My husband and I have been married for six years (together for a few years before that) and we have young children together. My husband is a wonderful father and partner, but I am no longer interested in having a physical relationship with him, and this is causing a huge rift in our marriage. Even before having children, our desire for one another was always unbalanced. He always wanted more and I was always the one pulling away. At first this didn't concern me because I just chalked it up to us having unbalanced sex drives. Now I am finding that my sex drive is actually quite intact, but I am attracted to other people, and still not desiring sex (or any physical intimacy) with my husband. I am also a sexual assault survivor and, through my own therapy, I've learned that it's not healthy for me to go ahead and have sex even when I am not in the mood because it creates significant resentment and is triggering for me.
My husband has tried to figure out if there is something he can do differently to make me want to be intimate with him, but that leaves me feeling overwhelmed with guilt, and it leaves him feeling hopeless and discouraged. Ultimately, the physical attraction is not there, and while I love him deeply, it makes me question if I am still *in love* with him. I have shared with him how I am feeling; this has been both very painful but also necessary. He wants to continue to try to make our marriage work with the hope that our physical intimacy returns. I want to make our marriage work but I don’t necessarily think our physical intimacy will return, and I don’t think it's realistic to maintain a long-term relationship without sex. Nor do I think it's healthy or fair for either one of us. I am terrified by the idea of our marriage ending but I am also terrified by the idea of continuing a marriage with a large piece missing. I feel stuck and don't know what to do for myself, my husband, and our children.
– Stay or go?
I've been a broken record about therapy lately, but that's because it can be very helpful. It is not a magic fix for anything, but it can guide you through an important decision. If you're not seeking that kind of counseling right now, please consider it.
It's interesting to note what you've chosen to share in this letter. You have a short line about your husband being a great partner and dad. Then you have many words about not being attracted to him. You didn't tell us whether he gave you stomach butterflies when you met. That's something to ask yourself. Before children and marriage, did you have a drive for your now-husband? When he says he hopes your sex life will return, what is he taking about? What memories might help you fill out this narrative?
If there aren't any – or if you know you can't get there ever again – you're right about what should happen. It would be devastating to end the marriage, but a life without desire – and, for your husband, a life of being rejected by the person he loves – would be difficult. Perhaps it's sustainable, technically, but I’m not sure it’s best for anyone. If you get to the point where you know you’ve moved on, or that the status quo is the best-case scenario, you have your answer.
Readers? Are these ebbs and flows part of marriage? How do you rekindle desire (assuming there was any to begin with)?