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Dear Robin: What Do I Do About My Sexless Marriage?

Friday, September 26, 2014


Photo Credit: Free Grunge Textures - http://www.freestock.ca via Compfight cc (image cropped)

What's your problem? Write to Robin at [email protected]

Dear Robin,

I have been married for 16 years to a woman I love very much but we have a serious problem and even though I've been trying to work with her on this issue for over five years it's getting worse, not better.

She has refused to have sex with me for a long time and I am getting very frustrated. I have tried everything to make her feel attractive and to be romantic but she just keeps telling me she isn't in the mood.  

Last week after nine months of abstinence I broke down and told her this could not continue.  She then informed me she had lost her sex drive and didn't feel at our age we should be expected to have sex anymore. We aren't even out of our 40s yet!

Making matters even worse, over the past year or so she has hired out most of the things she used to do for the family, including the cleaning, carpooling, errand-running and cooking. Both our kids are in school and my wife does a small amount of volunteer work, but honestly, she spends most of her time with her friends exercising or shopping or whatever it is they do all day.

We've talked about her going back to work but she makes a good point that at this point it may be too late for her to re-enter her career, which she left 10 years ago. While I guess we can afford the help she is hiring, I am starting to really resent coming home to another woman vacuuming the floors and putting a frozen lasagna in the oven for me and the kids.

Forget advice counseling: she won't do it. I've tried. I still love her and want to solve our problems but I'm finding myself more and more frustrated, unhappy and angry as time goes on.  Any advice?



Dear C.T,

First, let's get one thing straight: you aren't being abstinent, you are being rejected. There's a big difference, as abstinence is the practice of restraining oneself from something enjoyable such as fatty food or alcohol, usually in hopes of a positive outcome. I've heard of this practice though I shudder at the thought...

On the other hand, your wife is clearly abstinent, and I think the positive outcome she is hoping for is a divorce - she's just too passive-aggressive and cowardly to ask you for one. I'd go so far as to question whether she's abstaining from sex altogether or just abstaining from sex with you.

Sexual intimacy is critical to any successful long-term relationship if both partners want, need and expect it. People who think they will still be climbing-the-walls hot for each other after several years and some kids together are fooling themselves, but it certainly doesn't follow that after 16 years together you should accept the proposition of a sexless marriage.

For all the politically correct stuff out there that insists both parties should be equally interested in engaging in the act, the fact is we aren’t always on the same wavelength with our partner on a host of issues, including sex. But the spouse who continually waves off the advances of his or her partner will someday realize: “hey, he/she hasn’t tried to get in my knickers for a while. That’s odd!”

It’s not odd – they probably just got tired of rejection and went somewhere else for affection.
You are getting close to measuring the time between nookie with your wife in terms of years, not months. I've spoken with many people about this issue, and most agree the one-year mark is pretty much the death knell for intimacy in a marriage. It's just so awfully hard to reconnect after so much time away, plus you can forget how things work and that can be both embarrassing and dangerous!

The cynic in me looks at your facts and sees a woman trying to drive her husband to divorce because she does not want to face the social and family repercussions of leading the charge to dissolve your marriage. I see an employee who has refused to show up to work for years but who still thrusts out her hand for a weekly paycheck.

Perhaps that sounds too businesslike, but they do say "marriage is a contract," and if it is indeed a contract, both sides have obligations and duties to one another, not just rights. As I see it, she is happily reaping the benefits of this marriage agreement without contributing to its maintenance.

I do believe Rousseau would label your wife a "free rider."

You've let this go on long enough: it's time to find out where your wife has been hiding your testicles and snap them back into place. If she absolutely refuses to get counseling and to discuss the major issues contributing to the rot your marriage, get your house in order and be prepared for a divorce, because she does not care about you or the family relationship.

Put this in terms she can understand by informing her she no longer has any access to the money you earn. None. In other words, you will do as she has done: unilaterally cease your obligations under the contract. If she wants to lunch with the ladies and putter around at Nordstrom, she can get a job.

Perhaps this will wake up our princess and jolt her into realizing that she still loves you, wants to remain married and that she cannot expect to reap the rewards of this arrangement while simultaneously refusing to play her part.


Unfortunately, given how she has treated you over the years I think you should expect a divorce at some point in the future. The longer you put it off, the more alimony you are likely to pay and the more time you waste being in an unhappy marriage. You need to ask some tough questions with the help of a professional or walk away from a bad deal before it puts you out of business.

Robin Des Camp

Robin Des Camp

Former Portland lawyer and current Portland big mouth Robin DesCamp is the Velvet Sledgehammer of Truth, smashing through socially acceptable niceties to tell you how to live your life, and why. She blogs at www.askdescamp.com. Write to her at [email protected].

Homepage Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography via Compfight cc


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