Annie’s Mailbox: Sex off the table after separation
Dear Annie: Five years ago (after 20 years of marriage), my wife and I separated because she found out that I had been regularly indulging in phone sex and that I had slept with another woman.
When she asked me to leave, I was determined to completely change my life. I sought help and was clinically diagnosed as a sex addict. I entered a 12-step program and had intensive therapy, read voraciously and, with the help of God, turned my life around. When I briefly lost my job some years ago, my wife let me move back into our home, but not into our bedroom.
Since then, we have slowly rebuilt trust to the point where we date, cuddle and even sleep in the same bed. She tells me she can see how I’ve changed, and that she admires the work I’ve done. Despite all of this, however, she has repeatedly said that she does not believe she will ever be willing to have sex with me again. She refuses to discuss the matter, even in therapy. She sees a therapist on her own, but says that working on becoming intimate with me is not a priority.
I would like to keep our family together, but I don’t know how I can continue in a relationship where sex isn’t even allowed to be discussed. What can I do? – Loveless and Discouraged
Dear Loveless: Married couples can have a good relationship without sex, but only if both partners agree to it. We commend you for doing the necessary work to salvage your marriage. Unfortunately, your wife still may not trust you entirely, or she may simply be uninterested in intimacy. She also may feel that she put up with your philandering for 20 years, so you should give her however much time she needs. There has, in fact, been progress, albeit more slowly than you’d like. Intimacy and communication are things you should be working on in couples therapy. Please bring both of these issues up at your next session.