Terry Real Answers Your Sexless-Marriage Questions

Family therapist offers advice on how to get your sex life back on track.

ByABC News via via logo
August 10, 2010, 9:59 PM

Aug. 11, 2010 — -- It's something most married couples would never confess to -- they no longer have sex.

Once a taboo topic, sexless marriages are getting more attention, in part because so many couples are complaining about the lack of sexual activity in their unions, according to experts.

Family therapist and relationship expert Terry Real appeared on "Good Morning America" today to offer advice on how to have a healthy sex life in a marriage, and answered your questions about how to get your sex life back on track.

Terry Real's Tips

For half of couples, Real said it's not a sexuality problem but one of forcing yourself to get into the bedroom and become sensual with each other. A lot of couples believe sex is supposed to be spontaneous and romantic, but with the stress of kids and jobs, if they wait for the perfect moment, they'll have a long wait, said Real.

Note: Some questions have been slightly edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity for the submitter.

Debbie from Florida asked:

My husband and I have not had sex in at least a year. We have been married for 11 years and most of that time has been very little sex. (We are both 54.) But over the last 5 years or so, the sex has been less frequent. I don't think we have ever had sex more than 6 times a year in the past 5 years. I would love to have an active sex life, but my husband says that he has no interest in sex. He always turns me down or has an excuse why he doesn't want to have sex. I have asked him several times to talk to his Doctor about it. Maybe it is a hormone imbalance. But it seems that he is either embarrassed about it or just doesn't care. I have put on weight and maybe he is not attracted to me with the extra weight. We have a good marriage in many ways, but I cannot live in a sexless marriage. We both have very busy jobs and do not have a lot of free time to spend together as a couple. It would be so nice to have a full and healthy sex life with this man that I love. I am afraid that no sex will destroy our relationship.

Real answered:


No sex may well destroy your marriage over time; your fears are not unfounded. It sounds like your husband is simply not being very responsible in all sorts of ways -- starting with his refusal to speak top his doctor. Just saying he has no interest in sex is not a good enough answer -- know why? Because there are two of you. Buy some of the books on sexlessness in marriage. I particularly like, "The Sex Starved Marriage," by Michele Weiner-Davis. Try some of her suggestions. But if your husband continues to be, frankly, so self-centered, it's time for professional help -- a counselor with specific expertise in dealing with this issue.

Jay from Texas asked:

This is a difficult exposure for me: We have two young children and I am 10 years older than my wife. It is embarrassing to discuss. My wife sees no problem at all. Only circumstances that have caused this problem. After children were born, sex frequency was 4 to 12 times per year. It has now eroded to zero in the last 12 months. Prior to children we had sex at least twice a week sometimes 5 times per week. I lost my job, and my wife has a logical answer (read excuse), but told me she has NO desire for me or anyone. Books are no help and we went to counseling without any success. She doesn't want any answers. But we laugh and have great times.... but sex is non-negotiable. I would leave/divorce, but this is only trying to punish her; and it would devastate our children. I don't cheat on her due to my spiritual beliefs, but can a man continue unconditional love forever? Help!

Real answered:


Adults don't give adults unconditional love and no one has the right to demand it. Just because your wife seems to be ok with a sexless life doesn't give her the right to impose sexlessness on you. She should either give you permission to seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere (not my recommendation) or you should put your foot down and insist on counseling. This cannot nor should it go on forever.

Donna asked:

It's been 1 or 2 times a year for many years now. Even if I feel like having sex I don't feel comfortable initiating it. I feel resentment, anger, low self esteem. I haven't worked since we were married 27 years ago and I feel I have no self-worth even though I raised 3 well-adjusted children. I don't feel like my husband appreciates me, or respects me. There is no communication or sharing of feelings and ideas anymore so I don't feel like being intimate in a sexual way either. How do we get past this?

Real answered:

People do in the bedroom what they do in every other room. It's not clear why you'd expect to be intimate sexually when you aren't intimate in most other ways -- emotionally, intellectually. If you find yourself walking around in a chronic state of low self-esteem, resentment and anger, I'd say it's time to find a good couples therapist to help you take a look at ALL of these relationship issues.

Sheila asked:

We have been married for 16 years. In the last two years or so sex has been painful, went to doctor and she said due to surgeries in the past scare tissue is causing me pain. She says cant do anything about it . If I have surgery, scare tissue will return, so at the age of 54 and 55 we can't have sex. Of course my husband doesn't want me to hurt, but the relationship is getting worse and worse. I feel so bad for him. I have noticed he is becoming a different person than who I married, it is not in the possitive direction. What happens to couples when a man is impotent? Sex is not a marriage make, even though it is a big plus. Love is not sex.

Real answered:


There's more to love than good sex and there's more to sex than just intercourse. If penetration physically hurts you and there's simply nothing that you can do about it, it's time to explore other ways of satisfying one another -- oral sex, manual stimulation, vibrators. You and your husband need to broaden the horizons and get creative. There are many, many women who don't orgasm through intercourse and who need other forms of stimulation. Just because intercourse may be too painful to you doesn't mean the two of you can't enjoy the closeness and pleasure that comes with physical intimacy.

Nat asked:

My husband says I am the reason our marriage is not working. I decided to start going to marriage counseling on my own in hopes that he would join me, but nine months later I am still going alone. We have only been married two years, but have to young children, 16 months and 3 months. (We've known eachother for 12+ years before marriage.) We don't even sleep in the same bed. He opts for the roll away bed or sofa. I bought my son his own bed because the excuse was that our son sleeps in our bed but my husband is still not back in our bed. I am trying to lose the baby weight to be more appealing to my husband but he does not even notice that I have lost 20 pounds (gained about 60+ with the 2 babies). Any ideas or help on how I can get him to go to marriage counseling. I am really trying to save out marriage and find out why he is so angry at me? He would rather spend all his time with his friends than with me or the children.

Real answered:


Your husband sounds like he's having a problem with sex so much as he's having a problem being married. As you report it, he blames you, won't come to bed with you at night, and prefers his pals to his family. I don't think asking him to join you in counseling is going to work -- sounds like you're going to have to put your foot down and insist on it. If you're not ready to give him an ultimatum (counseling or pack a bag) try letting him know both how much it means to you and how unhappy you are -- stop cooking for him, doing his laundry -- let him know how upset you are and how much he needs to do therapy with you. And good for you for doing your part and losing the weight -- keep that up.

Bob asked:

I have not had sex in 33 years. One day my wife said she did not want anymore sex. She said sex was for having babies and not for pleasure. We have two married daughters. I have not attempted to have sex with her since then. I did not have the desire. I have suffered each and every day and made no attempt to have sex outside of marriage. We are still married and I wish I had never met her.

Real answered:

Your wife's position is odd, frankly, and your going along with it for 33 years is almost as odd. You two need counseling and I'd say the sooner the better. I'm sorry for all the wasted years, but you absolutely deserve a sex life in your marriage and yiu have every right to insist on having one.

Janine asked:

I have not had sex with my husband for over a year, and then probably twice the year before. I am 34 and taking Zoloft for depression and it has helped me tremendously in all areas except my sex life. My husband is wonderful and very patient. For our first 2 years together, we had sex daily, sometimes more than once a day. Sex with him is awesome everytime so I don't understand why I don't want it. And he doesn't understand why I don't even want to try to get 'in the mood'. Since we weren't having sex anyway, two months ago I quit taking my birth control pill to see if maybe it would help. It didn't. The doctor that gave me the Zoloft just blows off my concerns that the pills could be causing any of this. I have made an appointment with a psychiatrist to talk with her and ask her about Welbutrin, I have read good things about it. I also need to get back on some form of birth control, something that may even help my problem, if such a form exists. Any suggestions for my situation, or am I just doomed?

Real answered:


I wouldn't just switch medications, I'd switch doctors If the one you have now doesn't take your issue seriously! Zoloft is an SSRI -- a class of antidepressant NOTORIOUS for decreased sexual sensation and desire. Welbutrin is a different class of antidepressant and generally does not have that side effect. However, other SSRI's may alleviate your depression without dropping your libido. My prescription is to work with a psychopharmacologist -- a specialist -- and one who takes you seriously.

Jessica asked:

My husband and I have been married almost a year. We have been dating since late 2006. In the four years we have been together, I have only been able to satisfy him with intercourse a handful of times...he prefers to finish himself. He is addicted to porn (uses it sometimes 4 times per day) and isn't romantic with me, even when we are intimate. Its always "rough and tumble" so to speak. I have tried talking to him about the porn, but he doesn't see it as objectifying women...its a means to an end for him. How do I create situations that will enhance his ability to finish with me? How do I show him that his addiction to pornography is seriously hurting our sex life? Thanks,

Real answered:

Your husband sounds like like he has a problem with sex than that he has a problem with sex addiction. Go on the Internet and the self help section of a local bookstore and start reading up on sex addiction -- particularly porn addiction. This is a huge problem across the US -- many men won't have sex with their wives at all -- preferring masturbation to porn. If your husband won't resound to you or read anything you find, you must get him to a counsellor and one certified in sex addiction treatment.

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