Is it possible to have a happy married life without any intimacy?

A couple of things have lead to me making a post here.  One was a fellow who commented on this post from April 2007 (yeah, almost 10 years ago!).   The other was another online forum where the title if this article was the question.  Below is how I answered that question.

I haven’t had any physical intimacy with my wife since 2009. I quit initiating and that was that. For 13 years I had begged, struggled and tried to alter all manners of my own behaviors and attitudes in order to make her want me. None of it worked. We went through 2 separate rounds of marriage counselling and her attitude did not change. She might want intimacy, but it’s not with me.

It’s very difficult being married to someone who treats you as if you are undesirable, unattractive and generally unappealing. I went through all the stages of grief from being hurt, to being angry to finally some semblance of acceptance. We now sleep in separate rooms and lead parallel lives, more or less.

So while I would never describe what we have as a “happy married life” that doesn’t mean I’m never happy. There are a couple of keys that have helped me be okay with this arrangement that I would never have chosen 20 years ago if I knew then what I know now. But honestly it isn’t all bad.

First I asked myself this: why would I want to be intimate with someone who seems to find me repulsive? My answer to this helped shut down all the begging and mental contortions I was putting myself through in some sort of vain attempt to get her to put out. I set out to reclaim myself and my own self-respect. I found other interests. Frankly the world is over pre-occupied with sex and guys are too willing to do stupid, ignorant and dangerously offensive things to get it. It isn’t worth it. And I can have intimacy with other people that don’t involve sex.

Secondly is this maxim: Just because you aren’t making each other happy does not give you license to make each other miserable. I still do things to take care of my wife and go out of my way to not cause her unnecessary grief. She’s not a bad person for not desiring me. In my most candid of moments, I’m not always keen on myself either! She’s allowed to have a preference. I don’t really desire her much anymore, either. But we can still function as a parental team and as just decent human beings. We don’t really argue and fight at all. But if we do, I am in a better position because I’m not as prone to emotional games and blackmail as I was 10 years ago. I stand on my own two feet and demand respect and am just as happy to give it back to her.

I’m a stronger person for all of this. I appreciate the life I have instead of pining for the life I could have had or should have had. We put up with each others faults. But the only intimacy we really share is our past and our history which isn’t all that great. No hugging, kissing, touching — but we’re also not unkind. It’s a rather odd and rather autistic relationship but we’ve somehow made it work longer than most other couples we know.

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4 Responses to Is it possible to have a happy married life without any intimacy?

  1. Tajalude says:

    The short answer, is no.

  2. I’ve known several couples who were completely content with kindness and consideration for each other minus intimacy. Some because that’s just the way they are, others because life and/or life experiences took away some or most levels of intimacy.

    I have seen far more couples who had an imbalance in their personal or perceived needs verses their spouse. For those of us in the more extreme levels of imbalance I think your reply above is an accurate reflection of how one can cope. For myself, I am frequently reminded that at some age much of this activity may grow to be physically out of reach so learning some effective coping strategies before that stage will continue to be handy skills even if the original (thwarted) plan included taking advantage of the time so as to at least have shared memories of such times. In a perfect world ……

  3. aphron says:

    I would trade kindness for intimacy. Intimacy is important; it is not the deciding factor of a marriage. It sounds like you’re being held hostage, too. As I get older, I prefer kindness and consideration more important than sex. My $0.02.

  4. Tajaude says:

    Well let me elaborate.

    I have dealt with this issue for over 15 years now. It has waxed and waned, although never has it been as bad as it is now. DH was diagnosed with low T (it was less than 70) 2 years ago and has been getting testosterone supplementation (pellets inserted into the skin) for 18 months. During those 18 months, I have seen 0 change in any way, except for the shrinking bank account. (Those pellets are EX-PEN-SIVE.)

    We have intimacy. Emotional intimacy. Not physical. Lots of emotional, no physical. (Well, I say none, but we do exchange hugs and platonic kisses, along with hand holding and lots of back scratches and neck rubs that don’t lead to anything.)

    During the past 15 years, DH and I have had wonderful times. We really do get along well. We have similar interests, we are kind to each other, we support each other, and we are wonderful partners financially, emotionally, and as friends. We are not, however, wonderful partners sexually. I’ve dealt with it and accepted it for the most part, but in the past 2 years, we’ve had sex less than 5 times. It’s been 9 months since the last time. I used to be ok in spite of this, but now I’m unhappy despite everything else. It casts a huge, black cloud over everything else in my life. I’ve gotten to the point where if things do not (or cannot?) change, I will have to leave. I will not live this way forever.

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