The Washington Post

Misaligned sex drives cause wife to rethink marriage


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

We hear from lots of men complaining about not getting enough sex. But what about women who want more?

Before our 15th anniversary, and after some very spotty years, my husband completely stopped having sex. No kisses, no hugs, no touching. When I asked him to attend counseling with me, he said he is fine with the way things are and if I have a problem, then I should deal with it myself.

Now, at 35 years of marriage, I am wondering if I would prefer a life alone. The children are raised, I am employed, though not making enough to be able to visit my five children yearly. My retirement income will be meager compared to his.

Is it time for this good Catholic girl to call it quits? I have no idea where to start. I don’t want to be one of those single women who get invited to Thanksgiving because they have nowhere else to go.

Some women want more

I’m sorry. It is indeed a problem for both sexes, and the solutions are unappealing in ways that don’t discriminate.

I will say, though, that people who have little to no relationship with their spouses face less agonizing choices, since there’s less to keep them in the marriage. People who have warm friendships with their mates and are missing only the sex are particularly torn.

Since your obstacle is in knowing where to start, try starting with the logistics: To leave, you’d need to get financial and legal advice; choose a place to live; price the things you’ll no longer have through your marriage, like insurance. Pick one and start there.

Remember, you’re just shopping for insurance and apartments, and you’re just getting legal advice, to help you envision what your life alone would look like. You might find a vision you like and make the decision official, or you might find that there’s more to your marriage than you realized; either way, you’ll be in a better place emotionally.

Re: Wanting more:

Me too. My husband is interested maybe once a month. It’s been this way since we had our daughter, 8. Not that he was ever high in libido. I love him, I think he loves me, and we are raising this little girl together, so I will live with it, but it makes me feel ugly and rejected. I can’t see ever leaving him over this, but it is an unhappy situation.


I realize you posted to validate the undersexed wife and not to ask for advice — but I hope you don’t mind my saying that when you know your husband never had a high libido, it’s not fair for you to give yourself the ugly-and-rejected tag. Please at least consider that it’s not about you.

Re: Wanting more:

Wouldn’t you say any time a spouse says “that’s your problem, deal with it alone,” it’s time to seriously consider options?

Anonymous 2

Yes — one of the rare universal answers. I see that dismissiveness in so many questions, and it limits a person’s options immediately to “status quo or go.”

Tomorrow: Options that aren’t in the rule book.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or



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