I’ve been married for 26 years and have a unique problem in that it’s my husband that has little or no interest in sex. Our sex life went downhill when pregnant with our first child 18 years ago. Years of always initiating sex has worn down my self-esteem. Any attempts at a discussion end in awful arguments. I guess I’m obviously not sexually desirable and when I do manage to coax my husband into having sex, he approaches it as he does mowing the lawn – a chore that needs doing periodically.

I have committed it to prayer and for periods of time it’s not a problem, but other times my only outlet is masturbation, which makes me feel even more worthless and affects my relationship with God. I know it is wrong, but desperately need the outlet. Please help as my husband doesn’t see a problem (we currently have sex once every eight-12 weeks if I can coax him) but I feel as if I’m setting myself on a path for hell due to my uncontrollable lust. I cannot talk to anyone about it as he sees this as a betrayal.

It’s not unique! Both genders can find their libido sinks for all sorts of reasons. The key is to find out what the reasons are. Sometimes pregnancy and childbirth can cause traumas that affect libido. This is often the case for men who feel they have less right to be impacted. Nevertheless they have picked up secondary trauma and were visually impacted far worse, compounded with a profound sense of helplessness.

You need to hear that you are not displaying ‘uncontrollable lust’ to want sex more often than every two or three months. Your husband needs to face up to the realities of how damaging you are finding this. I suggest you write him a letter so that you can communicate without the smoke screen tactic of deteriorating into awful arguments and ask that you agree a way to respond to this maturely. Follow it up with a conversation where you set some rules to avoid an argument, such as: take turns to speak until each person has said all they want to, and the other person can only ask questions and reflect back what they have heard. Ultimately this is going to require him to own his low libido and that he is not satisfying you sexually. You will need to be bold in holding the line on your needs and feelings without negating them through self-blame. Probably he will then need to get some help from a psychosexual therapist. Therapy will help him face the cause of his low sex drive and then work out what to do about this. It will also enable you both to look at how you can adjust your ways together sexually to get out of the bad ruts you have fallen into and learn a more lifegiving approach.

In this process, I believe you can talk to people even though your husband does not want you to: it is not a betrayal. We honour our partners but our highest conscience is before God. Honouring does not mean being under another person’s control and there are times for our own wellbeing that we need to make decisions for ourselves, even if it is not their preference. At the moment masturbation is your only outlet, whereas if you had a trustworthy girl friend or two that you could confide in, it would help to release some of the pressure and self-doubt you are under.

Maybe you should ask him directly if he finds you attractive or if there is anything you could do to be more attractive to him. Tell him that you would rather he be honest. If he doesn’t communicate anything then you should release yourself from the self-blame, accept that it is his issue and work on restoring your own self-esteem.

Personally I am not so convinced that in your situation masturbation is so wrong. It is enabling you not to have an affair and to be patient with your husband. If you can do it without imagining other men and purely focus on the pleasurable physical sensations, then it doesn’t need to affect your relationship with God. However, we both know it is not the answer as it is not emotionally satisfying or intimate. I’m afraid there are no easy answers to this one other than pushing through on the issues with your husband, however much that may cause a reaction, but you cannot sustain avoidance any longer.