Dear Amy:

Add this to the pile of letters you receive regarding sexless marriages.

I have been married for 30 years and there has been no sex for the past 15. It is comforting to learn that I am not the only one in this situation. My husband and I are both thin, above average looking, healthy, successful college graduates. Neither one of us has ever been on any medication, suffered from depression, or had a problem with alcohol or any other form of addiction. There has been no physical abuse.

Although our relationship has had its ups and downs, neither of us has ever seriously considered a divorce. I'm not going to say that my husband has never had an affair -- it is possible. But I know that he is not involved with anybody now.

I don't think that either one of us would ever leave the marriage even if we did find someone else.

My husband never was a touchy-feely kind of guy, so I hugged my kids a lot.

Now that I'm getting older, I really don't care about sex that much and am kind of glad he feels the same way.

Still Hanging in There

Well, there's sex and then there's touchy-feely, and then there's love and affection. I assume you want love and affection; you indicate that you want touchy-feely, so I'm left to wonder what qualities your marriage has that make it life affirming. Because a partnership -- especially one as long and fruitful as yours has been -- should at its core be life affirming, sex or no sex.

If both you and your husband don't want to have sex and don't have sex, then you have a consensual nonsexual relationship. I'd love to think that you have other things -- shared interests and passions, emotional intimacy, an occasional blast of a vacation or endless games of Scrabble. But you define your marriage by its many absences, and I would encourage you to develop and celebrate what is present in your marriage.

Most readers who write to me about their sexless marriage would rather it be otherwise. But I'd welcome hearing from readers who, like you, are sort of fine with it.

Dear Amy:

I love the column, but I really think you blew it in responding to the person who thought he was "dating" a woman, when the other person said they were just "hanging out." You said it was all a matter of semantics. I think that answer is dead wrong. "Dating" implies an early exploratory step on the way toward possible exclusivity, commitment and a future together. "Hanging out" is just playing around. It's the difference between being someone's "Mr. Right" and being someone's "Mr. Right Now."

Bill in Portland

I heard from other readers who corrected me and said that, when it comes to defining relationships, it is all semantics. I encouraged the original writer to relax and not worry about what to call their relationship, while other readers said he should cut and run.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com.

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