Sexless Marriage

Q: Is it common for a woman, after 22 years of marriage, to feel that sex is not part of the relationship? My wife and I have had intimacy problems for about 4 years. I asked if she wanted to try anything new, like toys or role playing, and all I get is that I'm perverted. I feel as though she is having an affair. Am I jumping the gun or do I have a basis for this conclusion? -- Fred, 46

Dr. Susan: You may very well be jumping to a conclusion that's not warranted by the facts you've laid out here, Fred. Unfortunately, many women do tire of sexual relations, as do many men, especially with the same person. When two people love each other, though, they're willing to try almost anything that's going to help both of them revive their intimacy. Has your wife always been a prude? She's sounds remarkably conservative, perhaps religious? In which case she isn't likely to change on a dime. You aren't the least bit perverted for wanting to try toys or role playing, but if this is the first time you've brought up such techniques, you could have surprised and shocked her.

There's something else to consider: if a woman's drive has gone way down-hill, possibly due to the hormonal changes of the perimenopause years (as well as being with the same person for a long time), she may simply fear that your expectations are unrealistic. Have you made the mistake of comparing her to other women, such as those fake ones on TV who seem to be sexy all the time? She might think that if she agreed to try something new, she'd only disappoint you by her limited response. In other words, she's more cautious than adventurous. Perhaps you could ask her where she got the idea that playing in the marital bed (or elsewhere) is wrong. Reassure her that you aren't expecting her to hang from the chandelier, but simply to be open to novelty and to seeing what might happen. Also let her know that this would mean a lot to you. I'm not saying she isn't having an affair, but there would be other signs besides disinterest in sex.

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