Jennifer Roback Morse

When you have a reputation as a defender of marriage, you’ve got to deal with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. This week, I got an e-mail that was definitely, well, Not Good.

"Dear Dr. J,

I'm part of a group of 5 men. We all work together; we are all married, with children. Our ages range from 35 to 45. All but one of us sleeps in the basement because our wives don't really want us very badly. The youngest of our group does not yet sleep in the basement but he reports the same frustration that moves all of us there. Sharing a bed with a woman who does not want you is painful.

Oh, she wants you to pay the bills and be a father to your children, but she doesn't want you. It’s difficult to just leave when you know you've created responsibilities, but it is pretty clear she'd rather you just left.

It's entirely possible that all 5 of us are losers, bad lovers and just plain whiners. It's possible, but it's statistically highly improbable. All 5 of us have good jobs; all but one has an advanced degree. We live in pleasant houses in safe neighborhoods.

So pardon us if when we read the phrase "abandoned their wife" we are more inclined to believe that is was a "sotto voce ejection".

            Mr. No Name."

OK Ladies: Can we talk?

This is Not Good. Take your pick between Bad and Ugly, but let’s be clear. It isn’t good for a man to feel his wife doesn’t want him sexually. It isn’t good for him to feel that he is a combination ATM and Assistant Mom.

My husband and I have been there. Not that either of us ended up in the basement. But we have had our share of conflict over sex and intimacy. I can remember many conversations where he was trying hard to explain himself and I was trying hard to listen. He may as well have been speaking a foreign language, which, come to think of it, he was. He was speaking Man-ish.

I had no idea what he was talking about.

He was really asking me to open my heart to him, and to take this issue seriously.
Men and women are very different from each other, and in no area more different than sex. There may be absolutely nothing wrong with either one of you. You are confronting the Great Divide between men and women. If you can bridge that sexual divide, and make marriage work, it is magic. If you can’t, the alternatives are lousy: adultery, alienation or divorce.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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