I am beginning to find my behaviour during the regular periods of sexual abstinence in my otherwise happy 20 year marriage alarming and wonder if I am some kind of sex addict, or just a pratt who needs to grow up? I have a greater sex drive than my wife. She makes as much effort as she can, but we can go for long periods without sex. She has phases of not liking herself and feeling unsexy – sometimes this can last for weeks. Despite knowing that she still loves me I always feel rejected. We normally fall out and I end up depressed, unable to sleep and full of stress. Recently I have been looking to cause myself physical pain to take my mind off things. I do not have much of an interest in porn or masturbation, just hitting myself and breaking things. I feel as if I have to steel my soul, to shut down and withdraw my love for her, having given my heart and had it hurt so many times. My overall feelings are fury (not necessarily at her) but at the powers that be, guilt and self loathing. I haven’t talked to anyone about this. I haven’t talked to God either. I feel like he has more important things to worry about.

My first concern is that it sounds like this is not a burden shared between you, but one you are burying yourself under alone. This needs to be something shared, for her to reassure you with her love, and to mitigate against your fight with rejection. She should pitch in emotionally with you, but also find ways to touch you sexually during the bleak times of the month. It may help her to have some counselling herself to face her own barriers to her sex drive.

I am also concerned for some of the emotional roots of self-hatred, rejection and anger for you. I wonder if fury against your self is the powerhouse behind all this. Your not talking to people, including God, is a reflection of your own sense of rejection rather than a reality that it is not a ‘real problem’ and that no-one is really interested. Be kinder to yourself in your frustration.

It’s not a sin that you want more sexual intimacy with your wife. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 tells us not to withdraw from each other sexually for long within marriage because Paul understands and honours the need for a sexual outlet when we are sexually active. We are told that our bodies do not belong to ourselves alone but also to our partner. “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time...then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control.” If you could accept this non-judgementally about yourself, that would release the pent-up anger and enable you to find less volatile ways to diffuse your feelings.

You need outlets to your anger. A good starting point would be to talk it out with a trusted other person. Or if you don’t feel able to do this, try journaling your thoughts and feelings. As you express it, pursue its logic and discover what else is linked in with it. Anger never resides alone but has travelling partners. As you find the roots you will gain insights as to how to deal with your powerful emotions in a more releasing way than through breaking things.

Why don’t you have it out more directly with God? You need to burn out your anger against the true target, not against yourself or objects. God can take it. You may benefit from finding a spiritual director to assist you. Find someone who is comfortable with anger.

You might also find that to masturbate a few times a month with your lovely wife in mind might give you a constructive outlet. Certainly, the trap of giving yourself physical pain to take your mind off things is false logic. It can become addictive due to the endorphins it releases. Go to the gym instead and then do something to bring you down, like sit in the jacuzzi afterwards or listen to mellow music. Please move on from the guilt. Your prescription for freedom will come through being kinder to yourself, not through feeling guilty.

I’m also wondering how you feel about your own sex drive? Are you at peace with it, do you view it positively, or do you have all sorts of conflicting thoughts and feelings about it? Making peace with yourself in this area is going to be essential to overcoming your angst.