Dear Mary: My husband and I haven't had sex for more than six months and he doesn't touch me without being prompted
Q: Recently, you have posted letters from men in despair over their sexually unresponsive women partners. I'm a woman at the end of my tether about my husband. We're both in our late 40s and were married five years ago.
Everything was fine for about a year, then he started withdrawing bit by bit. He still loves me, he says (when I ask him), but we haven't had any sex for more than six months and he hasn't even touched me without being prompted - except for a kiss goodnight - for even longer than that.
He's out of work, but he was between jobs when we met (he's not useless; he does a lot of housework). He's not seeing anyone else, I'm sure; he says he just doesn't feel like having sex at all.
I keep asking him if there's anything wrong, and he says everything's fine. But everything's not fine with me. I'm sure he thinks I'm disgusting.
He always sleeps with his back to me and won't let me touch him in bed. He barely responds when I talk to him. If I insist, he'll occasionally let me try to cuddle with him (he will lie there unmoving) and if he allows me to touch him in a sexual way, he apologises soon after and makes me stop.
If I try to talk to him about what's wrong between us, he shuts me down and tells me to stop whinging, that he's tired of me being upset all the time. He refuses flatly to go to counselling.
His family say he has Asperger's, but, you know what, so do I - and so do a lot of my friends and professional colleagues. It doesn't make them closed, stingy, grumpy, withdrawn, cold fishes. I can't even leave him because I have no other family and no support structure besides his family (who I fortunately get on with very well). But I don't want to leave. I miss the man I married so much. I hurt all the time. I can't work well or think well and I'm so tired all the time.
I honestly wish I could just go to sleep and never wake up. I wouldn't do anything to take my life, but I just don't want it if I'm just going to have to be a disgusting, useless thing whose husband doesn't want her anymore.
Mary replies: Having Asperger syndrome does not make people closed, stingy or any of the other adjectives that you attribute to your husband.
But it can result in them having a lack of empathy, being uncomfortable with social interaction and in some cases feeling overwhelmed by the sensory experience of sex because they have a problem with touch in general. Perhaps you are being a little too dismissive of the effect that Asperger's syndrome has on him.
Maybe you react in a different manner, particularly with regard to sex in general and touch in particular - so try to see things from his point of view.
It is very upsetting for you to feel so depressed about your situation, particularly as you are not with your family in this country.
Aspire Ireland is an organisation set up to help support those with Asperger syndrome and their families. Their helpline is (01) 878 0027 (open 10am-1pm and 2pm-5pm, Monday to Friday) and their website is www.aspireireland.ie.
You have tried talking about this to your husband to no avail - if you contact Aspire Ireland, you will be able to talk with people who find themselves in a somewhat similar situation to your own, and hopefully you will not feel quite so alone and unloved.
Q. I recently read a letter to you from a man who says his marriage is almost sexless. I too am of a similar age to his wife and if I was never to have sex again it wouldn't bother me, despite the fact that I adore my husband.
From talking to my friends, we nearly all feel the same and laugh about our ploys to avoid it. We have all come to the conclusion that the reason for this is totally natural, as our bodies can no longer produce children and we have no sex hormones left, namely oestrogen. When a woman is younger and fertile she will want sex but now nature is doing its thing and, as our child-bearing days are over, we no longer feel the same desires. Men can procreate till they are all ages so they will always want sex. It's nature again and, of course, God was obviously a man!
So leave us alone, men, and stop making us feel guilty. There is nothing wrong with us. We have had our children, our hormones are gone and our baby-making factories have closed down. That's why women on HRT feel sexy again - but who wants to take artificial hormones if they are not 100pc safe? So you can still be loving and affectionate with the man in your life and keep him sexually happy without the real deal.
Mary replies: You make some very interesting and valid points, and I'm sure many women will agree with you. But there are also post-menopausal women who continue to have a happy and fulfilling sexual life and they would have a totally different view to you. Indeed, some women report that their best sex has been when the possibility of having another baby has been removed. There are other factors as well of course: issues such as body image, attractiveness of the spouse and the state of the relationship, which can all affect one's sexual appetite. People also find that if they had fairly regular sex during their reproductive years, and enjoyed it, they will in all likelihood continue this throughout their lives.
You are obviously in a very good relationship, and as I understand it you are continuing to have a sexual life, just one that does not include intercourse. That's absolutely fine if you are both happy with that, and your husband hopefully feels loved and glad to have a sexual life.
It seems to me that you and your friends have decided that your sex lives as they used to be have ended, so anything I say will not change your minds as you have effectively shut down that option.
I have to point out to other readers, however, that this need not be the case. Of course one can exist without sex, and lots of people do, but it can be one of the most enjoyable and intimate acts that anybody can experience regardless of age.
You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Sunday Indo Living