Style Sex & Relationships

Thursday 17 January 2019

Dear Mary: After 20 years of problems our sex life is non-existent

One reader's relationship is on the brink of breaking down. Photo posed
One reader's relationship is on the brink of breaking down. Photo posed

Mary O’Conor

My husband never climaxes when we have sex.

He cannot have an orgasm unless he masturbates himself.

We are married over 20 years and unfortunately this has been the case for most of our married life.

I've interpreted this as withholding and it has had a very damaging effect on my self-esteem and our relationship.

Our relationship has suffered and now we don't have sex at all.

And I feel like our relationship is on the brink of breaking down.

Mary replies: What you describe is delayed ejaculation, which is far less common than the opposite problem of premature ejaculation.

I am sorry that you feel your husband is withholding because I am almost certain that this is not the case.

Delayed ejaculation can be as a result of health conditions, surgeries or because of certain medications.

But it can also be as a result of learned behaviour, particularly with regard to masturbatory experiences.

So for some men what helps them reach a climax is their own stimulation, as they know exactly what they like, whereas for other men the most exciting thing for them is the experience of sexual intercourse.

But nobody should say that any one way is superior to the other - it is simply what works for one man will not work for another.

Sex therapy is sometimes, although not always, successful in treating this problem.

As you feel that your relationship itself is now in trouble then it would be best if you could both attend a relationship counsellor for help with this.

If the counsellor feels it beneficial they could then refer you to a psychosexual therapist, but the most important thing right now is for you to get your marriage back on track.

It may be that your husband will not agree to counselling, in which case you will have to try to get across to him the feelings of inadequacy that you have been experiencing as a result of your sex life as a couple.

And then be prepared to believe him when he tells you - as no doubt he will - that it has nothing to do with his feelings of attraction to you.

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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