Sunday 17 December 2017

Dear Mary: We've been married over 25 years but I feel so lonely

Illustration: Tom Halliday
Illustration: Tom Halliday

Mary O'Connor

Q: I am in my mid-50s and my wife is in her early 50s. We have been married for more than 25 years and lived together for two years before we married.

We have no children although I have a son from a previous relationship.

I have always been faithful but I'm not sure she has. I have always felt that I love my wife more than she loves me.

I fell madly in love with her and to be honest couldn't believe my luck when we started dating and got engaged.

Right from the start our sex life was never great but I thought it would get better as time went on.

When we got married and wanted to start a family we had sex constantly but sadly we never had children. Despite tests and doctors telling us nothing was wrong it just never happened for us.

I suggested IVF but my wife wouldn't hear of it. We haven't had sex for the last three years and I'm sleeping in the spare room.

My wife refuses to talk about it, and any discussion ends up in an argument. I just feel so isolated and lonely.

We don't socialise together any more and there is no affection or love. I feel if I left tomorrow, everything would just carry on without me.

A It is almost always the case that in every relationship there is 'the lover' and 'the loved'. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this in itself, it is just how things are. However from reading your email there seems to be a lot wrong with your relationship.

When couples are trying for a baby over a long period of time, and having a lot of sex at appropriate ovulatory times, they often say that all the joy goes out of the sexual experience. This is particularly true if they have not been successful in becoming pregnant.

It must have been doubly frustrating for your wife as she knows you have already fathered a child, so even though the doctors were saying this was unexplained infertility, she must have felt in some way to blame.

However, there is a giant leap from all of this to you sleeping in the spare room and becoming a couple who happen to share a home. Something is really wrong here and you owe it to yourself to get some answers from your wife. Ask for a no-holds-barred conversation with her, telling her you are willing to hear difficult things if necessary, because otherwise you will continue in this non-marriage, feeling desperately unhappy.

When she finally lets you know what is going on then you will be able to make a decision regarding your future together.

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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