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My 29-year-old wife thinks sex is unclean. What should I do?

Marriage Advice

Dear Eve,

I am 37 years old and married with three children. My trouble is that my wife nowadays considers the act of intimacy as an unclean game. In short, she doesn’t love sex anymore but the irony is she is only 29 years old. Help me please.


Dear Martin,

Thank you for writing in about this recent change in your wife’s sex drive. Your question reminds me to remind you and my other readers that it is important to visit a marriage or couples therapist to help unpack and untangle some of the latent issues that could be manifesting as sexual issues.

A few sessions with a therapist can benefit your relationship in ways that will outlast the problems that you’re currently experiencing. That said, let us try to unpack and understand your situation with the little information that you have provided.

I’m struck by the part of your question that refers to her age and your bewilderment at the shift in her sex drive. I’m not sure what assumptions you may have about a 29-year-old woman in relation to her sex drive but let me suggest that you drop them.

What you have in your home and in your bed is a woman who no longer wants to have sex. Her age is really besides that point especially because pointing it out is unlikely to get you what you want, which is to reconnect sexually with your wife.

Now, let us consider some of the reasons why she could be unable or unwilling to have sex. At 29, she has three children. Even if her first child was born when she was 18, it would still put her oldest child at 11 years.

The point I am trying to make is that your wife has three young children at the age of 29. Have you taken a look at many of her peers to see what they are doing? Have you noticed that in some ways, she could be feeling left out or left behind compared to her peers? Have you considered that she is simply too exhausted to have sex in a way enjoyable to her?

If not, I would urge you to begin to look at these things as possibilities. Please keep in mind that I know nothing about you or your wife, and I don’t have a whole lot of information about your specific situation (which is why ‘in office’ consultations are important; no guessing) but I digress.

According to you, your wife’s change in sex drive is based on a belief that sex in unclean. Did she say this to you? Did you make this assumption? Did you hear it from a third party? I would be curious to know if there have been significant shifts in your home, for example a new church, new friends or interactions with people who may hold similar beliefs.

I would be curious to know about your own religious or spiritual beliefs, especially with regard to sex and marriage. I would also be very curious to know how your wife handled each of the three pregnancies, especially with regard to PPD (Post Partum Depression).

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from stress or mental illness to make up stories to get through life. If, for example, she perceived that sex with you always leads to babies, or is expected whether or not she’s up to it, or simply adds to her level of exhaustion...whatever the case, she may allow herself to see sex as unclean because it would provide her with a credible, unimpeachable excuse.

If, on the other hand, this was a conclusion that you reached on your own or through a third party, please drop it from your mind and instead, endeavor to discover the truth.

What can you do?

Have a conversation with your wife. Be honest and candid about what has changed and what you wish was different. Check in with her and encourage her to tell you how she experiences your sex life, what she would like to be different and how you can help her enjoy sex with your again. Let me take a minute here to point out that discussions about sex can be very sensitive and even difficult for the other person to hear so:

1. Be kind and compassionate: It is more important to be kind than to be right.

2. Have the conversation outside of the bedroom: The space in which you have sex should not be the same place where you hear that there are problems with your sex lives.

3. Have the conversation with your clothes on: Yes, I’m being serious. Waiting until you’re naked – before, during or after sex – to have a discussion about sex can go very badly, very quickly. For one thing, the level of vulnerability is so high that it’s doubtful whether you or your partner can listen and speak well enough to have your desired outcome

4. Keep an open mind and an open heart: You might go into this thinking that you’re going to talk about her reduced sex drive only for you to hear some very difficult things.

5. Be willing to hear more and speak less: This is self explanatory but it is so difficult to do when you’re itching to say something. Resist that urge.

6. Finally, be positive: Remember and remind her of all the wonderful sexual things you have enjoyed together, that you appreciate about her. Remind her too of the non-sexual things that you love and appreciate about her.

I hope that these questions and suggestions trigger a few thoughts and ideas of your own. I wish you the best as you seek to reconnect with your wife. Maggie Gitu is a marriage, family and sex therapist (MAMFT). Reach her on: [email protected] or on her Facebook page: Maggie Gitu

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