Are you tolerating a sexless marriage? Sex is a normal, natural part of every marriage and as such, persistent, on-going differences in levels of sexual desire between spouses is frequently an indicator of bigger issues. Sometimes, the lack of sexual desire has a gradual onset and in others, it’s present from the very beginning. Either way, it’s time to find out the real cause.
I’m starting a new series today and would like to introduce you to Lisa Wynn who’s been divorced now for over two years. Lisa struggled with a sexless marriage for over twenty years. In her mid-forties she couldn’t stand it any longer and chose to end the marriage. She knew that getting divorced was going to be difficult but she had no idea it would be quite the hell it was. There aren’t many women I speak to who say that so that should give you some warning of what’s to come.
Lisa has three children, a daughter and two sons who were aged twenty-one, eighteen and sixteen at the time. She was forty-three when she ended the marriage. Here’s Lisa:
We’re ten years apart. He was my best friend’s brother and I always had a crush on him, but I was too young. I was seventeen, he was twenty-five. We ran into each other a little bit later in life and after three months of dating, he asked me to marry him and I was like “I don’t know.”
My parents were like,
“Oh, yes, he’s a Christian man, this is from God, you need to do it,”
and they pushed me. I was too young and I just went with it but I wasn’t really excited about it. I let my mom plan my wedding, and I think looking back, I was not ready at all. So I went ahead and got married to him.
Three weeks afterwards I called my mom crying and I said,
“I think he’s changed his mind.”
I remember hiding with the phone in the closet, he was sleeping. She said,
“What are you talking about honey?”
I said, “He hasn’t touched me since our honeymoon, it’s been three weeks.”
She said “What?”
I said “Nothing, he doesn’t even kiss me goodnight.”
She said “No, you’re exaggerating.”
I said “No, something’s wrong.”
This crap went on for twenty years. He would be somewhat okay for a month or two maybe, and then he wouldn’t touch me for two years. Wouldn’t kiss me goodnight. I could kiss him and he’d kiss me back, so we got along in every way, but there was something violently wrong with him sexually.
We did not have sex before we were married, because we were good little Christian kids and that’s bad and blah blah blah. Although we had both had sex with other people, we just decided at that point, we were going to keep it good, so I didn’t know there was anything.
So this went on, I’m like “can you come to counseling?” “No no no no, no.” So I went by myself for six years. I thought “something’s wrong with me.”
I did the extreme dieting, I got breast implants, I did botox, I hired personal trainers, I did everything. Nothing.
He had gone on medication and gotten depressed, we’d gone to the doctor, we’d had his testosterone levels tested, he got testosterone shots, he’s had the patch, nothing. He’s just not interested. He can perform, he just doesn’t want to. So it wasn’t even an impotency thing, it was in your head thing. So I said to him “were you abused, are you gay?” “No, no, no, God no.”
“Is there something wrong? Do you not love me?”
I remember being on my knees, begging him, saying.
“This is abusive. This is not what I signed up for. You’re supposed to honor and cherish your wife, that’s what you promised, you’re not doing this.”
I would be sobbing and he would close his eyes and put his arm over his eyes and fall asleep while I was talking. Literally, he’d start twitching and snoring, and so I thought at ten years, I couldn’t handle it anymore and I told him I wanted a separation and he refused to leave, refused counseling. Finally he left for a week, and then he wrote me a letter, which I still have,
“I’m sorry I haven’t been the father I’m supposed to be, and the husband. I’ve really checked out and it’s my stuff, not yours. I’ve not been honorable to you.”
Things were good for a little while, like a year or two, kind of sort of, but not compared to normal couples’ intimacy. I just thought “okay, whatever” went to nursing school, had two more kids, raised my kids, I guess I had three by then, and everything was just whatever.
Then when you hit your early forties and your kids are kind of grown and gone, I just started thinking,
“I don’t want this. I see someone walking down the street holding hands or kissing in a movie and I am green with envy. What is that like to really be in love?”
You can’t nurture a relationship when there’s zero intimacy. He’d forget anniversaries, he’d forget birthdays, I’d have to ask him to hold my hand.
It was bad, but in every other way he was perfect, so it was really confusing to me.
The Divorce Coach Says
I generally try to avoid discussions about what are and are not “legitimate” reasons for divorce because only the spouses truly know what a marriage is like and even then they can have vastly different opinions. You could be the seemingly perfect couple to the outside world and things could be very wrong with your marriage. If lack of sex, is a problem for you, then that’s reason enough to try to get it resolved and if that isn’t possible, then you have to decide about staying in your marriage.
Lots of marriages do go through periods of no sex for any number of reasons but it’s different when frequency of sex is an issue right from the beginning. Nancy is another one of my guests whose husband was not interested in sex – she said he’d rather mow the grass. Suzy is another whose marriage lacked sexual intimacy from the the very beginning.
Talking with your spouse about the lack of sex may be very difficult – it could be a consequence of childhood abuse or shame about sexual identity and for that reason you should consider getting qualified professional help either as a couple or individually. If your spouse refuses to participate, then that’s a major indicator that the situation is unlikely to change.
If you’re struggling to decide on ending your marriage, then you might find my free audio program, 5 Ways To Know If Divorce Is Right For You helpful. You can access the program here. You may also consider membership in my self-paced, online divorce coaching program, My Divorce Pal – there’s a whole track devoted to making the decision.
Photo credit: ElenahNeshcuet
Lisa has a blog, Before You Leave offering tips for dysfunctional divorce based on her own experience. Definitely worth a visit.