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Why is my husband so unaffectionate and secretive?

Tagged as: Sex, Troubled relationships<< Previous question   Next question >>
Question - (8 November 2007) 11 Answers - (Newest, 26 February 2013)
A female United States age 41-50, anonymous writes:

A male or expert perspective on this is highly appreciated. My husband of 5 years is not very passionate or affectionate towards me. He hardly ever gives me any compliments, especially not of the type that would make me feel attractive. He does say he loves me very often, but he'll tell this to our children and the rest of his family as well and I need more than platonic love.

He rarely wants sex more than once a week. When we have sex the room is dark, he never looks at me and there is never foreplay or cuddling afterwards. If it was my decision we would have adventurous sex almost every day. I have encouraged him to open up to me about his desires, and do not project myself as a prude. I am 10 years younger than him and take good care of myself. I did some modeling in my twenties and ten years later I haven't lost too much of my looks. I'm still happy with my appearance, but probably won't be in ten years from now unless there's a radical change in our marriage. I have also told him I am willing to undergo almost any type of cosmetic treatment or surgery to stay attractive to him. The few times he gives me compliments (after I purge for it) he seems pained, avoids eye contact, and will only say: "You look nice". If ever he is with me when I go clothes shopping he encourages me to get unsexy shapeless dresses. He never buys sexy lingerie for me anymore, and erotic gifts I have given him are never used and stacked away. Himself, he is potbellied and with a receding hairline, but has a job and income that according to old-fashioned standards makes him attractive. This doesn't matter to me a bit! I happen to be one of those who are (unfortunately?) monogamously wired and can only get turned on to one guy. I am crazy about him and I frequentlty let him know that. He seems bothered when I say things like this.

Although he hardly ever compliments me, he used to make comments about other women being "pretty", "beautiful" or "stunning". I have never figured out his angle other than to make me feel bad unprovoked. All this really hurt me since he is so stingy on the compliments. I finally told him, and he doesn't comment on other women anymore.

He is also quite secretive. He will not let me go in his car until he has "cleared” it. Most of the secrets I have found out are petty and about cosmetic treatment and junk food consumption he probably is too embarrassed to let me know about. Before we got married I let him take some erotic photos of me. I just recently found these stuck away underneath a bunch of other old photos of what seems to be past lovers "in action" and sex orgies! Some of this stuff was very kinky, but I know it all took place before our marriage. But why keep it now? I don't think he is a big porn consumer anymore. He's pretty good at letting me know where he is and what he is doing, but I know he will "use the opportunity" to watch porn behind my back and then lie about it or cover it. Again, I am not a prude, and wouldn't even mind watching this with him, but he never takes the initiative to involve me in this anymore.

So one problem is that he is not very affectionate or making me feel pretty despite me working hard to stay attractive and willing to have sex with him at the drop of a hat. The other is that our sex life is becoming so dull and lonely for me while apparently spiced up for him and his fantasies behind my back. The combination really, really hurts me. I could understand the porn and the secrecy if I never made an effort to satisfy him, and I could maybe live with his interest for visual female stimulation if I was included. But the combination is heartbreaking. I have tried to communicate with him, but he belittles it or simply walks off making me feel like I am the one who has the problems.

I used to be an independent city girl who turned heads. Now I'm stuck in our suburban home taking care of kids with a husband I don't think I really know. Please help me understand this. What is the psychological reason for him to act like this?

View related questions: foreplay, porn, sex life

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A reader, anonymous, writes (26 February 2013):

You're lucky...My husband of 12 years only gave me a nod compared to your husband's "You look nice" reply. And if I get once a week sex, I'd be sooo happy, I only get once a month sometimes once in 2 months. We have the same workplace and goes to "the same bed" every night, so I can say that we're always together 24 hours a day for the past 12 years. Imagine a couple "doing it" once in two months?! I don't get any embrace, hug or "I love you" from him. I asked him once... a series of "Why's?"... He only told me..." I'm not just a showy type of person." But, he's not secretive... he leaves his wallet, cellphone on our dresser and I know his passwords on all of his online profiles. I used to complain about it... but now, not anymore. I think I got used to it.

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A female reader, geewhizu2 United States +, writes (19 September 2009):

Wow! I can relate. My husb is 8.5 yrs older than me (66) and is very closed up. I realize our personalities differ (I am outgoing), but my goodness. He refuses to compliment me(one time sd it might go to my head) and does not say he loves me unless I say it (sometimes not even then). BUT he has this "thing" of staring at other women. He will look and look again and sometimes again. I have tried to tell him that he is complimenting them by doing that yet won't compliment me. He was with a much younger woman years ago and I have heard from him and others that she did a "number" on him. OK. but STOP playng the victim. I didn't do anything. We only got married in 08 and already our marriage is so rocky I am ready to leave. There is no sex. No compliments. No encouragment. He also was a heavy drinker before and right after he met me. I have worked with him and he no longer smokes or drinks as much. I trulythink he resents me for doing that because when he drinks he is VERY outgoing and talkative and flirts with me. Yeah, Jekyl/Hyde. Or should I say "Hide" He thinks I overreact because I "GET UPSET WHEN HE LOOKS AT OTHER WOMEN."

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A female reader, CHERUB63 United States +, writes (6 November 2008):

Hello beautiful lady,

First of all, wow, and I mean wow!!!!! I read your description of your husband and it fits mind to the "T". I am currently going through a very ugly divorce, of course filed by him. He is completely unaffectionalte, not even holding my hand unless I ask. If we made love he would not look me in the eyes. It was straight forward, nothing adventurous, he got on and off, fell asleep and loudly snored. I tolerated that for 23 years. He also is big into porn. It started when I met him. He had two book cases surrounding his bed that had rows of dirty magazines. When porn was excessive on the internet he dove into that. I know this because I found a ton of it, and even after finding it he "completely" denies he looks at porn. He tells me he has no idea what I'm talking about.

Yes, he is so secretive everything in his life is in lock down. Always has been, and if I confront him with it he is extremely defensive.

If we go out anywhere he spends more time looking and checking out other women than taking the time to talk to me. Even when we would go to dinner for our anniversary, I had to choke dinner down while he flirted with the waitress.

I know I am attractive and I have maintained myself extremely well through the years. He too is almost 10 years older than myself. Only since he has filed for divorced has he made any effort to improve his appearance. Basically, he completely let himself go during the marriage, overweight and all.

I begged him for years to pay attention to me, to be romantic, to be intimate during sex, to stop the excessive porn, to stop flirting with other women in front of me, to stop being so disrespectful to me and our marriage.

Unfortunately, it never happened, it got worse over the years and now we are in an ugly divorce battle.

Trust me I begged for counseling, I even went alone for years. I made every change possible to be what I thought he was looking for, nothing helped. I just got tired tgryhing to complet with every other woman he talked about or compared me to.

After 23 years, I'm exhausted, alone and at the age of 45 having to start my life over.

He shows no remorse for the divorce, just moving on to the greener grass on the other side. Which by the way, was always the way he acted. "the grass was always greener on the other side". I have been asking for years "why he married me to begin with, and I think I got my answer from one of the other answers.

He simply didn't want to be alone any more.

By the way, I am his second wife. I'm sure the third will end up the same way the first two did in divorce!!!!

I have my theory on why he behaves this way, but they would be the same as the other answers. Self esteem issues, fascination to porn, the inability to be intimate, and many more. Bottom line a very selfish individual not to share his life in a better way with his wife, especially when she is knocking herself out to get his attention.

Thank you for sharing your story, it made me feel like I wasn't alone. I truly felt like I had written it myself and was talking about my life.!!!


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A reader, anonymous, writes (24 July 2008):

hi there

I don't think this has anything to do with liking other "types". i think he loves you but is just a bit scared and doesn't know how to express himself. he can learn if you help him, i am sure.

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A female reader, Carmela Canada +, writes (24 July 2008):

Hey there...

Hang in there! I know the feeling hon. My boyfriend of three months is exactly the same way, though I never found any porn in his place, nor does he have the time for it honestly!

I think it's not a lack of desire and libido, but rather inability to express it. Also I think that he feels that maybe he looks "desparate" if he cuddles too much or asks fpr sex directly. When I really sit down and think about it, I know deep down that he IS an emotional guy, that he cares for me a lot, but it's his lack of self esteem that kind of keeps him (really it's his pride) from expressing too much interest in me. I agree with one of the replies, in that he may wrongly feel inferior if he pays me too many compliments, even if they are well-deserved.

I am in my mid-30's, he is 43. And physical-appearance-wise, we are like you guys. I find that the lack of eye contact and all that is probably because of the fear that he may get too attached and eventually lose me. He did tell me (when I asked) that he has been hurt too many times... so, go figure!

I think in our cases couples counselling may be an excellent idea!

Best to you :o)

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A male reader, anonymous, writes (22 February 2008):

I feel your pain. I believe your husband and my wife don't know a good thing when they have it. They are just miserable and have poor self esteem. In life, attitude is everything. Life is what you make it. I don't buy into all the psyco babble spoken on most of these pages.

As a married man for 20 yrs, who has maintained his appearance, hair, and weight, I have never cheated. But believe me, my frustration level is such that divorce is approaching. What I need to hope for, is to meet a woman who like me, loves affection, cuddling, and sex.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (19 November 2007):

I am curious to know if anything has gotten better for you and your husband since you posted this question.

I couldn't believe it when I read what you wrote because it is SO similar to my situation with my husband! For 5 years of marriage he never initiated sex and we only had sex less than once a week. Finally I found out that he was watching porn every night after I went to sleep or during the day when I wasn't home. The worst part for me is that he lied to me and is still semi-secretive. When I first found some porn tapes he lied and said it was something from his past and he didn't use it any more. I didn't think that much about it. And then Later found more DVD's and they were all new so I realized he had lied. This was the weird and painful part for me. For a long time when I confronted him to explain about the lying, he just had no answer. We've talked through it alot and I explained that it was the lying and secretiveness that bothered me the most and made me doubt our relationship. wondering about if he has affairs or does on-line sex chat-rooms.

Things have improved in the sense that now he comes to bed at the same time as I do on about 5 out of 7 nights of the week. But I know that he still watches porn whenever he is awake and i'm not or when i'm out and he's home. That is fine, except that i still never understand the secretive part. For me, I feel closer when I understand what makes the person tick, what turns them on, what they are thinking and feeling and I still feel deprived of this part of our relationship much of the time.

It's weird how similar the other aspects of our relationship are to the one you described in your marriage. For example, my husband also NEVER comments on my physical appearance. has NEVER noted anything really about my personality or appearance. He is also older than i am by 16 years. Whenever I bought him sex toys he always said nothing and didn't want to use them. I used to think he was really prudish and old-fashioned because of the age difference. Because with my previous partners they might say, "oh, I once went to this strip-club and this was what it was like." They didn't feel like they had to be secretive about any interest in sexuality. Now I just figure that he is old-fashioned in the sense that he is uncomfortable talking about sexuality or even about expressing it when a person is around (because he used to seem to prefer not to make eye contact and sort of doesn't seem that aware of me during sex) and feels more comfortable alone with his hand and some porno movies.

The disappointing thing for me too is that no matter how often we speak of this topic, he still doesn't seem interested in making any self-exploration into his behavior even though he knows that it makes me feel alone and distant.

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A female reader, anonymous, writes (18 November 2007):

You are willing to have plastic surgery for him? Wow, sorry but your marriage sounds plastic!

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A reader, anonymous, writes (12 November 2007):

for sweet should be more careful with your words and educate yourself about porn addiction! as for the lady who is asking the question, I am terribly sorry you are hurting so and yes your husband could be quite possibly addicted to porn, which has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU, it doesn't matter what you looked like, porn addiction robs men of the ability to have sex in real life. Please don't alter yourself in any way shape or form, it won't work. the one who needs to change is your husband. If your husband truly does have a porn addiction, he will turn off the lights so that he can play his fantasies in his mind and masturbate with your body. I sincerely hope this is not the case but if it is you have a rough road ahead, I am sorry....please check out when you get a chance

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A male reader, rcn United States +, writes (9 November 2007):

rcn agony auntLet's first look at something you did that you shouldn't need to do in marriage, which is offering cosmetic changes to make him happy. It's your body, all though you're married, making cosmetic changes needs to be a choice to make you feel better about yourself and not someone else.

You seem like a very caring lady. It's nice to see someone who has such high regards for her husband, and family. That's something to be proud of.

You said you found pamphlets regarding cosmetics and foods? And if you're age is listed correctly, that makes him in his 40's. That's about the age for men to experience a mid life crisis. You mentioned being real attractive. His body probably isn't the same as it was 10-20 years ago, his hair is not the same.

I think you two need to seek some counseling. I wouldn't doubt it if you found out it's not you at all. A man who isn't content with himself develops a feeling of insecurity, inadequacy, and when with a beautiful women starts to label himself as not being good enough for, or with these changes, you being out of his league. So in a way giving complements and other romantic things reinforces his insecurity, and unworthiness in the marriage.

I don't doubt that he loves you. He sounds like a good guy. In order to get your sex life back, and other things you want, he'll need to sort out and attack the issues which are causing these behaviors. So he may want to see you naked, but with the lights off, he's protection himself from being seen by you.

I hope this helps you out. Take care.

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A female reader, Sweet-thing United Kingdom +, writes (8 November 2007):

Sweet-thing agony auntHave you ever stopped to think that what you consider to be attractive and what your husband considers to be attractive might be two totally different things? I once had a male friend who, I swear fits what you've described to a tee! He was dumpy, receding hairline, just nothing to be knocked out over and he somehow landed a fairly nice looking woman. She was petite, skinny, she loved horses and stayed in excellent shape. But I've always knows that he is attracted to women who are more rounded and volumptuous, with rather large breasts. What I would call slightly overweight was his ideal body shape. He also likes women who were extremely feminine, wore dresses, perfume, fussed with their hair the whole bit. His wife was none of these things. So how come he married her? He was tired of being alone. She didn't exactly fulfill his desires, in fact just like you described, my friend has a porn addiction that he always falls back on it rather than putting himself into his marriage, but he wanted to be with someone, rather than spending the rest of his life alone. I suspect your husband is alot like this and he's not that attracted to you, even though perhaps most men would be. Perhaps counseling will help the two of you get to the bottom of what's going on and solve the problem....I wish you the best. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear you are my friend's wife. But what are the odds?....

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