Your Call: My Wife Won’t Try Anything New in Bed

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section.

Dear Em & Lo,

My wife and I have been together for 15 years, married for 10. We are busy parents. I feel we are equal partners when it comes to parenting and managing the house. We have even carved out time to ourselves, 1 night a week, but more often than not she is too tired for sex, let alone anything new and adventurous. I feel we have reached a plateau in our sex life. It has been vanilla for the most part but less and less frequent-10 times a year, for the last couple years. I’ve broached the subject many times and we just reach an impasse.

I’ve always focused on pleasuring her and making sure her needs are met. I am not feeling reciprocated. I’ve tried offering to indulge her in anything she wants. I bought her a collection of erotica and she rolled her eyes. I gave her a gift certificate to a female friendly sex shop a year and 1/2 ago. She still hasn’t redeemed it. There are kinkier things I’d like to experience with her but she has ZERO interest in ANYTHING new.

I have been banging my head against the wall for the past 2 years and am starting to feel resentful. I’m considering broaching the subject of an open marriage or, worse, seeking out an affair. Any thoughts?

— Taken for Granted

What advice do you have for T.F.G.? Leave it in the comments section below.



  1. Too tired for weekly sex? Why? Is she sick or depressed? Really stressed? Guilt won’t help in that case, it’ll make her less interested and maybe resetnful. A gift might feel like a request, even if you mean it nicely, e.g. buying lingerie might be taken as ‘you are not good enough, I want sex, not YOU’. If she’s not willing to fix things whne she’s able to, that’s definitely a problem. e.g. why did she roll her eyes – because you constantly bring it up (I think people don’t always realise when they’re pressuring – a frustrated sigh might be you politely respecting her wishes and saying nothing, but it might come across as a complaint, which is a big turn off), or because she’s being rude and there’s unresolved issues or stuff she’s not dealing with? It sounds like you assume she’s just not meeting her sex obligations which is a bit problematic – if ‘she’s always tired’ has been as far as the conversations ever get in terms of information, thats the problem – the impasse bit makes me quite curious. I’m sure you love your wife and it sounds like you’ve tried to be really considerate – just from personal experience, enthusiasm can come across as pressure, and she might open up more if it was asked in a ‘ARE YOU OKAY’ way. Extra intimacy can’t hurt the physical side of things, I don’t reckon. 1 night a week sounds like not enough time to both catch up and get in the mood. You assume she “won’t” – maybe she can’t? Ask about going to the sex shop together as a couple experience, not her picking up supplies to please you – I’m not saying you’re doing that, but there’s a chance she’s interpreting it that way.

  2. This is what I said to my spouse in the same situation, I hope it will help: Honey, when we married each other we committed ourselves to being each other’s only sexual partner for the rest of our lives. So, you are the only one who is supposed to meet all my sexual needs within reason, and I am committed to meeting yours. Do you think it’s fair that I have to watch porn and pay for sex toys to satisfy myself when YOU should be the one who is pleasing me? If you keep refusing to meet my needs then you should allow me to get my needs met by someone else who is willing to meet them instead. I will be discreet and use protection. If not then we need to compromise and send the kids to grandma’s house and you and I have a night to ourselves.

    After he realized I was serious we later had a talk about why he so adamantly refused to go past vanilla – turns out it was from being raised with Catholic guilt that he should always respect girls. I reminded him I was ASKING for non-vanilla and as long as it was within the context of our marriage it was OK to do. Then we tried light and less-intimidating things (paddle, loose wrist tying) and now we have what I like to call “vanilla sex with sprinkles”. I hope my experience can help your sex life improve.

  3. I think seeing a therapist might be a good idea, as long as you have a good therapist. It might be helpful, as Ralphie says, to bring in a neutral third party. We live in such a sex negative culture that often regards people who are dissatisfied with relationships that are otherwise working, but for the sex, as selfish or having the wrong priorities. This makes it easy for your wife to cast you as the bad guy when you try to talk to her about these things. Bringing in somebody neutral might help her gain a little perspective – yes, sex is an important part of a healthy marriage, and if she wants to save hers, she had better at least be willing to talk about it.

  4. Have you thought about marriage counseling? Maybe bringing in a neutral third party will facilitate the discussion you’re trying to have and prevent you from taking action you do not want to pursue (if you wanted to have an affair, you would be pursuing that without seeking reassurance or approval from people you do not know on the internet).

  5. Well, I have a feeling you might have tried what im about to suggest but I’ll say it anyway. Maybe you should have less talk and more action. For instance, take the gift card and go buy what you want and show her next time you’re lying in bed. When your laying in bed at night, read some of the erotica to her.

    I know that for busy women, sex can become an item on the to do list. So, instead of adding trips to the sex shop to her list, just take care of it, if that makes sense. It’ll be harder for her to shoot you down if she doesn’t actually have to go out of her way to do anything.

    If none of that works, proceed with Johnny’s suggestions and def bring up the open marriage.

  6. People in your situation all have the same 4 options:

    1. Leave
    2. Cheat
    3. Pursue an open marriage
    4. Resign yourself to a shitty sex life

    Open marriage would be the ideal solution if she’ll agree to it, but that’s a big “if.” Never underestimate the power selfishness and territoriality. You might just be giving her a perfect excuse to CALL you a cheater, leave you, take your kids, your house, and most of your money.

    Cheating is convenient, but dishonest, and an even better reason for her to leave and take all your shit with her. Not that I’d blame you on a personal level. She’s basically abandoned you sexually. You sound like you have a conscience, though, and you care for you wife, so the guilt might eat you.

    Leaving sucks, because you care for her, and you don’t want to voluntarily surrender your kids and your house and most of your money.

    Resigning yourself to a shitty sex life is the least materially damaging option, but it’s no fun.

    Ever consider a fairly-innocent rub-and-tug? I wish I had better advice, but that’s the best I can come up with right now considering the major down-side to all other options. The person I’d really like to give advice to is your wife. I’d tell her, “open the marriage and let the guy screw around. What, because you’re done with sex, nobody should be getting laid?”

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