QUESTION: Twelve years of doing everything I can to try to fix the problem of a sexless/near-sexless marriage. (10-15x per year, nothing "exotic" like oral or lights on or alternative positions) She refuses to seek counseling, or even to talk about the subject with me. I love the heck out of her, and have used daily masturbation to stay sane and married, even as I slide into a near-constant fury at her and the inequity of life. Average American has sex almost 120 times per year?! With someone else??!!! Not as good a husband or father as I should be as a result of this constant corrosive anger. Now contemplating adultery as a fix. If the rest of the relationship is good, and I can get the sex/physical intimacy part from another (discreet/sane/disease-free) woman, is that a psychologically valid fix? I haven't found much research on the efficacy of adultery to fix sexless marriages (seriously), or on the psychological impact on the "cheating" spouse. Any thoughts? Alex - Texas
ANSWER:If you haven't done it all these years and you're writing to a complete stranger for my advice, I'd say there's probably a good reason you haven't strayed. Although it might satisfy your sexual urges temporarily or even more than that, you sound like the kind of man whose morals won't allow you to feel at peace with your decision. You will pay a high price for seeking sexual satisfaction outside your marriage. And then, let me predict, although you say you love her to heck, you will begin to justify your actions by trying to convince yourself that you don't really love your wife after all. Because if you did, how could you stray? Then, you will be headed for divorce court. In short, if you have to ask the question, you already know the answer.
This is not to say that I don't completely understand how you feel. In fact, I believe that in millions of homes across America, there is an unspoken agreement that goes like this- "I am not into sex. You are. But I don't have to care about your sexual needs. Furthermore, I expect you to be monogamous." Frankly, I believe that this is an unfair and unworkable agreement. It leads to infidelity and divorce. The remedy? People with low sexual desire simply do not fully understand the impact their decisions have on marriage. Because sex isn't "all that" to them, they can't fathom what the big deal is all about. When they try to make sense of their spouse's interest in sex they tell themselves, "It must be a biological urge, it's like scratching an itch."
I know, because I've been a therapist for two decades, that having sex with your loved one is anything but scratching an itch. It's about feeling wanted, loved, appreciated, sexy, manly or womanly. It's about feeling connected. And when this major disconnect happens, intimacy on all levels disappears. The friendships evaporates. Anger bubbles just below the surface. And anger turns off the less sexual spouse even more.
You know the routine. You've been there, done that many times. Please ask your wife to, if she does nothing else, read the first chapter of The Sex-Starved Marriage online at sexstarvedmarriage.com. It will help her understand your point of view. Don't wait. Infidelity is a problem, not a solution.