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September 26, 2011


I’m a mother of two children in my mid forties, and have for a couple of years now had no interest in sex. My husband is very unhappy about it, and has said he should be allowed to look elsewhere for sex. I think that will destroy what’s left of our marriage, which I don’t want, but don’t know what to do

VICKI We all expect to lose things as we get older (hope, muscle tone, reading glasses) but one’s forties are not old age and I would not go so gently into that good night if I were you. Your problem is not that your husband is trying to blackmail you for his marital rights, but that you’ve lost your libido entirely: why are you so unworried? Losing interest in sex in midlife should not be wearily accepted as a chronological inevitability. On the contrary. For many, many women, their forties and fifties are pretty much fun, fast and frisky. Do, please, see a doctor about this change.

OCTAVIA Caddish as your husband sounds I think you should be grateful for small mercies. He has, at least, put his cards on the table, where many people would have made that decision in secret. I once had an acquaintance who said paying for sex was no different to paying for a cleaner, but he must have invested more emotion in cleaning than I do. I don’t think it’s OK for him to look elsewhere, but nor can you expect him to stay celibate. If you’re really not ready to see him go, find something you can do (get/take) to redress your own sex drive.



ou do know how much trouble your marriage is in, don’t you?

The first clue is your opening phrase (and I am allowing for editing by the paper here) as “mother of two”. So you’re a mother of two children and you wonder where that life went? Remember it? When Saturday mornings were for making crumbs and love in bed and lunch was at a local pub and you felt needed and important. Now Saturday mornings are a scramble to get one or other of the brood off to some activity, correctly equipped, on time, correct location and if ONE of those ticks is a cross, it’s YOUR fault.

You used to see people who were interesting and valued you at your work. Now you see the checkout girl in the supermarket and the mothers at the school gate who are eyeing each other up for signs of comestic work. Conversation about grown up topics is, naturally, impossible with the children and useless with an husband who always turns it into a row.

In other words, you’re bored, trapped, frustrated, tired and hate the life you have now. Correct?

And the only response your body can make, short of a full-blown mental breakdown, is to close the tiny access to your libido. It’s not even a conscious decision on your part; it’s a subconscious reaction to your basic unhappiness.

Your husband knows this, you know. He is trying, finally, to prod some response out of you. It’s a silly threat and quite possibly an idle one but I bet he has tried all the normal approaches and has hit the Great Wall of Wifedom.

So…. where do you go from here? I suppose it’s profoundly obvious to say “You talk” but that’s step one. Choose a quiet time when you will not be disturbed. Not last thing at night when you’re tired and not when there’s a time constraint. Have an item, any item, in the middle of the table. The person who wants to start picks up the item and talks. When they have said a short piece, they replace the item and the other person picks it up and talks. No interrupting.

A very useful tool is the “I am…. I feel…. I want….” strategy.

“I am unhappy about taking all the responsibility for the children and household.”

“I feel I am not valued and I feel like a servant.”

“I want a little appreciation and some help.”

Then the other person takes a turn. The difference from the usual accusatory “You never help me and you just treat me like a servant around here….” is clear.

“I am too tired and too unhappy to have an active sex life with you right now. I am upset that you only ever hug me or cuddle me to try and initiate sex”

“I feel you are pressuring me into your wish to look elsewhere.”

“I want to be able to recover my libido and enjoy non-sexual contact which, combined with the other measures we discussed, should help with the whole issue.”

It takes a little while and a little practice but it works well as the accusations are removed and the other person gains an insight into how their behaviour makes you feel.

You can book some sessions with a trained counsellor through Relate (although the waiting list can be Biblical) or an independant person or try a dvd you can watch and work through together. It may be that, ultimately, the best decision is to separate but you will know you tried your best to repair the situation and will be better parents for your children.



  1. Very interesting points. Thanks!

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  2. HighGoon permalink

    Wow, your husband sounds like a dick.

    And those two women who told you to blame yourself and not your husband? I’m pretty sure science wants to study them. We’ve spent millions studying the potential for time travel, and they’ve fallen right out of the 1950’s to our present day. Fascinating.

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