I have been married for almost twenty years now, and have four beautiful children ranging in age from 15 to 5. I love my family dearly, but I no longer love my husband, “Fred”. I do not wish to break up our family with a divorce, but I no longer wish to have a physically intimate relationship with Fred. I have tried to explain this to my husband, but all he did was get angry and tell me that I needed counseling. He also informed me that he would not settle for a sexless marriage. I gave him permission to have an affair, so long as he doesn’t bring it home, but he refused; he said he doesn’t want just any woman, he wants me. He also refuses to consider divorce, and is constantly guilt tripping me into performing my “wifely duties”. I feel so worthless after this happens.
I have been screened for depression and other mental illnesses, as well as gynecological causes for my lack of desire for Fred. Fred is a wonderful father and a good provider and as great a friend as a person could want – but I no longer love him in a romantic way. I have spoken with a counselor on a few occasions, but we were unable to get very far. The counselor suggested I try to remember the love I felt for Fred when we first got married, but so much has changed since then – in our lives, and within ourselves.
At Fred’s request, I left my full-time job after our second child was born (80% of my income would have gone to child-care anyway) and have not worked professionally in over ten years, another reason I could not leave him. I have no support from my family, who has told me that vows taken before God are not to be broken, whatever the reason. I feel trapped and alone and I don’t know where else to turn! All of my friends seem so happy in their marriages, I feel like they would never understand what I am going through or how to offer help. When I am alone, I cuddle my cat Boots and cry in his fur, which gave me the idea of writing to you.
Not Alone But Lonely
Dear Not Alone But Lonely:
You describe your husband as an absolute prince – up until the point he guilt trips you into having sex when you would rather not, which leaves you feeling “worthless” afterwards. Surely your distress is obvious to your husband, yet he continues to put his physical desires before your mental health. I am probably going to get clobbered by every guy on the planet for saying this, but your husband needs to learn to control his urges!
I have a message for your husband that I would like you to deliver: guilt-tripping a woman into having sex is not going to succeed in making her feel closer to you; rather, it will increase the repulsion she feels towards you. Each time he pulls you close to him physically he is pushing you further and further away emotionally. I believe that marital counseling could do a world of good for your marriage, and for the way the two of you communicate with each other.
Marital love does not die overnight; loss of affection is a process that builds, constructed through changes in life (such as the addition of children); stresses not dealt with (such as the loss of one income and/or loss of fulfillment from career); and as you alluded to, the changes that occur within people. If we do not work to remain familiar with each other, we assume too much and in time wake up next to a spouse that has become a stranger.
In order to get your marriage back on track, you are going to have to be willing to put in the effort to see your husband as you once did, and he is going to have to do his part to win your heart all over again. I suggest that you start by dating again – that is, dating each other. Start by planning a coffee date and sharing all those awkward details about yourself that you would share on a first date; things you and your husband may have forgotten about each other. In short, get to know each other again. You might be surprised to discover how fun this is! Once you move past the having coffee stage, try for an evening out – dinner and dancing is always a good way to rekindle romance. Do not go into these dates expecting the night to end in physical intimacy, but work towards that eventual goal – just like you did when you were dating.
Putting your marriage back together is going to be a process, so do not expect things to turn perfect overnight. Build upon the things you learn about each other. If your husband mentions his favorite food, try to incorporate it into a meal; if you should mention your favorite pastime, he could plan a date revolving around it. Each of you must show the other that they are actually listening when you speak to them! I cannot guarantee that you will fall back in love with your husband, but I do know that it is easier to fall in love with someone who is “a wonderful father and a good provider and as great a friend as a person could want” than to try and find his replacement in another.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.