[Two Pronged] 11 years without sex

Rappler's Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Two Pronged,

I’ve known my wife for over 20 years; 7 years in a relationship and over 13 years of marriage. The first 9 years I’ve known her, she was moderately sexually active, engaging in sex as often as 3 times a week. 

And then all of a sudden, nothing. No fellatio, no cunnilingus, nothing. Not even just plain making out. Nothing. 

It may be that my diabetic condition and my 2 packs of cigarettes a day habit made me a bit unresponsive, but I used erector medication to make up for that. 

One day, somewhere in our 2nd year of marriage, she just stopped wanting it. 

My dilemma is that I throughly love my wife, through and through. But 11 years without sex with her has quite often strained and torn at our marriage.

I’ve read many articles over the net that a sexless marriage CAN survive with communication between spouses, and I’ve tried communicating with her, but there are times that it seems overwhelmingly unbearable.

Should I leave her and get an annulment? One of the precepts of marriage is to have children. Clearly, painfully, obviously, we’re lacking at this.

Another precept is that the night of marriage must be consumed. We were so tired from the wedding we just flopped on the bed and fell asleep. No sex during the honeymoon either.

She was just so happy she was finally traveling to the places we often discussed before our marriage. 

This situation I’m in, I think, has led me to black depression and, overall, negatively impacted my confidence levels. 

On the issue of annulment, what can you advise?

Jonah

Dear Jonah,

Thank you for your email.

There seem to be two milestones in your account of your relationship with your wife (let’s call her Lily). The first is in year 2 of your marriage, when she lost all interest in sex. The second is now, 11 years later, when you have decided to consider ending your marriage.

You say that when Lily gave up on sex you tried communicating with her and the implication is that your discussions were fruitless. Yet there must be more to it. Do you truly have no idea why she changed?

What sort of a relationship do you both have if there are no children, no sex and no communication? Do you inhabit different rooms in your house and just nod as you pass each other, like ships in the night?

One hypothesis is that the change in her behavior was triggered by your diabetes and smoking. It is well established that smoking increases the dangers of diabetes significantly and it would be reasonable to suppose Lily took a dim view of your 2 pack habit. 

If Lily cherished your relationship as a couple and saw you torpedoing your future together by refusing to give up smoking, resorting to “erector medication” was unlikely to mollify her and instead she might have decided that life without sex was better than a distinctly mediocre sex life. This is only a hypothesis, however.

Turning to your second milestone, you cast no light whatsoever on why you suddenly want to annul your marriage. The only issue you mention is sex yet it seems to have taken 9 years of drought to awaken your interest in changing your status. 

Maybe relations with Lily have deteriorated; maybe one of you has met somebody new. Who knows, and you are not telling!

Finally, legal advice about annulment is outside our remit. Nevertheless non-consummation on the wedding night and honeymoon is unlikely to help your cause if there was plenty of consummation at other times. Likewise, failure to have children.

I recommend you consult an expert in this field.

All the best,

JAF Baer

Dear Jonah,

Thank you very much for your letter. Thank you too, Mr Baer for your answer, 100% of which I agree with, especially about legal advice being outside our remit.

Generally, I have no problem focusing on the letter writer’s POV (point of view); however, with yours, I strongly feel you need to explore the deeper reasons you claim your wife: 1.) changed from enjoying sex enough to agree to 3X a week to losing interest “all of a sudden” after a mere two years of marriage; and 2.) and seems unwilling to communicate with you about your joint sex problem. 

In my clinical experience, it is usually the woman who insists on communicating about the lack of sex, but it’s possible you are the exception that proves the rule.

I am not saying you purposely fudged the truth when writing to us, but it sometimes happens because, well, who can really be 100% objective about one’s own behavior and intentions?  

And yet, it is of utmost importance in this case because her answers will help you decide if there is any chance of staying married. That is, if you still want to? On the one hand, you “thoroughly love” Lily.  On the other, you have lined up reasons where you seem to feel an annulment seems the only logical conclusion.  I don’t agree, by the way.

Sexless marriages not only survive but can actually thrive, but if and only if true communication takes place. In fact, if one partner is asexual, one or both may be relieved the marriage is without physical sex, especially if both find a way to accommodate the other’s sexual needs. 

If you still feel hope that you can thrive in your marriage if some things changed, I hope you and Lily will both agree to see a professional or, at the very least, write to us again. 

All the best,

MG Holmes

– Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.