Dear Charlotte,

Here’s my dilemma. I think my wife of many years has stopped desiring me. Not just sexually, but in various ways. It’s painful. What do I do?

Feeling sad

Dear feeling sad,

It’s so upsetting to feel unwanted. It makes us feel rejected when someone we care about seems not to desire us, especially if we still feel desire. I’m very sorry you’re going through this, but be assured you are not alone and almost every relationship has time periods of low desire from either or both people.

When you say she’s stopped desiring you in various ways, do you feel like you have a sense of what’s going on for her? Consider talking to her about what you’re feeling, and showing curiosity about where she may be. Not in an accusatory way, but in a vulnerable and real way. It’s painful to discuss these things if we are afraid of the consequences, but not discussing things often leads to unhelpful assumptions and avoidance. We can so easily slip into lives of quiet desperation.

In the early days of many romances, there’s a kind of nose-to-nose intensity where you marvel at each other and connect sexually. This kind of infatuation is called limerence. So often, the nose-to-nose phase shifts into side-by-side relating, where responsibilities and obligations take over, and couples become more like roommates, co-existing without necessarily connecting. I don’t know the details of your relationship, but I would be interested to understand what’s going on for your wife. She may not desire you at the moment, not because of you and your desirability per se, but possibly because of where she is emotionally. So please, hang onto your self-worth. It’s hard to feel unwanted, but it truly doesn’t mean that you’re not appealing.

Here’s the beautiful thing: you care. And you say you’ve been together for a long time. Caring comes at a cost, but how lovely is it that you are engaged enough to notice these things and bother to write me about it? Your reaching out to me speaks volumes already. I am longing for you to communicate with her. Even if she doesn’t reassure you with sexual enthusiasm, there’s a chance for reconnection in various ways.


Do you have a question for Charlotte? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line

Further reading

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5 ways to resolve conflicts in relationship

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How your attachment style affects your relationships

Common relationship problems: how therapy can help