When I met my husband 25 years ago, I had been enjoying a string of sexual relationships. However, I decided it would be beneficial to find a man with whom I was compatible in other ways. It was a leap of maturity. So when the sex was not satisfying with the man who became my husband, I shrugged it off. Once married, sex slowed and then stopped. My husband is a wonderful friend and a great father, but he is not “into” sex. I have a high sex drive, so I tried everything: losing weight, sexy lingerie, etc. I even suggested counseling. He refused all of it. The last time we were intimate was when our 15-year-old son was “created.” Divorce is not an option, but I feel cheated out of the marriage I wanted. I absolutely agree with your recent column that sexual intimacy is not the most important aspect of a relationship, but there is a lot to be said for sexual compatibility.
In the column two weeks ago (“Hot sex or healthy love?” SN&R Ask Joey, July 1), I responded to a young woman who admitted that sex with her otherwise fabulous boyfriend was good but not “hot.” She wondered if she should stay. I explained that sexual heat intensifies when relationships are unstable. It’s like the first time on a roller coaster—you have no idea what’s around the next curve, whether the bottom will drop out from under you or if you’re about to toss your cookies. In relationship-speak, that translates as: You have no idea if your partner is telling the truth or can be trusted or wants more from you than sex. For some people, especially those with abandonment issues, that’s a familiar thrill. But when a long-term relationship is stable and strong, like hers, sex is likely to inspire contentment over time, not the equivalent of an amusement park ride.
Your situation is different. When you and your husband were dating, sex was not satisfying. You accepted that in favor of the other benefits of being with him, like having an intellectual companion and life partner. There is nothing wrong with that trade-off, except now you feel cheated. Granted, you didn’t expect to endure 15 years without any sexual activity. Still, you knew from the beginning that his appetite was no match for yours. So did you deliberately deceive yourself into believing that he might change? Did you hope that you would? The only way you can feel cheated is if you tried to convince yourself to believe a lie. You’re not a victim; you made a choice. By accepting responsibility, you can empower yourself to experience this situation from another perspective.
The healthy expression of sexual energy is essential to an individual’s health. Sexual energy can be poured into physical intimacy or into creative projects, like sculpture or community service, or both. Where do you and your husband direct your sexual energy? For some people, particularly those with an established affinity for the arts but who attempt to deny that drive, unused sexual energy fuels drama. Rather than using it to write a novel, for example, she or he begins to piece together bits of this and that as evidence that a partner is cheating or failing to provide comfort. That brings me to this: What does sex symbolize for you? People with low self-esteem use sex primarily to prove they are desirable; others use sex to relieve stress or feel loved. If you can discern what you use sex to represent in your life, you can unpack the lesson of its absence. And, what do you believe that a high sex drive says about you? Chasing your husband primarily to feed emptiness inside you prohibits a soulful connection. That might explain his retreat.