Editor’s note: Writer’s answers do not reflect those of the Mitchell News-Journal and are not meant to replace medical or mental health care.
Dear Denise: I have been married for almost 10 years and I have a pretty good life. My children are grown, one is getting married soon and one is married and has provided me with a wonderful granddaughter. My family means the world to me.
The problem I am having is my marriage is devoid of any affection or romance. It has been this way almost from the beginning and has just gotten worse over the years. There is no intimacy between us, and if I try to initiate it I am just brushed away.
I have tried numerous times to talk to my husband about my needs, but he just becomes angry and defensive and it leads to an argument. I have begged him to go to a doctor to see if it is something medical, but he refuses.
He also refuses couple’s therapy. We don’t even hold hands or cuddle anymore. I feel as if we are roommates.
I don’t want to leave because I do love him, and he is a good provider and wonderful stepparent and grandfather. Am I wrong for wanting some affection as well? What can I do to get through to him?
Dear Reader: Affection and intimacy is a very important part of a relationship, and generally when things are not good in that department it is a sign there are some deeper issues.
Of course, there are some couples who spend their entire marriage as “just roommates” and that is fine … if both parties are OK with it.
If one party is not, resentment and other negative feelings are bound to arise. You say you have tried many times to talk to him about it. But my question is: how and when do you mention it? Do you try to talk about it when you are upset after being rejected? Do you use accusatory language when addressing the problem?
These are the sort of approaches that can quickly lead to a closing down and negative response from the person you are talking to. Choose a time when the two of you are alone, rested and at peace.
Start the conversation by saying you have something on your mind you need to talk about. Ask him to refrain from comments until you are finished, and then do the same for him. Use “I” statements.
For example, if you begin the conversation with something like, “You never pay any attention to me anymore” he will automatically feel attacked. And as most life forms, when we feel attacked we lash back or withdraw. To help keep him open and receptive say something such as, “I have been feeling lonely lately and I want to build more intimacy into our relationship.”
Also, it is important to approach the subject as a couple’s problem, not just his issue. Questions such as, “How can we work together to create more togetherness in our marriage?” work much better than giving him a laundry list of what he needs to fix. Using that “our problem” approach, continue to voice your desire to go to couples’ counseling.
If he continues to refuse, then it may be worthwhile for you to go alone to learn some new ways of dealing with his behaviors.
I wish you the best.
Denise Harrison is a Licensed Counselor in Spruce Pine. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call and leave a message at 828-467-0037. Submissions are anonymous.