My partner doesn’t want to have sex.

We're getting into the nitty gritty on how to find intimacy again.

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Dear ITN,

What happens if your husband decides sex is repulsive and it’s not because of you… he doesn’t enjoy it at all and says it’s too clinical? My husband said he doesn’t want it any more but he will do it if it makes me happy. He says it’s not my weight (covid etc. has made me fat) but with anyone the thought makes him feel dirty! He says he loves me and will never leave me as he loves me so much but the sex is crap and he doesn’t enjoy it – is it me? Should I leave him? I enjoyed our sex life but he is fixated on the length of time it lasts and the fact that he can’t bring me to climax on penetration alone. He won’t see a doctor and he doesn’t want to talk about it, and he seems more bothered by the fact that I’M bothered by this. But I’m only 38 and I don’t think I want to give up on having an intimate sex life with my partner. We have a 7 year old daughter, and I’m torn between waiting it out until she’s 18 or ending my marriage over this. Help!

Signed,

Not Ready for No Nooky

Dear Nooky,

Ohhhhhhh boy. This is a doozy, friend. First off, I’m so very sorry that you’re in this position – I can’t imagine how difficult this has all been to process. I don’t think anyone plans on having their relationship change so drastically! When one person in a relationship makes a unilateral decision that affects the whole relationship, it can be devastating. I completely understand and sympathize with your confusion, your emotions, all of it. Whether or not you end your marriage over this, is a decision that can only be made by you and you alone. But let’s talk about this a bit and hopefully (maybe?) find some workable solutions before it comes to that.

There are several reasons your husband may no longer be interested in sex, this isn’t as uncommon as some people might think. For some folks, a shift in priorities or having kids can really derail their sex drive. Stress, a decline in his mental health, low self-esteem, trauma, or hormonal imbalances can also cause a major disruption to not only the physical and biological mechanisms of sex, but also the mental and emotional investment it requires. A very common issue is performance-related anxiety, and given that you mentioned his focus on the length of time of the act as well as his inability to bring you to climax through penetration, I’m going to venture a guess that some (if not all) of his lack of desire stems from that. Now, many of these are medical reasons, and as such, could theoretically be resolved with medical intervention and proper support from a doctor or therapist! But his reluctance to see a doctor to discuss what issues may or not be involved here is worrisome. Obviously you can’t force someone to seek help for a problem they want to neither recognize nor remedy. But perhaps if the two of you sat down and talked through it a bit at a time, he could come around to the idea of at least looking more deeply into what might be going on.

It’s very clear to me from your letter, and for your (and your husband’s) personal happiness, that you both should be in therapy – together, with a licensed marriage and family therapist, and individually. Again, I realize that he has (up until now) refused to talk about or seek help for this. However, it seems as though you are nearing a breaking point, and maybe if he realized or understood just how close you were to walking away, he’d be more inclined to at least try. Talk to your husband, Nooky. Be VERY honest with him about how you feel and how you foresee this decision of his will impact not only him, but your marriage and your family. There is no shame, at all, in advocating for yourself and what you know will ultimately make you happy. But I strongly, strongly encourage the two of you to get into therapy. If he still refuses, then I urge you to seek help from a therapist for yourself. To help you process this and decide and make plans for what this means for your future. 

Does a marriage need sex to survive? No, of course not. But what it DOES need is communication, compromise, and lots and lots of respect and understanding. It also needs all involved parties to be, if not on the same page, at least reading the same book. If he is unwilling to try to work on finding a solution that works for you both, and you aren’t ready or willing to commit to a life that is lacking something that is very important to you, then you are both at an impasse. I really, really do think you would benefit greatly from talking to a therapist – you both would, individually and as a couple. I can’t tell you the right answer here, as much as I’d like to. But I do want to leave you with this: you deserve to live a fulfilled, happy life. We all do! And the path we start out on doesn’t always necessarily end up being the one we end our journey on. I hope you find peace and the clarity you need on yours. 

Ready or Not,

ITN

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