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Dear Patricia: He's more like a dad than a lover

I'M 33 years old and have been married for four years, but we've actually been together for 10 years. We have no children and I have no desire to have any.

I had a tough childhood, with an abusive father. My mother died when I was in my early 20s, and soon afterwards I met my hubby. Although there was no physical attraction on my side, he was the only person to be there for me. He has a beautiful heart, is very loving and caring, and although he was my first boyfriend, and I didn't feel sexually attracted to him, I thought marriage was the natural thing since he was my soulmate. I was also very vulnerable at the time.

The emotional terrors have passed and I now feel I am ready to take on the world, but find myself trapped in my marriage. My hubby seems to have lost his libido around the time we got married. Sex was infrequent after the wedding, and then stopped entirely two years ago.

He seems willing to do something about it, for my sake, but I don't actually want him to since I still don't find him attractive. I did have a short affair recently, but came clean to him about it. We nearly separated, but I couldn't go through with it when I saw how broken-hearted he was.

I feel hubby acts like he's 60, although he is only a year older than I am. He is more like a good companion to me and makes me feel I am living with a nice father who looks after me well and provides for me. I, on the other hand, feel like a teen trapped in a 33-year-old body. Yes, I do enjoy sex, and would like to experiment more, but not with hubby.

I just want to be free and live life, but at the same time it is difficult to throw away such a great hubby who has helped me so much. And 10 years is a long time to be with someone. It would be very sad to part, and of course I don't want to break his heart again.

Patricia replies:

YOU did, effectively, marry a kind father, someone you are still not sexually attracted to. How is this for him? You say he's lost his libido, at 34 years of age. Don't you see that this could well be a response to your lack of interest? That his libido is not lost, but displaced, for two reasons. At a conscious level, he feels your lack of interest and retreats. At an unconscious level, he's aware that he's really a daddy to you and feels uncomfortable with that dynamic.

Yes, he would be broken-hearted if you broke up. But would his heart mend after a while? Isn't it possible that you're holding him back from finding someone who would really love him, as the kind and loving man he is?

Put another way, is he trapped too? Are you really hanging in there because you fear removing the safety net? And if so, is that kind?

These are only questions, of course. I don't know the answers. But you do. Think about it.

Sunday Independent