My Husband and I Have a Comfortable Marriage Without Sex.

My Husband and I Have a Comfortable Marriage Without Sex

I am married to an honest, loyal and trustworthy man. However, we are not intimate in any way and there is no chemistry. At one point, we went over four years without any sex. It has always been like this and it is me who will eventually bring the subject up. When I didn’t talk about it, that’s when it ended up being such a long time. We are like best friends/brother and sister – living together. It makes for a great family life (we have two children aged 11 and 13) as there is little argumentative tension with regards to day-to-day stuff. My husband loves the family unit. It is me, however, who craves touch, intimacy and to feel desired. We have discussed this at length over the years and have tried to make things better (believe me). Unfortunately, my husband struggles to express himself sexually (so sex would happen only in the bedroom with the lights off). We have never held hands or been like lovers and, in my opinion, we were too young when we met – he was my first proper partner; I am a very different lady in my 40s with regards to confidence. As everyone sees us as the ‘perfect family’ and my husband as a wonderful man (which he is), I find myself more and more anxious feeling that this is not what I want for another 20 years. I am 43 years old and keep fit and young at heart. There are many reasons why we’ve stayed together – our children’s happiness, financial stability, our daughter is deaf and has needed support and it works day to day.

I feel terrible admitting it, but I want to feel loved in the true sense of the word and I don’t think my husband understands what I mean. Even if he did what I wanted now, I’m afraid I don’t feel anything sexual for him at all … is that just terrible? I am attracted to other men (and don’t have a low sex drive) but would sincerely like to change the future without being dishonest or causing too much heartache to everyone around me. I don’t want to talk to friends or family about this as I feel it is not fair by my husband to do so. If you can help me in any way, I would be SO grateful. I love your advice – it is truly brilliant.

Best wishes,

Dear Liv,

You are speaking the fears of every woman who has ever been in a passionless relationship.

Unfortunately, you are also speaking the fears of every woman who has ever heard me talk about compromising on chemistry. And before I answer your question, I want to address that perception. It bugs me that after all these years of writing, I can’t get people to understand the nuance of the chemistry/compatibility debate.

First of all, I have never said that you should have no chemistry. I have never said you should be with a man you’re not attracted to. I have never said that sex doesn’t matter. I have never said that if you have compatibility that attraction is entirely irrelevant. These are straw man arguments and it’s tiring for me to address things that I’ve never actually said.

What I have said, repeatedly, is that chemistry is a wonderful feeling. It consists of an increase in dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, estrogen, and oxytocin and makes you feel really high. This high — which we call chemistry or attraction — generally lasts from 18-36 months. And while it is a wonderful feeling, it is not the same as love, although most folks call it being “in love”. Additionally, this “in love” feeling is not necessarily a good predictor of your future, because, well, you’ve had it before in relationships that ultimately failed. So what I’ve observed as a dating coach is that people are slaves to chemistry, ignore compatibility (the ability to get along and build a future), and wonder why they’re so unhappy if they’re “in love”.

NO chemistry is just as harmful as no compatibility.

Are we on the same page so far?

So, given these facts (chemistry feels awesome, but 40 year relationships aren’t built on chemistry alone), I have always advocated for smart tradeoffs. Instead of having a 10 in chemistry and a 3 in compatibility, I recommend a 7 in chemistry and a 10 in compatibility.

10 chemistry X 3 compatibility = a relationship that’s a 30.

7 chemistry X 10 compatibility = a relationship that’s a 70.

The math is crude, but I hope you can see that one relationship is superior to the other.

Now one can argue that you’d prefer chemistry OVER compatibility. Say, a 10 chemistry and 7 compatibility. Fair enough. However…

      a) I haven’t seen much evidence of that. Generally 10 chemistry correlates with high passion, and two incompatible people being drawn together like magnets.

b) When you’re planning a 40 year relationship, compatibility — the ability to compromise, make thousands of tiny decisions as a couple, and build a life together — is ultimately more important than white-hot chemistry.

Which brings us back to Liv’s original question and the source of much consternation from the 10 Chemistry people. What if there’s NO chemistry?

Well, the reason that I laid out this case before answering the question was to illustrate that NO chemistry is just as harmful as no compatibility.

Liv said it has “always been like this,” which means she ignored the lack of passion from the get-go, instead of realizing that a sexual connection is a necessary part of any marriage.

That is no different than two people who get married out of passion, only to ignore the fact that they fight all the time — and are then surprised they have a rocky marriage.

All relationships involve tradeoffs, but one should never give up on something as important as sexual chemistry — certainly not from the beginning like Liv did.

As to what you do now? I think it has to be a hard conversation with your husband, in which you figure out your endgame before you talk, and lead him to your desired conclusion.

      1. Compliment him on being a great husband, father and teammate.

2. Tell him that you feel sexually deprived. Tell him that while you love him dearly and have no desire to break up your family, you are starving for affection and don’t want to live the rest of your life without it.

3. Ask him to collaborate with you in coming up with a solution. This is a team effort to preserve your marriage AND make you feel sexually satisfied, and if he values your happiness, he has to help solve it.

What will you come up with? That’s up to you as a couple.

Maybe it’s sanctioned that you go on Ashley Madison to openly find sexual relations with another married man who isn’t going to leave his wife.

Maybe it’s sanctioned that you take a few long weekends each year to go away by yourself. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Maybe you do some research on male escort services and agree on a set amount of time you are allowed to indulge yourself.

Your partner is not upholding his end of the deal, and he needs to take responsibility for that, and do everything in his power to find a solution.

Do all of these things weaken the sanctity of your marriage? Probably. However, your partner is not upholding his end of the deal, and he needs to take responsibility for that, and do everything in his power to find a solution.

If he doesn’t — if he refuses to have sex with you inside the marriage and forbids you from being sexual outside the marriage — you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to keep this status quo for the sake of stability and the children. No one else can answer that except you.

Either way, I wish you well and thank you for illustrating that no sexual chemistry should be a non-starter in relationships, and that good people (men and women alike) will consider cheating if their reasonable sexual needs are not being met.

Best of luck…

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  1. 41

    Perhaps you can help me understand someone who hid their sexual proclivities from their spouse. My husband is a great guy. Aside from the porn, massage parlors and escorts… he is the best person I’ve ever known. He is addicted. He does not have intercourse. If I hadn’t snooped thru his personal items, I would never have known about this alternative lifestyle that he has had since graduate school. My husband was shy, a late bloomer. He never went on dates, fears rejection, socially ackward I guess in that sense but in his academic and business world he is a super achiever. He is so smart and handsome. I don’t know why he went thru life thinking that he could not get a date thru “normal” channels. He’s still a bit challenged when it comes to being intimate with me, how fast, where to touch, is this ok? We have never had sex. We tried twice it was a failure. He was pained to attempt it. Now I wonder, even though he’s my best friend is there enough love to make me stay? He thinks therapy will try to fix him. He feels judged, mocked and shamed. I think that he lets them humiliate him that’s what I gather from snooping. I want to be there for him. I guess I don’t miss what I never had. I attend S-ANON. At times I resent our monthly sessions, which are manual stimulation even then he is so focused on trying to please me by the book…and he’s way off the mark. I don’t have the heart to tell him. I know that he’s struggling with his past. He really thought he could stop when he married me now I’m just as much an addict or co-dependent as he is of sorts. Because my past was filled with so much dysfunction, alcoholic father, sexual and physical assaults from boyfriends and attacks at work I do feel safe with him and I do love him. It could be worse. I’ve had worse.

  2. 42

    Liv…I so feel your misery…I’ve been married 25 years and it has been 14 years since my husband has made love to me.   He is a really good man…and a great dad…but he suffers from ED and will never be able to make love to me again.   We are more like house mates then husband and wife…We have three children and I have been the primary bread winner for my family of 5…but struggle to believe that my sexual life ended 14 years ago.

    Even from the start of our marriage he has slept separately from me…despite me asking him to share my bed…he doesnt hold my hand, never has…I feel very lonely and trapped…but know I’m in this marriage for the long haul.    I’m a Christian woman so that makes it even more difficult to deal with this situation.   I even feel guilty when I have to relieve myself…so I suffer as long as I can…and then when I can’t take it any longer, I seek self relief…it only relieves a physical ache…but does nothing for the real ache of not being intimate with a man.

    I’ve talked with him about it…but it only makes him feel bad and I know things will not change.   Like you Liv…I still have sexual needs…but no longer find him sexually attractive…I think years of being rejected by your husband in that way (even thru no real fault of his) does   damage to us women.

    Liv…thank you for having the courage to share…in some ways it’s nice to know I’m not alone…

    Sorry…didn’t mean to vent so much…but thru tears…this post really touched me…

    1. 42.1
      Yet Another Guy


      What you should know is that true ED is treatable. There are many treatment options available today, from lifestyle changes to oral and injectable medications to implant surgery. The important thing to know is that ED is defined as the inability to become erect enough for penetration even through masturbation. If a man is able to become erect through masturbation, he does not have ED. In that case, there is something else going that may have nothing to do with you. A lot of men mess up their dopamine response to a woman via masturbation and porn use. That happened to me because I used porn to survive ten years of being in a sexless marriage. There is a process know as “rebooting” that helps to re-establish a man’s dopamine response to a woman. I learned everything about what follows during a period of being evaluated by a urologist. I was happy to discover that I did not have ED, but I was scared. For me, it was about breaking the habit I had formed while married.

      True ED is caused by the same thing that causes coronary artery disease; namely, arterial plaque. True ED predisposes a man to a cardiac event by because the penile artery is smaller in diameter than the coronary arteries. That is
      why it is referred to as the canary in the coal mine by cardiologists.

      The ED drugs that are pushed on television all belong to a class vasodilators known as phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors (PDE5). Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra are all PDE5 inhibitors. PDE5 inhibitors allow the arteries to dilate, including the penile artery. PDE5 inhibitors were originally created to treat pulmonary hypertension. What they are being sold for today was originally an off-indication use (i.e., it was a recognized side effect that was observed during clinical trials). PDE5 inhibitors work by inhibiting the production of phosphodiesterase 5, which is a compound that hydrolyzes (breaks down via the insertion of water molecules) a vasodilator produced by the cells that line the arteries known as cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). Diseases arteries do not produce as much cGMP as do healthy arteries. PDE5 inhibitors help by allowing the body to make better use of a more limited supply of cGMP. That is why it is not wise for men who are otherwise healthy to use PDE5 inhibitors recreationally. A PDE5 inhibitor in a healthy man can result in a condition known as priapism (i.e., the language about consulting a doctor if an erection lasts more than four hours in most commercials). Priapism can cause tissue death in the penis due oxygen deprivation because blood flow to the cells is cutoff during an erection.

  3. 43

    Thank you Evan.    He is almost 70 with severe type 2 diabetes.   He will not seek help for his condition.   I just turned 50.   The issue of potential cardiac issue put a slightly different spin on it.    He tells me his Dr says he has a healthy heart.

  4. 44

    anyone consider for a teenie, tiny minute that he could be cheating on her?

  5. 45

    I’m married to the woman I thought was my best available option (we’re talking arranged marriages here). Initially, all the chemicals were on hyper drive, but two years in, as we got settled in a routine, we stopped having a physical relationship. I’m the kind of guy that likes physical expression of love as much as a verbal or emotional expression. I was in a relationship before marriage and this marriage made me feel less desirable. So I strayed, not once or twice, and not just physically but also emotionally. I was emotionally involved in the extra marital affair and contemplated leaving this marriage, but held on, as we have a baby together.

    Recently, my wife and I had a heart to heart chat, and we realised that in our marriage, apart from sex, everything else was just about perfect. We’re very good friends, we’ve helped each other grow as individuals, we laugh and have fun in each other’s company.

    We’ve been married 9 years now and today, we opened our marriage and took sex off the bed.

  6. 46
    Happy girl

    I feel physical attraction getting over in just two years is not good. I would say… She is not your soulmate and you are letting go of others just coz of that typical mentality that you have a kid. Your life is also something. If she has any physical inability to perform sex or any health issues, I would have understood. But I don’t see such thing. Why don’t you talk to her about taking mutual divorce and yet raising the kid fine. Her reaction on this will prove if she is genuine or not. She might show maturity and agree to it or she will show her true colors… Means she will not let you go also and she will put false cases on you. But you have storng reaosn. If I were at ur place… I feel I would have filed a divorce. Marriage is not only friendship lol. And if she is your sooooo good friend, you wouldn’t have cheated. And let me tell you that it is not even 1 percent wrong that you cheated. It is human to expect emotional n physical bond. I spoke with my ex husband 2…3 years ago as I felt he is nt attracted to me. It was an arrange marriage. I also had good conversations after trying my level best for two years. But in my case… No kid… And no intimacy at all right from the beginning. So I got separated. I feel so goood for that decision as we were not compatible. Would like to tell you that otherwise he was a good person by nature. Today I have found my soulmate and feel so so so so so so good that I took that decision. I remember bumping on this blog at that time. Now I got a notification as new (your) comment got added. Ask your wife upfront why she does not want to get physical. Visit cousellors, if needed. And if that doesn’t work, you have two options… One… Be married and keep cheating or two… Get freeeeedom in the truest form… Good luck! I can feel the emotional turmoil.

  7. 47

    i seem to love reading these things and comments (it’s an addiction!!).

    But to me in this day and age, standard marriage doesn’t seem to work for many (in wealthy countries i think).

    atleast I think i’ve come to the conclution that marriage is not for me. I’d rather relationships with indipendant people with their own goals and when things alighn mutually the ‘sweet!’, and when they don’t … well… they don’t.

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