My wife and I haven’t had sex for five years. Must we settle for the occasional peck on the lips?

I am a married man with three kids and have been with my wife for nearly 18 years. At the beginning of our relationship we had a healthy and fulfilling sex life – I wouldn’t claim it to be Kama Sutra levels but we had fun. However, since having children, our intimacy has all but stopped. We last had sex five years ago and these days all we do is have the occasional peck on the lips. I don’t know where to start with trying to fix the relationship or whether I should even try. Is it possible to live together without that element of the relationship? Lately it’s clear that we are frustrated and picking at each other over really small things. I fear opening up the conversation will lead to a bigger challenge. The last thing I want is for us to break up.

You are insightful and know what you do and do not want, but things will not improve without a touch of bravery. Perhaps you are afraid that one or both of you might become angry and offer an ultimatum. Try to broach the conversation gently, avoiding any tendency to be judgmental or apportion blame. People rarely take umbrage when a partner expresses their true feelings (different from thoughts or judgment) and clearly asks for specific change. Take it step by step. For example, you might first say: “I love you very much and truly value our marriage, but I have been feeling sad and am filled with longing about a precious aspect of our relationship that somehow got lost. Would you please agree to at least discuss this? Please help me understand.” Then listen carefully to what she has to say. This problem will not be fixed quickly, but if you can both share your feelings it will help you towards a better understanding and resolution.

  • Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.

  • If you would like advice from Pamela on sexual matters, send us a brief description of your concerns to (please don’t send attachments). Each week, Pamela chooses one problem to answer, which will be published online. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions.

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