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Ask Athena: I Do All the Work; My Husband Is Only Interested in Sex


Published November 29, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated November 29, 2017 at 4:30 p.m.

Dear Athena,

I've been married for more than 35 years. I shop for all the family needs. I cook. I clean. I have three jobs outside of the home. My husband seems only interested in sex. If I give him some, he's OK for a few days, but it's a continuous cycle. He doesn't even initiate the sex; he only makes verbal and physical hints about doing it. He doesn't have a romantic bone in his body. I see other men wooing their women, buying them clothes and jewelry, and taking them out for dates. We sit at home 98 percent of the time. We're like two ships passing in the night. But I trudge on, hoping one day things will take a new turn. He reads your column, but it doesn't sink in. But I truly love him. I've always thought this "syndrome" was a man thing. But I know that if they're not taught this as a boy/young man, they don't know how to be a partner.


Lessons in Marriage

Dear Lessons,

If only getting your marriage back on track were as easy as handing your husband instructions to memorize. But this is not an overnight fix. This is a total rewiring job — for both of you — and it's going to take some serious work.

You've pointed out some real problems here — namely, that you do all the work of running your household and family, and that instead of enjoying a sexual relationship with your husband, you "give it to him." A lot can go down in three and half decades of marriage: Expectations, situations and priorities shift. Relationships either evolve with these changes, or they're doomed to suffer.

It takes more than wishful thinking to make change; it takes effort and open communication. It's time to talk to him about how unhappy and unsatisfied you are. Call it a "man thing" if you want — though that's sexist and suggests you have little faith in his ability to change — but he's not a mind reader. I agree that helping around the house, participating in family life, planning romantic dates and showing affection should be par for the course. But why would he initiate any of that if you've shown him you'll take care of everything?

I strongly suggest couples counseling to help you reset expectations. Resentment grows when you don't get the appreciation, respect or affection you need. With professional counseling, you two can figure out what those things look like. After all these years, you two are clearly committed to sharing a life together. Go make it a better one.