Friday 20 September 2019

Dear Mary: I love my wife of 10 years - but we never have sex

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Mary O’Conor

I have known my wife for more than 20 years and we have been married for more than 10. Our sex life is non-existent.

I would say we are both to blame for this as we have both switched off - we still share a bed but no intimacy takes place.

We are very good friends and get on well which has probably kept us together this long.

My question is do you think we should part ways and try to meet new people while we are still young? We are in our early forties.

There is a tendency in Ireland to stick it out so as not to have people talking.

My own parents would have shared a similar marriage and it hurts that I am now stuck in the same situation.

I read somewhere that if you are thinking about being with someone else then you should probably leave.

I hope you can give me some advice.

The thought of being on my own and having to find a place to live is probably the major thing that keeps me putting up with the situation.

Mary replies: There are lots of reasons why people stop having sex when they are married.

A couple may not have developed a regular pattern for intimacy before children came along and then childcare became a priority - particularly if both partners are working.

Or they may have been focused on career advancement with the resulting tiredness so that all they want to do when they get to bed is to sleep.

Or it may be that one person - male or female - had a very low libido and didn't prioritise their sex life. So then the 'manana' principle comes into play - there is always tomorrow, but somehow tomorrow never comes and they find that longer and longer periods have gone by without them having any sort of intimacy.

I don't agree that people stay together so as not to have people talking - separation and divorce are now quite common in Ireland.

People leave a marriage if it has become so unbearable they have no choice but to leave, or if they have met somebody else and cannot imagine a life without them.

There are also financial implications to be considered, as well as the effect a separation will have on the children if the couple have a family.

All of these things help people decide whether to leave a marriage or to remain.

You are indeed still very young and I wonder what caused both of you to switch off sex. Have you discussed this with your wife?

Is it possible to get things back on track with professional help?

From what you say, at this stage you are just toying with the idea of breaking up, so I would advise that you suggest to your wife that you consult a psychosexual therapist. Even an initial discussion with a therapist will get you much more focused as to what you actually want to do.

Twenty years is a lot to throw away without knowing that you gave it your best shot in trying to fix things.

You still get on very well which is great as that means that you could go into a sex therapy programme without having to go through relationship counselling first.

If, however, neither of you want to go down the therapy route then you need to decide between you where you go from here.

The probability is that in time one or both of you is going to feel the need of a sexual life and will go elsewhere - which is far from ideal.

Consult to find an accredited therapist in your area.

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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