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My husband makes promises to me, but then doesn’t follow through. He has had erectile dysfunction for four years now. He has slept in his recliner the last three years. I’m ready to throw in the towel. This is my third marriage. I’m 53 years old. What do I do?Getty Images/iStockphoto

The question

My husband makes promises to me, but then doesn't follow through. This includes both big and small things. I talk to him about it, and his reply is always something like: "I'll do it next week." But then it just never happens. He has had erectile dysfunction for four years now. I talked him into going to the doctor, who referred us to another. We went, but now he will not comply with any of the recommended treatments, including testosterone replacement therapy. He has slept in his recliner the last three years. I'm ready to throw in the towel. This is my third marriage. I'm 53 years old.

The answer

I've always felt it's an underrated but nevertheless extremely important quality in a person that they do what they say they're going to do.

I'm lucky. I'm married to someone for whom this is a natural, inborn virtue. If she says "I'll pick up milk on the way home," I know next time I open the refrigerator, boom: there will sit a bag of milk.

And I don't have to think about it, see? I wish I could say I was perfect on this score, but I'm training myself every day to be better about it.

I'm also trying to instill this virtue in my teenage boys.

It can be tough with teens, though. I'll be like: "Hey, could you walk dog/unload dishwasher?" They'll be like: "Sure, dad, I'll just take a quick nap first." Time will pass, the task will be forgotten, and I'll have to ask again.

Might sound minor, but minor things can add up and make you tired right down to your soul. As you have discovered.

Your husband has to stop acting like a superannuated teenaged boy.

Nagging won't solve it and anyway is unfair to you. The worse news is – in my observation, anyway – it's when your spouse stops nagging you about something that a marriage hits a patch of ice. When you say to yourself: "He'll never change." That's when you start to gird yourself, as you put it, "to throw in the towel."

Sounds like you're at that point – that crossroads. That you've already mentally packed his bags and imagined a crane picking him up in his recliner and depositing him in a fleabag room with a neon sign outside the window with one letter burnt out: HOT-zzt!-L, HOT-zzt!-L. But I want you to give your La-Z-Boy of a husband one last chance. Sit him up straight in his recliner, pry the remote from his warm, still-living hand, look him right in the peepers and say:

"Listen, buddy boy, I am beyond sick and tired of nagging you. I want you to get your sorry ass out of that recliner and start moving around and doing the things you say you're going to do, not for my sake but for yours – but also for your sake because if you don't I'm leaving you."

Hopefully, it'll be the wake-up call he needs to spring out of his recliner and start becoming a more active and engaged participant, not just in your marriage, but in his own life.

Because you don't mention how old he is, but at 53 you're way too young for any of this. Maybe if you'd told me when I was, say, 20, that someone was 53, I would've pictured a little old lady who was well past caring about anything, let alone sex.

But now? All the people I know in that age-frame are vigorous, engaged and (so it would seem, anyway) quite lusty.

I want that for your husband. This online exercise program has one of the oddest descriptions of death I've heard: "That one last squat you just can't do." Sounds like a joke, I know, but it's really stuck with me. Obviously, it means stay active until the end.

Or in Dylan Thomas's more poetic formulation: "Do not go gentle into that good night." Your husband's got to spring out of that recliner and start doing squats and push-ups and popping his boner pills and getting busy in the bedroom and outside it.

Maybe the pills won't work. But, correct me if I'm wrong, I bet your mood will improve if you just see him trying.

Also – I hate to say this, I've always felt it's the ultimate cop-out for advice columnists, but in this case I think necessary – it may be he needs to seek psychological counselling. If he's really been sleeping in a recliner for three years, he may be seriously depressed, maybe about his E.D.

But he should do it without much prodding – make the appointment himself and go under his own steam – for reasons mentioned above.

And for your part, maybe go with him, just to show you're trying, too.

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