DEAR JANE: The birth of my son was so traumatic it’s put me off sex FOREVER – I flinch every time my husband touches me and now I’m worried he wants a divorce

Dear Jane,

This feels very uncomfortable to put down in words, but since I gave birth to my son 18 months ago, I have been completely horrified by the idea of having sex with my husband ever again. 

My husband is a great guy and an amazing father – it’s nothing to do with not being attracted to him or being any less in love with him than I have been all these years.

The thing is, my son’s birth was pretty traumatic. I experienced extremely severe tearing and bleeding, and my son ended up in the NICU for several weeks. So it probably goes without saying that I was in a pretty bad way after I was finally able to bring my son home. 

Over time, the physical wounds healed, but the mental ones just won’t go away, and the idea of anything or anyone going near that part of my body just makes me want to vomit. Whenever my husband touches me, I flinch.

Honestly, the idea of having sex ever again is unfathomable to me.

Dear Jane, I had an incredibly traumatic birth experience and it’s put me off sex completely – my husband is starting to get upset that I don’t want him to touch me

My husband has been very patient, but I can see him really struggling with this whole thing. I can’t blame him – I’d be pretty ticked off if he shuddered in horror every time I touched him – but I don’t know how to explain that I’ve never felt more turned off by physical intimacy in my life. 

And I just don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m worried that the birth of our child, which should have been the most wonderful event in our lives, is going to end up destroying my marriage forever.

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers' most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

International best-selling author Jane Green offers sage advice on readers’ most burning issues in her Dear Jane agony aunt column

Any advice on how I can bring myself back to life?


Postpartum Nightmare

Dear Postpartum Nightmare,

What a deeply traumatic experience you have had, and what a tribute to the resilience of women that you endured all of that pain and fear in order to create a perfect human being; what a tribute to the resilience of you!

I am so sorry that your husband is struggling. I’m not sure it’s truly possible for any man to quite understand why women are emotionally or physically unable to have sex, or how it feels to absolutely, positively, never want to have sex again.

Be gentle with yourself. You have been through a tremendous amount. Be gentle with your husband, for so often men feel a lack of sex with their partners is an automatic loss of intimacy, and connection.

There doesn’t need to be penetration for both of you to feel that intimacy and connection, there are plenty of other things that can be done, but not before you have dealt with the trauma that you’ve been through.

I suspect it would be enormously beneficial for the two of you to see a health professional or therapist. 

You both need a place where you can be honest about the trauma you have been through, how you are feeling about your body and sex.

He needs to talk honestly about how it feels for him, whether a lack of sex makes him feel distanced from you, and what you can both do about this. 

A good professional will help you work through these and talk to each other honestly, so you can find your way back to an intimate and loving connection.

Dear Jane,

A friend of mine got married on July 4th weekend of this year and I had been so excited to attend her big day – until I ended up testing positive for COVID the morning that I was supposed to leave for her wedding weekend. I felt horrendous because I didn’t want to disappoint her, but knew that it would be even worse to risk attending and spreading COVID to the other guests.

So I texted her to let her know that I wouldn’t be able to attend, sent her all the well wishes in the world, and apologized profusely, promising that I’d make it up to her.

On the day of the wedding, I texted her again to say good luck. I got no response to either message, but figured that’s just because she was tied up in the excitement of her wedding – so made a note to phone her when she got back from her honeymoon the following week.

But when I called, she didn’t pick up… and that same thing happened the next four times I tried to call her. I’ve texted multiple times since then and even sent her a DM on Instagram, all of which have gone unanswered.

She lives in another city so we don’t see each other all that often, but I’m devastated that she’s seemingly decided to end our friendship without giving me the chance to explain – all because I got sick?

Should I just cut my losses and give up on her, or find another way to get through?


Confused Friend

Dear Confused Friend,

It doesn’t seem to matter how old we are or how far removed from school, women’s friendships can be so complicated and painful.

You owe no apology nor explanation for missing her wedding due to COVID. Her behavior on the other hand – the unreturned phone calls, the ignored messages and texts – are very large red flags. 

Dear Jane’s Sunday service

Happiness is reaching a stage in life where you know yourself well enough, and like yourself well enough to know that you deserve people in your life who make it better, who bring you joy, and peace, who don’t have to be there all the time, but always treat you with respect and care.

She knows exactly how much pain she is causing by ignoring, or ‘ghosting’ you. It is cowardly, disrespectful, and often brutal for the person left behind. 

Know that this is not your problem, but hers, that women who disappear rather than trying to work it out, are not the kind of women you want to have as close friends.

You can’t force her to respond, nor should you; stop messaging her and do your best to move on. 

If she is ready to discuss this at some point, she may be in touch, but until then, please know that you did the right thing, and that her ghosting is doing you an enormous favor.

I’ve had a couple of high-maintenance friendships in my time. I never knew when I would make a mistake – getting sick for their wedding day or big birthday, leaving a party too early, not saying the right thing – and would tiptoe around them on eggshells, dreading my next transgression. 

Until I realized that every time I thought about her, I felt exhausted. We are all too old to put with friendships that cause stress and upset. Interestingly, women who set the friendship bar too high for people to meet, tend to move through friends on a regular basis.

Her lack of compassion and forgiveness is showing you what kind of a friend she is to you. We all deserve to be surrounded by people who know that we are all juggling, that we may not talk about them but each of us is carrying a burden. 

When our friends can’t make important events, we don’t punish them with silence, but drop off soup, forgiveness and compassion.