Sexless marriage (exhausted by the idea of doing thought work around it)

My husband is a great guy in many ways. He’s creative, smart, funny and we have a great time together, have stimulating conversations and enjoy each others’ company. We balance out each others’ good and bad traits well.

He’s always been physically standoffish, and for many years we followed a pattern where I would ask (“beg” in my thoughts) for more affection. He would “try” with some awkward hugs or pecks on the lips for a few days, then things would go back to normal. I feel physically rejected by him.  For example, early on I told him massages are really important to me in a relationship, and when I would offer to give him one he’d get super uptight and say he only likes massages by professionals … he has never given me any kind of massage in our entire relationship of 20 years even though I’ve brought up several times that that’s important to me. Another example, we haven’t “made out” since the early days of our relationship (first year maybe). He doesn’t buy me gifts or do other things I perceive as thoughtful. Sometimes when I’m sick, he ignores me.

Eventually over the years our sex life got really bad (including ED issues) and one day I just decided I had enough of bad sex. I was tired of making myself do something I didn’t want to do because of my thought “couples should have sex” or whatever. I am a very sexual person, but also very reserved, and it’s a complete turnoff to me to have sex with someone who’s not that into it and who never does anything physical with me outside of sex. I very much want sex, just not with my husband. I sometimes have dreams where I get together with a younger guy and I feel so happy in the dream and then devastated when I wake up.

To make things worse, my husband is five years older than me and during the pandemic decided to grow a white beard and long hair, neither of which he grooms very well despite my asking him and eventually after many months sending him videos about beard grooming.  He does try, he’s just not good at staying on top of it.  For me that has essentially been the final straw of me not wanting physical intimacy with him. The whole look is unflattering and makes him look like a whole different person at least 10 years older than his real age. He resents me criticizing his new look (which he “loves”) and says he should be in control of how he looks, which is true. But I resent that he doesn’t care if I find him attractive. I have issues too in that area. I have gained a bunch of weight and tried unsuccessfully to lose it for years, so I don’t feel physically attractive either, though I do cut and color my hair and dry to dress attractively.

My husband is now saying he wants us to have sex again, and he keeps bringing it up (never trying to initiate sex, just as a conversation). I am so angry I can barely think. He thinks we used to have a good sex life, and I don’t think we ever did because I have always felt rejected physically by him in other ways ie: no massages or making out, ever, and just a subtle vibe of rejection I get around all things physical and never felt I could relax and be free physically or sexually in the relationship.

The thought of doing the thought work to change my feelings on ALL of this exhausts me. I don’t know if I want to do the thought work. In fact, I resent the idea of spending so much energy doing thought work on this for so little payoff when I have so much else I want to focus on (deep unhappiness in my career, for one.)

I’ve been stuck in a state of indecision for years and I honestly sometimes wish he would leave me. I think I sound like a horrible person in this and I don’t care. I have tried doing thought work on this and it maybe helps for a little bit but it honestly feels like this would need to be the only focus of my thought work every day so I prefer to not think about it and just enjoy the good parts of our relationship. Sometimes I look up pics of old boyfriends and think how different my life might be if I were with one of them. How can I figure out whether to make this a daily focus of my thought work and somehow figure out how to be happy with this situation, keep living in denial and quiet resentment or leave?  Yes, I know how that sounds but those are honestly the only 3 possibilities I can imagine right now.