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Dear Mary: Can my marriage survive without physical intimacy?


Can a relationship survive without physical intimacy?

Can a relationship survive without physical intimacy?


Getty Images

Getty Images

Getty Images


Can a relationship survive without physical intimacy?

I have a simple but very loaded question: can a marriage survive without physical intimacy?

I have a simple but very loaded question: can a marriage survive without physical intimacy?

I am a 48-year-old married woman and my husband is 54. We had a healthy sex life for a few years and had our children. But following the birth of the youngest nine years ago, sex has left the room.

We are busy, but no more so than many other couples. Emotional intimacy is very hard when you don't feel loved or valued by your husband. He has no interest in weekends away; we don't spend any time together.

He socialises locally, and I am welcome to tag along but I am not interested.

I would never leave my marriage and neither would he, as our children would suffer.

Really what I am asking is how I can, as a still relatively young woman, face the future in a positive manner and learn to cope with the fact that my marriage is based on a working relationship, a co-parenting situation and not on a traditional marriage mode?

Mary replies: A simple answer is that yes, a marriage can survive without physical intimacy, and this can happen for a variety of reasons.

However you are not talking only about physical intimacy being missing in your marriage - you are missing a whole lot more.

I have to question the relationship itself because apart from having somebody to share the care of your children, you don't seem to be getting anything else from it.

You are apparently living separate lives although sharing a home.

This is not a good role model for your children and will cause them difficulties when they start to have relationships themselves, as the norm for them will be no affection or love being shown between a couple.

So even though you don't want to separate and have your children suffer as a result, they are already suffering to some extent.

Things cannot remain as they are - you may end up by having an affair or by becoming very bitter, which is very understandable given the circumstances.

And you may well find yourself unable to continue with your marriage.

As neither of these options is ideal, then counselling is the answer, because if nothing else comes out of it you need to know why physically everything stopped as soon as you had your children.

If your husband refuses to seek help, then you need to speak to somebody yourself, as this will help you decide what you want to do next.

Dear Mary: Rumours over my grandma's will are making my uncle's life hell

I am a 35-year-old married man with two beautiful little girls. I have a wife I love and we both have good jobs, a lovely house and no mortgage.

I should be the happiest man in Ireland but instead I am deeply troubled by the treatment my beloved uncle is getting from his family.

My father was a hopeless alcoholic and my uncle, who is now in his mid-50s, lived just a few doors away from us and more or less reared us.

He had a close group of friends who were rough and tough, but always nice to us and he had a woman friend who it was understood he would marry eventually.

However, she died suddenly and two of his close friends became ill and a third fell victim to senility.

My uncle was always a nice man but he was also pretty tough and in his younger days was known as someone who wouldn't back down. His own father, my grandfather, was a compulsive gambler and could be a brutal man, and his mother was often ill. My uncle toyed with the idea of going to England but he said he couldn't leave his sick mother alone with such a husband, and his only brother wasn't much help.

As she had always intended, my grandmother left the house to me. No one objected. I would inherit the house when both my grandfather and my uncles who lived in it, were dead. However after a few months, one of my aunts started to say the will was unfair and should be changed in her favour. She spread news around the town that my uncle was a heroin addict and that he was taking my grandfather's pension. My uncle is successful and never short of money, he makes sure his father wants for nothing. He rarely drinks and has never seen heroin. But in this town, rumours gather pace.

I saw my uncle recently and suggested that I didn't need to inherit the house, which is a small council house. I told him that I was willing to share the house when it was eventually sold. He reacted very strongly, telling me that it wasn't about me, but about my grandmother.

He said she had put up with 50 years of abuse from my grandfather, and the least she deserved was to have her final wishes respected.

At the moment my uncle is at rock bottom. He has gone completely grey and has lost an awful lot of weight. My worry is that some fool might make a remark in his direction and God knows what the outcome would be. There must be some way I can help. How can I offer advice to someone who is far more intelligent and streetwise than I am?

Mary replies: Because of space restrictions I have cut a lot of what you wrote but I hope readers get the general idea as to what your concerns are. Wills often cause a lot of heartache so your extended family is not alone in this. Your aunt wants things changed, you would be happy enough to do this to avoid hassle to your uncle but he is adamant that it should not be changed in order that your grandmother's wishes are respected - something that her husband didn't do while she was alive.

Your main concern obviously is for your uncle's welfare. He appears to have been very affected by the malicious rumour that is spreading and you are afraid that he will break under the strain and do something harmful to somebody. In a way the roles have reversed - he took care of you and now you want to take care of him. You said in your email that he has promised not to do anything and you have never known him to break his word, so take comfort from that. You live far away from him but I would advise that you keep in regular contact with him by phone, and even if he doesn't want to talk about it just have conversations about what is going on in your life. You could also suggest that he visit you if he can get away, even for a weekend. A change of venue would do him a lot of good. Or the two of you could go somewhere on a short trip. Anything that would remove him for a little while from the nasty gossip. And don't forget to tell him that you love him - he needs to feel loved right now.

Would it be possible for you to call a family conference and confront the issue? You all seem to be talking about it but not to each other. Your aunt needs to be stopped as she has gone too far.

It is a very complex and difficult situation and I wish you well.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie 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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