My wife never touches me… I am quite frustrated in my marriage and it stems from issues of sex and intimacy. I have been married for 15 years, and we have four children, the youngest just started Kindergarten. My marriage has devolved into almost a roommate situation. My wife has no interest in sex, and she never shows me any affection whatsoever.
This became an issue for me early in our marriage, and we used to argue/fight over this subject. At that time, I felt very angry. Today the anger is giving way to feelings of self-pity and hopelessness. Throughout my marriage I have been plagued by the fear that I made a mistake asking my wife to marry me. I feel some regret, as though I made the wrong choice to marry this person. My wife never touches me. No hand holding, no hugs, no pat on the back – nothing. She has absolutely no interest in sex. She never initiates it, and when I do it is not uncommon for her to protest that she is tired. When she does go along with it, she just lies there and does nothing. She does not touch me, kiss me, talk to me or anything else. She literally will just lie there and do nothing, waiting for it to be over. It has all become somewhat mechanical and monotonous. She absolutely refuses to consider oral sex, saying that it is gross; and she does not want to use her hand to pleasure me, either. I do not want to get divorced because the children are young, and I feel strongly that children need a father in the home everyday. I feel stuck. I feel like my wife misled me when we were dating. I feel that people who do not want to be affectionate and sexual HAVE NO BUSINESS GETTING MARRIED. It seems like my only option is to “endure to the end,” however, the thought of spending forever with this person is somewhat depressing.
You are describing a difficult and sad situation and I can see how you would feel stuck. It is sad for me to see so many men (and women) writing to me on this similar subject. One of the responsibilities as a spouse is to be aware of and take into account the needs of the other. This goes for both men and women and includes physical, emotional, spiritual and temporal needs. To ignore, belittle or judge another’s legitimate needs is dangerous for any marriage. Showing affection is a necessary part of a healthy marriage. It is not appropriate for one to withhold affection, love and/or sex from the other. If there are psychological or traumatic issues from one’s upbringing or past that hinder spousal abilities then we should be open to getting appropriate help. Even most medical issues do not need to be the end of a physically intimate relationship – it may just need to be redefined.
I highly doubt that your wife consciously misled you through your courtship. Unfortunately when we get married we don’t have much of an idea of what lies ahead and how we will react to sex, arguments, stress, children, etc. – especially if it’s the first marriage. Things from our past and our upbringing affect us more than we usually realize. Figuring out our sexuality is very much a part of marriage, especially in cultures where it is customary to wait to have sex until after marriage (such as our Mormon culture). Even people who have been sexual before marriage, often find that their sexuality differs dramatically after entering the marital state (both in positive and negative ways). I don’t know what has led your wife to take her current position, but I’m sure the girl you dated would not have thought this is what “marital bliss” looked like either – especially since I’m sure this issue has greatly affected your relationship outside of the bedroom as well.
You are right that your children need you and I respect your desire to want to be a part of their everyday life. It shows your capacity for great love. However, your children also need a good relationship model so they can go forward and have a better statistical chance of having a healthy marriage themselves. Part of being a good mother and a good father is being a good wife and husband. It is easy to forget this important parental responsibility. I realize that you have little to no control over your wife but I would encourage you both to start marital counseling – even if it is only for the sake of the kids at first. It sounds like you are both stuck in a pattern of anger and resentment which leads to exactly what you describe: depression, hopelessness, regret, more anger, more resentment, etc… And none of these things do anything for your emotional intimacy, for your sex life, or for your level of communication.
Some questions I would want to know if I were working with you:* Was the sex ever good between the two of you, or did you face problems from the get-go? * Is there a history of sexual trauma for your wife? What about other sexual baggage? * What were the “sexual messages” you both received from your parents? Did you both have the opportunity to see affection, romance, and playfulness role modeled or not? * What did the deterioration of your relationship look like? What were the main issues that came up? Was it only sex or were there other factors involved? * Has your communication about this issue mainly come from a place of anger? Or have you been able to discuss this in a more calm atmosphere? * Do you think your wife feels the same way about your relationship? What would she add to this story? * Have you told your wife the things you have told me? * Have the two of you discussed the possibility of divorce? In other words, does your wife realize how badly this issue is affecting you? * Would you be willing to get professional help with or without her?
I have written a lot on “sexless marriage” and encourage you to go through and read some of those posts on my blog. There are no easy or magical solutions for these cases. The road to a healthy sexual and emotionally intimate relationship will take a lot of work and time. It is possible to achieve, but it will take the willing efforts of two people. I hope you and your wife can begin some difficult yet frank and respectful discussions regarding the future of your relationship.
What are your thoughts about spouses who withdraw sexually from a marriage? Is this ever appropriate? Under what circumstances might it be appropriate? For how long?
With sexual stigma within religious culture, I often come across many who believe sex is carnal in nature, only beneficial when used for procreation, and see husbands or wives who want sex as somehow “below” the optimal standard (not having their priorities in order). What do you have to say about this?
Sexless marriage is defined loosely as having sex less than 10 times a year. Do any of you have personal experiences that you would be comfortable sharing? What was helpful in resolving issues like these if you were successful in doing so?
Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist. She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.