Woe Is Me! “I Detest Sex With My Husband. Do I Have To Agree Because We’re Married?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“Do I have to always agree to sex because I happen to be married to the guy who’s asking? I’ve always assumed it was my duty to please because I had a typical arranged marriage when I was 20. Now, I’m 40 and really tired. I also don’t really mind if my partner seeks it elsewhere, but I detest having sex with him. What do I do?“
— Read Me My Rights Please
DR: If you don’t want to have sex, you don’t have to have sex — that applies irrespective of your marital status. While I understand you felt you were obligated to, you’re not. Period. However, I think you need to bring it up with your husband, and let him know you feel this way. Couples, whether married or not, don’t necessarily need to be exclusive. But communication, on the other hand, is arguably necessary for any relationship to work. In the same vein, if at all it interests you, the two of you could consult an expert on how to explore sexual desire within your marriage in a way that you may potentially enjoy. But if it’s not something you want to consider, I think it’s perfectly okay to simply let him know how you feel — and figure out an arrangement that works for your marriage. Good luck!
ADT: God no! You don’t have a duty to please anyone but yourself and whoever you want to please. If you’re not interested and still have a great relationship with your partner, I’d suggest sitting him down and opening up the relationship so he can seek sexual gratification elsewhere. If you don’t and feel like your husband is pushing you to do something you’re not interested in, leave him and live your best life.
RP: You never have to agree to sex, no matter who is asking. Aside from that, 20+ years is a long time to go without sex you enjoy. Have you talked to your husband about what you detest? Have you told him what you’d like him to do in bed? Great sex can really enhance a long-term relationship, so if you plan to stay in this one, I would start by explaining what you want and don’t want and trying new things out together. If your disdain for the sex is actually a sign of just not liking him in general or not being able to talk to him about your needs, then you both need to figure out how to improve the relationship (or if you don’t want to be in it at all). Problems with your partner outside the bedroom can definitely find their way inside.
Whether an arranged marriage or not, you have no duty or obligation to please anyone. Regardless of how you found each other, your relationship will only be as strong as your ability to tell the other what you want from them, to feel supported, and to only do what you feel good about doing. Life is too short for anything else.
LG: No, you don’t have to have sex with your husband. Sex isn’t a duty for anyone, no matter your marital status, no matter your age. So, what do you do? You do exactly what you want: you don’t have sex with him.
However, I’d suggest being honest about not wanting to have sex and why, rather than just repeatedly refusing; repeated rejection is a bit cruel and unfair in this situation. It can be a hard thing to discuss, but honest and open communication is a thing a (non-abusive) partner is owed.
So, consider — why? You say you’re really tired (girl, I hear you!) but if you weren’t tired, would you want to have sex with him? If yes, maybe there are ways to carve out time when you both have energy for getting some. Or is it because sex with him isn’t pleasurable for you? If so, there are literally thousands of resources online that can help him make sex more pleasurable for you. Or, maybe there’s no version of life in which you want to have sex with your husband, for whatever reason (you’re asexual, you’ve spent 20 damn years looking at his face, etc.) — and that’s perfectly okay, too. There is no right or wrong reason here. But it would be unfair to you both not to understand your reasons for not wanting sex (and his reasons for wanting sex) and have a conversation about them.
Whatever the reason, a relationship/marital/couples counselor might be helpful here. They can facilitate this kind of difficult conversation — it sounds strange, I know, but sometimes having an objective third party present really can make it feel easier to share thoughts and emotions with our partner. They can also ask questions to help draw out answers from us — answers that we may not reach on our own or even be aware of. They might also be extra helpful in navigating this if it happens that your husband thinks you, as his wife, are obligated to have sex with him. But it boils down to this: You owe sex to absolutely no one — no one — you bright sunflower, you.
KB: Categorically no. You do not have to always agree to sex with your husband. In fact, given that you have lived together for twenty years, it makes a lot of sense that there would be plenty of times you don’t feel like having sex. That is reasonable, expected, and your undeniable right. Now that we’ve established that, I wonder why you detest it so much? This would be an important thing to introspect on. If you detest it because you sort of detest him, perhaps you should not remain married. If you and him are just not good together, divorce may be a good option — you are too young to resign yourself to a partnership that doesn’t work for you! If you detest it because he is not satisfying you and you don’t feel a physical, intimate connection to him, that may be something that can improve with time and effort, if you communicate about it. If your distaste for sex with your husband stems from a lack of communication that can be rectified, you may want to try that before throwing in the towel on your marital sex life.
AS: Maybe I’m over-simplifying this, but the straight answer seems like no. You do not have to have sex with anyone if you don’t wish to, even if the person is your husband. No one is entitled to sex from you, and you should never feel obligated to perform sex to please them. Having said that, maybe it might also be worthwhile to figure out why you detest doing it? Is it just in the case of this one person? Is it because your sexual needs aren’t paid attention to? Or maybe you’re interested in doing it differently? This might help you understand if it’s possible to have a frank conversation and forefront your sexual desires in this relationship. But then again, “detest” is a pretty strong word, so it’s possible your mind is already made up. In any case, it might be best to just have an honest conversation with your husband — brutally honest, if need be — because your needs matter just as much as anyone else’s.