Saturday 25 November 2017

Dear Mary: My husband doesn't want sex with me

Why not schedule time for intimacy?
Why not schedule time for intimacy?

Mary O'Connor

Relationship counsellor and psychosexual therapist Mary O'Conor offers relationship advice in her weekly column.

Question: I am 46, my husband is 52, we have had a very busy few years as we met later in life and had our two children in quick succession. We get along well, we  both have busy jobs so any spare time is spent catching up with house stuff, kids activities etc.

Everything rolls along as I am sure it does for other couples and families and I would imagine that to the outside world we are a normal couple.

We rarely have sex, when I say rarely, once every couple of months is the norm, and then it usually happens when my husband has had a few drinks after a night out with his friends.

Like most people, we were very active in the early part of our relationship. Then the babies came along and we never seemed to fall into a new routine.

You may suggest that due to my husband's age he may be experiencing impotence issues, but I am aware (and he is aware that I am aware) that he masturbates while watching porn alone late at night.

I try not to dwell on this issue as it makes me feel very lonely and unloved. Part of me would love to accept that my sex life is over and just get on with the rest of our lives together but I crave love and affection from my husband and wonder what he thinks about the whole situation.

Yes - I hear you - I should tell him all of this, but maybe I am afraid of what I will hear in return. A few times I have tried to talk, but he fobs me off saying that he is tired and works hard.

What I really want to know is how I can learn to live contentedly in a marriage to which I am very committed, with a man whom I love, and accept that he wants me here as a house mate/childminder/co-parent but not as a woman and a lover?

Mary replies: I don't believe that you have to accept a life where you feel that you are not a woman and a lover in your husband's eyes. You will hopefully have another thirty or more years together, and that is far too long to be feeling the way you do, particularly as every other part of your life seems to be going so well.

I imagine that lots of people are reading this with interest as they find themselves in pretty similar situations. Not necessarily with their husband watching porn but with the absence of a sex life. Many people think that everybody else is having much more sex than they are even though that is not usually the case. In reality, it is of no consequence to other people what goes on in a couples' home, as long as the couple are happy. So lots of sex, sex once a year or no sex at all are all fine, providing that both people are agreeable. In your case you are not happy and so things need to change.

You do have sex when your husband comes in from a night out after a few drinks. So you see he still wants to be sexual with you, and I hope that you both enjoy it. But you have got out of the routine that you had early on in your marriage and anybody who has had children will fully understand your predicament. The problem is that you didn't get back into a pattern of regular sex, and by regular sex I mean twice a week at least.

He now seems to have replaced your sex life with porn and masturbation, and that is at the heart of your problem, because if his sexual needs are being met in this way, he doesn't have so much of a desire for sex with you. He knows that you are aware of what is going on, and that is good, because whether you like it or not you are going to have to discuss it with him. However, instead of accusing him of neglecting you, which he is, take ownership of the feelings that this produces in you and tell him that you feel lonely, sad or whatever it is that you actually feel, and that you would love things to be different. Then suggest that you make a change in your routine by going to bed an hour earlier than normal two evenings a week, have a bath or a shower, and then spend that hour giving pleasure to each other in whatever way you both like.

Leave the sexual act out of things for the moment, what you want is to be held and stroked and made to feel wanted again. This will probably feel very strange to begin with, but it will get easier and you will both come to look forward to those times together.

Gradually you can re-introduce intercourse, but don't be in any rush - particularly if you are enjoying what you are doing.

It probably sounds a bit forced to schedule your time together, but you schedule everything else in your lives so why not your time for intimacy?

I'm suggesting this because it is along the lines of what a sex therapist would recommend if you went for treatment. I feel that you are likely to be able to resolve things between yourselves, rather than seek help, but of course that option is always open to you. But don't give up and accept things as they are - life is too short and you deserve to be happy.

I don't want my life to be like this anymore

Question: I've been feeling so lost and alone. I'm a professional woman, married and unhappy.  I'm not Irish, so I have no family members here except for my daughter. My husband is Irish, divorced and with  kids from his previous marriage. I never thought that he could hurt me so much.

We are married now for a few years and he has never had a sense of responsibility. He is always on at me about my duty to pay the bills and especially the rent. Every time I get my wages, I give my share but he never pays the total amount of the bills and sometimes he doesn't pay at all.

One time I went back on holidays to my own country and left the money to pay the rent. When I came back, I had a letter from the landlord asking us to leave because the rent had not been paid for two months.

He gave as an excuse his depression so I gave him another chance. Then when I was unemployed and he was working, he complained all the time about having to pay for things on his own.

Soon I got a new job and I started sharing the bills again, but he didn't pay his full amount and the bills started to accumulate. He lies all the time and I feel stupid because I believe in what he says when he promises that he will change.

I just need help to be strong enough not to believe in his lies and have my freedom again. I don't want this life anymore.

Thank you very much for your time.

Mary replies: Yours is a very sad letter because it seems that your entire marriage is reduced to who is responsible for paying the bills. There is no mention of love, laughter, companionship, sex, shared hobbies and separate interests - in other words all the things that go to make up a successful relationship.

You may just as well be sharing a house with somebody with whom you have agreed to split the costs. At least that is how your letter comes across to me, although I realise that not writing in your mother tongue may be a little difficult for you.

I wonder if your relatively new husband realises just how unhappy you are. I sense from your letter that you are thinking of leaving him. However two years is a very short time and rather than leave, you should see if anything can be done to make things better.

You should start by having a serious conversation with your husband explaining how unhappy you are and ask for his co-operation in making changes particularly with regard to your money issues. Marriage is supposed to be an equal partnership and yours is not. If you don't get anywhere with him then you need to seek outside help.

I realise it is particularly difficult for you as you have no family from whom you can get support. Money is obviously a problem for you, but there are agencies that offer counselling either free of charge or on a sliding scale of payments, for instance the HSE National Counselling Service (NCS) is a professional, confidential counselling and psychotherapy service available free of charge in all regions of the country:

If you are part of a community from your own country there may well be something in place there, or if you are a member of a particular church you should check with your pastor as to what he suggests. I strongly recommend that you try this - either for yourself or for both of you - before you finally call an end to the marriage.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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