This is how we do it: ‘After my affair, he won’t come back to the bedroom’ | Sex

Jess, 50

He decided to stay with me, but he has effectively withdrawn his affection. Our sex life is stagnant, boring and occasional

For the past six years, my husband and I have slept separately. I regularly ask him to return to our bedroom, but am met with indifference: he will grunt or change the subject. Our sex life is stagnant, boring and occasional. I am lucky if we do it once a month.

I think Rob withholds sex because he wants to punish me. Six years ago, feeling isolated in our marriage, I had sex with someone else. My mother had just died and Rob, preoccupied with work, was not there for me. In some ways, the fling was a cry for help. I wanted to make Rob notice me.

He decided to stay with me, but has effectively withdrawn his affection. We occasionally have sex, but I have to initiate it and he hardly ever takes me up on the offer. When he does relent, he only wants to do the missionary position and, once he orgasms, he considers it over. I have tried to explain to Rob that I only cheated because I wanted to feel desired, but he won’t accept that he played any part in my straying. He doesn’t trust me, even though I’ve told him hundreds of times that I’d never cheat again. Each time I bring it up in an effort to move on, he shuts down emotionally. After the affair, he slept on the sofa only occasionally. But now he’s there permanently. He’s become accustomed to the disconnection.

I’ve tried to coax Rob into bed by seducing him, stroking his neck and arm. I’ve made our room enticing, with satin sheets and candles. Once, I even surprised him by cooking dinner topless. He still he won’t let me back in.

Before the affair, we always held each other until we fell asleep. Two years ago, hoping to remind him of the smitten teenagers we once were, I had a constellation map made of how the stars were aligned when we started dating. We have been married for 33 years and raised four children, and I can’t imagine our lives apart. I know he’s scared to be vulnerable after the affair, but I feel I am the only one trying to resuscitate our marriage. I wish he would let go of his resentment and try a little harder. I am tired of apologising.

Rob, 49

A part of me wants to feel close to her, but I don’t want to put myself in a position where I could get hurt

I want to be able to reach out and connect with my wife, but something is stopping me. It’s difficult to put into words but the affair plays a big part in it. Our problems completely broke me: all I’d known since I was a teenager was to be a father, husband and provider. I’d changed careers and started working overdrive to fulfil the role of “man of the house”.

I thought if Jess ever cheated on me, I would be gone. But it was almost the opposite – it made me want to fight for our marriage. But that’s easier said than done. When she is affectionate, I pull away. We have sex once a month at most. When we argue about me working too much, I shut down in mind and body. When I was younger, I wanted sex almost every day, but now I just don’t have the urge. I think that is bound up with the rejection, which I felt acutely after the affair.

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I appreciate all the ways Jess has tried to jazz up our sex life. I enjoyed it when I came home and she was topless, making us dinner. That did make me laugh. But I find it difficult to follow through. A part of me wants to feel close to her, but I don’t want to put myself in a position where I could get hurt, so I distract myself with work.

I realise that the longer this goes go on, the harder it will be to reconnect. In the past, it felt impossible to live without her, but it doesn’t now. Jess wants me around more but she often expresses this through rage – which makes me feel underappreciated and taken for granted in the relationship.

From the outside looking in, I think our marriage probably sounds quite hopeless. But I want to stay because, despite everything, Jess is the only person I want to be with. Six years ago, I couldn’t fall asleep without my wife by my side. Nowadays, I am used to sleeping without her. It’s hard to understand how we got here.

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