Monday 24 September 2018

Dear Mary: 'My wife and I haven't had sex for over four years... I'm frustrated all the time'

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Mary O’Conor

I'm a 48-year-old man and have been married for 25 years. I have not had sex or an intimate relationship with my wife for four and a half years. It came to a head recently when I asked why we don't have sex. She said that I don't satisfy her - mainly as I suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED). The last time we did have sex I took Cialis and I thought it worked. She doesn't even want to try sex because of the ED. How do we start having sex again? It is impacting our overall relationship as I am frustrated all the time. Any help you can give would be very gratefully received.

Mary replies: Something isn't quite right with the time frame you are giving me. You haven't had sex for over four years and yet only recently asked your wife why this is? That's a long time to wait to have that particular conversation.

In my experience with clients it very often was the case that the wife had been asking her husband for quite some time to do something, such as going to the doctor, in order to have their erectile difficulties investigated. By the time they came to see me she had become very frustrated at his inaction and was now beyond caring. Of course there were many men who went to the doctor of their own volition as soon as they began to have erection difficulties.

But I am trying to find a reason why your wife seems unwilling to try to overcome the problem. It may also be that she has got used to a life without sex and is quite happy to continue like this. The problem is, however, that you are feeling very unhappy with the lack of sex and want to do something about it.

Try to have one more conversation with your wife about all of this, explaining how you are feeling and your fear that it is having a very negative impact on your relationship. Ask if she would be willing to go to see a psychosexual therapist.

A therapist would speak to both of you and then see you individually in order to get a full picture as to what are the difficulties you are facing and why you are having them. Then if the therapist feels that therapy would be right for you, he or she will suggest a series of exercises for you to do together at home, usually twice a week.

Initially there is a ban on intercourse, or indeed anything sexual, and the couple will start all over again with a massage and non-sexual touching.

This ban is quite reassuring for the couple as it removes any sort of performance anxiety and gets them back to enjoying each other's bodies. Gradually over the weeks instructions are given to include some sexual touching so that the confidence of both partners grows. Specific exercises are then incorporated to deal with the erectile problem and eventually the hope is that they will get back to full functioning.

If your wife will not see a therapist then you should ask what she suggests you do. I find it strange that you thought the Cialis worked, whereas she says it didn't. Surely you would know whether or not you had an erection.

Perhaps she is trying to tell you that there is more to sex than intercourse.

I find it difficult to give you a definitive answer without hearing your wife's point of view, but I urge you to try to talk about it with her again and try to come up with a plan that would be mutually acceptable.

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