We have no sort of life in the bedroom


Tell Me About It:Q Over the past year, I’ve lost weight, got fit and had beauty therapies to look my best. I’m in my 50s but my friends tell me I look 20 years younger (other men are even getting a little flirty), but my husband hasn’t noticed, or if he has, hasn’t mentioned it.

We’ve had no sort of life in the bedroom for a long time and I’m beginning to think we never will. No way did I think my marriage would turn out like this.

AYou must be feeling disappointed that after putting so much effort into losing weight, your husband is still rejecting you. I hope you realise how wonderful you are to have accomplished this improvement in your health, that you see the benefits for yourself, and haven’t just tried to please your husband.

“This is make or break time,” says Freda Hanley, psychotherapist. “Sometimes relationships evolve into different relationships over time and a couple can become like brother and sister.”

You need to rule out erectile dysfunction as a cause, but to do this you need to be close enough to your husband to bring up the issue and suggest a visit to the GP.

Sexuality is about more than the act of sex, looking sexy and attracting your husband’s advances. It’s about sensuality and the whole woman.

You may look better, but deep down you may not feel more attractive. You mention other men getting flirty so having an affair could be tempting, which might be fun in the short-term but would be a disastrous way to deal with your main relationship.

To really evolve your marriage, you need to have a conversation with your husband about your mutual sexual and emotional needs. Your husband also has needs – you mention looking 20 years younger, maybe he is only interested in younger women, a painful thing to know but maybe key to his aloofness.

If a lack of communication is so entrenched that you cannot speak openly with your husband, Hanley says you may want try relationship counselling, where the relationship is explored with the help of a psychotherapist. “Often one partner doesn’t want to engage with this,” she says, “but it cannot take place unless both parties are willing to make the relationship better, or to facilitate changing or ending it. It may take as few as six sessions, or six months or even a year.”

Hanley advises: “Finding a solution could be a question of discussing openly the implications of a brother-sister relationship, or of finding each other again sensually, or of having your needs met in some other way, or of separation.”

QMy widowed father has been in a very happy long-term relationship but is now uncertain about continuing with it and wants to break up.

My siblings, who live abroad, have always encouraged this relationship, as it assuages their consciences about not visiting often enough and the burden of care falling with me.

At the moment he is well and independent, but they like him having a companion to be there to prevent loneliness and to be there in a crisis. But I feel that he should make whatever choice he wants, even though the implications of him being alone will most likely fall to me.

AMy initial reaction is that you are right to support your father in whatever pleases him and to pledge your support. Then I wonder why your family is taking sides, when your father is no teenager and has to make his own decisions. If you’re divided now, what about the future when life-and-death decisions concerning your father may await?

“It’s very important to handle this well because this could set the scene for quite serious divisions in the future over issues such as long-term care,” says Trish Murphy psychotherapist and chair of the Family Therapy Association of Ireland.

“This is a classic conflict situation where if you go with one set of family opinion you have a win, making it a win-lose scenario, and a win won’t work,” she says.

Exacerbating the issue is that those sibling rivalries and jealousies never go away and can raise their ugly heads in fraught emails and phonecalls across time zones.

The best solution, she suggests, is for the family to reunite back home and sort things out with your father and each other.

Before you dismiss this as impractical, Murphy warns: “This is a big deal – it would be worth their while because this would be the basis of everything in the future that might happen, such as the possibility of long-term care, decisions about health and even the property and the will.

“It’s not uncommon for people to have to get a ward of court because the family can’t agree on a parent’s future. Division now could result in generations of the family not speaking to one another.”

If you can’t organise a geographic face-to-face, then Murphy suggests a Skype family meeting with a family therapist present.

If a Skype reunion seems a step too far, you might suggest counselling to your father to enable him to make a clear adult decision without worrying about what everybody else thinks.

* Send your questions to tellmeaboutit@irishtimes.com. Selected entries will be published on an anonymous basis only. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into

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