Wife Says No Sex

Q: Recently my 40-year-old wife told me she doesn't want sex anymore. She said that she doesn't like it and for me not to ask for it. When I tried to talk to her about it, she said there's nothing to talk about. I am a 47-year-old male who still has a very active sex drive. I love my wife and I've told her that I still find her desirable. She insists that she still loves me but she is done with sex. I don't want to cheat on my wife or get a divorce, but unfortunately I still need intimacy and passion in my life. We both work full-time jobs, and since my wife works longer hours than I do, I have taken over most of the responsibilities that come with raising our children, cooking dinner during the week, and taking care of the house. I really don't know where to turn. -- Ted

Dr. Susan: Your complaint is one of the most common heard in therapists' offices: One partner wants it a lot and the other one couldn't want it less. The first thing that jumps out at me is that your wife says "there's nothing to talk about." In a loving couple, when one spouse has a problem, the other one can't act as though it doesn't exist. Your wife is telling you, in effect, that she doesn't care how miserable you are. But is she also saying you are free to find passion and intimacy with other women, and if you fall in love with one of them, you are free to leave her? If she gave you that blanket OK, then you needn't consider it cheating. That's not the best option, though. It usually gets messy and people get hurt, and children are caught in the middle. I think you need to insist on a conversation about this, so start planning on a time when you're both not distracted by work or kids, and make it soon. Bring up your concern that something may be going on healthwise with her that is interfering with her ability to enjoy sex. A complete check-up would be in order, since she's approaching menopause and maybe her hormones are utterly out of whack. Also consider: how much did she like sex before? Could she finally be saying she's had enough mediocre sex? Could you have been missing her cues and leaving her frustrated? Or could she be so shy or passive that she could never tell you what she does like? Could she be having an affair with another man? Or a woman? There is a reason for her total refusal to have sex with you, and your job is to get her to figure it out and share that information with you. And get her to join you in a discussion of where you go from here.

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