Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas


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Dear Virginia, I got married a year ago, and had misgivings even as we walked up the aisle. We managed to have sex on our honeymoon, but though we’d had a reasonable sex life before we got married – I never fancied her particularly – I soon found it impossible to make love to my wife. She  wants children and has suggested we try artificial insemination using my sperm, but I don’t know. I’m fond of her, and we get on well.But I don’t love her or find her attractive. I feel so bad about getting married. It’s not really bad enough to get divorced. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Greg

Virginia says... You seem to entertain the idea of children in much the same way as you entertained getting married: take it or leave it. Clearly you didn't love this poor girl, and you didn't even fancy her particularly, so you apparently drifted into marriage and now you regret it. Well, you sort of regret it. You don't really know what you feel, do you? It's the same with the idea of having a child. Could have a child. Could not. Don't really know.

Well, luckily, I do know. And what I know is that it would be an incredibly bad idea to start a family with you feeling as lacklustre about the whole thing as you are at the moment. What if you felt this way about your own child? Sort of loving her. Sort of not loving her. What kind of father would you make? Having a child with your wife would also, you don't seem to realise, bind you inexorably to a woman you just feel vaguely friendly towards, for the rest of your life. OK, you might be divorced by then. But you'd still be parents, bonded together forever.

Now it could be that you're actually very depressed. That would account for your lack of sexual desire, and also your shoulder-shrugging approach to life. Depressed people don't care about anything. Depressed people often feel they are leaves in a rather unfriendly wind. They find it hard to make decisions and can't really see the point of anything. So the first stop should be at your doctor's.

After that, you should probably go for counselling together. You should tell your wife exactly how you feel and who knows, she might well decide you're not the man for her and she'll decide to get out of this humdrum relationship and find someone else who has rather stronger feelings for her.

Or it could be that, despite having no sex-life, you both feel that the friendship and amiability you have together is enough for both of you. You might feel that you could have a child together. But at that point you should be certain in your own minds that even if either of you met the loves of your lives, you wouldn't do anything about it until the child was fully grown-up.

In other word, don't just drift passively on a sea of pleasant friendship. Make a proper decision to drift actively on a sea of pleasant friendship, and make this relationship, in its own odd way, really work.

Readers say...

Face the truth

One can only wonder why you married each other. Your wife maybe saw you as a means of having children. And you married, perhaps, for some kind of emotional security. Perhaps your fear of having the children that would cement the relationship is the reason that you are now unable to make love to your wife.

You need a sensible and very honest talk with your wife to find a way forward. It may very well be divorce. In any case, you both need to face up to some hard truths. I had misgivings as I was walking up the aisle 40 years ago, and found myself thinking at that very point, "Thank goodness for the new divorce laws if this doesn't work out." It didn't.


By email

Let her go

You say you don't want to get divorced, but what benefit do you imagine there is for either of you in this marriage? You're wasting not only your own time, but hers, too. It's good you don't want to compound your mistake by having a child. Tell her the truth now, so that she can move on. Hopefully, she'll find someone else with whom she'll build the kind of life she dreamed of, and you can do likewise.

Elinor Hunter


What would you advise Susie to do?

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Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia, my 13-year-old daughter spends all her time on her computer, and recently she's become very secretive as well. She's often texting and giggling and won't tell us what it's about. I became so worried, I'm afraid I got into her email when she was out – not difficult to guess her password, it was the name of our cat – and was horrified to find she's in touch with some bloke who has been sending her all these sexual messages. He says he's 15, but I'm pretty sure it's some older man, by the way he writes. What can I do? Yours sincerely, Susie

Virginia Ironside's onewoman show, 'Growing Old Disgracefully', is at the Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Festival