"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.
I have been married for a year. It was a love match. My husband and I love each other, but to date he has not consummated our marriage. He does not initiate intimacy, and when I am in a romantic mood, he will push me away, saying he is sleepy or tired. He shows absolutely no interest in sex.
I try to console myself by telling myself that sex is not the most important thing in a marriage. But sometimes I feel worried, stressed and sad over this issue. We are a young couple, yet we do not have a normal sex life. Do you have any advice for me? - Miss X
Dear Miss X,
There can be many reasons for which people are not interested in sex. Whatever it is, the only way to deal with the situation is to confront it directly with your hubby and discuss possible solutions together.
This is a delicate matter to raise in a relationship, and it is very important to be tactful. Before you even broach the subject with your hubby, there are a few things you have to come to terms with. Sex is not love and neither is it a sign of love. It is something that happens consensually between two people who are in a relationship. So just because your husband is not having sexual relations with you, it does not mean that he does not love you or care for you.
There is no standard for what is normal. Although reports and people's experiences vary, it is important to recognise that there is no "normal" number of times to have sex. What is normal depends on the people in the relationship. As a rule of thumb, you always follow the person who has the lower need or demand.
Sex is more than just the act. There are many ways in which sexual desire can be expressed. This includes things like touching and kissing.
In a situation like yours, it is important to approach your partner with a tone that is not accusatory. Your aim is to raise this as an issue in your marriage. You may have never spoken to him about this before. He may not know that this is a problem for you. So this is what you want to do first. Do not use accusatory words or words that are harmful. You want to state clearly that you love him, but there is a lack of sex in your relationship and you feel this is a problem.
Next, you want to understand why he is not interested in sex. Popular culture and stereotypes tell us that all men are crazy about sex. This is not true. You do not know what is prohibiting your husband. Is it a lack of desire? Is it that he is tired? Is he not attracted to you? Does he have certain beliefs about sex?
Of course, there could be darker reasons. Adults who have been sexually abused as children can become averse to sex. So, there could be a very deep and personal reason for which he has this attitude. Thus, being sensitive in this conversation is very important.
Next, you want to know what he would like to do to address the problem. Here, there may be a need to seek help from a professional. He may want to speak to a doctor about his problem. Or he may want to seek the help of a mental health professional. There is no shame in this. People's bodies and lives are all different. Some of us need help with things which we think others don't. This makes us ashamed. But there is no need to feel this way. If your husband's problem is medical or psychological, there are clear and easy ways to deal with the issue.
He needs to know that he is not alone. You need to be understanding and supportive.
However, he may feel that this is not a problem for him and does not want to acknowledge that you see it differently. You should still try and talk this through with him. In case he refuses to budge from his position, you may want to reconsider your relationship and what you expect from it.
Can you be in a sexless marriage? Do you want children and to raise a family? These are considerations you have to make in evaluating what you will do and the steps you need to take.
There is also the possibility that your husband may not be attracted to women at all. This is something that is taboo in our society, and people don't want to acknowledge or address it. However, it is something that affects people's lives and your husband needs to feel that he can tell you his true feelings and intentions. You have to make it clear to him that he can be honest with you.
There are things you can do to help this aspect of your relationship - if it can be helped. Only you can evaluate how much work needs to be put in, and if you want to at all. You should not be ashamed of these things. It happens. What matters is that you raise it with your husband and talk about it and together try and reach a solution that works for the two of you. - Thelma