind and caring, a good father, thoughtful, considerate—heck, he even makes you tea! No wonder your friends think you’re lucky.You’ve been together for 20 years and you still not only like, but love each other.

You won the marriage lottery.


At 40, you are still a vibrant, sexual woman with (presumably) more than half of your years left to live. Though you have most of the elements in your marriage that people covet; healthy children, a loving husband, stability and companionship, you do not have one really critical piece of the puzzle—and it’s affecting the whole picture.

Your life is not complete without sex, and you have become legitimately “angry and frustrated and downright cranky.”

You are doing the right thing by going to therapy (on your own since he won’t join you). You have also tried to be direct and forthright about your feelings and even suggested— because he refuses to be a part of the solution—that you to satisfy your sexual needs elsewhere while maintaining the stays quo, which went over like a ton of bricks.

The problem as I see it, is that you are doing all the work and the suffering while he is just breezing along hoping no one notices how bad things are. There will likely come a breaking point where you simply can’t stand—not necessarily just the sexlessness of your relationship—but the selfishness of it. Because that’s what we’re really talking about. Yes, you have a nice hot cup of tea when you want one, but you are with someone who refuses to acknowledge your pain and help resolve a legitimate crisis between the two of you.

That said, none of this makes your husband a bad person—just a very, very scared one.

The one thing you haven’t yet done is get your guy to the doctor and see if there are any medical issues affecting his lack of sexual interest. Depression and anxiety might well be the root of the problem (you mention his excessive stress about money, weight and work) as might many other things, either physical or psychological. Based on his refusal to seek therapy, however, I am not optimistic that he will go.

Unless your husband can find a way to get on board and try and tackle this matter with you, the odds of your staying together are not good. You might want to explain this to him as the deal breaker it is, and hope that he truly is the man everyone else thinks he is.


Dear Erica,

This is more of an etiquette question.

I’ve been invited to a bunch of weddings in the next six months and while I’m very happy for all my friends, I am totally broke.

I have no idea how I’m going to afford plane tickets, hotels, dresses, gifts and whatever else I might need just to attend. I have raging student loans and a not great paying job as well as car payments and rent. How am I to be expected to celebrate with everyone at such an expense?

I feel bad. These are really good friends and I would be bummed if they didn’t come to my wedding. Is there any way I can cut corners by not buying gifts? I can’t think of any other way to tone it down.

~ Broke Guest

Dear Broke,

You absolutely can not cut corners by attending but not buying gifts—but you can graciously decline any of these invitations.

You say you would be bummed if these friends didn’t come to your wedding, but would you want them to come knowing they legitimately can’t afford it and that it would cause them extreme stress to be there?

If so, you are either not all that mature or not a great friend.

Being broke is not a shameful state of affairs and it’s not something that can be responsibly ignored. If you can’t afford to attend some or all of these weddings—and it sounds like you can’t—then all you have to do is politely rsvp “no” and perhaps send a card or an inexpensive gift (photo albums, personal letters and hand crafted items are always lovely).

If your friends get upset with you, just be honest with them. If they can’t get over it, that’s their problem.




Ask Me Anything: How Important is Sex in a Relationship?

Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Dennis Brekke at Flickr 

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