Nothing Has Changed After Thirty Years of Marriage and Three Kids

Comments

1

I don't think he can be very forthright in talking to his wife about this. He needs to talk about open marriages vaguely and see how she reacts - a guy at work told him the craziest thing etc. She's been denying there is a problem for so long that acknowledging there is going to be hard.

But there is a chance she will. If she really doesn't like it and feels secure in the relationship, maybe it'd be a load off her back? I'd doubt I based on how she's handled it before but maybe. I'd bring up the concept, see how she reacts, wait a few weeks and then see if she'd be up for trying it herself.

P.S. He's also going to have to prepare himself for the possibility that she just isn't sexually attracted to him. If they open up the relationship and she starts fucking people, he's going to have to be able to emotionally handle that. I might talk to a therapist beforehand to get myself prepare for all the possible outcomes and feelings that arise.

2

How about starting with the “other communication issues” first? Maybe she doesn’t want to sleep with you because she’s annoyed/mad/turned off about something else and that doesn’t make her feel particularly sexy. If you can’t openly communicate about those things then how can you expect to communicate sexually? Also, is sex all about your pleasure or are you making sure she’s taken care of too? If it’s all about you then maybe she feels used.

3

This is why men need to get hobbies and, no, fu*cking your neighbor's wife isn't a "hobby".

4

sex starved marriages are common- and commonly painful. she’s assigning all the weight to the communication, which isn’t happening, and you’re assigning all the weight to the sex, which also isn’t happening. you’re trapped, and trapping eachother.

so you’ve got to break the cycle- treat her communication needs like they’re priority number 1 for you. focus on and fix the commmunication struggles by setting aside your sexual needs, at least temporarily. but also, thru that, recognize that you need to communicate how you feel- that not having sex, feeling constantly rejected, not feeling a physical manifestation of her love makes you not love her as much. and then listen, really listen to what she says back. and if your needs don’t sound important to her- DTMFA.

5

Oh dear, another gaslighting spouse. Look deep into my eyes, this is not a problem, hear?
Sad, LW. The let’s pretend there’s no problem strategy lasts only so long, and it’s on you to pull the plug. You can do this by telling your wife it does matter. Maybe sleep in separate rooms so you don’t torture yourself night after night, and start to talk with your wife about opening the marriage.

6

There's a lot of letters like this. As a woman, sometimes I worry that my libido's just going to disappear one day.

7

LW says he is attracted to his wife, and also mentions some other issues that seem to be magnified as a result of the no/limited sex status quo.
Are the other issues big enough to justify a couple counseling of some sort? This could be a great opportunity for the two of you to tie all those together and see what’s underneath it all and how you can move forward.

Hold on going elsewhere or notifying her of your intentions of doing so, in case you have such inclinations, at this point. She may need something resolved or will finally recognize your needs and frustration. She may have some unmet needs of her own. Who knows, maybe she’ll even tell you she’s not into sex anymore and will give you a permission to go elsewhere, avoiding any potential drama which could follow had you brought it up. Give it a try; what have you got to lose?

8

@6, depends on the conditions. Thirty years of marriage three kids and wife wasn’t much into it in the first place.
Not sure I go with Dan and the cheating. The kids would be getting bigger, time this twenty five yr old problem was fully talked about between these two.

8

Sure, instead of talking to your wife or finding someone you want to work with, just cheat on her. Maybe slap her around a little as well as bringing home an STI, honesty and respect are so overrated. It'll make the inevitable divorce easier if you find a new warm body to shack up with beforehand.

9

After 25 years, he should be able to play her clit like a fiddle and know how to make her want him. I mean, after five years, you don't know how to turn your woman on to say hey baby. I'm hot and crank up her heat, so she feels the same way the problem isn't her.

There's no handbook given when we get married on what's expected or how to deal with things, so you should learn to be patient to a fault and forgive a fucking lot.

So if you are one of those guys who thinks after 25 years and three kids that you should be fucking like you were when you were 18, you should do your wife a favor and move the fuck on and move out.

10

Just chiming in to say that while he has every right to fuck other people, as Dan says, he has no right to do it behind her back if he still plans to have sex with her.

He can either end his sex life with his wife and discreetly fuck others and hope to hell she doesn't discover, or he can openly tell her he is fucking others. He doesn't get to fuck others and lie about it, bringing those risks home to his wife.

At this point, what else is there to say? By my math, their youngest kid must be at least in highschool if not older.

It's possible also that there's a reason he is counting the number of times he's rejected per week and not the number of times he's accepted. He seems pretty clear that he's rarely accepted and normally I'd take that to mean mostly sexless, but he puts such a big effort into calculating the rejections that I wonder if the number of acceptances are a deliberate omission? The reason I'm a little suspicious is that omission + the detail about thinking he should not have to jack off in the bathroom- is he saying his wife should be involved every time he cums? Like are they fucking three times a week but he wants six or seven? I mean, I seriously doubt that because it sounds crazy...

Anyway, if he decides to fuck other people without her permission then he needs to refrain from fucking her. She might be a cold fish, but she has a right to know to which risks she's exposing herself- and your perfectly valid sexual frustrations do not override that by any means.

11

Ok also and all the usual stuff- we are only hearing his side, there might be reasons - accumulated over the years- that she is not eager for sex with you. There might be health reasons as well affecting her libido. All of that. Before you start fucking other people, I recommend outside help in exploring this options, assuming your wife is interested. Telling her seriously that it's a problem that risks the future of your marriage might help. Listening to her explain why might help as well. But if she's never been very sexual then she never may be in which case you go back round to Dan's advice. Which I think was a little lazy tbh- I know he's sick of answering this question but he could at least keep a link to a couple of responses that cover all this stuff and link to them the way he's done in the past with tight grip syndrome or whatever it's called.

12

Okay, maybe I missed something, or it was cut for space, but he only said how often he was being rejected, not how often he's getting sex. If he's rejected three times a week, does that mean he's asking only three times a week, or does it mean they're having sex slightly more than every other day? If they're still having sex, no matter how infrequent, cheating is not acceptable.

Frankly, I don't think cheating is acceptable anyway. Just because you'd rather stay married and cheat doesn't mean your wife would prefer that. Maybe she'd prefer to divorce than stay married to a cheating husband. Personally I would prefer either a divorce or an open marriage over being cheated on. Regardless, when you commit to marriage, you commit to making those decisions together.

13

Ok, I know "Do what you have to do to stay married and stay sane" is one of Dan's stock pieces of advice, but I think it's completely unwarranted here. Go to couples counseling and work on your communication issues, or else mutually decide it's been a good run (or not) but now it's time to go your separate ways, but don't start unilaterally pursuing sex outside of your marriage just because an advice columnist told you it was okay. That's a shitty, cowardly thing to do. Yes, there are situations where cheating is justified -- but the bar is pretty damn high, and it hasn't been met here. Try to find a way to talk first.

14

Also you can jack off in other places than the bathroom you know. Surely people who have been married for 30 years have discovered mutual masturbation? Does your wife own a vibrator? It's hard to give advice here since he doesn't say what he's tried and what the current state of their sex life is like.

And I know this is an unpopular opinion, but in my experience in long term marriage, "foreplay" is overrated - actually I guess I just don't understand what "foreplay" means. If it's just sexy stuff that gets you off that's not PIV then I don't see how it's play (be)fore rather than just play.

15

It's not uncommon for women's sexual desire to shift and over time, or to fade with respect to a particular guy. I say this because (a) I've read stats on it, which I believed, and because (b) it's happened to me more than once with guys I still loved and cared for. It had nothing to do with someone not doing dishes or [insert trope]. I just need variety. Now that I know that, I can arrange my sex life accordingly; most women, however, are never told that might be a feature of their sexual pattern (it's men who want variety, according to all the stereotypes) and so they just figure their libido is gone.

Anyway. All this is to say that I 100% agree with Dan. It's not going to get better, no conversation is going to make desire suddenly appear. Definitely there are bonus points for telling the wife. And yeah, don't fuck someone else and her. If you can open up the marriage, make it happily companionate, and be happy for each other when you find outside lovers, great. But for my money, however it goes, 25 years of rejection allows a person to find it elsewhere, without guilt.

16

Sorry, just to pile on, but I never understood why "cheating is never okay," but somehow denying someone any kind of reciprocated sex life for a quarter of a century is?

Ridiculous.

17

Karandora @ 12 "how often he's getting sex(?)"
"Once in a while she "gives in" and has sex with me but she's only doing it to get it over with."

Not hermetically sealed, yet seems to be rare and doesn't sound like much fun to anyone involved. I must admit that his persistency of asking seems a bit suspicious. I would give up bringing it up three times a week after two years at the most, very likely much less and certainly not 25. I wonder if scolding is part of this ritual and it makes her resentful.
Worth finding out.

18

This guy sounds like he's lousy in bed. He keeps asking for sex - she's probably just annoyed with him by now. I wonder, when the kids were younger, did he ever try picking them up from school, cooking dinner, and running a load of laundry? She probably feels like he's another chore. Maybe his hygiene is suspect. He sounds like he thinks his wife owes him something. All that stuff about not masturbating because he wants his wife. One thing Dan never seems to understand is that women don't necessarily approach sex the same way men do.

19

@6 My wife also worries about it happening to her, but, as I tell her, it happens to men, too. With just a bit of luck you may stay in synch.

This article depressed me, but may give you some comfort. Very informative guide to average male libido/erections by decade, written by a urologist.

https://healthdoc13.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/what-to-expect-of-your-erections-as-you-age20s-30s-40s-and-beyond/

20

@16 Ciods, "I never understood why "cheating is never okay," but somehow denying someone any kind of reciprocated sex life for a quarter of a century is"
Cheating rarely causes material harm, just risks STIs, or reproducing outside the couple.. but it is dishonesty about what is usually a very important issue, it's hurting your partner's sense of reality. Whereas you don't stay in a sexless relationship unless you consent to being in the sexless relationship, there is always the option to simply leave. There is no material harm in rejecting sex, and no dishonesty. It's not wrong because you are not entitled to sex even with your spouse, they are not denying you something which is rightfully yours, consent 101. It's just ethics, don't harm yourself, don't harm others. Don't stay in a sexless relationship if you don't want to, don't cheat.

21

I am also more afraid of being sexually rejected than jealous, I'd rather deal with them having an affair than sexual rejection.

22

it's been 25 years. the resentment on your end is palpable. somehow, you wanting more sex than your wife wants 'is not a problem' according to your wife. after 25 years of it being a huge fucking problem. you have communication issues you say? no fucking shit.

l-dub, just get a fucking divorce and move on with your life. it's way too fucking late for this marriage. call it. end it. be done. you don't have to live miserably forever. there's no solution to this that isn't worse to live through than the marriage itself. just fucking end it, for christ's sake.

23

@21 Philophile, being cheated on is a value pack. You can feel jealousy (which is not the word I would pick) and rejection at the same time. It's shitty. You know what frightens you, of course, but it's hard to say which feeling you would prefer until you've sampled at least one of them.

24

fuck what a fucking train wreck
id rather be single and lonely than married and lonely. and nothing like years and years of unfilled needs and rejection and bad communication (and sexual pressure) to make sure your sex life is dead dead dead. Or maybe he is bad at sex and doesnt eat the vajj.

Or maybe his wife is a normal person: like how does anybody maintain lust through parenting, and sharing every moment together, and a bed, and fighting over bills and children's soccer practice/highschool/college. like, if i had a spouse for that long i would say, can you go away for 2 months i might be into it again if you didnt remind me of my favourite sweatpants?!

why does op even want to have sex with someone who has rejected his advances 3970 times (but whos counting??) Jeeezus.

i agree with dan. seek solace in the arms of another

25

Wait, what? "Ideally" you would talk to your wife about opening the marriage. SMH. This is not an "ideally" situation, it's an absolute imperative. He should sit down with the wife and say, "Look, it's obvious you're not into sex with me anymore. I'm tired of being rejected. Let's drop the whole sexual part of our relationship and seek that elsewhere. I'll disclose if you want or I'm happy to be DADT. Or we can call off the marriage. Up to you." He should not go cheat. Even disregarding the ethics, either he's going to have to keep up the pretense of attempting to seduce her at least three times a week or she'll know something's up, and some of those attempts will be successful, meaning he'll be exposing her to STI risk without her knowledge. Bad advice, Dan. Wife doesn't think the sex life is an issue so she should be happy to just drop it. The kids are grown, there's no need to stay.

I would also like to take issue with this: "[U]nlike many other married men, I prefer not to "deal" via masturbating in the bathroom alone." What's with the masturbation shaming? Pretty much every man and most women, partnered or not, masturbate. It is completely normal and healthy. Rejecting it means that you're making your libido your partner's responsibility 100% of the time and this is not fair. No wonder his wife is tired of being his fleshlight. A, learn to enjoy masturbating (perhaps in a less unsexy room than the bathroom, cleaning up afterwards) and you'll be much better off no matter how you proceed.

26

Larry @1, great suggestion in your PS. If he goes about this ethically, his wife may go get some strange too and he will need to be able to deal with his feelings around that.

@2, @4, @7, well said. Perhaps look at the chicken rather than the egg, fix the communication issues, and she'll fancy him more. If not, he can honestly say he gave it his best shot before ending the marriage. @10, @12, I wish we had a "like" button. @12, I agree with both you and CMD -- he doesn't say how often they're having sex, it's clearly often enough that he can't just deem his marriage sexless and start cheating, but he does say the sex is not enjoyable for him because she is so reluctant. Just tell her you're done, she's off the hook, and the marriage is now open.

Phascogale @6, notice the common thread in these letters? Children. Libidos don't disappear, babies eat them. They don't eat the father's; the father stays just as horny as he always was, and his continued desire for sex makes sex seem like a chore to the exhausted mother. Once she starts to see sex with him as an annoying burden, it seems common that this impression sticks even as the kids grow up. Hence the seven year itch -- the libido returns but she doesn't want this annoying sex pest she's married to, ugh. You might have a libido dip in perimenopause, but that too is temporary. And agree with Joe @19 that it will hopefully coincide with similar-age partners slowing down as well.

Ciods @15, thanks for sharing -- so sometimes this does happen even without children in the picture. Question for you, if you were in a long-term non-monogamous relationship do you think that would provide the variety you need and allow you to stay with your partner, or do you just stop wanting that person full stop?

Ciods @16, I don't think anyone is arguing that the wife has done nothing wrong here. If she simply had a lower drive, then sure, he should adjust his expectations and deal accordingly (by masturbating, hello). Accept that she doesn't like morning sex. But she's not communicating with him about it, not taking his concerns seriously, making it clear that the sex she does have is grudging. Understandable that she's tired of being pestered but she hasn't participated in helping find a solution to the problem, in fact she denies it is a problem. I think everyone agrees he's entitled to seek sex elsewhere, even if we disagree on whether he is obligated to be honest about it.

27

@16, this goes back to that "two wrongs don't make a right" thing. Sex starved marriages are pretty common, and it's not like a lot of people will take LW's side when he tries to defend his cheating by saying he wasn't getting enough at home. This can destroy LW's marriage and life and he will be seen as that asshole from their friends and family.

@Dan, "And if the current state of your sex life with the wife is a dealbreaker—after three decades and three kids—then what do you have to lose?"

Well, he has three kids and a three decade marriage, along with family and friends that come with a three decade marriage. Saying "discreetly do whatever you need to do in order to stay married and stay sane" is some pretty risky advice, I suspect you know some middle aged guys who have lost quite a bit from having affairs. This leaves opening the marriage or divorcing as viable options that aren't going to blow up in LW's face... or masturbating in the bathroom.

28

He should sit with her and have a honest conversation and tell her that his sex needs are not being met and he plans to get some pussy on the side. If she doesn't like it she's free to walk out. The husband has a case of "wanting my cake and eating it too". He wants the family unit together, the financial stability and his dinner cooked nicely at 8:00 (who blames him, he also wants pussy. He either mans up and "rock the marriage boat" or prepares for a life of cheating. I don't see a way out of this.

29

Go get a sex worker that's the best way to deal with this because the LW doesn't want a divorce. Even during this quarantine there are women working, they need money too.

30

Dashing @29, great advice. Never mind STIs, expose your wife to coronavirus. That's a great way to stay married. Sorry, but cheating with a sex worker is likely to still be seen by Mrs A as cheating, and if A doesn't want a divorce this is a bad idea.

31

How does he know that his wife isn't fucking someone (male or female) else?

32

Skeptic @31, how does anyone know their spouse isn't cheating? Trust, and absence of any sort of suspicious behaviour. Sure, in theory she could be cheating, as could any spouse or partner. But I'm not sure what your point is. That A should assume his wife is cheating and do the same? That he should snoop in hopes of finding evidence that incriminates her, so that he can ask for a divorce? Seems a strange angle to take in this discussion.

33

Her interest noticeably declined after we had our first child. Our second and third children arrived in quick succession.

Depending on what he means by close succession. She may just have gotten sick of being pregnant and since you have to fuck to get pregnant,

34

I agree with the concept of having a brutally honest conversation along the lines of what BiDanFan suggested. In my marriage I had a conversation like that around the 15 year mark and things did get better for a while. It seems that my wife was one of those people who just gradually loses interest in sex over time. I'm not one of those people, at least so far. Ultimately though if someone isn't into sex they just aren't, it isn't easy to change who you innately are.

35

@Bi @26: Yes, it happens without kids, and it was totally heartbreaking; I really really wanted to still want my partner, but most of the juice was just gone, and we both knew it, which meant sex became a high-pressure event, which did not help. At the time I just thought my libido had disappeared, but when that marriage ended (as it needed to), it came roaring back.

Like all humans, I project my experience onto everyone, of course, so I assume this happens a lot more than people say. (And as I've said, I've since read some convincing studies on it.) So now when I hear about a relationship ending and the woman very happily banging someone new, even when the story goes, "See, it was him! I just needed someone who insert whatever" I think, no, you needed something new, and this pattern will repeat with this new guy in five years.

Bi, you anticipated my solution exactly. I am in a long-term relationship, but it's non-monogamous. The variety I get allows my libido to stay in a higher gear, and as a result my primary partner and I still have an active sex life. It's not as crazy as it was the first five years, but it's enough to keep us both feeling connected to each other. And the rest is satisfied with outside partners.

36

Sorry, all, I've lost track of which special characters are allowed: I meant the "was" and the "insert whatever" to be somehow set off in the quote above.

37

If a woman is no longer interested in or wants to have sex that is a very important and personal decision she has every right to make. The problem is in a marriage does she have the right to make that very important and personal decision for someone else?

38

When I first started working, a woman in the office asked if I'd like to go to lunch with her. I accepted. When the check came, I thought she'd pay since she was older and had asked me or that we'd split it, but she said she'd get it the next time, and I, new to the work world, agreed. (It wasn't expensive, but I was on an awfully tight budget and embarrassed about having to watch every penny when everyone else had been working longer, etc.) A few days later, she asked me again, and I accepted again. That time when the check came, I reminded her that she was to treat me this time. She deftly said that she'd get it next time, and I ended up paying. The next week, she asked me to lunch again. That time I reminded her that it was her turn before I accepted. I guess I don't need to tell you who ended up paying. After that, I refused her "invitations." I kicked myself for years for not learning after the first time. I imagined retribution in the form of everyone in the office confronting her and maybe her losing her job, but nothing like that happened. Now when I look back on it, I laugh because while I didn't learn immediately, I did learn eventually.

Or maybe I should have started here: On a perfectly ordinary evening, a man asks his wife how she's feeling.
"Fine."
"No headache or anything?
"No."
"Are you tired, had a bad day?"
"No."
"Are you sure you're okay, there's nothing wrong?
"Why do you keep asking? I'm fine!"
(With a sexy leer) "Aha!"

If I was giving advice to Anonymous at the 5 year mark into his marriage, I would have been to stop his wife when she first started to put him off. After the 2nd or 3rd time she promised she'd be up for sex later, he should have said "no, you said that last time." Then he says that this isn't working for him and makes some suggestions which later turn into demands. One possibility is the schedule. Whether she feels like it or not, they have sex every Wednesday night. Every other Wednesday she needn't get turned on enough or wet enough for him to get inside her, but she must be present so he can rub her breasts, massage her, or she masturbates him. On alternate Wednesdays, he gets inside her. She'll object or get a headache, but he reminds her and doesn't back down.

That was way back then. Now, he hears her say it isn't a problem, and she's telling the truth. For her, the lack of sex isn't. Anonymous has to convince her that it is a problem-- for him. It's a very big problem. That's why he's willing to solve it. Marriage counseling is his first suggestion. Leaving her is his second. If she objects to either of those, he comes out with his 3rd suggestion-- finding sex discreetly elsewhere. He doesn't spell out for her that if it should happen that he'd prefer to live with his sex partner after a while, the divorce will happen anyway.

39

This reminds me of the old joke...
Wife: Doctor, my husband is a sex maniac, He wants it at least twice a week.
Husband: Doctor, my wife is cold and frigid. She won't even have sex twice a week.

40

Going by the letter I think he is being open and honest in communicating his feelings of desire for her and wanting to continue their sex life. She is giving him the classic rejection reasons and is not communicating honestly with him at all.

41

PW @39, that's from Annie Hall, isn't it? The therapist asks her how often they have sex and she says "All the time, like three times a week!" Asked the same question, he replies, "Hardly ever, like three times a week!"

I agree with Fichu that the time to talk about this would have been 25 years ago. The fact is that in every couple there will be one who wants more sex than the other, and compromises have to be made. The reason I have little sympathy for A is that one of the compromises is that the hornier person masturbates. A believes he is above masturbating. Dude sorry, but if you want to get off more often than your partner does, and you're monogamous, you get yourself off and take the pressure off her. It's all very sweet to say "but I want to make love to my wife!" but she does not want as much sex as you do. A quarter century of pestering and she doesn't want it at all. Whereas if they could have had a conversation where she said she wanted sex (say) once a week, he could have asked her to try to make the effort to up it to twice, and masturbated if he was horny more often than that. Or decided to open the relationship a long time ago, saving decades of resentment and rejection.

Ciods @35, thank you for sharing. This does seem to be reasonably common. Many people, regardless of gender, want variety. Few people are naturally 100% monogamous. It seems though that women tend to have a longer attention span; men who want variety can't wait five or seven years to get it, and also, they don't seem to go off their partner, they just want others in addition. So either they don't commit to monogamy in the first place or they cheat. I'm glad non-monogamy solved your problem!

42

Fichu @38: That's terrible advice - and creepy. "Whether she feels like it or not?' What's wrong with you? Coerced sex is always a bad idea.

They definitely need to talk, and he would be right to respond to her "it's not a problem" with "well, it's definitely a problem for me, so if I'm going to stay in this marriage, we need to address it." However, you're never entitled to have sex with someone, and it's deeply creepy that you think demanding someone show up and present their body for sex, regardless of whether they're into it, is ok, let alone desirable.

I mean, even LW is smart enough to know that's not a good idea.

43

Traffic @42, yeah, "it's time for the weekly handjob" would sap me of my will to live too. I did disagree with that part of Fichu's advice. "Demands" for sexual gratification on a schedule sound like a great way to kill whatever libido Mrs A had left. This is not a situation that is analogous to Fichu's co-worker, as amusing a tale as that was. The only comparison is to learn that "next time" does not literally mean "I'll be up for sex tomorrow," it means "I'm not up for sex." It's taken him 25 years but he has learned this. She already sees sex as a chore; demanding she put out on a schedule will not improve this view. How about compromising? They have a date night and if she doesn't want sex, he will be happy to cuddle her. I bet an arrangement like that would get her wanting sex a lot more.

44

Actually, it somewhat sounds as if Mrs A has already taken Fichu's advice. Every fourth time he asks her for sex, despite not wanting it, she says yes, and puts on a lacklustre performance. This approach is not working well for either of them.

45

"Ideally you would inform your wife before you"

Such a strong endorsement of honor and integrity WRT the letter writer's commitment. Over the years I get the sense that Dan's personal feeling about such commitments gets in the way of him feeling that honor and integrity calls for re-negotiating or leaving them instead of cheating.

"If there are other reasons why you wanna stay with your wife...then go discreetly do whatever you need to do"

Particularly when I see Dan assert that selfish reasons give one license for one's word to mean nothing.

In this, shamefully, Dan is not a constructive cultural force.

@8 Philophile
"bringing home an STI"

Not just wrong but criminal.

@16 ciods
"why "cheating is never okay," but somehow denying someone any kind of reciprocated sex life for a quarter of a century is?"

Can't they /both/ not be OK?

Marriage can be ended. I think some people's thinking gets bent by thinking of marriage as a necessarily permanent given, but I think that's dysfunctionally childish.

47

We know she says "no" three times a week. Unless it was edited out, the letter writer leaves out whether he only asks three times a week (to be rejected, with that rejection occasionally revoked) or whether he asks 4, 5 or more times a week (and gets willing participation, on 1, 2 or more occasions per week...which isn't enough to keep him feeling self assured and adequately "released.") Why do I jump there? Well, there's also no mention (which I thought was de rigueur by now) of how he's tried to take more of the burden of dealing with three kids off of her, so she's not exhausted. And his blanket refusal to ever "take care of" his urges, which makes it fine for him to pester her until she gives in (which is...not necessarily but potentially abusive, but for sure not a great way to encourage someone to feel good about sex, their body or your body). So yeah, I do suspect there's some extra entitlement in play.

48

Hachacha(landia?) @46, I see only compare and compare. Two of the three letters you linked featured Dan advising the LWs, or at least strongly hinting, that they should "do what they gotta do to stay married and stay sane." The other was advised to move on. The comments, though I have merely skimmed them, mainly discussed whether Dan was too quick to jump to advising cheating, and affirmed that someone in an unsatisfying sexual relationship has the right to ask to open it or to leave, as we've all said here.

49

"Ideally you would inform your wife"

Like Dan, I doubt that LW is going to be able to have a useful conversation with his wife about any of this if she denies there's a problem.

He might try the approach I took with my then-wife, a dozen years ago, and tell her that someone hit on him, and that he was sorely tempted, because he has a much higher sex drive than she does, and is miserable with the status quo, BUT that he values their marriage.

If she ignores all of that, it wouldn't be a stretch to presume she's giving tacit permission.

50

JoySays @47: The kids are about 25 years old. Hopefully, they're low maintenance at this point.

51

@2. Great point. The communication issues are the key to the rest of the problem. She might be controlling the conversation around sex, but it's not clear if it's due to embarrassment or selfishness. Or is she possibly sparing his feelings that she's not into him anymore? It sounds like the lack of communication is her way of keeping the status quo and he's too scared to ask her anymore. He sounds so completely passive and useless- like, "hey there, haven't been getting any pussy for like, you know...30 years, Dan. What would Jesus do in this situation?" I'm sure she is part of the problem, however he seems to take no responsibility for letting it simmer that long, as if it's all her fault. I think he should get therapy even if she's not willing to go. Being more proactive in negotiating for what he wants and needs has to be his new priority. The communication issues mean years of a power struggle and probably a lot of resentment from both partners. He seems like a doormat and that's not attractive or healthy in a relationship.

52

@46 Why are you surprised? Getting warmed up for sex is totally different for women -- it takes time and, if you're not into it, it feels like a chore. You men can pump and dump, so sex can be a quickie for you.

Also, if they've been married 30 years, there's a chance the wife is at the age to be going through menopause ... maybe now is not the time to demand more sex.

53

Escapee @52, except that A says he's the one who tries to incorporate more foreplay and extend the sex and she wants to get things over with. I continue to wonder whether he's affectionate with his wife at times other than when he wants sex? It seems to me that he's viewing sex as a way to connect, while she is feeling used.

54

The cheating option is doubly problematic because go out and find someone "when it's safe" will probably be interpreted as when the quarantine mandates are over, which depending on where he lives could be now or very soon. Forget sti's he could give her covid. It's uncomfortable but he needs to talk to his wife and get her informed consent on any outside activity or move the fuck out.

55

I'm going to hop in and defend Fichu's comment that they might schedule sex to be had whether she's into it or not. Again, I'm projecting, but a lot of times I get much more into sex after I've been having it a while. My body isn't always sure it wants to, to begin with, but I go hey, my man is in the mood, what the hell, and five minutes in my body thinks that was a great idea. Of course your mental attitude means a lot! But there's a huge huge space between nonconsensual sex and sex with someone who maybe isn't super into it to begin with. The latter is a lot closer to the variety of compromise we make all the time to make relationships work--I don't think sex should be immune to that. I do dishes when I'm not always really in the mood, because it's nice. If she gave any kind of shit about her husband's happiness, occasional (or even frequent) sex when you aren't in the mood shouldn't (to my mind) be a big deal--especially for many people who might find that the act itself puts them more in the mood. And if it really is that big a deal, for her, because of whatever is going on in her head, then she absolutely needs to give him the right to look elsewhere. Cutting someone off is just cruel.

56

fubar @49, I'd take off the last part of your script: "He might try the approach I took with my then-wife, a dozen years ago, and tell her that someone hit on him, and that he was sorely tempted, because he has a much higher sex drive than she does, and is miserable with the status quo."

The point of the conversation is to find a path forward, not to promise fidelity (which is how she might interpret "but I value our marriage").

Good point @50 that the kids are grown and not a reason she's uninterested in sex.

57

One important line in the letter is: "She goes along but she clearly wants it to be done with."

One-sided initiating is one kind of problem in a marriage, but if it leads to enjoyable sex for both people it's manageable. Scheduling can help, along with redefining "initiating" to include your spouse's signals of openness to you initiating, as well as asking your partner to get themselves in the mood some of the time (via erotica, masturbation, etc).

But the letter presents a harder situation, where initiating leads to either rejection or unsatisfying sex for both people.

It does feel like the options here are:
1) divorce
2) stop having sex together completely (and see other people for sex)
3) get professional help addressing the sexual and communication issues in the marriage. If both of you read Emily Nagoski's book Come As You Are, that might help you assess whether the issues might be resolvable with a lot of work, or not.

58

It's not even the sex, it's the core communication problems (which are glossed over in the letter). If one person says, "X is a big problem for me," and the other responds with, "No, X isn't a problem," or denies reality (e.g. insisting one isn't shooting down sex all the time when one very much is - this is actual gaslighting a la denying that the lights are flickering when they very much are and one actually made them flicker oneself), X isn't really at issue, the mode of relating that one person has of categorically denying the other person's perspective, needs/desires, etc. is the problem. (Extreme solipsism or narcissism? Intentional emotional abuse? An avoidant denial response to anything provoking anxiety? Who knows! Not good enough working order regardless.)

I cannot imagine that a relationship with someone like that is actually healthy or happy overall, so I say divorce.

@6: That worry doesn't follow from letters like this, where the wife was never very interested in sex (and perhaps was primarily interested for procreation rather than recreation).

59

@14: I loathe "foreplay" - the term - for similar reasons. It's a catch-all for any sexual behavior that isn't PIV intercourse, based on the heterosexist assumption that PIV is the aim of every sexual encounter and anything else is simply undertaken to prepare one or both partners.

@47: The kids are grown and presumably don't need care with which one might help - first born around 25 years ago with 2 and 3 following shortly thereafter. Also, despite the feminist advocacy (and I agree with the advocacy around equitable splits of domestic labor) using it as a rallying cry, men taking on feminine-coded labor statistically decreases a woman partner's interest in sex (with the man in question, though not necessarily overall; the likely mechanism is that feminine-coded labor feminizes the man in the eyes of his partner, and heterosexual women are by definition attracted to at least some masculine-coded features and behaviors, so feminizing someone to whom the attraction is predicated at least in part on masculinity decreases the attraction).

60

It’s very kind of some of you to try and resuscitate this marriage. It’s been twenty five years already, and she ignores his desire, gaslights him.
Then thirty years investment is not to be thrown away. Though I did it and ten yrs later I’m glad though sad I did. Yes, who wants to break the family up after so many years? Then who wants to spend another minute living a lie, when one’s partner won’t listen.
/ Be true to yourself LW, and yes it may cost you in other ways. Don’t cheat, not now after all this time, it would create too much pain, to your children as well. Go straight thru the middle of this one, and talk with your wife. Don’t let her fob off your feelings and desire any more. Tell her what you’ve told us, that you desire her and want only to feel her desiring you. That if it’s not possible ever again with her, then you want to look to finding that mutual desire elsewhere.
Your wife has a responsibility to look into why she’s given her desire up, if she wants to keep the marriage. Yes, marriage and kids do change sex while kids are young for many, once they grow a bit, the adults need to find a way back to each other.
With you and this problem. I’m serious about having separate rooms, as a wake up step, both of you feel a bit of what being apart feels like.
If you want to stay married, LW, both of you come clean about all the issues, hear each other without blocking, maybe couples therapy could help here.
Sex is like any other activity, some effort is required. If we want a good meal we look up a recipe get good ingredients create the space and time to cook well, put on some music. Or open a can of baked beans.

61

Hachacha @46: what are you talking about? They're all pretty much the same thing. Dan goes "well, cheating's pretty nice," and the commenters go "no, don't cheat. Communicate and get counseling, and if that doesn't do it, consider opening the relationship or divorce.

The only variations are very specific to the LWs: youth and inexperience for one couple, chronic illness for another, and the last couple being wildly mismatched.

62

Kittymama - "You know what frightens you, of course, but it's hard to say which feeling you would prefer until you've sampled at least one of them."
Well I've felt some trauma from being sexually rejected in marriage. It felt like a deeply personal rejection, it was done angrily and resentfully and left scars. When he went out with others behind my back, it didn't feel so personal, although he never slept with someone else afaik. The only times my partners have had sex with other people that I knew about, it was with my permission, and that didn't feel great but it didn't really feel bad just jealous.. So the sexual rejection felt at least 1000x worse and personally offensive than having my partner sex up someone else, but as you say that's probably because I haven't had a really traumatic cheating moment.

Hachachacha - "I'm always struck at how different the comments are re men vs women"
Do you mean that Dan advises men to cheat and women to break up or discuss opening the relationship? I just skimmed your last comparison article.. Dan does seem to advise women to be nice when men reject them, even if they have been sexless for years, and either break up or talk. Yet he prescribes cheating when women don't put out enough. The comments I saw attacked the man for losing his libido, which was weird and sad and different from this letter.

Ciods, "Cutting someone off is just cruel."
I rather think that unilaterally changing the terms of a marriage is cruel. I think the more stable it is, with the communication tap on high, the slower and clearer the changes are, unless some emergency happens. Cutting a spouse off suddenly is traumatic. Gradually putting less effort into sex, rejecting sex more, letting a sex life grow stagnant, that is the actions of two people growing apart, either because they didn't really want to grow together or because they made mistakes.

63

@Philo @62: Yes, you're right. This was gradual, not abrupt. As such, it's a choice they made together. He should communicate that he's no longer willing to accept that choice, and he intends it to change, and present a list of options from which she might choose, possibly: (a) open the marriage (b) divorce. (I'd add (c) start up a sex life again, but I think that's never going to happen, but might allow her to stretch out the misery in the guise of claiming she was working on it.)

64

I agree with @7 and others who recommend counseling.

Maybe he should go first by himself, to help him figure out his side of this story. Is he being rejected because there is something on his side that needs to be addressed or fixed? Or is the issue primarily with her?

Then, if she's willing, they can get couples counseling, to address their communication issues.

If she's not willing? Well, that speaks for itself.

65

I may have missed it in the comments above, but I do wonder, on questions like this, if the spouse might plead mitigatiing circumstances that the LW doesn't mention. Selfish, incompetent, clumsy, or unhygienic partners might wear on one's libido after a few decades. Just saying.

66

The word "ideally" has no place in your sentence about if he chooses to tell his wife that he is having sex outside of his marriage. It is imperative that if he has sex with someone else that he tell his wife before he has sex with her again. She cannot give informed consent to have sex with him if she believes he has not been having sex with other people when he has. And she will figure it out. He won't be hounding her for sex 3 plus times a week and she will notice the difference. Any woman in that situation would immediately suspect that sudden decrease was because he was cheating. Only because he didn't tell her she is going to assume that he has not been safe about it and is going to be terrified running to her doctor to get tested for everything under the sun because if she can't trust him to be faithful she can't trust him to take her safety into account. No one saying that her ignoring the problems in their relationship and his unhappiness is okay but to cheat on her not tell her and then potentially have sex with her again removes her ability to fully consent and to feel physically safe.

67

EricaP @57: 'One important line in the letter is: "She goes along but she clearly wants it to be done with."' Yes. That ties for most important line with 'unlike many other married men, I prefer not to "deal" via masturbating in the bathroom alone.' This makes it not just a case of differing drives, but of someone who's given up entirely. After 25 years I'm not sure whether she could find a way to rekindle desire for her husband, but it seems obvious she has no inclination to. I deem this bed dead.
I would start with your Option 3, for the reason John @58 cites below -- she's gaslighting him by brushing him off when he raises this concern. He cites communication issues as an aside but I agree, the fact that they aren't communicating about sex is more important than the fact they aren't having it.

John @58, he doesn't say his wife was never interested in sex, he says the interest dropped off after the first kid. He said her drive was not high before, but there was a change; he didn't marry someone who had no desire for him and here he is puzzled that she has no desire for him. If it was timing -- she tells him she's tired; perhaps he should try initiating in the afternoon or early evening? -- then that would be an easy fix, but her "get it over with" attitude when they do have sex, as EricaP notes, is the key here.

Snowy @66, seconding everything you've said here.

68

I disagree with 'what do you have to lose?'. He has his marriage and his good relationship with his three kids to lose.

Say the youngest is 20 and, for whatever reason, the kids take sides during and after the breakup. He would be leaving his wife essentially for better sex. That's on its own enough of a reason to side against him, to look askance at him, to be judgmental of him, for many conventional folks.

I didn't see in the letter any suggestion of his asking, 'how can I make my wife enjoy sex?'. Does he ask--'what can I do to make it better for you?'. He should--at some time that isn't late night, when he wants to fuck, or the next morning, when she isn't taking up her pseudo-promise to initiate. It's possible her answer will be that she likes sex just fine and that, in her head, they have a reasonable amount of sex. If this happens, he needs to put it before her more seriously that they have a problem--he wants more sex, he wants loving sex. What if he says--and is genuine--that it's a dealmaker? The sense I get is that his wife would be alarmed at the thought of divorce. If he can genuinely put that on the table, this will become a shared problem for them to address.

But his mindset seems to be: 'my wife stole my sperm, my money, my life!'. It's unlikely. Most people want a happy, frequent, exploratory sex life--his wife will be included. He should try walking himself back from a mindset of resentment.

69

@2. KOM133. Quite right. Prioritise the other issues in the marriage ahead of his unfulfilled sexual needs.

@4. meme. Yes. The question has to be asked: what is he not communicating well about? Drinking? Gambling? Worklessness? Does she find him selfish? Does he know? Sex doesn't happen in a vacuum in a marriage--yet he's talking as if it does.

@5. Lava. But is she just 'gaslighting' him? It's plausible she was brought up to believe that sex is something you just don't talk about. Can someone go from that to exploring and enjoying sex? (Surely yes).

I'll ask everyone: are there heterosexual women who would (always) rather have perfunctory PIV sex, say, three minutes after first being kissed, rather than penetrative sex after 30 minutes of kissing and touching?

70

Harriet @68, I agree that he has an unhappy marriage to lose, but why would he lose his relationship with his adult kids? He would not have to tell them he's leaving his wife "for better sex." (One, that's not their business, and two, phrasing it that way implies he's already having "better sex" with someone else. If he leaves, better sex is not a given.) He can tell them what most divorcing couples tell their adult kids: "We've grown apart." Why on earth would anyone tell their kids that he was leaving their mother because she was a crap shag? That, again, is why I think they should seek couples counselling first to work on their communication issues. Then they can truly tell the kids they tried but it's not going to work out. The kids have known him for their entire lives. Unless they already think he's an asshole, or unless his wife attempts to paint him as one (in which case hopefully he can talk to the kids and they'll see that she's the one being difficult), divorce should not threaten his relationship with his children.

71

@13. NoHighway. I agree that 'do whatever you need to do to stay married and stay sane' is unwarranted in this case. The person who's allowed 'let's wait until tomorrow morning' to be a blandly meaningless get-out is Anonymous himself. It's been next morning, there's been no sex, and he's let it go by. Not once, it would seem, has he resumed, got the brush-off and remonstrated, 'you said...'. He hasn't said, 'this is my way of loving you, of showing togetherness'. In that position, his wife would either have to grant they have a problem they need to work together to solve, or else be moved to say something like, 'it's not an expression of love; you just want a fuck'. And that would also reveal they had a problem, in their seeing sex in such sharply different ways.

But he's let it slide and has allowed his resentment to stew. Now is the time to put his desire for a happy sex life on the table again.

72

@70. Bi. Yes, they should go to couples counseling. They should have gone twenty-five years ago. That would be better than his upping and leaving without discussion and certainly better than his 'fucking someone else' indiscriminately.

The letter gives me a sense of 'intergenerational emotional illiteracy'. I would doubt that either he or his wife were brought up to talk frankly about their needs and problems in marriage, especially issues of a sexual nature; and with his wife (who he thinks married him for his role in procreation and, in his letter at least, is an irreproachable parent) in all probability educating his children for life more than him, it would seem to be his children haven't been brought up to be emotionally sophisticated about sex either. The reason he might leave his wife is sex. (He doesn't have other substantial causes of complaint; and it would seem divorce is culturally a big deal for him). Suppose he gives rekindling his marriage one last go. If he's honest, and the attempt fails, it's because he cares about sex more than his wife. His wife will probably believe that he cares about sex more than love (or more than he loves her), and will be able to represent it that way to family members, including his adult children.

He's waited until now to entertain the idea he might have legitimate expectations of something better in bed. Why? I'd imagine she's a broadly good wife, mother to his children and housekeeper (and/or earner); a good or kind companion; he's used to her; it's convenient; they're conflict-averse, and leaving is a huge ruckus or admission of failure. He didn't want to disturb the children or be separated from them while they were growing. Is he going to be able to make a genuine stand on sex now? It wasn't important to him in the past. Someone socialised into believing that sex isn't important--not worth changing for, learning to communicate for, confronting difficulties for or just insisting on--is someone for whom sex isn't important.

73

Traffic and BiDan-- I hear what you're saying. In general, I'd say telling someone to slog through weekly unwanted sex was bad advice too. My idea in telling Anonymous to suggest it to his wife was to do something to jolt Wife into acknowledging that his problem is her problem, and not a problem that can be solved with lying. After the problem is acknowledged, all sorts of solutions might be found. Maybe Anonymous is a lousy lover, and Wife gave up long ago in trying to communicate what she'd like. Maybe she herself doesn't know what she'd like. Maybe there are religious hang-ups. Maybe the lack of communication is other aspects of the marriage are getting in the way. Maybe there's something medical going on she's embarrassed to talk about with her gynecologist. The list of maybes goes on and on. Substituting no sex (which he hates) with scheduled sex (which she'd hate) or with scheduled unenthusiastic sex (which they'd both hate) is awful. I agree. I just thought that under the circumstances it might be a step in the right direction.

74

Three minutes after being kissed, Harriet @69? No. Bit of warm up is nice.
Whatever the reason LW’s wife says it’s not an issue, the behaviour is still gaslighting him. Denying his reality, because for him it is a problem.
Why would the children get to know the reason their parents decide to divorce? If he cheated, then yes, the kids might go with the injured party. So don’t cheat, and instead, after decades, speak his truth and take his chances.

75

Fichu @73: you thought wrong. It was creepy and coercive.

Harriet @68: Good point. It was all "I want" and no "what can I do to make it better for her?" It might be that her libido dropped, but there might be a lot of things he could do to rev it back up.

Philophile @62: For the younger couple, I don't think it was attacking so much as speculating about his sexual orientation - which for young people is a reasonable speculation, as they're still figuring things out.

76

@74. Lava. So why is it that Anonymous's wife seems never to have had a happy sex life, either?

They have to be both doing it wrong. Or doing it wrong together. It can't all be laid at her door, because she's disinclined.

77

@24. ohsnapt. How 'does anyone maintain lust through' 20 years plus of parenting? Many people do--people in monogamous marriages. Lots of these discuss how they will have sex when they're not feeling sexy right now, or in such a state of jumpiness or excitation that they might be hurt, aggrieved, disappointed etc. by being sexually rejected.

@18. rebeccax. Would you think you've read the same number as sexology studies as Dan? The belief cogently put forward by Dan is that articulated by ciods: that women, specifically, can fall out of lust after 6-7 years of partnership, without its being their partner's fault in any way, and without ceasing companionately to love the guy (usually, 'guy'). This may well be an 'inconvenient truth' that your rhetorical questions about 'did he do the laundry?', e.g., are trying to avoid.

@27. Mike XW. Exactly. You see it as I see it. His friends and associates are more likely to see his cheating (if he cheats and is caught) his wife's way, not his way. They probably see sex his wife's way, not his way.

I'm not sure the commentariat always understands red- and purple-state mentalities.

78

@46. hachacha. It's not a boring letter. I've never had heterosexual sex in my birth gender in my life; it's like an outward bound trip to the Amazon for me. It's fascinating.

I feel that letters should appear in the column about as often as letters on their theme feature in the mailbag. This would mean, I'm presuming, many more letters from het married men complaining that their wives aren't putting out. These are interesting; this is one big problem of pyschosexual, psychosocial adaptation of our time, and I think that each case is different. Dependent on the precise wording of the lw's letter, the right line could be 'do the washing up and put your sexual neediness on the back burner!', 'counseling', 'divorce' or 'follow your wife's lead--and swing!'.

@49. fubar. Why couldn't you have asked when it first started to be a problem?

79

@73. Fichu. I fear he has no plausible threat. It's been twenty-five years, and he hasn't left yet. What about a trial separation for two months? No telling family, no public shaming, a commitment on his side (if needed) that he'll make an effort to get back together if she addresses the awful grudging sex. Would that be the wake-up call?

80

@69 Harriet

While I say the choice is a false one (it's crazy for sex to be limited to 3 min kissing then PIV or 30 min kissing then PIV) but if we are in a situation in which we are just going to do PIV and the kissing is just building up to it, then yea no fucking way I"m going to kiss and pet and remove clothes and slide hands around (like new lovers or teenagers) to slowly warm up to it. In fact, if it's a weeknight and we're tired and not taken by some exceptional passion and also not some time we've set aside to do something more special (let's try this) then 30 minutes total is more than sufficient for start to finish by a full third. If someone expected me to engage in a full fucking 30 minutes of foreplay BEFORE sex each time, omg I'd probably be too tired too, and it wouldn't be a lie but a chore. But anyway the bigger problem is not knowing what foreplay means really (does he mean just kissing?) because if it's mutual masturbation or enjoying touch with sex toys or oral or whatever then why is it foreplay?

Agree with Ciods and Fichu above about planning it. My libido works that way too. When I'm not horny, I'm just not horny and if I waited until I was horny to have sex, I'd have half as much as I have. I know this about myself because I've spent some time learning my body which perhaps the wife did not do after changes from kids due to whatever reasons and has since forgotten? Again we don't know. But back to the topic of planning sex- it depends on the attitude of the participants. BDF is correct that "weekly handjob night" is unappealing and if it's presented as a chore she does for him to meet "his needs" then it's going to do nothing but come across as an ultimatum so he doesn't divorce or cheat. But if the wife herself can come to see the problem and wish to solve it and figure out how to get pleasure out of it then having it planned can be a guide to that. Reason being, like Ciods, a lot of women get into it after it's started. I'm one of them when I'm not horny. The problem with a lot of straight sex in this regard (in my opinion) is that this puts the man in the position of thinking he's got to cajole, warm up, pursue the woman who eventually puts out, then she eventually either also gets off in which case we say the man is a good lover or she just tolerates in which case we say the woman is a cold fish. But if a loving couple decides to plan sex then it removes from the husband the need to convince/initiate the wife. And the wife can pretend for a bit honestly when I'm not horny the truth is that I'd rather just go to sleep too but of course I don't say that. In my experience, after a very short time of pretending, maybe a couple minutes, I find myself suddenly very hot.

But I know this will happen - that knowledge is itself motivating. I know I will have fun. It's a weird thing because immediately beforehand, it does feel like a chore- like I must make myself get up and wash a sink full of dishes, it's the same feeling as knowing you've got to make yourself do a chore. But within a very short time, I'm full of lust and very hot and enjoying myself quite a bit if I can just make myself start. I have no idea why my body is like this when I'm not horny but it is. My opinion on the matter is it's just that when the motivating lust of a new exciting encounter is gone, then women don't always (depending on hormones as well in my case, time in my cycle) feel a sex drive physically the way a man does (oh look I have an erection).

The difference is Mrs. LW may not ever get to that place- she might not ever receive a lot of pleasure from it. So she wouldn't know it's going to be fun if she can just get going- therefore planning it would feel like just another chore.

Surely people who have been married so long could mutually prioritize and discuss this issue and surely she could explore her own body as well and take responsibility for her own pleasure too and surely he could be a more thoughtful lover instead of just expecting PIV for his needs so he doesn't have to jack off in the bathroom, but it appears that none of these things are true- or at least that we don't have enough info to give better advice.

81

And b/c I'm not being clear, I'm trying to say that the problem with Fichu's presentation of the idea the presentation as a conflict of needs/desires. The wife does this or that thing whether or not she wants to, she is reminded of it, the schedule is rigorous (now I get your pussy, now I get your hand, no no you agreed). This will never work, not because planning to have sex whether or not you are horny is a bad idea but because being in conflict like this- approaching a problem within a marriage as being a conflict between two sides- is a problem in the first place.

The wife must accept that it is a problem and wish to approach it as a situation that they, two loving partners, choose to solve together. If she can't start there, nothing will follow.

And the husband must stop thinking about sex in terms of "his needs". As Harriet points out, he says nothing about his wife's pleasure or preferences. I'm willing to believe that the years of resentment and rejection have made him express himself in such a bitter way and that he would be a more thoughtful sex partner with a woman who was likewise more open, but I'm also willing to believe that the wife has her own side to this story.

So the letter is depressing and planned sex is very unlikley to solve anything - even approached in that way 25 years ago. The problem is these are two people experiencing an intimate problem as a clash of individual interests rather than a shared problem of mutual interest. It's a depressingly common problem in relationships in these letters. So many times I feel like these LWs consider their interpersonal relationships to be about winning something.

82

@80. Emma. My question was poorly phrased. I didn't mean the binary options in the strong sense that you were taking them, but was rather asking whether any cishet women just want very little sex, or perfunctory sex. My implication was that (perhaps) this is true of very few.

Your answer was fuller, better and more interesting than I anticipated.

My read was that sex for the couple in the letter might be fairly conventional and lackluster. He speaks of 'foreplay'. So he's into more stuff, maybe more contact and cuddling, than her; but I still thought this was most likely to be foreplay to PIV or to his orgasm. Do they prioritise her orgasm or pleasure? Does she know enough about her body to understand what she likes, or might like? Are they able culturally to have an unembarrassed conversation about sex--of the order of his saying, for instance, 'could I try putting three fingers inside?' or 'would you like to try, to lead up to, having anything up your ass?' or 'would it be a turn-on for you to suspect we were being filmed?' (These are only examples; I don't know what their not-purely-vanillas turn-ons might be). I do not have the sense they have had these conversations, either twenty-five years ago or last night. So one answer, if they're not just going to break up through sexual incompatibility, is to go back to where he should have taken them twenty-six or -seven years ago.

83

Agreed, Harriet. Based on his word choices, he seems like a very boring lover- the focus on his needs, the weird statement about not wanting to jack off, combine to indicate he thinks of sex w/ her as a way to orgasm. I'm not putting the blame on him entirely as it would be hard to become a more interesting lover with an uninterested partner and his word choice might indicate bitterness/resentment rather than lack of concern for her pleasure too if he had that option. Also even if he is a boring lover, she has some responsibility in learning her own body too and prioritizing their sex life which she does not appear to have any interest in doing- for whatever reasons that we don't know. Sad situation and too many unknowns for anyone to really give advice. I don't see how cheating is going to improve the situation and as much as people here like to talk about divorce as an option that does nothing more than a break up, there are impacts to breaking apart a family (even one in which the children have left home) that compound over the years as people age. It's a very different life to be 60 and married to someone with whom you share kids and a home and an extended family (where the children and grandchildren gather) than one in which you are alone and dating, splitting holidays/children's visits/etc with your exspouse- especially if people blame you for throwing it all away just to fuck around.

Whole thing seems very depressing to me and I don't know what else can be said about it. Best case scenario in the practical realm that I can think of (with this extremely limited amount of info) is that wife is relieved to end her sex life altogether, husband stops pestering her for sex, and in exchange she turns a blind eye to him seeing a sex worker or getting a lover, but for this to work it would require them both to have the self-awareness and concern for one another to handle this responsibly- for him to not fall foolishly in love with the first woman with whom he has a sexual renaissance, for her to allow that he has a right to reasonable sexual fulfillment. I don't see either possibility actually working out.

It's far more likely that he will just have to get used to jacking off in the shower. Sucks.

84

@83. Emma. I agree with your analysis and, sadly, your conclusion.

85

Harriet @78: "Why couldn't you have asked when it first started to be a problem?"

Problems have a way of creeping up on you.

86

I have no sympathy for either of them. They've both been stuck in an absurd play, each with a different script. Why wasn't this addressed at the 5-year mark? Even five years of this sounds ridiculous!

I cannot imagine her with those childish mind games, in which she tries to distract him with the promise of a tomorrow that doesn't come, and pats herself on the back each time she succeeds or, when she relents, tells him to just get it over with. And he's no better as he concentrates on seeing how high his rejection rate can climb, all so he can establish himself as the damaged party.

It's too bad separating/divorcing couples don't have Exit Interviews (or, in this case, a few comprehensive sessions with a couples' counsellor) to guide them 0ut of this rut that will probably outlast their marriage. If she rarely enjoyed the sex and tolerated it only until she fulfilled her child-bearing role, she needs to learn how to own her own pleasure. And he needs to learn how to be more self-sufficient so he's not pressuring a woman - any woman - for sex.

But, frankly, I wouldn't bet on either of them after so many decades of toxic sex.

87

@85. fubar. Well, goodness knows I've had my share of unaddressed sexual problems in my relationships. Like being in an LTR with a not-straightforward alcoholic who said that PIA wasn't the most important form of sex, but wanted selfishly and peremptorily to fuck me up the ass whenever sobriety permitted him the flicker of a hard-on.

I would still hope that het men and women--the people most vulnerable (perhaps) to a mismatch--would establish ground rules before committing to a LTR. For instance, once a week could be set as a minimum, with its being incumbent on both partners to meet that in principle. If they can't, whatever preventing them--illness, depression, exhaustion, resentment, disengagement--needs to be addressed (and probably it did anyway). It's the gravest of errors to think 'love will find a way'. There may be a province of sex quite separate from the sphere of love.

88

Harriet @77: It is an observed and acknowledged phenomenon that some women fall out of lust with their partners after a handful of years for no reason, other than they crave variety and aren't getting it. It is also an observed and acknowledged phenomenon that some women fall out of lust with their partners because of domestic dissatisfaction, and/or physical changes, and/or years of neglecting her kinks or coercing his kinks, and/or hormonal and/or lifestyle changes following the birth of a child. Without asking the woman herself, we don't know why. In this couple's case, a change happened just after the first child was born, so it seems logical to conclude this is a factor in this case.

Going back to Fubar @49, I would not interpret my spouse coming to me and telling me that he had been offered the opportunity to cheat but turned it down because he values our marriage as asking permission to cheat. Quite the opposite actually; I would interpret it as assurance he was not going to cheat! And I would be doubly shocked to learn later that he had gone ahead and done it. So I don't think A should take your tack; I think he should be straightforward about wanting to open the marriage, not drop hints that may be misinterpreted.

Harriet @82, it's possible that by "foreplay" he means her sucking his cock. That would be the sort of "foreplay" that would not do much to motivate an unenthusiastic spouse. Or perhaps he means playing with her pussy, but if a pussy is not yet wet, touch is unpleasant. But I don't think the (main) issue is that he is doing foreplay wrong. I think whatever he is doing, she is unreceptive to because she feels pestered, she feels any sort of sex is for his benefit only.

EmmaLiz @83, I agree with everything you've said here, except that it "sucks" that he'll have to get used to masturbating. No matter what happens, he should embrace self pleasure. If he leaves her, it's more than likely he'll end up getting even less sex than he is now (though what he does get will be more enthusiastic and enjoyable). He should accept that the cure for frustration is literally in his own hands.

89

Like many of you, I think there’s a lot of blame to go around here. The LW seems bitter but also perversely persistent in a strategy that’s not working and hasn’t worked his whole marriage. His need for partnered sex is valid (masturbation is not a long term replacement for sex IMO, it’s a complement), but his pestering her is almost pathological.

His wife seems to think she’s justified in lying about her desire for sex with him while also avoiding it whenever possible. I bet she has, overall, put a lot more into the marriage than him, and he would feel like a heel giving her an ultimatum over sex.

It’s not possible for us to know why she doesn’t want to have sex unless she told us, but she may not even know herself. LTR’s can be extremely complex, and there’s a reason that they are having trouble communicating—the architecture of their relationship (the things left unsaid but understood, the disappointments and unresolved disputes, the express and implied accommodations, underlying guilt and anxiety) can change what is otherwise a fairly straightforward conversation into a minefield. Unless you’ve been in an LTR like this, it’s hard to understand how it can happen and how difficult it can be to deal with.

It’s been well covered here that many women experience a drop in desire for their long term partners after five years or so. This can happen with men as well! I’m a married man, and I’ve been with my wife (dating and married) for 20 years. We started dating in our teens, and after a couple of years of marriage (so like six years in) I just didn’t desire her, although my libido was otherwise fine. So I didn’t want to initiate, and I had a lot of trouble getting it up. I also didn’t want to admit it (aren’t men always horny?) so I almost always said yes when she initiated, which led to many miserable sexual encounters. I tried to mix things up in the bedroom (toys, new positions, role play) and she was totally game, but the problem (I realized eventually) was that I didn’t want her.

This was a bad time for us, a lot of fights, and her sexual self esteem and my confidence were both really damaged. We worked through it eventually and I regained desire for her (after kids it even became the other way around for a while), and we regained trust in each other, but there are (figurative) scars in our sex life. She still doesn’t like to initiate or try anything new sexually because of our bad past experiences. I still feel guilty for putting us through all that, even though I didn’t consciously do anything.

But through all of this, I never told my wife I wasn’t attracted to her, and I always denied it when she asked. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings like that, and I hoped we would just be able to work through it. In retrospect we should have done sex counseling (or nonmonogamy, although that wasn’t even a consideration at the time), but my lying to her seemed like an act of love (the least bad thing) in a complicated relationship, and it may be that way for the LW’s wife as well.

I think he first needs to deal with his resentment over their sex life. That may take therapy, I don’t know. Then he has to gather his courage and have a talk with her. I would encourage him to write a script for himself, work on it until it’s simple and accurate but not judgmental (“I love you, I’ve been resenting you because of our sex life, I want to be with you, but I’m not happy living the way we have. Would you go to sex therapy with me?” Etc), and then ask her to hear him out.

90

EricaP @56 & BDF @88: Yeah, I retract the bit about valuing the marriage without LW also being clear that he wants to have more/other sex in the future. If his wife simply won't address it, well, at least she was warned.

In my case, my then wife said words to the effect that she wouldn't have minded, and soon after, helped set me up with a friend of hers. Perhaps the experience left me overly optimistic.

91

He/she @89: "perversely persistent" -- yes! I was in a LTR with someone who had a lower drive. I did not pester him for sex multiple times a week because I quickly learned he didn't want sex multiple times a week. Why does A keep asking when he knows he will be turned down? If she says yes to sex once a fortnight, ask her for sex once a fortnight. Then she'll want it and it won't be as grudging because she resents all the pestering.

Thank you for sharing that the "seven year itch" may be more common, but is not exclusive to women. Perhaps if you remove the variable of children, which absolutely affect the woman more than they do the man, this is more evenly gender distributed than we may have supposed. It's a good guess that Mrs A is lying to her husband about wanting sex because she doesn't want to hurt his feelings, but that's become a bit transparent now. They need to be honest, but kind, with each other, and a therapist's office seems the best place to do that. Great post.

Fubar @90, yes, that's a different story then. Glad it worked out for you!

92

BDF, of all the things I've said that I thought there's no way in heaven or earth that anyone could possibly find anything worth contradicting or correcting it was the simple statement that it sucks that a person might have to limit their sexual activity for the rest of their life to masturbating. But here we are.

93

Look on the bright side, LW, jacking off feels good.

Honestly though, it's making me laugh after a difficult morning, thanks.

94

I think it depends if they grew apart because they weren't really interested in each other or because they made mistakes. If wife just was sort of asexual or not into him or he just can't feel motivated to please her, if they just weren't into each other, then maybe now that the kids are gone they could try to find a better match. She might want a better sex life and start to date too. If their sex life declined because they didn't put much effort or consideration into it, even if working on it doesn't fix his current problem, it is valuable relationship experience. If he tries to work on his sex life now, even if nothing is a long term fix, he'll have the experience of growing as a lover in bed and maybe growing better at facing and resolving conflict with therapy, that his next lover may benefit from, so he wouldn't just repeat the same mistakes. If he's 50, why resign himself to wasting the next 20 years in sexual frustration or cheating? Seems like it would be worth it to try to talk it through in therapy and try to encourage her interest in sex a little before giving up, though.

95

EmmaLiz @92, I didn't interpret "It's far more likely that he will just have to get used to jacking off in the shower. Sucks" as "he will never again have partnered sex," but as "he'll have to learn to enjoy masturbating," something that greatly improved MY life, I dunno about you! Have a good day.