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Do you owe your spouse sex? If you stop having sex with your spouse, is he or she justified in having an affair? And isn’t the denial of sex just as much as a betrayal as infidelity?

These were some questions raised in a few interesting blog posts, some as responses to reader comments, on Psychology Today. While there’s all sorts of discussions about marital sex or lack of sex, philosophy professor Mark D. White says, we rarely, if ever talk, about the ethics of a spouse refusing to have sex with the other for years. Is denying sex a betrayal?

Because we see sex as something that must be consented to, we are loathe to say a husband or wife “owes” the other sex, yet I imagine few people don’t want and expect a healthy sex life when they say “I do.” In the work Susan Pease Gadoua and I did for The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels, we asked soon-to-be-married couples to check off all the reasons why they’re getting married. Often they list the same reasons, but one time the guy checked off “to have sex” as one of the reasons he wanted to get married.

When he read his reasons out loud and “sex” rolled off his lips, the look on his fiancee’s face was priceless.

“You want to marry for sex?” she asked, somewhat horrified.

He immediately got sheepish as he defended himself: “Well, they asked us to check off all the reasons, so, um, yeah …”

So, yes, people marry with an expectation of sex, but few people talk about how they will handle things if one or the other loses interest in sex especially since that happens more frequently than not.

Does an absence of sex in a relationship justify adultery, the good philosopher asks. No, he decides:

Whatever insufficient sex means to any particular person—even if that can be considered a betrayal of his or her partner’s obligation—the fact remains that adultery just makes it worse. (“Two wrongs” and all.) In addition, adultery brings a third person into what is a problem between two, which may only aggravate whatever problem led to the breakdown in sex in the relationship in the first place. tweet

I am certainly not promoting affairs as a way to deal with sexlessness in a marriage, but I do wonder about the many other ways spouses betray each other beyond just affairs or denying the other sex. Spouses can treat each other horribly, and yet we only get in a tizzy when one or the other cheats. Why is sexual fidelity considered the No. 1 marker of a good relationship?

As Mating in Captivity author Esther Perel so beautifully puts it:

I have a lot of people who come to my office who think that they are the virtuous people because they haven’t cheated. They have just been neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning, insulting, but they haven’t cheated. But betrayal comes in many forms. Betrayal is a breach, the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence. While it is always involved in an affair, in most cases it isn’t the motive of the affair. An affair may be about completely different things but it implies betrayal. tweet

Being “neglectful, indifferent, contemptuous, asexual, demeaning, insulting” is not loving behavior and is often as — and sometimes more — damaging as physical abuse (and there are some who argue that infidelity is abuse). And yet, there is no great societal outcry over ending those sorts of behaviors, just societal shaming and blaming of often-long-suffering spouses who cheat.

What do you think?
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32 Responses to “Is infidelity really the worst way to betray your spouse?”

  1. blurkel says:

    Infidelity is but the way the weaker of the two “partners” can get back at an abuser who controls not just sex and all of its attributes, but most other aspects of one’s life.

    • Obviously Anon says:

      That’s an oddly specific assertion to paint every adulterer with. I’m sure that some people cheat as a form of revenge, but I would bet that the majority are not straying out of malicious intent. Every situation is different, but it seems more plausible that sexual frustration and need are driving factors. Your description of “the weaker of the two partners” also seems strange. How do you define this “weakness”? In many cases the partner denying sexual contact doesn’t want to have sex with anyone, so what is it that defines this person as strong, being that they aren’t fighting any physical need? It is a difficult issue, because coercing someone into sex is clearly wrong and it’s not something to be condoned under any circumstances. Having said that, the spouse being denied sexual contact can easily be categorized as an aggrieved party through numerous possible circumstances. I don’t excuse adultery or withholding sex, and I believe that everyone is entitled to say no, and that should obviously be respected. I also believe that those withholding sexual contact should accept the possible ramifications of their choice to do so, and their spouse being unfaithful may be the consequence.
      In my opinion it is one of those things that comes down to the choices we make. We all have to choose, and in doing so we accept that our choices have consequences. You don’t have the moral high ground just because you stayed at home while your partner screwed someone else after a 5 year dry spell. And don’t throw the religious crap into the mix please. Yes, there are plenty of quotable phrases about being faithful, but there are several in there about your “duties” to your spouse as well. Simpler if you leave the bible thumping out of it.

      • Leyah says:

        How about a husband who witholds sex for years from his wife? When they do have sex, he’s interested in himself and not his wife as he is a taker and rarely the giver. He won’t give oral, but prefers to receive oral and would rather that over vaginally penetration. Then, after fifteen years of marriage, the husband confesses that he has been having a five year affair. So, a wife has been denied a sexual relationship with a husband she loves, and then she finds that she is the only one in her marriage not having sex. Both are terribly difficult to endure, but the infidelity was the icing on the crap cake. That has destroyed the faithful, trusting wife who has sunken into the depths of depression and despair.

  2. Charles says:

    Why is the “forsaking all others” part of one’s wedding vows, more important than “to have and to hold”?

    • Kristin says:

      Beautifully said. I also find it interesting that a marriage that hasn’t been consummated by having sexual intercourse can be annulled, as though it never were a marriage, but a marriage that in becomes devoid of sexual intercourse still qualifies as a marriage. I’ve warned my adult son to be on his guard. A woman will use a feigned interest in sex to lure men in and then, once they legally have the right to half his earnings and assets, they will stop having sex with him unless they want babies (whether he wants them or not). This is also the reason I’ve dumped all of my married women friends. I am ashamed, sometimes, to be a woman. It’s disgusting what they get away with.

      • Robert Gibson says:

        Thanks Kristin. I appreciate a woman occasionally calling out women(or men if the case fits) for doing something wrong or making very bad decisions. I hear a lot of affirmation in women, not a lot of “Why did you do that stupid thing?”
        Take care.

      • Tony says:

        Ladies, I would love to hear what you think and what reasoning you think about why a lady would marry a man and then directly after take away all love and affection be bitchy even on a romantic cruise to the Bahamas come back to our new house.. where her man does his best to fix it up for us. Then all the while have a variety of excuses/ create conflicts when alone. I just don’t get it.. had a great love life previously. To add insult to injury she has been unfaithful in the past at work in a previous relationship but has assured me this is different. I just don’t understand what is going on I want to have a successful marriage but don’t know what to do at this point. It has been 8 months now. Talking to a lady that understands this would be very helpful.. feel free to email me any that think they understand this… I think of getting a annulment and walking away and feel wrong about it all at the same time… There is some serious family and sexual issues going on with her??

  3. Glen says:

    “Denying a spouse sex” for a week, or for a decade? For me it has been almost six years.

  4. Jimmy Dean says:

    Glen..Six years! dude! unless there is some major health issues involved (and even if there is) you my friend deserve to get laid by any means possible!

    • Richard says:

      I could not agree more. In my case it will happen sooner rather than later. Life is too short to be always living in a constant state of anguish, loss and denial of something that comes naturally.

  5. mike says:

    Been almost seven years for me and my wife. The reasons to leave or cheat are pretty obvious. The reasons to stay… well, they are not so clear perhaps. Do we truly know everything about our spouses? When we promised to be faithful though better or worse that would only be when we got what we wanted? Just asking. I’m on the verge of cheating/ leaving, but she is my wife, mother of my wonderful kids.

    • OMGchronicles
      Twitter: OMGchronicles

      Thanks for commenting Mike. Have you and your wife discussed openly and honestly what’s working and what isn’t in your marriage? It may be time to renegotiate what your marriage looks like. It’s a bold, brave move, but doing something to “upset the apple cart” may be just what you both need to grow. Good luck!

  6. Richard says:

    I’m going through a particularly difficult time at the present. No sex between my wife and I for over 18 months and before then it was very infrequent. I am at the stage where it is almost impossible to stop from cheating though I suspect afterwards, feelings of guilt will overwhelm me. I am more of the view now though that for me cheating will be easier to live with than the absence of all sex.

  7. Nathan says:

    What would your reaction be if after being denied sex for ten years and counting, you overhear your wife calling a co-worker over the cell phone as, “hello my love”?

    I can live with both of us sexless; but the prospect of a cheating spouse?
    It is very painful!!

    • Obviously Anon says:

      Looking at t objectively, the “moment” you described overhearing sounds as if it could have been perfectly innocent. I’ve heard many people talk to friends in that manner. Having said that, ten years without sex and I wouldn’t have any objectivity. 10 months for me and I’m losing it already. Honesty, I have never been able to picture myself cheating in any of my prior relationships, but now it’s all I think about. It’s so involuntary. I cannot imagine what 10 years would do to me, but I’d get myself in the best physical shape possible (if you’re not already), get some interest going and then get out.

  8. Tina says:

    My husband won’t have sex with me. I have found texting with other women…

  9. David says:

    Wife of 29 years, two wonderful grown kids. Sex between us was great for a few years, it slowed down as we got older. She is loosing weight and looking hotter to me now than she did years ago. She objects to my flirting with her even in private. We have gone over two years with out sex, and she knew I was miserable. She says she enjoys sex and how she feels afterwards but doesn’t even want to cuddle, with or with out sex. I’m left “to handle things myself” very fustrating. She used to share intimate pictures and won’t even do that now. As said, she is loosing weight and looking great. I may be having some performance issues, but would like to please her. Giving her oral pleasure, she and I both enjoy, but even that has been cut off. What have I done, or not done to get this type of abuse?

  10. Gonnaloseit ifIdon'tgetlaid says:

    I was just thinking how great it would be if I could find a man that was in the same situation I am in. My husband has no interest in sex at all. We’ve been to the doctor, and there’s nothing wrong with him. I don’t want to leave him, but I can’t live without sex anymore. I keep thinking that the best solution would be to find a man in the same situation as me to have a monogamous relationship with on a regular basis. What are your thoughts on this?

  11. Nancy says:

    I am in menopause and sex is painful. My husband has slowed down too with diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. He still wants to have hot crazy sex with NO FOREPLAY. There is no romance, no sweet words, not much hugging or kissing he brushes his teeth 1x a day for about 15 seconds. How do I communicate to him that I need a little bit more. I need him to be loving, thoughtful, kind, and caring.
    He went to visit his Mom and I found his wedding ring in the drawer. So I called and asked him did you forget your ring and he got irritated with me.
    He’s told me he had wanted an affair but had not found anyone interested in him. We have gone to counseling, which works for a short time, and then we slide into what we know. Our sex life used to me awfully amazing and extremely satisfying. There is a lot of mean, hurtful, and spiteful behavior between us, how do we pick up the pieces and work towards getting back some semblance of our former sex life?
    I think we both are willing but don’t know what to do.
    He had physically left me around 6 years ago, and I thought he was such a loser, no backbone at all. A real man stays and fights for his family. He was screaming at me to go to work. I remember pleading with him 12 years earlier to take care of the home repairs, cars, and maintenance stuff. Before when I worked a 40 hour a week job, with 4 children, and a 4bd room, 2 car garage house. I took care of 85% of things and it caused BIG problems. As long as I took care of things everything was fine. But when I voiced my displeasure over me taking care of things and him not doing anything It caused problems.
    I see a pattern here. My spouse leaves instead of working on his PROBLEMs.
    Any suggestions?

  12. ralph says:

    how about a woman who cheated on her husband, twice, was forgiven, then had the husband get a vasectomy because she didn’t want any more children, used that as an excuse for the lack of sex, I do it, and then she denies me sex for six years?
    I care about her, even ask about sex every once and a while, all she does is turn on her heels and walk away, without a word.
    i rekindled a relationship with a woman from high school with whom I’ve been friends since we were kids. Its mostly on the phone, but we have met and we have amazing sex. I love her, simple as that.
    I wont leave until the kids are out of the house. that’s another three years. I think she is willing to wait, but I know at times ts very hard on her.

  13. Sharon says:

    My husband wants to get together in bed but his idea of sex is us both going down on each other and that is it. It has been 7 years since I have seen an erect penis. I don’t even know if I would remember how to have intercourse. I have discussed this with my husband for the last 7 years and he did get some pills and was able to have an erection but not enough to have intercourse. Also, he iis constantly on the computer. I believe this is the problem with our sex life. Our relationship is good except for his impotence towards me. I tried to leave him a few years ago and he wouldn’t leave and we ended up working it out. But, the impotence was never resolved. I am afraid I will never have a normal sex life again. I don’t understand how he can be so selfish because if the shoe was on the other foot I would resolve the problem or die trying. He seems indifferent to it and still says why don’t I seem interested in going to bed with him. I am very resentful and fantasize about having sex with other men constantly. I also have been on a major diet and have been losing weight quickly. I don’t want to have an affair but I am drowning in resentment.
    Also, we have been to a few marriage counselors to get along better but the sex has not changed.
    I know something will change soon because life is too short to go through this torture.

  14. Ron says:

    It’s good therapy to hear that other men (and women) are in the same pain. I don’t want to bore you with my issues but briefly, I’m 60 and athletic, and my wife is 56, post menopause and completely uninterested and very cold sexually. Even before her medical issues, sex started slowing to a halt (married now, 33 years). I’ve always been faithful and mindful about pleasing her, about foreplay, about her physical needs etc – never try to be selfish in bed. Yes, we’ve talked about the lack of sex at my urging, we’ve argued, we’ve compromised and sometimes, she’ll feign interest for a few weeks and then bang – it’s over again for months and months. I do my best to let it go but sometimes feel really angry and irritable toward her for completely shutting me out, but then “man up” and do my best to act ‘normal’. But I dread feeling irritable toward her because she is overall a good wife and a terrific mother. But I’m in a lot of pain and feel as though my masculinity has been stripped to nothing. People make light of “marriage and the end of sex” and how men should just “suck it up” and “deal with it”. But I can tell you, this is anguishing and men – for all their supposed toughness – can hurt really bad inside, and many folks just don’t understand how truly depressing this can be.

  15. Husband of 30 years says:

    In the many discussions of this critical subject that I have read, here and elsewhere, it never ceases to amaze me how nobody ever seems to recognise what is perhaps the most concrete and indisputable fact of all, the vowes and promises that we make to each other on the day that we get married.
    When I read the views of the various contributors in this discussion, and others like it, almost without fail the general guist will be “I think this….” and “I think that…”. And while some of the opinions are certainly worthwhile considering and do reflect a deeper thought on the topic, they rarely if ever address the foundational issues of what marriage is.
    There is one indisputable fact that must be considered. This is the question of “what, exactly, do we promise each other on the day that we get married? What, exactly, do we voluntarily and willingly commit ourselves to?” By this I refer to our wedding vowes, the things which we solomnly promise to do for each other for the rest of our married lives.
    The way in which we keep, or do not keep, the promises that we vow and the commitments that we make on our wedding day to our future spouse, before God, a celebrant authorised by the government to receive such declarations and probably anywhere between two and two-hundred witnesses, will unquestionably be a direct reflection of our own integrity, loyalty and faithfulness to our marriage partner.
    Our determination to keep to the very best of our ability every aspect of the promises that we make will demonstrate to our spouse and to the world our own personality, honesty, courage and faithfulness within our marriage.
    However, failure, whether by neglect or deliberate action, to keep those vowes, will also scream volumes about our own level of personal integrity.
    So, for revision, what are the promises that we make to each other?
    “To take, to have and to hold, to love, to honour and to cherish, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness or in health, forsaking all others, for as long as we both live.” Certainly, depending upon the celebrant, the wording may vary slightly, but the meaning should not.
    So what does all this mean?
    You will notice that the first three of these promises are all physical. In other words, you are publicly promising to meet the physical needs of your spouse. Or in other words, their sexual needs. True – the word “sex” is not mentioned (unsuprisingly, being in public), but if anyone has any doubt about this, then ask yourself this question: if someone of the opposite sex was to walk up to you in the street and say to you “I want to take you, I want to hold you and I want to have you!”, then what would you interpret them as meaning? I suggest that the answer to that would be obvious. Just as it is at your wedding.
    The second three aspects are all emotional, you are promising to meet your spouse’s emotional needs.
    Needless to say all six of these tie in together to build upon and form the various parts of a quality marital relationship.
    You also promise that you will have an exclusive relationship with your spouse, “forsaking all others”. This is the primary part of your vowels that is violated if you have an affair with another person. You are being unfaithful because you have failed to live up to this part of your wedding vows. Likewise, you are also being unfaithful if you fail to live up to your promise to meet your partner’s sexual needs.
    With this in mind, and always referring back to your wedding vowes and what you committed yourself to do on the day that you’ve got married, there would seem to be little doubt that sexual refusal does constitute an act of deliberate unfaithfulness to your spouse, simply because you are refusing to honour your promise to them to be a faithful sexual partner.
    Does this mean that your partner has the right to expect that you to be “on call” at any time? Certainly not! Suppose, for example, that one spouse is feeling unwell, abnormally tired or otherwise has some genuine reason why they wish to avoid sex for a short period of time. For the opposite spouse to make demands upon them at those difficult times would not be honouring of the second three parts of their wedding vowes, to love to honour and to cherish. You see, it is definitely a two-way street, with obligations on both sides. However, one must be careful not to take that too far. Essentially, it is fair to say that unless there is a genuine reason why one should not or could not be offering themselves sexually to their partner when they are needed, then one should consider themselves to be fully committed by their own words of their own vowes and promices.
    Quite simply, attending your wedding, promising yourself as a faithful sexual partner meeting the physical needs of your future spouse and then thinking that you somehow actually have the “right” to renege on those promises makes you to be nothing but a liar and unfaithful to your spouse with respect to the promises that you have made.
    Or to put it more concisely, yes, you are committed – by your own words and promises, and unjustified refusal is an act of unfaithfulness.

  16. Frustrated says:

    With holding and infidelity is virtually the same selfish behavior. I have been a faithful husband for 16 years of marriage. I’ve been approached by several women who have offered some sort of sexual intercourse, i.e. Hand job, oral or actual intercourse. I’ve passed on every occasion due to my moral values. It’s been months now, with usual excuses of “im on my period”, ” I’m ovulating ” or just “no, that’s all you think about”. I do not ask/try anymore because I’m tired of being denied. With that approach my response lately is if you rub me, maybe you’ll have a chance. Tried that angle and I get a sleeping wife who denies I rubbed her because she
    fell asleep and doesn’t remember so it doesn’t “count”.
    I pick her flowers, cook her dinner, wake kids, feed them and get them to school so she can sleep in because she’s not a morning person. In the evenings she wants “her time” which involves laying alone in bed watching the newest mini series which involves anything from dragons, time travel, female lead roles or romantic endeavors. I’ve tried to talk about us, but usually scolded about invading her privacy. I’m at my wits end as the advancements from her friends have become more frequent and I’m running out of excuses of why I’m declining their offers because they know my situation. What the hell am I’m doing wrong???

    • James says:

      Frustrated, unfortunately I’m about to rub some salt in a very open wound. I bet she jerks off behind your back on top of all you have mentioned. I guarantee you she does. I’m in a very shitty but similar situation. I sometimes wonder why I remain loyal to someone who is in many respects, betraying me!

  17. James says:

    Withholding or failing to compromise on sex is worse than infidelity. Withholding leaves someone feeling starved, depressed and feeling as desirable as a crushed slug. I would imagine infidelity could feel similar in some ways but unlike the first issue, infidelity doesn’t usually go on for years. Finally, infidelity has an offender and a victim. It’s socially unacceptable. Withholding isn’t considered socially unacceptable so the victim will never be seen as one and the offender will never be seen as one.

  18. Pam Iam says:

    I’m so conflicted, I don’t know what to do! My husband and I are in our 50’s, married almost 2 years (obviously 2nd marriage for both of us) and sex stopped shortly after 1 year. It was never really as often as I’d have liked, but I was dealing with it. He knew before we married that sex was an important part of my life, and I knew it was not a big deal in his life (kind of take it or leave it), but NEVER did I think it would stop – that he would be finished with that part of life. He used to ….start the engine but not drive the car – which is extremely frustrating and quite frankly, when he does that and just stops, it makes me feel like an ass, and like he thinks it’s funny to get me started only to stop (the rational part of my mind knows he is not making fun of me, but I haven’t had sex in almost a year – I’m a tad sensitive). I think about it a lot, feeling like there’s got to be something wrong with me, he says there isn’t. It’s been the elephant in the room for months now, I don’t know what to say, and he’s hoping I don’t say anything. The more time passes the more angry/hurt I become, so I finally asked if he’s finished with sex, he said it was never a big deal for him, it’s not something he thinks about and he’s sorry that he’s not as interested as I am. I’m 51 and not at all ready for sex to be over. He’s made it clear that he’s not interested. I asked if he had any suggestions for dealing with this issue, he says he doesn’t. I asked if he wanted me to get a f.b., it was an adamant NO. He offers no more conversation, and is annoyed when I bring it up again. I have explained that just because he’s done doesn’t mean I’m done. I’ve talked until I’m blue in the face explaining that this is important to me, etc. to no avail. I only see one option, to find a ‘friend’. I’m not looking for the cuddle time, making out, etc., I can separate sex from love and I’m not looking for love. I’m very much in love with my husband, our marriage (other than this) is just fine, but I’m not willing to live for whatever time God gives me, sexless. It’s not ‘me’, and I don’t want to. All of this said – has anyone else been in this situation? Have you “cheated”, and how did you deal with the guilt? OR, have you stayed sexless, and how do you deal with the feelings associated with that? HELP!

    • Clarence says:

      At this point, unless he cleans up his act, you should not be asking him for an FWB. You should be giving him the choice: “Its you, or its an FWB. What is your choice?”
      Tell him how wonderful he is in all the other respects, and that you need someone to be with.

      Point out that you are not cheating, he is the one that is cheating. Do calmly, and gently. You might even be holding his hand at the same time.

      I believe that going outside the relationship is cheating, but only when it is a monogamous relationship.

      He has chosen to transform the relationship from a monogamous one into a celibate one.

      So he must have it made clear to him that you need a monogamous relationship, and you are not interested in a celibate one. Perhaps you want to point out that, if he chooses your FWB option, you wish him well, and you are happy for him in his celibacy, and you are happy that celibacy is everything he dreamed it will be…for HIM.

      Likewise, you can point out that you will expect his support in the new arrangements, should that be his choice.

      This is more than fair. You are not asking too much of him. The ball is in his court. Give him a clear set of deadlines. The day you need his decision, and the day you will be starting / recommencing an intimate relationship.

  19. Jen says:

    I am flabbergasted at the number of my divorced male friends who said that they lived in a sexless marriage, sometimes the “dry spell” went on for decades before they finally had enough and filed for divorce.

    Granted, I am hearing only one side of the story here so take it in that context.
    They relate to me how they tried for years to get their wives to acknowledge that something was wrong and the marriage needed help. They asked to go to counseling, tried to figure out if there was a physical or hormonal reason…they tried date nights etc and everything they did was met with this brick wall of “don’t touch me”.

    Eventually any intimacy (which is different than sex) between them died and was replaced with anger, resentment and a feeling of rejection. One of them copped to initiating an affair thinking that maybe if they could just get it “out of their system” then they might be able to make the marriage work in other aspects. You guessed it, that didn’t work out well.

    The lack of sex wasn’t the disease, it was a symptom.

    I’ve been married for over thirty years now, we’ve raised five children together and I have never felt more unconditionally loved, respected and adored than I do now. We have a very active and satisfying sex life and expressing emotional intimacy outside the bedroom is an important reason why. Recently our 14 year old caught us kissing in the kitchen. We apologized and instead of running away embarrassed she said it was “cute”. Very funny coming from your own kid!

    Were there times where I said no to his advances. Yep. There were also times where I didn’t really feel like it but, went ahead and did it anyway and, surprised to find myself really enjoying it. Sometimes, it really did feel like an obligation and I didn’t get much out of it other than knowing that I gave my much-loved husband something he wanted and needed.

    By giving in did I become a door mat for him? Hardly! What I did happen was a much more enthusiastic response when I asked him to help me fold laundry or run some errands. He hold my hand with no other intent than he wants to feel my touch, he listens intently when I am on an emotional rant about something. He is vested in me, in our relationship and in our lives together as a team.

    I played a lot of team sports. Sometimes on a team, your purpose is to set the other one up to score the goal. You aren’t (or shouldn’t be) thinking about how many more goals you need to win the MVP trophy at the end of the season (We’ve all played with the kind of people who are in it only for themselves but, I digress). Sometimes, your teammates set you up for it. It depends upon what the situation is at the time. That is the concept of a team, you win and lose together.

    If, I had found myself falling more often than not into the category of “chore sex” I’d sure as heck be seeking out a reason as to why before cutting him off; physical, emotional, mental.

    It would be upon me, to seek a remedy or decide that it is time for a divorce and let him go on to find a more fulfilling relationship.

    If I choose to live sexless, that is my choice. Forcing him to make the same decision by waving a ring in his face daring him to challenge me “like it or lump it”, isn’t only plain nasty, it is vindictive. It is not something you do to someone you claim to love.

    Holding him in the marriage with the attitude that “I don’t want it so you can’t have it either” and refusing to seek a remedy is selfish. That attitude is all about controlling a partner and it speaks to much larger issues. The idea is to never let it get to that point in the first place.

    IMO if you are withholding sex in the relationship AND refusing to remedy a fixable situation, you lose all right to complain when your partner goes elsewhere to find it.

    Were there times when he ticked me off and the LAST thing I wanted to do was be touched by him? Yes again but, we sat down alone after the kids had gone to bed and took a few minutes to talk things through. I didn’t yell, scream or make him feel like dirt (though I may have turned on the tear factory on more than one occasion). He didn’t say that was ridiculous for me to feel that way. To his credit he also was smarter than to suggest I was pregnant or PMS-ing, even if it was indeed the case!

    He acknowledged that whether he meant to make me feel that way or not was irrelevant. He hurt me and apologized. Did he become an emasculated weinie? Men, pay attention here. Nope. He got laid!

  20. Frederick Wrigley says:

    My wife and I are 67 and 69 years old. Our 45 year marriage has always been very rough. From 1972-1978, I was violent toward her. After that, we still fought regularly. She has never fought fair; she interrupts and talks over me a lot, and when I have gotten or get upset, than it becomes all about my reaction, and never about what she said that I reacted to.

    I had had an affair with a woman 11 years my senior in 1987 after my mother’s suicide, and, of course, had kept it from my wife. She, of course, found out, and the reaction was severe. I spent another 30 months trying to fix my stupid mistakes.

    In 1990, I made the mistake of asking why she no longer performed oral sex on me. She replied, “You don’t deserve it!” She also called it “disgusting, symbolic of male domination (and if a man is eating out a woman, is that female domination?), and NOT an act of love. I said, “You’re really hurting me.” She replied, “Good.”

    She kept on rejecting me for over 25 years, and soon convinced me that she had no love for me, or for sex itself, and I eventually gave up asking for anything sexual; the last thing she decided to refuse was my asking her to show me her vulva, and her reaction was “That’s what YOU want,” and “All you talk about is what you WANT.” Asking for anything was so painful that I completely stopped.

    In April, my lifelong bipolar depression was finally cured; I am now symptom-free. We got along very well, until the beginning of August, when she seriously went off the rails for seven weeks, screaming false accusations at me, expressing pure hatred and denying that she had said those things. I eventually realized that she simply could not remember her own words and actions. We each see a single counselor weekly, as well as a couple’s counselor. She has become somewhat more lucid in the last 7-8 weeks.

    Last week, she finally (finally) acknowledged that she had indeed hurt me, herself, our marriage, and had killed our sex life. She still won’t say why she rejected me for 27 years, except to say, “I fucked up.”

    We’re trying to straighten things out. I am still dealing with the aftermath of those weeks of verbal abuse and refusing to see a counselor, let alone seek medication. I also have 27 years of vicious, malicious rejection to work through. She says she wants sex with me, and I’m working on believing that. She still thinks that I’m not coming around as fast as she wants me to, and I can only say that I’m making progress, but slowly.

    This has been a very, very unhappy marriage for both of us, and we are both so stubborn that we’ve stayed together, when both of us have had every reason in the world to walk out. Perhaps in 6-18 months, we’ll both be comfortable enough to approach a loving, sexy, dirty sex life.

    in the meantime, after having eschewed porn, I started downloading it and masturbating, not to hurt or spite her, but because even when we were fucking, since we both are total potheads, and I cannot come though fucking when I am stoned, I need the release of an ejaculation. I told her this morning, and explained why, and that it was not to hurt or to spite her. She accepted that, which was a relief.

    I keep listening to Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s “Love To Burn,” as a guide to the future us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0i8oBOYo3s

  21. PTB says:

    since it was only briefly mentioned in the last post, rarely do I see mentioned masturbation/porn as a “middle ground”. Is it as bad as cheating? Seems like a lot of women think so, even those who deny sex.

    Would the writer or some of the authors mentioned encourage men to masturbate in the absence of sex.. even if you left porn out of it?

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