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Wife Doesn't Want Sex, Doubts Marriage


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Old 7th March 2019, 11:12 PM   #1
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Separation Possible

My wife (56) and I (49) have been married for almost 22 years and we have two children, who are 20 and 12. I've enjoyed being married and things were going along fine until about eighteen months ago when my wife stopped having sex with me completely with no explanation and no communication as to what might be at issue.

Through some Internet research and talking to friends, I later learned that menopause can wreak havoc with a woman's sexual functioning and feelings and even make her more likely to question her marriage and do/say irrational things. But I didn't know this at the time.

I tried on several occasions to engage my wife in a loving conversation about why we were experiencing sex death where once there was a sex life. At one point she agreed to "work on" the problem but didn't follow up. Meanwhile, she refused to do even very reasonable things to keep me from feeling totally rejected in the meantime (some non-intercourse sexual contact of a very mild nature). I would have been much less devastated if we had been able to have just a bit of sexual touching but that still hasn't happened. My self-esteem and my weight then got on a seesaw together; as my self-esteem plummeted, my weight shot up. I felt horrible, like a failure.

Meanwhile, I have tried to get a conversation going about what might be bothering her in our relationship, how I might be able to help, etc. but these conversations have been mostly unproductive. I'm immensely frustrated because I truly love my wife and not only don't want to impede her happiness but I want to be an integral part of it. The notion that she might be dissatisfied about our relationship is very troubling and I want to work things out, but she keeps saying hurtful things that have left me feeling awful.

So I probed and I probed and insisted that she tell me what was wrong. She was very irritated when she finally broke down, expressed that she was angry at me for "browbeating" her and admitted that she had been feeling "ambivalent" about the relationship for some time and was contemplating separation. I just about died on the spot! I had tried begging, pleading, every conceivable romantic gesture to try to win her over and it had seemingly be for naught. I was this close to consulting an attorney—not because I wanted to leave my wife (I don't) but because I felt I needed to protect myself legally (she is the primary breadwinner and I do not want to lose my home and my source of support if it should come to that).

Anyway, I recently shared with her an article explaining that menopausal women in their forties, fifties, and sixties are at much higher risk of a midlife identity crisis which triggers separation/divorce, and my wife agreed that this would seem to comport with what she was experiencing. I felt this was a bit of a breakthrough. Now she says that wants to reaffirm our marriage and work things out. I am relieved, but also very wary. What if she changes her mind again?

I have explained to my wife that she is more important to me than sex (although let's be honest, sex is certainly important and I do not wish to be in a sexless marriage if I can help it) but that usually causes her to remark that I deserve to be with someone who is more loving and more sexual than she. I tend to disagree with her on that. I think she might be suffering from menopause-induced depression of some sort. I'd like her to seek treatment for that.

Anyway, I'm certainly prepared to work hard at relationship repair, but I am a little wary. This very smart, likeable, attractive lady whom I really do love a lot did nonetheless break my heart and I really need her behavior to be different going forward if this is going to work. We need proper boundaries, mutual vulnerability, sharing fears, etc. if the marriage is going to function properly. It's just awfully hard to enforce accountability on a headstrong, grown woman and to a certain extent my trust has been eroded. She has said many times that I'm a "wonderful husband" but geez ... really? I would hate to think how she would treat me if I was a lousy husband!!

Last edited by Rotaglia; 7th March 2019 at 11:16 PM..
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Old 8th March 2019, 3:15 AM   #2
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Yes. Menopause does wreak havoc on a woman. Luckily, it sounds like she is open to exploring treatment options. I would also suggest marriage counseling. From what I can see, it sounds like you have a good foundation on which to build. Your sexual relationship is an important part of the marriage. Do what you can to make her feel sexy and desirable again (but do not be upset if she does not respond as you would hope. That may take some time and treatment for her menopausal symptoms.) Most importantly, communication is key. Best of luck!
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Old 8th March 2019, 8:01 AM   #3
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Besides meno are there other changes in your wife?

Closes window on computer when you enter room?
Hides screen when reading, sending texts?
Guards her phone?
GNO?
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Old 8th March 2019, 9:30 AM   #4
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Besides meno are there other changes in your wife?

Closes window on computer when you enter room?
Hides screen when reading, sending texts?
Guards her phone?
GNO?
There is no suspicion of an affair whatsoever. I would like to see her spend more time with girlfriends or by herself doing fun things and relaxing (i.e., self-nurturing). She definitely needs it. Her job is unbelievably demanding and stressful and I think she needs some serious relief.

The toughest change though is the painful things she says to me, the lack of sex or even sexual accommodation, and the erosion of emotional intimacy. I think the third one can be worked on and I plan to focus on that for the near term.

I think she's a really wonderful woman in a lot of ways but somehow our relationship has hit the skids. I believe in this marriage and I love my wife very deeply ... I'm just not sure how best to help her.
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Old 8th March 2019, 10:34 AM   #5
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Menopause is no joke. I can tell you that it can be maddening, frustrating, anger-inducing, depressing & creates fear, anxiety and so many other emotions & there is nothing you can say to any man (or even woman, really, since menopause is different for everyone) that would help them understand the thousands of ways that it impacts women physically & emotionally.

There's the physical impact during perimenopause of not knowing when/if you're going to get your period again. Sometimes it can be gone for months or a year & then just pop up again, only to be the most painful one ever. Or sometimes it can go away for a few months & then something that seems like a period can start & keep going for over a month. Or it can just go away completely & then you're in full menopause & all the emotions that go along with it are insane.

There's the feeling that even if you didn't want children again, that you're worthless as a woman because now you can no longer have children. There's the physical pain (the tissue in the walls of the vagina shrink & expose small blood vessels, making sex painful & some women can even have bleeding from these vessels getting exposed. The natural fluids don't flow as much or any more at all. The emotional ups & downs from daily/hourly hormonal fluctuations can create an eternal inner struggle like no other & can create a constant internal dialogue of which, as a husband, you are completely unaware.

There are a myriad of different symptoms and your wife is obviously experiencing many of them. Ambivalence, snapping at people, questioning everything in life, these are all pretty par for the course.

My best advice is to get her to a doctor to start some kind of hormone therapy. This isn't something she can snap her fingers & just dramatically change on her own. Menopause affects everyone differently. Some people glide through, and some cry every day. There's a thousand versions in between. So your wife needs to be thinking about the possibility of doing some hormone therapy to even things out. This seems like the best option if she's agreeable to that.

You seem like a wonderful husband & a very caring and understanding guy. Sure hope things work out & you two can come to a good place with it. Luckily for you, there is an end to the menopause symptoms your wife is experiencing, in most cases. At some point the hormones even themselves out to a new normal but until then, try & see if she's open to seeing the doc. Good luck to you both!
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Old 8th March 2019, 10:44 AM   #6
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Menopause is no joke.
Indeed not.

Quote:
You seem like a wonderful husband & a very caring and understanding guy. Sure hope things work out & you two can come to a good place with it. Luckily for you, there is an end to the menopause symptoms your wife is experiencing, in most cases. At some point the hormones even themselves out to a new normal but until then, try & see if she's open to seeing the doc. Good luck to you both!
That's very kind, thank you. I do feel like I am a good husband but I began to doubt myself once this experience became more acute. I feel a sense of resolve now, that there's nothing to be lost be being as kind, thoughtful, and understanding as I can be to my wife. Yes, the things she did and said over the past year or so were painful, but they don't reveal anything about who she is as a person. She's actually a really fantastic wife underneath all of that. I am grateful for her presence in my life.

In the blockbuster musical Hamilton, which we both love, Aaron Burr at one point sings:
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Originally Posted by Aaron Burr
I am the one thing in life I can control.
And he is right. I am heartbroken, but it is up to me to heal my own broken heart. She cannot do that for me.
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Old 8th March 2019, 10:55 AM   #7
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I belong to a very active Facebook group for peri-menopausal and menopausal women. It is called Peri-Menopause & Menopause Support Group if she wants to check it out. There are posts every single day about anxiety, loss of sex drive, and the myriad other symptoms women experience.
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Old 8th March 2019, 1:20 PM   #8
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(she is the primary breadwinner and I do not want to lose my home and my source of support if it should come to that).

Menopause could be the trigger but, I also think her resulting disposition would have attached itself to the reality above.

If you really want this relationship to improve then you also have to change yourself into someone who is self-made rather than dependent. The reason for this imbalance really doesn't matter, because people's resentments are seldom rational.

There is unfortunately, also a double standard. Despite all the hype about men taking on a greater role at home or even being the stay at home parent nearly all women ultimately develop contempt for their own man who might do so. Women are conditioned to believe they should be able to "do it all" (the Enjoli paradox) and when the man is at home his subversion of that role subconsciously sets up her growing resentment.

While women have been taught to respect the significance and important role of homemaking and childcare - that respect is still subconsciously reserved for women, and even between women still fragile at best. (Think Hillary Clinton's cookie baking comments.)

If your youngest child is 12 then it may be time for you to back away from this dependency and engage in work that will make you a more interesting partner for her. Even if you are disabled - there may be something you can engage in to change this dynamic.

A clue that this may be part of the dynamic lies in her sense of being "browbeaten" by your desperation. You may in fact be making the situation worse by constantly pressing her so hard and making this all about her. Menopause is double trouble if there are circumstances in relationship to which she can rationalize her negative emotions.

Last edited by Turning point; 8th March 2019 at 1:28 PM..
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Old 8th March 2019, 4:17 PM   #9
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is it really worth it?

Your wife has checked out. It may or may not be due to menopause. Even if it is you have to ask yourself is it really worth living in a sexless marriage? Are you sure? While your knee jerk reaction (like most people) is to save this, you may find that sex and love are more linked and important than you thought. I sure did. "Have to" sex is demoralizing and not good for either party - you included. Don't push your wife for sex. She will just resent you more. Your wife no longer wants to have sex with you. That's a sad fact. Difficult to ever get it back I think. Desire may be what we ultimately really want as humans. There ARE women out there of every age (pre and post menopause) that still like sex. It is NOT 'just menopause' though that may play a part.

Begging and pleading are NOT romantic. It only weakens you in her eyes. Don't do that.

Become self sufficient. It can only help you in alot of ways. Dependency is not sexy to women contrary to what the media and tv may tell you. Get in the gym. Be the best you that you can be. If your wife still doesn't desire you then you have to ask yourself if you can really live with that.

I'm sorry you are going through this. The answers are not easy. I know for me I was never able to be happy with someone that no longer desired me. Something was missing in my life and I didn't figure out what it was until after I was divorced. Desire - that was it. I am so much happier with it than without it.
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Old 8th March 2019, 11:42 PM   #10
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Thanks to everyone for the interesting and thoughtful responses! I'm enjoying these and benefitting from them, so please keep 'em coming.

I think the concentrating-on-myself angle is a valuable one. I have put on quite a lot of weight lately (I blamed the "seesaw" for this; as my self-esteem declined when the sex disappeared, my weight went up) but in the last few weeks I have taken advice from friends and started really paying attention to what I was eating (the frank answer was, "nothing good"), discarding some of my schlubby habits (walking around the house in a t-shirt and underwear has given way to more dignified pajamas and robes), and I'm even considering using that gym membership I've had for years, LOL. Radical, I know.

Currently I have a career as a musician that I enjoy but I do not make nearly as much money as my wife does so yes, I'm financially dependent on her HOWEVER I have always believed this was a conscious choice we had made together (because it is). The lack of a "regular" job meant I could spend time with our kids, take them to appointments and social events, activities, etc. and also, quite crucially, spending the hundreds of hours I invested in making sure my beloved mother-in-law (yes, I really do adore her) stopped driving due to dementia and moved to assisted living. I always deflected the thanks I would receive for this because, as I would say, "it's just my job"—we designed our life this way.

But it's starting to dawn on me that the closer our youngest child gets to college that my lifestyle might be attracting silent disapproval. I recently found out that my mother doesn't like it. Sheesh, who asked her for her opinion, anyway? I guess I wonder if my wife secretly resents it but has never said anything about it. Hmmmm.

In terms of sex, I am willing to play the long game on that. Yes, I am frustrated by my wife's unwillingness to have any sort of sexual interaction with me despite my repeated entreaties to discuss it and form an action plan. Don't get me wrong, though, we still hug, kiss, hold hands, etc. and that is absolutely lovely—these are not small things in my book. I would definitely like to start small when it comes to sex, sort of Level 1 stuff. Not to get too graphic, but I'd love to be able to touch her breasts or rear end in a way that she enjoys and it would be nice if she would, um, touch my penis or something. Hardly seems too much to ask, but apparently ... it is for now. I admit it's frustrating.

Yes, it's true my wife is more important to me than sex, but geez, folks—sex is really important to me and I believe it's important to her in a somewhat different way. I definitely think menopause is a factor but I doubt that is the entire picture. I have tried to gently probe my wife on this. I mentioned that my worst fear in this situation is that, G-d forbid, she was at some point the victim of sexual abuse (Yikes! So scary.) She replied that she didn't think that was an issue for her (Phew!).

It's important to point out that I did have a few very severe stretches of depression during our marriage that required long periods of non-communication from me and lengthy hospital stays, intensive treatment, etc. This was really traumatic for everybody but I am past it now, taking medication and life is good. I think, though, that this involuntary abandonment of my wife and family for a time because of depression is a lingering psychological issue for my wife that might make sex difficult as her libido has also waned. There is only so much I can do about that except to demonstrate how I live my life positively and healthfully in the present. In my humble opinion, it is not my job as her husband to take away her negative feelings about my past depression or her ambivalence about our relationship; I think those things are best addressed in her individual therapy (however, it should be pointed out that she has never been in therapy). We are each accountable to the other, I believe, for our actions in the present. And her negative feelings, however powerful, do not justify hurtful behaviors even if they may help explain them.

Last edited by Rotaglia; 8th March 2019 at 11:50 PM..
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Old 9th March 2019, 1:43 AM   #11
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Well, with more information I think focusing on self-care and self improvement is your best bet.

IMHO, unless you live entirely alone there is no reason for any man to be walking around the house in underwear and a T-shirt. It's as much about self respect as it is respect for anyone else who resides there. People who are serious about their day - get dressed.

Do you understand how not getting dressed undermines this notion of you working around the home, doing all of this other supportive stuff, and even possibly your music career?

Show your wife you're serious about life and seizing the day by putting some clothes on.
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Old 9th March 2019, 1:55 AM   #12
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IMHO, unless you live entirely alone there is no reason for any man to be walking around the house in underwear and a T-shirt. It's as much about self respect as it is respect for anyone else who resides there. People who are serious about their day - get dressed.

Do you understand how not getting dressed undermines this notion of you working around the home, doing all of this other supportive stuff, and even possibly your music career?

Show your wife you're serious about life and seizing the day by putting some clothes on.
You did read my post where I indicated I had recognized the wisdom of ending that habit and had decided to start wearing more dignified clothing like pajamas and bathrobes ... right?
In fact, I bought myself two sets of pajamas and a bathrobe today to wear in the evenings after dinner (I wear regular clothes during the day).
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Old 9th March 2019, 7:06 AM   #13
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My wife (55) did this to me a year ago. She decided unilaterally to withdraw the sex part from the marriage. I said I would leave, she accepted it, then I said I would find sex somewhere else, she accepted it, then I said I would wait and see what happened... I wasn't happy with having sex with other women, I wanted my wife! Well, nothing has happened! I'm still waiting. She's checked out and I have to accept it and move on. It's very sad after 300 millions years together, but I believe this happened many years ago. Good luck with it... you might be luckier than me.
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Old 9th March 2019, 10:49 AM   #14
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My wife (55) did this to me a year ago. She decided unilaterally to withdraw the sex part from the marriage. I said I would leave, she accepted it, then I said I would find sex somewhere else, she accepted it, then I said I would wait and see what happened... I wasn't happy with having sex with other women, I wanted my wife! Well, nothing has happened! I'm still waiting. She's checked out and I have to accept it and move on. It's very sad after 300 millions years together, but I believe this happened many years ago. Good luck with it... you might be luckier than me.
Oh, dear ... that is dreadful. I'm sorry you had to endure that experience.

Do you think it's possible some husbands or wives use the refusal to have sex as a proxy for seeking divorce? Under this theory, they are too afraid to ask for a divorce (and may not realize that's what they want) so they act out sexually in order to drive their spouse away.

It's important to reiterate that sex in my marriage is and always was optional. My wife doesn't owe me sex. On the other hand, I do think that sexual kindness is a very good practice. There are positive ways to decline sex and negative ways.

Here's a positive way to do it (in my opinion):
Quote:
Honey, I think it's sweet that you want to make love right now. I hate to say this, but I'm just not up for it, sorry. I think you're the sexiest thing on two legs and I'm really looking forward to gettin' busy with you sometime soon, but in the meantime why don't we (do a non-intercourse sexual activity) or I watch you (do a non-intercourse activity) approvingly?
A negative way of going about it would involve saying this:
Quote:
...

Last edited by Rotaglia; 9th March 2019 at 11:14 AM..
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Old 9th March 2019, 11:32 AM   #15
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Oh, dear ... that is dreadful. I'm sorry you had to endure that experience.

Do you think it's possible some husbands or wives use the refusal to have sex as a proxy for seeking divorce? Under this theory, they are too afraid to ask for a divorce (and may not realize that's what they want) so they act out sexually in order to drive their spouse away.

It's important to reiterate that sex in my marriage is and always was optional. My wife doesn't owe me sex. On the other hand, I do think that sexual kindness is a very good practice. There are positive ways to decline sex and negative ways.

Here's a positive way to do it (in my opinion):

A negative way of going about it would involve saying this:
My wife says she enjoys being with me, but she doesn't want the sexual part. She would understand if I left. We'll see what happens, but I don't have any hope, really. She shifted the blame on me, obviously, saying I used to get angry, I complained all the time. It's been fine for the last 10 years, so it's been a bit of a bombshell... I thought we had managed to resolve the differences.
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