“My husband won’t have sex with me even when I beg.” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

I’m 41 and have been with my partner for 24 years.

Though we have two children, he’s never had a high sex drive — once a week when we were courting, and a couple of times a month in the first year we lived together.

From then on a couple of times a year.

In the past 13 years we’ve made love about six or seven times in total, and it has been 18 months since the last time.

I’ve tried begging, but that only puts him off. Years ago I tried taunting — but that wasn’t nice at all.

I’ve tried seducing him and turned our bedroom into a boudoir. He didn’t notice!

I’ve put on a lot of weight lately but I had a gorgeous figure until the past few years, and he wasn’t any more interested then.

I had a frank talk with him a few years ago and told him that if he EVER wanted to have sex, I’d always be up for it. He said acting so needy put him off.

I should leave, but I love him and our children and we have a good life together.

He doesn’t stray and tells me he loves me, too, but I do wonder if he would care if I had an affair, or walked out. Actually, I don’t think he would!

The complete lack of intimacy leaves you feeling worthless and unfeminine.

It makes me angry. He’s not prepared to go to counselling or see a doctor.

We don’t kiss and cuddle because he ‘forgets’, is too tired, is just about to go to work, has just come in from work, is going fishing, watching TV etc.

An affair is out of the question, as I couldn’t do that to another woman.

I don’t want to die never having had an active sex life, even for a couple of months! What would you do?

 This problem first appeared in the Daily Mail.

My Answer:

You start with lots of figures – your age, length of marriage, number of times you had sex at the beginning, later, then later still, then the number of months it’s been since the last time you had sex. It’s as though you have to prove to the reader that this really is true, it really has been this long. It is the beginning of what turns out to be an argument, a fixed position – here is what’s wrong and there is nothing to be done. You end by mentioning dying still stuck in this situation, yet you are only 41.  There is, in fact, quite a suicidal feeling to this seemingly simple letter. You claim to want advice, but you present a problem you insist is intractable. In a way that is right – you feel terribly hopeless and you really can’t see a way out.

It is clear that you’ve been doing the accounts, but what you don’t say is interesting. You say nothing about what it’s like when you do have sex – the way you’re ticking off the events makes it all sound  like a job to be done rather than something you will be experiencing together. And I suppose this is what you are saying – you are terribly lonely.

You then tell us what you have tried in order to seduce him. The taunting does sound especially painful, but perhaps you were trying to let him know how taunted you felt by his rejection of you. These efforts are heartbreaking for, although you have fixated on his lack of desire to have sex with you, the issue is very obviously a wider one.

You are lonely and extremely hurt that he doesn’t want to be intimate with you in a real way. He then flips it round to tell you that your neediness is, in fact, the problem when his refusal itself apparently created the need (though in reality I expect you brought the need and fear of rejection with you and got him to confirm it). There is a high degree of cruelty here, possibly masking insecurities around sex, who knows, but, whatever his own issue, he is not telling you about it and what you want is an irrelevance to him.

It is interesting that you write ‘leaves you feeling worthless and unfeminine’ and not ‘leaves me feeling worthless and unfeminine.’ It seems very hard for you to own your feelings of worthlessness, so I wonder if this is not a large part of the problem. You blame your husband for the way you feel but, in reality, he is simply refusing you something you want. In reality you might think ‘I’m asking for something, he says no. Okay, I’ll be off then’. You might despise him and not yourself, you might have affairs, leave him, wonder what is wrong with him rather than turning the worthlessness on yourself. The fact is that you do none of these things, but instead allow yourself to feel terrible without addressing the problem. You say the problem is all in him.

He won’t go for counseling, you complain, as though the stalemate is entirely down to him. He must change, you seem to think. What about you? You could get help. You could investigate why you are staying in such a harmful situation, why you feel so unworthy of love that you fully accept a situation from which love is absent.

You’ve said you feel worthless and unfeminine and, obviously, these feelings are not confined to the bedroom but dominate the rest of your life. You claim you have a ‘good life’ together but I wonder what you mean by that. Are you saying that you have willingly sacrificed intimacy for a decent material life that does not involve too much conflict? A life in which you feel worthless?

Firstly you have to prove to the reader that it really is true and then you list the things you’ve tried because you don’t want someone to say; ‘Put on a negligee and seduce him.’ You say he won’t go for help, that he won’t even cuddle you and makes sitcom excuses for not doing so. An affair is ‘out of the question.’ You say he wouldn’t care if you left. And this you call a ‘good life’.

You are fairly straightforwardly asking the reader to tell you to leave because you have, you say, explored all other avenues. There is, you firmly state, nothing more to try, nothing that could possibly help.

You feel unacceptable as you are. Since you say you were not having sex very often even at the beginning of your relationship, you were perhaps seeking someone who found you as unacceptable as you unconsciously suspected you were (the result, presumably, of having been found unacceptable as a whole, particularly a sexual, person in your early family life)?  I wonder if you come from a very patriarchal family in which dad’s needs were set above everyone else’s, in which you were only okay if you were a non-sexual little girl? If sacrificing your own sexual thoughts and feelings for the privilege of having someone close who would be reasonably docile seems worth it?

You feel deprived of real nourishment, physical and emotional (it is not surprising that you’ve put on weight in an effort to nourish yourself – does the lack of intimacy come then from your mother? I wonder if you were breast fed, if there was physical intimacy in your early feeding) and you blame someone else for not meeting your basic needs for affection rather than looking at what it means that you continue to bash your head against this brick wall that blindly refuses you. That is, finding that your needs are being ignored as though they are entirely insignificant, you stay, hoping for change you know will not come. You seem not to expect or feel you deserve to have your very fundamental needs met.

Though the letter feels as though you’re asking for permission to leave, you fear doing so because perhaps this is the best you can expect – someone withholding who confirms your suspicions that your needs are not worth meeting.

Proper Advice in private via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com





About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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