When I tweeted a link to our front page story Give up on the fairytale and accept the inevitability of infidelity? No thanks. I received a message which read “Infidelity is not always wrong. Especially when your spouse hasn’t touched you for years and refuses counselling.” I replied “I agree, but in that context surely one would question the wisdom of staying in the marriage? ” and the woman responded by saying “Life isn’t always black and white, 10 years of refusal followed up with 6 years of illness and disability. ” I was intrigued, so I asked her to tell us her story… and she did.
I met my husband 20 years ago when I was just 19 years old. He was 46, 23 years my senior. Four years into our marriage we stopped making love at his instigation. I was just 23 years old. There were no hugs, or kisses, or any affection at all. I actually thought that was normal, probably because I am the product of a Catholic upbringing, where women’s feelings come second at best, and are totally disregarded at worst.
I felt very lonely for a long time. I gained a lot of weight and then in 2002 I went on a serious healthy eating plan and lost ten stone. I met a work colleague in 2003 and I began to feel attracted to him. I asked my spouse to go for counselling with me, but he refused. Shortly afterwards, the affair began and it lasted four and a half years
My husband did not want to discuss this issue with me, other than to make one comment a couple of years ago. “do what you need to do, but please be discreet about it”. In 2006 my husband had a major heart attack which has left him with disabilities. I carried on, both caring for my husband and having the affair simultaneously. In early 2008 I ended the affair, because my lover had started to show abusive tendencies.
I believe that my husband is asexual because he has never been overly interested in sex, but I was so young and inexperienced when I met him that I didn’t have a great frame of reference. I can see people reading this and thinking “If he is asexual, surely he wouldn’t have had sex with you at the start of your relationship ? My reply would be that many gay men get married and have sex with women and the same is true of asexuals. A gay man hiding his sexuality from his wife and an asexual hiding his sexuality from his wife are two very similar situations. In both cases the man does not want to have sex with his wife.
Society seems to have no trouble believing that women don’t want sex, but they struggle to come to terms with the idea that a man might not want it. This lack of understanding makes women scared to speak out. What woman is going to stick her head above the parapet and say “I live in a sexless marriage” and talk about it frankly and honestly in public. Actually, I can answer that “NONE”. And so women like me who live in sexless marriages continue to suffer in silence.
We feel that we cannot discuss the issue with anyone. We are made to feel that it is our fault. Magazine articles and books on the subject advise women to buy some sexy undies and make more effort with their appearance etc. Though it’s the man who doesn’t want sex, it is the women who are told to make more effort with their looks. If the situation is reversed and it is the woman who doesn’t want to make love, pressure is put on her (marital and societal) to go to the GP to see what is wrong.
On the few occasions that I have posted my story on internet Relationship message boards, other women have shared their frustration at the fact that that their husbands have refused to provide sex and affection, yet also refuse to go to counselling or the GP to try and get help. And at the same time, they strictly forbid their wives from seeking sex elsewhere. It is an attitude that is both controlling and abusive.
I have only recently started talking about this to friends and the few I have told have been genuinely shocked. One night recently I was waiting for a cab when I was propositioned by a handsome looking man outside a pub. He did it in a perfectly nice way and said that I have lovely curves. I actually considered his proposition for a moment, but at the moment my confidence is low. I gained a bit of weight after my affair ended and although he seemed nice, he was a complete stranger and I know I have to be careful.
However, I felt extremely upset when I got home. It just reminded me of what I am missing out on. It’s not just the sex. I miss the laying in bed at night and just wanting to be held. I miss the intimacy and the emotional connection. I miss being me.