Marriage Maintenance

Parent Q&A

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  • Still Enjoy Your Husband?

    May 10, 2017

    My partner and I have been together for almost 15 years, we have one child. We have been to couples therapy on and off and working on our relationship for 4 years especially due to his anger issues and verbal abuse. Fortunately, he has worked on himself and has learned to control his anger and eliminate his abusive outbursts; he has really come around but it took a long time. Now, it's about rebuilding trust and intimacy in the relationship. He is pressuring me for sex but I don't feel ready to be intimate. Sex was never a solid thing to begin with for us and was even at times stressful as it was happening! I feel we should be connecting in other ways before sex can feel natural. I want to want to have sex. However, I can't stop thinking about the fact that we don't have a lot of fun together. I see other couples that do things together and seem to really enjoy each other. I'm not feelin' that. Life is more about the house, the finances, the schedules, the kid, etc. We have our own hobbies but not something we do that's just us. I've suggested activities but they are not received well or seem at all interesting to him. Most nights are spent with him in front of the TV and me behind a book-in different rooms. I've lost my compulsion to do nice things, plan dates - everything feels so forced, an effort, even contrived. We end up talking about the kid or work when out together. I feel our lives are boring, that HE is boring. Even when he's doing something he deems fun there's stress, negativity, bitching. I'm more likely to take things in stride. I've learned to do my own thing, cultivate relationships, give myself projects/goals to keep myself from going nuts. I just want to laugh, play, learn new things, grow.  Is this mid-life, house, raising child normalcy? How can I want to be sexual with someone that I don't see myself spending a day/afternoon with most of the time? Are we just in a rut? Have you felt this way and turned things around? If so, how? I would especially like to hear from folks who have suffered a betrayal in their relationship. I have to admit that years of verbal abuse has walled me off. So, I find this really difficult to overcome. 

    You are not alone- I often feel the same way and I have only been married 3.5 years. Maybe you should try therapy. You need to figure out how to bring the spark and romance back into your relationship. And your post is REALLY heavy duty! I would definitely talk to a professional about how you feel. 

    I think the sex thing can be kind of chicken-and-egg.  I think women want intimacy before sex but men find intimacy through sex.  Why not try having really regular sex for a month and see if other things improve, rather than waiting for other things to improve before having sex?  The worst that can happen is you have a bunch of sex and then you're back to where you are now. 

    If you don't have sex with your husband, he will leave you. Period. Don't wait until you "want" to have sex. Read "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands" before it is too late.

    My husband and I have between us 8 kids and we have been married 9 years May 24. So you have me beat at 15 years! But I have more kids and we are a blended family with exes. I have racist inlaws and my family is not supportive of him because he is not some kind of doctor or lawyer. At the moment we are making $50,000 supporting 7 people. Five kids at home now with a few with special needs. We've moved 7 times in 8 years. So I understand about finances and stress. We also homeschool. My husband will talk about anchors and nails and screw guns and I yawn and I talk about different homeschool curriculums  and he goes cross eyed. He likes politics and I do not. He likes to play drums and I don't play any musical instruments. He likes heavy metal and I like R and B. I watch Grey's Anatomy and he watches Bourne Identity or some kind action kill em movie. We never go on date nights. I think the whole marriage maybe 2-3 times? Lots of kiddus interupptus. We have had a few anger explosions on both our parts due to stress. 

    How do we keep it enriched? What keeps me going? I focus on what I like to do and I just do it and I invite him and if he wants to join me then fine and if not then that's fine too. I find out what he likes and set things up. He likes Settlers of Catan on the computer so I set up regular board game nights at our house so we are all playing board games ,his favorite plus we learn more. This allows us to interact with each other and with others as well. Our teens join us during the games. 

    When it comes to arguments: We walk away and take a break before we say anything we will later regret. I will literally tell him to drop me off at the nearest BART station so I can Bart home so the kids don't have to hear the arguing and either of us don't say anything we will later regret instead of us just sitting in the car driving home and arguing over something. If we are going through a rough patch he works more overtime to give us more space. 

    I have joined him with some of the TV shows or movies he likes and he has joined me with some of the moves and show I like. We make a deal. First show one of us picks and second show the other picks. If he plays his drum, I'll comment on the beat or sit and watch him play or rub his back. If he cooks a meal, more positive hugs and kisses. 

    Sex: My husband and I have never gone beyond a week without sex unless I had just given birth or on bed rest. I literally I have learned that he gets grumpy if he doesn't get it within three days. So I just automatically offer it before the three days are up and he's a happy bird. He's happy, I'm happy! For men, sex is like breathing. They just need it. So I have had sex where its like doing dishes and I'm taking care of business but then we have had sex where we have time and we are both relaxed and he wants to reciprocate what I have given him and its wonderful. I have never withheld sex just because I was anger, bitter or resentful. I think because I have never done that he is more apt to be less cranky and more helpful around the house for me. I ask him anything and he pretty much does it cause he has no reason to not to.   

    Communication: I pretty much bear all to him. I tell him everything. I'm an open book and he knows everything and I don't hid much from him except for a birthday or xmas present. So with that, show him this post you made. Start talking 

    I think that many (the majority of?) couples go through this struggle, at one point or another in the relationship... It sounds to me like your couples therapy helped in some major ways but not in others. When facing huge problems in my relationship with my husband, a friend recommended "Emotionally Focused Therapy" (EFT) to us, and I am so very glad she did. You can check out this website: to find therapists trained in EFT in your area. The method really focuses on emotions and at least for my husband and I, it's been quite effective at reviving (or even growing) our love and affection for each other. Many therapists are not super comfortable talking about sex, which is sad because it is such an important part of a relationship (whether we like it or not). So, another thing when picking your therapist, is to ask how comfortable they are with that topic. I may be wrong but it seems that you may first need to reconnect with your own desire for life and doing fun things - perhaps the rest will follow more easily. Good luck! 

    Kinda scary-you have described tthe state of my marriage. After 10 plus years together, I kind of gave up trying to connect with my husband. Stopped the couples therapy, the bargaining, the occasional angry outburst-and most of all I gave up the seething resentment. It was killing me and it certainly didn't help the kids or our homelife.

    So I gave up all expectations of him or for the marriage I never had. Yes, I get lonely, but the anger and inner turmoil are gone now. 

    Yes, we're still married and TV companions of sorts. But we have drifted apart, and if it weren't for the kids, we would go our separate ways. I will concede some kind of sexual activity very sporadically and only if he asks nicely. But I do not pretend to be attracted to him anymore.

    I believe your husband bought into the idea that if he changed, then your marriage would be all better. But it doesn't work that way. Every so often my husband will make a half assed effort to take an interest in me or do his part around the house. I've realized that it doesn't really matter what he does. I do not love him anymore, and frankly, don't like him much as a person. But he can be a reasonably good father when he rallies snd it's better for the kids if he is part of a nuclear family than his being absent both physically and emotionally. 

    At some point we will go our separate ways, but not for another 15 years or so. Can't afford it and know that single parenting multiple small children would harm all of us more than the ache of  my living in an empty marriage.

    All I can say is it gets better if you both just accept what you have right now and try it on for size. Figure out what you might be comfortable doing sexually and  when he initiates, offer it up. Just don't fake your end of it.

    if it is any consolation, I hear if you just hang in there, marital happiness goes back up in the long term. Best of luck!

    It sounds like you are not in love with your husband and that in fact that you don't even like your husband anymore. Which is perfectly understandable given that you have been in what sounds like an abusive relationship for a very long time. It's great that he has worked on himself and no longer vents his anger at you but there's no reason this should have led directly to you feeling close and wanting to have sex with him. If it were just trust and intimacy that needed work I think things would sound much better than you are describing. But you are with someone who you find "boring" and who creates "stress, negativity, bitching" even when doing something fun. 

    I would suggest letting yourself off-the-hook about needing to want to have sex right now and don't allow him to pressure you into it (just another kind of abuse in my opinion.) You're not going to want to have sex until/unless he becomes someone you actually like being with. Maybe try couples counseling again with a focus on figuring out how to enjoy each other's company.

    Congratulations on the continued work you and your husband have put into your relationship!  It is great that he has worked on his anger issues.  My hubby and I went through a situation that damaged the trust in our relationship and were lucky to find an amazing couples counselor.   Part of the counselor's homework was for us to go on a date every week. We had to alternate organizing it, and whatever we organized had to be something that the other person would enjoy.  Over about 6 months we did all sorts of fun dates. Between the dates and the babysitters, though, it was costly, but it was what we needed--to be together doing something new and interesting. Getting to places we had never been to before.  Exploring together.  It sounds like you two need to experience new things together and explore. Because of finances, we couldn't keep it up so we transitioned to at home dates after the kids were in bed.  Sitting on the couch rubbing each other's feet, watching a movie together, playing a game/cards, drinking a beer on the back porch.

    Now to sex -- Sex is SOOOOOO important in building intimacy and trust in a relationship.  When we went through our rough patch, I didn't want to be intimate with my husband because he had betrayed my trust.  He apologized which helped, and although I forgave him, it didn't fill that hurt part inside of me.  But I felt that it would help us bond and bring us closer together--which it did.  It wasn't great sex for awhile while we worked things out, but between the counseling, spending time together AND having regular sex, our relationship is better than before.  

    Another thing that helped our relationship was for me to be more demonstrative in a positive way (I am great at pointing out the problems/shortcomings/etc.) -- in regular life and during/after sex.  And because of how I was raised, for a long time, I didn't think that people were interested in what I had to say so thoughts would bump around inside my head.  I've learned to say what I was thinking before (and to not be critical as much), "Thank you for....", "That was amazing!", "It felt so good when you did...", "I really appreciate that..."

    Best of luck in your journey! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Revitalizing marriage

November 2002

I'd like some advice about saving my marriage. Not just saving, but revitalizing it.

We've had the usual rough spots that hit couples with young children -- stress from jobs, money, arguing over parenting, chores, child rearing issues, sex, sleep, etc. Seen most of it in the advice pages over the years. For us, disagreements that used to be aired and then over with often now feel like deal we just can't go on like this. We also seem to have less in common. Our interests and inclinations are going in different directions.

I know we love each other, but at times it feels like we have less and less in common. I don't want to wake up 10 years and realize that after the kids move out, there's nothing keeping us together. We are in couples counseling, which has helped enormously, but it's still just plain hard at times.

There's lots in the advice pages about divorce, but not much about reinvesting in your marriage. I want not just to have a ''good enough'' marriage, but actually fall in love again. Is it possible? I guess I just am looking for some words of hope, as well as some advice about how to go about doing this.

Through a confluence of events too lengthy to describe here, I attended a ''marriage preparation'' session recently even though I've been married for about 8 years now. Part of it had to do with keeping the romance in your marriage, which tips I am pleased to share with you. Do little unexpected things for your mate - make a favorite meal, send a note, give flowers, a back rub, tell him/her to take a couple of hours ''off'' on the weekend to do something he/she enjoys (guilt-free). Mini-dates to the coffee shop (if you don't have time for real ones). Try to learn one new thing about your spouse - don't act or think that you know everything there is to know about them, but treat them like a new (and interesting!) person. In short, act like a newly-in- love person, and it will help you to feel that way. Good luck! Fran
My husband and I went through a bad period about ten years ago where we fell out of love and things looked kind of hopeless. But we really wanted to make the marriage work. What we did was make lists of the things we loved/liked about each other, and agreed to think about those good things, and not to dwell on the things we didn't like about each other. Everybody has faults, but they also have good points. By following this simple procedure of thinking good things, we fell in love again and are very happily married with two great children, and have survived the stresses of parenthood and illness.

So it can happen! We are coming up on our twentieth anniversary and still hold hands, send each other little notes of love during the day, and look forward to talking and cuddling at night. My husband and I have very different interests, but we support and listen to each other's interests even if we're not totally enthralled. Here's a quote we use to remind ourselves: ''Love must be made and remade each day, like bread.'' In other words, building a loving relationship takes work, daily work and attention. You don't just find that perfectly compatible person and coast along.

Good luck! Rebuilding your relationship is worth it (assuming he is not abusive). You have all that history together, the times you loved each other. It is worth preserving that. Besides, if you jump ship now to look for someone else, how do you know it won't happen again? We are so happy together now, and I have a feeling that if I had left him ten years ago, I would be thinking about leaving the new person again today. In love again

Your message certainly resonated with me, and I'm sure with many (most?) others on this list.

I don't have the solution, but one thing I've found is that if I behave outwardly with more affection to my mate (consciously making an effort to touch, kiss etc), I actually feel more affectionate to him. And he of course responds in kind. I think the risk is in becoming isolated from each other--of not finding solace in each other, but seeking solace away from each other. So I am trying to be mindful of our togetherness, and reinforce our connection physically and emotionally. good luck Anonymous

Everything you say sounds familiar. You might check out a book called Passionate Marriage. I've forgotten the author's name. A lot of it is about sex, which may or may not be part of what you are dealing with. What I found really great in this book was the message that marriages are strengthened by going through just this sort of period you're talking about, and that in fact, few marriages will survive *without* this kind of mid-term crisis. I know many people who have found this book a real eye-opener. I hope it will help you. I look forwarding to reading the advice that others give. anon
I HIGHLY recommend ''The Passionate Marriage'' by Dr. David Schnarch, if you want inspirational words of hope AND practical advice. Dr. Schnarch has been a marriage and sex counselor for over 20 years and his approach is NOT the same old thing that people get from typical marriage counseling, as far as I can tell. This book has been very inspirational to me and makes a LOT of sense. Please pick it up and see if you agree. Best of luck. ~Alesia
When you've been married for a while, little things that get between you accumulate. And then you have a huge wall separating you, which a brick at a time, didn't seem like much. In little ways you have each given up on the other, whether it's the ability to trust or something you'd wanted in a marriage but it hasn't happened that way or you're just disappointed, angry or sad. So, the wall is a shelter too, and each person increasingly begins to follow separate interests, because separate activities compensate for what the marriage fails to give you.

Certainly, people keep going, wall intact, as my parents have. Or one person turns outside the marriage for what they need and has an affair. Or one person seals off the wall utterly and demands a divorce.

If you want to revitalize your marriage, make the decision *together* to not ''settle'' for what you have. Take the plunge, be ready to have your heart broken, and attack that wall. It's good you're going to a counselor. Marriage counseling can be a safe place to start this process, since you'll probably discuss how you've hurt each other deeply, and it's painful to take responsibility for that.

I feel shy about discussing my own marriage, about getting into specifics and away from metaphors, but I've found success by figuring out where I disappoint my husband, and then working on that thing. Often I'm initially met with skepticism, then cautious acceptance, and then surprised pleasure: Yes, I am actually going to stay awake with you as promised after the kids have gone to sleep, and watch the movie we rented. Yes, I am going to do the errands I offered to do, and not gripe like a martyr afterwards. And for your part, keep an open heart about his/her attempts to do the same, and accept and trust those efforts. Continue to commit to getting through to each other, even when it seems you've made progress.

My husband and I tell each other whenever a friend says we have a great marriage or somesuch, and we just laugh. I guess it must look easy from the outside, because in here, it's very tough. If you're not pulling down that wall, you're letting it get higher. It's so hard and so worth it. Take courage - falling in love again can happen. anon

My advice: if you really love each other and aren't just ''attached'' then besides counseling, maybe you could try to have some fun together. This sounds silly perhaps but I advise you to play hide-n-seek, tag, go sledding on the same sled (wear helmets), play at a park, skate together, jump on the bed together, anything that seems ridiculous and childish that might make you laugh. Do something adventurous together. Write each other love notes. Remind each other about funny and happy times in your past. Do something together regularly - community service work or take a class together (stimulates conversation about something other than kids and you will have something in common). Dress up in your sexiest clothes for dates or just at home. Go dancing regularly or learn to dance together in a class. Talk about your personal dreams (big, small, abandoned) and brainstorm together about how to achieve them, then help each other work toward the goals. anonymous
I am in the same boat, and couples counseling has been good but there is just too much time between sessions where we just don't work on anything. At the recommendation of our therapist, I am reading a great book called Getting the Love You Want, by Harville Hendrix. It is really helpful and I am feeling much more hopeful already. I bought it on Amazon, used (excellent condition) for less than half the cover price ($14). I highly recommend it! Even if only you read it (I don't see my husband actually sitting down and reading it, but I am summarizing it for him as I go)--it's worth it! The last section is exercises, so at that point both people become involved even if only one has actually read the book. Best of luck to you! anonymous
The things that have best held my otherwise rocky marriage together and kept the love alive are continually letting each other know we are on the same team, just acting loving even when we feel plenty of reason not to, and both trying to give what the other wants first instead of trying to get what we each want for ourselves first. These are the things we both strive for whenever we can remember, and both acknowledge are the most important every now and then when we can see past whatever else is usually in the way. Best wishes. Anonymous
My heart goes out to you to find the flames missing in your marriage. I feel that I am in a similar situation in feeling like my husband and I are having less in common. What helped is trying to make some time together and doing something fun and putting that huge task of parenting aside and remembering why we came together. I made a deal with him that I would be willing to do something of his interest if he would share something of my interest. While the results aren't always ideal, we have appreciated each other more. anon