Question: Dear Luise: After five years of marriage, I am finally coming to grips with the fact that my wife has absolutely no interest in sex. She has some anatomical issues and so for her, sex has always equaled pain. The mention of it brings her anxiety, and only once in five years have we had sex without her gritting her teeth and complaining, “fine – let’s just get it over with!” In five years, we’ve had full sex probably about 20 times – including our honeymoon. I am very sexually driven, and always thought that we could overcome this part of our relationship. She has seen psychologists and doctors, but to no avail. She was emotionally scarred in the past as a child by some sexual experience that she does not feel comfortable sharing with me ( I expect it involves family). We are getting to the point where it’s time to have kids (I’m 32, she’s 30). I’ve always wanted children, but she’s scared to move forward. She comes from a divorced family and feels that she has never had a time to live for herself – so she sees mostly negative impacts of having children – though she says that she can’t imagine herself without them?? I want to stay with my wife. I do love her, but am very saddened by our inability to get past these major issues of children and sex (not to mention money!). I passed up sex my entire adolescence so that I could honor my wife with my all – only to find that my wife has no interest in having me physically. Frankly, I’m devastated by this. I’ve explained as much to her over the past few years, but nothing changes. What to do? J.
Answer: Dear J.: It is my guess that you married a person who is not interested in becoming a fully realized adult…(or it may be something she is incapable of.) Mutual sexuality is an adult function, as is parenting. The reasons for her behavior probably don’t have to be factored in for you to be able to see this pretty clearly.
I had a long-term friend who was like that. She was willing to maintain the home (she was a wonderful cook) and even worked outside the home when that was needed but she wanted to be the child in the relationship. She wanted to be adored but was actually repelled by sexual contact. She, too, had a history of abuse. She also had an anatomical problem but even after that was solved surgically, (and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be ), her attitude never changed. She married three great guys and was divorced three times, due to the issues you have outlined. Her last husband eventually remarried her on her terms which were to live in a very loving, loyal, mutually devoted and affectionate, (but sexless and childless,) relationship. It worked for both of them, maybe because they were older by that time.
Loving someone and being able to live with that person often isn’t the same thing. You have had five years to reflect on the fact that what you want out of life and what your wife wants don’t coincide. Yes, she speaks vaguely of children in the distant future, but I doubt “manana” will ever come. And if it did, it might turn out to be a disaster. It takes a very self-absorbed person to focus on the fact that having a child would involve forfeiting freedom. That’s exactly what happens, as you know, but those who have gained inner maturity look forward to setting themselves aside for the greater benefit of experiencing parenthood.
Your situation seems unlikely to change. It sounds like you have exhausted all reasonable options. Unfortunately, it may be time, or perhaps even way past time, to decide whether your want your life to be about committing to living within the structure of your wife’s very real limitations, or whether you want and need to move on to a more normal existence. Blessings, Luise