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My husband who is 60 is bedridden and I am his "caregiver". I haven't had sex for 3 years now and it's really bothering me. He doesn't even bring the topic up, try to kiss me, (he could if he wanted), no holding hands, never wants to snuggle (I have asked), nothing. He is okay with it. I'm not. I want more than just kisses and snuggling however don't even get that. What is the healthy spouse to do? Sad, thinking I will never be loved in that way by a man again. I would love to hug a man, kiss, and you know.. I can't be the only one out there in the same situation. .

I debated in commenting on this post, but what the heck! In 2001 I had a radical prostatectomy. I chose not to have an implant and prescription drugs didn’t help. So until my wife’s death in 2018, we were celibate. She didn’t look for a surrogate hubby, but I’m sure she missed the intimacy. When she developed AD, I didn’t look for another relationship (platonic, of course). Hugs, kisses, holding hands and snuggling reflected our love for each other. Even in her final stages I knew my love was important to her. I lost her after 52 years of marriage and it’s those simple signs of affection that I miss dearly. I’m sorry your husband is so devoid of affection. I’m not giving you any advice, just relating a story.

Symptoms of depression for men can be loss of interest in sex, fatigue, apathy. Men tend to be withdrawn and irritable. If he’s on anti-depressants, those, too, can have similar consequences. Men tend to deny having problems because they are supposed to be strong. Most men don’t admit to sexual problems. Your husband might be embarrassed by his nonperformance so just denies any problems. It’s not a subject men were taught to express. For men, depression is a stigma that degrades their manhood. I’m not defending your husband’s lack of intimacy, I don’t know him, nor do I agree with him not showing you any affection.  So you decide, but “friends with benefits”, in my mind, is a “pseudo” divorce. Satisfying one’s libido may result in feelings of guilt and regret.

So get some counseling and then decide. It’s tough. I wish you well.
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Mrsrubee Sep 19, 2020
I am so sorry for your loss. You clearly loved your wife dearly despite the challenges dementia brings. But your explanation of many, if not most men’s, reaction to depression/anxiety/physical problems struck a nerve with me. Your description is spot on, but it’s also terribly unfair to women who typically do the lion’s share of the work in maintaining emotional stability in relationships. My husband suffered from anxiety, depression and impotence several times over the years. Of course, he REFUSED to seek help because “I can handle it.” Well, he wasn’t handling it and it shrunk my world as well as his. I understand how these problems work - It’s impossible to think of anyone else’s feelings or needs when your mind is consumed with worry over stupid s***. And all that stewing over nothing leads to depression. Vicious circle ensues. And I know that the person with the problem is often the last one to see it. I don’t know how we get there, but men have GOT to get over thinking that getting help is unmanly and, even more importantly, we’ve got to stop asking women to be understanding of this BS. Anxiety and/or depression doesn’t just hurt the one whose got it. It sucks the life out of the whole household. OP’s husband has made it pretty clear he is unable or unwilling to think of her needs. No sex is one thing but no affection is a bridge too far.

My husband now he has dementia and doesn’t worry about anything. He’s the happiest guy around while I’m drowning in responsibilities and frustration at all the repetitive questions/stories and idiotic conversations. He can’t help the way he is now, but he certainly didn’t need to waste the 10-15 years before he got dementia because his ego was too fragile to admit he needed help.
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You know, maybe I'm just "old fashioned", but what ever happened to taking our wedding vows seriously. You know, in sickness and health, forsaking all others, until death do us part?

Those that have suggested having someone else on the side, while still married, is just wrong. I believe the Bible calls that adultery. If you can't live without sex, buy yourself a vibrator.

My husband had a massive stroke at the age of 48, one and a half years after we were married, and we were never able to have "sex" after that.(that was 24 1/2 yrs ago) We initially sought treatment, but when nothing worked, we just decided to make the best of it. It was definitely harder on me than him, but over time I got used to it. Thankfully for me though he would still hold my hand, give me hugs when I needed them, and kiss me, even after he became bedridden in 2018.

My husband died this week, Monday, and I am grateful and honored that I was able to uphold the vows we took 26 years ago.

And maybe instead of asking your husband for what you need, you might just have to initiate things and see where it takes you.
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MJ1929 Sep 19, 2020
You are mort definitely not old-fashioned. I feel the same -- one's vows should mean something.

Condolences on the loss of your husband.
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This is a very difficult problem.

From what you said in your lead off post, it sounds to me that hubby has a sound mind, despite depression.

Perhaps if you sit close to him and take his hand in yours and tell him yet again about your keenly-felt need for affection, he might be willing to allow you to snuggle with him every morning after breakfast and also at night before bed. (You could initiate the physical affection if he is willing to participate. Of course, he may not be willing to engage in it some days.)

If you have a fairly good singing voice you could play some nice romantic music and sing along. Songs such as "Someone to watch over me" come to mind.

You might also want to talk about good times had in the past with family and friends, as for that special vacation to "Vermont" in the eighties or some other specific place that was "slap" wonderful,

If he responds or not, I would not suggest talking about you maybe having a friend on the side, even if only for platonic companionship. Not knowing more about your situation than what you said, it is my opinion that, whatever you do, it would be cruel to divorce him, as some responders have suggested.

With or without telling him about a possible outside friend, having such a friend would constitute abandoning your marriage vows. Having said that, I do not believe in "situational" ethics. I also do not say that judgmentally.

But the world tugs one way, and heaven tugs another. The bible says the Lord directs our steps, and if that is so, then to act out based on our own thinking is not (in my opinion) the proper way to live.

In my own case, my wife of 61 years had a massive stroke in 2005 and I cared for her at home for two years, with two breaks weekly for four hours each day. Following that, she was in the nursing home for ten more years before she passed away in 2017. I was at her bedside for breakfast and for lunch every single day. I also hired nice ladies to be with her from 4 to 6 PM daily to help her eat and to provide companionship. (Her symptoms included having no ability to speak except yes and no; being paralyzed on the right side of her body; and that was her dominant side, having severe dizziness during all waking moments; having a number of superficial skin cancer lesions; experiencing 24 or so Urinary Tract Infections over the ten years of residence in the nursing home; and more ailments more minor in nature...) She could not stand up.

Through all of those symptoms, she remained extremely cheerful. Those 12 years of caregiving on my part were the most rewarding of my life. Every day I would tease her about "flirting" with the men who went by her doorway on wheelchairs, and I'd say things like "if it weren't for our terrific sex life, I would stop coming to see you." She would laugh hilariously when I'd say things like that. Of course there was no sex at all. However, I did give her squeezies.

At breakfast and lunch, I'd put food on a fork or spoon and move it toward her mouth and when I'd get close and she opened her mouth to receive it, I would pull it back and she'd get a good laugh. Sometimes I would sing her a love song or a hymn.

We had been high school sweethearts and married at age 19. She bore us four nice kids.

So it was very satisfying to be her loyal caregiver.. I will not comment on whether I was totally faithful or not, but I was definitely loyal.

May God provide you with peace of mind as you face each new day with courage and innovative thinking and acting.

Grace + Peace,

Old Bob
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elaineSC Sep 20, 2020
Well said and written. That is the way it is done. My hat is off to you.
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A healthy spouse would probably find a friend with benefits, but not until she talks it over with her husband and lets him know how she's feeling about things. You're asking for affection, which is not sex, and he's unwilling, which seems totally unfair and cold. Being under 60 and expected to live like a nun for life doesn't sound right to me. So I am glad I could say this to you BEFORE the martyrs come along preaching about your marital vows and reminding you the "for better or worse" portion. How about HIS vows? Why does he get to be totally unaffectionate and cold while you have to adhere to vows? Just sayin.
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Janetr Sep 20, 2020
Yes - I totally agree - what about HIS vows. Just to expect her to look after him without any consideration for her - no way. I know he is sick but in my book it does NOT EXCUSE his behaviour. To show no affection or appreciation for how she is feeling - and some people on this site are calling that an acceptable MARRIAGE. Wow - not my idea of marriage......
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Dear Unitetogether,
I am writing from the patient's point of view. I was diagnosed with Early Onset ALZ a little more than four years ago at the age of 57. I am a year older than you are. I initiated a discussion on this very topic with my DW who is 8 yrs younger than me, probably a year after I was diagnosed. I told her that I did not want her spending the rest of her life on her own, and that when the time came that I am institutionalized, to put me in a place 100 miles away from where we live, so that she won't feel like she and our children have to visit me everyday. has to be visiting me everyday. I also told her if she wanted to date another man, go ahead and build a future life for yourself. I also told our adult children, if mom wants to see somebody or remarry after I've died, don't give her any trouble. Life is for the living.
Come next year we'll have been together dating and married, 27 years. My DW is an exceptional cook and baker, and we've done a lot of that together over the years. We also shared a lot of dreams realized by our travels, over these years. I believe she'd make a good wife and will have a lot to offer another husband.
Perhaps you could start a conversation with your husband asking what he thinks you should do in the future? I started our discussion with, I'd like to discuss your future when I am no longer able to share a life with you? She had answers for me. My DW and I have practiced our faith together ever since the day we had our first date. We've been faithful to each other, never had a fight, and know we've been the great love of each others life, but the time will come when we will no longer both be alive and that my DW needs to be able to go forward and build a new life with another man that she can enjoy time with.
We do tell each other I love you, several times a day, we'll watch TV at night in bed and hold hands and when we part ways for the day, give each other a kiss. My hope is that your DH will give you the answers you need for continuing on in your life.
I also encourage, others reading this message have you and your DH or DW had a conversation like I have described. This is a tough conversation to start, but you may find it is something the other of you has thought about but never put in to words. I hope this is helpful.
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NobodyGetsIt Sep 20, 2020
Dear "jfbctc,"

Beautifully said - what a wise, fair and mature way of handling it!!
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Unitetogether:

You say in your post that, "I want more than just kisses and snuggling however don't even get that."

Perhaps your husband is not offering kisses and snuggles because he senses that it is not enough for you, and he does not want to tease you into thinking sexual activity will follow.

By your own words you admit the kisses, hugs, and snuggles will NOT be enough. I am quite certain any reasonably intelligent human can pick up on that feeling emanating from you.

I agree with those who asked what about honoring marital vows? The phrase, "in sickness and in health" was put in the vows for a reason.

Also, reverse the rolls in your mind. How would you feel if you were seriously ill, and your husband found someone else to engage with sexually?

I am quite certain you would be more than heartbroken, you would feel even more worthless than the worthless feeling of being bedridden and seriously ill.

If you google it you will see that milennials are actually having less sex, not more.

Why?

Fear of STDs, preferring masturbation to the complications of a relationship with someone just for sex.

Perhaps if you assured your husband that you were actually interested in only hugs and snuggles to satisfy your "skin hunger" than perhaps he would be more inclined to engage.

So based on the milennials lack of interest in sex, despite raging hormones, people can and do live without engaging in sex with another person.

The world is a sad place, these days, IMO. Everyone is so "me" focused.

An affair will expose you to STDs and heartbreak, and if the other man is married, too, the affair may put your life in danger.

Many men may be interested in having an affair with you.

However, IMO, few good single men will be interested in a serious relationship with someone who is married to a sick man and his cheating on him.
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tf110862 Sep 20, 2020
Great reply!!
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I'm not a caregiver to a spouse, Unite, but I am the spouse of a caregiver. And perhaps I have some words for you that you find helpful.

My husband is the DPOA for his dad and, before she died, for his mother too. We moved to be closer to my inlaws and helped care for them. For many years, I helped them to remain living in their home while my husband handled their business affairs. I won't go into the details, but know that it took a toll on each of us, on our sex life and on our marriage. But there was still a lot of affection and laughter between us even during times when sex was the last thing one or both of us wanted. Caregiving sucks the life out of people. I'm sorry that you are going through this.

That said, your husband may live another 20+ years. And I agree with those who ask "What about HIS marriage vows to you?" That he is unwilling to show you any affection or talk to you like an adult is a big red flag.

"...I think what bothers me the most is, he doesn't even talk to me about sex or closeness. He talks to me like a baby instead, more than talking to me like a man and there is nothing wrong with his brain/mind..."

Baby talk - that is not depression! It is a defense mechanism called regression. I found this in a medical journal for you: "...Regression in adults can arise at any age; it entails retreating to an earlier developmental stage (emotionally, socially, or behaviorally). Insecurity, fear, and anger can cause an adult to regress. In essence, individuals revert to a point in their development when they felt safer and when stress was nonexistent, or when an all-powerful parent or another adult would have rescued them..." You cannot rescue your husband. He would have to be willing to see a psychiatrist and enter therapy.

Meanwhile, what about you? In my opinion, you have every right to give your husband a clear message: "Seek therapy or I cannot continue in our loveless marriage." Hand him his phone and a list of psychiatrists who do phone sessions. Give him a realistic due date - 2-3 weeks should be plenty of time - for him to call one and make an appointment, followed of course by weekly therapy. Once he's in weekly therapy, give the therapy some time to work, maybe 3 months or so. If he refuses to enter therapy, you have to make the decision for the both of you about the future of your marriage.

Keep in mind that those who spew the "marriage is a holy sacrament...for better or worse" stuff, please consider several things when weighing their advice to you:
1. Marriage is a *partnership* of the whole of life.
2. Marriage is about **reciprocated** service to the spouse.
3. Marriage is making a commitment every morning to ***love*** your spouse.

Marriage is both love and work. If your spouse does not love you, shows you no love, works not on your marriage, then you do not have a marriage. When your spouse abandons you emotionally (no more love or reciprocation) and/or physically (cheating), then you no longer have a marriage. Clearly you feel that you are worthy of true love, which is why I think you are struggling with staying in a loveless marriage. I hope you will keep us posted on your progress. Peace and blessings, NYDIL
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Unitetogether Sep 21, 2020
NyDaughterinlaw,

Makes sense. Thanks for the lengthy post. That was nice of you. Yes, he would never talk/see a therapist. Not sure I would want to either. I know he loves me, however doesn't show it and I haven't heard him tell me those words in a long time. It's all just about HIM. I need to be happy to I know.

Thank you
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I don’t have an answer, but welcome to the club. You are not the only one. It’s been over 6 years for me. First chemo/radiation then stem cell, then liver failure, now dementia.
I also miss the kind words, affectionate hugs, the smiles.

don’t know which I miss more.
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I just have to ask how much of this is physical and how much mental?
You say in your profile that your hubby suffers from depression, among other things. Does he also have an anxiety disorder? They often go hand-in-hand. My daughter suffers from anxiety/depression. When she is having an attack, she often doesn't want to be touched, held, hugged, etc. It's almost like she curls up into herself as a defense response. She was much more like that before she was on medication, which, while not perfect, has made a world of difference for her!

Is your husband on medication for the depression? If not, that's the first place I would start with a doctor. Depression can be such a driving factor in every aspect of someone's life, affecting your physical health as well as mental health. And if he is on medication, and it's one of the side effects, there might be help for that, too. Talk to his doctor about all of this. At this point, you really have nothing to lose, as you said you're very young to be looking at a life without physical affection...

Good luck!
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I think you have valid concerns. As a woman, and as a human, you have needs also. I empathize with your husband's health decline but I don't see why a woman should give up all her needs because one person is not able to fulfill the marital duties. By him not showing any love in ways you say he could then you really should reevaluate your overall situation. It won't get better I'm afraid to say. I know you love him but how much are you willing to give up? That is the real question here. Love and light.
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Unitetogether Sep 18, 2020
You’re right, thank you for the post. It means a lot.
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