My Husband and I Haven't Had Sex For 22 Years—What Should I Do?

Dear Newsweek, I'm 58 years old and I have not had sexual relations with my husband for 22 years.

My husband, who I have been with for 40 years, would come up with every excuse imaginable not to have sex with me. I was so heartbroken. I used to cry myself to sleep. It caused so many problems in our marriage, including trust issues—was he cheating? Finally, 20 years in I found him doing porn online—A LOT.

We got into a huge fight, that's when he told me he wasn't sexually attracted to me because I had gained so much weight! All those years of lies! I felt so betrayed!

Why couldn't he have told me the truth? Now porn? What should I do?


Man Blames Wife's Weight for Sexless Marriage
A stock photo of an overweight woman in underwear and a robe looking at her reflection in the mirror. When confronted about their sexless marriage, the husband blamed the woman's weight rather than his porn watching habits. Motortion/iStock/Getty Images Plus

"He is projecting."

You are in a sexless marriage. My guess is if you have gained weight, it is more about you being sexually dissatisfied, which is what happens when women are in an unhappy relationship—we sometimes use food for sensual pleasure. Weight gain rarely causes a sexless marriage, but it can be a symptom.

You're 58 years old. My guess is your husband is also in his 50s or maybe even his 60s. Is he in great shape? Attraction is not always about having a perfect body. It is possible he is projecting - sending on to you his own insecurities about his aging, less than perfect, body.

Good sex is about having a passionate connection where each of you gives and takes, shares and talks about fantasies and desires, and is honest about what you want. You each bring erotic energy into the relationship instead of turning toward masturbation to take care of your basic needs.

You not only have a sexless marriage but are suffering from a true lack of intimacy. If there is any hope of an emotional or sexual connection in your future, try finding a therapist who specializes in sex and couples therapy.

If therapy doesn't work, start a conversation with your husband about what an 'open monogamy' agreement might look like. Open monogamy is where you keep your primary or central commitment but have a flexible and fluid agreement to also include outside sexual or romantic partners. You are still young, you deserve to explore your erotic life.

By the way, women have better sex in their 50s and 60s than in their 20s. Good luck.

Tammy Nelson, Ph.D, is a sex and relationship expert, licensed psychotherapist and author.

"He's putting up a smokescreen"

If he's only just disclosed that your weight is the reason he doesn't want to have sex, after 22 years of problems, then it sounds to me like he's putting up a smokescreen. How did you feel about that comment? How did you feel about him saying that to you?

If he's been using pornography excessively, especially for a long period of time, it could be that he's become desensitized, and no longer finds a "real" woman sexually stimulating—no matter their weight. It sounds like he's trying to offload the blame onto you, instead of addressing a potential pornography addiction that he's in denial about.

The issue with denial, is that you can't help that person until they are ready to help themselves. Usually, compulsive sexual behavior has to impact someone's life to a degree that they're forced to do something about it. Perhaps he's been a good partner in other ways, which is why you have tolerated this for so long. Often, women feel conditioned to see having sexual needs as shameful, and feel guilty for wanting to have a good sex life, but they shouldn't.

All you can do is work on yourself and decide how you're going to respond to this situation. Build your own self-esteem, especially after your husband's cruel statement. How do you feel about yourself and your weight? You can ask him to go to therapy with you, but if his answer is no, you should still go yourself. By strengthening your own self-worth, you'll feel empowered to make the right decision for you—whether it's staying in this relationship or finding someone who appreciates you as you are.

Gill Booth is a counselor specializing in relationships and psychosexual therapy.

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