She gets act together, but sex is not on radar

FamilyMarriageIraqHealthAdvice Columns and ColumnistsRuth Westheimer

Q: My husband and I have not had sex in four years. I had a problem with alcohol, but I've gotten myself together. During that time, we had physical confrontations, which I usually started. When I hint at being intimate, there is always a subtle excuse from him. Our marriage has been on the rocks since before then, and I really do not have any feelings about him in that way now. What could have gone wrong?

A: Did you have a problem with alcohol before the marriage? Sometimes people get married feeling that once those vows are exchanged, everything will get better. But if one party drinks too much (or takes drugs, gambles, etc.), then it's unlikely that getting married will alleviate matters.

Now, it's wonderful that you've overcome your problem, but if you two really don't care for each other anymore, my suggestion is to split up and start fresh with someone else. You both could go for marriage counseling first, but it's possible that you each have changed so much throughout the years that there's nothing that can be done to put this marriage back together again.

Q: I'm 32 and have been living with my boyfriend for three years. We love each other, but his family doesn't like me. I've learned that on two occasions he's gone on "business" trips that actually were trips to see his family. We promised each other that we'd be completely honest, and here he is lying to me about visiting his family. If he's lying to me about this, what else might he be lying to me about?

A: I understand that when two people promise to be honest with each other, it's difficult when a series of lies is uncovered. But sometimes when it comes to family matters, you have to understand when a partner is really torn. He loves you, but he also loves his family.

It seems that they don't like you, so probably he can't show up there with you by his side. But he doesn't want to abandon them, either, so he's trying to keep you and anything to do with his family somewhat separate.

Is this going to be a problem as the relationship goes forward? I'd say yes. But if you love each other, and his family is not nearby, maybe it's not such a big problem that you need to break up. Maybe you can cut him some slack when it comes to family matters. I can't really answer for you, because only you know how much it hurts you to have this problem with him. You shouldn't assume he's lying to you about loving you or anything else just because there's this issue with his family.

Q: My boyfriend and I have been in a relationship for a while, and we were friends for a long time before that. I absolutely love and trust him. We recently decided together that sex would be the next step. We both were virgins, so we're not experienced. Still, we are comfortable with each other, and foreplay is perfectly normal. He's broken my hymen, but we haven't gotten much further than that because it's too painful for me, and he stops because he knows he's hurting me.

I know I'm mentally ready, but physically the pain seems too much to deal with. Is there something I can do to make this process easier for the both of us? I know most of it probably is just my anxiety and low tolerance for pain.

A: It probably is anxiety, which is causing you to subconsciously tighten your vaginal muscles. Of course, if he's also nervous and his erections aren't very firm, that could be a factor as well. My advice is to use lots of lubrication. Make sure everything is very slippery, and see if that helps. Otherwise, take a break for a while, and maybe you'll calm down when you try again a few weeks later.

Q: My boyfriend recently returned from Iraq, and he has lost interest in sex. Before he came home from Iraq, he visited and we had great sex, two or three times a day. Now I'm lucky to have sex twice a month. I don't get it.

A: I wish I could help, but I'm not sure I can, because the problem isn't clear. Is itpost-traumatic stress disorderfrom having been in Iraq? Has he lost interest in you? Is he depressed because he's back and misses being part of his unit? Or he can't find a job? There are too many possibilities.

If you talk to him, don't make it about sex, but instead try to see if you can figure out what's wrong with him in general. Then perhaps you can get him some help. Of course, if he's just tired of the relationship and hasn't got the nerve to tell you, then you need to find that out, too, so you can get on with your life.

"Sex for Dummies" (IDG Books) is among Dr. Ruth Westheimer's most popular books. Have a question for Dr. Ruth? Write to her at

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FamilyMarriageIraqHealthAdvice Columns and ColumnistsRuth Westheimer