Q. I am wondering whether to end my 36-year marriage. In the beginning it was good and we were happy, though our sex life was always a little less than I wanted. However, about ten years ago, when our children left home for university, my wife suffered a bout of bad depression and anxiety. Since then, we have barely had sex at all. I supported her throughout this and have been kind, loving and patient, but to no avail. She always kept making excuses, saying it was the menopause and then later that she was too tired, didn’t feel well or was too busy. Eventually, she admitted that she simply had no desire for sex – with me or anyone else – and said couldn’t I just watch porn or masturbate. But I don’t want a cold sexual experience on my own to fulfil a basic need – I want a marriage with love and intimacy. She won’t even kiss or cuddle me. She says she loves me and that she wants to stay together. But I am starting to wonder if she has ever really loved me, even at the beginning, or whether she just didn’t want to be alone. She was always quite shy and hadn’t had many relationships before, and I know she had some mental health issues in her teens. I have always been faithful and in other ways we get on well. But I am only 62 and I don’t want to go through the rest of my life never making love to anyone again.
A. You really need to persuade your wife to go to counselling, as you can’t go on like this and you both need support. It might be that your wife’s dislike of sex is rooted in the past. Sometimes, if people come from families where sex was rarely discussed or it was seen as naughty or dirty, they can grow up with repressed attitudes. or she could have a history of sexual abuse, which can cause long-term damage. You say that your wife had mental health problems in her teens. Did she have an eating disorder or body image issues? These can make women reluctant to be touched or seen naked because they are full of loathing for their bodies. This can get worse if a woman finds ageing difficult. While you wouldn’t want to pressure your wife to have sex, it is an entirely natural need to want to be loved, to make love and to have that physical connection. Talk to her and explain that ideally you would like to stay married, but that you can’t face never making love again. Tell her that it’s not just the sex, it is the intimacy and affection and how unloved you feel without this – and that you can’t get that from masturbating. i hope your marriage can be saved. So do contact Relate (relate.org.uk) or the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists (cosrt.org.uk) for counselling. This will help you and your wife decide whether you want to stay together or, if not, help you part as amicably as possible.
He’s kind and loving, but I need some romance
Q. Recently I had a message from a friend’s husband trying to arrange a surprise online birthday party for his wife, but it has made me miserable. I know she has had a difficult time as she lost her mum a few months ago and her husband has gone to so much trouble, tracking down her friends and asking them all to record videos with anecdotes. All I can think is that my husband would never do anything like that. We get on well, rarely argue, and he’s a good man who is kind to me and our children. But I just don’t feel he would go out of his way to do something special for me. Am I being foolish to want some kind of grand, romantic gesture at my age – I will be 50 next year?
A. There are many different types of people in the world, and perhaps your friend’s husband is the sociable kind who loves a party and so this is how he chooses to express his love for his wife. Maybe your husband is quieter and expresses his love differently. For instance, does he do his fair share of cooking and housework and make time for the children? Does he listen to you properly when you want to talk or are worried about something? Does he make you a cup of coffee when you are tired or know what your favourite song is? There is often as much romance and love in the quieter, everyday gestures as in the grander, more extravagant ones. But no, you are not foolish. We all want romance, so do talk to your husband. Tell him about this guy’s plans and how lovely you think they are. Then lightly suggest that perhaps you could make some romantic plans together.