Evan Asher, a 40-year-old handsome man living in the hip neighborhood of Cherry Creek North, a suburb of Denver, sits in my therapy office with his 37-year-old beautiful wife Jennifer on a beautiful summer morning last week. The couple has two school-aged children and both have careers to be proud of. They have a great family support system, money in the bank and their health. This couple sits in my office after Evan called to make an appointment to discuss the truth about their marriage.
They have not had sex for the last four years, for about as long as their youngest child is old.
“What’s the problem, do you not find me attractive?” Evan asks his wife with a scared look on his face.”No, it’s not that, you are attractive, I just feel like we don’t have that kind of connection anymore.” Jennifer says to him.
“Do you guys talk about not having sex in your marriage?” I ask Evan and Jennifer.
“Not really.” Evan answers and then puts his head in his hands. He keeps talking despite being a bit muffled in the position he is slumped over in. “I just want to feel like I don’t carry this secret from everyone. The fact that we never have sex, it’s so embarrassing. I feel alone in this and I feel like it’s not a bother to her.”
“That’s not true!” Jennifer chimes in. “I think about it often but I just don’t know what you want me to do!”
Having a sexless marriage can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. As a psychotherapist specializing in intimacy and sex difficulties, I offer up these ideas to get your sexual relationship back on track:
- Set up a time free of distractions to discuss the problem.
Setting aside time to talk about your feelings and wants is important to moving towards the goal of fixing things.
- Make a list of barriers that keep you from having a sexual relationship with your partner.
Just writing down the barriers can be a huge exercise of organizing your feelings around the problem.
- After discussing your lists, figure out if the problems and barriers can be solved.
Be solution oriented about what needs to happen in order for you to move forward in your relationship.
- Be willing to make some changes.
Often, hearing the way our partner is feeling can lead to feeling criticized or defensiveness. Understand that for a relationship to function you need to hear how they feel and begin to accept your role in it.
- Make a plan to reconnect.
Beginning to take steps towards rebuilding your relationship will require time set aside to reconnect as friends before engaging in physical touch.
- Make a maintenance plan.
Once you are reconnected or have even agreed to go to counseling together to work through the issues make it a point to not slip back into old bad habits. Reorganize your relationship and your lives to have time to connect emotionally and physically. Relationships cannot survive without these ingredients.