Caroline West-Meads: My husband doesn’t want sex with me

Ask caroline

Q. My husband and I have been married for over 20 years – we’re in our late 50s and have two lovely children. However, our sex life has always been unsatisfactory, largely because of my husband’s lack of interest. I’m so frustrated, I’m even thinking of joining a dating agency just for sex. He’s had erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation on and off from the start of our relationship. For years I overlooked it. I was busy bringing up the children – and he was kind, gentle and very attentive a lot of the time. However, he sometimes loses his temper and becomes very frustrated, though never violently. Foreplay has always been good – I think he is trying to make up for the fact that sexual intercourse is very hit and miss. I’m lucky if it lasts five minutes – even with two Viagra tablets. He has tried sexual counselling and we went to couples counselling briefly but nothing works. His testosterone levels have been checked and are fine. He now worries so much that sex is going to go wrong that it has become a vicious circle. Our sex life – or lack of it – is causing me mental health issues. I’m depressed and my self-esteem is at an all-time low. I love sex. I’m not ready to give it up. Are there dating agencies for those looking for sexual partners but want to stay in their marriages? I don’t want to leave him. He’s very kind and we have similar wishes for our retirement. My husband says it would be a relief if I found someone else for sex.

A. This must be frustrating, and it’s so sad. You’ve tried many ways to deal with this, but some further possibilities occur to me. The first is that your husband might have experienced deep emotional damage or trauma relating to sex in his past. Sexual abuse, for instance, would make it difficult for him to get aroused because sex would be associated with violence. If this was the case, he would need to return to long-term counselling. Alternatively, he could have been blamed for an inept sexual experience by a previous partner and so suffers performance anxiety. Try or (College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists). There is another possibility. I know this is difficult to think about, but could he be gay? He may not even be fully aware of it himself. It could be that he has suppressed the feelings (perhaps worried about family disapproval or his own dislike of the thoughts) and has blocked all sexual desire. I think you need to have a very open conversation. Yes, there are dating sites for married people looking for affairs but I’m not sure that what you want is cold, detached sex. I think you crave to be desired by someone with whom you have an emotional connection. Sadly, this may only be possible if the marriage were to end and you found someone new. This is a huge decision, and not one you should take without a lot of support. Talk to your husband and seek counselling for yourself to find the right path.

Do I tell my friend her son takes drugs?

Q. My daughter confided in me that she thinks the son of one of my friends has been taking drugs. They are at the same university and some of his friends are well known for smoking weed and some even take cocaine. My daughter is worried about him and has asked me for advice. She begged me not to tell his mum because she doesn’t want him to think she has said anything. But I have known his mother for years and I would feel terrible if her son slid into addiction and I didn’t do anything. If it were my son, I would want to know.

A. I think you are right, you would feel awful if he descended into addiction, and so would your daughter. Many students take cannabis and believe it is harmless but it can escalate into taking other drugs and can also lead to mental health problems. It is important not to break your daughter’s confidence because she needs to know that she can confide in you. But of course it is hard for you not to tell your friend. You need to tell your daughter that you won’t say anything just yet but you may have to if the boy becomes a serious worry. In the meantime, if your daughter feels able to, she could tell him she is really worried and encourage him to get help. It is important that she does so safely. Firstly, she could contact (0300 1236600) which can advise her on what to say and how. It could also give you advice on how to talk to your friend if you need to – and how to avoid making the situation worse or creating a problem between your daughter and your friend’s son.