Stuck in a loveless marriage

Posted on: 08 January 2008 by Daved O'brien

Is Alan entitled to a full and loving relationship now?

Alan asks:

My wife and I married in 1965 but have never had children. Before we married we were told that I was infertile. Nevertheless, we went ahead and married but for the past 17 years my wife has completely refused to have sex with me.

We have talked about it and she has admitted that she never liked it. I thought things might improve as we got older, but they never did. We have tried all sorts of lubrications because I thought maybe she had gone dry and I was hurting her. That didn’t help. We went to the doctor and he told us it was “all in her mind”. I accepted the situation then and we have lived together as brother and sister ever since. However, now we have retired and not having a proper relationship seems to be affecting me more now. She has told me on several occasions to “get another woman for sex” but now, at my age (65), I don’t want the hassle of starting a new life and making new relationships.

We belong to a pensioners club, and since some of our friends found out how we live, they have treated us as freaks. They think I’m really odd for having stuck in a sexless marriage for so many years. Now I am wondering. Is there really any happiness to be had in later life? Do the years ahead hold any hope for me?


Andy says:

Why do your ‘friends’ know about the intimate side of your life?   Have you been ‘boasting’ about your lack of a sexual relationship at your club, or has your wife been doing so.  I don’t think it’s the lack of sex that makes them offer you the description of ‘freak’.   It’s the fact that they know about this most private part of your life at all!

The bottom line is, do you really love your wife or are you tolerating an intolerable situation just because you fear that the alternative – will be worse?  You have lived without a sexual relationship for a very long time, unless you are not being absolutely truthful.   You are clearly and honourable and faithful partner so the real question is not whether you think you should have ‘a bit on the side’ to quench your sexual appetite but whether after 17 years, there is anything you can do to mend the relationship you’ve got and have a ‘whole’ marriage.

I’m sure the problem is all in your wife’s mind, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be explored, dealt with and possibly helped to the advantage of you both.  Perhaps there was something in her childhood that has caused her frigidity.   Maybe she hoped for years that despite your diagnosis of infertility, ‘they’ may have got it wrong – and then she suffered huge disappointment when she didn’t fall pregnant and wondered why she should bother with sex.  I’m only guessing.  Without knowing you or talking to you personally, it’s hard to tell.  

However, Relate, the marriage guidance people offer excellent trained therapists and they are used to help people who have stopped having sex due to physical or emotional reasons.   Sex therapists see people who have lost desire, suffer pain on intercourse or have lost the knack of ‘wooing’ their partners in bed.  What’s more, they claim that 93 per cent of their clients who have sexual problems claim they are significantly better after counselling.   Why not contact them about a consultation on 0845 456 1310 (local rates apply).

If you do decide to give it a try, either you can go along to meet the therapist who will discuss with you what is wrong, what the reasons for it might be, what you both want to achieve and how you can move forward.   This will be followed by regular hourly sessions with your therapist and you may both be given exercises to try at home (never ever during a session).   Or, if you prefer, you can receive counselling down the telephone.  Or ask questions on line about a sexual issue.   Visit the Relate website at for further information. 

Of course, the obvious alterative to all this is walking away.  People do form new and loving relationships in later life and there is no reason why you shouldn’t.   But think carefully before you act.   As you quite rightly surmise, starting a new life with a new person for nothing more than an occasional sexual relationship can be a hassle – and might be the biggest mistake you ever make.


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