Advice on the Sexless Marriage

ByABC News
September 29, 2003, 2:52 PM

Sept. 29 -- Approximately one of every five married couples is struggling to cope with a low-sex or no-sex marriage, according to some experts. Often, the male is the partner who has lost interest in sex. Therapist Michele Weiner-Davis worked with couples featured in a John Stossel "Family Fix" report on 20/20.

Below, she answers viewers' questions. received an overwhelming response to the 20/20 segment. If your question is not answered here, visit Weiner-Davis' Web site at:

QUESTION: Oh my God, I can't believe what I was reading. It sounds likesomething I could have written. My husband is also too tired for sex, buthe seems to have the energy to go hiking, go to a football game, orvolunteer to help someone move. I now realize that my self doubt, andfeeling bad about myself are normal. My husband also comes home fromwork, eats, and goes upstairs to either play a game or read while I amin the bedroom watching TV. I also feel neglected, unloved and ugly. Ihave been married for 26 years, no kids and feel that for the most part,the sex part of our marriage is over. I just have to learn not to thinkabout it or I just make myself more depressed. I have also given up onany effort figuring "why bother" because it seems the longer without sexmy attitude just gets worse so why bother putting in the effort.

ANSWER: It is difficult to offer advice without knowing how you've been handling your situation and approaching your husband. As I was reading your question, I kept wondering, "Does she ever really tell him how hurt she is about the lack of closeness?" "Does she ever tell him how much she misses him and longs to be close to him physically?" I know you're hurt but from your question it seems that you've just given up and closed the door to honest communication. Good marriages are built on good communication. And so often when one spouse is hurt, instead of really discussing this feeling openly, it seeps out as anger. Sometimes, communication shuts down completely and partners become like two ships passing in the night.

Don't let this happen to you. If you're upset, and its clear that you are, get help. Read The Sex-Starved Marriage and ask your husband to do the same. Seek professional counseling and go even if your husband won't. If he's reticent to seek counseling, suggest that you both attend a marriage education class. There are many in every community. You can learn skills to better communicate your needs.And if your husband's lack of interest in sex is due to sexual problems, you would benefit from seeing a qualified sex therapist in your area.

QUESTION: Oh my, that article fits my marriage to a T!!! 20 years of marriage.We are in a bad place right now, I don't see a way out!! Thanks, Jeff.

ANSWER: It's never too late to bring back the passion. I have seen couples in their later years of marriage turn things around and feel more intimate and connected than they have for a long time. Don't give up on your marriage. Identify the reasons you and your wife are in a bad place and do something to change things. Even if you think you've given up, you really haven't because you're writing for help. It's never too late to have a passion-filled marriage.

QUESTION: I use to be very interested in sex. My wife was insatiable and veryactive sexually prior to our relationship. Our sex life has slowed downfrom when we were dating. I don't find sex as a "need" as often as shedoes. I just don't need it as frequently as she does and this has led toseveral fights between us. Everything else is so beautiful in ourmarriage except our sex life. I think its my fault but I don't know whatto do to rectify it. Can you help us? I don't know if its me physicallyor mentally I do feel pressure from my wife to have sex. We have hadsome heated arguments about her not being satisfied.O. Hernandez New Jersey

ANSWER: O, it is wonderful that your marriage has many strengths and that you obviously love your wife. It's not uncommon for couples to disagree on the frequency of lovemaking in marriage. You're not alone. And it's often the case that when the more sexual spouse puts pressure on the less sexual spouse, it makes the less sexual spouse even less interested. But it's important for you to know that your wife's unhappiness isn't just about not having sex. She doesn't feel wanted by you. She doesn't feel loved or sexy. She wonders whether you're still attracted to her. There is a lot you can do to fix this.

Start by agreeing to see a doctor and get a complete physical checkup. She will appreciate your interest in finding a solution. Then, if she expresses interest in being physical you should, whether you're completely in the mood or not, allow yourself to be receptive to her advances, touch, kiss and fondle. See if this turns you on. If so, great. Go for it! Millions of people need to be physically aroused before they get in the mood for sex. So, this might be true for you.