The question Content warning: this article contains descriptions of sexual assault.
My husband and I have been married for nearly 35 years. I love him, but I no longer want to have sex with him. I cannot muster any enthusiasm at all. He still desires me, which is lovely… I suppose.
He hasn’t changed any of his “moves” in all the years we’ve been having sex, and they have become less appealing. When I had some libido, I could work myself up into finding enthusiasm. Those days are gone.
I’ve tried to explain, and I’ve tried new ways of trying to make love. I’ve had sex when it is the last thing I feel like doing. I’ve performed a sex act when I haven’t wanted to, I suppose because I feel that there ought to be some sexual intimacy in a marriage.
Today, he pushed me on to the bed, forced my legs apart and mauled at me. I think he thought it was sexy. I was livid and shaken, angry and then I was tearful. He didn’t rape me. I don’t know what he thought he was doing. I hated it and I’m so sick of him constantly pawing at me.
It’s not just that I don’t feel sexual, he seems to just want to pound away at me. I suspect that he has been turning to porn and if that’s the case, and that’s what he’s basing his “moves” on, then I can’t see me ever wanting to have sex with him again.
I think I’d like to stay married. I’ve worked hard at my relationship and my family unit. It feels like a huge thing to tell him that I no longer want him sexually. Today though, he went too far. As our friends are mutual, I have no one to talk to about this.
Philippa’s answer You might not want to say that was rape. I would, however, call it sexual assault. It was neither consensual nor loving. I feel upset on your behalf. Being violated by someone you love will feel confusing. I’m not surprised you felt shaken, tearful and angry.
I might be wrong, but I get the impression that he is using you for sex. I noticed when you talk about sex with your husband the pronoun “we” is missing. You talk about “I” and “he” – it doesn’t sound like a shared, mutual act of love. It sounds more like something that is done to you, which isn’t usually the sort of sex that makes partners feel closer, and it is driving you from him. Being pawed is very different from a caressing, loving touch. Even when you had libido, you talk of working yourself up to find enthusiasm rather than becoming aroused together. You don’t want to be an object he tries out his “moves” on.
You do not have to be used; no one has a right to sex just because they are in a marriage. I think after that assault it is a good time to tell him that although you love him and you think you want to stay married you cannot, as things stand, imagine desiring him sexually ever again and you do not want to be used as a sexual object. It will be a tough conversation and it may be easier to have with a couples counsellor present.
I would call it sexual assault – it was neither consensual nor loving
Couples counselling might be how you find your way through this. Finding a way through doesn’t mean it is you who has the problem. This is happening between you. It’s not just a dropping-off of libido. Hormonal changes don’t cause problems so much as put a magnifying glass on to problems that already exist, so I don’t think you not wanting sex with your husband is something that should be fixed only with medication.
It is more important to unpick the many things that affect sexual intimacy, which include your individual beliefs around sex, what meanings you each put on sex, your physical and emotional wellbeing, and how you feel you are seen and experienced by each other, as well as your actual experience and expectations. It may also mean finding out how he feels about staying married if you no longer have sex and/or how you might feel if he gets his desires met elsewhere.
You have tried to talk to him about how you feel about your sex life together, but the message is not getting through. There is a communication problem, and you feel unheard. This may be a difficult problem to overcome. Initially, phone two or three relationship therapists and choose the one you’d feel most comfortable opening up to (try cosrt.org.uk).
An experience like yours is a difficult thing to share when all your friends are mutual. I think it would help you get clearer about what you want if you talk this through with an individual counsellor too (try welldoing.org). You have experienced what sounds like a sexualised attack in your own home. If you are feeling unsafe, check out the resources here: rightsofwomen.org.uk.