I once knew a woman who had been going with her husband to marriage counseling for about a year when she admitted to me how disappointed she was that, while she and her husband were rarely arguing anymore, she didn’t feel like they were really connecting physically and emotionally. After all of the take-home assignments and communication exercises they’d been given, she and her husband were getting along more smoothly and working together towards their family goals. She said that her husband seemed happier and even their children seemed happier, but she was still sadly discontent. “What’s wrong with me?” she wanted to know.
When her mother-in-law applauded their “success” at counseling and commented about how lucky her daughter-in-law must feel to have such a great husband who was willing to “go the extra mile” for her, she said it took every ounce of her strength not to burst into tears. She wanted to correct her mother-in-law with, “Your son is a great roommate but I need a husband.” She felt like a fraud. I asked if she’d talked to the therapist about the intimacy disconnect she was still feeling and she held up her hands as if to stop me and said, “Believe me, I’ve tried. The only answer I keep getting is ‘the physical will follow.'” But, it wasn’t. And she was miserable, blaming herself for being so unhappy despite the progress they’d made. I asked if they’d considered seeing a sex therapist and she laughed, “We don’t need a therapist for sex. We already know how to have sex.”
I’d like to be able to share a happy ending of this story, but the truth is, there wasn’t one. About a year later I heard from the woman again. She confided, “maybe we didn’t know how to have sex after all.” She told me that her husband ended up moving in with another woman before their divorce was even final. I told her that his actions spoke more strongly of his character than of her, but she was adamant that their sex life — or lack of one — was the final curtain of the divorce. “He couldn’t get past seeing me as a mom,” she insisted. “And neither one of us could be really happy with a sexless marriage.”