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Dear Patricia: My wife won't have sex with me but an old friend will

I have not had any intimate relations with my wife for more than five years. We have discussed it, but to no avail. Although she says she still loves me, the thought of having sex is something she finds abhorrent.

I have considered using the services of a prostitute, but I don't think that's a road I want to go down. A long-time female friend of mine, who is aware of my situation, would not be adverse to us getting together from time to time, with no strings attached.

Should I take this path? Or am I getting in over my head?

AI suppose it depends on what sex actually means to you. And to your woman friend. And to you wife, if she finds out -- and she probably will.

Let me say it differently. What, exactly, are you offering your lady friend? And what, exactly, are you expecting to get? Sex fitted into your existing time frame for friendship? More time with her? Nights away, weekends, holidays perhaps? Will this, in other words, be an expanded relationship -- at least at a time level?

You are already intimate friends. How will this differ from marriage when you add in sex? Why, in other words, will you be settling for a secret affair with a friend, rather than an open relationship? What does she lack that you don't want to go all the way?

The questions you have to ask yourself don't end there. What does your marriage mean to you? What does your wife mean to you? What, in fact, does your life mean to you?

You're contemplating an affair, secrets, the breaking of trust, disloyalty. Where does that leave your self-respect? Is it money, social standing, family ties that hold you? And where -- if anywhere -- is love?

Your wife has broken her marriage vows. She's not ill, apparently, or distraught with grief, or suffering in any obvious way.

This is not, therefore, a simple question of accepting life's adversities. You have to work it out together. What does she expect of you? Abstinence because she, inexplicably, now finds sex abhorrent?

Don't you see? You have to handle this together. You both have to deal with the reality your wife has created. She has withdrawn from a central element of her marriage with the damaging, discourteous, dismissive and profoundly unkind declaration that sex is no longer on the agenda. You have to face that down. So has she.

Sunday Independent