Tell Me About It

My husband and I haven’t had sex in 30 years and he resents me for this

Tell me about it: He won’t come out and talk about it but I know he is bitter towards me

PROBLEM: My husband and I married young and are now in our 60s. For 30 some years we have had no sexual relations. He now deeply resents me for this. He speaks harshly to me and treats me like I am stupid or something.

He won’t come out and talk about it but I know he is bitter towards me. However, when we were younger and were still having relations in the bedroom, he was being harsh with me and asking me to “do things” that I did not want to do. This began to turn me off. Then, he was secretly viewing porn and lied to me about it. This also turned me off.

He began constantly looking at other women and their body parts. This turned me off so badly that I stopped completely having sex with him. Now we live separate lives in the same house, like roommates. We never discuss it anymore. I hurt him and he deeply hurt me.

It’s sad how we got this way.

ADVICE: You are right, it is very sad for both of you – to have no affection or love for 30 years is hurtful. Being asked to perform sexual acts that you do not want to do is not okay but it seems that an opportunity was missed to look at what desire meant for both of you and how it might be expressed and explored.

That you stayed together all this time is interesting and that you are now faced with the hurt tells you that there may be something to be salvaged

The current focus on consent has opened up the possibility for discussion on all things sexual and it is a shame that older people have not been given the opportunity to be part of this discussion or indeed to partake in consent training. Both you and your husband have been relegated to positions that perhaps neither of you wished to occupy – that of “uninterested in sex” and “frustrated desire”. It is likely that both of you have struggled in these positions and the effect was that you were unable to reach out to the other and find out what was really happening in the lonely spaces between you. That you stayed together all this time is interesting and that you are now faced with the hurt tells you that there may be something to be salvaged.

We can only be angry if we care enough about something and your husband is expressing his hurt in many ways – keeping you at an emotional distance while trying to let you know how rejected he is. You also sound upset and disappointed so perhaps there is still something you can do to address the situation.

If you are to have any kind of real conversation, you will have to tackle your own judgement and criticism of your husband’s desire. Can you educate yourself on porn and desire so that you are able to take it less personally and perhaps see that sexual stimulation patterns have been hijacked by the porn industry for decades. “A Billion Wicked Thoughts”, 2012 by by Ogas and Gaddam, is a book that is well researched and an easy read and might give you some insights about porn and those that use it.

The reason your husband lied about his porn use is shame, or fear that you would think less of him, and he was right. Both of you need to discuss your desire in an open and accepting way and this in itself will be the most intimate thing you have done in years.

Your choice now is either engage with the issues or accept the way of life you have found so unsatisfactory

What about your own desire? Have you subjugated this and accepted a life of no bodily pleasure for yourself? It is worth exploring what is pleasurable for you and whether you could allow your husband some access to this knowledge. This will involve trusting him, as there can be no intimacy or connection without risk taking, and the challenge for both of you is that you allow the other person know what it has been like to live in this relationship and what the disconnection and loneliness have been like for you. Your most intimate expressions for years has been silence and recrimination, and this pattern will always be easy to revert to for you both, so do not become discouraged when this happens but instead take a breath, be courageous and ask how the other person feels right now and this will help you get back on track.

Since the opening up of society, much of the focus on sexual activity has been centred on performance and we now need put pleasure centre stage. This means moving away from the script of movies and starting from scratch: what do our senses tell us about what is desirable, and can we start there and see where it goes. If both of you could agree that you are at this starting point and you ditch any end goal of what either of you think is the perfect relationship, you might be able to turn-up for each other in a more authentic way.

Your choice now is either engage with the issues or accept the way of life you have found so unsatisfactory. You are in your early 60s and there a huge amount of time for living and loving if you are willing to try bridging the distance between you both.