And yet...

Editor’s Pick
MAY 12, 2009 3:42PM

This is What a Sexless Marriage Feels Like

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This post is not about virtue. It is not an ask for sympathy. It attempts to explore what I've learned about sex and sexuality since sex ended within my long-term relationship. I won't say much about why, because half of it is not my story to tell and I have no right. Just know that because of illness and after sharing a normal, monogamous, sexually active relationship for nearly a decade, my spouse suddenly lost the need, desire, and passion for sex.  

When sex disappears like that, you don't necessarily know it at the time. There's no announcement. No resetting of hormones for each of you. No discussion that starts with, "I'm thinking I'll never want to have sex again. Are you ok with this?"  It's just gone. One day, perhaps months or years later, you realize that the last time you had sex together was the last time you’d ever have sex together.  

As I’ve gone through these years without a sexual connection to my spouse, sexual desire did not fade within me. I still think about sex and long for it, I still dream about it, and fantasize. I do try to minimize overt exposure to what can make it harder. I don’t read the OS dirty haikus on Thursday and I never read sensual erotica. I look away during sex scenes in films. I no longer engage in “how’s your sex life” conversations with friends. And yet, even with these rules and a relationship devoid of sex, sex remains a part of my life, in my mind, in my dreams, and in my writing.

As I’ve gotten through these last eight years, I’ve thought a lot about sex, sexuality, and relationships. Here is some of what I’ve discovered:

Sex is vital to a good life. What? You thought you knew that? So did I. I knew sex reduced my stress level, added to my joie de vivre, helped me sleep more soundly, and that it made the mornings after sweeter. I knew that dependable, good sex was very important, even imperative to a good life and relationship. Going without sex led me to understand its meaning even more: I understand how it nourishes and comforts, touches the soul, sustains our natural rhythms. All of that was happening before, so I never examined the ‘how or why”. Going without sex now, I can see how the lack of it upsets each of those things.

Sex may not be a need like air, but it is needed. Yes, I can live without sex, I pretty much do, but I don’t live joyfully. It’s gotten harder, not easier to go without for so long. I need sex to live the life I wanted to live, to feel happiness to the potential I have within me, to carry me through life’s challenges and sorrows. I need sex like I need friends and conversation, like I need the sun and spring, like I need books and music. I need sex to make all of those things better, too. Some nights, sex is all I can think about. I ache to be desired and wanted, to give way to joy and abandon. There is no substitute for the moment when your lover reaches out for you with passion, or with love. Trust me on this, there is no substitute.

Sex holds you together when everything else is pulling you apart. Another given, but think about it for a gentle moment. How many times has that tender caress, that kiss that lingers just a bit longer, that flirtatious glance made you feel closer, safer, connected, a couple, united? How often has it been the bridge from anger to forgiveness, from stressed to relaxed, from lonely to loved? It works. Sex does the job it is supposed to do, fusing you as a couple. Sharing sex means exposing vulnerability, intimacies of the heart and body. You know secrets about each other that are beyond naked and truer than fact, learned during uncensored moments of bliss. Honoring and protecting those secrets is a gift to each other.

Sex makes me feel like a woman and nothing else really does. My career doesn't do that for me. Spending time with friends doesn't. Volunteering doesn’t. Wearing skirts and lingerie helps, but still....  sex? Oh yes. That's when I feel womanly and confident, aching to express my desire and eroticism, and ready to reveal the mysteries of my gender. Nothing else asks me to reach in and grasp the inner femaleness that flows so deep, that yearns to surface. Going without sex now, I sometimes feels less of who I am, less connected to my friends and other women, a little less relevant in the world. I feel distant from myself.

Our sexuality continues to evolve over time, even after many years.  About five years into this, I realized something very new about my sexual desire, something I had not considered before. How could this be? I wasn’t in an active sexual relationship, I was making every attempt to de-sexualize myself, and suddenly a new sexual idea came to me begging to be explored and experienced. How unfair and cruel! This revelation thrilled, stunned and scared me. How and why this came to me during the sex-free years of my existence remain obscure to me, and yet there it is. Just another reminder that sexuality, that basic human drive, has a life of its own.

Sex allows you to communicate in ways that you cannot replicate in any other way.   What you can do with your fingers, your mouth, your hips.... all those luscious areas of the body that allow for expression that can't be articulated any other way. During sex you can whisper and tease and demand and beg with intonation and nuances that are not appropriate in any other setting. I miss this language so dearly and with such a vengeance that I have to continually monitor myself to be sure I don't do it in the wrong setting.  I have to say, honestly, this is probably what I miss the most – the language of sex.

Masturbation is nice. And I am a pro. I swear to all of you, none of you are better at this than I am. I always knew masturbation was nice, but before it was just a warm-up or a way to tide myself over between couple-sex events. Now it is sex.

Masturbation gets to be very, very lonely. Not lonely enough to totally stop, but lonely enough that sometimes an orgasm from solo masturbation ends in tears and a feeling of profound solitude. 

Sex gives us some hope. Sex makes us hope, for more, for better, for different, for the same. During the good years, we had sex pretty regularly, as couples do. Thursday night? Always. Again on a weekend night and a weekend morning, even both weekend mornings. And then there was Tuesday, the bonus day. Tuesdays felt a little hopeful, a little romantic, a little sexy. I miss that feeling, wondering if it will be a ‘sex Tuesday’. I miss counting on sex on Thursday, and looking forward to weekend sex. Going without sex all the time adds a layer of drudgery to the week. Now it's just work, time after work, and then sleep. Same thing tomorrow. Same thing next week, next month, and next year. Sex adds that soft glitter to the winter’s gray, a soothing balm to the end of a long work day, a benevolent barrier to the world outside.

The less I had sex, the more I thought about it. During the first few years of this, I thought about sex all the time. There wasn't a conference room table on which I didn't imagine a lewd image during a business meeting. I couldn't enter an elevator without seeing myself pressed against the wall by a lover and kissed passionately. When I traveled, hotel rooms kept me awake at night as I thought about all the options therein. I have consciously worked to mitigate those thoughts and that’s helped, but even that ‘success’ feels like a loss.

Sex makes me love my body. Watching, feeling, hearing a lover take pleasure in my body and receive it from my touch, these feelings are inimitable. A lover’s certain touch affirms me emotionally and physically. Knowing that my body and my own touch produce exquisite gratification and joy tell me I am a sexy, sensual woman. I appreciate my body and am glad for it, but I ache to express and enjoy its sexual potential.

Our sexuality is a gift of comfort and passion that we offer the world, an offer to sustain a love, to convey our essence from our soul.

There is more to say, but even a non-sexual relationship deserves some privacy. Thank you for respecting that. Please remember these are just my lessons. They may be meaningless to others who face this, and to those of you who are sexually active. I honestly can't predict what will resonate for anyone. I beg you not to tell me I am wrong, but to trust that this is what I think and feel.

 (I know this is very long. My apologies.) 





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As I read this, my heart was breaking for you and what you have lost.
At the same time, I was getting uncomfortably warm.

Beautifully written. It didn't feel long at all.
This is a beautiful, wistful piece. I know what you mean.
Thanks for sharing. But frankly, I'd be suspicious of your man. Even as I hit 50 I still spend time every day oogling the babes from college age on up. And I'm happily married. I gotta believe that most guys stay sexually charged up for years and years.

Have you done anything sexy for him lately? Try walking around topless and see how he reacts, for example. (And hope someone like me isn't watching with binoculars, but that's another story.)

Don't give up hope.
There are all kinds of reasons for the death of sex in a relationship, and not all of them are suspicious. There are medications (SSRI antidepressants, for example) and illnesses (like diabetes) that eliminate libido. In our case, my partner was sexually abused by family members as a child. What happened is that when she really began to trust me, she started worrying (irrationally, on a gut level) that I'd betray her as her brother and grandfather had done. It's a catch-22. Childhood sexual abuse poisons trust in loved ones.

Can you seek help? There are lots of options out there for you two.
Women can also become sexless, or not tuned on, or not horny. Their lack of desire is different than what may happen to a man, who can always rely on Viagra for the mechanics to run. For women, Viagra does not help: it does not create desire.
Being desireless and married, is a nightmare for both memebrs of the couple...
I REALLY feel your pain, and understand and endorse everything you wrote. Until very recently, due to illness, alcoholism/erectile dysfunction-disinterest, and the death of my dear John O, I was enduring a sexless life! I swear, if it had lasted one more week, I'd have become an official virgin again. Sex is life, is joy, is necessary!

You might appreciate this; I posted it several weeks ago:
This is very powerful and no apologies necessary for the length. Every word was worth reading

I totally agree with John Walker's comment.
I won't go into the circumstances but let's just say I can relate. Very well articulated discoveries you have described. Hope things get better soon.
This needs Cover placement and an Editor's Pick.
This is what writing is, to me. The conveyance of a feeling, of undergoing something, to someone like me who cannot even imagine such a life. I wish there was something I could say that would ease your ache.
All very good points. I would like to add this though, and someone may have already said it but I haven't read all the comments. I was married for 13 years. We had sex right up until the end. I hate to say this, but I have not had sex since my divorce eight years ago. I'm 50 and I miss sex, but not the sex I was having with my ex. No sex is better than that. I'm sorry you were having good sex and then lost it, that would be bad and I hope there's a light at the end of the tunnel for you. I hope there is one for me too.
I am serious. But, then I will write something too silly and absurd?
It wasn't too long. It read smooth. It conveyed vulnerable courage.
I thank others for sharing. There's no other Place to learn but from others?
Human nature is fascination. Fellow humans are certainly amazing.
This will be too long.
I don't know what to say. I do thank you tho.
I hide my most intimate thoughts. Why do I?
Love of sincere language is the love of truth.
This don't relate to what you beautifully wrote.
Respectfully, The poem:` Hoeing- by John Updike.
I sometimes fear the younger generation will be deprived
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed by this simple exercise.
The dry earth like a great scab breaks, revealing
moist dark loam--
the pea roots home,
a fertile wound perpetually healing.
How neatly the green weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth new.
Ignorant the wise boy who
has never performed this simple, stupid, and useful wonder.
I was supposed to be outside hoeing. I came here and I got stuck.
I wanted to quote the poem about 'Love is the Loser' ... It's a poem: about 'us' someone's who do not take a courageous, intimate, step forward. It's called:` The Four Bed Post? Many people seems to be mismatched, and are in beds with a person they 'love' but prefer another personable lover from the past they have met. The thinkers remember all those "backward" and shy moments. The nights can be so lonely now (lost opportunities), and many people have wished they had been a bit more brave, or more honest. As in having just expressed their honest, and true, inner warmth of affection. They hushed. maybe shy?
It's hard to say. I am wondering too.
This sorta relates from a male, Charles Bukowski, perspective. It's his thoughts, not mine.
I've been more reserved.

And yet ... I think? You said it well.
I hear partly ... what you expressed.

C.B. wrote:`

the way it is now

I'll tell you
I've lived with some gorgeous women
and I was so bewitched by those
beautiful creatures that
my eyebrows twitched.
but I'd rather drive to New York
then to live with any of them
the next classic stupidity
will be the history
of those fellows
who inherit my female
in their case
as in mine
they will find
that madness
is caused by not
being often enough
So, I don't know?
I yearn for both?
Ya could believe?

I no dare disclose!
I enjoy wondering.
I really like to hoe.

I wish us all intimacy.
You seem so balanced.
You could be eight months pregnant
and out in a pea patch in high heel shoes?
I will try to hoe beets. I'll buy a pair of shoes.
I wonder what it be like to hoe in farm stilettos.
I agree and understand completely. I've been without for about ten years from my husband. It's one thing to be without because you've chosen it. It's a whole different situation when you haven't chosen it. Throw into the equation that the marriage still remains and you've now got an extra burden....loneliness.
For what it's worth, it seems to get easier when you're older. Many of my older married friends are happy, without sex but with affection. Depends on the people. Right now you seem in deep pain about it and hope you can talk to some professionals who might have some ideas. Meanwhile, many of us are living without sex, so you have lots of company.
I am a man and yet you said it all for me, as well (except the feeling like a woman, part). As far as being an expert at masturbation, yo umay be the queen but I am the king - and thank God for it.

You articulated so much of my world and after reading this, I am just about to go crazy. I know you didn't mean to do that but you made me miss it even more.

So well done - so well written. I wish you, and all of us, better days ahead, somehow.
Nothing to add, but thank you for writing it.

Wow--this is very moving. I know so many relate. I wish I had something to say that would give you hope that things may change in the future (near future preferably), but all I can come up with is, "HOPE." Don't lose it.
I don't know how you've survived so long. I'm shy one year and this feels like a permanent winter. The paragraph "Sex may not be a need like air, but it is needed" says everything I FEEL. Thank you for digging so deep on this one, and for your willingness to share.
In Europe and in other cultures, an affair would be acceptable, even advisable. However, this is not the optimal solution. The fact that your spouse lost the "need, desire" (etc) for sex suggests that perhaps there are other (buried, unconscious) issues at play. I had a friend who was in a situation very similar to yours - She got herself and her husband to a sex therapist who was also a trained marriage/family therapist and ultimately her partner had to work on a lot of issues, including ones related to his relationship with his mother. It was hard, deep, and painful work, but today they are able to engage in a healthy, mutually satisfying and fulfilling sexual relationship. I know that for me, I would not accept my partner denying my sexuality, or his own - It is a glorious part of our human identity, and a joyous means of expressing love and connection. My heart goes out to you - thank you for this most vulnerable and honest post.
I believe this is your first post? If so, it is a wonderful, terrible beginning. I thank you, HB
What I find most endearing, most amazing, most profound about your post is that you seem relatively accepting of this. I don't see neccessarily a zen peacefulness, but an acceptance, and a revisioning of your marriage as a relationship in new straits--not a prelude to divorce (or widowhood!). Myself, living with sexlessness is not a source of anger, but rage. I internally rage at the world, and at myself, for allowing me to somehow end up in this position; at my marriage, at my wife, at whatever former lovers abandoned me, at my own ineptness, at whatever and whomever my aimless testosterone labels as somehow guilty. I guess for some of us, sexlessness leads to others, others, addiction. I just hope my response turns to effectual rage and creates change, rather than merely psychic sturm-und-drang.
I know a little about what you are talking about. I really like your ruminations here, they ring with the truth of sadly-won wisdom, and they offer a different angle on how to look at sexual relationships that do not exist within the parameters society prefers. Thank you for sharing.
@ I.C. London: you, like many, don't seem to be able to accept the truth of the existence of the low libido male. They are out there, and they are in marriages and relationships and going contentedly sexless for 4, 8, and 12 years. These are just the ones *I* know about.
That's the tragedy of Man and Woman. As a man ages the appetite for sex just declines naturally. I am a 38 year old man. I rarely think about sex anymore. When I think about the mechanical motions of sex- I just think about other bodily functions like eating and shitting. Necessary bodily functions, but hardly worth romanticizing, and not particularly pretty up close. When I look at a young, nubile woman, I still see the sexual attraction. But now I also see the insecurities and the flaws. I suppose it's a good thing that now I see young women as whole persons, not just walking sex machines. As I get older, sex just becomes less and less important, and love and companionship become more and more important. The shortness of time also becomes increasingly pressing as a man ages. There is so much left to do in this world- and for a man with 2 offsprings already- the reproductive act becomes kind of a pointless diversion. It's like reading- something I used to enjoy doing- but rarely have time for anymore.

Too bad women age in a completely different trajectory.
no apologies please - that was well written.

i'm celibate also - not from choice - and i was startled to realize that most of what you wrote applies to my life.

thank you, and damn you, for putting it into beautiful, haunting words.
"Oh, yes" to every last one of those. Every last one is so very true... That was beautifully written.
It was very strange to go from reading a piece about infidelity and politicians to this. Is there no happy medium anymore?

I'm sorry, in no way do I mean to diminish your pain, because there are many who have sexless marriages for one reason or another.

This was an incredibly well thought out piece, obviously written from a place of knowledge and great pain. You articulate what so many feel. I'm happy to see it on the cover and as an editors pick.

I wish I had something to give you hope, but maybe knowing you are not alone will help.
I'll just add my voices to those saying that this is lovely, thoughtful and powerful. But I do also want to second navelgazer's point. Even without the actual act of sex or your partner's desire for sexual satisfaction, it seems like there could plenty of room for sensual activities that could be done for your benefit. So much of the joy of sex comes from pleasing our partners. Not being able to please my partner that way would add to the sadness of a sexless relationship for me, but at least your partner seems like he has the capability of doing that for you, if he's willing. If you haven't asked him for that, perhaps it's something to consider. Best wishes to the both of you.
This is a beautiful and powerful piece, and I thank you for writing so honestly about something that I expect more people experience than we know.

Dearest commenters,

Your generosity moves me.

I have been quietly weeping since this post first appeared on the feed.

I'm sorry I am unable to respond to each of you.

Please know that I deeply appreciate all of your messages.
I heard someone say once "when your sex life is great it's 10% of your relationship. when it's bad, it's 90%."

I think people dismiss women's needs all the time. We needs sexin' too, yo! I hope you find a solution or arrangement that works for you. I couldn't wait eight years, hell, I get cranky after eight days.

It must feel like you've lost one of the essential parts of you, one of the most natural, carnal, animal parts.

If you haven't talked with the hubby, it's time.
And Yet, well said, well shared, well explained. The proper response, I think, is more than sympathy or even empathy. It is, rather, prolonged consideration. I hope you gained something positive by articulating this, because in all justice you should have.
Try writing to Dan Savage. He's funny, empathetic, hilarious, and most importantly, frank.
This made me teary and go look for my husband. You are right - it is a wonderful gift. I hope that you find a way to have it back in your life somehow.
It could be worse as I now believe "no sex" preferable to "bad sex." In this day and age, there's just far too many things available in our short lives to waste time on that.
Only those who have gone through what you have,can fully understand the loss.Fortunatley most haven't. Unfortunately, I have and it is devistating.
Have an affair. I haven't read all the comments so I don't know if anyone suggested this option. Come on girl, it sounds like it wouldn't be unthinkable. Or wait until menopause and then the idea of sex will be after thinking about unloading the dishwasher. Trust will be Mother Nature's gift to you.
Very informative piece. Beautifully written. You have made some really great points.
so many questions raised by this post. I guess your husband has some kind of issue, but what?? your post is "penetrating" but... what the heck would HIS pt of view be??? I fully sympathize but your post, to a degree, smacks of narcissism. hope you write a follow up post with some of the mystery revealed. otherwise, I will feel UNREQUITED. and consider you just a BIG TEASE :p

ps consider polyamory. works for tilda swinton. and others too shy to admit.
ps high susan cross!! whats a repressed girl like you doing in a place like this!! ps, thanks for erasing me from existence. my comments were deleted, therefore I AM NOT
It seems to me that you have examined your need for sex from every angle. Your skill as a writer has crystallized the depth of your need for your readers. I was deeply moved by this essay.

The next step, if you don't mind my putting too fine a point on it, is to take action. The action required to bring sex and sexual resonance back into your life! It may no longer be available from your husband. But that does not mean it is no longer available. You are obviously intelligent enough to know that some of the most captivating sexual relationships do not necessarily require that the participants be husband and wife. A new chapter and a new destiny awaits someone with as much life and vibrancy as you have within you.
Dear And yet, you are wrong. The post is not "very long". What it is is interesting, well written, intelligent and shows your pain. It also shows your honesty and bravery. My heart goes out to you.
This is so deeply moving, well considered, gorgeously written and poignant. Your vulnerability, your calmness, your sad longing. Wow.

I know that for everything you've written here, there is so much unsaid. I wish for you whatever would let you be alive again.
Thanks for bringing attention to the topic of involuntary celibacy. I have tried and failed in the past:

I think I will write a response post: what involuntary celibacy feels like for a man because it is totally different from what you're feeling although I respect your pain.
You are a wonderful writer and I hope to hear more from you. This is a complicated issue. Your loneliness is loud and clear and my heart breaks for you.

rated for digging deep and sharing this pain
You owed every single word with dignity and honesty. If only everyone could express their needs and themselves so well. A well deserved EP and Cover. Welcome to OS. If it's any consolation, this place serves as a surrogate for many things that people need, want, miss or never had in their lives. It's quite addictive.
Caffeine shortage. That should have read "owned".
You are a gift to OS.

This is beautifully written. So many brave, useful, heartbreaking, lovely things. It is by turns funny, insightful, piercing, fascinating, and true true true.

I thought I was brave. You are braver, as a writer.

Your Voice is accessible, intimate without being cloying. You provide just enough, each step if the way. For a piece full of reveal, you are in fact, writing-wise, quite restrained. i do not feel exhausted. I will re-read to see how you did that.

Thank You.

And what Verbal said.
Great honest post on a topic that relates to quite a few others lately (esp. the John Edwards debate).

I would love to see a follow-up to this, talking more in depth about what you and your spouse have tried to do to correct this lack. Have you told him how you feel? If he has told you flat out that he has no desire for sex, can you broach the subject of your looking elsewhere? Tricky, I know, but although people do it (go outside the marriage for sex), mostly because they are angry or uninterested in a spouse, sometimes, in a really secure marriage, they do it because they love their spouse and want to stay with them, but need sex.

It has to be mutually agreed upon (NOT cheating), and your husband needs to know how unhappy you are to even consider the option... Explain to him that it's not because you DON'T love him, but because you DO, that you would bring up this possibility.

(Of course, I'm assuming that you do love him and want to stay in the marriage, but that's not clear.)
Every word rang true for me as I experience it with my wife. I wish I could express this to her but every effort, no matter how caring and open hearted, is rebuffed as a demand or pressure.
Very beautiful expression of the ache we (and many others) share.
This was so very painful, and so very illuminative. I can appreciate so much better how important it is to cultivate and preserve the intimacy. I know I'm just an echo of everyone else here, but I truly wish better for you. This just seems terribly, achingly unfair.
Even though I hear the struggle and pain, this was a really healthy and refreshing look at sex. It was a liberating piece to read. Thanks.
I find it odd that so many solutions are offered here when the problem is not described, other than in the vaguest and most generic terms.

I think I know what Dan Savage would say, and it wouldn't be very nice.
Have you consulted an endocrinologist or a urologist? As men age their serum testosterone levels often decrease. This could happen by itself or in conjunction with another ailment such as adult-onset Type 2 diabetes, and possibly accompanied by other issues such as erectile dysfunction, loss of penile sensations (either partial or complete), loss of libido (or just ability), mood or attitude swings or personality changes, weight gain (or sometimes loss), and a number of other potential symptoms.

The bad news is that any of the above likely represents health complications due to aging or lifestyle. The good news is that if so, once the issue(s) are diagnosed and treated, many of the symptoms that prompted diagnosis can be eliminated or amerliorated, and full or at least meaningful functioning restored.

Women take note-- you are often the first responders to the scene-- more likely to notice changes or symptoms in your men and more likely to initiate corrective action, such as seeing a doctor or specialist for diagnosis and treatment.

Diabetes and/or neurapathy often go hand-in-hand. Neurapathy means "nerve death", which accounts for much of the loss of sensations and can occur in the hands-- particularly the fingertips-- feet and toes (which is why people with diabetes have to get their feet checked often)-- the penis (and presumably the clitoris in women), and occasionally, though less often, in the nerves of the face. It can also affect vision, particularly the ability to focus the eyes with respect to each other, digestion-- as it can desensitize the nerves in the stomach and bowels which regulate hunger and digestion.

In short, diabetes and its attendant neurapathy can wreak havoc throughout the body and turn an otherwise healthy and high-functioning adult into a run-down and dysfunctional person in a matter of a few short years. Left untreated it can take away many of the pleasures and sensations of life- both in loving and living.

Ladies-- your man may not be stepping out on you. He may not be losing interest in you. He may not be pulling away from you or any of those other things you fear. Just like you go through menopause and have mid-life issues, men do to. If you love and care about your man-- urge him-- pile him up in the care on a pretense if you have to-- get him to a doctor and checked-out.

If it turns out he's healthy, there's plenty of time to get righteously indignant later. You might just save his life-- and your marriage.
Again, a thank you for the comments.

This post was never intended to be about illness, but about my reaction to being in a sexless relationship. Much of my life is about the illness and I didn't want this post to be.

I don't mean to be withholding about that area, but I really wanted to just explore what I have learned and discovered during this time. I could write many posts about illness, but that is unlikely. I just don't want to.

You all are generous with your good wishes, sharing, and kindness.

Thank you, again and again.
And Yet, you may be doing a terrible disservice to women who read your post and don't realize that there may be a very real-- and treatable-- medical causation for the situation you were/are in. Your post might just strike a chord with a woman somewhere who would read it where she might not read something more specifically about "the illness".

My 2 cents
This is wonderfully written and terribly sad. I wish you healing.
I do not think you're wrong, or that this was long.

My first instinct was to try to help you fix this, but I see that others have given you more than enough advice that potentially wasn't welcome anyway. I don't know your circumstances, but I do know that it would be difficult for me to live with an ill person and then try to strategize with that person about how I could meet my needs for sex outside of the marriage. And seeking sex outside of marriage would just cement my alliance to my lover, not my spouse.

Your writing is beautiful and is absolutely spot on about the need for sex in a healthy relationship.


Brava! You've dared to articulate what is and has been a dirty little secret in some marriages. Sex isn't everything, but it's not nothing either.

Dan Savage would tell you to DTMFA, but he'd also tell you to satisfy your needs elsewhere. Your marriage vows told BOTH of you to love, honor and cherist, and that would include cherishing each other at your most intimate.

DH crawfished on the deal, so you're no longer bound to it either. Any spouse who declares sex to be so unimportant, should therefore not piss off if opposite spouse, who feels otherwise, decides to continue to participate in an activity that the other renders negligible.

I'm just saying. I too split on my own marriage for very valid reasons, to include that I just wasn't ready to give up fucking. I also learned the difference between being married and being single: single, I have more $$, more privacy and the sex is better.

BTW, there's a big difference between being BY yourself, and being WITH yourself. Masturbation is still better than nothing--and I agree w/IC London, I'd be a little suspicious. I've always felt that those people who seem sexless, very rarely are; they're gettin' some SOMEwhere.
This is the best! I've been in the exact same relationship, and you described it perfectly, although from a woman's perspective.
My most heartfelt appreciation for shouting through the silence. I love the simple honesty. The rest matters not.
A fine essay. What is most interesting, of course, is what is missing. While you discuss masturbation, you do not discuss sex outside marriage - which might seem to be the most obvious solution. And so, of course, this self-portrait leaves us wanting more, wanting to know where are the lovers one might expect to make an appearance? Perhaps your husband will read this posting and urge you to find sexual partners who are not men you could live with. Perhaps married men?
Beautifully written, poignant and sad.

This is not too long.
@Sarah_in_USA: "Women can also become sexless, or not tuned on, or not horny. Their lack of desire is different than what may happen to a man, who can always rely on Viagra for the mechanics to run. For women, Viagra does not help: it does not create desire."

Viagra does not create desire in men either. It only affects the plumbing. If there is no desire there will be no erection. Viagra does not create automatic erections (although there are drugs / treatments that do).

In men, loss of libido ("desire") is often a symptom of low-testosterone which can either be its own issue or in conjunction with others (as I've already pointed out in greater length in my previous comments)
thank you...this is profound for me. i seem to of lost my sex drive. although my husband and i still have sex, i feel that i could give it up. however after reading your words i realize that i don't want to be there either. who would of thought i would go from a nasty-want-sex-all-the-time-single-20-something to a don't-really-want-it-at-all-married-with-two-kids-under-5-40-something.
This is a valuable, extremely well written piece on a very personal subject. I loved every word and do resonate with it on so many levels. You are one very healthy, sexual woman, physically and emotionally. This was so inspiring and relavant. Thank you, doesn't say how much I do.
AY, I am weeping for your pain and solitude. My heart is bleeding and I want nothing more than to hold you and tell you you are loved and valued. Thank you for your courage in sharing this story, and I echo VR's recommendation. Bless you, and may you find peace.
We lost our daughter in a automobile accident about 10 years ago and the sex has never been the same. My wife rarely takes the initiative and isn't really interested in her own pleasure. Rather, it is more of a wifely duty, a couple times a month. Honestly, if I swore off sex, I don't think she would care. Why are we still married? Because in spite of the lack of passion, I do love her. Still, I fantasize about other women and, when I do see couples who are still in the throes of passion, my heart aches. If I had to choose one word to sum my feelings up, psychic-starvation. Ok, it's a compounded word but you get the point.

I have had some opportunities to stray but I haven't. Alas, it is not for noble principals; if I were caught, no matter the provocation in my own mind, I would be the soulless bastard that broke my wife's heart. She would kick me to the curb in a NY minute and I would be shamed before friends and family alike. I guess the mass of men (and women) do lead lives of quiet desperation.
Well, I don't know what to say to you, it isn't pleasant. Especially after your guy has had surgery. But even though you have tried to reassure yourself, that a sexless marraige is okay, your finding that your really struggling, and yes like you also said, there is no "warning", or no conversation. It is one of lifes other demented jokes, I guess we take for granted what the male part of the equation is and does, as far as sexual arousal is concerned. But rest assured there is very little that is easy, for erotica to be present, there has to be true desire. That is the part that as far reaching as the idea of having sex, the idea of longing is by far more rewarding. It takes a little ingeniuty, imingination, and of course some good old fashioned drama, conjures up some proper ettiquitte for some good sexual romps. But the proper ingredients must be present, remember Philosophy 101? Eros, desire, when the male ego suffers, which in this day and age is no surprise, we want men to be like chastized little boys, well that is what you will get. Men that behave in boyish manner, men behave like men, they concquer with pleasure, and never reserve there male member to any embarrasment. Women on the other hand are mere domicles, mere vessels, of warmth and creative energy, which some times is present and other times, is like waning and wanting for more friendship, and understanding, and yes committment, more so than the wild romp. So in our context to be able to make the best of things, when our bodies are no longer willing to consumate such climatic experiences, we must rely on being strong and vital, and remembering the carresses and the tender days of longing and loving are fleeting.
Beautifully written. I felt dizzy recognizing my own feelings put into words. Almost as if you'd opened up my soul and read it.

I've had a sexless life....

and it's almost the same as what you describe here...

only worse...
My gosh, your words resonate. I know your pain too well.

It's fascinating how many people suggest extramarital activity not understanding that some people are just not able to compartmentalize so well and so completely: this is my sex buddy and this is my husband...there will be no confusion of my feelings between the two.

But prior to marriage I spent too many years substituting: substituting sex for love, screwing for intimacy and assorted other mistakes. So I'm not going to go out at find a FBuddy when the person I really want to be with is my husband. Instead we do the painfully slow work to try to fix the problem. But the pace is slower than molasses in the wintertime and in the meanwhile I live feeling as you do.

Good luck.
I went through the same thing. My husband's illness prevented him from having sex and he did not have any interest in cuddling, snuggling or touching. He did not want to talk about it. I was withering up and becoming bitter until I found a loving, kind, understanding man who made me feel like a woman again. I felt no guilt; I felt wonderful. After my husband died the man stayed in my life, strictly as a compassionate lover, not a soul mate or permanent relationship. This cultures places too much emphasis on monogamy and guilt trips people into deprivation. It is possible to love someone and to also have sex with someone else. Life is too short to play games. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed.
I cannot tell if I am breathing.
I understand. I so understand.
Also due to the illness of my husband, your life mirrors my own.
So much so that I COULD NOT BRING MYSELF to read every word because it brought out the pain I have punched down into my soul. And I can't have that. I cannot allow myself to feel some things because it ....... it makes me stop breathing. And it makes me cry, which is something I also rarely do. IS making me cry.
Thank you for posting what I have been trying to ignore for years and could never, ever write about or speak to my friends about.
I have to keep telling myself to breathe.........
Find someone else. Discreetly or indiscreetly.
Sweet Evangelia,

I know. Many nights I couldn't breathe either. I'm so sorry.

I think perhaps I wrote this for you.

You don't ever have to read it all. You already know it.

All my best to you.
Great writing. Not too long. Very different reaction here. I'm single, meaning no boyfriend, gay guy. Medicines kill my libido, maybe thankfully. In any case, I was irritated by your writing that you felt most essentially a woman when in sex. That's really sad. Sex is possibly about communication, but it's really mostly a drive, desire, and hunger with satiation. It's the obsession on it that entrances, I think. For me, lust is too much about not getting what I want. It's competitive. Masturbation really isn't much of a substitute, I'll agree with that, unless you can't help it. I don't understand, if you do love your husband, why you just don't ask for the sex. Or is there no desire there between y'all? Basically, more as a man than as a gay man, I think you're really making too much out of the situation. Doing something about sexual desire is required, I agree with you there, but celibates can be happy; that's a discipline though. Men commentators are being honest about men checking people's tiresome, but men indulge themselves in that all day long. Straight women complain of it, but really are paying a lot of attention to that dynamic and defining themselves in relation to that, which is pathetic. Anyway, back to your post, what was the revelation about your sexuality that you had, 5 years into the celibacy? In any case, I still haven't been able to figure out what you think is the CAUSE of the lack of sex in your relationship. Your comments about sex being communication and sustain love, essence...misguided. It's just like sleeping or eating or going to the bathroom. It's not metaphysical, really it's not. It's made to carry those meanings of social relations and gender, which is a bad thing.
Shortly after our marriage, my husband began to withdraw sexually and resist attempts on my part to initiate sex. This has progressed over years to his being angry and blaming me as not sexy enough to excite him! Somehow, the cause of his lack of interest was mine. I love and wish for sex, miss being "courted" and appreciated sexually. I get intercourse rarely and under cover of darkness ( I guess so he can tolerate it). Now, he wishes for an "open marriage" that would allow his pursuit of a sex partner(s) as well as looking for a woman with which to have a child. The entire process between us is highly dysfunctional.
Isn't OS a wonderful place to pour out our hearts and souls and know there will not be any judgement if we are speaking our own truth. It's great therapy. Reading your article and then the comments that followe made me feel happy for you, that you had so many people respond back in ways that supported you and people who confided their own pain in finding themselves in similar situations. are very brave to have been so utterly candid. I could add my newfound slant on sexuality that just came to my attention the other day here but think I'll wait and post it on my own site, sometime.
Your posting just reminds me that in the big picture there are so many small, detailed particles of separate lives going on. We all come together and create something known as humanity.
We needen't be ashamed of who we are as long as we have the intention of doing no harm to anyone else. Your husband's retreat from sex has harmed you but you chose not to reveal the cause and so we do harm others even unintentionally. I guess we can't get through this life without inflicting pain on someone along the way.
I hope this helps somehow, getting your feelings out and facing the private demons in a public way. Maybe this will bring them down to a "workable" size. My heart wishes you more than the solutions you presently have. I wish you fullness of love.
Empathy seems woefully inadequate... but it is all I have. Take care of yourself.
One should never apologize for the lengthiness of one's innermost feelings.
Great writing. Many women are in this situation and can relate.

I am in your husband's position but without a partner. However, I've been the partner who made the relationship sexless and it is torture. I always wanted to connect. I still do. Five years into my own forced celibacy (now alone- they left because of it) and it is getting more and more difficult each day. Now I just want him to come and take what he wants from me so I will have no choice, no chance to tell of my medical condition. I understand that may offend some people. Sorry.

Thanks again for writing this. If I were able to have sex, I would. All the time.
Hmm. Well, I understand how illness can undercut sex. When I'm having heart inflammation, physical desire stops dead. But. I don't understand why you and your husband seem to have given up on intimacy. Intimacy doesn't have any physical requirements. There's no reason you should have to masturbate alone. There's no reason you can't caress and tease and tickle each other. If those things have stopped, there's more wrong than simply illness.
Thank you for writing this.
Desire is tricky and inexplicable. It seems to be very personal as well- not about bodies so much but something much more elusive. Despite best efforts and intentions, sometimes desire is fleeting. Despite therapies, talking, crying , pills, doctors, wrestling, tricks and tips and books and pleading-
sometimes the love is really very there but the desire...isn't.

It is devastating if one loses desire and the other doesn't.
man or woman. It doesn't matter. Sex is important for intimacy, for trust, for a relationship. Desire is important for sex.

I don't think because a person loses their desire or isn't desired any more by the one they love, that that means that anyone is "getting it somewhere else " or that the love is gone. There are strong ties that bind between people and unraveling them isn't easy. There is loyalty too and breaking that isn't easy either - even for self preservation.
and there is also a giant blow to self esteem that happens sometimes to the one left desiring- why am I not attractive anymore to the person who loves me best and how will I ever be wanted again?

and then there is life- just the one we know of and the constant mystery of trying to make it the best one we can for ourselves despite all the obstacles we face.

I don't have any advice or suggestions. Just buckets of empathy. I'm glad you wrote this. I'm glad you posted this. I'm glad there are so many responses.

in essence- it totally sucks.
I understand. I wish there were easy answers for this situation but there are not. It's unfortunate that your eloquent and thorough analysis had to be born from a lonely and deprived existence.
As is often said on the plains of the Great White North:
"Kissin' don't last. Cookin' do."
Get over it and get on with it.
Diddle yourself from time to time and relax.
Profoundly written. My greatest hope for you is that you would be able to find counseling to deal with all the pressures of illness on your husband and having a vital need unfulfilled for you. To have to deal with both stressors in your life is a sysphean task and you deserve better.
This is very eloquent and what you say about sexuality is true for all genders and all sexualities. I ask you and your readers to consider: would your open hearted and open minded responses be the same if this was written by a man? Or by a lesbian or a homosexual? There should be no differences in your response to a fellow human writing so truthfully and elegantly.
First, I'm appalled by John Hartman's comment and hope to hell he was joking.

Second, I'm reminded of what I read in Steve Axelrod's blog here on OS: "Every married man knows what nonogomy means: being sexually faithful to a woman who's not fucking you. "

Obviously, it works both ways for both sexes.

And yes, I too am in a sexless marriage, three years plus now, and completely empathize with those in an slm here. I've been with the no sex is better than bad sex group, but after a while you wonder.

I heartily agree with the statements that our USA society offers few good options, frowning on affairs and criminalizing sex workers. If I was in Amsterdam I would know what to do.

I belong to a sexless marriage forum, , and recommend it to anyone interested. One of the mantras on the forum is 'It's not us, it's them.' Another bit of wisdom is that first things people suggest are of the lingerie, date night, candles and flowers variety; not to denigrate the good hearts of those who suggest such things, but trust me, we've all been there, done that.

Thank you for writing. Good post.
i know more than one female friend who is in the same situation. not because there has been an illness, or a death in the family, or any other sort of acute tragedy. there has just been a gradual slowdown of sex until it slowed to a drizzle and in some cases, stopped.

all of these men watch porn regularly, and refuse to stop. then again, plenty of men, including my own current and former lovers have watched porn and everything has been fine. the neglected wives and girlfriends swear that the porn makes their men not want them. the men swear that this isn't the case. the porn remains silent in the face of the controversy.

i wonder how often it's the man with the low libido? i wonder if people know how many marriages and relationships are actually sexless?

in any case, it sounds, at the very least...difficult, and at the most, torturous. good job rendering it for those of us who are here to listen.
Thank you so dearly, AY.

For someone like me who was once an open book, having secrets has been life-changing in the most tragic of ways. I am still my happy self on the outside and some - someone - on the inside. Don't recognize her.

The crushing pain I feel for both of us is almost the only evidence that I am indeed still breathing. But barely.
And I know it's hard to believe right now, but there will come a day in your own life when you will not be interested in sex, feel like having sex, or even think about sex. That's right. Don't believe all the Hollywood-style chatter out here about post-menopausal women being overly sexual. It simply doesn't exist. Given that, I really suggest that you discuss this with your partner and determine how you can full this void before you reach the day when you too will not desire sex. You will, however, realize when that day comes that you've done alot of living and it really, really isn't everything after all. Until then...
I bet you are tighter than a brand new rubber hose fitting. I dont even care what you look like, Id probably rail you just for the fun of opening that sweetness up again. It would be like you were a virgin all over again! Think on the upside...
Sex...ah, yes -- so complicated! I understand the pain of the absence of sex and, in many ways I envy you having an "illness" to blame. Sex with my husband was not the best I had ever had but it was certainly loving and satisfying. I was always the initiator. It reached a point after many years of that I realized that it felt demeaning. We talked about it often and I asked him for one thing: to please initiate the next time - to give me the sense that he found me desirable. That was more than 5 years ago. I suppose we could "do it" again if I were to initiate, but the disappointment and anger, after several discussions about the problem, won. I'm sure some readers will assume there is something physically wrong with him...he has been tested and re-tested. And don't, you dare, you male readers, try to tell me to be "more of a woman" --- trust me please, I really am healthy, attractive, not over weight and have been as seductive as it is possible to be. Nothing.
Then, 2 years ago I was having dinner with an old, dear friend who shared that his wife of then 30 years had said, "don't you know - women don't like sex" and declared that she didn't want to have sex with him any more. He confessed that he had been angry and sad but celibate for many years. We now have a loving, sexually satisfying friendship. We are not looking to end our respective marriages. Having what we have somehow takes the sting out of the rejection we both felt at home. Odd not to feel guilty but I really don't! I'm happier than I have been in years.
I too lived in a sexless marriage, for about two years. Your words evoked many of my feelings from that time. Living without sex made me feel like a child sent to bed early without dinner. It is really, as you described, like losing the part of yourself that knows you can be loved.
I too lived in a sexless marriage, for about two years. Your words evoked many of my feelings from that time. Living without sex made me feel like a child sent to bed early without dinner. It is really, as you described, like losing the part of yourself that knows you can be loved.
This is so beautiful, and so sad. Your eloquence and frankness are amazing. A brave thing to take on, and you managed it brilliantly.
wow, so on target. could be describing my life except it has been 20 years for us. I am so tired and discouraged, that if it did come back, I don't think I want something so important fron someone I can't trust to be there. she is disabled with multiple types of chronic pain. treatments put on at least 50 lb on her tiny frame. the pain relents 4-5 times a year and we try or more correctly, she tries. I can't because it hurts too much to get a little taste of something that had been good and is now, meh. so I suppress what is left of my reaction and be close while she handles her own needs.

I stay distant because I can't handle getting close to her and get hurt again and again. I stay with her because I promised when we married but I am increasingly thinking a fb is the best choice in a pile of rotten options. not sure if I could really break that promise to her either. now imagine on top of having a sexless marrage, going through bankruptcy, losing your house, and a few major illnesses of your own while being a part time caretaker and looking for work. yes, I am burned out and so is she. most importantly, I don't hate her but I do wish I was and was with better person.

sorry about the chaos in writing. this is a pain point for me.
Lea Lane writes say it gets easier as you get older. I'm 65, and I'm writing this comment to tell Lea this: NO, it doesn't.
No wonder. Our sexuality is at the core of who we are. Partner assisted sex is integration. Solo sex leads to emotional and possibly spiritual disintegration on some level because "it is not good for man/woman to be alone". Why "not good"? I think you say it well: "Our sexuality is a gift of comfort and passion that we offer the world, an offer to sustain a love, to convey our essence from our soul."
I guess I missed something. Where did you mention the discussions you had with your partner/spouse about your sexual needs?

If you did not tell him - straight out, in so many words of one syllable - then I guess the next question is, why not? Who knows what the problem (meaning his and yours plural) is - but if your wish is to be the victim rather than the agent of change - so be it.
If it is that important to you, maybe it is time to move on.
And yet, this is such a clear and touching account of what must be some of your most intimate feelings.

For several years, I was the cause of a sexless marriage. After a "failed attempt" one night, something just turned off. I can't explain it; it wasn't the first time and we'd always gotten past it before. I just lost interest in a physical relationship. Suddenly.

Every night my wife would lie in bed beside me, desiring my touch, even a simple hug, while I simply rolled over and snored. I didn't stop wanting her to be with me. I didn't want any other woman. I just wasn't interested in physicality. My wife was sure that I felt there was something wrong with her, that I no longer loved her or had affection for her as a woman. The hurt she felt was more than she could express. We have since become close again, but my wife still wanted me to understand what she went through. Your post says so clearly what she tried to tell me. I thank you for writing it and giving her the opportunity to tell me what she could not say herself.

Many of the previous comments here are sadly off target. Sex is far more than a simple release of physical pressure. Between two people in a committed covenant relationship, the sharing of sexual pleasure is the most intimate communication of love imaginable. When that soul-deep relationship does not exist, sex becomes little more than masturbation using another person's body. Going outside a marriage for sex does not replace that intimacy. Moreover, it introduces infidelity; a violation of trust and integrity. When you spoke your marriage vows, you made a solemn promise to your spouse. "Cheating", no matter what the excuse, abandons that promise and makes your word worthless.
It is a poignant story. The simple truth is that if you really love your spouse, you can't have an affair. Having an affair is the beginning of the end of your marriage. No matter how hard you try, an affair pries between you and your spouse and tears down the love you've built up. You speak of loneliness but loneliness doesn't imply any lack of love for your spouse. It simply means you have not yet found new ways to connect in the absence of sex.

Surely, there is no substitute for sex. But there are ways to continue to keep a refreshing connection with each other despite a lack of sex. This is the challenge of a marriage that lacks sex. This is the "for better or for worse" part of marriage that no one really expects to have to experience. This is when you know that you really do love your spouse.

I'd say you really do love your spouse. You've put your marriage and the ideal of the strength of your marriage before all else. The dedication and the togetherness despite the most difficult of circumstances have prevailed in you. You can be proud of that. You can pray or meditate about that and take solace in that achievement.
There is a solution- out there- somewhere. I don't know what it is.
This line, "I feel distant from myself..." struck a chord.
Thank you for this. I am going to share it with someone who I am sure will find it as enlightening and authentic as I have found it.

Your writing is wonderful and I appreciate how you have shown respect and restraint on behalf of your spouse. What a demonstration of love that is!
"Don't believe all the Hollywood-style chatter out here about post-menopausal women being overly sexual. It simply doesn't exist. Given that, I really suggest that you discuss this with your partner and determine how you can full this void before you reach the day when you too will not desire sex."

On the other hand, if she hits menopause while you still want it-- well, tough noogies for you.
"Sex is far more than a simple release of physical pressure. Between two people in a committed covenant relationship, the sharing of sexual pleasure is the most intimate communication of love imaginable."

A spin-off post aiming to tackle many of the non-medical issues raised in this post.
Shit, I relate to so much of what you say. I destroyed my own marriage partly as a result of having lost interest in sex. Actually, not so much in sex as in sex with my wife. To this day I've no understanding as to why that occurred. We've been divorced for close to 8 years now and I'd do anything to somehow go back and change the whole thing. We have two beautiful kids, my daughter who is in college and my son in high school. The only sexual release I get now is through the porn industry -- hardly fulfilling! At my age on-line dating is practically out of the question so I don't meet any new females and am very lonely. This is certainly not what I'd envisioned when I first my wife way back when.
"Dr. Filth, he keeps his world
Inside of a leather cup
But all his sexless patients
They're trying to blow it up!"
from Deslolation Row by Bob Dylan 1965
On getting closer to the core issues I mentioned earlier let's consider being proactive. In order to feel beautiful about sex, one must feel beautiful about oneself otherwise sex becomes a business or worse. "Touch" is the key. What does it mean if two people stop touching? Touch and feel. Massive social sensory stimulation leads to massive touch deprivation. Massage is a useful key to discovering some good feelings. Everybody likes a good rub once in a while. I live in a mountain farm. I take many old stiff, rusty, untouched things and administer love to them and give them new life. Start with: "I'm gonna make "you" feel real good ... how about a nice massage, tonight?" Think: what am I giving instead of what am I getting –for certainly, you are either for-giving or for-getting, and your expression is who you are. If you are for giving, then give what it is you might like to receive. Chances are your partner will respond in kind. A steady diet of good non-sexual massage should expand naturally into releasing other stuck and tight areas. The absence of sex may be actually a good thing and nothing to be afraid of because it signals the need for deeper wisdom and deeper growth, affection, caring, gentleness, faith, hope and love. If your offer for a good massage is flatly rejected, then pose the question: "Are you privately engaging sexual material on the internet?" If the answer is yes, then ask if your partner if he would be willing to share that material with you so you might derive a deeper understanding of what defines him. Be understanding even if the material be strange and tasteless. Sometimes we think we can work out things on our own. I think that's a trap. If your partner is unwilling or unable to share this material with you then I definitely suggest massage to build greater trust. No pushing here ... sensitivity, courage and patience will often produce a deeper connection. Blessings.
Beautiful piece. My wife and I are co-authoring a book about human sexuality, and one of the central points we make is that the way we expect to live our lives today – expressed in your phrase, "normal, monogamous, sexually active relationship for nearly a decade" – is unrealistic and completely out of touch with the reality of human sexuality. It's tragic that so many of us are surprised and hurt when the fires of sexual passion dim (particularly in men) after several years. This shouldn't be surprising or taken personally; this is the nature of human male sexuality.

We're never going to change something as elemental as that – no matter how much guilt, anger, and little blue pills we throw at the "problem" – so we're going to have to accept it one way or another.

Out of all the things you could have said to me, I am truly hurt that you picked what are lovely, compassionate, passionate and deeply meaningful memories to me and labeled them "unrealistic and out of touch with reality." Surely there were other ways you could have made that point.

I would ask you to re-read and see if you might find any other point on which to focus, or not. Perhaps it doesn't really matter.

I am very very cranky today, yes you can joke about how I didn't get laid last night. I hope this comment comes across in the tone it is being written, which is gratitude.

Let me say this.... to all of you who read and sent a kind word or two, thank you many times over. Many. Your compassion touches me.

To those for whom this piece resonates in ways I wish it didn't, I am very sorry. I wish this on no one in the world. I am trying to respond to many of you by email. Please feel free to write me anytime, if you wish.

This has been a good, but very emotionally trying experience for me. I am tired and feeling vulnerable and unsure right now. I am going to log out for a day or two and not read or comment to the blog. I just need to take a little break from what feels like a lot of exposure, albeit anonymous.

Again, my thanks.
And yet,
Please don't take the comment from "dude" seriously at all. I am a man ten years into marriage, sexless for more of those years than I care to count, and I can promise you that it isn't true that it is natural for a man's desire for his wife to fade.

It isn't.

It doesn't.

I love her fiercely, want her with a thirst that makes it hard to speak of, and am deeply sad when we don't communicate without words the way we do when we're making love. Strangely, we went through a brief recovery this year after many years without sex, and now I'm afraid it's slipped away again...

but the desire never does. He's wrong. The fact that he says he's co-authoring a book on the subject doesn't make him right about anyone but himself. It sounds like a misguided and pointless book.

I am sorry for what you are going through. Your piece, though, was beautiful and expressed deep feelings on behalf of many of us. Thank you for it, and I hope for the very best for you.
Unfortunately as a married female, I feel your pronounced pain. When I came up this month, it marked an unfortunate anniversary.
How did I know that that would be it? Not that my partner doesn't have interminent desires to be satisfied-its just one way.
So even though mutual engagement is off the table-due to one partner's lack of interest-the other is left standing there.
Yes, a sexless marriage is nothing I would wish on anyone.
It's a very, very lonely place...
Thank you for articulating what apparently many of us are going through!
Boy, my post was all over there.
You can tell that this hit a nerve.
What I meant to say was this is month is the yearly anniversary of when we stopped having sex.
Or I should say, when he stopped having sex with me.
Even his doctor has told him-as he prescribed Viagra, Cialis, etc. + testosterone gel-that my husband is not motivated to succeed. With lack of libido came a lack of desire that has increased through out the years-on his part.
By the way, due to stress, I am a post-menopausal woman in her 40's that feels & looks very sexual.
Why does it have to end?
It's NOT a myth...I'm in my 40s, post-menopausal & I'd like to have sex with someone other than myself.
To be perfectly frank, about every other month HE wants to be satisfied orally. (Doesn't last very long.)
He HAS been to therapy & blames this on his many past relationships-he's no longer interested.
I'VE been to therapy.
( Told my therapist about running into a former flame. Therapist suggested an affair. That would never be me.
Why would I want to ruin another's marriage?)
I am stuck-even my adult child has said this to me.
Life for me is a very lonely place.
Thank God for work, friends, outside interests.
Writing this helps a bit 'cause none of you know me...
Thank you for sharing this. Funny, I assumed that a man wrote this initially. With or without physical sex, you are a passionate woman. Everything rings true and should be read by those who take the beauty of an intimate relationship for granted. We commit for better or for worse, in sickness and in health...but desire is another matter altogether. Keep loving yourself!
So beautifully and honestly written. I truly ache over this, for you and for me.
Heartfelt post with many wonderful insights about what sex can be -- I agree with them all and feel grateful that I still have that with my partner. I'm truly sorry for your pain and like many here, I wish I could find a way to heal your situation. But only you know all the details and so anything we say is probably off base to one degree or another. I do hope you don't give up on trying to find some way to make things better for yourself (and your spouse, who I'm sure wants you to be happy) -- no matter what it may be. Nothing is impossible. Really.
Great post. I am glad it got an Editor's pick. I think people's need for sex differs. Lea Lane said it gets easier the older you get. Some said no it doesn't. We're all different. I used to be in a marriage without sex but it was intimate. By that I mean a lot of touching and cuddling, etc. And that met my needs at the time. But for some, sexless relationships are lacking in intimacy entirely. And I suspect that is what really creates loneliness. For many. Rated.
A note to the last several commenters - thank you for writing, especially after my cranky message this morning. Sorry for that.

Some of you appear to be brand new members; please check your OS email, as I will contact you individually that way to say hello and check in.

Kimmy, Silkstone, and Percy - thank you for your kind notes and gentle understanding. Your words feel very supportive and soft tonight.

Even after so long, Thursday nights can still feel empty. Some weeks I don't notice, and then once in a while...

Thanks again, all.
Today is my 45 birthday, and karma sent this to me as a gift. I am not alone.
WOW is right. WOW I understand exactly how you feel and that is about all I want to say at this point. I totally understand where you are at and I take my hat off to you. when you are committed to a relationship this is what you are willing to commit to. Thank you for your honest acknowledgement of your very personal situation.

Thank you again!

You are right, you are not alone. I am here. And, read through the comments and consider connecting with another gentle soul here.

I sent you a message through OS, but want to publicly say, Happy Birthday to you on this warm and lovely May night.
This is something that is so important to talk about. You have certainly struck a nerve here, and all the best to you.
Beautifully written. You articulated what too many of us have lost and, I hope, reminded others how lucky they are to have the sex lives they desire.

wow ....i know what you mean .I live a nightmare ..I REALLY feel your pain, I know you didn't mean to do that but you made me miss it even more.
wow ....i know what you mean .I live a nightmare ..I REALLY feel your pain, I know you didn't mean to do that but you made me miss it even more.
maria maria,

Thank you for the comment. I sent you a message on Wednesday night through the OS mail system. I hope you received it.

You are the fourth person who wrote to me during the night and said that my post made them sadder than before. I'm not sure how to respond except to say, I'm sorry for how it feels. Very sorry.
Perhaps your sexual desires and fantasies would be satisfied by finding a discreet relationship with another woman.

Then, whether you are cheating on your husband becomes murky. If your husband would find out, he probably would be more likely to forgive you.

Try it. I may be an answer, if may not.
Oh wow!
I have -never- read anything before that sums up how I feel in my sexless marriage. I just cried when I read it as I felt that you were looking into my heart. I have just sent it to a girlfriend also deeply unhappy in a sexless marriage.....thankyou for having the courage to say it - and say it well.

Thank you for reading and commenting. I'm sorry this made you cry and that it hurts so deeply. I wish it wasn't true for any of us.

I sent you a note through the OS email system. Feel free to respond or not. No pressure.

Take care tonight.
So well written. I have "been there, done that" and I cried for you. However, I must tell you that your inner feelings will get better, promise you that. I cried for you and for myself again.
I know I'm a bit late getting to this but I am glad I found it.

I am a woman who has always loved and celebrated her sexuality but was married to a low-libido male. He always had a reason for not wanting sex and when he didn't want sex, he was hostile to other forms of physical affection as well. He had several issues going on in his life which ended up being the cause of our divorce. Still, I understand your pain. I hope you haven't given up hope and are willing to find some ways to work on this. If he is physically unable to please you, he should at least be loving enough to find some things which please you. If not..... you may need to face the fact that he is selfish and move on to someone who is willing to share your passion. I would hate to learn, years from now, that you've grown old and bitter looking back on a life which seems wasted. I've seen too much of that.

But that's my opinion and I'm OK if you don't agree or think I should drop dead. Please take care. Rated.
Bored with Facebook, I came here, and you inspired me to sign up to comment and perhaps eventually blog, too. And thanks for that.

Since I'm a big bad queer, I like to joke lesbians invented "bed death," but I know all kinds of relationships suffer one person wanting and another not. I so very much feel your angst.

The first year was hot (of course). The second year was more old married couple. By the third year I was happy just to get her to be with me in bed with and cuddle me while I beat off. Then, whether my bio clock went tick-tock or I was lonely for affection, we decided to have a child. I suppose I thought it'd somehow be one big family group hug. Instead, as I joked to friends, I was both the birth mother and the cliche, impatient to have sex again, horny father. For no doubt a myriad of reasons, my lover and I never had a sex life again.

For six years, I struggled like you. You can be all kinds of things in my family, but divorcing with a child is the big taboo. And already being the family weirdo, I try to represent my people well.

Call it middle age crazy. Call it the struggle of different parenting styles and there being no space or place for affetionate making up or sharing a different kind of communication. Call it slowly distancing until we were two strangers in a house, and my suddenly feeling too young to imagine the rest of my life that way. My parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next year, and they still boink like banshees (albeit slightly slowed down). I just couldn't envision myself stuck in this Sissyphusian place the rest of my days.

We negotiated an open relationship first, and I was discreet in my affairs. But she wasn't happy with that arrangement either, and that heaviness that hangs in the house when there's problem that can't be solved just grew worse until we mutually ended it. Sometimes I think we were merely meant to be co-parents since we have done and continue to do a totally equal, 50-50 damn fine job of that. The kid has learned flexibility from the start--different houses, different rules, but in agreement enough to expect her to do well in what she pursues.

My situation in the six years since has been complicated by my being in Japan and meeting women online (due to limited choices here) who think a long distance lover in Asia is hot for a year and then want me to move to the States because they're tired of having to buy the groceries *and* unload the car, and what am I good for except exotic travel with lots of sex and phone intimacy every night?

So now I find myself quite alone and emotionally exhausted, and I can't say which is better or worse. I can't say, Stay, 'cause it's always something. And I can't promise my grass is any greener. I will say, having been in relationships all my life, I have to wonder what I feared so much about solitude. Yes, it's lonely enough sometimes to drive me to discuss ideas online with strangers just to connect with someone. But at least when I come home now, there's no Macy's Thanksgiving Parade-size elephant in my living room (and all the baby elephants therapy has wrought). And just because I'm happy to coast along single for now doesn't mean I've given up the game entirely. I just want to do something else for a while and, perhaps selfishly, enjoy how peaceful life can be by myself.

Maybe this is just one cloud on your otherwise sunny relationship horizon. Maybe if you focused on your bucket list and pretended you were single when you masturbated, you wouldn't feel so alone. Maybe all kinds of things you didn't ask to be problem-solved, but instead merely shared your experience that prompted me to share mine as a way of sending you a cyberhug and saying, I'm so sorry for your anguish. I know the feeling well, and my heart grieves for your loss. I hope you find a way to come to some kind of peace with it, whether or not you do anything besides share your heartache with us.
It was at my partner/lover's suggestion that I read this, and I am very grateful that I did. The two of us came to each other from sexually bereft relationships, have been where you are. You write beautifully, concisely and deeply about a topic that is often given short shrift in our culture. Thank you for capturing the spiritual potential of sex, it's profound ability to connect us to our bodies, our lovers, and to our core selves. I offer no advice. I do offer my heart, which weeps and which sits beside you in empathy.
It is so weird to me that there are so many here that share in your loss. I too share. My husband is on medication that has eliminated his sex drive. I miss it truly. But what I can't understand is why doesn't he still want some intimacy. We have affection, but it's not the same as intimacy. There are other ways to comfort one another. Are men so different that they don't want that? But the truth is, if I can't have sex with him, I don't want it.
Thank you. scraggle, for taking the time to read this and for the kind words. I'll take you up on that promise that it will get easier. I can't imagine how it could get harder. I'm sorry you know this pain, too.

Ren Lady - thank you for reading and commenting. (I'm a little embarrassed as to how very long this post is.) I agree that growing old and bitter is a bad combination. In fact, I am very conscious of resisting resentment. I've met those people, those angry, resentful people and I see that as a fate worse than this. I have to choose to not be resentful, and most of the time, I am successful.

And please don't ever suggest that I would tell you to drop dead! One commenter wrote about how 'tight' my body parts might be now. If I didn't tell him to drop dead, why on earth would I tell you? (I ignored him.)

Thanks again for the note.
ButchyBabbles, first - could you possibly have a better screen name? No, you could not.
Thank you for reading all the way from Japan! I truly appreciate you sharing your story (and see many potential blog posts within it.) Your last paragraph said it all for me. I'm going to read it several times... Thank you. I hope you will get involved here with OS. I would like to know more about you.

Shivaun - your comment made me cry, and I haven't cried since Thursday night and here I am in a public place trying to eat a salad and drink some iced tea and maybe not cry. Your words are lovely, thank you. I'm glad the writing worked for you and I swear, I can feel you here next to me. Thank you, very very much.
Sage, thanks for reading and the note. I am not a doctor and anything I were to write about medicines would likely cause a citizen's arrest from a drug rep. You may want to read through all the comments, as many people left helpful information about medicine and treatments.
As far as the male psyche? I have to answer honestly, I don't know. I hope someone else here reaches out to you with some ideas and support.
And yet..... the conversation can take place. The decision to never have sex again is possible. It was for me. I made that decision over a year ago. My husband lacks the need for companionship with me. It seems he only married to have his sexual desires always fulfilled. For years I have dutifully answered his call and for years I have felt cheated. Our lovemaking is nothing more than two bodies embracing momentarily before he leaves me to seek his companionship with others. My husband was so bold as to literally walk in the front door and go straight to the bedroom expecting me to follow. Without conversation, without any care it seems about me as an individual, as a human being, as his wife, his supposed lifetime companion. Emotionally it destroyed me, physically it numbed me. If ever I wondered what a prostitute felt as she satisfied her next customer.

So we had a conversation.....and decided to never have sex again unless he could give me the companionship that I crave from him. The companionship that I need from him. But that is not to say he decided to never have sex again with someone else. He then decided to take another wife to fulfill his sexual desires. It is called Polygany.

And long for sex and I long for dialogue, laughter, and a family life with my husband when he wants nothing more than a receptacle to catch his water and carry his children.

I miss sex but not with my husband. He never once caressed me nor kissed me in a way that made me feel loved and valued. Instead it felt cold, lonely and disappointing. I sometimes awake from a sexual dream having an orgasm. And for now that is enough for me. I am not denying that we are in need of sex but I have found that by not masturbating and reading or viewing things about the subject has helped me not to forget sex but to accept its absence in my life at the moment.

And while well intended I'm sure, I find some of the comments urging you to post more details about your situation and so called solutions to it bothersome. Your post is perfect in it's discreetness, to add unnecessary personal details would only diminish that. And I don't believe it's a solution that you're going for here, it's expression, a quest for understanding and perhaps even acceptance. And at the end of the day that is what it all comes down to in whatever life deals us.....acceptance.
After reading "This is What a Sexless Marriage Feels Like", which is very well written and very thought provoking, the first question that comes to mind is; why remain monogamous?
Is monogamy worth it?
Owing to the fact that I realized that most of us are going to live well into our 80s, when I turned 18 and had had penetrative sex with a woman for the first time, I decided that I wanted to remain sexually active till the day I die.
Since then I have worked hard to maintain a high degree of health, not because I want to live for a long time, but because I want to be able to physically have sex no matter how old I may get.
You can call the sex I look forward to my life's aspiration, and my future sexual activity my life's ambition.
I live for sex, or more correctly I live to enjoy sex every time I have sex with a sexual partner.
Currently I have only had one sexual partner for the past 12 years, but if my current sexual partner no longer wanted to have sex, or was incapable of having sex, I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to cast off my vows of monogamy. And likewise I would release my spouse of her vows of monogamy if I became incapable of having sex.
Dearest hayat,

Crying again here for your experience and your honesty. I am doing my best to not give you advice either, because I don't see you asking for it. I will say though, that I am very, very sorry for how he treated you and how damaging it feels. Words fail as I attempt to express this to you.

Have you ever been to a Bob Dylan concert? I've been to several. At some he has said not one word, not one, he just sings. He sings the songs we all know word-by word and that's it. That's what he's there to give us - his live interpretation of his songs. Nothing more. We take from the concert what we are ready and want and need to take with no guidance from him. I've always had the sense that he feels as though he's already given us all he has to give, his music. What else is there for him to say?

I worked on this post for a few weeks before I posted it and yes, I was thoughtful and careful about what I put in and more importantly, what I did not. By the time the comments emerged, I was feeling a little like Dylan, like I had nothing left to give. I've tried to connect a little in the background, through emails, but I'm still feeling like I have little more to offer. This is just my experience, that's all. Obviously, there are so many more, and all are different.

I hope you feel peace and that gentle caress someday.
My husband and I had a fabulous sex life. Then he joined AA. He began to withhold sex. He decided to punish me. Or, as was his response one morning several weeks ago when I confronted him about it and rather than deny it this time he said, "Yes! I am not pursuing sex with you because you get the idea that everything's great if we're making love. And it's not!" Of course I did not think "everything's great" because of our having sex, and how would he know what I think? He never cares to ask."Everything" else was definitely not great. Believe me, I was right there living it and feeling how ungreat it was, the dirty looks, the silence, the name-calling. It was miraculous that I could feel like sharing my body at all through this, but like you write it was one connection, deep, sweet, sustaining, nourishing, that we could still have, almost effortlessly. It was always wonderful. But he chose to take that away from me, too. What a great piece you've written here. I admire your ability to hang on.
I can't help wondering how different the comments would be if you were a man apparently settling for a sexless marriage against your wishes/plans.
fetboy, thanks for reading. I'm glad you commented. I hear what you're saying and I understand, as best I can, your feelings. All I would offer in response is that... sometimes what we think we would do in a given circumstance is not always what we are able to do. Sometimes the capacity we assumed we have, isn't quite what is there when the moment comes. Perhaps it is, but sometimes no matter how sure we are, we are surprised.

Inkie, I assume you've seen all the AA posts on OS these days. As far as that topic, I have no opinion. Zilch. But, I will say that it sounds very sad and uncomfortable at your house these days. I'm sorry for that. Using sex as a weapon, to offer coldly or to withhold, is just cruel. I'd say when it gets like that, that's a strong indicator of bigger issues, but you know that already. Thank you for reading, and for your note.

Not-as-nervous - yep. I would agree with you. I think it would be quite different, in good and bad ways. Thanks for reading.
My husband takes several meds that have killed our sex life, so being a very practical person I just have a great sex life all by myself. I think my body is very sexy and I don't need anyone else to tell me that and who knows my body better than I? Masturbation is only lonely if you think it is lonely. A little creative thinking goes a long way.
No one can be all things to anyone and I love hiking, biking, and kayaking with my husband who is my best pal..
Hmmm. For a woman who posted on the world wide web that I am better at masturbation than any of you, it seems a little odd that I need to defend that I do indeed enjoy it.

It's nice, I like it, and I am very good at it. I well understand the mental aspect of it as well as the physical.

I stand by my statement that it can also be lonely.

And that's the last word from me on masturbation.
Judging from the sheer volume, you touched a hot wire here and are likely shorted out yourself from all the thoughts and ideas "incoming!" ~ I'm not reading anyone's comments, just sharing that it's clear this is written from your head and your heart, you do not need advice, you just wanted to say something real that mattered to you and you accomplished all that and more. So congratulations and welcome to OS. I haven't seen a bigger christening here since I joined.

As an aside, I have 'been there-left that' and leaving was my decision for many reasons (a blog someday) but not a solution because intimacy is such a river in our souls there can be no 'answer' to it's absence or creation. The resonance of your thoughts are deeply felt, could be my own word for word, were I as able as you clearly are in the art of expression. Thank you and keep sharing because I enjoyed your style very much. (rated for sheer gutsiness and clarity).
Thank you for the comment, Gabby Abby. I had no idea how many people would respond to this topic, and remain quite surprised. The comments are a good indicator, but many people are sending private messages with their stories (and very kind words) as well. I wish it didn't resonate so deeply with so many.

I'm sorry you knew of this pain yourself, and hope it has resolved for you in a way that feels right. I wish that for everyone.

Thank you for reading and for this gentle comment. I appreciate both.
I'm quite late to this, but still, thank you for writing it.

You have many good insights...and I'm sorry you're going through such a difficult time.

First of all, your husband has been having an affair for however long your sex life has been dead. Secondly, as a man having done this to someone, and in turn having had it done to me, I can say that your failure to address this issue with your husband means your partnership was in trouble way before your sex life died. If you have never ever asked your husband, 'what happened to our sex life?' how do you know his interest waned? Have you sought counseling, even from friends? I am sorry you have abjectly resigned yourself to unhappiness.
I give you a lot of credit for this piece. At first, I thought you were male, so the clarification drew me in further. Several things come to mind: are you limiting sex to genital sex?

U don't say how old you are, and that is a factor. Also, you don't say exactly why your husband stop wanting you. There is a big difference between whether it is physical or emotional. One can be fixed, occasionally, while the may not. There are also other solutions, as I am sure you are aware than masturbation.

You give a nice prescription for why to have sex--but if that is the only thing that you believe brings comfort to a union why are you still in it?
And Yet:

What a beautiful woman, what a beautiful human being, you are, in so many ways. I wish you fulfillment, contentment, exhilaration. You will get there, I'm certain of it; you will find your way, and it's clear to me that you will do so in a manner which is respectful of everybody involved.

This post should be solely about you, not me, but I will share with you a sliver of my story, in order to offer you hope. In short, I was in a very similar place to you: the absence of intimacy and tenderness, the loneliness of being in an ostensibly Perfect Relationship, corroded and saddened and emptied and embittered me for nearly 20 years. I kept hoping it would get better; it didn't. I wasn't as honourable as you. And then suddenly it was all over, with huge amounts of pain and destruction and my teenagers' futures changed forever. I was devastated. But when my head stopped spinning (well, to some extent) I was free to tentatively re-contact a wonderful woman (in actual fact, THE Most Wonderful Woman On The Planet)...and I have found an intensity of love, and lust, that I simply did not know it was possible to feel. Our respective circumstances are complex and difficult, and geography doesn't help,

You will get there. It's out there for you. You have one life.

Stay strong.
Jeff in Reading,

Such a lovely, kind comment. Thank you. I appreciate that you read this so thoroughly and, from what it looks like, joined OS in order to place your comment.

I am very happy for you! Sharing your good story was generous of you, not just for me, but for all the people who are reading and commenting on this post and emailing me privately. You leave us with hope.

And may I just add, your exuberance and joy come through clearly. Surely THE Most Wonderful Woman on the Planet knows she is exactly that! Very sweet.
This was very powerful, and I do feel bad for you. Thank you for sharing this.
OS Readers,

Thanks to all of you who read, commented, and/or emailed me about this post. Your words of kindness are appreciated.

I'm overwhelmed by the comments and attention this post received and never predicted this level of input. I think it's best to close the comments now, so much has been said. I feel uncomfortable when this post shows up under a 'most read' list at this point. There are so many far better and more interesting writers here who should be in that slot.

If you want to email me through OS, you are welcome to. However, please remember that I only know my experience, but there are many, many more revealed here in the comments. Please consider contacting others with whom you may develop a strong connection.

Thank you for the support you've graciously offered.
Comments are now closed.

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