An adoring husband desires intimacy with his wife, but as a trauma survivor, she doesn’t enjoy sex. In this week’s episode, a letter writer who calls himself “Faithful Friend” describes his frustrating predicament.
“She experienced sexual abuse with boyfriends when she was a teen,” he writes. “We’ve experimented with many different ways for her to feel comfortable, but truth be told, this trigger may never go away no matter how kind, gentle, safe or loving I am.” He asks the Sugars: “Is it possible to be in a sexless marriage like this, where my desires are not met, without turning into a resentful husband?”
Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond continue their conversation with the couples therapist Esther Perel. “I think that the most powerful approaches to healing people whose boundaries have been penetrated in nonvoluntary ways is to have experiences of touch and healing and trust,” Ms. Perel explains. “You need new touch: contact on the skin that is reparative and that replaces the imprint that was left on you.”
For other monogamous couples looking to bring new energy into their relationships, Ms. Perel has this advice: “I basically take my cues from my couples who are having affairs,” she says. “If my married couples could have 1 percent of the imagination that my other couples are having, marriage would be doing really well.” She continues, “You say: Today I’m putting this as my priority because it’s good. It energizes me. It makes me feel loved and adored and cherished and beautiful.”
Ms. Perel wrote the best-seller “Mating in Captivity” and hosts the Audible series “Where Should We Begin?” Her new book, “The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity,” comes out in October.
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Literature mentioned in this week’s episode: “Spending,” by Mary Gordon.
New episodes of “Dear Sugars” are released weekly. You can also read the Sugars’ advice in their Styles column, The Sweet Spot. Do you have a question for the Sugars? Email

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