Caroline West-Meads: We haven’t had sex for ten years

Caroline West-Meads
Chris O’Donovan

Q. I’ve lived with my partner for 22 years. Sex was rare even when we first moved in together. He said that he would fix things and we had sex a few times, but then it stopped altogether. He tried again once, about ten years ago, but couldn’t maintain an erection. I am now 56 and post-menopause. My libido is not what it was, so I have accepted a celibate relationship. He is 59. He has slept on the sofa for most of our relationship because he says he has a bad back. He never says he loves me, or kisses me properly, even though I tell him I love him. A while ago, I discovered porn on his computer and told him how rejected I felt. He apologised and said things would change, but they haven’t. Three years ago, he was in touch with an ex who he said he had loved very much, and I found that he had kept naked photos from when they were together. I told him to leave, but he said they had since stopped communicating. Then I found photos of a prostitute on his camera. He said he just went to take pictures and that no sex took place. I threatened to leave if he did not seek help. He is now seeing a therapist, but I don’t think he talks about our relationship so I’m not sure what the point is. Recently I saw porn on his laptop again and the same feelings of hurt and rejection resurfaced. I can’t leave as it would destroy him. We are friends and when one of us is having a bad time, the other is always there.

A. This must be very distressing for you. Good relationships are based on give and take, but for 22 years it seems you have done the giving and he has done the taking. You say you are always there for each other, but is this true? He has rejected you again and again, both sexually and emotionally. He won’t kiss you, he never says he loves you but says he loved a previous girlfriend, and he’s even been to a prostitute. I am sorry, because I know this is painful, but these are not the actions of someone who loves you. Porn, like any addiction, has become more important to him than his relationship. Unfortunately, if men watch a lot of porn, they can become desensitised and find it harder to get an erection when it comes to real life. It might be that he is embarrassed about his inability to become aroused and is avoiding sex for this reason. It is good that he is receiving therapy, but I’m not sure you should stay with him. He has treated you badly and is still doing so – you deserve better. You say that you can’t leave because it would destroy him, but you cannot be responsible for someone else’s happiness and it is you who will end up being destroyed if you stay. Unless he can really change, you need to end this relationship. It will not be easy, so contact Relate (relate.org.uk) for support. I am sorry to give such bleak advice but I hope that it will lead you to a happier future and the chance to find a man who can tell you he loves you.

Should I be worried about her boyfriend?

Q. My daughter is in her early 20s. She is in her second year at university but has been living at home since Christmas. She’s had a boyfriend for a year and was really missing him so he moved in with us before the third lockdown. Me, my husband and our younger son (who is 17) get on well with him. However, I realised that he’s been smoking marijuana in my daughter’s bedroom. We’re unhappy about this and are worried she may be smoking it, too. We are anxious about where it could lead. Should I say something to him – or my daughter? I don’t want to make her angry and risk alienating her, and I don’t want to get into an argument with her boyfriend. But I am concerned.

A. Yes, this is difficult because – as you point out – your daughter could react badly to criticism of her boyfriend and you don’t want to drive her away. But it is a huge worry for you and, of course, smoking marijuana is illegal. You are right that it can lead to stronger drugs. Talk to her boyfriend directly – it may be better if you can catch him alone. Start by saying how much you all like him and how well he fits in. Then say that you must, however, insist that he doesn’t smoke marijuana in your house, as it is illegal and you are worried about him and your daughter. Ask if he realises that even though it is considered a soft drug, it has been linked to mental health problems, such as depression and schizophrenia. Keep calm and approach this with concern and care rather than disapproval or anger. Go to talktofrank.com for helpful advice on talking to your child about drugs.