How to bring sex back into my marriage
July 21, 2007 6:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I bring sex into my marriage? Nothing seems to be working! My wife and I were married almost two years ago. We had a splendid honeymoon, and terrific sex about twice a day for the first week. We got back home, and into 'the real world' and sex disappeared completely.

We went from sex every day to sex once a month in a span of 5 weeks time. From there on out (since month 3 of marriage), we've had sex exactly one time a month. I know this, because the event struck me as so rare that I began writing down each experience just so I wouldn't forget what it was like.

I figured: "well, the stress of just getting married/moving in together/starting a new job" is too much for her, and, that in a little while, these things would pass, and she'd feel comfortable with sex again. Well, after two years of waiting, it seems like this is 'normal' for her.

We get along famously (on all non-sexual matters), and have a pretty terrific time together. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her literally -minutes- into our first date. We see eye to eye on countless things, and make an excellent team for any flavor of task you can throw at us. We're a very busy couple, with social engagements with friends, family, charity functions, sports, and political organizations at least 3 days of the week.

A typical non-social evening will involve us both getting off of work around 5, and she immediately heads to the gym (this is 3-5 days a week) to go work out/jog/swim/do weights/aerobics/etc. As I'm at home, bored, I'll go cycling for an hour or two while I wait for her to get home, otherwise I'll work on software projects. She gets home around 7, takes a shower and gets cleaned up, and then prepares herself dinner. As I typically eat very small meals (maybe some fresh fruit or cottage cheese or whatever), I rarely cook and eat dinner with her. She then asks me about how work was (as my work is tediously boring, I usually have nothing to offer), and, of course, I return the question. She spends the next 45 minutes complaining about people at work. By this time, it's 9:30 to 10:00 PM. We might watch half an hour of television, and then she falls asleep on the couch. Any advances toward her during any of this time will get turned down, and even any kissing session turns into: "well, I've got to get ready to do this" or "I've got to call my parents" or "I've got to clean the bathroom".

No sex on Saturdays, not even the morning, when we can sort of sleep in (she's got a Saturday morning workout as well). None on Sundays, ever. None on holidays. We didn't even have sex on our anniversary or Valentine's day. No sex on our last two vacations either.

So, I have tried to vary things up a bit, to get her out of the routine, even creating a 'date night', where, once a week, we'll go get dressed up (my wife is an absolute fox, and absolutely stunning in a dress), watch a play, a concert, or a film, and go for a nice meal and drinks (either prior to or afterwards).

And there's a decent amount of "wait 'til I get you alone" that goes on, and a healthy amount of flirting back and forth, but, the second we get home, she runs to the bedroom, changes immediately into sweatpants and a college-logo t-shirt, and falls asleep.

So, I'm left wide awake, sexually frustrated, and, angry. This has happened literally dozens of times. At least I can read AskMe.

I have approached her a half-dozen times on the subject, in an entirely non-judgmental, non-hostile way, usually along the lines of "we really -do- need to get intimate more frequently, what can we do to make that happen?" She acknowledges that it a problem. But nothing ever comes of it.

As a matter of fact, the only time that I know for sure that we're likely to make love is the one day of the month when she tells me: "we need to spend some alone time together". And, then, and only then, are we going to have sex. And, usually, it involves only her climaxing.

So, I just spend my time waiting for that one lucky day to occur, and it's almost always one month to the day of the last time we 'did it'. So, I just have to try to be ready for when it comes around.

So, for the kicker: She was married before, and the first husband divorced her over the fact that she wouldn't have sex with him. I had assumed it was because he was a cad (and he was, to be sure). I should have seen this coming.

AskMe: What in the hell do I do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (70 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Counseling. If that is refused or doesn't work. Divorce. Harsh? Yes, but life is way too short to live in a solitary relationship as you described. Millions of people do it --but why?
posted by peace_love_hope at 7:11 AM on July 21, 2007

I'm not an expert here but your question answers itself. Your wife isn't very interested in sex. If you are, then you married the wrong person. What you do about this is up to you but I can't see that there's a way you get from where you're at to a healthy sex life without both of you putting in a lot of work. I don't see why your wife would bother to change since it seems like the current situation suits her just fine.
posted by rdr at 7:13 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Two things occur to me. One: If only she climaxes when you finally get round to it, that's plain selfish. Even if she doesn't fancy a shag surely there are other ways to, er, contribute. Two: Sounds to me like it might be hormonal, if she gets the horn once a month like clockwork. Is she on birth control?
posted by handee at 7:18 AM on July 21, 2007

It's the old joke about the fastest way to stop a woman from wanting to have sex with you being to marry her.

It could be that she used sex to get you to marry her. If that's the case, it's a concious decision she made, and do you really want to spend time married to someone like that?

Ask her why the sex died off. If she gives you an answer, then you'll have one. And if she doesn't give you an answer, convoluted as it may be, then you'll also know where you stand.
posted by Rabulah at 7:22 AM on July 21, 2007

There is an old saying that if you put a nickel into a jar every time you have sex the first year of marriage (relationship?) and then take one out every time after that, that you will never run out of nickels. That being said, this is sort of a quick fall off. I suspect you have relationship problems that go far deeper than mere sex. The answer is communication. If you can't do it on your own solicit professional help. However, you do it, start talking until you find out how each other feels. Many marriages hit a slow spot around this time. The glow is off, now you need to focus on each other. As for you, I would focus on being the best husband you can be and attending to your wife's needs. Put yourself in her shoes. What are her stresses, what would help?
posted by caddis at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2007

"I have approached her a half-dozen times on the subject, in an entirely non-judgmental, non-hostile way, usually along the lines of "we really -do- need to get intimate more frequently, what can we do to make that happen?" She acknowledges that it a problem. But nothing ever comes of it."

You need to tell her that this needs to be taken seriously and that it is warping your perception of the relationship in a manner that endangers it. Counseling is an obvious option, since it would get her to really confront the problem without making up things to get out of it. Writing her a letter might also work, in that it is also something that is harder to not confront.

BTW, working out excessively can cause hormonal changes that can dampen the sex drive. Not many people talk about it because they see exercise as always being good, but a lot of female athletes suffer from it.

"Amenorrhea is a symptom in itself. Any associated symptoms will depend on the problem that is causing the missed menstrual periods. For example, various forms of hormone imbalance may cause amenorrhea together with excess body and facial hair, acne, a lowering of the voice, an altered sex drive, breast milk secretions, weight gain, or several or all these symptoms. "
posted by melissam at 7:23 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, even if exercise doesn't cause Amenorrhea itself, it can still affect hormones. Birth control also tends to dampen sex drive for a lot of women.
posted by melissam at 7:26 AM on July 21, 2007

Well the fact that you were doing it regularly until you got married seems to suggest it was the ol' get him tied down and then I don't have to go through with the sex anymore thing. Many many wives get away with this but they certainly don't have to: this is legitimate grounds for divorce. Men seem to put up with it because they would rather remain married with no sex than get a divorce. There are many alternatives to this compromise. You could get her to see your point of view that it is essential and mandatory for a healthy marriage, otherwise you could say that you are going to have sexual relationships with other women, or finally you could meet someone else, say honey I've met someone else who is going to give me sex, and divorce her.
posted by dino terror at 7:32 AM on July 21, 2007

I would try a couple of things - first of all, why don't you cook her dinner? She works out, comes home at 7, takes a shower, emerges from the bedroom, and voila, you've cooked her a delicious meal. Dim the lights and split a bottle of wine with her. Maybe it won't work. Maybe it will. Maybe she's usually so pissed from working out and working so hard that when she comes home to find you lazing on the couch waiting to have sex with her, it turns her off. Maybe this will be such a new dynamic - you cooking her dinner - that it turns her on. Even if she doesn't give you the sweet stuff, she'll appreciate it. You'll probably feel good, too. If you don't know how to cook, learn - it'll always come in handy, and is an impressive skill to possess.

Besides that, I would take a step back and see if you are being too clingy or needy. Deny her the attention you normally give her. Does her behavior change? Does she become more interested and attracted to you when you seem more aloof? Ultimately, though, all you can really do is experiment with your own behavior and see how she responds in kind. At some point, unless you both completely alter your behavior to each other, you'll either have to go to counseling or separate.
posted by billysumday at 7:46 AM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

It could be that she used sex to get you to marry her.

Well the fact that you were doing it regularly until you got married

I didn't see any evidence in the original post to suggest that anonymous had sex before he was married to this girl. anonymous, I think it would be extremely helpful if you could e-mail one of the mods and have them post your story about what your sex life was like prior to marriage. Otherwise, all any of us can do is speculate, which won't help you.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:49 AM on July 21, 2007

I don't know if I would go as far as divorce, but you certainly need to make her come up with a good reason as to why she doesn't want to have sex with you. Sex is an extremely complicated area for couples and, in my experience, especially women. There is really no telling what life experience she has had that influence her current reluctance - was she raped at some point, molested, associates sex with something unpleasant, have a poor opinion of her body and is therefore reluctant to let someone else see it? There are a host of potential reasons.

She needs to tell you why she doesn't want to have sex. Just acknowledging the problem is not sufficient - she must decide why she doesn't want it. If she won't tell you, send her to a private or couples counselor.

It sounds to me like you're doing the right thing by her. If she loves you, she'll work on it.
posted by CRS at 7:52 AM on July 21, 2007

Sorry, slight rephrase:

I didn't see any evidence in the original post to suggest that anonymous had sex with this girl before he was married.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:55 AM on July 21, 2007

Sex is an important part of your relationship and your life. If your wife won't have sex with you, you don't have a healthy marriage even if most things are going fine. You need to have a talk with her and find out what's up! The whole kind, non-judgmental approach is definitely the way to start... but you've already tried that, apparently repeatedly, without affect.

You should probably be more assertive. Maybe that's part of the problem?
posted by Justinian at 8:00 AM on July 21, 2007

A few observations from a female perspective:

Is your wife perhaps too stressed out? She works a job where she apparently has forty-five minutes' worth of things to complain about at the end of the day, then has to go to the gym and cook dinner and "clean the bathroom" or whatever needs to be done around the house - it could very well be that she actually is too tired most days. If this sounds like it might be the case, do what you can to take some of the burden off her. Don't ask - she'll probably do the girl thing and say "no, it's fine, I can do it." Take the initiative yourself. Cook dinner for her every once in awhile. When the bathroom looks messy, clean it yourself. I'm not saying you have to summarily take up all of the housework to get laid, but in most relationships women end up doing a disproportionate amount of the work and it is tiring.

How is the sex when you do have it? Does she seem to be enjoying it? (You make sure she comes too, right?) How well do you guys communicate during sex? Does she ever direct you, or does she just lay there and make the obligatory porn noises? If it's the latter case, it's possible that there's something you're not doing right (not your fault - every woman is different) and she's afraid to talk to you about it for some reason - possibly because of some issues with her jerk of an ex. Again, this is purely speculation, but if that is the case, then talk to her (before/during/after) and find out what she likes. You don't have to say "is this good?" every five seconds during sex, but, you know, check in with her at some point.

When you do talk to her about the lack of sex, try to avoid saying things like "we really -do- need to get intimate more frequently, what can we do to make that happen?" Your heart is in the right spot for sure, but when I read that all I could think of was my patronizing boss at the waitressing job I had in college: 'we really -do- need to get your dessert sales up, now what can we do to make that happen?" The effect of the statement is still focused on the fact that she's not fulfilling your needs, which can put her on the defensive or make her want to brush you off. Instead, make it about your concern for her. Ask how she's doing, ask if she's feeling okay health-wise, ask if there's anything you can do for her. It might be the case that she doesn't like sex, but I'd say it's more possible that she's sexually frustrated too, but doesn't feel she can discuss it for some reason. Women aren't socialized to feel that they're entitled to sexual fulfillment the way men are, therefore it can be really hard for a lot of women to talk about these things. Be nice about it, but don't be satisfied with a non-answer like "I'm fine" or "nothing's wrong."

All that said, she owes it to you as your wife to take some initiative herself. A visit to the OB-GYN and a therapist are both the minimum that she ought to be doing. And again, if this is going to be one more thing on her long to-do list, help her out: maybe get a few referrals for her so she doesn't have to waste her lunch break on the phone (or whatever).

If she continually shuts you out and refuses to see a doctor or a therapist, then yes, you should consider whether it is worth staying in the relationship. You're human and there's nothing wrong with you for wanting sex with your wife, and it's not fair of her to expect you to be celibate against your will. However, really give the things I mentioned above some thought: the woman who genuinely doesn't like sex isn't as common as most people think, and I'd honestly be surprised if there wasn't something else going on with her.

I really hope this works out for you guys. Good luck.
posted by AV at 8:22 AM on July 21, 2007 [5 favorites]

(You make sure she comes too, right?)
Didn't you read the question, AV?
And, usually, it involves only her climaxing.

Anonymous, after all the askme questions we've shared, I feel that we've become pretty good friends. As your freind, I would advise you to lay it out for her (she won't do anything or care for very long, if at all), give it a week and then DTMFA.
posted by IronLizard at 8:44 AM on July 21, 2007

Seizetheday, read the OP again.
posted by dino terror at 8:50 AM on July 21, 2007

Actually, dino terror, SeizeTheDay is right. The frequency or absence of premarital sex is not mentioned in the original post.
posted by billysumday at 8:55 AM on July 21, 2007

"The one thing besides hormones that contributes to female reluctance to consent to sex is the expectation, on the part of the male, that consent always means vaginal intercourse—except when it means anal intercourse. If your hole were getting pounded every time you said yes to sex, guys, you would say yes less often. So broaden your definition of sex to include handjobs, blowjobs, lubejobs, and masturbation in her presence or on her person—these things count, guys, they're not consolation prizes." -Dan Savage

As usual in Savage Love, there's also some discussion in that link about whether cheating husbands with wives with very low sex drives are culpable for their action. However, I don't think you're allowed to take that particular action yet; you're still young, the marriage is short, and you're still getting nooky once a month, which is more than some men, but not enough for most.

It sounds like you did get the bait and switch. However, all hope is not lost. You need to let your wife know the small things she can do that would make a huge difference to you. Maybe on date night you can convince her to spend just 20 minutes in her hottie evening wear once you get home so you can, uh, take care of some of your business, maybe dirtytalk, maybe she helps you out.

She's not getting you off during sex; can you finish up on your own? Maybe you're one of the many guys who need lots of very specific stimulation to orgasm; some guys can't come from intercourse or oral, and some guys just take forever in a way that makes her think "For christsakes for how much longer?" Some guys are on medication, some have a hard time using condoms, and some guys were just born that way. Was she getting you off on the honeymoon? what is different now?

Take the pressure to supply you with an orgasm off her, and she might offer to help out more often. Or maybe she'll continue to not offer much to your entreaties. Like I said, you're young, and she deserves more of a chance to change before you start making divorce and cheating ultimatums. Post again in a few years when nothing's changed, or things have gotten worse, and I'd say different.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:55 AM on July 21, 2007

I did.

My wife and I were married almost two years ago. We had a splendid honeymoon, and terrific sex about twice a day for the first week. We got back home, and into 'the real world' and sex disappeared completely.

We went from sex every day to sex once a month in a span of 5 weeks time. From there on out (since month 3 of marriage), we've had sex exactly one time a month.

Where in these paragraphs does the OP mention sex before marriage?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 8:58 AM on July 21, 2007

On non-preview, I would like to emphasise something (and I'm sorry to pick on you, dino terror, it's nothing personal): this whole idea of the ol' get him tied down and then I don't have to go through with the sex anymore thing is a myth. Really. Yes, it's true that many women appear not to want sex after marriage, but the important thing to understand is that it is not because of some female desire to deprive men of their sexuality or even some gender-wide lack of interest in sex. It's because of any number of rarely-acknowledged things that are mostly the result of deeply ingrained socialization: that many women feel they can't talk to their spouses about their sexual needs, and therefore sex is unfulfilling. That women feel unsexy because they can't live up to some Photoshopped ideal - especially as they age - and it's pretty hard to want sex when you feel like a disgusting whale. That women, yes, do more of the housework and child-rearing, and are exhausted (and maybe a wee bit resentful) at the end of the day. And so on.

I'd strongly caution against writing off a drop-off in sex as something women do to men because... what, we're all just bitches? Because we don't all have g-spots and clits and biological urges? It just doesn't work that way. Women ought to be more communicative too, for sure; but as the benefactors of most of these social conventions it would be really nice if more men would take the initiative themselves.
posted by AV at 9:13 AM on July 21, 2007 [18 favorites]

It sounds like she's running from something. All that working out and avoiding you - fear of intimacy or failure maybe? Something is bothering her that isn't being dealt with.

Time to talk. How about asking her if she does anything for sex "on her own" and then seeing if she'll let you watch to see if you can get some insight into how her sexuality works. Married sex can be about deep exploration of the psyche, you might be there and she can't move forward. Maybe you can coax her out of her shell.

Also, a lot of really enjoying sex (for me at least) has to do with feeling safe. Let her know you genuinely care and aren't going to just divorce her like the last guy because she wouldn't put out.
posted by MiffyCLB at 9:16 AM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yeah, SeizeTheDay is right; we don't know if this is a husband unhappy that they've fallen back into their pre-marital once-a-month routine after a hot-and-heavy honeymoon, or a woman who doesn't care if her husband is happy now that she has the guy trapped.

On the one hand, he writes Well, after two years of waiting, it seems like this is 'normal' for her which seems to imply that he doesn't have any idea what was normal for her before they were married; but on the other hand, given that he mentions her frigidity towards her first husband, presumably he would have told us if she wasn't interested in sex while they were engaged either.

In either case the advice is the same: if she doesn't know this is making you angry, tell her. If she does know, and doesn't care, leave her.
posted by nicwolff at 9:19 AM on July 21, 2007

Miffy - if she doesn't put out, he is going to divorce her. She seems to feel way too safe already.
posted by nicwolff at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2007

No, she sounds scared to me.
posted by MiffyCLB at 9:24 AM on July 21, 2007

Didn't you read the question, AV?

Um, actually I did, but somehow managed to miss that twice. Sigh. Thanks for pointing it out.

In any case, though, it doesn't affect my point that there's an apparent lack of communication. Only one partner climaxing is still a problem, even if it's the guy who's not finishing.

And as much as I hate to suggest it, there is the possibility that she's faking it just to get it over with, for any of the same reasons that would lead to low sex drive.
posted by AV at 9:28 AM on July 21, 2007

There could be some body image issues. Not that everyone who works out regularly has those issues (most have good self-images due to taking care of themselves) but the unwillingness to be intimate along with a couple hours each day of exercise could be symptomatic of a low self-image. There's also the possibility that something has changed with you (health habits, attitude, hairstyle, whatever) that she doesn't like and is unwilling to tell you. Hormonal issues can cause this, too, as others have mentioned. Good emotional connections, fun times together, lots of kisses and flirting, but no intimacy sounds like what happens during or after pregnancy and while on the pill to lots of women (but again not all). Whatever the reason I'm Nthing counseling. Good luck.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2007

We get along famously (on all non-sexual matters), and have a pretty terrific time together.

She gets home around 7, takes a shower and gets cleaned up, and then prepares herself dinner. As I typically eat very small meals (maybe some fresh fruit or cottage cheese or whatever), I rarely cook and eat dinner with her. She then asks me about how work was (as my work is tediously boring, I usually have nothing to offer), and, of course, I return the question. She spends the next 45 minutes complaining about people at work. By this time, it's 9:30 to 10:00 PM. We might watch half an hour of television, and then she falls asleep on the couch.

These two statements seem contradictory. From your description, the only time you two actually get along famously is when you're out socializing, doing the charity/political socialite thing or visiting with family and friends. Of course, those are times when you're both all polished up and on your best behavior. Certainly you dine with your wife at these events and chat about things other than her work day; why can't you do the same at home? Or is it when you're out and about, you're comfortable with your wife only because there are other people around, and you talk to them and your wife talks to them, and you don't talk to each other?

Couples counseling is probably a good idea.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

As I typically eat very small meals (maybe some fresh fruit or cottage cheese or whatever), I rarely cook and eat dinner with her

Agree with most everything that's been offered so far, would just add that this non-meal-sharing may be causing problems or possibly indicative of a some other deeper issue and well worth sorting out. Food matters in a relationship, preparing is a significant way to show love and caring, sharing this essential resource can be a day-to-day demonstration of commitment and opportunity to connect. Something that strikes me as a little unusual is your "typically eat very small meals" situation. I'm assuming this refers to the evening meal. Are you perhaps getting most of your nutritional needs met elsewhere, possibly having a big lunch everyday (at work, without her), and then not having an appetite in the evening?
posted by scheptech at 9:33 AM on July 21, 2007

Counseling. You need a way to actually have the conversation you two have been dancing around for two years now.

I have approached her a half-dozen times on the subject, in an entirely non-judgmental, non-hostile way, usually along the lines of "we really -do- need to get intimate more frequently, what can we do to make that happen?" She acknowledges that it a problem. But nothing ever comes of it.

It's too easy to deflect these sorts of talks, and talking about sexual issues is really hard for some folks. Your not being judgmental makes it hard to nail anything down (and, if you are any kind of decent human being you don't to browbeat her into having sex as a favor to you.)

A good councilor will help these conversations moving and will help you two move the conversation on from "we need to fix this" to why things are broken and what you can do to fix them.
posted by aspo at 9:45 AM on July 21, 2007

My husband meandered in while I was reading all this. I told him what the thread was about and his immediate reaction was "she must be having an affair."

Are you sure she's at the gym?
posted by konolia at 9:46 AM on July 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

Why Your Wife Won't Have Sex With You. A now mostly defunct blog that takes a look at this topic from a whole bunch of angles. Check the sidebar links for topics.

There are lots and lots of reasons other than an affair, by the way. I think jumping to that conclusion is unlikely to move things in a positive direction.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:53 AM on July 21, 2007

We get along famously (on all non-sexual matters), and have a pretty terrific time together. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her literally -minutes- into our first date. We see eye to eye on countless things, and make an excellent team for any flavor of task you can throw at us. We're a very busy couple, with social engagements with friends, family, charity functions, sports, and political organizations at least 3 days of the week.

All this activity outside the home sounds exhausting to me. Are you both introverts or extroverts? Is it possible your wife simply feels so burnt out that sex has slipped way down her list of priorities? I agree with those who have suggested that you take on some more of the household duties, try to eat together more often, and that you try more flexible approaches to sex.

However, this is a first step, based on the assumption that your wife has only temporarily lost her sexual interest in you. Given her previous failed marriage, and given how quickly sex dropped to once a month, it is possible that she may have a really weak libido. She may consciously or unconsciously approach marriage as a wonderful way to acquire a close friend and to become a great team together, as you have already said, but not as a full sexual relationship.

I have approached her a half-dozen times on the subject, in an entirely non-judgmental, non-hostile way, usually along the lines of "we really -do- need to get intimate more frequently, what can we do to make that happen?" She acknowledges that it a problem. But nothing ever comes of it.

This is an excellent start, but you need to be prepared to say some true and painful things and, potentially, make some difficult decisions about the state of your marriage. You should not be compelled to become an agreeable, neutered househusband if she can't or won't show more interest in sex.

First, ask yourself how long you're willing to wait for a change. Six months, a year, another 2 years, forever? What are your limits? At what point will love be replaced by duty or resentment? If this is something that really can't be fixed, it's not fair to either of you to stay in this marriage. Your wife may well be happiest with a man who isn't that interested in sex. Or she may be happiest with you, but you two will need to work together to make a good sex life a high priority. You can't just let things drift.

Approach her again for the talk, but make it very clear, while remaining as calm and kind as possible, that you feel deeply rejected and hurt. She can't consciously or unconsciously deceive herself any more about how badly you feel if you are forthright with her. She may feel burnt out, or tired, or simply out of the habit of feeling sexual. See if you can come to an agreement of doing something sexual/sensual every day. This doesn't necessarily mean full sex, or even orgasms for either of you. It could be something as simple as a few minutes of necking and petting, naked or clothed.

Encourage her to be honest with you, too. Maybe she feels unattractive (no matter how much she works out), maybe you are less attractive to her, maybe she's weirded out by the downloaded porn you're into (assuming you have been downloading and masturbating over the past two years).

If she argues that she's just too tired, take that seriously. Strip back some of the external demands on your life without turning into hermits. But see if you both can agree that you are going to help her feel less overwhelmed and tired and she is going to make herself feel more open to sex for a period of time you both agree on.

If things haven't gotten any better by the time you have agreed on, or if they got better and slipped back, take this very seriously. You may decide to try again for another short period -- maybe honest talking will have stirred up some new issues -- but on the other hand, this may be the month where you insist on couples counseling.

If she doesn't agree to counseling, or if counseling doesn't help, you must tell her that your marriage is seriously at risk if you two can't resolve this by a given time. Set that limit and stick to it. This may feel unfair to you -- you may see it as a threat -- but she may need that final ultimatum to consider how much she loves you and how much wants to continue in your marriage. Maybe you'll never get back to sex every day, but perhaps you two can have daily affectionate touching and sex maybe twice a week, and maybe that's enough to satisfy both of you.
posted by rosemere at 9:56 AM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Is she on birth control pills or anti-depressants that may cause a lower libido?
posted by pluckysparrow at 10:08 AM on July 21, 2007

And, usually, it involves only her climaxing.

I'm surprised more people haven't jumped on this. What the hell is going on here? She comes and then tells you to go away? She comes and becomes disinterested in pleasing you? It's generally pretty easy for a guy to come, so I'll assume that's not the problem. (If it is, that's a lot easier. Go talk to your doctor.)

She sounds like she's using you (perhaps unintentionally.) She comes home, dumps all her emotional stuff on you, and goes to sleep. When she finally feels in the mood for sex, she gets herself off and leaves you hanging.

I'm skeptical that these things can get better, but to have any chance at all, you're going to have to be pretty pro-active about it. Get into counseling (couples if you can, by yourself if she refuses) and make it crystal clear that this is of vital importance to your marriage (assuming you feel this way.)
posted by callmejay at 10:09 AM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

speaking out of personal experience... this is very much something that only good counseling can help. sex - especially in marriage - can be complicated and carry a lot of baggage. for instance, given her previous marriage her lack of interest in sex may have nothing to do with you. it could be related to previous abuse, body image issues, depression, trust issues, physical pain during intercourse, the medication she's taking or even her diet. on the other hand, this may have something to do with the patterns you find yourself in... and unfortunately when you're stuck in this type of rut the situation only amplifies itself over time.

the only thing you can do is have open and honest conversations, seek counseling and see where it takes you. that's it in my experience at least. hope this helps.
posted by tundro at 10:14 AM on July 21, 2007

oh... and when you do talk to her... spend as much time listening and validating her feelings as possible. you may not agree with her, but she has a right to her perspective. if you get defense when she starts opening up you'll end up stuck in a vicious cycle.
posted by tundro at 10:18 AM on July 21, 2007

sorry youre right i misread that. combination of a big-ass post and me reading this soon after waking up...
posted by dino terror at 10:22 AM on July 21, 2007

You say that the two of you generally have a terrific time together, but your description of your typical day is nerve-rending. It seems to feel that way to you, too. I get the feeling that the problem is not really the lack of sex but the lack of spontaneous, joyful interaction. You sound like a bitter, bored old couple just barely getting by.

I'm sure, anonymous, that if you could write back directly you'd point out the line in which you swear you have a huge number of social engagements, political activities, etc. But what I read you focusing on is this dead, lonely-sounding evening you describe as "typical." I think that, and not the wild cocktail party or whatever, is what is in your mind as you think of this marriage.

You two need to go back to practicing relaxing together, dancing or playing games. Tell her you'd like to see her more often. Brainstorm things you'd like to do (spontaneously) more often, then do them at will. Turn all that around, then talk about the sex.
posted by argybarg at 10:36 AM on July 21, 2007

I think people really underestimate the effects of birth control on libido. I would say my libido is about 5-10% of normal when I'm on hormonal birth control- I'm not interested in initiating sex and when I do I lose interest halfway through. I'm irritated to be asked for sex. Every once in a while I read about a new pill or shot and I give it a try, but the side effects are inevitably the same.

If you've been on it since you were 17 you don't have a baseline to compare to, so a lot of women think it's normal to feel kind of blah about sex.
posted by fshgrl at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2007

The picture that you paint really does seem to depict two people living alongside one another, not together. And it has to be noted that the only nice thing you say about your wife that isn't a generality about how copacetic your relationship outside of bed is is that she's a fox in a dress.

The obvious things to point out is you're describing a life with maybe 4 nights a week that each provide maybe a 3 hour window for anything outside of working and working out. You don't eat together. You don't like your job and you don't like to talk about your job, your wife likes to talk about how she doesn't like her coworkers and you clearly don't want to hear about it.

If she got divorced over this once either it is looming just as large, though probably in a very different way, in her mind as in yours, and (giving her the benefit of the doubt) quite possibly she is scared of facing it. You probably need professional help. You certainly need to take the gloves off and get into the fact that this is not just a great relationship that doesn't get enough sex.
posted by nanojath at 12:39 PM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

It sounds like she's running from something. All that working out and avoiding you - fear of intimacy or failure maybe? Something is bothering her that isn't being dealt with.
MiffyCLB is probably right on the money here.
posted by Pants! at 12:39 PM on July 21, 2007

You guys sound more like friends than a couple. There are so many things you describe going on that it is hard to unravel everything, suffice to say things are not all that well even outside of your sex life. Either things are going to have to be fixed, by not just acknowledging the problem but taking steps to rectify it, which is sounding like a systemic thing, or the relationship has to change in some profound manner.
You both are unfulfilled or unhappy with your jobs in some manner, your job is boring and hers provokes long diatribes every day, sounds like she is working out excessively (providing Konolia's suggestion is not accurate), for what reason? The typical downtime you have is spent with her complaining and the both of you watching TV. The 1x a month sex... is there a reason you guys stop when she climaxes? Because usually that isn't a limiting factor in the action, after 13 years of marriage I can count on one hand the times I was unable to finish, even during relatively sexual dry spells and frankly those incomplete times revolved around periods of high stress, and I've a feeling I'm in no way atypical in that regard.
Insist the two of you enter therapy, and don't stop when things get a little better because everything will just settle back to this state fairly quickly. Outside of that, if she refuses talk to her about an "open" marriage. This is something I would never engage in myself, but for a minority of people it seems to work.
When talking, non confrontational is good as the starting point and things should never be aggressive, but at some point you may well have to be confrontational to elicit more that a "yeah I know" response.

What are your choices?
1. Continue as is.
2. Continue, but seek outside gratification trough porn and/or having an affair. (a. consensual affair / b. hidden affair)
3. Enter therapy/make systemic changes
4. Divorce
5. ?

I'd advise strongly against 1 and 2b. 4 may be an option but exhaust the others first.
posted by edgeways at 1:27 PM on July 21, 2007

Most likely she's either having an affair (not necessarily. You should check that out on the downlow just to eliminate it, not have a big scene) or, more likely, she's just not physically attracted to you any more.

Sounds like you don't have much of an interesting life of your own. Your job is tedious and you don't like talking about it. You spend your time waiting for her to come home and be entertaining. You do fun events, but only prearranged ones. And do you set those up, or her? You're boring. Not an exciting manly man.

I'm exaggerating (grossly), but that's the mechanism for a lot of these cases. When you were single, you did stuff. You were interesting. When she talked about you, her friends were interested. How, in your imagination, does she talk about you to her friends now - does she have anything to gloat about, are you cooler or more fun or nicer to her or whatever than her friends' husbands? Maybe that sounds kind of, I don't know, dumb, but it's important. She may love you to death, you may make a great team, get along fine, etc. She may not ever dream of leaving you. The hotness works different, though.

I suggest doing your own thing. Do some things by yourself, hobbies, whatever. Hang out with your own circle of friends sometimes. Get some things to talk about that you really like talking about. Make her dinner, not just to help out, but to surprise her and see her smile. Tell her stupid jokes. If there's no passion in you, if everything is just like, how's work? Meh. What did you do today? Nothing (essentially), then what's to be all hot for you about?

Maybe I get the wrong impression from your short post. Maybe you already do all that. I see this all the time, though, in umm... other people. And that's what works for... them.

Worst case, if you split up, at least you have your own life already.
posted by ctmf at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2007

Most women do not have such an ingrained desire for sex as much as most guys do. I've read a ton of relationship/communication books, and the emotional-physical is really a yin-yang opposite for guys and gals. Just think of how hard it is for you, the guy, to get emotional, as in, having a "really good cry" .. not especially appealing. One book asked women to list the top 20 things they enjoy doing, and sex came at like, 14th, and after gardening!

Here is my theory on the issue. For guys to get emotional, the physical would first best be taken care of before even suggesting he get emotional just whenever. I think it is millions of times easier to get a guy emotional after sex. Guys could probably admit this, that you're feeling more emotionally expressive (saying how you feel, etc) afterward. For many women, it's largely the opposite -- the emotion needs to be stimulated to a degree that sex is definitely on the menu. The fact that you just got done with the major emotional event for-the-win, sex will be plenty (because the emotional section is taken care of). When there's no emotional-(for lack of a better word, distraction) there won't be much hankerin' for the spankerin'. Just as much as needing to have sex is, truly, a distraction to getting things done for guys, many women often need an appropriate amount of emotional working-up. As much as guys generally could drop trou and jostle the elders at a moments notice, likewise could women (generally) could as quickly grab Kleenex and have a throughly satisfying expression and confession session and blow their emotional load. Once the physical has been tamed for guys, they're willing to open up more freely. On the flip of that, once the emotional has been harnessed for gals, get ready. Since the marriage event is such an immensely emotional event (and the fact that you had such frequent rumpy pumpy in those eventual days following, might be an indicator of just how intensely emotional that day is for the ladies).

For the "bible" on you and your babe's own natural perceptions on how love is best expressed or "heard" check out "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman, as mentioned on mefi quite a bit. For example: just a hug from a cutie is enough to enslave me for life nearly, while if a hottie did a labor-intensive favor for my brother, his radar would be on full boink (demonstrating the love languages of physical vs. acts of service). By learning how your S.O perceives love expression personally, you can best know what really turns on the waterworks in the good way.
posted by vanoakenfold at 1:55 PM on July 21, 2007

The first thing I thought when I read the post was: "she's not at the gym ". I"m speaking from experience. Not saying this is the case but I'd be surprised if you haven't considered this.
posted by Umhlangan at 2:21 PM on July 21, 2007

"... my wife is an absolute fox, and absolutely stunning in a dress ..."

An ex of mine was a stunning young woman, a 5'9" natural redhead with a porcelain complexion, green eyes, and a figure that women looked at, who drew guys like spilled jelly draws ants at a picnic. Seriously, it wasn't uncommon for us to be shopping together at a mall, and for guys to just come up and hit on her, with me standing there. I'm not particularly jealous, and I used to find this pretty funny, actually, because she had 10,000 ego deflating ways of telling guys to buzz off, and unless she was looking for me for help with a particularly dense case, it would generally take her 15 seconds to send the boldest of 'em slinking off.

It took me quite a while to understand that she'd been getting this since she was 13. By the time I met her, at 20, she'd seen it all, and heard it all, and frankly, I didn't much like her. But she seemed to like me, perhaps just because I didn't seem especially taken with her. In fact, we worked together for over 3 years, and I'd left that job to move on to a job in another city, before she overtly expressed interest in me, and I might never have expressed any interest in her, had she not made the first move.

At any rate, I slowly learned that she was almost automatically dismissive of overt sexual interest from me, if it was verbal, or by eye contact. Those were looks and comments she got hundreds of times a day, in some variation, and she was so well practiced in saying "No!" that it was nearly second nature to her, even if it came from me. She liked to flirt with me, only if there were no chance of consummating the act immediately. But what she really wanted from me was something she couldn't get so easily from other men, which was a being treated like the very intelligent, if minimally educated, young woman she was, beyond her physical beauty.

It helped that I was 8 years older than she was, and had seen more of the world than she had. Whenever I'd take her to a concert, or a museum, or talk with her about math, or explain tension and compression in trusses, without condescension, I stood a good chance of getting lucky. If I got all hubba-hubba, I was quite likely to get the same kind of reflexive brush-off she dished out unthinkingly to every other guy that made a straight approach. It wasn't quite that Pavlovian, but there was a big component of that in her sexuality, that I had to understand, and deal with in mine, or we'd have rarely gotten together. Because I did come to think she was beautiful, and I could have stared at her for days, myself, to the point of getting her instinctive hackles up, which wasn't where I wanted to go. So, I learned to do my staring at her while she was asleep, and flirt with her by seemingly ignoring her a little bit, which generally got her going, as if she were out to prove to herself she could make me be interested. It was a frequently difficult act for me, but it was what turned her crank, for reasons I eventually came to understand.

So, you may need to try really hard to see yourself from her side of the bed, and do or be a guy that is different from all the other men to whom she unthinkingly says "No!", because just having a marriage license and a spark in your eye isn't getting your message across. Being something special for your wife is often the shortest, most reliable means of getting something special in return.
posted by paulsc at 2:24 PM on July 21, 2007 [3 favorites]

I read a bunch of other posts just now, and I think most everyone advising splitsville is going totally on a wrong angle. What you've got is like, the Treasure of the Ages, and you're married to her. Somehow you managed that ginormous feat in itself. Stuffing suitcase should not even be on the list of things to consider, not even a last resort.

More than likely not seeing someone else (unless that someone else gives her an emotional outlet that I think she's really hunting after, the vast majority of hetero women know this as it were obscenely obvious).

Totally be her emotional release. Take that same intensity of desire that you have to make mind-blowing spunkbusters with said beauty, and present that to yourself as, "this is how much my wife wants me to be emotionally available. If I'm not being as emotionally available as I really do need to be, she's getting the blueball end of the deal for her very real emotional need, in a way that I'm considering resorting to a subscription to Sapphic Erotica.

Consider this scenario: What if you were known for being the kindest, most gentle but strong and supportive man ever, the guy loads of women would swoon for, but all any of them wanted to do with you was only hear about how you rescued a baby from a burning building, or how you singlehandedly raised a child in the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed your beloved wife -- but never get it on with you, and how much that would woefully blow some really fat goat. Consider now that how OMGWTF I Have Just Seen The Messiah hot that your wife is -- and know that pretty much every guy she may have ever met was secretly wanting to exclusively make her spurt milk from her ears, but never be emotionally involved. Be that emotional pillar of strength.

Easy homework: watch a ton of romance movies, but only pay attention to the guy. Don't look for his moves, look how he listens. Look how he matches speed with her emotional high speed chase each step of the way and remains firmly expressive of his feelings and emotional availability. Look also at the love scenes themselves -- subdued and slow. Not rapidfire flesh-slapping spoogebaths. Romance movies are the porn for the womenfolk, generating an outlet feeling that needs to be taken care of but apparently isn't with their current S.O..

You are so close to unlocking the wicked-hot piston-action euphoria-festooned Meaningful Booty, but most guys just don't even want to bother with that. As much as most women don't want to "be so shallow" as to turn guys on to get them to be emotional. If guys consider the romance-movie guy to be whipped shallow-man but consider the leggy lady with a skirt as long as her eyelashes as hot -- consider the reverse for the ladies' angle: the emotional listener and confirms her fears as legitimate while offering her a shoulder to cry on and consolation that they'll work through it together, then likewise the dude whose primary goal is to stir the fur is therefore the shallow version.
posted by vanoakenfold at 2:27 PM on July 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

follow-up from the OP

Well, to answer the questions about sex prior to marriage, we didn't live together, but we -did- have sex about once a week, every weekend. And this was the case whether we went out as a couple, went out with friends, or just stayed at my place.

Of course, I'd like sex two or three times a week, but, to be honest, I'd consider even once a week to be enough to satisfy me. I'd at least know I'm a human.

As for the 'cooking her dinner' suggestion. I admit I don't cook dinner, but, since I don't actually -eat- dinner, I see no reason to cook it. Now, I know for a fact that I can cook. My wife has raved about my cooking. I just detest the very act of cooking, the setup, the organization, the wasted time in the kitchen, and the cleanup afterwards always make any meal, no matter how tasty, seem less appealing than, well, even Chicken McNuggets.

As for the comments about loafing about on the couch, ready for sex, keep in mind that I typically get home from working out at the same time she does, or else I've got some other flavor of appointment in the early evening/afternoon. Of course, I have largely adopted such a busy schedule because she's got one as well, and I -don't- want to loaf around the house.

But, as for work around the house, I do all home repairs, from installing mini blinds and towel racks to fixing sewer systems and installing insulation. I take care of all lawn and exterior maintenance. I do about 45% of the laundry, and about 30% of the interior cleaning. Of course, whenever I clean anything, she comes up behind me and cleans it again. My work is never thorough enough to meet her satisfaction. I pay all of the bills (mortgage, gas/electric, water, cell phone, car insurance, life insurance, health), and expect her to pay none. Typically she saves her salary for the odd vacation, article of clothing, piece or furniture or what have you.

As for sex, well, I don't necessarily reach orgasm very easily. I acknowledge that, and that may be part of her reluctance. But, hell, I'd be happy with -any- form of intimacy. It doesn't have to be 100% penis-in-vagina-missionary style, but, damn, I'd just like to feel wanted for a change.

No, she doesn't masturbate. And, yes, I've asked.

As for working out, she does it for the same reason that she doesn't take birth control pills. She's a health nut. She monitors calories, trans fats, sodium, and just about everything else you can think of for anything she eats. Birth control pills mess with natural cycles, and she's not cool with that.

"Are you sure she's at the gym?" (the suggestion being that she's having an affair)
Well, she can out-run, out-swim, and out-bike me. So, she must be getting good at it somewhere.

To elaborate on the social engagements thing, I view them as a necessary evil, you know, drive across town to see her folks, go to dinner parties with her friends, do this or that fundraising event for a charity, etc. I do them all, mainly to be a good husband to her. I don't particularly care for any of these things, and she knows it. I put on a good smile, and try to entertain everybody involved - if I didn't these affairs would be much, much worse. Typically, I'm the life of the party, and, I hate to admit, but roughly 75% of the reason she gets invited to these things.

ctmf's statements hit home pretty closely.
"I suggest doing your own thing. Do some things by yourself, hobbies, whatever. Hang out with your own circle of friends sometimes." I've given up on the majority of my hobbies -and- my circle of friends to try to be a good husband. I have given up on playing music, playing video games, hanging out with my friends (all of whom are cynical drunks), etc. I don't do anything on my own because it cuts into the time I can spend alone with my wife (which, of course, is not awesome, as you well know).

vanoakenfold is right too, I find that when we regularly had sex (in the pre-marriage days, and during the honeymoon), we were much closer. I find myself much more emotionally close to her -after- sex (and for several days, as well) than before. For our last anniversary, I was writing her a love letter, and I had to try at it for weeks before anything would come out. It's pretty hard to feel "in love" with somebody who won't even touch you.

My theory that I've been developing is that she's a nervous wreck/worrywart/type-A personality, and so anything in the world is THE MOST PRESSING THING GOING ON RIGHT NOW. I had assumed that when things would calm down at work, she'd feel better/more relaxed/etc. But, now, I've found, married life just gives her more to worry about. I ask to her to take less responsibility, but she manages to fill every spare moment of the day with worry-fuel. I've even been asking her -not- to take a promotion at work because it will just make her worry more. On our sexless vacations, she never stops worrying (hence the no sex?).

That's an update.
posted by jessamyn at 3:21 PM on July 21, 2007

For our last anniversary, I was writing her a love letter, and I had to try at it for weeks before anything would come out. It's pretty hard to feel "in love" with somebody who won't even touch you.

She needs to understand this, but also it sounds like you have either a totally inability to relate or active contempt for some of the parts of her life that matter the most to her.
posted by caitlinb at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2007

I'm sorry, but it seems as if there's a lot more off-kilter in your marriage than just the infrequent sex. Assuming that you two are still a good match in the first place (and what you have described in your update seems slightly at odds with your original description), what you describe sounds as if you're making all the sacrifices and your wife makes almost none in the sexual, emotional, environmental, economic and social spheres of your life.

It's possible that your wife may agree, or she may have a very different perspective, but the problem is that you perceive this as a one-way marriage. You seem to very much resent several aspects of your life with the woman you say you love.

Are there ways you can re-align your lives to make it more equitable? For example, can you split the household finances more equally? As long as you are left feeling like a noble martyr in many parts of your married life, it's going to be hard to make things work.

For example, if you can't live up to her standards of housekeeping, TALK about it. Maybe she feels like a martyr because she feels she has to re-clean everything you clean, and that leaves you insulted and her resentful of the wasted effort

If you're having problems coming, then it makes even more sense to talk clearly about that aspect of your life. It's awful that coming is so difficult for you, but it may also be a really bad situation for your wife. She may feel that she doesn't arouse you enough, or that she's sexually incompetent, and this makes the prospect of sex with you even less attractive. (If you're masturbating to porn a lot, you may, in fact, be training your body out of its ability to respond to her body.)

You two really need to talk about EVERYTHING. This isn't just a sexual issue. You both probably feel like long-suffering martyrs and that's a horrible thing to do to your marriage.

Set your priorities. Let's assume that each of you still loves the other and want to stay married. What things about your individual lives and preferences are most important? Choose three each: a fit body, social engagements, something else. Then TALK so that each of you makes emotional and sexual connection with each other their other high priorities. If this means the house looks like crap, so be it.
posted by rosemere at 4:16 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

Thanks for following up, anon.

What your comment seems to indicate to me is a really big lack of willingness to compromise on both of your parts. She drags you to all these social engagements that you have no interest in. Well, she should suck it up and go alone sometimes so you can have some time for yourself. You won't cook her dinner because you don't like to. Well, you should do it anyways because sometimes she's going to be really effing tired, and it's a nice thing to do for someone you love. (These are of course just examples.)

With regard to division of chores: please realize that the things you list - lawn maintenance, installing blinds, etc. - happen relatively rarely in comparison to routine housework. They count, for sure, but the shower needs to be scrubbed a lot more often than the gutters need to be cleaned. You say you do about 30% of the housework, but if she needs to re-do it, what she probably sees is your half-assing it so you can say you did, while she still needs to do 100% of the work. Since you both work outside the home, you really ought to be splitting things 50-50 (no matter who pays the bills). If she maintains that you can't do the interior cleaning to her standard, then let her do it - but do all the laundry, or start cooking dinner or something so that the overall time and effort commitment to the household between you is balanced.

Also, I think it's sad that you've given up on doing the things you like, because that's not necessary for being a good husband. As caitlinb points out it is also distressing to note that you seem to be completely disinterested in the things that are important to her. What did you guys enjoy together when you were dating? Why can you not do those now? What do you have in common?

It seems like, as nanojath points out, the lack of sex is more of a symptom than the actual problem in your relationship. Reading between the lines there seems to be a lot of resentment simmering between you both, and the lack of physical intimacy is amplifying it. Honestly, I think counseling is probably the best thing for you. I'm usually hesitant to jump on that bandwagon, but you come across as being so detached from one another that I think you could really benefit from the opinion of a trained professional who has the benefit of being able to interact with you directly.

I really do hope this works out for you two. It's complicated, to be sure, but you're not beyond help.
posted by AV at 4:35 PM on July 21, 2007

Since you both work outside the home, you really ought to be splitting things 50-50 (no matter who pays the bills).

I strongly disagree here, especially if anonymous is, as he said, urging her not to take a promotion at work. It really depends on who makes the money, and what the individuals involved have worked out.
posted by digitalis at 4:45 PM on July 21, 2007

maybe i'm the bitch here but why is everyone so sympathetic of the wife? from everything the OP has written (and yes, it is only his perspective that we are getting here), she sounds like she's bait and switched you and that she's being just plain selfish in this regard. i mean, you only get to do it when she feels like it and then only until she climaxes? and you sound like you have given up a lot in order to be a good husband.

i think definitely you need to go into counseling. sex is certainly something that someone who gets married can reasonably expect–and not just once a month (and definitely not only until one of you gets off). you need to decide whether this is a big enough issue for you to tell her that it will put your marriage at risk if things don't change. some people can hang with it but it sounds like you might be reaching the end of your rope. also, if she is a Type-A personality as you mentioned, this might also be another means by which she can exercise control over her life—and over other ppl in it. she definitely is in control of when and how often you get to have sex with her. you have no say in it whatseover it seems which…it's not cool not being allowed to initiate sex as well. marriage should be give and take and in this regard at least, the both of you are not on equal footing.
posted by violetk at 5:03 PM on July 21, 2007

You know, I hate cooking too. I really don't enjoy any single bit of it and find it hard to do as a result. Left to my own devices I eat toast and breakfast cereal for dinner. But I cook dinner anyway, twice a week, because my boyfriend asks me to and because it's a way of taking care of him. It makes him feel nurtured and cared for (as well as the practical aspect of giving him a night off) even when we don't actually eat the meal together. This is important given that he does most of the nurturing stuff in the relationship and cooking for him is one of the few ways I get to do that in return.

You sound like you're totally lacking intimacy in your relationship. You have a clinical list of the jobs you do, including the social stuff which she knows you don't even like (which actually comes off as kind of cold), your lives are so full there's no time for each other, she isn't addressing your needs sexually and it sounds like her needs aren't being addressed either (all that worrying). I don't know how you can get intimacy back, just that romance should still be part of your life even if you're not having sex that often. Counseling is probably your best bet, because the lack of sex seems to be a symptom of a deeper cause.

She should also definitely talk to a GYN about this, the strict monthly cycle is a strong indicator that she's having sex with you when she ovulates. The hormone peak at this time raises the libido, for fairly obvious evolutionary reasons, and it can be a pretty dramatic change. This is well backed up in the scientific literature and my personal experience certainly matches (I love ovulation day). But it's not so normal for the sex drive to be totally non-existent the rest of the time and there could be a physical component there (including the exercise). I know it's pretty fashionable and accepted wisdom to say 'oh, females just have less sex drive' but there's no real biological reason for that to be true. Females can have high or low sex drives just as men can, individuals vary. Social constructs and expectations (including the idea our sex drives should be lower) play a large part and can interfere in ways men might not understand, so you're back to counseling as viable option again once physical reasons have been ruled out.
posted by shelleycat at 5:05 PM on July 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

digitalis, my point is that if they both presumably work full-time jobs, then they both presumably have the same amount of time and energy available to devote to housework at the end of the day. And therefore, they should devote the same amount of time and energy to housework. I agree it's odd that she doesn't contribute at all to household expenses, but that's kind of splitting hairs, assuming anon is accurate in his description that it mostly gets saved up for vacations/furniture and other things they both enjoy the benefit of. (If she's blowing it all on things that are solely for her, then of course she should start contributing to the bills so that anon has an equal amount of spending cash - but that's still aside from their personal ability to contribute to the housework).

At any rate, this is all kind of beside the point. Housework and bill paying disparities are just symptoms of a larger problem that anon and his wife will hopefully work through.
posted by AV at 5:37 PM on July 21, 2007

(It's equally possible that she's choosing a particular day not because she has the horn because she's ovulating but because she wants to be ultra certain not to get pregnant.)
posted by caitlinb at 5:49 PM on July 21, 2007

That is actually a very good point caitlinb. Anon can probably work out which it is by some careful observation and tracking the timing, ovulation happens about halfway through the cycle whereas a 'safe' time is more likely to just before menstruation. But again it's something she should be talking with her doctor about, because there is more than one 'safe' day a month and there are other ways to be safe besides denying her husband sex. Birth control is one of those issues that should be worked out between the couple, at the very least the male should be in the loop, and it kind of indicates control issues on her part and/or overall communication problems if he isn't being involved in these kind of decisions. Heh, which brings us back to counseling.

Of course we're making some basic assumptions here which could be totally wrong. The main one being that her cycle is actually around 30 days long when anywhere from three to five weeks is totally normal. Hopefully the OP can work out if any of this is an issue or not.
posted by shelleycat at 6:05 PM on July 21, 2007

Man, there are (from the descriptions here) a huge array of things gone wrong in this marriage. I think that the sex is both symptom and cause of some of the issues, but there sounds like there is tension over food, money, housework, social lives, and just about everything else you can think of.

But that said, I think that Mr Anon should take as a starting point that he deserves to be happy (as, of course, does Mrs Anon). He deserves to be with someone who treats him well, and he deserves to be appreciated for who and what he is. Whether or not Mrs Anon is the right person for that, or even whether Mr Anon is himself ready to be happy, I don't know. (From his description, he kind of sounds like someone who is going to some lengths to ensure that he is not happy, but it's hard to tell from two short passages what is really going on.)

But it is also clear that what Mr Anon is now doing is not making him happy (nor, it sounds, is what he is doing making Mrs Anon happy). At a minimum, he should be talking with a counselor; at some point, Mr and Mrs Anon need to learn how to actually communicate with each other about their needs, wants, desires, and so on. I mean, they've been married for two years, and he doesn't actually know why she is not having sex with him. This is a situation that screams either for communication communication communication, or for one of them to initiate the process of separation. To continue as-is just seems so sad -- something needs to change, at a very fundamental level, for both of them.

But I don't think all is lost. At one point they seem to have had a decent sexual and conversational connection -- there is a foundation here to (re)build upon. But to do that will mean relearning how to relate at a very basic level, and that is not an easy process.
posted by Forktine at 6:54 PM on July 21, 2007

So, she's not present in your home all that much, she's not a sexual partner, she withholds all of her salary for her own uses, and you don't even share meals together... This is not looking like a marriage to me. Does she want to be married? Do you two have the same idea of what it means to be married?
posted by NortonDC at 7:39 PM on July 21, 2007

she's a nervous wreck/worrywart/type-A personality

It definitely sounds like it! But is this new behavior? If she has changed since you married maybe there's something specific you can work on, but if she's always been that way I think you have to accept it as a part of her, and see if you can live/work with it.

Satisfying herself and leaving you to fend for yourself is just plain mean though.
posted by MiffyCLB at 7:40 PM on July 21, 2007

I'd just like to feel wanted for a change.

I wonder if that might be summing things up for both of you? Maybe you're both independent minded people, which is good for you as an individuals but not always so good for you as a couple - do you need to find a balance on that front?

Has your marriage possibly fallen into a general game of see-who-needs-who-the-most? Mrs. Scheptech and I went through a phase like that which more or less defined the end of the crazy madly-in-lust honeymoon period of our relationship, probably several months in. It went on for a while and I'm not sure what ended it, I think probably we just sort of evolved the relationship into a new phase of more open direct communication and consciously aligning goals and desires.

It's clearly important for relationship longevity for each partner to feel wanted at a number of levels. Do you guys both feel that you actually need each other and have you communicated your feelings? Is she possibly trying to figure out if you need her or you just need sex? This would not be an uncommon concern at all.

(And trust me on the food thing, it matters. Since it's so out of character why not try a little experiment, try cooking dinner before she gets home some time. She'll be surprised and you might also be surprised - a thought anyway.)
posted by scheptech at 7:53 PM on July 21, 2007

AskMe: What in the hell do I do?

Arrange for time to talk, maybe on a weekend, when no one is tired from the day job.

Sit her down, in the house and explain that you love her, but you're losing your mind over the lack of sex and if you two don't work together to solve this, then your marriage may not last.

You guys are in crisis and need to see counselor. This may be her normal sexual appetite, but at this point you don't know and don't seem able to get answers or even know what questions to ask.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:23 PM on July 21, 2007

Agreeing with everyone who says you two should get counseling, but also, dang, it just seems that there is no joy generally in your day-to-day lives.

You two really should discuss this and find ways to get some bliss on together... setting up romantic scenes in order to kickstart the sex thing would probably be a bit like purpose-driven sham staging. It seems like you guys need to giggle, be silly, tell ghost stories, make cookies, cuddle, discover neat little cafes where you go to just hang out together, take adventure walks, play strip Scrabble, Bed & Breakfast weekend, work on a joint project, trade foot massages, do crossword puzzles in bed, home winetasting, play an adventure video game together, read the same book at the same time then talk about it, champagne sunday brunch at home, rearrange the living room, go on a photo safari in the nearest park, pick out hats, play 20 questions, make Baked Alaska, play dress-up, create scavenger hunts for each other, do a giant jigsaw puzzle together, buy matching bathrobes... you know? Have fun?

It seems like the only fun going on right now is exercise high for her, and nothing for you. If there's truly no way for you two to find a way towards ordinary intimacy, bonding, and pleasure, I just don't see how the sexual aspect could ever really be resolved. When you are on your deathbed it won't be the sparkling clean toilet bowl or tidy tax returns that on your minds.

posted by taz at 12:19 AM on July 22, 2007 [5 favorites]

I wonder if she's had some sort of sexual abuse sometime in her distant past and she developed the "busy all the time stress over everything" behavior to deal with advances back then and thats how she deals with it now? Other than when she initiates it herself I suppose. If so I'd say either way that counseling is your first step in this and if she refuses, keep trying for a while. If she still refuses then you move to plan B which is whatever you decide - be it divorce or resigning yourself to this lifestyle - but thats really all up to you at that point once you tried the best you could - it will at least make things easier in hindsight after plan B.
posted by clanger at 9:43 AM on July 22, 2007

My first thought was 'Cheat'.

My second thought (after reading the update) was 'Wow... what the hell are you getting out of this marriage?'

Seriously. Look hard at this. You presented your social life in the original post as one of the positives of your relationship, but it turns out that you do it for her and not for you. You say you 'get along famously' but I'm failing to see anything that you two do together that you both enjoy. And the sex... good god. Frequency declining over a period of months or years is one thing, but such an abrupt drop reads as sadistic.

Is there really anything you are getting out of being married to her? Because I'm not seeing it.
posted by happyturtle at 10:02 AM on July 22, 2007

From my (albeit quick) perusal of the other comments I'm really surprised that no one is picking up more on the biggest red flag that pretty much lept from my screen and smacked me in the face when I read it... Her last husband actually DIVORCED her for this exact behavior. This is a pattern for her, it's how she manages interpersonal intimate relationships, and it honestly sounds like it has a lot to do with control. Someting about your relationship or the status of being married or _something_ has her really spooked and she's shutting down and shutting you out. I think these issues run a lot deeper than you may realize and they also sound like they have very little to do with you personally. And all that working out and stressing about food - it just seems so clear - I have known countless women like this and have at times been one. The anxiety and stress and need for planning and not being happy even on vacation and every little addition to your life just adding more stress - she truly needs counseling. She's dealing with her own stuff and it is dramatically impacting your relationship. It's not going to get better on it's own and you can't fix it. But you do need to tell her - in a very explicit and direct way - that what she's doing isn't working for you. That you won't tolerate it but that you will support her if she's willing to work on it. And she needs to evaluate whether she's willing to change her ways for you. Please don't let this distance she's building give you a reason to withdraw, though. It's most likely not a direct rejection of you personally. (Paulsc might be onto something with his comment.)
posted by smallstatic at 11:12 AM on July 22, 2007

To elaborate on the social engagements thing, I view them as a necessary evil, you know, drive across town to see her folks, go to dinner parties with her friends, do this or that fundraising event for a charity, etc. I do them all, mainly to be a good husband to her. I don't particularly care for any of these things, and she knows it. I put on a good smile, and try to entertain everybody involved - if I didn't these affairs would be much, much worse. Typically, I'm the life of the party, and, I hate to admit, but roughly 75% of the reason she gets invited to these things.

It sounds to me like the person she wants to be married to isn't you. You're doing your best to be who she wants, but that can't be any fun for either of you, especially since she knows you're just doing it for her.

Relationships require compromise, of course, but it sounds like you've given up everything that makes you you and she's been able to do exactly she wants, whenever she wants it.

I continue to recommend (despite no qualifications) counseling and/or divorce.
posted by callmejay at 2:24 PM on July 22, 2007

If the problem is her type A personality, would it be possible to go away for the weekend somewhere where there is no pressure on her? I know that you said that there was no sex on the last two vactions you had but its possible she still felt like she should be doing something, or planning something. Maybe it would be worth taking her away somewhere where you have planned everything and she has nothing to do or worry about. It won't fix the long term problem but her reaction to this might give you a deeper understanding of why she acts the way she does.
It could be possible that for some reason she finds the idea of sex frightening, maybe because of abuse in her past, or fear of failure or intimacy. If this is the case the best way to talk to her about this would be to bring it up in a way which doesn't make her feel attacked, but doesn't allow her to gloss over the problem.
The best way to do this is to bring it up as concern about her happiness both in herself and in your relationship. I would recommend communicating honestly with her and telling you want to understand and help her work on the issue, but that it is an issue for you and is making you unhappy. The trouble with saying 'we need to get more intimate, what can we do to make this happen?" is that she could be interpreting it as not taking her fears and perspectives into account - if it stems from deep rooted issues it might not be that simple to fix. You could also bring up the possibility of couples counselling in this conversation.
posted by Laura_J at 6:54 PM on July 22, 2007

Please don't wait any longer to seek out counseling. Ask her if she will go with you, but if not, go anyway. Invest that money and that time in yourself - you deserve it; you need someone to talk to; you need an advocate.

You've "sacrificed" yourself to such an extent that you're not you anymore. You've given her complete control over you - your free time, your social life, your emotional, physical, and sexual well-being.

Take care of yourself, man - find social and recreational activities that you love. Turn down a social gathering once in a while. Spend some money on yourself, even if it means asking the missus to contribute to a bill.

Do something that gives you something to tell your wife about in the evenings.
posted by puddleglum at 11:41 AM on July 23, 2007

Follow-up from the OP:

Well, here's the long and short of it:
After 2 years of sex once a month in the marriage, we've managed to figure it out.

In late August the lube we had been using during intercourse ran out. We grabbed our backup bottle, it was from a different manufacturer (more of a 'clear' type lube, instead of a 'cream').

On our one time a month where we managed to do it, we broke out the new lube. I was so overwhelmed with sensation that I was able to reach orgasm through regular (okay, woman-on-top) sex.

It was the first time, ever, and the rush of emotions that emerged were incredible.

Here's how it worked out:
1) The previous lube had the nasty side effect of numbing my (ahem) sensation, to the point where I couldn't reach orgasm without LOTS (5-7 minutes) of very aggressive hand and mouth stimulation.
2) The Mrs. would get frustrated from having to do this all of the time. She found it unromantic, and emotionless (I do understand that), and began to view it more as a chore than as a 'pleasant departure from the normal routine'.
3) On top of that, the less often we had penetrative sex, the more she hurt from when we did (also a substantial de-motivator).

So, we switched the lube up, and now, we can successfully complete intercourse like everybody else does. Since more intercourse means less pain for her, we're even better off now, as we're up to 7 times in 3 weeks. Keep in mind, that's more sex in 3 weeks than I had in the five months prior.

On top of that, our relationship with each other has changed (immensely), we flirt consistently, laugh at each other more, go out and do 'couply' things, ride bikes, take walks, see plays, hang out with friends or just each other, play cards, drink wine, and shoot the breeze.

Not only is my sex life better, but my relationship with my wife is better now than it has ever been, and it seems to be getting better with each passing week.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 PM on October 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

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