Help! The Man I Agreed to Marry Now Says He Can’t Have Sex

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I was raised by parents who taught me the importance of remaining chaste until marriage. Even after I left home for college and eventually got my own apartment and began dating, I’ve been committed to this choice I made for myself.

Six months ago I met a wonderful man who happened to share my beliefs, and we fell in love. He proposed just last month, and I accepted. We are engaged to be married later this summer, but earlier this week he told me that, due to health conditions, he is unable to have sex or father children.

I have always looked forward to the day I would become a mother, and I was gutted by this news. I am upset and discouraged. In fact, I’m pretty angry. I had already told my friends and family about the wedding and begun planning the ceremony.

He says he thought it wouldn’t matter to me because we share the same views on sex, but it’s not the same. I made a commitment to myself to only be intimate with the man I chose to marry, but I have always planned on marrying, becoming intimate, and having children.

I do love him, but I really wish he had told me this before I agreed to marry him. But I did accept his proposal, and although it isn’t too late to back out, I feel like doing so is somehow wrong. What if I never love anyone else the way I love him? Are intimacy and children really worth giving up on a person I already love? I don’t want to share his secret, so I’m ashamed to ask anyone I know. Please help! —Now or Never

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Dear Now or Never,

There is so much emotion here—love, anger, shame, sadness, disappointment, and likely much more. You’ve been blindsided with this news, and because you want to respect his privacy, it sounds like you are also feeling very alone in dealing with this. It is a tremendous amount of material to unpack, and you have the added pressure of a deadline since the wedding is scheduled for later this summer.

First of all, I have to say that I agree with you—it’s not the same. He is unable to have sex or have children inside or outside of marriage, and it seems like your desire was only to wait for these things until you were married. While I certainly can’t know what kind of conversations you two had about this or what each of your understandings were of those conversations, it seems clear now that you have two different points of view.

To me, it is not an either/or decision but rather the beginning of a series of conversations where you can each explore these issues together.

The question is, where do you go from here?

I could be mistaken, but it sounds like you believe that you have to either marry this man, accepting a life with no sex and no children, or not marry this man in the hopes of finding love again with someone who can give you these things. To me, it is not an either/or decision but rather the beginning of a series of conversations where you can each explore these issues together.

For example, is it possible for him to have some kind of treatment? Is he willing to do this? Are you willing to consider other ways of becoming a mother—perhaps in vitro fertilization or adoption? Is he willing to be a father if a child comes into your lives in one of these ways?

You can try to tackle these conversations on your own or you can partner with a therapist to help you two engage with each other in healthy and productive ways. If he is unwilling to participate in this kind of exploration and/or therapy with you, I would suggest you consider working with a therapist on your own. You don’t need to be alone in figuring out such a big issue.

Best wishes,

Sarah Noel

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • Mac

    Mac

    July 2nd, 2016 at 9:19 AM

    I sort of see this as deceitful on the highest level.

  • Jackie W

    Jackie W

    July 4th, 2016 at 9:21 AM

    Is it that he is unable or unwilling?
    I think that getting the answer to this question is very important.

  • harris

    harris

    July 5th, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    What a horrible misconception for one to have, just to assume that you would be alright not having sex
    he could have at least asked

  • Marshall

    Marshall

    July 7th, 2016 at 12:28 PM

    Are you sure that he never mentioned anything like this to you before, when the relationship could have been a little more casual and not so serious? I have a hard time thinking that he would have kept this kind of thing from you for so long and then felt that it was a legitimate thing to just up and spring it on you. Maybe he had his signals all kind of crossed who knows, but it would seem unfair to both of you really to have to go into thins not getting out of it what each of you have decided that you want.

  • Susan

    Susan

    July 7th, 2016 at 9:23 PM

    He’s a liar and deceiver. Dump him now. You’ll find love again. Honest, decent love.

  • Yellie

    Yellie

    July 8th, 2016 at 12:11 AM

    That was very deceitful on his end. You have to wonder what else would he hide from you in life? This is a very big deal. You have the right to choose if you want to be a mother and find someone who can give you that in life, he can’t make that choice for you. Please Don’t feel like you are obligated to marry this man.

  • Nelly

    Nelly

    July 8th, 2016 at 1:33 AM

    I would counsel you to think very long & hard about what you really want, long term.
    There are many ways of having sex without penetration which foster intimacy. There are other ways to have children.
    What is he REALLY saying here? That he doesn’t want sexual intimacy or children? Or that he does but doesn’t think he can have them?
    Like you, and for similar reasons, I abstained from sex until I met & married someone who I thought shared my beliefs. The marriage was consummated, producing 2 children, before he completely shut down sexually & shunned any intimacy both emotional & sexual.
    I eventually discovered he was on the autistic spectrum & had been playing the role he thought was expected of him. It took many years & 3 marriage therapists to work this out.
    He will still not acknowledge it.
    I was also brought up to think divorce was an unforgivable sin but that is where I’m slowly heading after 7 years of separation.
    I do not believe he deliberately deceived me but he has refused to take any responsibility for his behaviour for 27 years.
    Your situation does have some differences. At the very least he has told you this before you married him.
    Please don’t rush into a wedding until you & he have had time to really work through what the issues are & how you can face them together… Or not.
    I wouldn’t wish my heartache on any one.
    Best wishes to you.

  • Beatrice

    Beatrice

    July 8th, 2016 at 8:04 PM

    If this issue is troubling you so much now, it will trouble you even more after you marry him because a few years from now you might start feeling “stuck” in the relationship. You will feel guilty to leave him and that will make both of you miserable. Just like you feel he should have told you way ahead of time about his health issues, you should also now tell him way ahead of time how troubled and confused this whole thing makes you feel. Do not marry until you are 100% sure of your feelings. A lot of marriages end in heartbreaking divorce and separations (mine has ended just like that too). Take time to resolve this big issue first. You seem to be a believer, seek God’s will in prayer. People will say this and that (just like I am doing now), but God will be with you through thick or thin, no matter what you decide to do at the end.

  • Ed H.

    Ed H.

    July 15th, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    Run in the other direction…this level of deceit is a precursor to his need to control you in the future. Don’t be nieve, there are indeed plenty of fish in the sea. Step up to your ability to excersise your self confidence…sounds like you need it.

  • Dunc

    Dunc

    July 16th, 2016 at 5:48 AM

    That sounds extremely dodgy, how have you not discovered this before? I mean surely he would have had doctors appointments and other various appointments to discuss his issue, he seems very secretive and potentially there could be more to this, maybe he’s shy? Maybe he’s embarrassed by his body?

  • David

    David

    November 20th, 2016 at 12:13 PM

    This was very UNFAIR on so many levels for him to wait until AFTER he proposes to tell you. This should have come up during those long conversations of letting each other know about each other’s flaws and goodness. For him to stay it was because he assumed it would be okay because of your discussions on sex is a cop-out. He was scared that he wouldn’t be accepted. It reminds me of the situation many people who have been on dating sites encounter where someone puts up a great looking picture from 10 years ago, then you actually meet somewhere and the person is 100lbs heavier and looks nothing like the picture. The person says I assumed you would like me from the great conversations we had and I thought we were so beyond looks. It’s just not fair and really doesn’t give the other person the chance to make a choice if they will accept you as you are. To me, that is an issue that is very big on his part mentally and it probably will show it’s ugly head in other ways in the marriage going forward. I don’t think you should let accepting the proposal or telling your friends be the determining factor here. You really should now evaulate things based on the new information. You made your decision to accept based on what you thought you knew at that point. Life is fully of things that make you have to re-evaluate a situation. Think about what you really need in your life and decide from there, maybe with the help of a professional as well.

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