Wife refuses marital relationship


#1

I’m a 44 year-old husband. My wife and I have been married 7 years and we get along quite well. The problem between us is sex. My wife probably suffers from vaginismus and she is not interested in sex at all. “Leave me alone” and “I’m tired” are the sentences she prefers. She refuses to see any counselor or physichian about this matter. I have always been confident that she might change but after so many years I’m losing hope.
We haven’t had any intercourse for several months.
What shall I do? Please, don’t tell me that we should pray together, we do that every day.


#2

It sounds like your wife is depressed. However to treat the depression one usually is put on antidepressents which also numb the libido in many cases.:frowning: But she won’t go to the doctor so she can’t get treated for the depression anyway :frowning:

Do you think she would go to a Catholic couples therapist…both of you? There seem to be other issues involved and the sex part is just a symptom.

You say you two pray together everyday? I don’t know how involved the prayers are…novenas…rosaries? She is not tired for this? Perhaps once in a while you can suggest to “play” together? I’m sure God will understand.


#3

The CD set by Christopher West available through giftfoundation.org would be a good primer on what the goal is, but I’d listen to it by yourself first all the way though before introducing it to her.

Starting to read the Song of Songs together as part of your nightly prayer routine would be something you could do immediately.

However, you are pretty much going to have to insist on joint counseling from a Catholic / Christian perspective. Refusing to discuss things or attempt to change for the better is in effect a pathological controlling behavior on her part that she has no right to engage in, and refusing joint counseling for an obvious problem in your relationship is unreasonable.

Your wife needs to make it clear - soon - if she married to have a husband in the Christian sense or a just roommate and the trappings. There isn’t going to be an overnight cure, but after 7 years of patient waiting, it is not at all unreasonable for you to insist that she start making changes where you can see progress towards her living out her wedding vows, and her refusing to participate in joint counseling (or attempting to sabotage it if “forced”) would be quite hypocritical if she has otherwise been presenting herself as expecting the roles and benefits of Christian marriage.


#4

The CD set by Christopher West available through giftfoundation.org would be a good primer on what the goal is, but I’d listen to it by yourself first all the way though before introducing it to her.

Starting to read the Song of Songs together as part of your nightly prayer routine would be something you could do immediately.

However, you are pretty much going to have to insist on joint counseling from a Catholic / Christian perspective. Refusing to discuss things or attempt to change for the better is in effect a pathological controlling behavior on her part that she has no right to engage in, and refusing joint counseling for an obvious problem in your relationship is unreasonable.

Your wife needs to make it clear - soon - if she married to have a husband in the Christian sense or a just roommate and the trappings. There isn’t going to be an overnight cure, but after 7 years of patient waiting, it is not at all unreasonable for you to insist that she start making changes where you can see progress towards her living out her wedding vows, and her refusing to participate in joint counseling (or attempting to sabotage it if “forced”) would be quite hypocritical if she has otherwise been presenting herself as expecting the roles and benefits of Christian marriage.


#5

As a matter of fact she is depressed and she takes some medication for this problem. The problem is she did not mention to the doctor that she has this problem. She thinks we are just a normal couple. I think, instead, that her depression has its origin in the fact that we cannot have a happy sexual relationship.
She would not come to a Catholic counselor with me. She is ashamed to talk about this matter. She has been raised in a very strict family. From what she has told me I guess my mother-in-law considers sex just a burden and this concept has been passed on to my wife.
We only say the rosary once a week. Generally we pray the vespers.


#6

Here’s the thing, she knows this isn’t the way normal couples are, claiming that is just an excuse for her to shut down conversation and refuse to change. An approach to that objection would be to say “Then lets talk about it once with a Catholic counselor, and if he says its normal and healthy for one member of a couple to refuse to allow sex for months on end then I’ll accept that, but if not, we need to keep gong to get to solution that satisfies both of us”. She’s gong to resist that too, but you really are going to have to stand firm on insisting that the two of you get some outside professional help to resolve this.


#7

Anti-depressants have been known to decrease libido. Is she on any type of hormones?


#8

I’ve bought Christopher West’s “Good news about sex and marriage” and I think it’s a great book. Unfortunately my wife does not read English. I’ve bought some other books in Italian, one was 'Love and resposibility" by John Paul II, but says she hasn’t got enough time to read them.
Once I read with her a text that stressed the importance of the marital embrace in a marriage and she told me that that text had been written by a man and therefore it was biased.
I did not mention that we have a wonderful 2-year-old boy.I still consider his conception a miracle. As a matter of fact, after his conception, we have been able to renew our wedding vows no more than a few times and each time was, at least to me, anything but joyful.


#9

No, she is not. She just takes ELOPRAN.


#10

Did you all happen to know that vaginismus is a medical condition (with or without psychological overlay) which makes ‘penetration’ difficult to impossible?

Yes, psychological counseling may be helpful but each case is individual.

This is not a case of some woman with problems ‘all in her head’ seeking to deny her husband, in all probability.

This is a woman to whom penetration is so painful it is impossible for her to bear; who may (and I stress MAY) after prolonged therapy, including psychological therapy, have somewhat ‘less’ discomfort but still may always experience some degree of pain. This is not something the woman consciously did to ‘punish’ her husband.

I encourage not only counseling for the wife but for the husband as well. He needs to understand that there is a lot more to the ‘refusal’ than a power play, 99 times out of 100, and that if this is seen as ‘her’ problem, when she is already in physical and probably emotional pain, and her husband’s messages as well as her own feelings can be inconsistent and possibly her prior experiences in regard to this have further caused her pain, that she needs more than “you’re broken, you need to fix this so I’m happy” (and yes, I am sure there is much more to it than this, but one must be very careful that the focus is not on the ‘refusal’ but much more on the ‘you’re in pain and that hurts both of us, I want YOU to be pain free and to have everything done for you that can possibly help you not to suffer on your account or mine’).


#11

Perhaps she should take medication.
Your son was born two years ago. Was the birth easy, or were there any complications? How was her mood during the weeks following the birth?
This is a medical problem, not a moral problem, IMO. It may be vaginism, it may be depression, in any case, she is suffering of it just as much as you - how does she respond to simple gentleness, caresses, kisses?


#12

I would check into the side effects.


#13

The birth was very, very difficult. Both she and the baby were dying. The baby had to be treater in an intensive care unit for a week. Her mood was good and she was able to get rid of her medications for several months.

I see it as a moral problem because I am sure I am not doing enough to solve the problem. I am not taking my responsibility as a Catholic and as a husband.
I know she is suffering. I love her. I was with her when depression was so strong she would not be able to get up from bed because of dizziness and I was with her when she spent hours crying.


#14

There is such thing as post-traumatic stress disorder! If the birth was difficult, perhaps the time has just come for her to react to the trauma of the birth. The trauma has a delayed effect on her.

Please, please, please don’t blame yourself!! You say you are with her and you love her - that is all you can do, leave the rest to the doctors! Love her, and assure her that whatever happens, you are there for her. Small acts of kindness go a long way. BUT, the point is that she gets the treatment, medication, and attention she needs.
You have to be strong now for her, and blaming yourself weakens you. Get rid of guilt, you are not to blame.


#15

Just to point this out, the OP’s suspicion of vaginismus is his own armchair diagnosis. I myself conjectured such about my ex seeking an reason that did not boil down to her seeking to deny and control. However, actual incidences of persistent treatment resistant vaginismus are rare; to the point that conjecturing hers might be such a case is pointless before she has sought a diagnosis and proper treatment is attempted.

Her refusal to seek a diagnosis, claiming their situation is normal for couples, and dismissing materials written by men as biased is a conscious decision on her part and those are the very things that the OP should be firmly but gently insisting change. It is going to take a combination of joint and individual therapy for her to get though this, and further patience on the OP’s part once she starts working on things, but the most evident barriers to progress are “all in her head”, where they will stay unless the OP insists she start to work on them with professional assistance. If anything, the OP has already been too patient in waiting for her to start trying to address this issue.


#16

An ill person coping with serious depression is not really capable of making responsible and conscious decisions. A decision on her part is not like a healthy person’s decision. Her mind is not clear.
But I agree, treatment is necessary, asap.


#17

What is this “probably” has vaginismus?? Why are you not sure about your wife’s medical condition? Go with her when she sees her OB/GYN and talk to the doctor about this issue. If she doesn’t have an OB/GYN, she should find one, preferably one of Jesus’ cousins and preferably a woman.
Sex is important to marriage, it is the most powerful mode of communicating love to a spouse. Most marriages can’t and shouldn’t do without it.
Both of you should be doing whatever you can to solve both the physical and psychological problems that keep you from enjoying a normal marital relationship. The issues are probably not all on one side, either.
Get practical; get help.

Matthew


#18

Let’s talk about the actual symptoms and possible causes of vaginismus. Who diagnosed this, if she hasn’t spoken to a medical doctor?

Since your wife hasn’t mentioned this to a doctor, do her physical symptoms match up with any of the information is found here?

This is where I"m confused: “I’m tired” or “not tonight” are far cries from “It’s painful! Stop!” With this sexual disorder, it is physically impossible to have intercourse. If this is the case, I"m shocked at the lack of sensitivity.

According to the website Medicine Plus, vaginismus “has several possible causes, including past sexual trauma or abuse, psychological factors, or a history of discomfort with sexual intercourse. Sometimes no cause can be found.”

That’s much more than ‘simple’ depression, and it’s serious enough that a professional should be consulted. The lack of sex isn’t the issue for your wife, though it is for you. The lack of sex for your wife is a symptom of a larger problem. The trick now is finding out if it’s a physical problem or a psychological one. Intercourse is not a priority if you wife has an official diagnosis of “vaginismus.”

But the end result of all this shouldn’t be just a happy sex life for either – or both – partners. It should be the health and wholeness of both partners in a marriage, beginning with addressing this issue.

Ray, I’m sorry but I read that to read as if marriage in “Christian sense” sounds more like focusing on having monogamous sex, rather than two people becoming one. I am trying to say that it takes more than sex to have a healthy marriage. If she has vaginismus, then refusing sex isn’t the issue. It’s what makes her refuse sex.

I’m nonplussed that since the OPs wife is already on antidepressants, it seems to have taken a lack of sex to get interested in her mental health and whole well-being.

My suggestions:

[LIST=1]
*]Look up what medication she is already on, and how they affect her libido.

*]Talk to the doctor who prescribed the antidepressants and insist that pills alone are a band-aid for other issues, and enlist his help in encouraging her to round out her treatment with talk therapy – preferably with a Catholic psychologist/psychiatrist. Don’t go at it with an attitude that “if she feels better, I can have sex again.” That’s treating her like an object. For her sake, I would much rather your attitude be, “There’s something wrong with my wife’s health that is affecting our overall relationship me directly; I want her to be happy and for both of us to receive the full graces of the sacrament of marriage.”

*]Suggesting going along with her yearly OB/GYN appointment, and sit in on the consult. Talk about vaginismus. Get a real diagnosis. Ask for options.
[/LIST]

Edited to add: drafdog beat me to it by 9 minutes!


#19

Sex is just part of it, but communication is the other key piece and by his description his wife is closed to that as well. Christian marriage is a package deal, agreeing to attend professional counseling together is a request well withing the scope of submitting to one another. It is in the total package that I’m seeing very little effort on the wife’s part to meet her grave obligations to the relationship - though her refusal to cooperate in seeking treatment is legal in the civil sense, that is not an attitude that can be reconciled within the Christian sense.

You apparently share my skepticism of accepting vaginismus as an end diagnosis based on the symptoms described thus far and we all agree she needs a professional diagnosis so there isn’t much else to discuss there. Without her agreeing to get a proper diagnosis, and the OP being satisfied her symptom have been fully revealed to her treatment providers, conjecture on our part is noise in the wind.

At the risk of projection too much of my own situation on this one, I hardly see how the OP’s suffering through his wife’s chosen approach to the issue over an extended time frame could be seen as a fault of selfishness on the OP’s part. If anything, it was a fault of excessive generosity and accommodation.


#20

I agree, and in a way to allow the problem to persist without insisting that reasonable steps be made to address the problem, would be to neglect his duty to help his wife share in a healthy marriage. Working towards a solution is for the benefit of both spouses, and allowing the problem to persist is harmful to both and to the whole marriage. The most caring thing the OP can do is insist that his wife join him in seeking to have a loving and healthy sexual relationship. There is nothing selfish about that.


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