His Wife of Thirty Years Now Identifies as Asexual and Won't Agree to an Open Relationship

Comments

1

I don't think this LW will be sufficiently gratified by the outside sex to make up for the fact that he'll have to forever keep a secret. I think he'll only be satisfied if what he's doing is on the up-and-up.

I think, finding different language to express to your wife what precisely your needs are may help her come to agreement with you on a way to address it. Weirdly, I have the suspicion that she could be more receptive to more kinky stuff - have you talked about sleep assault?

3

Why are people so loathe to divorce? Children are harmed by parents who should not be together more than they are by parents who divorce.

4

What Xina said. And my kids (and their step siblings) are in full agreement.

5

Sportlandia I don't get that at all and as someone who was abused sleep assault would be the worst approach with me. It's the one thing that would freak me out the most.

It sounds like you've had a long marriage. Is lack of libido also partly an age thing? I would suggest she goes to the Dr and has her hormone levels tested. For some women as they get older their libido tanks due to hormonal issues.

6

I say divorce in this case. If it was 15 years earlier, I'd say cheat. But the kids are out of the house, the wife gives nary a fuck about your pleasure (and has been a bad lover for your entire marriage), and you sound miserable. She's pulled sex entirely off the table. You gave her a stay together option. She rejected it. All your reasons for staying together are people pleasing reasons. Fuck em. They'll get over it. You've sacrificed enough.

7

Oh and right or wrong, after you get that first blow job in 30 years, you'll know you made the only choice you could.

Good luck!

8

@LW: a few things jumped out at me.

If your touching her, even for sex without penetration, is completely overwhelming for her, it sounds like she's traumatized, and should probably speak with a therapist.

Your children are adults, or close to becoming adults. They'll deal with it. In fact, you need to set an example for them that not all successful relationships have to end in death. This successful relationship can end in separation and divorce, and sexy times for you.

As for "I refuse to be just another man that hurt or betrayed her", where the hell did that come from? You've spent over two decades with her, raised a family together, and apparently been more than accommodating of her lack of interest in sex. You're most definitely not one of those guys. And if it's her that's insinuating you are, then DTMFA, because you're being manipulated into passing up on the life you deserve.

I'm not a nationally* syndicated sex advice columnist, and I like being hugged (within reason), but my advice is this: tell your wife that you're not willing to live without sex, and let her choose from amongst the various options that allow that to happen.

And dude, get regular blow jobs. They're awesome, especially if they're enthusiastically given.

Savage Love is syndicated in Canada, which makes it internationally syndicated.

9

I'm starting to think that the rational, drama-free advice to TOTSA holds many opportunities for emotional blackmail. I can see the wife's tear-filled eyes as the husband goes out for the evening or the wife needing to micro-manage his time away from home, to know WHERE he is every single minute and with whom.

I think there's too much emphasis placed on how the kids would react (betrayal? really?) if their parents divorced. I thought that staying-together-for-the-children (they're all adults now) was not wise, especially when it meant putting up a brave front to conceal unhappiness. In this LW's case, I could see him making up all sorts of stories why he's away from home on a regular - or even sporadic - basis.

10

I agree with the DTMFA position. Don't assume that proactively getting divorced and getting caught cheating, leading to the end of the relationship, are equal outcome scenarios. Though the latter may be avoidable, it's definitely riskier, and the fallout could alienate you from your kids, family and mutual friends. I mean, depending on how things go in a proactive divorce, that could still happen, but it sounds like you care about one another enough so as not to create a toxic mess of things. On the other hand, if you cheat and she finds out, you own the toxic mess. You'll forever be that piece of shit who cheated instead of that reasonable guy who ended things because they were no longer working.

11

I have another idea: solo sex toys for him that can be controlled remotely. Perhaps if being touched is overwhelming for her, and they need to build the shared intimacy, something like this would work:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/em-and-lo/the-future-is-now-13-remo_b_9645460.html

I also second her getting her hormones and thyroid checked and finding a therapist specializing in trauma, not just for the sake of sex (in fact, I suspect if she thinks it's something he's encouraging for the sake of his own gratification - not that that would necessarily be the case, just that if she's sensitive about it (and it sounds like she is), she might worry it was - that she would be less open to the idea)
I think she probably needs to feel that he wants her to be well for her own sake.

12

And my thoughts, as always, are: stop projecting your own insecurities about leaving onto your kids, or in any other way making your relationship with your wife about them, because it's not, at all.

Some kids appreciate their parents staying in shitty relationships "for the kids" (though that's usually while they're young, not grown), most don't (xina's and acirc's comments express the far more common persepctive; consider that staying in an unhappy relationship "for the kids" essentially means blaming them for you being in an unhappy relationship, despite the fact that they have no say in the matter and never asked you to do so), and there's no real way to tell without raising the possibility, which is going to upset the kids who want to maintain the fantasy that their parents are still in love anyway. So take them out of the equation and make your decision based on what you and your wife think about your relationship.

Given what you've said, go ahead and "devastate" (but probably not really) the person who lied to you for decades about her sexuality* and now wants to insist you not do something with other people that she doesn't like doing with you. Or decide that you value your shared household and companionship more than (uncertain) partnered sex and deal like all of the people who go years or even decades without interested sex partners (nobody has ever died from not having partnered sex; at worst, it's a contributing factor to depression, though nowhere close to sufficient on its own). Or follow Dan's advice and cheat discretely, though the increased work required to date people secretly never seems to me like it could be worth the effort for people who don't sepcifically get off on the secrecy or act of cheating itself.

*Not necessarily that she knew she was asexual/uninteresred in sex in general all along, though it sounds like she could have been, but that she was pretending to get off on it when she wasn't. A lie about an orgasm with a hookup you're never going to see again to avoid the possibility of some lengthy discussion and tons of emotional labor for a man who has invested a bunch of his ego in the idea that he makes women orgasm is reasonable, but much less so with someone with whom you're building a shared life over decades. Honesty matters a lot more in the latter case.

13

The wife's enjoyment not only of sex but of simple affectionate contact is noticeably regressing as the years go by.

So, before LW starts formulating cheating strategies (which he clearly won't be comfortable with anyway), how about -- first and foremost -- a medical exam for his wife by a compassionate, sex-positive physician followed by a couple consultation with a qualified therapist?

14

Oh, and in addition to the social consequences of cheating, being found out, and divorcing anyway, there are possible legal complications - lots of states still assign fault in divorces, and cheating and being found out can leave you in a much worse position in the eventual divorce than just getting divorced in the first place. I really only think Dan's "stay married and stay sane" scenario is the best option in cases where a partner has dementia, is comatose, or something similar where the spouse really is necessary for their care/health insurance but the person who can't/won't have sex can't be a real partner in multiple ways any longer.

15

What a joyless existence. Just split up. Everyone will get over it - it's really really sad that she's traumatised though.

No oral, either giving or receiving? And not even helping him masturbate to get through this? Fuck that, there's nothing salvageable here.

16

I hear controlling behavior. Is LW writhing within bonds of his own knotting? or is his wife doing the controlling? "You can't go outside our marriage but you can't get satisfaction within it" combined with "you never made me happy anyway" is seriously obnoxious. If LW isn't making all this up, he should definitely DTMA because she's certainly not F-ing him (physically) any longer.

17

UGH! DAN!!! I seriously can't stand it when he advises this. FIRST, the advice should be marriage counseling with a sex positive therapist. Second, he needs to have a long talk with his wife. ADULT CONVERSATION SHOULD BE POSSIBLE FOR ADULTS. He needs to tell her he is NOT asexual. She is the one who changed the rules of the game after decades together! If she can't handle him having sex outside of the relationship he has a PASS on his kids thinking he ended the relationship because SHE DID YEARS AGO. His adult children can handle the idea that their parents changed over the years and their relationship simply won't work anymore. They can be responsible parents by remaining friendly and close if they can't make their mismatched libidos work in their marriage.

18

Yeah what @3 and everybody said. You can do better than what Dan's offering for your life. She can do better than it. Your children can do better than watching it.

You're not betraying her by calling it done (now cheating on the other hand). I'm not going to say she betrayed you either though I predict certain parties will. You had a good run. Not every relationship lasts until death.

19

First of all, yes, the (adult) children (who shouldn't care, but trust me, they will) will be angry if the couple splits up and they find out that the reason is that Dad wants more sex and Mom doesn't want any. They will also be upset and angry and feel betrayed if the lw cheats and is found out. It's not rational, but it's 100% what will happen. They'll blame him; they'll feel personally betrayed themselves; they'll feel compelled to take their mom's side as the wronged party and they'll hold it against him.
Which is not necessarily a reason to stay in this situation as it is.

I think the lw needs to decide if he's okay with this marriage ending. And if he is, I think he should talk with his wife. He should tell her that it's not fair or right for her to unilaterally get to decide that he's never going to have sex again. He should tell her how much he loves her, how he's still attracted to her; how he wants to behave morally; how mindful he is of the trauma she's gone through and how he is determined to not add to that trauma.
Then he should tell her--not ask her--that he's going to get his sexual needs met elsewhere. He should tell her he'll be discreet: he won't put her in the embarrassing position of having people in their social circle (or their children) know he's getting sex outside the marriage; if she wants to continue to be perceived as being in a monogamous marriage, he'll be socially monogamous. But it isn't fair for her to determine that he is done with sex for the rest of his life. Just like he wouldn't impose his will on her in ways that bring her pain or humiliation, she doesn't get to do the same to him.

She may decide to leave him. But if he cheated and she found out, she'd likely leave him, too.
If he is truly okay with this marriage ending (even if that's not his preference), then he should try being open about opening up. What does he have to lose?
And what he stands to gain is huge: sexual satisfaction. Sexual validation. No fears of being found out. Trusting that his wife can handle the truth. An honest relationship with his wife. A feeling that he's living with integrity.

Don't just jump straight to cheating, I guess is what I'm saying.

20

First, it's entirely possible -- likely, even -- that your wife and your adult married children will NOT be devastated by a divorce. What's entirely likely is that if you cheat and are found out by wife and children, your children may very well not want anything to do with you, because you've hurt their mother.

She doesn't want sex. No counseling or semi-threats from you is going to make her want sex. You do not want to be without sex for the rest of your life. If you divorce, either or both of you may end up happier. Do it.

21

LW 'll say this cheating may preserve your marriage for a time, but if you're found out it's over. So why not just end things? You aren't abandoning your wife by leaving a relationship neither of you seems happy with, and your kids are adults who will get over it. Your wife will get over it to.

No really they will.

So why not end things amicably as you can and show your kids that leaving a relationship doesn't have to be a shitshow, something a lot of people need to learn.

22

LW's children "drew courage from watching us work through our struggles and stick together all these years." Yeah they drew strength from a lie, and LW stuck together with someone who 'loved' him, as long as his sexuality is excised from his personality. It sounds to me like he's given her more than enough rope. She'll probably be relieved (unless of course he's the sole breadwinner).

23

Divorce.

Everyone will get over it. I know for a fact. My parents divorced after 42 years. The real tragedy was they stayed married for 42 years.

Get on with your life.

24

Ask yourself this - would you be happy if your children ended up in the exact same kind of relationship? If they were unfulfilled and never had organisms? If you truly and honestly want something better for your children, then go ahead and model the behavior of striving for something better.

25

I've been in a situation like this and well its off and on because I'm not good at cheating but I agree with Dan. Sometimes it feels like you have no other choice the body, mind and soul need different things and if the person you are in love with can't have a healthy sexual relationship and it will break everyone's heart if the relationship dies then why end something over sex. ? ? Open relationships don't work for everyone but neither does Monogamy

26

I shudder to think of what the children's marriages are like.

27

LW, I don’t agree with Dan that you should cheat. Why should you be sneaking around when it’s your wife who is being unloving and shows no concern for your needs. Yes breaking up after a thirty yr marriage is tough, staying longer in a dysfunctional one is tougher.
Your kids have their own lives and though they might resent you for leaving their mother, and changing their expectations of how their family is, they will get over it. You have been a good husband and father and your job of child rearing is done. Now, go enjoy your life.

28

Don't cheat, LW. Talk to your wife and tell her everything you told Dan. Or just show her this letter you wrote. Then tell her that sex and intimacy are very important for your health and happiness, and ask her to work out a solution with you. If she still insist on very little sex and touching with her, and won't agree to you getting these needs met elsewhere, then you need to work for an amicable divorce. This way she will have a say in what happens next in your marriage. Yes, divorce will be hard for all of you, but your kids are grown and have their own lives now, it won't be as devastating for them as when they were younger. And it will be much more devastating for your wife if you take away all her choice and agency in your marriage, by deciding to cheat without being honest with her first about your needs. Cheating will kill your marriage eventually, even if you manage to hide it - the guilt, the expense, the lying, the logistics, the ick! Be honest with your wife and maybe you can figure out a way together that will work for both of you.

29

Don't cheat. Lying to the people you love is not a good move - and you probably will get caught. Get a divorce or separate. Your kids are grownups and will be just fine. Your wife will be fine - do you really think that she's so fragile that she'll collapse without you? If you tell her honestly that you want a divorce because you two aren't compatible, you'll probably manage to stay friends. If she catches you in a affair that's much less likely.

30

I think he should see a sex worker. That's the most discreet option if he has his own spending money. Plus, yes there are some women in this same position. But is he definitely going to find them? Do we really need yet another man in his fifties out there looking for someone discreet to make up for his unsatisfying marriage?

31

All the "Dtmfas" just because sex isn't happening? There is more to relationships than sex, most people realize once they are out of their teens... Keep the good things in this relationship (presumably there are some) and go out and have affairs. Jeez.

32

You need to leave this person. Wait a while if you have to, for for the kids, but start making plans now.

33

elmsyrup @30: yeah, other than paying for it (and his wife is probably going to notice the money missing for hookers) I'm not sure how easily he's going to find a woman eager to be his secret on-call sex outlet. Also, it doesn't solve the problem of wanting actual connection and romance in his sexual partners. As a divorced man he can probably find a nice woman his own age that he's emotionally and sexually compatible with, marry or have an open romantic relationship with her, and still be his ex-wife's buddy.

Most women will be ok with you hanging out with your ex wife from time to time if she's asexual.

34

The wife, frankly, deserves to be cheated on. But LW doesn’t seem temperamentally suited to carrying that out, and — as others here have pointed out — there are practical downsides. I’m in the “don’t do it” camp.

LW says he loves and is attracted to his wife, and that he doesn’t want to leave her, though he hasn’t ruled it out. And he says he “would love an open relationship.”

Since people like to have choices, it could be in his interest to offer as many as he can to his wife by saying, “Maintaining the status quo isn’t an option, but there are several others. We can try to repair our sex life by getting you whatever medical care you might need and seeing a (sex-positive) couples counselor. Or we can discreetly open the relationship. Or we can amicably separate. I am open to whichever of those we choose, but we have to choose one.”

And there may be a way for him to avoid being the bad guy here as far as his children are concerned, by getting out in front of the situation. If he can, he should consider meeting with them privately (or along with their respective spouses, who may be more objective and sympathetic) and confiding in them. He doesn’t have to get into any kind of detail, but he can simply tell them the truth: “Your mother has changed the terms of our marriage, and it’s something I can’t go along with. I’m trying to explore ways that we can stay married and happy. I love her and I’m still very much attracted to her, but there’s a possibility we won’t be able to remain together.”

35

@34 I'm with you on the choices, and that in this case I don't see a need to cheat to stay sane (such as young kids like TOSA had). LW sounds like a people-pleaser, and he needs to acknowledge that his happiness has value, then advocate for himself.

However, I'm not sure this conversation with the kids is a good idea. He might be trying to get out in front of her spin on a split, but it's bringing their kids too much into their marriage. Let the kids know when you're separating, naturally, and if the wife tries to make him the bad guy, he can gently explain that she wanted to change the terms of their marriage in a way he couldn't accept. But don't jump the gun on this and drag the kids into the drama of maybe.

36

Dan forgot two crucial pieces of advice for the LW. If you cheat, get a vasectomy and a supply of condoms. The vasectomy will eliminate paternity dramas and the condoms will reduce your chances of contracting a STI. Also, keep the condoms someplace besides your home or car, so your wife won't find them.

37

Shmoops#24 What are these "organisms" the children are/aren't having?

38

This woman has some serious hang ups about sex and frankly, they seem much more related to past abuse and her failure to meaningfully address it than a convenient claim of asexuality. She should have realized this and sought counseling years ago. At this point, it’s too late. She has no interest in fixing that part of herself and has rationalized that it’s an immutable orientation.

As Dan has often said, sex comes standard in marriage. Oral comes standard. This man loves her but she has consistently failed to be a good, or even sufficient spouse. And now she’s made him being happy and fulfilled a dealbreaker for her?! She has betrayed him, not the other way around. She has cheated him out of a fulfilling marriage.

Lack of sex is a dealbreaker for him. As it should be. If he wants drama but a possible solution that allows him to stay with her, by making her evaluate the extent of her love for him, then he can offer her a range of choices and see what she picks, and picking the one he wants if she refuses to pick. She may adjust her expectations and idea of what is a dealbreaker when the consequences of a failure to do so are real and imminent.

Or, he could make a decision for himself as to the course of action he feels best for him to follow, tell her what it is, and go on with his life, either as a married man with a dadt arrangement, or in an open marriage, or separating or divorcing. I think the third option is the best. I prefer this course because I think it is time he takes agency for his own happiness.

I don’t think he has to be unkind to her. But she has failed him and their marriage and he absolutely needs to frame this situation that way in all necessary communications with her and third parties. He should not allow her to make him the bad guy to himself, to their children, or to anyone else.

39

First off, could we please draw a distinction between someone who is asexual because that's her orientation from the get-go, someone who doesn't want sex because of traumatic experiences, and someone whose interest in sex has fallen off because of getting older, menopause, or perhaps boredom from sex with the same person?

A good therapist could help Discouraged's wife make the distinction. A good therapist might be able to help Discouraged figure out a way to keep her marriage in working order.

My question is what Discouraged wants. He wants sex, obviously, but I got the idea that what he really wants is sex with the wife he loves and is committed to. I'm not sure that loveless commitmentless sex with someone else is really what he wants. And that's why I recommend divorce. It means Mrs. Disc gets the sexless life she wants, and it means Discouraged gets to pursue a loving sexual relationship with someone else.

Or, in therapy, put the options to Mrs. Disc and let her figure out what might be best for her there. As it is, she does seem manipulative, but I have sympathy for her nonetheless. As long as one of her choices is not "marriage continues as it has without sex".

40

"Leaving would mean hurting our children and her deeply. I'm certain our children would all feel betrayed, as they drew courage from watching us work through our struggles and stick together all these years."

Give Mrs. D the choice between open and over; you're not hurting Mrs. D, she's choosing.

And think of this as another lesson for your "moved out and married" children.

People change. People get over shit. Relationships get over.

I could understand if Dan was trying to give the LW what they wanted...but D doesn't say a word about wanting to stay, just about not wanting to leave. I have little respect for what Dan's advice is in service of.

41

Your wife has no problem knowing that she is hurting you and taking away from your a pleasure that makes being alive so wonderful, so don’t waste your time worrying about the hurt divorcing will cause her.

As for your children, would they be willing to take vows of celibacy to see you and your wife stay married? I don’t think so.

42

Dramatic close-up on the important part of the letter writer's missive:

"the kids grew up, moved out and married"

GET. A. LAWYER. and start drawing up the separation/divorce agreement. If you think for a second that a partner this controlling and thoughtless is going to quietly turn a blind eye to an affair or make it easy to disentangle yourself from them, you're delusional. The kids are grownups, you've done the stuff you were morally obligated to do once you had them (good on ya), now it's time to actually live a life in the years you have remaining to you.

43

First off: DON'T TAKE DAN'S SHITTY ADVICE AND CHEAT. This will just make the divorce proceedings even more slanted towards her favor, and they already will be.

Dude, she has been trying to force you to divorce her for years now. Do you really think her intentional harming of you for years is just some accident?

At this point she is just seeing how much shit you are willing to eat. Stand up for yourself. Why would you even want to be around this person?

Call a lawyer that specializes in divorce and do exactly what they say. BUT DON'T TAKE DAN'S SHITTY ADVICE AND CHEAT.

44

Why lie about it? Why not just tell your wife "I want to have sex with you, but you don't want that so I'm going to have sex with other people" and do so? Maybe it will hurt her (I don't know why; if it does maybe you could discuss that and get to the bottom of what the hell is going on with her), but she's been hurting you for decades. The one thing she's done right is to open up to you about what her boundaries are, faking orgasms, and not wanting sex. She could have lied to you your entire lives about that stuff, and you'd be robbed of the truth of your own sex life. You owe her the same honesty in return. You don't owe her a lifetime of celibacy, but since she's your wife you do owe her honesty and the respect of letting her know what is happening in her own marriage.

45

I also just want to add that I would be absolutely devastated if I found out that one of my parents lived out their life in a sexless marriage out of fear of "devastating" me with a divorce.

46

I'm always sort of shocked at these letters that say "it would devastate my partner if we got divorced," but what is it doing to YOU, NOW?

It's devastating to be rejected constantly, and she's telling you that you now must give up sex for the rest of your life. Do you really want to pay that price? I wouldn't.

She's hurting YOU by refusing to be reasonable. Dan has said many times...how can someone who doesn't value or want sex force you to become asexual as well?

Also, looking at porn is NOT CHEATING. No matter how many people say it is, it's NOT CHEATING.

47

I thought that advice was only for when there are YOUNG children who need caring for or when your partner is ill and depends on you somehow. OP should just get a divorce.

48

Man, I sure would love to hear her side of this. I bet it sounds very different.
I'm sensing very poor skills on his part and an inability to keep trying to get him to understand what she needs. (or even express it properly - if she ever did) 'I couldn't go any slower?' Yeah - uh huh. Right. Don't buy it. THat's not something a woman says when she doesn't want to have sex and is trying to put you off. THat's an attempt to fix something and he doesn't know how.
They desperately need some sex therapy together and if the only solution is an open marriage- than I hope he realises it's open for her too.

49

1.
@47 Mike Friedman
"looking at porn is NOT CHEATING"

Absolutely. (I forgot to add that.) Anyone that thinks it is has a problem.

2.
I'm so amazed that our Dan would recommend cheating to this LW in this marriage-with-grown-children, that I find myself wondering why. Hopefully it's not a projection of attachment to one's own marriage. I know it's not a religious thing; hopefully it's not a cultural head-trip. While I feel strongly that commitments should be kept (regardless of whether a friggin legal contract is made), the whole idea of MAKING a lifetime commitment is crazy if that means one is stuck if things change so much and nothing can be done to make it work. And why? Just to save others from things they'll get the fuck over? Just to model dysfunction for his children?

Maybe Dan just was busy and without enough thought pressed the "do what it takes to stay married and stay sane" button, which admittedly can be appropriate in other circumstances. (To preempt disagreement I don't have time for, what if one's spouse has Alzheimer's or is in a coma and needs one's health coverage and blah blah blah.)

50

I was in a somewhat similar situation. Don't cheat. Get divorced and find a partner who actually cares about your happiness. Your children will understand your decision better than you think.

51

@ Mtn. Beaver
"what...everybody said"

I'm surprised to see even ONE person (@31) agreed with Dan. I'm not knocking you, Rogerthehat, I'm just highlighting our near-consensus.

(I actually expected it to be the one thing in the Universe 100% of the commenters would agree on. But honestly, I think everything else in the Universe we'd have more disagreement about.)

52

Cheating is a horrible suggestion. Clearly, this woman has issues. I’d guess that she’s a sexual anorexic, withholding sex to punish you for something. Potentially you deserve that (you’re emotionally abusive). Regardless, the relationship is dysfunctional. Staying in it is the worst thing you can do. A close second to that is cheating as that is dishonest, and while the hallmark of our society, is abusive. Walk away. Leave the relationship. But who knows, maybe you don’t have the balls to do that. In which case you can’t have sex either.

53

Oh, one more thing. Right now you are very heavily invested emotionally in a particular vision of your marriage. I suggest that you get a therapist and talk over your choices. I did that and it was a tremendous help.

54

Can we not forget that sex aside, this dude is in line with his wife?

I mean, getting your Dick wet is important. But so is not being heartbroken and lonely and in middle age. No amount of hookers-with-a-heart-of-gold can fuck him into a loving, emotionally safe relationship. I'd value that more than sex; everyone here is like, i dgaf is there a baby in this bathwater!

55

Fucking auto correct. Dude is "in love" with his wife

56

@54 Sportlandia
I guess we're thinking he can find someone else. (Even though he's not perfect.) But maybe you're right he won't and /will/ end up alone. But since we can't be sure, I mainly think he should be more motivated by hope for better than by fear of losing what's he's already unhappy settling for. Even if he does lose that gamble, I believe living in hope is better.

57

Dan missed here. She isn’t critically ill, as far as we know neither one is financially dependent on the other, kids are gone. No reason to stay. Give her the choice to stay with you, but in an open relationship, which she has one year to grow comfortable with, or you are leaving. Her choice, and don’t feel guilty about it whichever way she decides. (You might ask her to get her hormone levels checked too). Good luck.

58

Your children are adults. They can understand that you need to leave for sexual fulfillment.

Your wife is either traumatized about sex and has been for 30 years (how has she not gotten over it?) or she is just a low libido, selfish, lazy person. My money is on the latter.

I see two options: Leave your wife, or be upfront about seeking sex elsewhere. Cheating will not end well for you.

59

@55 Sportlandia
"Dude is "in love" with his wife"

True, but someone's "in love" in /most/ of the relationships that people look back and are glad they ended. All that was true of /all/ my past relationships.

It's true that this one is sadder because both are "in love"...but they /can/ have a healthy relationship, if only Mrs. D agrees to open or companionate or something. If she doesn't, that's on her and he shouldn't be tyrannized by her choice.

60

The LW says he loves his wife, not that he’s in love with her. He also says he feels suffocated in this marriage, which to me is the main truth he shares here.

61

@2, but this guy loves his wife. He loves his life with her, except for this one HUGE thing. He doesn't think it's worth blowing up his life to leave.
So why can't he let her make the choice?
"I'm not going the rest of my life without sex. So you pick. I can go have sex (either with a friend or with a sex worker) and come home to you, or we can divorce. But I am going to have sex."

62

@61

Because she's made it already by forbidding him from having sex and because she has been setting the tone for the relationship for the entire time it has existed.

Why is it so awful that this guy for once in the relationship dictates something about it? That said if he basically told her, "I don't accept your terms, the marriage is over" then that would accomplish the same end as far as I'm concerned.

Relationships are about individuals coming together and working out what they are for themselves. This one basically has had the wife dictate a major aspect of it and that needs to end for his sake.

63

After raising 3 children and taking care of a household and husband for 30 years, it's possible that she's just goddamn tired and sees sex as yet another chore.

64

Escapee @ 63 - The letter seems to say that the sex was limited and dysfunctional from the beginning, so no, it didn't start "After raising 3 children and taking care of a household and husband for 30 years".

65

Vivic@48. I have to admit I had the same initial reaction. Like some of his comments don't make sense and get a little confusing where it matters. She identifies as asexual but still enjoys sex on the "rare" occasions they have it (how often is that, D?). "Allowing me to enjoy touching her even for sex without penetration is completely overwhelming for her." I really can't make this one out. She has enjoyed sex with vibrators in the second decade, enjoys sex occasionally now, but is completely overwhelmed when he touches her? And wants him to go more slowly, but he can't? A little confusing.

Nevertheless, oral comes standard, feeling bad about helping him masturbate is bullshit and if she considers porn to be cheating then it's useless. But If she won't give him an open marriage because she still wants to work together to improve their sex, then that should change the response to him, otherwise, I agree with everybody else.

Also, I would really like to understand why Dan prefers this approach enough to repeat it: "'I don’t want to cheat on you. But I can’t promise you that I’ll be able to resist temptation if an opportunity presents itself.' Then go find that opportunity...."

It seems passive aggressive and manipulative (and for sure dishonest). Why does Dan prefer this approach to the one several commentators have suggested, which is to say "It's not fair for you to prevent me from ever having sex. Here are your options...."?

66

Having sex outside his marriage, a one off cheat, could give this man the kick in the arse he needs.
His wife is a mind fuck and why does he put up with it.. because over thirty yrs patterns develop and sometimes the only way to break thru is to crash thru. He’s got concern for his adult married children as well as his wife, crowding his mind and it catches him in a pincer movement.
I’ll tweak my response LW, I think you should cheat once, then tell your wife what you have done, and let the pieces fall where they may. You are mid fifties not mid eighties, you’ve still got a few decades to enjoy life being authentic with yourself, whatever that entails. If you died they would have to survive without you and lying to yourself could bring that on sooner anyway.

67

Short on time, so haven't read all the comments, but I'm with @3xina who says, "...Why are people so loathe to divorce? Children are harmed by parents who should not be together more than they are by parents who divorce..."
I also think that opening the marriage might NOT be the deal-breaker when it comes down to, "OK. It's either that or divorce. Make your choice."

68

@66 LavaGirl
"you should cheat once, then tell your wife what you have done, and let the pieces fall where they may"

Maybe you're right, maybe D isn't capable of behaving with honor, and only capable of doing something only arguably better than nothing.

If so, go ahead, D. But know that that's pathetic. D, for the love of pete, "Give Mrs. D the choice between open and over" (me@40).

Yes, D, you'll probably gonna feel fear (of change) when issuing such an ultimatum. But as GhostDog said @62 "Relationships are about individuals coming together and working out what they are for themselves." In other words, don't be too afraid/you have the right to negotiate what you need, and let Mrs. D choose whether to be part of your life going forward.

DonnyKlicious@67 is correct, we DON'T know what she'll say. SHE probably can't know what she'd say, only when confronted with the end D might be afraid to give her the choice vs. open will her choice be made. And whatever that is will be right for everyone in the family.

Or, D, be pathetic and dishonorable. Go the fuck ahead.

69

@63/Escapee: LOL. “Hey everyone, maybe it’s the man’s fault.”

And the reason she won’t allow her husband to outsource this chore is what?

70

I'm generally with Sportlandia on this one. First, the guy says that he is happy in every other way so the DTMFA seems less applicable here. But I do think counseling could be another step. After that, cheat away.

But here is the problem for an older guy: (1) Affairs become much harder. The pool shrinks because most younger women don't want to mess around with a guy who is "dad's age," the looks certainly start to drop off unless the guy is super hot, and older married women start to realize that all of the problems with their husbands are the same with the other dude. (2) Sex with prostitutes isn't going to be frequent enough unless the guy has a lot of extra income. And from my experience sex with prostitutes is just too quick; even no rush is really a bit too rushed.

I even question his request to open up the marriage since I think that move is likely much easier for a younger guy who is decent looking.

Anyway, none of this provides a specific option. But I would first try therapy but set a realistic date. Every month that passes makes things more difficult. If your sex life doesn't change then look for an partner for an affair. If that leads to a divorce then that's a risk you need to be willing to take. You're not happy now.

71

Choices choices.

1) status quo, keep trying to persuade her to enjoy sex with you
You're giving up before you try a medical checkup and counseling?
2)divorce
3)cheat
4)persuade her to open the marriage

You are getting hopeless about negotiating with your wife. You don't want to divorce and try a nice platonic relationship, but you don't want to cheat and be another guy who abused her.

All devastation is not created equal. Not many people would choose to be cheated on rather than opening a marriage or divorcing. It is a safe bet that one would choose an open relationship to being cheated on. So I think the relevant information is if the wife would prefer an open relationship to a divorce. If she would prefer a relationship open only on your side or can't even consider and answer the question when pressed, then there is at least a shoddy case to stay chaste or cheat if she is fragile and you are seriously worried she may have a mental break with any other option. But if she would prefer to divorce rather than open the marriage, then by cheating you are trading 100% risk that she misses some parts of being married to you and maybe is embarrassed about divorcing (which is not betrayal) for 10% risk of killing her trust in loved ones and retraumatizing her (if she finds out) and everyone else feeling angry and disappointed at the actual betrayal. There's no way to pretend that cheating on her is anything other than screwing her over to get what you want if she would prefer divorce to opening the marriage.. and she could find out and divorce you anyway.

But he says he doesn't want to cheat and doesn't want to leave.

As far as the negotiation options.. If you pitched an open relationship as having value for her, maybe a young tight body with a different hang and some different moves would respark her desire.. This might sway her more than giving her veto power over your latest eye candy.. She may even prefer dadt rules so that you do not veto or even know about her choices.. Or you could work harder to learn about her sexual response and turn her on by asking her to show you how she likes to be touched and tongued.. Maybe she wanted you to go slow enough to make sure her pussy was on board before expecting her to engage with your dick, so that any move that was not turning her on was too fast unless her pussy was wet.. She doesn't seem to instruct clearly, her complaints are vague and she seems to sit on her unhappiness for years before trying to change things too.. It seems you have been really unfamiliar with your wife's sexual response although her actions have a lot to do with that too.. You would think a counselor could help with clear communication here.. I think you should exhaust all options before giving up by cheating or leaving. Maybe you just need some time to yourself to regroup and plan you sound kinda depressed.

You still have sex rarely although she identifies as asexual? Why did she want to identify as asexual instead of going to doctors? Maybe she is cheating. Snoop.

if your married kids would prefer their parents to be unhappy together instead of friendly and divorced I think you did something wrong. If it should happen just have patience with their sadness that the world wasn't as perfect as they thought, like when they mourned Santa, and don't blame them and don't encourage them to be nosy about your love life and they'll be fine. And if she is a healthy asexual then she shouldn't want to be monogamous with a sexual person anyway, take it slow, talk about what agreements you can make to live apart happily, she'll be fine.

72

Devastated != Devastated

If he leaves his wife, she and the kids will be devastated. "Oh no!" they'll think, "I thought this marriage was eternal, but it turns out that sometimes relationships end despite love and hard work. This is such a sad truth to have to face."

If he gets caught cheating, his wife and kids will be devastated. "Oh no!" they'll think, "My dad/husband is a cheating piece of shit. He can fuck right off."

Ending the marriage need not destroy his relationships with his kids -- or their mother. Getting caught cheating will.

73

Curious @68, sounds to me like the LW has behaved with honour for the last three decades, colluding with and indulging a woman who has done zilch to heal her wounds. If he has sex with another woman it might break the stranglehold he is suffering under, worrying more about how his grown kids are going to feel if their parents break up than noticing he is being shafted, and not in a good way.

75

LW sounds like a doormat and wife sounds manipulative. She uses her trauma from decades ago as a weapon and a way to get what she wants. "I know you're miserable because of my choices and I am completely unwilling to do anything to alleviate that, but if you leave or get what I don't even want to give you from somebody else, MY TRAUMA."

LW, a conversation needs to happen where she chooses, like an adult, between the two of you regularly having some type of sexual contact, an open marriage, or divorce. If she responds with "you want to cheat?" or "you want to divorce?" just say "No, I want to have sex with my wife. But since I can't and wouldn't want to make a decision for you whether you have sex or not, I am offering you options. I won't cheat on you, because if you allow it it's not cheating. And I won't leave you, you would be leaving me, which you've essentially done. I'm just trying to offer alternatives first."

76

Here's a strategy no one has suggested:
Become an alpha male and require your wife to perform her wifely duties on a regular basis.

She will then realize that she has three options to choose from:
1) Continue performing her wifely duties to please you (of course, you should please her as well).
2) Allow you to have your needs met outside the marriage and leave her the fuck alone, sexually speaking.
3) Divorce your ass, which means you'll be free to find someone more compatible with your needs.

Regardless of the decision she makes, it will be a win for you because you'll have your sexual needs met by someone without resorting to cheating. And best of all, she'll be making the decision that will work best for both you and her.

77

JuanMas: Rape is generally frowned on - even if it's your wife. Fuck off, will you?

78

@70 Yeah, when I hear 'trauma' here, I immediately think 'counseling'. It's possible that the only thing counseling will do is make it obvious that there is only one way this works out, IE it doesn't but it's also very possible counseling moves LW down the road of both investing in dealing with this possibly marrage ending problem, and maybe gives the wife the kick in the ass she needs to see that her manipulation or personal issues have backed you both into corners.

And if she can't even handle being touched, that's an issue she absolutely needs to deal with. However this goes down for LW, his kids deserve a mother who isn't physically and emotionally distant all the time, especially if it's just getting worse with time. Whatever strength they have gained from seeing their parents 'work through the issues' is muted by not having good roll models for normal physical (not sexual, just physical) affection. If nothing else gets solved, this needs to either be solved or at least recognized as more than a sidenote to the asexuality. LW, get in couples therapy, assert that this is a big deal, that it's ruining your marrage and that you want to try to fix it (while still acknowledging her past and present) and that since you don't know how to do that, maybe an expert does.

And also, divorce won't be great for the kids, but they will survive. Do what you have to do, but if you at least put in the effort with therapy then you can set a good example of asking for help when things get tough and advocating for your own needs in a mature way.

Just to throw it out there, if you are looking for some human contact without cheating, picking up a partner dance hobby, scheduling regular massages, or getting involved in volunteer theater might scratch the physical contact itch a little while you work out the sexual contact itch.

79

Yeah right, Sportlandia and surfrat, I’m sure you guys would put up with this situation.
This man is caught by his being a good husband and father for thirty yrs and everyone in the family thinks he’s rusted on and his wife, the mean woman that she is , believes he’s not going anywhere because he’d never upset his children. Who are adults and married themselves, and though they won’t want their mother falling apart on their hands, probably wonder why the LW didn’t do it yrs ago. Kids pick up the sex vibe between parents.
I don’t believe this man can step out of his circular reasoning without a circuit breaker. Talking is done after thirty yrs. now a visit to a sex worker or finding sex some other way, just the once then he tells her, it’s like ripping the bandage off a fetid sore and finally giving it some sunlight.

80

The kids have grown up and got married. How is pursuing your happiness betraying them? Living a lie is a bigger betrayal. People grow apart. Your kids are grownups, they can handle this information. Part amicably and go live your life.

81

@72 Hexprone
Spectacular comment! (Though I'm not certain about the last 4 words.)

@73 LavaGirl
Very insightful, I think you may be correct, so I can get on board with that. But (to no one's surprise I'm sure!), how about after D has sex with someone else ("sex worker" good call @79), INSTEAD of telling his wife (like you suggested @66), he THEN simply proceed (with his "stranglehold" newly broken) to give his wife the choice most of us have proposed? (I don't see how telling her he cheated helps, and perhaps just toxifies their interpersonal space. Yes yes, here I am yet again recommending not telling someone something.)

@75 TheRob
Very nice job modelling an adult conversation for the LW!

@76 JuanMas
Nice job modelling the (thoroughly dysfunctional manipulative asshole) OPPOSITE of an adult conversation for the LW!
(Nice username though: there is truly WAY too much of you Juan.)

83

@17; amen. Any reason why Dan didn't mention counseling first, before the cheating? Seriously, I'm so frigging sick of Dan taking all of these guys at their word that their wives are frigid, maybe throwing in a quick parenthetical "you're doing your part around the house, right?" before giving the LWs exactly what they want -- permission to cheat. (This is yet another way in which Dan has never shed that Catholic upbringing, and would fit right in in the 1950s -- he too readily accepts the "women are frigid" narrative.) Jesus, Dan, you don't think maybe they could have one goddamn counseling session before the guy gets to claim that he's tried everything? We get it, Dan -- you have a shitty opinion of monogamy, and you think sexual satisfaction is the single most important human pursuit in this godless world, and that families should be cheerfully sacrificed ("they'll get over it! they'll even thank you!") for the sake of Willie Dixon's "spoonful." But is it so hard to push a little more, and be a bit more skeptical, towards the swaths of straight guys who write in here begging for your cheating imprimatur?

LW, I promise you that your wife is not asexual. She just said that to get you off her back (or perhaps her front). If she has still enjoyed sex on the rare occasions you do it, especially if you had earlier orgasmic success with a vibrator after years of her faking it, then dollars to donuts you're just a LOUSY LAY, like most straight men (as a recent LW correctly observed), and you have not improved with age. Are you out of shape? Have you lost all your hair? Does it take a half-hour to get your dick hard in the first place? Do you treat her like asphalt and you're the drill? After thirty years, have you found her clit? Maybe you were a lousy lay in your 20s, and the intervening decades haven't helped your skill set any -- the faking orgasms, and the fact that you couldn't even tell, certainly suggests that. Or, maybe you're selfish in other ways in your lives together, and the poor woman is exhausted or resentful. Did you do fully half the parenting and taking care of the house? Does she work full-time?

Dollars to donuts too she's jacking it as soon as you're out of the house, thinking of some hot guy who's 30 years younger than you are.

84

Escapee @63: "After raising 3 children and taking care of a household and husband for 30 years, it's possible that she's just goddamn tired and sees sex as yet another chore."

That is indeed possible. So why wouldn't she be happy to outsource the chore?

85

RQ @ 83 - I'm not saying this is not a valid possibility, but if he's a lousy lay, why hasn't SHE said something to fix this problem over those last 30 years?

And by the way, for an abundant lot of people, losing one's hair doesn't make a man less attractive. Also, not everyone in their 50s fantasizes about people in their 20s, as you suggest. You sound like you're projecting your tastes (and your own experience) here.

86

@81 I think(?) the reasoning behind the idea of him cheating on her once, then telling her, is that he is not assertive enough to get the divorce he should get, but she certainly would be. Obviously it would be better for him to be assertive and initiate the divorce himself.

They've already had the discussion about him going outside the marriage for sex, and she's already told him she'd rather get divorced than him having sex with anyone: "I would love an open relationship but that's a deal breaker for her"

He says he doesn't want to "abandon/hurt her", but I think he's projecting how he'd feel if she divorced him onto her. The fact that him not having sex is more important to her than the marriage shows that she wouldn't be "abandoned" (she's not a child) or unbearably hurt by a divorce.

Whatever else he does, he should get counselling for his lack of assertiveness.

BTW, there is no shortage of women in their fifties who are interested in starting relationships with single men in their fifties, and if he divorced I think he'd be pleasantly surprised by the quality of his next relationship.

87

Old Crow @86: He's definitely projecting when he opines that his adult children would be "devastated" if their parents divorced. If they can't process a life change like that -- someone else's life change, mind you -- he and his wife didn't raise them right.

D says that an open relationship even with veto power would be a dealbreaker for her. The way that is phrased, I think he went to her offering complete honesty. What if he tried again, offering the opposite -- a DADT arrangement? Hearing about his outside conquests may be a deal -- and heart -- breaker for Mrs D, but a promise to be discreet and safe (though this matters little if he relieves her of her sexual obligations) might appeal more, particularly if the alternative is indeed no more marriage.

I agree his prospects will be much better as a single man than as a cheating one. And what's with this assumption by some commenters that he'd go for women in their 20s? More projection.

88

BiDanFan and Old Crow, you're right about the relationship prospects - well, based on the teeny-tiny sample of my sister, who is now single and in her mid-fifties. She's been online dating, out with quite a few men her own age recently, and is having a very nice time!

I really don't think this guy is going to be pestering the hot young barista at his local coffee shop for a date if he does get out of this relationship. I think it sounds unlikely anyway.

I also think an open relationship is probably not going to work for them - she's made her feelings clear, and if they did renegotiate to an agreement I don't think she would allow him to enjoy it.

89

Curious @81; no, I think he needs to tell her, so she sees he’s becoming his own man again after decades working thru her stuff, and rearing kids stuff and seeing them married stuff; he’s now claiming his right to his sexual pleasure. If possible, I agree a sex worker would be best and that he gets a big blow job.

90

If the LW is able to cut the neurotic ties that bind, before cheating, that would be the best path to follow.
You can do this LW, and good luck.

91

I just wonder why she thinks telling him he's got to be celibate for the rest of his life is ok. How does someone justify such a thing? Doesn't anyone get taught the old cautionary "dog in the manger" story as kids anymore?

92

ECarpenter, forget telling kids - I'm in my late 40s and I've never been told it! I'll go and google it now.

93

@70 surfrat
You tell the LW : "But here is the problem for an older guy: (1) Affairs become much harder."

IFrom what I've seen, older guys who are decent people do quite well in the dating market. For one, potential partners are less focused on looks, and more on other attributes. Second, the demographics start to tilt towards men.

As I wrote before, the LW should get divorced and find someone who cares about his happiness.

94

In reading this letter I recognize so many parallels to a Very Good Friend of mine who confides in me about his similar long-term marriage. This issue is mis-matched libidos.
Right now my friend is working FT while his wife is retired. One reason he is still working FT when he could retire, is that he needs independence and time away:.. he finds it frustrating to be at home with someone to whom he is attracted but does not return the same. His current coping strategy is to accept a once-a-month mercy fuck at home and supplement that with a friendly local sex worker between times.
If he retires, however, the time away and the funds for the FLSW go away.
There are long-term married folks who simply live in separate houses. I know of 2 such couples. When I first learned of them I was amazed. Now I wonder if this might be a solution for our LW?

95

Sb53@94~ “...Now I wonder if this might be a solution for our LW?...”
Maybe, If aside from the emotional aspect of it they can handle double house/rent payments, double insurance payments, double utilities payments, double maintenance payments...etc...

96

'In our second decade of marriage ... she worked up the courage' to say that 'she had been faking her orgasms all along'. D. is either almost impossibly forbearing or has gone off, forever, into his own world of endless receding vistas of irony, in which he cannot grasp his wife's experience, her suffering, confusion and values. Whatever these are.

Yet at the same time I would think that he has imbibed, and naturalised, most of her preconceptions. That the vanishingly small amount of sex he's been getting has been normal. That taking ten years to be able to say that she was coming was a sign of comfort and familiarity, not proof of aversion, inaptness or discomfort.

She does not want sex. Let him accept that. Does she want to be with him romantically? She can be--but, not liking sex herself, should allow him to have sex with someone else. I'm not sure cheating, understood the most conventional way, is the answer for them. Even more listening, undoing, if he can, decades of strangulated feeling, thwarted anger, suppressed irony, is certainly in order. And his putting his cards on the table, plainly and without too much calculation. Announcing that he does not want to live without sex, leaving her to understand that he's getting it but not moving out--making her make a decision on that--might rather be the way to go.

97

Very few of the comments to me evince sympathy for D's wife as an asexual person in a sexual marriage. One could say that she became less interested in sex as she got older. It seems to me only that it became more burdensome as she had, more and more, to look as if she was trying to enjoy it. She doesn't have to enjoy it and doesn't have to have it. The only requirement, to be moral or symmetrical in morality, is that she release her husband.

I would recommend counseling not with a sex-positive but with an asexuality-positive, sex-isn't-everything therapist. Her mistake is not in shunning sex, which she isn't interested in. It's in thinking that her romantic relationship, and life-partnership with D., is threatened by the discreet arrangements he could make, or indeed the secondary sexual friendships he could find.

98

@39 Fichu and @48 vivic are exceptions to the broad lack of sympathy for Mrs D. She doesn't want sex. People who don't want sex aren't fucked-up. A person's feelings about how much sex they want, and whether they want it at all, can change in thirty years. A spouse wanting much less isn't reneging on a contract such that the law has to come crashing down on them.

99

@Harriet: I don't think the responses are unsympathetic to her (possible)** asexual identity; rather, if she's changing the sexual terms of the marriage then he needs to make a decision about his sex life and/or their marriage. This would be true for anything. If they are both vegetarians, he would have to choose how his diet is going to play out if they had cooked together in the past and now she is a carnivore.

**I'm not dismissing her identity; rather, he writes about trauma and perhaps the past experience(s) are central to her changing desires. But perhaps she has been asexual all the time.

100

I feel little sympathy for the wife because she has dragged her feet about her trauma and not done the work to heal and release herself from it and meet her husband erotically. And he has let it happen. Stoicism in marriage, fine while kids are being reared. That’s all done for this LW and his wife and the parents are now free to pursue what they want in life.

101

What kind of shitty spouse says they never want to have sex again and still won’t let their partner find it elsewhere? Oh, I guess I answered my own question. A shitty one.

102

@96 Harriet_by_the_bulrushes
"...has gone off, forever, into his own world of endless receding vistas of irony..."

Damn, that's some impressive wordsmithing!

103

One conundrum brought out by this letter is an old description of consensual sex: "Sex is SO IMPORTANT that it can only be enjoyed within the confines of a stable, long-term relationship. BUT when the years pile up, then suddenly, sex is SO UNIMPORTANT that the relationship (marriage, civil union, whatever) MUST continue without it"
Our LW knows that the whole reason he got married to his wife was their shared intimacy. He did not wish to live with someone, have children, build a life with a PLATONIC FRIEND. He felt like he was joining his life with someone who chose him to share intimacy WAY beyond that which is shared by a friend.
Imagine how lonely this man is. He is now living in his house with someone who demonizes him and his sexual needs. He begins to feel like he is sharing his home with his sister, only in this case his "sister" owns 1/2 of everything he has worked over 40 years for.