First, because sex is such a sensitive topic for most people, it will help—at least initially—to focus on the broader dynamic between you and your husband. You say that you have a “happy” and “supportive” marriage, but imagine for a second that the impasse was about something else significant in a relationship—tensions arising from, say, money, health, boundaries, addiction, or children. The topic is less important than the fact that you’re saying that you’re suffering greatly, and that your husband won’t discuss your concerns. Sex or no sex, that’s a significant problem.
Given this broader issue, you can shift your approach from trying to change his behavior (whether he’ll have sex) to trying to strengthen your marriage. My hunch is that despite the positive aspects of your marriage that you describe in your letter, you’re both suffering deeply in different ways. You, of course, are feeling grossly neglected. Your husband, meanwhile, is probably struggling with something so painful or humiliating that he can’t bring himself to deal with it.
There are many factors that might be affecting his sex drive—an undiagnosed medical condition, a side effect of a medication, a hormonal imbalance, stress, depression, low self-esteem, trauma, or even problems in your marriage that he hasn’t brought up. Sometimes, too, a specific change lessens desire—like an emotional issue related to pregnancy or parenthood. (If, for instance, your sex life was good before having kids, perhaps he’s had trouble seeing you as both a mother and a romantic partner.) There are also causes of sexless marriages that have nothing to do with sex drive (having a porn addiction, secretly preferring a partner of another gender, having an affair but not wanting to leave the marriage).
Whatever the reason, your husband is probably carrying a heavy burden—and in his own way, he probably feels as alone in his pain as you do. It’s less likely that your husband has no interest in sex (at least, in theory), and more likely that he has no interest in opening what to him might feel like a Pandora’s box.
So back to the broader issue, which is something you can talk to him about. When doing so, try approaching him from a place of curiosity rather than blame. Instead of saying, “I need us to have sex again”—a demand that makes it seem as if he’s the problem—you can say something like, “I don’t want us to have so much conflict around sex, and I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m nagging you. I just want you to know that I miss feeling close to you, and not just physically. On the one hand, we’re such good friends, and on the other, I feel like there’s a lot we don’t know about each other. Can we talk about what’s going on between us?”
In response, he may say, “Nothing’s going on,” but rather than let that be the end of the conversation (as I imagine you’ve both done in the past), you can say, “Something is going on between us if we’re not able to talk about the ways we’re not connecting. I don’t need you to have sex with me right now, but I do need you to be my partner and talk to me.” Let him know that you’re asking for a conversation because you love him and want your marriage to work. Finally, tell him that if he doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you quite yet, you’re willing to help in any way possible to find a place where he does feel comfortable. This establishes that you two are a team, and is different from what sounds like a pattern of “negotiating” or “suggesting” to no avail. Here, you’re being vulnerable and compassionate, but direct: This is about how we relate to each other and get through difficulties as a couple. If we can’t work through tough things together—whether that’s sex or anything else—I don’t think we’re going to last.