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My marriage suffers when we go too long without being intimate

“It’s like a Catch-22; if we go too long without being intimate, we don’t treat each other as well.”

Love Letters

Globe Magazine.

Q. My question is akin to asking you to settle a bet. My wife and I have been together for 20 years and life is very good (for context: heterosexual relationship, three kids, house, etc). But when we go some period of time without having sex, sometimes it’s not good. We’ll get in giant fights, and then she won’t want to have sex (yes, reasonable, I know). After we have sex, she says I’m so much nicer. I think she’s so much nicer. It’s like a Catch-22; if we go too long without being intimate, we don’t treat each other as well. She says I need to be more independent and not rely on her for sex (not in an affair sort of way, just that I should be able to manage my emotions without it). I think she should relax more and then have more sex rather than push me away. Thoughts?

– Frustrated in the ‘Burbs


A. I’m with your wife on this one.

I do believe, based on what you’ve told us, that sex improves your relationship, that you both like it a lot, and that having more of it would be fantastic.

But you need to be able to be kind to each other without having sex first. If you can figure out ways to sustain the good feelings no matter what, you might wind up having more sex — and then it’ll be a new and better cycle of happiness, sex, happiness, sex, etc.

Not to be a bummer, but there might be a time when sex isn’t an option for a long stretch. Health stuff — caregiving needs — can get in the way. You’ll want to be able to be good to each other then. You need to figure out how.

Think of other ways you can feel close to each other. Maybe you can do a puzzle . . . and then have sex. Or take a nature walk . . . and then have sex. Perhaps there are a bunch of activities that make you more smitten with each other. Add them to your routine.


I hope the bet is settled. I wish you both lots of sex, puzzles, minimal fighting, and many more decades of being able to say “life is very good.”

– Meredith


“She says I need to be more independent . . . that I should be able to manage my emotions without it.” She’s right. Why do you think this is unreasonable? SETTINGTHEWORLDONFIRE

When I’ve been in a lull of not wanting to be with my husband, it is usually because I am exhausted or feeling taken advantage of, or irritated with him for one reason or another. KWINTERS1

You are missing something from the formula. You need to treat each other well regardless of when you last had sex and you also need to work together to make sure it doesn’t go too long between times you have sex. SUNALSORISES

Mere: I cannot imagine a less sexy activity than doing a puzzle. STRIPEYCAT

I’ve never considered puzzles anything other than a solitary activity. What if the other person starts laying down pieces left and right, and not necessarily ones that go together but “should”? Or they hoard all the edge pieces and finish the border acting like some kind of jigsaw savant or something. PEREGAIAN