Style Sex & Relationships

Sunday 16 June 2019

Dear Mary: After 20 years of marriage we've drifted so far apart

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Photo posed

Mary O’Conor

I have been married for over 20 years and my wife and I have never spent more than two nights away together.

Sex is great when it happens, but our sex life is generally disastrous. My wife always achieves multiple strong orgasms during sex and once she is sated she puts on her pyjamas and reads a book!

I strongly believe sex is important to a happy and healthy marriage but my wife doesn't.

In the early years of our marriage the only time she ever initiated sex was when she wanted to get pregnant. So once that phase was over I became the only initiator and my wife is happy for weeks or months to pass without sex.

For years I have asked her to go away for weekends, out to dinner or the cinema, but this only happens on her terms as she approaches everything with a 'what's in it for me?' attitude.

We rarely do anything as a couple and she has no desire to change this. She has in the past agreed to sex once a week but this is a sad state of a marriage as sex should be fun, spontaneous and if it's a chore for my wife then what's the point in being married?

For the past few years whenever we fight about this or any parenting issue my wife will move out to the spare room until I apologise and support her.

This can be weeks and months and I have always given in so that peace is restored and 'normal' marital relations resumed but I can no longer continue doing this. The stress of all this is affecting our kids and me. I am now at the stage that I no longer wish to be married and want to separate.

Mary replies:  It doesn't sound like sex is a chore for your wife if she achieves multiple orgasms, although the image you paint of her putting on her PJs and reading a book after having sex is somewhat incongruous. Not that there's anything wrong with what she does, but you seem to be totally excluded. And that is what seems to be happening everywhere in the marriage.

It is extraordinary that you have never spent more than two nights away together and that she refuses to go away for even a weekend.

If you disagree on something she moves out of the bedroom until you apologise. This then is more exclusion rather than discussion and compromise which is at the heart of any long relationship.

I'm not surprised that you have reached the end of your acceptance of this way of living.

It may be that your wife isn't aware of just how unhappy you are but she needs to know.

You should tell her that you are no longer prepared to live as you are doing and that you are seriously contemplating separating.

You should suggest counselling which would help get things into perspective, although it would take quite a long time for counselling to effect a better relationship.

It would be very interesting to know what sort of template your wife had for a marriage and how her parents related to each other.

All of this would be covered in counselling, together with your hopes and expectations for the future, and no matter what the outcome I urge you to seek help.

Your wife seems to be the only one who is happy whereas you and the children are feeling stressed and this cannot continue.

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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