Thursday 22 February 2018

Dear Mary: Sex is long gone between me and my wife - it's been five years since I got a kiss

The couple only communicate on a superficial level. Photo posed.
The couple only communicate on a superficial level. Photo posed.
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Connor

I am a married man in my fifties. My wife is the same age. We have been married for nearly 30 years now and have adult children.

My wife lost her father through an accident when she was a child and has ever since then felt a responsibility to make her mother happy. Unfortunately, her mother is a selfish self-centred woman who is very demanding.

Over the years my wife has suffered from anxiety and sees the worst in all situations, including the normal setbacks in life. She deals with all "crises" by withdrawing completely.

Now that the kids are reared I had hoped that things might improve. Unfortunately, her mother is now frail and is the absolute preoccupation for my wife.

My wife never handled intimacy well. I put this down to the rearing she got. She claims to have no memory of a happy day or time while growing up. She has been, and is, a fantastic mum to our kids.

However, she only communicates with me at a superficial level. We used to like watching television together but she has stopped this saying that she doesn't like my choice of programmes. I watch a broad selection of programmes. We used to walk, but now she is either too tired or she has walked with a friend earlier in the day. Sex is long gone. It was always sporadic but it is five years now since I received even a kiss. No hugs, nothing.

I have been successful in business and my wife enjoys all the trappings of this success. We live in a beautiful house in a location of her choosing. She has the best of jewellery, the best car, the best golf clubs and the best clothes of all of her friends, but she still considers that she is hard done by. It's impossible to change that outlook. I know that my wife is a snob and experiences envy when someone in our circle changes a car, goes on holiday etc. Yet we have the holiday home, the boat etc and she cannot see that we are doing all right.

I have thought about leaving but it is not what I want. Leaving a marriage is really breaking up a family. I love my family and our friends and want to keep it together if at all possible. But with the kids now reared and the last about to leave home, I am panicking about what happens next.

I just want it to be the case that I might get the occasional hug.

Mary replies: What a very sad letter. Your wife on the one hand sounds like a very caring person - a wonderful mother and a very concerned daughter. However she does not seem to care at all about you, or at least doesn't seem to care about making you happy. Your needs are not very much - companionship, appreciation for what you have provided for her and a hug from time to time are all you ask for.

I understand that she has problems with intimacy stemming from her unhappy childhood, but that does not really excuse her doing all the taking from you and giving nothing to you in return. Has she any idea how unhappy you are, and that you have actually considered leaving the marriage even though you will not do so? If not, then you will have to tell her that the prospect of the next 20 or 30 years with her is so unappealing as to be worrying. Explain that you are feeling terribly lonely and unloved and that at this stage it is not even about the sex but it is about feeling wanted and appreciated. If you own these feelings rather than apportion blame it will make the dialogue easier. But you must have the conversation because it is not going to get better of its own accord.

Your last child is about to leave home and your children will now be making their own way in the world. So the family as it used to be will be fragmented, leaving at its core yourself and your wife. You feel that you want to stay together at all costs, but perhaps the cost is too great. I have to ask what you are getting from the marriage as it stands right now - apart from loneliness.

I'm pregnant and worried

I am with my boyfriend five months. At the start we really fell in love. He told me  that he wanted a future for us like marriage, kids and our own home. He promised me the world at the start and said he would never leave. I found out two months ago I'm expecting my first baby (not planned). I was shocked at the start but now I am completely over the moon with the news. He couldn't get over the shock when I told him but says he's coming around to it now. I am four months pregnant now and  last month he broke up with me as he wasn't feeling himself and didn't want to drag me along with him. We  talked things through and I told him life will be hard for us both but if we stick together we will get there. He says we missed a lot like our first holiday, more trips away and more date nights out. I have tried to reassure him that we can do all that as a family when the baby gets here. He has a child already and is a great dad.

Now we are back together but I'm finding it hard to trust him anymore because he broke my heart while I'm carrying his child and I don't know what sort of man can do that. I want to believe that he wants to be with me and loves me but he works so much I hardly see him - just once a week; and since the fight when he wanted to break up with me my family don't want him around in our home. I'm really struggling with what to do. Is he only staying because of the baby? Will we ever get back to normal? Should I just walk away, as hard as it would be for me, because I just don't feel as loved as I did and all I ever wanted was his time and affection. Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Mary replies: I can understand what a shock your pregnancy news was to your boyfriend. Your relationship is relatively new and he already has a child for whom he is responsible. He was no doubt looking forward to some fun with you before settling down, and while I agree it is possible to have fun and have a baby your life will be seriously different when the baby arrives. Nobody is quite prepared for the change that a small baby makes to their life, but it is quite dramatic. A little baby is totally dependant on their parent or parents for everything - food, nurture, love, physical care - and you will always be their parent no matter what age they are. Your boyfriend has already experienced this with his first child, and so knows what is ahead.

His initial reaction was to cut the ties with you but then you talked to him and he changed his mind. This doesn't make him any lesser a person - we all do unexpected things when we are in shock. It may be that he is only staying because of the baby, or he may truly love you and anyway these two things are not mutually exclusive. Only time will tell how things are going to work out. The most important thing now is to take good care of yourself, avoid stress, eat well and do everything in your power to ensure that you have a happy, healthy baby when it is born. Take one day at a time in your relationship, don't be too demanding and try to enjoy your time together before the birth. It might even be possible for you to have a weekend away together to enjoy each other's company before the baby arrives.

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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