Jean Fitzpatrick thinks so and offers a GMP reader some advice on first steps.
My husband and I were incredibly intimate right from the beginning. I didn’t notice it at the time because I was so high on “love” but I initiated sex every time -and the sex was amazing! Well, a few months into our relationship I started having some weird health issues that made sex not so enticing for me so we laid off for a while and I think this angered him, though he never said so.___We continued on with our relationship, I moved in, and we got married. We never really go back into the swing of our exciting sex life as it was before but we were still enjoying ourselves pretty regularly. Then came another health problem that made it impossible for me to have sex for at least 2 weeks every month. This made him apprehensive to ever approach the subject of sex because he got refused so many times due to the pain I was experiencing. I understand. I get it. No one likes rejection.___It was pretty awful for both of us. We only had sex like 2 times in a year. We started fighting a ton and it got so bad I started packing. That’s when he decided that he would start making some changes. However, we have continued to fight and have only had sex once in the past 2 years.I guess I’m wondering if all of this (lack of sex, poor communication, too many misunderstandings) is something that can be overcome with a lot of hard work or if we should just give up. Neither of us WANTS to give up, really, but I for one don’t want to spend my whole life in a sexless, romance-less, incompatible marriage. I want companionship without having to fight nearly every time we speak. I want respect. I want to respect who I’m with. I want to feel loved. I want intimacy. All of which I lack in my marriage’s current state.
Not much sex and lots of arguing, and you are wondering whether you should give up on your marriage. From the sound of it, both you and your husband are feeling terribly lonely. You’ve been through a tough time. So much stress! The good news is you’re both making efforts to reconnect. You need to learn and practice some better ways to do that.
It is a bleak time, but most marriages have their bleak times. Most couples move from a “honeymoon phase” of dizzying closeness to the dismaying discovery that their spouse is not the person they thought they married. And few parents of young children have spectacular sex lives. You are not alone. Life can get better.
In order to create change, you both need to shift your thinking. Rather than each of you wondering, “Will my partner understand me in this conversation?” which is leading you to hurt and defensiveness, both of you need to focus on “What can I do to help this conversation become a building-block in a stronger relationship?” Your commitment to nurturing the relationship needs to be greater than your desire to win individual skirmishes.
Take sex off the table for now — too much pressure — and devote time and energy to simple rituals of connection. Take a walk, enjoy a simple meal with a candle on the table, cuddle with music. Avoid arguing or talking about your relationship during these times. Just enjoy the moment.
See if you can zero in on something positive about each other at least once a day, and say it out loud. Be specific — “Thanks for shoveling the snow out of the driveway” or “That green sweater looks great with your eyes” — and avoid left-handed compliments that include past disappointments Sharing appreciation is a powerful tool in rebuilding good will.
Am I suggesting you sweep all your problems under the rug? Far from it. But in order to talk about tough stuff, you need to work together to create an atmosphere of emotional safety and caring. I often describe to to couples as a “cushion of caring” that can hold those difficult conversations. Creating that cushion is your first step toward the relationship you want.
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Photo: Holly Lay/Flickr