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Long-term relationship; no sex. Does it matter and what can we do about it?

(5 Posts)
Tagetes Sun 21-Oct-12 09:03:36

I am a long-time lurker on Mumsnet, and the brilliant sensible advice I read on a regular basis has made me hope someone can advise on my situation.

OH and I are in our early 50s, married for nearly 20 years and together 10 years before that. No children by choice. I think it is a good relationship. We love and respect each other and are affectionate, have lots of both shared and separate interests, make each other laugh, are reasonably secure financially, all the positive usual stuff apart from one thing: no sex, for about 2 years now.

We never had as particularly active sex-life, once or twice a month, and neither of us has been that bothered. It was always me who had the higher sex drive but not THAT much higher. We have also never been particularly sexy around each other. No toys, games, movies, dressing up etc. For about 10 years he experienced erectile problems on and off. I persuaded him to go to the doctor who prescribed Viagra which certainly worked when he took it (and he didn?t always need it). For me (and this may be part of the problem) sex does mean full penetrative activity, and I know to some extent I blame him for the problems we have been having.

I went through the menopause about 3 years ago, and my sex drive has certainly diminished since then, but now I?m starting to worry we?ll never have sex again! For a while we went through a horrible period of me waiting for him to initiate and him not doing, building up to a row (when we were far too tired to have a proper discussion), shouting, tears, sex (sometimes successful sometimes not) a few days later, and then nothing until the whole sorry cycle started again a few weeks later. It sounds mad, but at least that is not happening any more.

He does recognise it as a problem, and we can talk about it, but I know we are brushing it under the carpet most of the time. We both work full-time with long commutes and the usual domestic stuff, family obligations etc but I feel we use tiredness as one of the excuses for not getting this sorted. I think he somehow thinks that when we retire and get more time, are not so tired etc, it will all miraculously work out. But we could be a good 10 years older by then!

He refuses to go and see a counsellor. We have both successfully had counselling separately for other issues in the past, but I think he?s afraid of what we might have to reveal and might be told (split up? It IS all his fault? I don?t know). I am prepared to give it a go because I veer between not minding, sadness and sheer panic that this stalemate will go on for ever. We did work through a Relate book on sex in long-term relationships, and the exercises and activities certainly brought us closer together but still ? no sex. I really don?t feel I can jump his bones. ? it has gone on too long for that, and I know he won?t approach me.

I am not afraid of him having an affair, and I am certainly not interested in sex per se, just sex with him. I don?t think it will split us up, but I don?t want to live like this for the rest of my life. I am not sure what advice I am looking for: validation that this is an OK way to live and it won?t harm our relationship? How to get him to counselling? How to move away from penetrative sex as being the only sort worth having? How to approach him about it again without going round in the same old circles?

With the usual apologies for this being so long, if anyone does have any ideas about how we can move forward or similar experiences to share (with positive or negative resolutions) I would love to hear them.

50shadesofmeh Sun 21-Oct-12 09:47:43

I think sex is overrated to be honest, if you both are close and in love then having sex is t everything, if it bothers you then it might chip away at your relationship but if not its not a problem really.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 21-Oct-12 09:54:39

You say you are affectionate together and, in your situation, I would build on that. Back off from penetration as being your criteria for successful sex and build up the affection to be much more intimate. A man with erectile issues could easily regard the expectation of penetration as so off-putting that he won't even risk initiating anything remotely intimate. Don't start what you can't finish... etc. If you can explore other ways to achieve orgasm together and break down inhibitions surrounding toys, movies or whatever then you can have a very rewarding sex life. Cut down on the long work hours, give each other priority, be more creative and broaden your definition of sex. Good luck

Tagetes Sun 21-Oct-12 12:21:38

Thanks both for your replies.

Cogito I think you have hit the nail on the head. DH is afraid of risking it (and afraid of risking counselling too). The Dr assured him there were no physical problems but mental blocks (if that is what it is) are almost more difficult to deal with.

50shades I agree I don't want to keep raking things over and making it worse, but I am not ready to let it lie just yet.

Posting my original message gave me the courage to mention it to DH again and (rather than get into it today - we have family coming for lunch) we have agreed an evening early next week for another discussion. Still open to ideas/suggestions though!

deliasmithy Sun 21-Oct-12 21:18:49

It sounds really good that you have both agreed to have a fair discussion about it, at a time when your not both tired and emotional.

I think some couples live without it in their relationship, I don't think it's sex per se (or lack of) that harms relationships, it's each persons feelings towards it, and building up of resentment/feelings. So talking is very good. With the converstion, rather than taking a negative stance of 'we don't do it any more' /blame game etc, what about making it a collaborative discussion about what you both want? For instance, make a list, what do each of you get from sex/intimacy, how would you like it to be, what do each of you think are the barriers to it happening more often? This is a good way to listen to each other's view on it.

I agree with another post about enjoying intimacy in general, to take the pressure off the end goal sometimes.

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