Q: I’ve been happily married for 25 years. Except for the first five years, my husband and I have no sexual relationship. His drive is very low and I lost interest in trying to find ways to improve it. Now in our early 50’s, we are both still fit, attractive people. However, I have missed the scent, touch, and feel of a man’s body and I am not getting younger. I wish to remain married and, no, it’s too far for the two of us to find our way back to a sexual relationship. He still has no drive and has expressed he misses nothing. I look at guys my age in restaurants, grocery stores, church… everywhere. And I wonder how many of them have no sexual outlet like me. I’m trapped in a sexless marriage. What can I do?
— Too young to shrivel up
Dear Too Young:
Marry the man you love and take a vow of sexual poverty? I’ve met with our editorial board and we’ve voted you Hell’s official spokesperson. Because any man looking for an eternity of emotional, sexual and physical abuse couldn’t find a better place for it than where you’re standing.
Yes, abuse. Deny touch long enough and it causes physical harm. Intimacy is oxygen. Cut it off and you turn your partner into a sexual asthmatic—chronically coughing and wheezing in their attempt to breathe you in. They’ll experience a tightening of the chest and eventually their lips (among other organs) turn blue.
Make no mistake, when you constantly reject your partner’s advances with some version of “I GOT CLOTHES TO FOLD,” men hear it as “I DON’T LOVE YOU.” Or want you. So, go away.
It’s hard not to turn the rejection against yourself. To believe it’s all or partly your fault, that you’re no longer attractive, that your manhood is useless, your desire pointless and your needs unworthy.
Worse, in a sex-negative society like ours, the deprived partner is seen as the “problem spouse.” Why do you have to have it so often, the sex-negative schoolmarms ask. Why do you have to have it at all? Why are you harassing your re-virginized partner? Can’t you manage your wicked desires in another way? Have you tried Sudoku?
Well, you’re not the bad guy in this. He is. Not because he’s lost all sexual desire (it happens) but because he’s happy to see you suffer. New Rule: If you give your partner sexual asthma you owe them an inhaler.
Meaning, if he can’t provide the intimacy you crave, he owes you his blessing to find it somewhere else. What that means is up to both of you. Is it don’t ask/don’t tell? Is it only when either of you are out of town? Is it only with other happily married guys trapped in their own sexless marriages?
One diversionary point: You say you’ve tried everything to raise his libido. I believe you. But his libido isn’t yours to raise. Has he tried? When chronic sexual listlessness hits there’s usually a physiological reason.
I’m going to assume he has and that nothing has worked. Which brings us back to my main point: It’s time to cut a deal. This will be tough for both of you. You value your marriage. You want to protect it, but the thought of going on without intimacy is unbearable. The relationship is too good to leave, but too bad to stay. It’s time to face an excruciating irony: The only way to save your marriage is to have an affair.