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Finally Have A Stable Marriage, But Having Sex Problems

Question:

I have had many dysfunctional relationships in the past. I am 41 and am married for the third time. My first 2 marriages were short, but I kept in contact over the years with both men. For a long time, I thought it was me who was the problem and so I was chasing them down to make it right.

In the past I have been an enabler and have been the one supporting the household. I wasn’t able to depend on a man in past relationships. In most of them I took what I could get which was a sexual relationship without commitment. I was lonely and I guess it worked because they weren’t going to commit so there was no chance that they could hurt me or so I thought. Even in a sexual relationship with no commitment you still form a bond and get attached.

Anyway, I met this wonderful man. We have been married for 6 months. He is stable and loving and more then I could ever ask for and I love him. We are friends and we are a lot alike and he takes good care of me. We have been together totally for 2 years and during that time we have not had a lot of sex. Some of that was due to his Diabetes struggles in the beginning. It was really nice to be with somebody and it wasn’t all about sex. But for some reason, I don’t want to have sex with him. I don’t feel sexual. Part of it might be that it is all the new stuff going on; new marriage, new house; things actually working out for the first time in my life. Also, I’m not working right now. Work has sort of defined me in the past. Work is all I had really before

We both want kids. Maybe it is my age, I don’t know, but I feel kind of broken or something. Part of me doesn’t think I deserve this man or this marriage. It is hard to relax and just enjoy my life. I guess I am waiting for something to go wrong. Maybe if I give myself totally I feel somehow it will all fall apart. If I start working again I won’t be able to give my all at work and at home. I don’t know. We both want kids and I am 41 and have never had any. The gynecologist said we should have more sex and try to start a family sooner then later. Now I feel even more pressure. My husband is very patient but he has needs and I need to snap out of this. I am constantly worried and stressed and I need to snap out of it. Because I want to have that sexual connection, that intimacy. I guess I am kinda rambling. Any ideas or suggestions sure would help me. Thank You.

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Answer:

You’re feeling fearful and kinda paralyzed, I think. It’s hard to feel sexual; to feel relaxed and at peace when you feel fearful.

Historically, you’ve struggled with self-esteem and commitment issues. Part of you has wanted commitment from your men, but you’ve settled for less than that as your lot in life. It may not have been what you wanted but it was what you expected and so it felt comfortable in a crappy kind of way. Now you have a man who is actually wanting to commit to you and it doesn’t feel quite normal. I think, because you don’t believe inside that you deserve to be committed to, you’re not trusting that your present husband’s commitment is real or something you can put your weight on. It must feel like if you trust in that commitment and step out on it (figuratively) that you’ll break it and in the process, hurt yourself.

You’re under a lot of stress. Many things have changed in your life recently and most of them for the good, but even good life events can be stressful. Being newly married, being out of work, and contemplating starting a family are all stressful events. And you’re also focused on how you don’t want to have sex and how this is maybe harming your husband and your relationship and that is stressful too. Feeling that you need to have sex when you’re not ready for it is not particularly sexy.

There isn’t much you can do about the life changes you’ve been through; they will work themselves out in time. However, some of the additional stress you’re under right now is due to situations you can work on and improve. You can do a systematic job search, for instance, and though it may take some time to find work again, you probably eventually will find something if you persevere. And some of the stress is due to your belief that things will fall apart if you test them too hard.

Your belief that if you give your all that things will fall apart is something to work on in therapy, I think. Your hesitancy to fully commit yourself to your marriage and to enjoy the intimacy of that marriage, and to allow yourself to have a family, etc. makes perfect sense when we consider that you are holding yourself back out of fear. And it also makes sense that if you don’t find a way to deal with that fear of failure that you will remain paralyzed. It’s a funny sort of paradox you’re in. If you don’t commit, you will not have the intimacy you desire and things may fall apart because you aren’t committing. If you do commit things may fall apart too. You’re kinda damned if you do and damned if you don’t (or so it may seem to you). If you think about it, though, if you don’t commit yourself, you will fail (you won’t have the intimacy you crave), whereas if you do commit yourself, you might fail or you might not fail. Under the circumstance, I’d choose to commit. It’s not as easy as just deciding to commit, I know. It’s a fear-driven thing holding you back. You have to deal with the fear, and for that I’d recommend therapy for you as a safe place to work on this uncomfortable issue.

I hate to bring this up because I think it might add to the pressure you feel, but I’d be withholding something important if I didn’t comment on this. At age 41, your biological clock is starting to wind down rather rapidly. Many women have great difficulty conceiving a baby at age 41. Only a few women will still be fertile at that age. It doesn’t seem like this is an issue, because there are lots of famous women who give birth in their 40s, but what those women are not talking about is that they are having infertility treatments in many cases, and some of them are using donor eggs and assisted reproduction techniques. Your gynecologist is surely right that if you want to have a baby the time to do so is right now, because your fertility will never be as good in the future as it is right now. Just because biologically, it is now or never, doesn’t mean that you are ready psychologically, however. It may be that you need to take your time with this and consider adoption or infertility treatment when the time is right. You can read over our infertility topic center for more information on infertility options. Only you can decide, but you need to know what your choices are before you can make an informed decision.

I think the not wanting to have sex problem is a side effect of the other problems you’re dealing with, most primarily your not wanting to risk trusting in your husband and your present marriage because it seems too good to be true. You don’t want to get hurt by the possibility of rejection, so you are holding yourself back from really engaging the good things you have. If you can deal with the fear and get some perspective on your situation, I think you will see that it is actually safer for you to trust in your marriage and your husband than to hold yourself back. There is no guarantee of safety in this world. If you trust your husband and love him as you want to you might get hurt, true, but then again, it might work out beautifully too. If you hold yourself back, it is guaranteed that you will only be frustrated and that you will not get what you desire. When you come to this realization, I think the sex problem will resolve itself of its own accord.

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Comments
  • Anonymous-1

    I am in a similar situation with a wonderful man that is a second marriage. we are in our early 30's and don't get to have sexual intercourse because of his issues with diabetes. We can do other things for intimacy but after about 4 yrs of this, I am just not feeling as sexual with him. It was great not to have something just built on sex but I wish I could have had that stable relationship with someone that I also could have full sexual intercourse with. It is so hard to be young and not be sexually fulfilled. Since your man is able to work through his issues with diabetes I say enjoy every minute of it that you can. Not only is your biological clock winding down but his diabetes will continue to be a problem. Enjoy what you have to the fullest

  • anonymous

    Honestly, the situation your in is not my ideal situation, and I'd be unhappy/stressed out if I were you too. I have tried relationships where the man is 100% in charge, and I don't have a job, but I'm just flat out miserable. In fact, I'm miserable in ANY relationship where I don't make the most income. The "perfect life" is different for us all and maybe you are like me and don't fit in well with the typical "male as provider" model.

    I suggest getting your own job and making your own money and regaining control of part of your life. After so many years of relying on no one but yourself, it must be horrifying and slightly embarassing to be so dependent on someone else! I know that's how I'd feel.

    SO to stop feeling stressed/out of control, go get a job and gain some!! THEN start thinking about kids! Just be sure you're ready--no need to rush when you can still adopt.

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