‘I am no longer physically attracted to my husband and dread having to be intimate with him’

Tell Me About It: ‘This issue is not new and teasing it out might be possible with the support of a psychosexual therapist’


My husband and I have been together for around 12 years, have beautiful kids, both work outside the home and have a happy life together.

The problem is that I am no longer physically attracted to my husband and dread having to be intimate with him. He would never put me under pressure, but in order to avoid having to tell him that I am no longer attracted to him, I pretend that all is fine in that department, rather than hurt his feelings, as I feel that this revelation would have a huge impact on our marriage as a whole.

I don’t see any way around this, and I suspect that it’s a very common issue that women and men have had to deal with (or ignore) since time began.

Any realistic advice would be appreciated.


We are so bombarded by sex in advertising and the media that it can lead to the belief that everyone is having lots of sexual encounters. However, this is not necessarily the case, it is reported (The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, UK) that people may be having less sex than a decade ago with many couples finding that the amount of sex they are having has dwindled or ceased altogether and they struggle to find a way back to intimacy.

There are many reasons for this, ranging from simply getting out of the habit to ones which are more difficult to resolve. Human beings are complex and there is nowhere more likely to exhibit our complexities than in intimate relationships. If the couple are very comfortable and safe in their relationship they may not tackle the lack of sex for many years and it may only arise if one person makes a complaint.

The reason that the lack of sex is tolerated is often a desire to protect the loved one from hurt, embarrassment or blame, and, while this demonstrates love, it does not act in the best interests of the couple, as communication is restricted. We know from research (Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21st century) that one of the main requirements of couples is that they are “best friends”, but we normally tell our best friends everything. However, in the case of the lack of intimacy, the strategy is to keep one of the biggest issues from the partner. This lack of openness can ultimately be more of a cause of hurt and bewilderment than the actual withdrawal of attraction or affection.

As you acknowledge in your letter, the issue is not new. Many people will have the experience of falling in love and cannot take their hands off each other for the first year or two, but then discovering that this ingredient of the relationship has all but totally disappeared in later years. Many lament its demise but others take it as the normal track for relationships but rarely do both partners agree with the level of desire in the relationship.

The familiar phrase, ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ will have reverberated through many a break-up or indeed many a marriage.

Can the initial stages of lust be kept throughout the long life of a relationship and how important is affection and intimacy to a relationship? What can be determinantal to a relationship is when all the truth and intimacy goes elsewhere, eg when a partner tells someone else about how they really feel in terms of lack of desire (because they have to tell someone) and gradually the rift widens in the couple until the relationship loses its centre of gravity.

Affection is core to the survival of any romantic relationship, but if normal affection is withdrawn, due to fear of it being misinterpreted as desire, then the relationship can become arid to the point of it being just parenting with little else to support the ties between the couple. It is possible for a couple to have huge connection, affection and loyalty without sex, but this requires that they tackle this issue and source their intimacy in other ways.

The first step is honesty and vulnerability. Having the courage to speak to your partner about the lack of physical attraction and being willing to engage with the issue is a major act of commitment to the relationship. Hearing the other person’s experience of rejection, sense of heartache or loss is also part of the process.

This is not a one-conversation issue and the process might well benefit from the support of a psychosexual therapist. Some couples find that discussing the issue can lead to deeper understandings that can eventually lead to a new level of intimacy that may even include sex. However, for many others, it restores the relationship to one of closeness and affection where the solid ground of commitment and togetherness is guaranteed, without sexual intimacy. It is an act of respect and honour to treat your partner as capable of handling the truth and it gives them the option of being fully heard in all their hurt and pain and of deciding for themselves where their future lies.