Friday 18 October 2019

Dear Mary: We're married 35 years but missed out on sex

Photo posed
Photo posed

Mary O’Conor

After a whirlwind romance my husband and I have been married for 35 years.

We were virgins when we married. We appear to be the perfect couple but it is just for show really. We are great friends and good companions and I think he adores me, but we never had a good sex life and thus no family. Indeed, I have never had an orgasm.

Early on we decided that we didn't want to have children, mainly because I felt I couldn't tolerate the pain of childbirth.

If we had sex he would get over-excited and things would end there. I was happy with this for a while as was he.

My parents had separated whereas my husband's parents were very loving and close. I think this is what attracted me to him, he being so different, so supportive and sympathetic to my upbringing.

I never confided in my mother about our lack of sex life. From time to time she would ask about me getting pregnant so I pretended we were using contraception.

We have a nice house which is maintained very well and he does most of the work himself. My worry, apart from the lack of a good sex life, is that he has no close friends of his own and thus hangs on to me all the time even when I go shopping. I have noticed this more since he retired a few years ago.

He can be good company and will entertain my friends and welcome them with open arms. Recently we have become very friendly with a younger couple who have two children we both adore.

I cannot help feeling that we have lost out by not having had children of our own, but it is too late now given that we are both in our sixties. He doesn't express his opinion but I cannot help feeling that we have failed each other because I was too scared to get pregnant, but I also feel deprived of a good sex life for all those years, and so the perfect marriage is a fake really.

I think that I am just a bit bitter and disappointed that I never blossomed to my full potential, and it seems I will just die almost like an old maid with no immediate family or children to care for me.

Maybe I was born into the wrong generation because now youngsters get the opportunity to have a good sex life even before marriage.

He would never initiate sex and can barely manage an erection these times, but I believe this is natural with age.

Mary replies: You seem to have got your decision not to have children all mixed up with your lack of a sex life. You are also regretting that decision because you see your younger friends enjoying a good family life, and you are sorry that you will have nobody to look after you in your old age.

All in all your letter is full of regrets and 'if onlys' and that is no way to live your life. You may have another 25 years ahead of you and looking backwards instead of forwards is a complete waste of time.

It sounds as if you got off to a bad start with your husband suffering from premature ejaculation which suited you at the time as you didn't want to get pregnant.

But rather than seek help or use contraception you seem to have chosen to abstain from sex. This is never a good idea and can only lead to resentment by one or both partners.

Nobody has a perfect marriage, and if people maintain that they have then they are probably being economical with the truth.

Some aspect of their lives together causes them grief, whether it be a partner working too hard, drinking too much, not helping with the chores, being a really bad cook, letting themselves go or whatever it may be. But that doesn't make their marriage a fake.

So don't be too hard on your own marriage - there are lots of good things in it and you have what sounds like a very good man by your side and watching out for you. Indeed, it seems to me that childless couples often have a closeness that couples who have families do not have.

If you are interested in experiencing orgasms there is a very good book which should help you. Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Programme for Women, by Julia R Heiman is readily available through booksellers or you may prefer the anonymity of the internet. Although available for years this book has more recently been revised and expanded. It will help you understand your body and its responses and in time help you achieve orgasm.

I agree that it is easier for couples nowadays as there much more openness and having sex before marriage is quite acceptable. You should ask yourself if you would have still married your husband if you had realised beforehand that things were not working out sexually.

Chances are that you would, and it is sad that you did not seek help earlier on rather than waiting all those years before giving voice to your frustration. However, it is never too late to seek help and to find a qualified sexual therapist - visit

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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