I don’t want to have sex with my husband

It's going to be 4o-something degrees in Boston this week. Spring – and new love – is coming. Tell me any and all problems about in-progress relationships and being single. Email [email protected] or fill out the form.

Dear Meredith,

Do I stay in a marriage with a sweet, caring husband for whom I feel no sexual attraction, or do I pack up and leave, hoping to find someone who is equally sweet and loving, but who I'd want to sleep with (which would probably also mean I'd move to a new city and start fresh with a clean slate)? I love my husband of almost 13 years very much, but have had basically zero desire and physical attraction for him pretty much ever since we got married at ages 22 and 27. We met when I was 20 and had a great sex life while dating, which included a year-and-a-half long-distance relationship.

I just assumed the lack of sexual desire was normal for me. I tried my best to keep my husband from getting too sexually frustrated by making sure we had sex at least once a month, with some other play etc. thrown in in between. It often felt like a chore to me, I'm ashamed to say. Then, almost two years ago, I met another man while on a work trip and had a short but intense affair full of sex and attraction (that, for a large part, stemmed from personality, not looks), and it showed me that I have been lying to myself all these years by saying that sex just wasn't interesting to me. I confessed my affair to my husband and we did couples therapy to try to get my romantic desire for him back. It hasn't really worked.

We are otherwise compatible in so many ways and enjoy our life together. My husband has repeatedly (and understandably) expressed frustration at the lack of physical intimacy, and we twice almost broke up over the past year because we didn't seem to make any progress. But each time we backtracked because we feared making a mistake and missing the other person and what we have together. There's also fear on my part, because without him there's not much tying me to the Boston area (other than a job) and I would prefer to live on the West Coast. But starting over with no social network or guaranteed job prospect seems so risky. I have little desire to stay here on my own.

Do I keep trying to find a mutually satisfactory arrangement (scheduling and prioritizing time for mindful touching, cuddling, making out, and sex, which is what our couples therapist had recommended, among other things) to keep all the good things I care about, or do I cut ties, even if that means a period of huge uncertainty, but potentially a better relationship (and happiness) outcome over all?

– Torn


Let's consider your story. You've told us that sex with your husband feels like a burden, and you described a best-case compromise as a "satisfactory agreement." It's not like you had years of physical compatibility with him that waned over time because of stress, responsibilities, and children. That attraction was gone shortly after you moved to the same place and committed to a life together. You talk about getting the feeling back, but I'm not sure it was ever there.

You say you're compatible in other ways and enjoy your shared life. But you've also made it clear that this is a personality problem. The other man won you over with emotional connection, which made you want sex. Maybe it was the excitement that comes with engaging in something forbidden, but you really make it sound like you finally bonded with someone in a romantic way.

You're already making a case for a life elsewhere. You say you'd prefer to live on the West Coast and that you wouldn't be leaving much behind.

The scariest thing isn't leaving your husband, it seems; it's starting over and building a new community. If you were offered a job out there, you'd go in a heartbeat, right? Maybe that's the answer. You just need to find a professional opportunity to make the decision easier.

– Meredith

Readers? Time to apply for jobs (and tell the husband that's happening)? More therapy? Stay or go?