I am in a sexless marriage that also includes constant criticism

Tell Me About It: ‘My wife’s new boss is a younger guy who can do no wrong’

PROBLEM: I am a 58-year-old married man in a sexless marriage that also includes constant berating and verbal criticism. I am 11 years older and I know that has something to do with our problems. I was in my early 30s and she was 20 when we married nearly 30 years ago.

We have three wonderful college age children who still live at home. We have not had any intimacy in over 10 years and only sparingly the 17 years prior to that. We were not even intimate on our honeymoon. My wife says that sex, in any form, is painful for her. This includes cuddling, touching or anything involving being with me. Giving me assisted relief supposedly causes her pain because it stimulates her which then causes pain. It is so frustrating and hurtful. My heath has suffered. I’ve gained a ton of weight. When we first met, I was 200 pounds. I’m now at 375 pounds and 30 years older. I’m probably eating myself to death.

What is making matters worse is that my wife has recently begun exercising, wearing much heavier amounts of make-up, colouring her hair, staying up late at night binge-watching television shows that showcase shirtless “hunks”. Her old boss, an older lady, retired last year and her new boss is a much younger guy who can do no wrong. Every day she talks of how “different” he is compared to her old boss. He texts her many times a week to let her know what’s going on in his life. He is married with two young boys and my wife always comments that his boys are just the cutest kids she’s ever seen. They are much more financially affluent then we are, living in a very large, country-club home.

She even commented before the holidays that she had no idea what to get him for Christmas because “What do you get a guy who has everything?” He is also a fitness freak, works out at the gym every day at 4am and then goes to work and shows my wife all the texts that he receives from the women that work out with him. By, the way, during this past summer when it was really hot outside, I would do some yard work without a shirt and my wife would get offended and yell at me to put something on.

She is so embarrassed of me I just know it.

ADVICE: You feel sad, unloved and unattractive and this is not good enough for your life. Your wife’s new-found interest in her appearance and in her younger boss has twisted the knife in how you feel and the danger is that you deal with this in the same way you dealt with your early sexual rejections: to push down your desire, retreat and turn to comfort eating. Now is your opportunity to change this pattern and demand more for yourself and for your life.

One of the most powerful aspects of desire is to feel attractive yourself and it seems that this is very far from what you feel. Could you decide to take yourself on as a project? At 58, your health is hugely important so you might take medical advice on how to lose weight and begin an exercise regime; as you have young adults living at home, you could recruit them to help you with this and turn it into a light-hearted aim (Covid 19 might be the perfect opportunity to exercise with your kids).

Emotionally, you feel bereft and this too needs your attention – it might be worth talking honestly to a close friend about what is happening so that you come to an understanding how the last 30 years have turned out for you. However, it might be worth investing in some counselling sessions as you may find that you simply go around in circles with the justifications you have given yourself for years and this cycle needs to break so that you can demand more for yourself.

Your marriage is in trouble and in a way, your wife’s new external focus is forcing you to react. The hurt caused by the lack of intimacy seems to have gone unheard and now you feel resentful as she seems to be excited by her relationship with her new boss. It is now imperative that you engage fully and honestly with her – this will mean going back over all the past lack of intimacy and what it has meant for both of you. Pain, or fear of pain, tends to destroy desire in women and it seems that this condition has played a huge part in your relationship.

I wonder if your wife has investigated the source of this pain and there are many women’s clinics that offer both medical and psychological support for these conditions. However, the lack of closeness and connection is something that both of you have contributed to and it seems that you both have settled for a relationship that is unfulfilling.

Sex and attraction are part of being alive and no matter what age we are, we will find that these longings keep cropping up. You have a chance now to honour yourself by committing to a regime that prioritises your physical and emotional well-being. Your pattern of denial and restraint have not led to a happy relationship and now it is time to challenge this by requiring real and tough conversations so start today and tell your wife the contents of this letter and of your decision to make your life more meaningful.