I Love My Husband But Not Our Sex Life – Should I Leave?

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Hi Em & Lo,

I’m with my husband thirteen years, only married for two. In all that time I’ve had maybe four orgasms. He can’t get me off, but he also told me before he doesn’t like me touching myself during sex (I think he takes it as a criticism), and wishes I could climax the “normal” way (which hurt a lot).

Once he’s had his orgasm, it’s over. And if I say “What about me?” he’ll say sorry and start to touch me, but by then I know his heart’s not in it, so when I say “Never mind,” he says okay and stops instantly. He’s never said, “No I want you to get yours!” I’ve told him many times over the years how frustrating it is, but nothing changes.

Now I cringe when he touches me. He’s realizing now its dangerous, and he’s started trying more, but it feels too late. I dont find him sexy, though he’s handsome. And now I’m attracted to a man who thinks I’m sex on legs (he’s wrong, but still!). I’d resigned myself to the sex because my husband is such a good man and our relationship has been really good apart from this, but now I think I could have a relationship with this other man that’s caring and passionate. What should I do?

— Mrs. S. Frustrated

Dear Mrs. S. Frustrated,

One short letter like yours isn’t really enough for us to tell you whether or not you should leave your husband, so instead we are just going to make a few points on the subject in the hope that they will help you make a conclusion about your marriage:

  1. There is no “normal” way to climax and your husband needs to understand this. Most women cannot orgasm through intercourse alone. We’ll say that again: Most women cannot orgasm through intercourse alone. You’re normal! You’re average! In a good way! Do you believe this? You need to believe this yourself in order to convince your husband.
  2. Your husband doesn’t get to decide what you do during sex. That’s some fucked up Sleeping with the Enemy shit. You don’t need to tell him this quite so aggressively (unless you want to), but you can’t back down on this point any longer. Maybe ask him to touch himself while you watch and touch yourself. Tell him it’ll turn you on, and that you want to learn how he likes to be touched — that you think it’d be hot to learn each other’s secrets. Or you could just tell him to stop being a controlling asshole. Your call.
  3. Touching yourself isn’t a “criticism” of his performance. It’s just sex. Sex is more than just intercourse. Sex is making out and using your hands and going down on each other and using toys and teasing and tickling and whatever else floats your boat. Intercourse is just the in-out part of the equation, and, like we said, on its own it doesn’t do the job for most women. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a part of the equation to equal good sex.
  4. You need to stop telling him “Never mind.” You do mind, and lying to your husband in bed is a huge mistake. You’re letting him off the hook and letting him convince himself it’s all good. Whether or not his heart is in it, you need to show him the way until he gets it. After a few times of doing this, you should gently suggest that you think it’d be more fun for both of you if he did this sort of thing to you before intercourse, or during intercourse, or during a break from intercourse, rather than after it.
  5. If he’s trying more suddenly, you need to jump on this bandwagon if you want to give your marriage a fighting chance. Only you can know if it’s truly too late, but from your letter, it sounds like you’re not ready to give up on your marriage just yet. So play along now that he’s trying and push his comfort level a little more each time you have sex. Ask for more of what you want, be demanding, bring a couples’ toy to the bedroom — it’s not like you’ve got anything to lose at this point.
  6. You may not find your husband sexy right now and we don’t blame you! Who would? But this doesn’t necessarily mean your marriage is over — it just means you have no sex life. If you’re willing to go with us for steps one through five, you may find that this changes over time. Then again, you may not — and then you’ll have to make the call about whether this is worth losing a marriage over. That’s a very individual decision.
  7. No matter how selfish your husband is in bed — and we will say, he’s being a pretty big asshole right now — you do not have the right to cheat on him. If you wish to sleep with this other man, you need to either ask your husband’s permission, or leave him (we’re guessing the latter is going to be his preferred option, but what the hell, why not give him the choice).
  8. How a person behaves in the sack is usually not a completely separate thing from how a person behaves in a relationship. You say that you’ve resigned yourself to the crappy sex because your husband is such “a good man” and your relationship has been “really good apart from this,” but that you’d like a relationship that’s “caring and passionate.” Here’s the thing: Caring is something that happens in the bedroom, too. Being a good man is something that happens in the bedroom, too. And that’s one to grow on.

You might also want to check out the advice we gave a woman last year who said her fiancé didn’t care about her orgasm — both because the advice is applicable, and also to realize that you are not alone. You’d be surprised how many letters like yours we receive. So even if you’re not going to stay with your husband, you need to tell him a thing or two for the sake of womankind everywhere.

We hope you figure your marriage out — the one thing we will say for sure is that something‘s gotta give. You decide what that something is.

Tough love,

Em & Lo



  1. ^ Probably the same number as men. I’m sure it runs both ways. But while men getting bait-and-switched is a long-known phenomenon, I think women getting bait-and-switched by men has only come up as a common discussion topic recently. Like, since the internet.

  2. This comment makes me wonder how many wives feel “bait-and-switched” by their once passionate and considerate lovers who turned into “give me 5 minutes of intercourse, or preferably a blowjob so I don’t have to exert myself”

    Stereotypes can go both ways, you see.

  3. ^ I agree with you, although it’s not just a woman thing. Tons of married men I know get little/no/boring sex. Except those guys I know DIDN’T sign up for that. They got bait-and-switched. They used to have sex, but marriage somehow totally annihilated their wives’ sex drives.

    I guess that’s not the case here though. Sounds like she DID sign up for that.

  4. Why, why, why do people marry people with whom the sex is so unsatisfying? I hear about this problem a lot, and cannot understand why someone would sign up for a lifetime of lousy sex. It’s like the one thing that so many women seem willing to sell themselves short on, as if sex is irrelevant to a good marriage. “No job, or no ambition? No way, that guy’s not for me. We have radically different values? Nope, moving on. Doesn’t want kids, but I do? Dealbreaker. Totally unwilling to attempt to satisfy his partner in bed? Sign me up!”

    1. That’s not the case Nikki most relationships start OFF with GREAT sex but life and often the OVERWORKED tired parents of young children come into play and GOOD sex goes out the door! Low PRIORITY, I know because this happened to my husband and I!

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