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‘My husband has no sex drive anymore and I fear I will become resentful’

Ask Roe: ‘I have tried every approach, including counselling, but it goes nowhere’

Dear Roe,

I love my husband and he loves me. In many ways he's a great husband but our physical relationship has all but evaporated. We have two small boys and I know he is ground down from life, the kids and he is on medication for a chronic inflammatory condition. I do understand all that but I need more. I need affection and romance and physical touch. I have tried every approach, including counselling, but it goes nowhere. He keeps saying he agrees and to just give him a chance. He just zones out, head down and tries not to think about what's really going on.

I don’t think he has a sex drive any more. I feel sad and lonely and fear I will become resentful. Some days I can zone out too and focus on all the good things we have, but other days I feel frustrated and even angry. How can I deal with this?

You say in your letter that “I have tried every approach” and I’ll both take you at your word and point something out to you: in this sentence, you say “I”, not “we”. You sound like you have being doing everything in your power to try make this situation work. You are researching and offering solutions; expressing your needs and managing your emotions; and coming up with new suggestions when others don’t work.


You are bargaining. You are trying to keep the hope alive that there is a solution to this problem, and that you just have work very hard to find it.

Do you want to accept that your marriage is sexless, lacks romance and stay for the other things it offers you?

Meanwhile, your husband is saying the right things, but does not appear to be acting on these words. He too, is bargaining. If he says things will change, you will stay, and he has bought himself time. With this time comes the promise of another proffered solution from you, or silent, “zoned out” acceptance of your relationship as it is, or an endless alternating pattern of the two.

You are both bargaining that your current situation is worth staying in, because the future might be different. He might become more physically affectionate, or you might learn to be happy despite the lack of physical affection in your life. But the bargain is falling unequally; you’re unhappy, and doing all the work, and doing all the hoping – and then shouldering the disappointment.

What if you stopped bargaining? Your husband, for medical reasons and other reasons, is unable and/or unwilling to give you what you need. If you stopped bargaining and accepted that this is your relationship now, and could be your relationship in the future, what do you want to do?

Acceptance can look like leaving a relationship that doesn't work for you, or staying with a changed perspective on what that relationship is

Do you want to discuss having an open relationship where you remain together, but you can get sex and affectionate touch and intimacy elsewhere? Do you want to leave and seek out a different, affection-filled relationship? Do you want to accept that your marriage is sexless and lacks romance and stay for the other things it offers you?

Acceptance can look like many things. It can look like leaving a relationship that doesn’t work for you, or staying with a changed perspective on what that relationship is, or changing the terms of your relationship so that it reflects the reality of it now; not a version of it based on your past or a hypothetical future.

Acceptance can look like realising that you are constantly working very hard without seeing results, and that you don’t want to any more, and taking it from there. Acceptance can involve grief, and sadness – but it also opens up new possibilities. Good luck.