I’m a husband and father in my mid-thirties, and my wife has multiple sclerosis, which has left her with permanent muscle pain and fatigue such that she can’t work or do housework. However, what I’m writing to you about is, simply, the fact that my libido won’t shut up, to the point that I occasionally wish I was dead just so the craving for sex (or at least heavy petting and mutual oral) would stop.
Even before she developed her disability, my wife’s libido had been on a serious downslope almost from the moment we got married. Within weeks of our wedding we were down to once or twice a week; within a year, once or twice a month; now, nearly 11 years on, it’s two or three painful, awkward, guilt-ridden times a year.
I have what was until very recently called Asperger’s Syndrome and is now just very high-functioning autism, but I wasn’t diagnosed until last year ( stupid Southern medical community) and was too terrified of conflict of any sort to stand up to my wife about anything, least of all sex. Now I’ve finally found a great psychiatrist, therapist and therapy group who help me a lot, but my wife is too mired in hopelessness to think about anything but how unhappy she is. I wish I could just stop wanting sex, but my therapist has gotten me to understand that if I don’t take care of myself, I become unable to care care of my wife and our son as well.
My therapist and psychiatrist have urged me to tell my wife that my needs are my needs, they’re not going away, and if I can’t meet them with her I need to get them met some other way. I mean, we do cuddle a lot, but she’s so miserable about her own body that she shies away from kissing or anything explicitly sexual, no matter how much I assure her that I am coming in with no expectations or preconceptions. She is very closed to any open discussion of emotional or sexual needs and pooh-poohs the very idea of talking about feelings (beyond telling me when she thinks I’m overreacting to something) and is very inclined toward giving up, hiding and escapism (we play Eve Online together, but I can’t fap to that, much less squeak a mattress with it).
So it’s very unlikely that I would ever be able to convince her to “open up” the marriage. But my gonads just won’t shut up no matter how much else I have going on, and porn and hand lotion just get me depressed and lonely these days. And it should go without saying that anything that would endanger the welfare of my family is right out. So while the process of elimination would seem to suggest that I *have* to go behind my wife’s back to keep my sanity, I’m just having a very hard time countenancing doing that – hiding things from the woman I love, lying, diverting more time and money from caring for my family… I mean, you’d think just about anything would beat “become a suicide risk” in a cost-benefit analysis but… I’m hoping like crazy there’s just an option I’m missing here.
I have no trouble socializing with people – I have pretty good (hard-won) social skills, am comfortable striking up conversations, and have asserted my need to at least go to jam sessions at bars a few nights a week, but hanging out playing music is one thing and illicit snu-snu is quite another.
(And I’m already overweight so no castration.)
Dirty Not-Old Man
Well here’s a letter that’s going to get me in trouble.
DNOM, I sympathize with both you and the wife. Having a chromic, debilitating condition, especially one that results in constant pain is hard on everybody involved and it’s going to take a psychic toll on the relationship no matter how committed and loving you both are.
That being said: being handicapped in this way isn’t license for being an asshole.
But let me back up a little here.
Let’s start with the obvious: you’re not a dirty old man and your libido isn’t something to be ashamed of. You love your wife and find her attractive: it’s completely natural that you want to have sex with her. It’s good that you still find her attractive; all too often, people with chronic conditions or physical handicaps start to feel as though they’ve been branded as “unfuckable”, as though having MS rendered somebody as only half-human. So quit stressing over the fact that you want to bone.
But – and here’s the part you’re not going to like – right now you’re well on your way to getting a messy divorce. It’s easy to get a little torn up about this because of your wife’s condition, but you said something significant at the start: Your wife’s libido cratered before she developed her condition. Now it’s natural for sex to slow down over the course of a long-term relationship – that’s just part of the human condition, especially when it comes to monogamy – but it’s another entirely when it suddenly drops off a cliff. Now it would help if we had more info: there comes a question as to whether she was feeling the symptoms of MS before she got diagnosed… or she’s always had a lower libido than yours and didn’t key you in until after you were married. Some people – men and women both – will be willing to fuck more frequently than they would normally like right up until they’re married. As soon as rings are exchanged, they decide that they’re done with sex for now… and unilaterally deciding it for their spouse too.
And because we live in a sex-negative culture, the person with the higher-libido is shamed for wanting sex; they’re told that they should be willing to sacrifice for their partner, that breaking up with or divorcing someone because they wouldn’t fuck you as often as you’d like is selfish and that they should be willing to just suck it up and deal because love is so much more than just squishy noises and orgasms.
Of course, sex is unimportant right up until somebody decides to seek it elsewhere, at which point it’s justification for blowing up a relationship without a second glance. Even if the other person has been driven to it.
As I’ve said before: monogamy ain’t easy and romantic love doesn’t mean that you don’t ever want to fuck other people.
So let’s look at your situation in particular, DNOM. You’re horny. Your wife isn’t and hasn’t been for years. This alone is going to cause issues that will ultimately undermine your marriage. Now, there are underlying causes to her lack of libido: loss of sexual desire, chronic fatigue and pain during intercourse are all symptoms of multiple-sclerosis. Throw depression on top of that – another libido killer and you’ve basically ensured that she’s not going to be DTF any time in the near future.
Official NerdLove Celebrity Patronus Dan Savage often brings up being GGG – good, giving and game – when it comes to making relationships work. The key in this case is “giving”; for a mixed-libido couple to work, the lower-libido’d partner needs to be willing to assist in giving his or her partner some orgasms without guilt or reserve in the name of making them happy. This doesn’t necessarily mean sex when they’re not up for it; it may be giving them oral or a hand-job or otherwise giving them some form of release. And if for whatever reason they can’t, then the only ethical thing to do is have a conversation about the possibility of having one’s needs discretely met elsewhere.
In your case, DNOM, you have a couple of immediate problems. Your wife’s condition makes it difficult for her to participate in your sex-life and even harder to want to… but her condition doesn’t mean that she gets to abdicate her responsibilities to the relationship. First of all: your wife desperately needs to get into therapy. I realize the T word gets tossed around here often, especially in the comments, but she’s sinking deep into depression and it’s affecting not only her life but yours and your children’s. It’s only going to get worse for the both of you if she doesn’t seek psychological treatment to help with her emotional and body-image issues. Hiding from it isn’t going to help.
Neither is avoiding talking about the giant erection in the living room.
Your therapist and psychiatrist are correct: you need to talk to your wife about this. You have emotional and physical needs that aren’t being met and it’s causing you pain too. She can’t just dismiss your emotions or your needs like they’re unimportant; if she loves you, then she needs to be willing to listen to you and work with you on this.
So you have some choices to make.
First of all: your sex drive isn’t going to go away and your wife doesn’t have the right to tell you that you’re just going to have to go without sex for the rest of your life. That’s not how relationships and partnerships work. She’s been unwilling to consider opening up your relationship or even discuss your need for intimacy. So you have your first choice – and one that’s going to get me into trouble. You can continue to try to make it work with porn and sex toys – I recommend either getting a Fleshlight or a Tenga Cup – or you can get your needs met elsewhere.
Frankly, I recommend you go out and get your needs met discretely by a professional. Whether this is finding a masseuse that gives happy endings or hiring an escort once a month, finding a sex-worker to help you get your rocks off is a better answer than trying to keep a relationship going on the down-low. This will help release your tension and it’s easier to fix your relationship when you’re not bubbling over with backed-up cum and resentment. Do your diligence in advance: there are escort review sites out there that can help you get a good idea of who’s reputable, what they offer and how much they charge. Use condoms, pay exclusively in cash and be damned sure to clear out your recently called numbers, texts and internet browser cache.
The next choice is the hard one: you have to decide whether you want to stay in this relationship.
I realize that there are huge issues that would come with getting a divorce: disrupting your children’s life, your wife’s need for physical care and the social stigma of being “the guy who divorced his crippled wife”, but frankly your wife has abdicated her entire role in your relationship and that ain’t cool. I realize you have a hard time with confrontation. I realize that your wife has legitimate problems… but she would rather try to pretend that they don’t exist, and that’s a recipe for universal misery. You need to have a long, blunt and honest talk with her about all of this, especially getting her into therapy. She needs to get help and if she doesn’t, she’s going to be dragging you and the kids down with her.
And you have to decide whether you’re going to let this happen.