This Long Marriage Includes a Lack of Intimacy

By Amy Dickinson | January 13th, 2023

Frustrated husband longs for more


couple after argument. by Prostockstudio. Decades of marriage, including 20 years without sex. A frustrated husband asks, is there any hope? See “Ask Amy” has to say. Image

Decades of marriage, including 20 years without sex. A frustrated husband asks, is there any hope? See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson says in this installment of “Ask Amy.”


Dear Amy:

My wife and I have been married for 48 years.

In one sense, we are very much committed to each other; however, we have not had sex in more than 20 years and have been intimate only once or twice in that time.

I have on several occasions expressed a desire for affection and intimacy, but the interest doesn’t seem to be there.

We never had a great sex life, but affection and sex have completely disappeared over the course of our marriage, and it isn’t something that my wife wishes to discuss. We can easily discuss any number of topics related to politics, education, or the arts, but we are rarely able to have a conversation about our relationship. At one time I proposed counseling, but it went nowhere because my wife had no desire to expose herself to a stranger.

I once asked for guidance in terms of being a better husband and she remarked that she wasn’t going to give me a “grocery list” of what I should do or how I should behave.

We enjoy doing things together – hiking, biking, going out to dinner, being with friends and family, going to concerts – but in the end our marriage isn’t very satisfying for me on a personal level.

I am 72 years old. How do I find contentment in my remaining years?

– Looking for Love

Dear Looking:

It sounds as if you already have contentment. Passion may be what you are lacking.

I am impressed by your extreme patience during your impressively long marriage. According to you, you proposed counseling one time and were shot down. You asked about being a “better husband” one time and were shot down. You don’t seem to have been very persistent regarding your desire for affection and intimacy, or in terms of pursuing what you want (and deserve) to have in your marriage.

Intimacy can start with a conversation about intimacy. Or maybe even a fight about intimacy. The very act of wading into that territory where your wife is afraid to go might expose some really tough realities for you both, and yet I hope you will be brave enough to pursue this with more vigor: Is she happy? Are you?

Do you want to risk leaving this marriage to try to find someone else? Do you want to risk staying in this marriage while trying to find someone else?

When you invite your partner into therapy and they decline, you should go by yourself, because the very act of wanting someone else to change means that you need to change, too.

It is not too late for either of you to change.


Want to get even more life tips from Amy? Read more of her advice columns here!


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart – ranging from relationships to DNA surprises. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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