Reader asks: 25 years of marriage and no sex … what’s a man to do?

Here is a letter from a man named Fred who has had it with 25 years of marriage and a wife who promises to do better when it comes to sexual intimacy, but never follows through. Sometimes getting tough is the only answer, and so here goes:
Dear Doctor Becky,

My wife and I have been married for 25 years, with no children.  She does not work. About 15 years ago, she developed some medical issues that made intercourse painful for her. She has undergone numerous treatments with minimal improvement. Over the last 5 years, she has totally given up and our minimal sex life has gone to zero. We used to try to be intimate about once a month.  Now, it is down to once a year. I try to be understanding that this is not her fault.

On rare occasions, I have asked her for some level of physical intimacy that does not involve intercourse.  While she will usually indulge me, her demeanor / comments make it clear that she wants none of this and I feel like I am being punished for asking.  I end up feeling worthless and totally undesired.

I have read countless articles on sexless marriages and everything says to be understanding, romantic, and helpful around the home and over time the intimacy will return. Well, I have tried this repeatedly with absolutely NO improvement.

When I have attempted to have a discussion with her, she dismisses me with a promise that she will do better, only nothing ever changes.  I have begged her to return to the physician, go to an individual counselor, a marriage counselor, anything to help the situation with no avail.

She says she is afraid that I am going to leave over this.  I have never threatened her, but over the last few months, my frustration has started to grow into a rage.  I have totally kept this bottled up but feel that I am about to explode.  I feel guilty for feeling this way but I just do not feel like she is being fair with me.  I understand her not wanting intercourse but feel totally starved for any physical intimacy.

Is there anything I can do to salvage my marriage?


Hi Fred,

Thanks for writing. I feel really badly for you as you sound like a very loyal husband who is trying his darnedest to stay the course in this marriage. It is no surprise that you feel the enormous resentment you say you now feel. After all, your wife is passive aggressively delaying any response to your need for sexual intimacy by saying she’ll try to do better, but then does nothing. You have every right to feel angry, as the implication in marriage is that two people enter into an exclusive lifelong sexual partnership.

So, what to do? There is only one solution as I see it … That is to take drastic action to shake up the status quo and force change. I mean, come on, you’ve already tried requesting and pleading with no results. One thing that comes to mind is to tell her you want to separate until she tells you once and for all if she can be regularly, happily, sexual. If you do separate, you must not come home until the change is solidly in place over a significant period of time.

Unfortunately many people don’t change or work hard on an issue unless forced to. When drastic action is taken you will find out if she ever really had any intention to be the sexual wife you need her to be. If she won’t do it, then you have a very important decision to make about your future.

I hope this helps,

Doctor Becky

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