After 18 Years Together, My Husband Wants Nothing to Do with Me

I have been married for 18 years. Throughout our marriage, my husband has traveled extensively every week, year after year, with the same company. This has placed 110% of our home and family responsibilities with me. My husband has missed the majority of the family's day-to-day life experiences over the years. When my husband is home, he is not enjoyable company. He has a strong oppositional behavior and conversation style, often looking up things I say on his smart phone to correct my statements. He has no interest in activities with me or with the kids; when he is home, he is head down in some electronic device or in his office on one of his three of four computers and TVs, 24 hours a day. He sleeps in a chair in his office or on the couch in front of a TV. He has spent one night in the master bed in the past two years. He has no interest in any form (sexual or emotional) in an intimate relationship with me. He feigns a lack of sexual prowess and desire at 59 years of age. He does not like to cuddle or hold hands or be close to me for more than a moment. This has been a problem for the entire 18 years of our relationship (the complete lack of emotional and sexual intimacy). In the beginning, we had a very romantic, sexual, and intimate relationship. Although he has never been one to put effort into my needs, always fast and full of promises for the next time. Year after year, I have told myself his lack of interest and constant oppositional conversation and behavior style are due to work fatigue from his extensive traveling. He does tell me he loves me. He just does not know how or desire to do the little things that people in loving, caring relationships do for each other. Like a back rub, a warm hug for no reason, or just a walk holding hands. He will slap or twist my hand away if I try to hold his hand. How can he not see that these little nits hurt me deeply? My heart is aching for a committed, loving relationship with my best friend and partner. I yearn to share my life, dreams, bed, and love with my husband. We have a garden-size bathtub in the master bath, and he scowls at me if I invite him in with me. I feel like the thought of any level of intimacy with me is disgusting to him. My girlfriends tell me I am crazy for not seeing the truth. I have believed in him throughout our marriage because I do love him. As you would expect, things are not getting better; they are worse than ever. I find it difficult to engage him anymore, preferring to tolerate his presence for the short times he is in our home. I fear the destruction of my children's home and life if I seek separation. They would be devastated, having their family and future ripped apart. My family is my No. 1 priority; I would walk through fire to keep them happy and whole. I honestly do not think I have the stamina to weather the emotional upheaval of trying to change. I'm sad and lonely all the time. I have tried time after time to reach my husband. Nothing seems to change; we are always back to the same, old adversarial "roommate" arrangement. Nothing seems to make him happy, the sky is always falling, nothing is any good, I'm just a thorn in his sole. Can you offer me any advice? Is it normal for a 59-year-old man to never have sex or seek any sort of intimacy with his wife? Is it normal for a 55-year-old woman to want and need an active love and intimate relationship with her husband? When he comes home, he tends to his own laundry and does a few fix-it things around the house, then is gone again. He is not interested in having a partnership with me as his wife. I am like the innkeeper of his home. The only time he actually smiles at me is when I am preparing a family meal. I am emotionally and physically isolated without loving companionship. I do have my girlfriends and children, but they cannot replace the love of a mate. I am always on the verge of tears, feeling at a total loss for resolution. Lately I have been considering leaving this world as soon as my son graduates high school. Once my children are on their own two feet, I can pull back and move on. I never wanted to be an older woman, alone in the world. Nevertheless, here I am. Advice? —Lonely and Longing
Dear Lonely and Longing,

Eighteen years is a long time to live feeling lonely and longing, especially when yIt’s not ou’re in a relationship that’s supposed to be loving and intimate. I suppose that things worsened gradually, and now you find yourself high and dry. You write that your girlfriends think you’re “crazy for not seeing the truth.” Do they think this relationship is over, or should be?

You ask if your lack of intimacy is normal. It is unusual. Most married couples of your ages—59 and 55—have intimate communications of various kinds, from hand-holding to sex, and verbal too, but as you describe it your husband cannot tolerate even the smallest touch, a reaction that goes way beyond sexuality. I sense this is nothing new, and I have questions about it.

Does he reject your touch only? How does he respond to others, to a friendly handshake or pat on the shoulder? And what about your children? I don’t know how old they are, but are they of lap-sitting age, and do they, or did they ever, sit in his lap? How does he say hello to them when he comes home from a business trip? How does he say hello to you? And the goodbyes, what are they like?

You describe him as remote, negative, and oppositional. Maybe he is experiencing depression or some other emotional or physical issue. You sound pretty depressed, too. Could you both see a doctor for a general exam and then talk to the doctor together about these problems? I would start with this, and if all checks out OK then I would seek therapy for both of you, both individual and couples counseling. And if your husband is unwilling to participate, go alone.

You know when you get on an airplane and the flight attendant gives instructions of what to do in case of an emergency? “If there is turbulence, the air bags might descend from the ceiling. If you are traveling with a child, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, and then on your child.” Get that oxygen. And put on your parachute in case you have to bail.

Take some deep breaths. As you probably sense, you should not have to live this way. You husband shouldn’t have to, either. Take care of yourself and everyone will profit—maybe your husband, certainly your children, and absolutely definitely YOU!

Take care, and good luck!

Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
  • Leave a Comment
  • chels

    May 3rd, 2013 at 1:48 PM

    I definitely think that maybe the two of you could use some couples counseling. Have you ever thought about that or brought it up to him? I know that from my own experience this can be a really useful thing if the both of you are into it together and you take it as a chance to find out all about each other all over again. It could be the little magic fix that you are looking for.

    I agree that maybe your husband is depressed, and that this could be expressed by him withdrawing from you and the marriage. There is help out there for sure but he does have to be willing to do a few things to get himself back to a safe and healthier place before you decide that you have had enough and call it quits.

  • hannah

    May 3rd, 2013 at 10:58 PM

    “I honestly do not think I have the stamina to weather the emotional upheaval of trying to change.”

    im sorry but is this why you have not done anything all these years to try and change things?is this why you have not tried talking to him about his unusual behavior?ig you want to make things better, if you want to bring in a change then it requires energy, it requires work, no getting away from it.

  • mary

    May 4th, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    I wonder if he is having an affair. Especially since he travels constantly. Being around such hostility and withdrawal of love for any longer will further damage you. You have suffered for long enough and deserve freedom and happiness for the rest of your life.

  • Riley

    May 4th, 2013 at 4:52 AM

    I understand that there must be some contentment with consistency, but 18 years feels like it would be a very long time to live with someone causing such grief.

  • Lynette

    May 5th, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    You should definitely receive counseling alone. 18 years is long enough to suffer, too long in fact. Tell your husband how you feel about being rejected and ask him if he doesn’t think he would benefit from seeing a counselor. And, ask him to join you in couple’s counseling. If he says no, that’s a good indication the marriage isn’t important enough to him to try and save it. Wishing you success in your efforts to find the love you desire whether with your husband or someone else.

  • ms helene

    May 6th, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    I don’t wnat to have to be the one to bring this up, but I am sure that you must have already considered this. Do you think that there is someone else, like he could be having an affair? That could explain why he doesn’t wnat to be intimate with you, although I don’t see why this should have anything to do with the children. I think that you need some time with a counselor alone but I also think that for this to work the two of you both have to have a commitment to see and work with someone. But if he isn’t willing to do that then I am ot oo sure how you can heal a relationship that is already as far gone as you say that this one is.

  • Amy

    September 7th, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    I thought he was gay or had something on the side, I was wrong! I have had him followed many times by hired people who specialize in that sort of thing. They all said that I have the most boring husband in the world. Some even said that they were stealing my money because he’s so boring. He’s just who he is no interest in me and I will be lonely forever.

  • Amy

    August 14th, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    I know what this woman is going thru, But I’ve been married 45+ years and my husband hasn’t wanted anything to do with me since our wedding night. He hated sex to the point of vomiting, refused to go to a shrink! He fixed it his way he right away went on the night shift, and moved everything he owns down to the basement. Plus he told me never bother him by talking or making to much noise. So we haven’t talked in years, he just hangs out in the basement or garage with his cars and shop. He has no phone or computer or friends. I have my shrink and anti-depressant pills, what a horrible life. Its my fault for not leaving him, I guess I’m unsecure and scared plus I have no where to go.

  • Stephanie

    August 15th, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    We’ve been married for 23+ yrs., and my husband isn’t intimate with me either. He hurts me verbally all the time. He have erection problems, but he refuse to take meds for it. I’m the one that suffers for it, and he can careless. I’m sorry to hear that it’s in so many other marriages.

  • nets

    January 11th, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    i can sympathise with you, this is my husband and I, we live the same life style as you do too with work and family life etc and we are only 45 years old, I asked him the other evening if he liked being intimate and cuddling me and he said no and turned over. It is very difficult and you keep judging yourself and yes it makes me feel very lonely and undesirable in anyway, I have been tempted to join a chat room just to have some friendly flirting but it feels wrong. Hope you get your life on track i will keep plodding on this track for a while as I have a youngish son….

  • Syd

    October 10th, 2015 at 7:49 AM

    Me too. 24 years of marriage like this. He scowls when he looks at me. If we’re passing each other in the hall he says “get out of my ” instead of “excuse me.” His words and tone toward me are almost always combative and adversarial. 24 years of marriage like this. I didn’t realize that others lived like this too. He said he would never go to counseling again either. I think this is verbal and emotional abuse. His parents were divorced and I suspect that he saw this kind of behavior growing up. Love behavior is learned. My biggest concern is – will our son end up being just like him? Our son hates his meanness as well. Painful.

  • ME

    November 28th, 2015 at 6:29 PM

    Obviously this is what I have to look forward to. I am only in my thirties and have been married almost half my life.
    You wrote what seems like a day in my life. My husband doesn’t work away, though. Counseling- a loud, hateful NO from him. He believes he isn’t the problem, everyone else is. Unlike you, I can’t even get close enough to him to even TRY to hold his hand or touch him. He goes out of his way to not be near me. I also get meanness if I dare to try be intimate with him. I’m only wanted when he needs some “love”, otherwise we live as roommates with children. Almost nineteen years of marriage and NEVER ONCE have I been told I am attractive to him (pretty,etc.).
    I am living a younger version of your life. Thanks for sharing a hard thing to talk about. It makes me feel better to know I am not the only one living like this. The only thing that makes me feel any sense of love is the fact that I have family and children who don’t act like this. Chin up ladies, we are not truly alone- We have each other for support and the Love of GOD!

  • roberta

    December 16th, 2015 at 3:20 PM

    going through same thing after 6 years marriage, husband acts all lovey dovey outside in front of people and before we married was loving. gives me lovely dovey cards but thats it, no intimacy for more than 1/2 marriage and even when it happened it was effortless. all help welcome

  • EdDish

    November 18th, 2016 at 5:56 AM

    I have the same marriage!!!
    I finally got a hold of his old phone… what I found … craiglist… gay sites!!
    Most women don’t know.. but I am here to tell you … check out the 📱!!!!!

  • DeCaf

    June 20th, 2017 at 10:43 AM

    We’ve been married almost 50 years and after about 1 1/2 years into our marriage he decided he wanted nothing to do with me sexually or intimately. I was boring and he told me so! I should have left he would not have cared, and probably wouldn’t have missed me. All these years we have lived alone he lives down stairs and I have the up stairs. We never talk or interact in any way, our way of communication is sticky notes! Horrible life but its way to late to change anything were in our 70’s and waiting for the end to come.

  • Nicole'

    August 25th, 2017 at 6:48 PM

    I have been married for about eighteen years. About a year ago my mother in-law passed away, and my husband didn’t attend her funeral, nor do he visit her in the hospital. He hadn’t spoken to her in two months before she died. To this day he doesn’t talk about her. Two months after she died he started spending nights away from home. We don’t kiss, hug, or have anything to do with each other sexually or otherwise. It has been over a year. I think that he has only spent about maybe twenty some nights at home In a years time.We have two teenagers at home, and he refuses to spend any time with them. I have ask him to go with me to see a counselor but he said, No. He will not pay for one. He refuses to tell me where he is spending the night every night. I ask him whether he was having an affair, but he looked me straight in my eyes and said, No. He did say that he has a problem, and it isn’t my fault, but he refuses to stay home. He ha taken some of his clothes, and leaves them in his vehicle. I am very depressed , sad and lonely. I love him, but I am contemplating a separation from him. I don’t trust him. I can’t continue to live this way. I am Christian, so I do read my bible and watch Christian shows. I stopped going to church lately, because I can’t bring myself to get out of bed on the weekends, due to me being tired from working and mainly depressed. I pray everyday that the Lord restore this marriage and our minds. Please give me some advice.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 26th, 2017 at 1:38 PM

    Dear Nicole,
    I am sorry to hear about your trouble. Your husband’s behavior is very difficult, and if he won’t go to counseling with you then I sincerely advise you to seek counseling for yourself. You need support and understanding through this very difficult experience.
    Take care,

  • Brenda

    October 7th, 2018 at 11:01 AM

    My common law husband of 18 years sends me a text saying he’s not happy he lives me but not in love with me. And he left. Now all my friends r his friends I dint work cause he dint make me. So I’m broke no family no friends. I wake up if I’m lucky enough to sleep I don’t eat,ckean,get dressed and it’s been over a month. I want him back he just tells me he wants to b alone there’s no other woman. But he lives with his best friend goes out has a good time while I’m alone. I don’t understand how can he after 18 years just not miss me not feel guilty. I ask him to plz explain what I’m not happy means he don’t. Now his dog just died to and it was his best friend he never dealt with the loss of anyone r anything so I thought that could b part of it. He don’t want sex I tried that. I begged him. I’ve read so many how to books they all say no contact rule. Well my ex isn’t like the normal. I think he wants me to go with a new guy so he can either feel better and less quilt r so he can do it. I’m afraid to use the no contact cause that’s What he does to PPL in his life that he wants to forget about. So someone plz plz help me what do I do I want him only him
    And I can’t keep living like this o have no reason to get up dress eat clean what’s the point I’m alone.

  • The Team

    October 7th, 2018 at 5:01 PM

    Dear Brenda,

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