Tuesday 28 March 2017

Dear Patricia: Tempted to pick up first man I see as my husband can't satisfy me

Patricia Redich

Q I AM a middle-aged woman who has been married a good few years. My children are good kids who have caused very little worries. And my husband is a good man. However, he has erectile problems.

When I broach the subject I am told that he will do something about it. I don't say it to him constantly -- as in nagging him-- because I don't want to make him feel bad. But Patricia, sometimes I could just pick up the first man I see and do it with him, no emotions attached. If it were that easy, and guaranteed to have no repercussions, believe me, I would do it. Just for the sex, which I didn't realise was important to me until it was gone. I think about sex all the time. I try to keep busy, but the thoughts remain.

My husband has no sexual feelings anymore. We could try other things I know, but I miss the passion, the lust. I miss the feeling of being wanted. And it has affected our relationship. I know I harbour some resentment. I think that if he loved me, he would try and do something about it. Even if there was no solution, at least he would have tried. He's already said, several times, that if this was a permanent medical condition, I would have to accept it.

I have thought of leaving, but too many people would be hurt. My youngest is still at school. And the older one likes to come back to this secure world we have in our home. Yet I think that life is slipping me by. I do realise that any decision I make will affect a lot of people. But I find it hard to accept that this is it -- no more sex for the rest of my life. Imagine. I never thought this could happen. I know the decision is mine and mine alone, but it would be nice to have someone tell me what to do.

A OK. I'll tell you what to do. Stop pussyfooting around. Stop worrying about making your husband feel bad. Sit him down and say your piece clearly. It's not nagging. It's a reality check. If he were drinking too much, would you let it go? If he were gambling the house-keeping money would you worry about sounding shrill? If he beat you, would you quietly hide the bruises? No, no, and no. Reneging on sex may be omission rather than deed, but it still has to be tackled.

I know you've tried it before. It's also clear that a one-off discussion is not enough. But you need to say it again, all of it. You are right. It's the fact that your husband is not trying which really hurts. He's quick to say that if it's a medical condition, you would have to accept it. The whole point, however, is that you don't know what's wrong. And until you know, you can't make any clear decisions. You say that your husband has lost interest in sex. Perhaps he has. Or perhaps that's a defence mechanism in the face of his erectile problems. He's loath to have it checked out. So it may seem easier to close down his desire -- for him, anyway. And then the passion is gone -- which is the hardest thing of all to bear. A passionate man with a technical problem could still satisfy you. Not wanting you and just going through the motions is the unbearable bit.

One of the hardest things to do in life is to be insistent in the face of someone's reluctance, without being unkind. My guess is that your husband is terribly scared. He's scared about his health, about his sexuality, about his self-esteem and status as a man. He's also scared about the implications for his relationship with you.

However unconsciously, he's picked up your restlessness. Consciously, he's aware of your resentment. Foolishly he's burying his head in the sand, which only inflames the situation. So when you talk to him, tell him you're in this together. Tell him this isn't a question of blame, but of finding out the truth, so that the problem can be dealt with. Tell him you want your marriage not only to continue, but to continue with love and dignity and kindness and respect. And that that is only possible if he takes your distress seriously enough to seek medical help. Because that's the truth. You want to wander, but only out of frustration, hurt and desperation. Seeing him love you enough to conquer his reluctance would make a big difference.

And then persist. Talking, and then playing happy families, doesn't work. The issue must remain on the table. Otherwise, as you've said yourself, silent resentment takes over, and it is emotionally corrosive and entirely non-productive.

You can give your husband a couple of weeks to digest all you've said, and then you have to tell him again, quietly but clearly, that you need him to move. The time frame of patience is up to you. So is the decision about what to do. All you owe your husband, your marriage and yourself, is clarity. He has to know it's serious.

Sunday Independent

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