When Clare first met her husband they had a great sex life. Now they haven't made love for years, but couldn't be more content with their sexless marriage. She talks to High50's Mandy Appleyard.
It's funny to think back on the early days of my relationship with John and realize how important sex was to us both then. It's hard to imagine that was even us.
The immediate attraction between John and I was physical when we met at work. I always joked that I noticed his beautiful bum in Levi 501s before I even saw his face. For the first decade that we were together, our sex life was active, adventurous and very much the glue that held our relationship together.
Eighteen years after tying the knot with John, I am happy to say that our marriage is a strong and happy one. Of course, there have been a few bumps in the road (my post-natal depression after having our son Alex 17 years ago, John being made redundant when he was 48 and plunging into a full-scale mid-life crisis). But, on balance, we remain a loving and committed couple.
A Marriage Without Sex
However, we haven't had sex since the beginning of 2008. We still share a king-size bed every night at our home in Yorkshire, England. We still kiss and cuddle and enjoy a tactile, physically affectionate relationship, but it's more than seven years since John and I made love.
So what's wrong? How do I cope with the sadness of knowing, at the age of 53, that sex is behind me? That my husband no longer desires me physically?
The truth is, I couldn't be happier about our situation, and nor could John. I don't feel rejected by him because my libido, like his, has waned.
Sex isn't how we love each other now; it's no longer part of the fabric of our relationship, and that's absolutely fine because we both feel the same way about it.
It's as if we have moved to a place beyond sex. I would worry for my marriage if we weren't tender and loving in other ways but we are, and we have always been open with each other about our feelings.
I went off sex when I was approaching menopause, which is not untypical. It became uncomfortable and, eventually, undesirable.
I told John how I felt and he said he understood. He'd just been made redundant from his job as an engineer and was doing a lot of soul-searching, so I think sex was probably not much in his thoughts then anyway.
I thought my libido would make a comeback after menopause but it didn't. "What if it never comes back?" I asked John in bed one night.
"It's nothing to worry about," he replied. "We're in our 50s, we're fit and healthy and still very much in love with each other, and I don't see any benefit in fretting about sex if neither of us is bothered about having it."
A New Phase In The Relationship
His reply was both logical and reassuring. Our marriage would have been in deep trouble if one of us had still felt the need to be swinging naked from the chandeliers on a nightly basis, but thankfully we both seemed happy to move into a different phase of our relationship.
Perhaps this sounds too easy, but I have always felt secure in my marriage to John. We are very lucky that we talk easily and openly about whatever's bothering us, and that we have shared interests.
We used to make love until dawn in the early days. Today we'd rather put on our boots and head up into the Dales for a long walk and a pub lunch, or catch a flight to Paris or Budapest to explore the city for a weekend.
We both love cooking and homemaking, taking to the road in our vintage MG, spending time with our 17-year-old son who'll be leaving for university next year, and dreaming about buying a dilapidated property in France that we can renovate in our dotage.
Happy In A Sexless Marriage
We have plans and dreams, and we don't need sex to fulfill them. We do need the closeness of sharing a bed, of cuddling up next to each other on the sofa in the evenings, of walking hand-in-hand sometimes.
I know people will judge the path we have chosen. They will say there must be something wrong, something missing, in a sexless marriage; that there is something unnatural about our celibacy.
But that's not how we see it. So irrelevant is sex to me, in fact, that I don't even think it would be a deal-breaker if John had it with someone else.
It would shock me because, like me, he says he's not interested in sex any more, but it would make no sense to call time on my marriage simply because John had chosen to find elsewhere something he knew wasn't available at home.
Anyway I'm confident that, like me, he cherishes and respects our relationship, and would be unlikely to put it in jeopardy for something we have both grown to regard as extraneous.
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