After 20 years of marriage, no intimate life

moositSeptember 4, 2009

I'm starting this thread to see if this has happened to anyone else and what they did about it.

My wife and I have been married for just over 20 years and are in our early 50's. We both work, I am a stock/bond trader and can work out of the home. My wife makes a lot more money than I, but it's been that way for about 15 years.

The problem: we have no intimate life. For the past 10 or 12 years, my wife has slept apart from me. Back then, she mentioned that I snored, but I took care of that. There have been no affairs(I'm almost 99% certain my wife has not had any either), no abuse of any kind, and neither one of us are spendthrifts.

My wife is simply not interested in sharing an intimate life. If we're talking just about sex, I think twice a year would be enough for her. I've had to force the issue, so we end up having sex perhaps three or four times a year. She never initiates.

But I'm also talking about affection. Most of the time, I have to initiate this and it seems my wife doesn't even want me to touch her. On the rare times that we sleep together, she sleeps in "sweats" and swaddles herself in the covers, so I can't even snuggle with her. She's told me several times to "stay on your side of the bed".

Formerly, my wife would fall asleep in front of the TV in the family room, but then our teenage daughter started asking her why she wasn't in bed with me(she also asked me!). I told her to ask her mother. I guess my wife got embarrassed and now beds down in her closet with the door closed and the TV on all night.

I've talked to her about this behavior at least a 25 times in the last 10 years or so, but she mostly just says: "I don't know" or something vague. Finally, I forced it a few weeks ago and really had it out with her. The thing she kept coming back to is that I don't clean enough. We have cleaning ladies come in once a week. She says cleaning is important to her and an "underpinning" to an intimate life together.

I'll never understand this, but I'd appreciate some points of view, both male and female.


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Nevermind the sex, although that's certainly part of the mix. You've described pretty bizarre behavior. Normal, healthy people don't sleep in closets. The cleaning thing is nonsense -- strange way to de-focus the discussion. Post-menopausal psychosis? (Just made that up, but there's certainly something strange going on.)

Suggest professional help. She's over the edge. Your situation needs analysis and advice. If she's unwilling, this will be your life. And it will likely escalate as time goes on unless it's challenged. Break this thing open and find out what's really going on.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 1:40PM
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You guys desperately need sex counseling. I strongly suspect she has never been satisfied sexually. It looks like she probably made the attempt early on but eventually gave up. Now she's afraid to cuddle or show affection because in her mind that always leads to sexual intercourse and for some reason, either physically or mentally, that has become extremely painful. You first have to find out if it is a physical problem and then go from there.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 1:41PM
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I suggested marital counseling, but she would only agree on individual counseling. I'm going for my first session next Tuesday and expect to have perhaps three or four sessions.

I'm going to wait until these sessions are over and then ask my wife if she has made her first appointment. I'd be pleasantly surprised if she has and works through her "issues".

I'll have to admit that sex has never been great with us, and early on, we both made efforts to make things better and/or more interesting.

One other thing: my wife had a hard time staying pregnant at first. We finally had two children, the last in 1996. Things never came back after that.

Back then, I was a contract computer programmer and was finding it harder and harder to find new jobs in the local area. This certainly didn't help matters.

If the problem turns out to be the my wife has just not been satified with our sex life, there are so many things that can be done these days, even pills.

But I've also been told that you can't force your spouse to go to counseling. If my wife changes her mind about even individual counseling, we're done.

I won't move out of town and will try to stay as close as possible to our children(especially my son, we do a lot of things together).

Now my work life is better(not as good as I'd like it, but moving forward). My personal intimate life with my wife has not changed at all in the last 10 years.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 2:10PM
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Does your wife at least agree that things aren't right between you? Does she acknowledge her behaviors are more than a bit peculiar? If you're the only one dissatisfied and she thinks she's fine, there's only one direction this is going to go.

10 years is a looong time to have borne with it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 3:12PM
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She has agreed to go to individual, but not marital counseling. Better than nothing, I guess. She says she is more comfortable in the closet and she can watch TV.

I'm at the end of my rope. If this counseling doesn't work, I'd like to try to have a happy intimate life with someone else.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 3:21PM
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This is quite strange - sleeping in the closet?

Are you absolutely sure that when she said you don't clean enough she didn't mean your own personal hygiene? I don't mean to offend you, but I don't know how you not cleaning the house enough, especially having cleaning ladies, translates into the behavior you've described.

However, if by some chance you don't shower often enough or completely enough, or you've got some other personal issue that she describes that way, that makes much more sense to me.

Could that possibly be it?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 3:39PM
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You said she earns more than you and that you work at home. It might be that she doesn't feel that you are contributing enough to the household/relationship. And she is seeing you not as an equal partner but someone else to "have" to take care of.
And just as suzieque mentioned...your wife might have meant your personal hygiene needs tending.
Have you made your bedroom a place she'd find enticing? Or have your habits made it inhabitable for her? Perhaps purchase some new bedding, get some music she enjoys... then don't go for the sex right off...just romance her.
One thing I wouldn't do is put the entire situation onto her she's the only one that needs to be "fixed". Do what you can to woo her too. Like when you were dating some. If a babysitter needs to be gotten, you make sure you hire one.
Turn over every stone before even thinking of divorce, because you'll be the better man for it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 4:06PM
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Could be all kinds of stuff is involved but after ten years of it, the changes (all good ones!) that deborah ps suggested would be like a lightning bolt. Then, again, maybe exactly the jolt that would benefit everyone. Don't see any downside to it.

In any event, sleeping with a TV in the closet is pretty weird behavior for an early-fifties wife and mother. Whatever's going on with her is NOT trivial. Somebody should plumb those depths. I hope she agrees to counseling whether or not they stay together.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 4:35PM
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I wish it were that simple. Personal hygiene is no problem, we live in Arizona where the temperature reaches 120 degrees or more in the summer. You almost have to take at least one shower per day. I use deodorant soap also. But this problem started when we were living in Michigan, a much different climate.

Someone also mentioned that it might be that she was dissatisfied with our sex life. If that were the case, she should have told me and I could have done something 10 years ago. I think Viagra and other men's products were out already.

Now about not contributing to the finances: that has been a problem for the last 10 years or so. But she reassured me that it doesn't matter how much I make. It does, however matter to me. I have to be able to tell myself that I can support my own family. I could, but it would be in a small apartment, not the nice house we have now.

Unfortunately, that's the way she's thought of me, as the one who needs to be "fixed". Won't work that way.

I think it was more important to my wife that she find a good dad figure for her future children rather than a good husband. For her, the kids always come first, her mother(when she was alive) came second and I came a distant third. She made a point of telling me once, though I can't remember how it came up in the conversation. That was a red warning flag then which I should have heeded and insisted that I be first in her life.

She's also mentioned that she wants to do as much as possible with the kids before they are grown and gone. I agree, but she rarely wants to do anything just with me.

By cleaning, she does indeed mean house cleaning. I think even if I did this to her standards(her mother used to clean houses), nothing would change. She might grace me with her presence once in a while, but that's it.

I'm going to go to individual counseling and I hope she goes too. I'll give her a month to finish that up and face her "issues". Then if I don't see any changes, I'll insist on marital counseling. If she won't do that or won't even go to individual counseling, I'm gone.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 7:39PM
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It sounds as if you're "gone" already Moosit.

If going to counseling is for your benefit and not hers, all the better. Because finding joy for oneself is as attractive as it gets.

I wouldn't hold my breath that you'll see significant changes with "her issues" with or without counseling, because in all honesty from the bits that you've posted all of the blame for your situation has already been laid at her feet.
And seriously if it felt as though my mate were "baiting" me, as the tone of your last post seems, I'd be so out of there...and it certainly seems that she has been emotionally for a long time.

You mustn't blame her because you didn't man up when she told you who came 1st. That's your pill to swallow and deal with.

I'm not saying that how she's dealt with your marital challenges is fair or good. But I do hope you'll own your responsibility in the matter. Because that too is an attractive attribute in a mate.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 10:47PM
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One other point Moosit, you said "Someone also mentioned that it might be that she was dissatisfied with our sex life. If that were the case, she should have told me and I could have done something 10 years ago. I think Viagra and other men's products were out already."

It seems to me if a magic pill were needed, it wouldn't be for YOU, but HER. Maybe her hormones are whacked out. You have it in your mind she's "withholding" to torture you. I highly doubt that's the case. Seriously. Give her the benefit of the on her side, because if she does need some medication to become balanced or help increase her libido, the last thing she'll respond to is that you'd be making this all about you.

Many women need more mental and emotional stimulation...let that be your guide to building her libido.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 11:21PM
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My SO has a cousin whose wife sleeps with TV on the whole night as well as loud rock music on, yes it is all on the whole night. she sleeps on a couch in front of the TV and a computer, while there is a movie on TV there is a loud music blasting from the computer all night long till the morning. a lot of the time it is the same song on and on about 50 times (one of her sons is in a band and it is his music, very bad music BTW)

she is up till 2AM-3am every night, then sleeps till noon or 1PM. then drinks coffee and smokes in the house for several hours, then long bath, then goes to work for couple of hours, then comes back changes into pajamas (she wears pajamas all day long if she is in the house home or visiting). and cycle starts again.

she also chain smokes and drinks coffee all night and day. and she keeps 3 cats, 2 dogs, a bird, a rat, a snake and fish.

she takes 2-3 hour bath every day not only in their own house but also when visiting others (she did it last month when they visited us, her husband begged her not to, it didn't help) she also never cleans, cooks or does anything else around the house, her husband does everything.

her husband is not like that. he is a normal human being. he is suffering, stressed and embarassed of that behavior of hers, but he puts up wiht that for some bizzare reason.

i am not surprised someone sleeps in ther closets (i take it she sleeps in walk in closet?). there are plenty of weird, weird people out there. until i have met this woman i had no clue what means CRAZY. maybe your wife is just crazy. simple as that.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2009 at 3:08PM
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What is your wife's work life like, is she under a lot of stress at work?

"Hiding" away in the closet sounds like a symptom of stress, maybe she feels she has lost control of her life, she might be depressed. She might feel things are closing in on her and she is trying to "push" those feelings away by putting herself into a small space. This might give her some security.

She should talk to a counsellor as a matter of urgency.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2009 at 8:48PM
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My honest opinion is that your wife is not in love with you anymore (if she ever was) and is only staying with you "because of the children". Let's look at the facts; she shows no interest in you whatsoever (physically, sexually) and doesn't even want to sleep with you or spend any time with you. She told you straight out that you were third in the list of her priorities. She is making excuses as to why she won't have sex with you because she doesn't want to admit to the real reason. I think she wants you to stay around as long as the kids are still at home. The biggest indicator of all is that she will not attend marital counseling with you!! She obviously knows you aren't happy and are trying to work on the marriage, yet she is only willing to placate you by going to individual counseling. Not that she doesn't need that too, but the problems are with the marriage, yet she straight up is refusing to do maybe the only thing that would save the marriage. No matter what the reason is for the problem, the fact that she is unwilling to try and fix it clearly demonstrates how important the relationship is to her.

I think you are too young to be spending your life in a "relationship" with someone who basically wants nothing to do with you. Nobody should have to endure a marriage where they are having sex a couple of times a year (unless both partners are fine with that arrangement) or when one partner obviously has no interest in the other. I think that unless she agrees to actually go to Marriage Counseling, with YOU, and talk about what is going on here, then don't bother. Why should you try if she isn't going to. Go find someone who is madly in love with you and wants to cuddle with you, have sex with you, spend time with you, and will communicate openly about problems when they come in your relationship.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 4:03PM
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Know what jennmonkey? Sometimes you say what needs to be said just right. Kudos for this one.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 5:10PM
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"She has agreed to go to individual, but not marital counseling."

This is, quite simply, because she does not want YOU to know what she says to the counselor. She's hiding something from you and wants to continue hiding it.

In fact, she's withholding herself from you in virtually every way.

Honestly, I wouldn't do your whole counseling thing, then see if she's done hers in a month. To me, that sends the message that you're less than 100% serious, and I doubt she'll even go. Stand up and insist she schedule an appointment within the next 48 hours if she wants to stay married. (Not have the appointment - schedule it.)

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 5:55PM
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Thanks asolo. I should get paid for this stuff. ;)

I don't take marriage or leaving a marriage lightly, but I don't think anyone should be condemned to live miserably for the rest of their life when the other half of the equation isn't living up to their end of the bargain. Life is way too short. The children know what's going on, and moosit's wife is not fooling them with the facade of the happy family.

If your wife is not interested in fixing your marriage, then go find real happiness, mr. moosit.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 7:08PM
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"I don't think anyone should be condemned to live miserably for the rest of their life when the other half of the equation isn't living up to their end of the bargain. Life is way too short."

I agree. In the end, that's what it comes down to for just about everyone. People make mistakes. People change. People can be deceptive. (Oh! Can they ever!) I don't think people owe their lives to emergent travesty vows or no vows.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2009 at 12:21PM
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Just saw this post and had to reply. It's possible his wife may not love him anymore, but I think there is a deeper issue going on here. If they had had a great sex life before and then it just dwindled off, I might be inclined to think that her feelings for him had cooled down.The sleeping in the closet thing is alarming. That's something a child would do as a protective measure. I'm beginning to suspect that she may have been molested as a child or raped as a teen-ager or young adult and some repressed memories may be starting to come back to her. I just hope she continues with her therapy and comes to piece with whatever may be haunting her.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 8:50PM
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