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Strategies for coping without sexual intimacy in a marriage

(76 Posts)
usuallyconfused Thu 22-Oct-15 18:50:11


I am in a marriage with no sexual intimacy, although we are very close and moderately affectionate towards each other. For various reasons my wife is not able to entertain sexual intimacy (sex of any flavour, intimate touching or passionate kissing) in our relationship. I on the other hand find sex and physical intimacy to be important, both generally, and to our relationship, and very much struggle without. We went through Relate some time ago to improve things, with some temporary improvement, but ultimately without a positive lasting result. Our sexual intimacy issues have been going on for around 10 years, and we are now in our late thirties. Things came to an unfortunate head recently because I reached the end of my tether and finally "gave up" on things ever improving, and it is fair to say that something needs to change in our relationship. We are both willing to fight to save our marriage, but I can only see three possibilities:

(1) We have another go at reviving our sex life, and it succeeds;
(2) We separate; or
(3) We investigate a coping strategy (basically for me) for a marriage without sex and physical intimacy.

Frankly, option (1) is unlikely to work, since we have tried it all before, although we have not entirely given up just yet. Option (2) is not desirable because (a) our marriage and life together is fantastic in all other ways, and (b) we have three fairly young children, and our family unit is important to us.

We are shortly to be attending Relate again, to talk about what all this means for our relationship, and how to move forwards, but before we do so I just wanted to canvas some opinion on the third of these options, which neither of us had given real consideration to before. In particular, I want to try to fully understand whether anyone else has taken an active decision to basically "give up" on sex and intimacy in the interests of preserving their marriage, whether they were able to make it work, and if so HOW! :-)

I'm not saying that we'll never touch each other again and sleep in separate rooms - simply that we would both give up on trying to sort out our sex lives, and focus only on connecting in ways she is comfortable with - generally non-physical, but she is perfectly happy with the occasional hug, a massage, and sitting together on the sofa. If by some freak of romantic coincidence something sparks off between us without trying, then great - but we wouldn't be hunting for it.

Please could posts be directed if possible to this issue, rather than on my other two options - which I have already explored in substantial detail!

Please could posts also not be directed to suggesting open relationships, secret affairs, or the use of sex workers!

Also, not keen on chemical castration (!), although I wouldn't necessarily discount natural remedies or dietary suggestions which may diminish male sex drive, since this might be of some help.

From the reading I have done so far, the conventional wisdom seems to be that a sexless marriage can work just fine if neither person is that bothered about sex, but is a tricky beast indeed if one party does want it, which is certainly the case for me. Having given it some thought, I think the two things I find most difficult are firstly the absence of sexual intimacy in my life at all, and secondly the difficulty in fully connecting emotionally with my wife without sex (she doesn't really experience this - she feels comfortably close to me without, so this problem only applies in one direction).

I think perhaps what I am most interested in is whether by way of mental attitude, coping strategies and lifestyle it is possible to live a happy and fulfilling life in my situation.

One final point - the solution should not just be a stop-gap until our children grow up and leave home, since my wife has said she would rather the relationship failed now so she can plan the rest of her life before she hits 40 rather than when she is nearly 50! I guess what this means is that the advice "just focus on the children" for the next 10 years will not work!


Terrifiedandregretful Thu 22-Oct-15 20:21:14

I think only you can say if you could cope long term without a sex life. I am in a sexless relationship too and think about these options endlessly. It sounds like living without sex is not something palatable for you. I'm not sure that there's anything you can do to change that.

spudlike1 Thu 22-Oct-15 20:31:07

See a Sex therapist who can specifically deal with the issues rather than Relate,
And you wife to see a psychotherapist to deal with her issues separately.

spudlike1 Thu 22-Oct-15 20:32:49

You sound like you have given up and so does your wife why is that ?

Blodss Thu 22-Oct-15 20:52:06

From what you have said, you do not want a sexless relationship. You have said that in the past you have become more sexual and then your wife stops sexual relations again. Without knowing why she doesn't want to be physically intimate with you, all I can say is that you are entitled to have the relationship you want too.

gatewalker Thu 22-Oct-15 20:55:15

OP - I feel sad thinking about the fact that you're considering ways of 'castrating' yourself. Just very sad. What you are feeling is entirely natural. Why stem what is authentic for you?

I'm backing spudlike1's suggestion. And if you want names of sex therapists who deal with just your situation, PM me.

nearlyhadenough Thu 22-Oct-15 20:58:23

I have lived in a sexless marriage for about 20 years.

My DH has no desire to have an intimate relationship. He will peck me on the cheek when he says goodbye - a bit like kissing an elderly aunt really.

We have tried ordinary counselling and psycho-sexual therapy - he was not interested after the first couple of sessions.

The rest of our life (until recently - but that is another story) was OK.

I decided about 7/8 years ago that I could not keep trying to get him to want me in the way that I want him.... I thought I could live in a completely unaffectionate relationship.

It's not possible. I ache to be touched, to be kissed with passion, it can't be turned off.

I am also not prepared to seek sex elsewhere (though I did have to seriously consider this option at one point).

I am now planning my exit from this soul destroying, heart breaking sham of a marriage. It has taken my confidence, self-esteem and everything else that I once had.

Consider what your wife has said about ending it sooner rather than later. I wish I had. Maybe she is trying to tell you something.

usuallyconfused Thu 22-Oct-15 21:21:11

Hi spudlike,

It's not that we've given up on the marriage - it's more that we've run out of ideas to be able to have a sexual relationship together. I've spent the last 10 years hoping and believing it will get better (it was fine when we were first together), but I think I've reached the tipping point now where I don't believe that any more, and can no longer bring myself to allow my wife to be (very occasionally!) doing things with me she just isn't comfortable doing. I don't resent my wife about it at all - she has gone to incredible lengths to see doctors, hypnotherapists, psychotherapists, sex therapists - you name it!

Blodss Thu 22-Oct-15 21:27:30

I would have thought that "desire" is the only thing you really need to have a sexual relationship (bar illness of course).

Blodss Thu 22-Oct-15 21:30:20

Is she possibly not sexually in love with you?

cowbag1 Thu 22-Oct-15 21:42:26

I think it's a bit difficult to advise without knowing exactly why your wife doesn't want sex and hasn't for some time despite being relatively young.

Does she actually have no sexual desire or, sorry if this sounds harsh, does she just not desire you sexually? If it's the latter, it doesn't matter what actions you take as she could find someone she is sexually attracted to at any point in the future and choose to end the relationship herself. There will always be that risk.

I agree with seeking psychosexual counselling. You can't just switch your desire off and neither should you have to.

Keepithidden Thu 22-Oct-15 22:08:24

Hi Usually, I'm in a similar situation and won't comment on the emotional/psychological side of things as I know this is different in every case and subject to the individuals involved. So, as far as strategies are concerned I have been experimenting for a while, without a great deal of success I might add, but hey, everyones different!

Firstly I tried herbal and traditional anaphorodisiacs - chasteberry (or monkspepper) I tried it for a month or so without any effect whatsoever. However, there are studies that disprove my findings so I may have just tried a duff batch. I may well try again in the future.

Secondly, I experimented a bit with hormones, specifically taking the Pill, yep the very same one that women everywhere take daily as contraception! That was a bit more effective, it was/is such a low dose that the traditional physical characteristics associated with hormone therapy (breast growth, reduction in fcaial hair etc...) didn't materialise. It left me feeling slightly odd and did reduce my libido. Unfortunately after a few months of use the reduction wasn't ongoing. My current theory is that this may be psychosomatic, rather than an actual impact.

Finally, and I admit to experimenting with drugs in my youth, I tried pyschoactive substances, legal highs. These were very effective, but the side effects (i.e. being high) meant it wasn't a long term solution.

I should add that I have a background in science, a fair knowledge of medicine and a very keen sense of risk, so I researched all of the above thoroughly before experimenting. There's an awful lot not known about the effects of a lot of these things on the human body and messing around with your body chemistry isn't recommended (I'm no doctor and I know that!), but desperate times and all that.

So, that's the sum of my results over the past few years. Short of getting hold of a radioactive source and administering self-chemical-castration I'm running out of ideas on the chemical front.

I have tried counselling too. Unfortunately their conclusion was that I'm pretty normal. Make of that what you will!

Hope the above helps, you're not alone.

Blodss Thu 22-Oct-15 22:09:23

OP you do not post a lot.

I have seen your last thread written a month ago. You have explained there all about your relationship history which helps to fill in the gaps on here. Without all this information no one can really advise you as you have given so little to go on.

Blodss Thu 22-Oct-15 22:11:31

You believe your wife to be gay or possibly bi sexual. This may explain the lack of desire for you?
You cheated on your wife and were going to tell her. How did that go?

usuallyconfused Thu 22-Oct-15 22:55:42

With reference to the comments about why my wife doesn't want a sexual relationship, there are a number of possible reasons for this (and yes, possible bisexuality issues are one, as are the possibility that my wife simply doesn't desire me in that way any more), but this isn't really material to the question of how it might be possible for our marriage to thrive without a sexual component.

The key point for the purpose of this thread is that we both want it to work (although not necessarily at any cost), but need to work out if that is viable.

Blodss Thu 22-Oct-15 23:00:38

You are asking for a coping strategy to stay together in a possible sexless marriage for ever?

Only you can answer that. You have already had an affair so do you really think you can be celibate forever?

Blodss Thu 22-Oct-15 23:05:42

You could of course stay together and it could work as you sound best friends but is this what you really want? Could you see yourself doing this for the rest of your lives together or would you possibly look back when you are older and realise what you have missed out on.

ObsidianBlackbirdMcNight Fri 23-Oct-15 05:04:26

I really don't think we can advise you on how to be ok with no sex ever again
I don't think I would want to advise someone on that to be honest.
I think your relationship isn't working and you should probably start thinking in terms of moving on.

usuallyconfused Fri 23-Oct-15 05:22:29

Thanks Obsidian,

I fully appreciate that no-one can tell me what would work for ME in terms of being okay without sex. Even I cannot do that. However, what people CAN tell me is what has worked for THEM (if anything), and it is then up to me to explore whether it might work for me as well.

We will be looking at the option of us both moving on, but this is very much a last resort for the reasons I gave above. Even if the sex side of things cannot be fixed and I cannot find a way of making things easier for myself, it is still not a foregone conclusion that we will give up on the marriage.

PitilessYank Fri 23-Oct-15 08:30:38

Your attempt to find a way to chemically suppress your sexuality is sad and very telling, in my opinion. If you were my brother, I would advise you to leave the marriage.

My parents had a sexless marriage for decades-however, my mother was seriously mentally ill, and my father, I suspect, was a closeted gay man. It seemed to work for them, but I would not recommend it.

As a person with a vibrant sex life with my husband, 20 years married (not bragging, just saying...), I can say that I would find your situation agonizing.

usuallyconfused Fri 23-Oct-15 09:30:06

The chemical suppression angle may be a bit of a red herring - while I'm not adverse to something mild and natural to take the edge off being horny, I certainly have no wish to completely change my personality with hormonal or psychotropic substances!

That said, I guess I am looking to change myself in some way so that sex is less important to me (both generally, and in the context of my marriage) - but my intention would be to do this by way of mental attitude and lifestyle, should such a thing be possible.

The question is, is it possible?

I've not seen much positive response yet!!

spudlike1 Fri 23-Oct-15 09:30:24

As you are friends and and both care deeply about you children surely you can manage an amicable split .
If she is never going to at least meet you halfway you are in an awful marriage .
30 is young both of you would be happier in more suited relationships.

usuallyconfused Fri 23-Oct-15 09:34:08

Hi spud,

Not far off 40, unfortunately... :-(

Yes, I think an amicable split would be likely, but it is still something of a nuclear option which both of us would prefer to avoid - both for ourselves and our children.

Orangeanddemons Fri 23-Oct-15 09:36:53

Speaking as someone who has practically zero sex drive, I think you need to split. I don't think you can make so done be interested in sex

ginagslovechild Fri 23-Oct-15 09:41:52

My husband and I have very different sex drives, children and two traumatic deliveries plus some weight gain on my part have knocked my confidence completely. But saying that, I couldn't live without the intimacy, when we do have sex it is good, and to me when you're in love there should be desire, for a relationship to have no desire I think then that she is not in love with you, it's not about getting your rocks off you obviously genuinely love her.
I think in situations like this you should think about what advice you'd give your children, remembering we only get one life, one chance at being happy, and to sacrifice your self esteem and your chance for real, true love, I find that very sad, and I feel for you.
You deserve true love, someone who desires you, someone who wants you, both emotionally and physically, and I don't think your wife will if it doesn't come naturally to her.
One life, remember that.

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