My wife and I haven’t had sex for 15 years. I haven’t even seen her naked. Is it time for us to break up?

I have been married for more than 30 years, but my wife announced long ago that she didn’t want a sexual relationship and we haven’t made love for the past 15 years. Even before, sex was infrequent. I believe my wife has a deep-rooted loathing of her body – I haven’t seen her anything less than fully clothed for all these 15 years; she showers behind closed doors and sleeps separately (because of my snoring). I had an affair 25 years ago and it was wonderful to feel loved and lusted after, but for the sake of the kids it stopped – I got on with my career and provided for my family. Now I am in my 60s and desperate. I just want to feel loved and have a tactile relationship. I know this sounds pathetic but I feel damaged by all of this – because I am desperately lonely and angry. I get angry when my wife talks to people about our marriage as it’s such a sham. I don’t want to break up the family, but I don’t know what else to do.

I am so sorry you’re feeling such pain, despair and longing. Many people in your situation simply compartmentalise their lives and have outside liaisons and relationships – and it would be understandable if that was something you were considering, despite the risks. Monogamy is not easy for anyone. If you think it would be possible to safely start a gentle conversation with your wife in which you could share your feelings in a non-blaming way, then try. You deserve to be heard – and so does she. Perhaps you will find a path to a mutual understanding of some kind (that could be more safely achieved with the help of a good counsellor). The resentment you harbour is affecting you as much as your loneliness and frustration – and it would be useful to have help to be able to let it go. Make it your mission to find the support and understanding you need.

  • 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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