Lack of affection in marriage

Psychologist’s Reply

While it’s not possible to make a completely accurate assessment of your situation or to give you direct advice, there are some things that stand out in your concerns that are worthy of comment.

It’s not uncommon, especially for women, to express concerns that their husbands are not being as emotionally available, expressive, or affectionate as they would like them to be. But take heart. There are some things you can do.

You indicate that this is a good man who really does care for you and your children. You also indicate that he does respond (either with regret or with temporary change) when you express your needs to him. What seems to be bothering you most is that he doesn’t take the initiative to more often display affection and emotional sensitivity. You want him to be more attentive and responsive and you want it to be HIS idea to be emotionally engaged. But he comes from a family where that kind of emotionality was not present and you realized early on that it’s not his nature to be as affectionate as you’d like.

What to do? You could wallow in resentment that he only responds to you when you tell him what you need. That way, you could become increasingly unhappy with the person he is and spend your days in growing discontent and unhappiness. Or, you could rejoice in the notion that this man cares enough about you to respond to what you tell him you need, even if it’s only temporary. You could even pick up the pace a bit, telling him when you need a little romance, scheduling a date, expressing interest in sex only when he’s shown some attentiveness and affection beforehand, etc. In time, perhaps he will get the picture. But because he’s not used to it, and because it’s not instilled in him already, it will take time to help him learn.

In the meantime, you’ve learned a valuable lesson about the behavioral “formulas” for depression and joy. Keep yearning for something you haven’t the power to make happen (wishing your husband was raised differently and was affectionate by nature), and you’ll get depressed. The formula for joy is just the opposite: Invest your energy in what you have power over — your own behavior. You have the power to take care of yourself by telling your husband what you need. Once you’re at peace with the idea of making joy instead of misery, you can bask in the happiness of knowing that you are married to a man who despite his upbringing is willing to make the effort when you tell him what you need.

My Husband Only Shows Me Affection When He Wants Sex: My Husband Only Shows Affection During Sex

‘Help me save my marriage today. How to know if I should get back together after a split?’ This question is probably hounding you every night after separating from your spouse. I cannot help you answer this question, because no one can help you decide your happiness but yourself. However, what I can do is to guide you through this 3 stage decision making process so that you can make an informed decision on whether to move back in with your spouse.

Stage #1: Have a ‘planned’ separation

Married couples separate in hope to see if they have a future together. In fact, they do want to get back together but they need a good enough reason to do so. So, to prevent further conflicts and resentment towards your spouse, you must have a ‘planned’ separation.

This means that both of you have to agree on terms like; when to visit the children, financial agreements and basically all other aspects of the separation. Most importantly, if you want to save your marriage, it is crucial to let your partner know that the separation isn’t the end of your marriage. It might seem like a matter of fact but it is always best to make things clear.
Communicate with each other about your plans and make sure both of you stick to them.

Stage #2: Emotional Work

This is an excellent time to work on your emotions. With time apart from your spouse, spend quality time for yourself. Sort out the negative and positive feelings you have towards your marriage and pen them down. Now that you have that list of negative and positive feelings, first appreciate the good things about your marriage. Focus on those positives and amplify them to get your mind back into the ‘sane region’ before you proceed to do anything else.

Do not make a hasty decision just as yet. You also have to review those negative feelings about your marriage and work them out yourself or make plans to discuss it with your partner. You have to discuss the negatives too because if you rush back into your marriage before settling these issues, they are bound to resurface and cause your marriage to fall back into crisis.

Stage #3: Evaluation

After going through stage #1 and #2, it is time to evaluate your feelings honestly. Within these few months apart from each other, you are bound to have a clear or at least clearer picture on whether to stay together or separate. It is good to wait till the separation period is over before making a decision.

If you decide to get back together, make sure that the main issue that caused the separation is resolved. Otherwise, you will definitely have to go through stages #1 — #3 once again.

If you think that getting back with each other will only result in more heartaches and disagreements, then it is best to trust your feelings and go ahead with the divorce. On the other hand, if you decide to continue the marriage, make sure both of you have a good foundation for a healthy and new relationship.

If you are still unable to decide, what you can do is to spend more time together before moving back with each other. Go on dates and meet up for short meals to let yourself have a clear mind on whether you should continue your marriage or file for a divorce. Ask yourself, ‘Should I save my marriage from divorce?’ and decide the answer that will make you happy.

Most importantly, nothing is perfect. We can only work towards having an ideal marriage but there are bound to be problems that will surface.

Couples can love one another and yet find themselves drifting apart and headed for a divorce. There are steps you can take, with or without the aid of your spouse to get your marriage back into the loving place it once was. to save your marriage and rebuild it into a more connected, satisfying relationship.

Divorce does not have to be your only option. Even if it feels as though your relationship can’t be saved because of the ongoing conflicts between you and your spouse, it can be. There are techniques that you can begin using today that will not only stop a divorce, but will help also you build a stronger and more loving marriage. To learn more visit:

Do you have a unique situation? Discuss your marriage problems on our forum. We can help you find a great loving relationship! Go to:

I see why you feel like you’re putting more effort into the relationship than he is, but I’m not sure that your boyfriend would agree. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to try to become a person you’re not, which is essentially what you’re asking of him. If I asked him what it was like to be your boyfriend, I’ll bet he’d reply with some version of, “I love her deeply, but I can’t seem to please her. Even when I do, a day or week later, she’ll be disappointed with me again.” From his perspective (and yours as well), he’s putting a lot into your relationship—his free expressions of love, his commitment and reliability, his quiet ways of taking care of you, his attempts to offer support for your struggles—but instead of letting any of that fill you up, it drains right out, as if his love were going into a colander rather than a bowl.

You might also consider: It’s hard to be romantic on command. It’s hard to be demonstrative when you’re walking on eggshells, wondering every time if your efforts will be met with approval or criticism. It’s hard to love someone who can’t always take it in. In these ways, he’s expending a tremendous amount of energy. And despite how hard that is, he’s still choosing to be with you because he sees something wonderful in you. Some might call that romantic.

Just as therapists will suggest to couples, “Before you say that you don’t feel heard, it will help to consider how well you listen,” I would suggest that before you say that you don’t feel loved in the way you want, it will help you to consider how well you’re loving your boyfriend in the way he wants. Are you showing appreciation not just for what he does for you, but for who he is? Do you communicate your delight in him in ways that matter to him and not in ways that you prefer affection to be shown? Nobody enjoys being with a partner who’s thinking, You’d be perfect for me, if only you …

You might also think back to earlier relationships and whether you’ve felt a similar sense of dissatisfaction with your previous partners. Maybe these boyfriends, too, couldn’t seem to satisfy your ideas of romance. Or maybe they were sufficiently demonstrative and romantic, but left you feeling disappointed in other key ways. If there’s a pattern, it’s worth paying attention to. Or perhaps this is your first serious relationship, and you have certain ideas about love and romance—partly from the culture, partly from whatever you experienced or witnessed in your family growing up—that have left you with a void you aren’t aware of but that you expect a partner to fill.

At this point, you have a wonderful opportunity—to learn more about this void. You may find that by exploring this, you’ll see your boyfriend through a different lens, or you may ultimately decide that you two aren’t indeed compatible. But whatever you learn about yourself in this process will help you to feel less depressed, anxious, and lonely—both independently and with any partner you choose.

Dear Therapist is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a letter, you are agreeing to let The Atlantic use it—in part or in full—and we may edit it for length and/or clarity.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to [email protected]

Lori Gottlieb is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a psychotherapist based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone. Connect Facebook Twitter

Husband or Wife Not Affectionate – How to Deal with a Lack of Affection in Your Relationship!

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It is available as a 10-week online course with full support from me, 1 to 1 online or in person consulting and in 5-star marriage retreats. Designed to keep your marriage happy.

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Three Surprisingly Common Marriage Mistakes that Lead to Divorce

You’ve heard of cheating and fighting leading to divorce, but what about selflessness and lack of hugs? Behaviors such as cheating and fighting are the manifestation of deeper behavior patterns that undermine marriages. These three common marriage mistakes are at the root of what make many unions fizzle:

1. Altruism

Altruism, also known as selflessness or even self-sacrifice, sounds like a good thing in a relationship. It’s comforting to know that your partner would do anything to protect or help you, and you would do the same for him or her. Unfortunately, outside of the occasional emergency situation, altruism is a damaging habit. The happiest and most enjoyable marriages are ones in which both spouses feel that their concerns, desires and needs are met and valued. You and your spouse should feel that each of you has power and significance in the marriage. Altruistic behavior denies that importance. Over time, constantly suppressing your desires and needs for those of your spouse can lead to a disorder of power in the relationship, which, even if voluntary, can lead to depression and resentment.

Avoid this marriage pitfall by speaking up. Make your preferences and needs known to your spouse, even if you think the matter isn’t a big deal. Want Italian for dinner when your spouse wants Chinese? Say so! Just remember to speak your mind pleasantly and tactfully. And make sure you have the marriage skills to turn the occasional difference of opinion into a discussion rather than an argument.

2. Negativity

Negativity is the number one contributor to an unpleasant environment that can eventually erode the whole marriage. Negativity includes small gestures such eye rolling, out of place humor, sarcasm, and signs of frustration, as well as more obvious negative comments such as disparaging your spouse’s opinion, mocking, and insults. Every piece of negativity, big or small, can have an enormous impact on the climate in your marriage. Negativity breaks down the trust you have for your partner to be a loving and supportive haven from the world’s challenges. It makes you not want to be around each other. It can also instantly trigger arguments.

Monitor yourself carefully for negative body language and speech patterns and try to eliminate them completely. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get frustrated or upset at something your spouse has done. Simply tell him or her about your feelings using, calm, neutral language. Focus on yourself by using the phrase “When you … I feel …” instead of inviting defensiveness with you-statements. Also explain to your spouse how much it hurts when he or she uses negativity towards you.

3. Loss of non-sexual intimacy

Since physical intimacy depends on feeling comfortable with your partner, physical affection is one of the first victims of rampant negativity in a marriage. This is unfortunate because physical affection is the glue of marriages. Loss of physical intimacy can precipitate the loss of emotional intimacy, increasing distance in a relationship, sexual affairs, and finally divorce.

Physical affection means much more than sex. It means, cuddling, hugs, kissing, holding hands, a gentle squeeze on the shoulder or stroking an arm. New couples display this non-sexual intimacy constantly and it signals that they are attracted to and interested in each other. In addition, researchers have found that non-sexual intimacy is a significant contributor to long-term marital happiness. This warm, positive, skin-to-skin contact releases the same bonding chemicals in your brain as sex. While a marriage may be fine without sexual intercourse (as long as both spouses are on the same page about it), it will likely struggle mightily without any physical intimacy.

The homework to remedy this marriage problem is easy: set the goal of touching your spouse in a positive way ten times daily. Then increase that frequency! Adding non-sexual intimacy to your marriage is a more low-pressure goal than initiating sex. And since regular physical contact can make you both more receptive to sensual experiences, it can by a good way for a sexless marriage to ease into more frequent sex.

Have you noticed any of these common marriage mistakes in your marriage or new relationship? Not to worry. In fact, noticing them is the first step in fixing them and building the foundation for a strong, happy future together. It is never to late to start your happily-ever-after.

Naomi is the editor and blogger for the Power of Two Marriage blog, a project of Power of Two Marriage Online. This online marriage counseling and coaching program focuses on teaching scientifically-backed skills couples need to stop fighting and build trust, intimacy and love.

How Come My Husband Isn’t Affectionate Anymore?

When you’ve come to the realization that there’s a problem in your relationship and think, “my husband isn’t affectionate anymore,” it may seem like it happened all of a sudden. Most likely, however, the affection has been disappearing slowly for quite a while.

Relationships rarely change overnight — they change slowly over time. This slow change, rather than sudden, can make it very hard to see it happening. Physical intimacy like daily kisses turn into every few days, hugs happen only when forced, and even sex becomes less and less regular. Most of the time wives don’t notice that their husband isn’t affectionate anymore until the caring is really, really gone.

How The Affection Can Disappear

Sometimes we have a sense that things aren’t quite right, but with the busyness of life we often don’t pause long enough to really think about it. There’s also a part of us that doesn’t really want to know or face the painful reality that the affection from our partner is gone. After all, if it’s true, what does that mean for the future of our relationship?

Despite how hard and painful it can be, at some point we have to look back and realize things are different. Sadly this reflection is often forced on us by a traumatic event, such as discovering text messages to another woman on his phone, or porn sites on his laptop, or that he’s hiding getting drunk (all real-life examples of problems from my marriage counseling). Only then do we start to recognize we don’t have sex as frequently as we used to, or he never touches you any more, or you can’t remember the last time he said anything nice about you.

Here’s a letter from a wife who’s starting to become aware of the changes in the affection from her husband:

I’m so confused… my husband isn’t affectionate towards me anymore… he cares for me like he cares for his family, but does not love me… He is always happy when he goes out with his friends, but when he goes out with me he always says “lets go home,” “I’m tired” or keeps watching the time and I never see a single genuine smile at me. At night, he always wakes up for his friends or for his work for ungodly hours, but when he is free he always sleeps late. He doesn’t want to just sit and talk to me, or cuddle with me and sleep together. Our sex life is also nonexistent. Why isn’t my husband affectionate? I don’t know whether its true or not, but I think he doesn’t love me. I don’t know what I did wrong. How can I make it right because I want this marriage to work? I love him and I cant live without him” –Therese

Why Your Husband Isn’t Affectionate Anymore

There can be many reasons why Therese’s husband isn’t affectionate anymore and not all of them are bad or are solely about him. Relationships naturally move through stages. Moving out of the honeymoon stage when our partner and intimacy is all we can think about happens to everyone and is normal and okay.

Children and family can also be a big factor. When we have kids the affection lessens as the demands of childcare become consuming. Add to that work and household duties and suddenly time is at a premium, communication suffers, and the priority on affection disappears. Those work and financial stressors can also emotionally drain us and leave little left to give to our partner in the affection department. It’s easy for any of us to take the relationship and our partner for granted as other things demand our attention.

When a husband isn’t affectionate anymore wives have to be careful not to immediately put the fault all on him. It’s very possible that they’ve unintentionally contributed to his loss of interest. Common explanations I hear from men as to why they’re not interested in their partner, even sexually (while still liking and wanting to have sex), can be her:

  • Nagging
  • Demeaning comments and criticisms
  • Never being able to please her
  • Lack of attentiveness to her appearance

Attraction and physical affection go hand-in-hand, and in order to maintain that affection both partners need to care enough to take care of themselves and their appearance. It’s also possible that he’s showing you affection in different ways that you just don’t recognize.

There can also be some troubling reasons for the loss of affection that men are responsible for too:

  • The most common one women jump to is that he’s cheating, and that can certainly be a possibility. Maybe he’s not cheating yet, but interest in someone else can cause him to be distracted and stop showing affection for you. It’s important, however, not to jump to conclusions or hurl accusations that have no proof. If you suspect your husband is cheating there are signs beyond lack of affection, and you’ll need to find a way to address your concerns in a productive way.
  • He also could be watching porn. Unfortunately, if things are difficult in your relationship and the physical affection is missing, many men turn to porn as a way to find sexual satisfaction. This is a dangerous pathway for anyone to go down as porn will exacerbate current problems and create many more of it’s own.
  • Still other men may become obsessed with a hobby, such as gaming or golf.
  • Or other men, sadly, could be abusing alcohol or drugs.
  • It’s even true that many men are depressed and don’t know it and this can cause a loss of affection. All of these things can cause men to lose interest in their partners.

The good thing about realizing that your husband isn’t affectionate anymore is that it can be fixed. Any of the contributing causes above can be stopped, changed and the damage repaired. If you’ve lost the affection from your partner, don’t jump to the conclusion that the relationship must be dead, first focus on learning why and how you can change it.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published Jan 10, 2015 and has been updated with new information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Looking for More? Check Out These Articles

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  • Get More Help When the Love is Gone

‘I realised that my husband pressuring me for sex was actually abuse’

Sexual abuse in marriage

Sexual abuse in marriage is another form of intimate partner abuse that we don’t often talk about. When we think of domestic violence, the image is often one of physical violence. But we know now that abuse takes many forms. Physical, sexual, emotional and even financial. My guest today left an abusive marriage a year ago and shares her story of emotional and sexual abuse in her marriage.

Warning: this is a long post that details emotional abuse, threatening behaviour and sexual abuse that may be upsetting, confronting or triggering for some readers.


I never thought consent was anything but obvious. Yes or no. Simple. “Coercion” was something teenage boys did to try and pressure naïve virgins into sex. “Just say no!” we were taught again and again. I knew how it worked.

So, it came as a shock when I realised, around a month after I had left my husband, that he’d been having sex with me against my wishes for years.

Photo by Alex Boyd on Unsplash

Different appetites

There were imbalances in our sex drives from the beginning, but in the early days, it was me who had the unquenchable desire. I had a high sex drive and sometimes my husband would even berate me for “pressuring” him by wearing lingerie or initiating sex.

When our child was born, it shifted the other way: I was chronically sleep-deprived and would prioritise a nap over physical intimacy any day.

My husband had started a medication which increased his libido significantly. He told me that I’d become one of “those” wives who couldn’t be bothered, and while he pretended to be patient for a while, he made it clear that he felt entitled to be angry about it. He insinuated that I was letting our marriage down. I felt I owed it to him to do whatever I could to just get over my feelings and bend to his.

So, I made myself have sex with him. But the more I pushed through my resistance and ignored what my mind and body were telling me, the more I found myself resenting his touch. His mouth on mine would make me recoil, his fingertips brushing against my nipples – which used to give me a rush of pleasure – would make me feel physically ill.

Still believing it was simply a matter of sex drive, and always being one to seek and own my part in a problem, I tried maca powder, vitamin supplements, porn, role-play, ridiculously expensive vibrators – everything that Dr Google could recommend. I had my Mirena IUD removed and changed my medication (for postnatal depression). I even tried masturbating twice a day to try and kick-start my sexual appetite. But it was no good.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

I blamed myself

Eventually, I realised that that wasn’t low libido that was the issue anymore; it was a deep sense of being unsafe and powerless. Again, I blamed myself. My early childhood experience of that family friend, forcing his crooked, papery old man fingers into me when I was a preschooler. It was my past trauma, my problem, my responsibility.

My husband told me that he loved me so much and that my being “emotionally unavailable” caused him pain. He was suffering, and it was my fault. I went to counselling, psychotherapy, and hypnotherapy. I begged for his patience and apologised every day. There were promises that I made but didn’t think I could keep. In a desperate effort to make him happy, to keep myself protected from his frustration and rage, I started drinking to get through my fortnightly obligations.

I just couldn’t bear it

I could go down on him without too much distress. My mouth didn’t feel so intimate, and it would be over quickly. But when he wanted to be inside me, I couldn’t bear it. To be in my body, in my core, my most vulnerable space – I still shudder and physically contract just thinking about it.

He knew it meant more, and so he demanded it. I also had to be increasingly adventurous, risqué, willing to do whatever he wanted. I tried thinking about other men that I knew while he was inside me; men I wasn’t scared of, men who treated their partners with loving tenderness. I would close my eyes and imagine it was them inside me, that I had granted them permission to enter my body with a fierce and mutual passion, instead of control and entitlement.

It got worse

Every encounter was worse than the previous. Alcohol and fantasy couldn’t get me through it anymore. Each time I became more terrified of how I would get through the next without making him angry. As all women know, an aggressively entitled man who feels a sudden loss of control is extremely dangerous.

He knew that I wasn’t giving myself to him wholly no matter how much I performed. Passivity didn’t seem to satisfy him. I had to prove my desire and my devotion. He wanted me not only to have sex with him, but to enjoy it. And the more he wanted me to enjoy it, to behave the way he wanted me to, the harder it became to pretend – so the cycle continued.

Photo by David Cohen on Unsplash

The stress took a toll on me and the abuse worsened

I was working full-time and commuting over two hours a day. Add to this that I was still the primary carer for our two-year-old, doing most of the housework and living away from the support of family and friends. The stress I was under began to manifest itself in a way I couldn’t ignore: I began having severe vertigo and couldn’t get out of bed.

One day, my husband had to drive me to the doctor and took the opportunity to kick me while I was down. During an innocuous conversation about pot plants, he thought I’d said something in a condescending way – of course, I never would have dared – and launched into me, screaming and raging as he sped around blind corners. I was curled up in a ball on the passenger seat, sobbing and begging for mercy. I told him, “I can’t deal with this right now, please, please, I can’t.” I remember him saying “You always blame me, but it’s you who’s the f**ked up one. Say you’re f**ked up. SAY IT.”

He broke me that day. I couldn’t handle my life, couldn’t be a good wife or mother, couldn’t even go to work because I was so f**ked up. I even told him so. He won. When I arrived at the medical centre, I was a wreck. I think I was in shock. There were no tears; I was a zombie. I can’t remember what I said, or what the doctor said, but he prescribed me Valium. It came to be my saviour, as my husband grew more and more abusive.

“I was a slave to his feelings”

The next three months were a blur. I was a slave to his feelings. I never knew what he’d be like or what mood he’d be in. My gut would clench when I’d hear his car in the driveway, if I heard his step on the staircase, even if I saw his name on an email or text. It was a period of constant fear and vigilance, punctuated by a few critical incidents that helped me to realise that something wasn’t right.

One New Year’s Eve, we went to a neighbour’s house party. The host offered me a line of coke, and, despite having not done any drugs since long before my child was born, I accepted. I was desperate to relax. It was the best I’d felt in over a year. My anxiety melted away, I danced, I laughed, I kissed my husband and meant it. I loved him so much, I wanted his approval, wanted his smile and his gentle affection. At one point in the night I pulled him into the bathroom, locked the door and kneeled in front of him. I looked up at him and unzipped his pants. He took out his penis and I took him in my mouth, feeling finally free and elated that I could do this without fear. But then he pushed my head away, zipped up his pants and left the bathroom, all before I could even stand up. Looking out of the door after him, another party guest saw me kneeling there. It was humiliating, but I was too high to care.

The next week was hot. One night it was 27C at 9pm, and unsurprisingly I was sleeping without blankets, in just my underwear. When inevitably I felt his hands on me stroking, demanding, I apologetically told him I couldn’t have sex, as it was just too hot. He stormed away. An hour or so went by, then the texts came:

Stop being naked in front of me if you don’t want me to see your body as sexual and stop making sexual jokes. Stop doing drugs while drinking and sucking my dick on New Year’s Eve in a f**king toilet and pretending the next week that it’s not something you’d do.

Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash

I had to hide

I knew then I had to do whatever it took to hide my sexuality. All the drinking and take-away had helped me put on weight, which was a good start. Now I had to make sure I didn’t let him see me naked, stop wearing short skirts or low-cut tops, and stop talking or making jokes about sex. I especially had to carefully hide my vibrator, to make sure he never got an inkling of my own urges. That would be the ultimate rejection – me experiencing sexual feelings that he couldn’t own or control.

Valium and wine got me through the sex most times, but sometimes it was too much for me and I’d pretend to be asleep. I spent a lot of time lying in bed, awake, with my eyes closed. If I was awake and didn’t respond to his sexual advances, he would find a way to punish me. He’d usually storm off, slamming doors, to drink in his office. Then at 1 or 2am he’d come back, drunk and seething with rage and contempt.

“I cannot be without physical affection any longer. I am going to find sex elsewhere. The reason I drink, and the reason I stay up late and don’t come to bed, is that there is no love in this bed. We never have interesting sex. I’ve been thinking this for years. We never have.”

He would then tell me I was f**ked up, disgusting, emotionally damaged. All I could focus on was the desperate hope that he might leave and find a prostitute. I’d never thought I would hope to be cheated on, but I wished for it desperately so that he might leave me alone.

Fear and intimidation

One night, after I’d resisted another sexual guilt trip, he came right up to the bed, his face close to mine, and said “I’m taking our daughter tomorrow.” I didn’t dare reply. “Did you hear what I said? I’m only taking her for the day, don’t go mental. I’m not taking her away from you. I’m not taking our two-year-old away.” Then he laughed. He knew that him taking her away from me was my greatest fear. He knew it would make me scared beyond anything else.

Another night he arrived at 2am and turned on the lights. I sat up, too afraid to speak. He demanded of me, “Apologise. Now.”

I didn’t know what I had done. But I had to stay safe.

“I’m sorry” I whispered.

“Lie down,” he said.

I obeyed. He lay down next to me.

“Take off your clothes.”

I got scared, and tried to get up to leave, but he grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back down to the bed.

“Stay here.”

I was rigid with fear. I stared at the ceiling.

“Take your pants off.”


“Because I’d like to feel your naked body even if we’re not going to have sex.”

I couldn’t, I just couldn’t do it. “I’m sorry, I’m really tired…”

He ripped the doona from the bed, leaving me exposed, and carried it downstairs. He sent a text:

Week in, week out. This is why I’d rather watch films and drink alcohol to forget how shit my marriage is than go to bed with you.

There were more texts on other nights, sometimes up to twenty in an hour. Emails too, with thinly disguised threats of blackmail – draft emails addressed to our family and friends discussing my one-time drug use and attempt to give him a blow job in a bathroom. I knew exactly what he wanted and what he was promising would happen if I didn’t give it to him.

Image: iStock.

The day everything changed was the day he threatened to hit me.

Until then he’d punished me, threatened me, blackmailed me, verbally abused me and twice restrained me. But when he threatened to punch me in the face while I was holding our daughter in my arms, it was a wake-up call.

He sensed it too. He apologised, somewhat begrudgingly, for the first time I could remember. My relief was palpable. My brain had been conditioned into fear and protectiveness, and with this acknowledgement of his wrongdoing I was flooded with a chemical rush which bonded me to him. We had sex and for once, I wasn’t scared. A momentary hiatus from the constant grip of fear and I was ready to give myself to him body and soul. I guess maybe that’s how Stockholm Syndrome works. Soon enough the terror was back though, and his words kept echoing around inside my head. I am forever grateful for that threat because, somehow, it made me finally feel able to leave him. Once he had said the words, I felt that I could tell someone and know that I would be heard. I am very lucky that those I shared with did hear me, did support me and helped me escape.

It’s been a year since I left

A year on and I have only just now been able to talk about the sexual aspect of my abuse. I still couldn’t see if for what it was, and kept it hidden like a shameful secret for which I was ultimately responsible. But recently I have challenged myself to live differently and think differently. I am living this process through the sharing of my stories, by being vulnerable and brave with others, through trusting myself as well as men and women who are worthy of my trust. Courage and compassion. Strong back, open front.

What I have come to realise is this:

  • You can know you’re being threatened without a word being spoken.
  • You can know violence without being physically harmed.
  • You’ll be made aware of the consequences of declining a request without specifically being told that you will be punished.

If you are a shopkeeper, and someone stands in front of you with clenched fists, or a knife in their hand, or even just their hand in their pocket pointing towards you and says “Give me all your money”, you give it to them. I never said the word “no”. He never physically forced me to have sex. He didn’t take the money out of the till; I handed it to him out of fear.

And it makes absolutely no f**king difference.

1800-RESPECT offers the National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service– 1800 737 732

This service can assist you in many ways including locating and accessing local services to enable you to leave safely.

Please call Triple Zero (000) if you are in immediate danger.

This story was originally published on the Handbag Mafia blog and has been republished here with permission. You can also read more on Facebook.

When Your Partner Wants Sex All the Time: What it Means

Not long ago, a female client came to see me for help with stress in her marriage. She and her husband had been married only a year, and they had been dating two years prior to that. One year into the marriage, he wanted sex all the time. My client came to see me because she had had sex one too many times without wanting it, and her instinct told her that this issue had become a serious problem. When I asked how many times each week she was sexual with her husband, she said, “three or four.” My response, “That is a lot of sex for anyone, but especially for someone who doesn’t want to be having it in the first place!” My client is by no means unique. The goal for anyone stuck in this pattern is to stop having sex when they don’t want it, and reducing the frequency of sex each week is a good place to start. Will problems start with the couple once you put the brakes on the sex? Yes, but isn’t it an even bigger problem when you’re not feeling it emotionally?

Why someone wants too much sex

First, conventional wisdom suggests that men are more sexual than women, and that men want it “all the time.” Actually, plenty of men and women have this problem, which is looking to sex to fill a dysfunctional emotional need. In other words, wanting sex occasionally is healthy; wanting it constantly is a sign of a problem. Most men and women who need sex all the time do this out of anxiety. Their mood is off or they feel anxious, and they want the emotional and physical release that comes with sexual activity. These individuals use sex to regulate their mood because they can’t regulate it as well any other way. For them, sex is a tool to feel better – not to feel closer to another person. While your partner may tell you that he wants sex to feel closer to you, it’s often not the truth. In most cases where one person pressures the other to have sex, sex has become a kind of drug to which they have become addicted.

How partners enable their dysfunctional partners

If you have sex with your partner when you don’t really want to, you are enabling your partner’s problem. If you are in a relationship with someone who needs sex all the time – when it feels like it’s never enough – you must understand that your partner has a problem and is looking to you as the physical savior to make him or her feel better instantly. Don’t fool yourself into believing that her insatiable sex drive is a reflection of how attracted she is to you; don’t believe that his constantly initiating sex with you has anything to do with him loving you so much.

Some issues you can’t solve for your partner

If you are in a relationship with someone who wants sex all the time, the issue is going to cause major problems, and this typically isn’t something you can solve yourself. The man or woman with the extreme sexual appetite is going to have to seek out a therapist or other professional for help. While there are some behaviors that he or she can try that will help – for example, increasing the frequency of high-intensity exercise – he or she is going to need to do some emotional work to understand the root of the problem. At its core, this is a reflection of anxiety, and people with this problem need to find a better way to manage the anxiety instead of always looking for sex to fill the void.

About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve

Why Does My Husband Only Touch Me When He Wants Sex?

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“My husband seems to touch me only when he wants sex. I’d love to cuddle more, but how can I make him understand that when I hug him it doesn’t mean I want to run to bed?”

My first question is, how often do you have sex? If getting naked is as rare as a sighting of Ogopogo, your sweetie has just cause for hoping that touchy equals feely. Couples often bring this issue to my therapy couch, and the man points out that touch feels good, and infrequent sex can mean that a simple touch really turns him on.

He interprets the delicious feelings as a prelude to more. He then reverts to his 18-year-old self, desperate to get to second base before you change your mind. You pull away, he feels he has struck out and then he pulls away altogether, leaving you both a little hurt and wary. Touch then becomes a loaded issue, and pretty soon you are patting the dog more than each other.
If your sex life is healthy and frequent, the issue is slightly different.

Some men (and women) need to learn how to be comfortable with non-sexual contact. Touch is vulnerable and intimate. A soft, slow embrace with eye contact can be more emotionally intense for him than hot sex. So he moves all touch toward sex in order to feel more confident and less exposed.

In that case, you need to coach him to slow down and enjoy the entire sensual palette. The delights of non-genital touch are endless…from intertwined fingers at a concert to naked cuddling, yet most couples do not cultivate this art form.

My sex therapy adage is “touch more, touch often.” This means you must create the conditions for more types of physical contact, ranging from sweet and cuddly to raw and sensual. Discuss the need to have more physical fun with your man, and make touching your new hobby.

I was sure my husband valued me only for sex. I knew I should be okay that he wanted me sexually—but for years, that was the only time he seemed to want me.

I’ve been trying to unpack this belief of mine, and I’m pretty sure it hinges on how I feel valued by anyone, ever.

Acknowledge Me, Please

A person’s close attention to me (comments or actions showing awareness of what I am doing and what has been on my mind) is how I best experience care and love. I have some friends I consider close because they note when I am tired, happy, or preoccupied. They pay attention and comment on their observations about me. When you bother to pay attention to me and make an effort to encourage or support me in what you observe, I feel loved and valued.

My belief that my husband wanted me only for sex grew out of the fact that it is only when he is planning to make a sexual advance that my husband pays close attention to me in a way that matters to me. He will mention my mood, what I’ve been doing, things I’ve discussed with him, etc. when he is wanting to be sexual with me–but not at other times.

I’m pretty sure he is aware of me a whole lot more than that, but the only times he initiates conversations about my condition or interests is before he asks for sex.

Appreciate Me

One thing that helps me feel acknowledged is when someone recognizes the time and effort I have put into something—especially when it has gone above and beyond my usual efforts.

My husband isn’t one to express appreciation or thanks for a whole lot. I have always made an effort to thank people for doing their jobs. This confuses my husband. “Why are you thanking them for doing what they’re supposed to do?” he’ll ask.

He occasionally thanks me for cooking food he likes or for doing his laundry—but he never expresses his appreciation for these things or acknowledges the time and effort I put into doing things for him. In fact, the only thing I remember him expressing appreciation for is that I have changed how I approach sex.

So . . . here I am, a woman who feels valued and loved the most when her efforts and feelings are acknowledged . . . and sex is the only thing for which my husband has ever done that.

Is it any surprise that I thought my husband valued me only for sex?

Fighting the Feelings

This belief that my husband values me only for sex is one I still have to fight against on occasion—and sometimes I lose that battle.

I have to make a decision to act according to what I know to be true rather than according to what I feel.

How do I do this?

  1. I remind myself that how I best feel loved and valued isn’t the only way that other people express their love and appreciation. (Some people find it helpful to look at this in terms of love languages.) My feelings are not truth.
  2. I make a point of looking at what my husband does and says on his terms, not mine. Even things that don’t necessarily help me feel loved and valued are often his way of expressing those feelings.
  3. I have to tell myself the truth that I know my husband wants me for more than sex because I don’t feel the truth.
  4. I remind myself that my husband’s sexual desire for me is God’s design. It is the way he is wired to experience deep emotional connection with me. Sure, he wants an orgasm—but even more than that, he wants to feel intimately connected with me—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It is how he feels whole.

What about you?

If you are a wife who thinks your husband wants you only for sex, I would like to encourage you to consider a change to your approach:

  • Let go of your mental list of things your husband doesn’t do that you are pretty sure would help you feel loved and appreciated.
  • Look for the ways your husband acknowledges and expresses his feelings for you. If someone asked him how he shows his wife he loves her, what would he say? Does he provide for you? Does he carry the dirty laundry so you don’t have to? Does he keep the oil changed in your car? Does he buy your favorite sparkling water for you at the grocery store? Would he do these things if he didn’t love and appreciate you?
  • Remember that your husband’s sexual desire for you is a good thing. Being with you sexually makes him feel whole in a way that absolutely nothing else can.

He Only Wants . . . Me

My husband is a good man. He appreciates me deeply. His life and heart are intimately intertwined with mine. I am part of him in a way that no one else is. It is easy to let the Things He Doesn’t Do list take over my heart. It’s one of the things that I allowed to nurture my sexual refusal of him.

By seeing only the list of what he does not do, I blinded myself to all that he does do to express his feelings to me. I was allowing myself to receive his love only in the shape I wanted, thereby rejecting most of what he was offering me.

The fact that my husband makes an effort to acknowledge and appreciate me when he wants to have sex is actually a good thing. It means that he wants to be part of me so much that he is already stepping outside his comfort zone to think about what I need from him. It is part of his own mental preparation for sex because his heart is already craving that connection.

I am the one my husband wants to have sex with. I am the one he wants to feel connected with. I am the one who makes him feel whole. I am the one who holds his heart.

I’ve realized that he doesn’t want me only for sex.

Yes, he wants me for sex . . . because he wants only me.

Image courtesy of photostock /

Noel Hendrickson / Getty

I stood in the doorway to our family room after settling the kids in bed and said to my husband, “Have a minute?”

I was anxious, although I hadn’t told him. Friends of ours were divorcing after 14 years, and the end of their marriage had started me thinking about ours.

I am not even sure I waited for his answer.

I told him that I’d been thinking about our marriage, and that I’d give it a solid B. Maybe even a B+ on a good day. We were good friends, had three terrific kids, didn’t fight about money or sex or family. I told him I thought we could be an A with some small changes.

“I feel overwhelmed by the sole responsibility of our financial life, and I worry about something happening to me. I’d like you to help me manage our finances. I’d also like us to do something together. Something just for the two of us, not related to the kids. Let’s take dance lessons, or volunteer, or something else together, just you and me. I’m open to anything.”

Related: 3 Things To Remember During The Early Days Of Divorce

My husband hadn’t looked up, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t listening. We often talked this way — me outlining a plan and him surfing the internet.

I waited. He still said nothing.

“What do you think?”

He looked up from his tablet. “No,” he said.

I laughed. Surely, he was joking. He was always joking. “No? To which part?”

“To all of it. I’m tired of changing to try to please you. I am tired of not being enough. You knew who I was when you married me. It was good enough then, it should be good enough now. I’m not changing.”

I blinked and swallowed, trying to buy myself a minute before responding.

We’d had this argument a thousand times, me yearning for something new, chasing change, and him quietly saying no. It was the central source of tension in our relationship. Usually, I overruled him, talked him into submission. This was a bit of a stunner — to say no to working on us was a powerful statement.

I was speechless.

I turned around and tidied the kitchen. Fifteen minutes later, I went upstairs to bed.

I put myself in counseling the next week. I told the therapist that my husband and I were having marital issues, that he didn’t want to work on our marriage, and that I was there to learn how to help him change his mind. She gently explained that’s not how marital therapy (and most of life) works. “He’s either here, or he’s not. Until he’s here, we work on what you can control.”

Over the days and weeks that followed, my husband stood his ground. He had told me, throughout our marriage and the last month, that he wasn’t changing. The partnership I envisioned was not the one he wanted. I didn’t have to explain myself differently — he understood me. He simply disagreed.

With help from my therapist, I heard him. I understood that he was separate from me, with his own voice and perspective and path. I understood he wasn’t changing. I could accept that and stay, or reject it and leave.

I chose to leave.

Terrible days followed. Days where I doubled over in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store panicked that I was losing my best friend. Days where we had to tell our children news so painful that years later I can still see their faces as they heard it. But the truth, that we wanted different things and were not able to achieve those things together, never wavered.

We divorced.

Now I see that night and our relationship much more clearly. I can see the ridiculousness of my independently grading our relationship and devising a performance improvement plan. The idea that I alone knew what was best for us, never incorporating his viewpoint or acknowledging his dissent was commonplace rather than noteworthy. I’d become my husband’s manager rather than his partner. His steadfast refusal to change or visit a counselor belied the years of built-up anger. My controlling behaviors and his resulting resentment were threads woven as consistently through our story together as our memories of travel and our little ones, love, and laughter. Our marriage wasn’t a partnership, and it certainly wasn’t healthy.

It took me a long time to get enough distance to look back on this and change my perspective. Truthfully, we are better parents separate than we were together — gone is the resentment of our defined roles, gone is the quiet dysfunction woven through our communication. We are free from the patterns we created together that made it hard to breathe when we were married.

We are so far from that first crack, that the children sometimes wonder why we divorced at all. They see us interacting easily now, chatting about movies we’re looking forward to or the new restaurant opening in town. They see the remaining positive connection and ask why we aren’t together.

Our daughter Lottie asks most often because she doesn’t remember much of the time when we all occupied the same space and sometimes feels keenly the pain and complexity of living separately.

I tell her the truth. Her dad and I are good friends, but we were bad partners. The divorce ended our partnership. It was very sad and painful, and we had to grieve that loss. But ultimately, separating gave us the boundaries we needed, allowing each of us to independently forge a relationship with our children and take responsibility for the direction of our individual lives. It freed us from the constant push and pull we were locked in. Years later, we could pick up the threads of the friendship and drop the weight of what wasn’t working.

Hear what our real-life Scary Mommies, Keri and Ashley, have to say about this when they give their (always real) thoughts in this episode of our Scary Mommy Speaks podcast.

Guidelines for Groping and Grabbing in Marriage

The issue of husbands groping and grabbing their wives in sexually sensitive areas of their bodies is rarely discussed publicly. So I am bringing up this issue because so many of the couples we counsel face it. What we know is that most husbands like to do it, and most wives hate it when they do.

I’m using the negative terms, grope and grab, instead of the more positive, fondling, to help the male reader to understand the problem from a female perspective. I will be trying to make it clear that whatever you want to call it, most women find it to be terribly offensive.

When I was in junior high school in Santa Barbara, we had student monitors to keep students from running in the halls between classes. A favorite sport of many of the boys was to grab a girl monitor’s chest or butt as they walked by. While it was degrading to the girls, and many simply chose not to be monitors after one incident, nothing was ever done about it to my knowledge.

In the 1980s, the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where I now live, was facing a moral crisis. I was being told by some of my clients that certain attorneys were molesting women in elevators. Women would chase these men to their offices only to find everyone laughing at them: They knew that there was no law against what they were doing. So eventually, in 1988, the state passed a new law to prevent men from groping and grabbing total strangers (Chapter 529, section 2-S.F.No. 1018). But why did it take a law to get grown men to stop doing what adolescent boys sometimes do?

We would have almost unanimous agreement that it is wrong for a man (or boy) to grope a woman (or girl) without her consent. But does that also apply in a marital relationship?

Before I answer that question, I would like to review with you a very basic fact in human sexuality: There are five stages of the sexual response. These stages are 1) willingness, 2) arousal, 3) plateau, 4) climax, and 5) recovery. While both men and women go through each stage in a complete sexual experience, they do it in very different ways. Those differences make sex very frustrating and unfulfilling if husbands and wives don’t understand and accommodate those differences.

The stage of the sexual response relevant to the issue of groping and grabbing is the stage of willingness. Since most men have a craving for sex created by their high level of testosterone, they pass through the first stage, willingness to have sex with their wives, very quickly. A mere offer on her part is enough for him to pass that stage and go directly to the next stage of arousal.

On the other hand, women, having a much lower level of testosterone in their bloodstream, experience a sexual craving much less often—usually only once or twice a month. But they can be willing to have sex at other times if certain conditions are met.

But a husband who does not understand her conditions for sexual willingness will tend to make advances that make her less willing. Groping and grabbing her in sexually sensitive areas of her body gives her the impression that he considers her to be a sexual object rather than a sexual partner. She feels that it really wouldn’t make much difference who she is when he’s in that mood. All he seems to care about is gaining sexual gratification any way that he can. She feels physically violated and used.

Such men can’t understand how she could feel that way. Because he is in an almost permanent state of sexual willingness, he certainly wouldn’t mind it if she were to grope and grab him. For him, it should be no big deal to feel her body. She should just lighten up.

But his insensitivity to her feelings drives her away from him, making her less willing because it proves that he cares only about his own sexual needs. How can she have sex with a man who doesn’t care about how she feels?

So my answer to the question, is it wrong for a husband to grope and grab his wife, is a resounding YES.

Types of groping and grabbing in marriage

1. The sneak attack

Wives tend to find unexpected instances of groping and grabbing to be the most offensive. Just like the boys in my junior high school, husbands are known to grab their wives in sexually sensitive areas as they walk by each other. Wives usually express their utter disdain for this behavior, but to no avail. Her only defense is to avoid walking anywhere near him.

Another form of the sneak attack is groping and grabbing a wife while she is asleep. A woman who is awakened by it is usually repulsed by the very thought that a husband she is supposed to trust would take advantage of her in that way. I know of many women who decided to sleep separately to avoid their husbands’ insensitive behavior.

2. The affectionate grab

Wives usually know the difference between affection and sex in marriage, but very few men do. Affection is symbols of care: hugs, kisses, cards, and flowers. These all communicate a spouse’s commitment to be there for each other—to put each other first in their lives. But when a husband uses the opportunity to grope and grab, he communicates the opposite message: He is doing it for his own selfish gratification. He’s not caring for her: He’s caring for himself.

Many wives have told me that they put up with their husbands’ inappropriate behavior because it’s the only way they can get a hug or kiss from him. Their husbands are affectionate only when they want to have the sexual experience they get when they feel their wife’s body. But that doesn’t mean she is joining him in that experience. Instead, resentment builds every time he does it, and eventually she doesn’t allow him to show her any affection.

3. The inappropriate foreplay

Some husbands think that their wives might become sexually aroused if they grope and grab them in sexually sensitive areas. That’s because of the power of partial reinforcement. Occasionally, maybe one time out of ten, a wife may sense that her husband wants to have sex when he touches her that way, so she lets him know that it would be okay with her. But his behavior is not turning her on sexually: It’s turning her off. In an effort to accommodate his desire to have sex, however, she pushes through her negative reaction, and rewards him. That’s enough to convince him that what he is doing works, so he keeps it up.

Just about any wife can educate her husband on the topic of foreplay, but they often resist doing it. Some feel that telling him what to do ruins the romance. If he were to figure it out without instruction, it would be evidence that he understands her, something women need in marriage. Teaching him the mechanics of effective foreplay is just too . . . well, mechanical. So many husbands go through life failing to understand their wives’ sexual responses, a detriment to both husbands and wives.

4. The bad timing

But even foreplay that is effective when a wife is willing to have sex is usually ineffective when she is unwilling, which is most of the time. Husbands often miss that point because they are rarely unwilling. For them, foreplay would be effective almost any time of the day or night.

So even when a wife has taught her husband how to touch her to become sexually aroused when she is willing to have sex, she will interpret it as groping and grabbing if she is unwilling. A wife’s willingness to engage in a sexual experience with her husband is just about everything when it comes to having a mutually enjoyable experience.

You can very easily discover if you are guilty of any or all of these types of groping or grabbing: Ask your wife. She may tell you that it’s really not a problem for her, and she would encourage you to do as much groping and grabbing as you would like. If so, I would imagine that unlike most women, she is willing to have a sexual experience most of the time.

But she will probably tell you that she has tried to explain this to you, but you have not listened to her. If that’s the case, stop doing it. Instead, read on to learn how you can touch your wife in ways that she would greatly appreciate.

How to turn a wife’s unwillingness to have sex into willingness

Why did God make us this way? Husbands usually find their wives’ bodies to be so attractive that they can hardly resist touching her, especially in sexually sensitive areas. But when he tries to do what comes very naturally to him, she usually lets him know that she doesn’t like it. Why couldn’t God have made women to be just as enthusiastic about being touched as he made men enthusiastic about touching?

I don’t have the answer. But I do know that the problem exists in most marriages, and the problem has a solution if a husband and wife discuss the issue with each other’s interest in mind.

The solution is to focus primary attention on a wife’s willingness or unwillingness to participate in a sexual experience with her husband, and to discover how to turn unwillingness into willingness. Without sexual willingness, much of what a husband may try to do to trigger her sexual arousal won’t work.

If a husband thinks that once married, his wife should be willing to have sex with him whenever he feels the need, and that he has the right to do what he pleases with his wife’s body, he is sadly mistaken. The marriage vow does not entitle a husband to have sex with his wife on command or to grope and grab her body at will. She is not his property: She is his equal partner. That means that all decisions made in life, including sexual decisions, should be made with joint agreement. I go one step further and encourage enthusiastic joint agreement.

If a husband feels that sex with his wife is an entitlement, and that he should not have to bother with issues of willingness, he will find that having sex with her becomes increasingly difficult over time. However, if he recognizes her partnership in all decisions, including sexual decisions, mutually gratifying ways to fulfill his need is the result. A husband should want to know what he must do to encourage her willingness so that they can enjoy sex with each other more often.

Throughout my 50 years as a marriage counselor, I have asked thousands of wives that very question on behalf of their husbands: What would it take for you to be willing to have sex with your husband? And the answer is reasonably consistent: They want to feel emotionally bonded to him and cared for by him. Being emotionally bonded and cared for tends to make them feel sexually willing.

Then my next question is, what would your husband need to do for you to feel emotionally bonded to him and cared for by him? That answer is also reasonably consistent: He needs to be continually affectionate without sexual expectations, and to talk with her on a regular basis. Affection and conversation go a long way toward helping her feel emotionally connected with him and cared for by him. And that helps her feel sexually willing much more often.

Of course, Love Busters can complicate the picture. Demands, disrespect, anger, dishonesty, independent behavior, and annoying habits can make her feel disconnected from him and uncared for by him. But assuming that he is not been hurting her with those Love Busters, the simplest path to a frequent and passionate sexual experience is to be affectionate and conversant.

Well then, how much affection and conversation is necessary, you may ask? I have discovered that for most wives, it takes about fifteen hours a week of undivided attention for her to feel emotionally connected to her husband. While that formula may not work on the very first week that it’s put in place, most couples find that after several weeks of constantly spending that amount of time together, making that time for undivided attention mutually enjoyable, their sexual relationship blossoms.

For more information on how to become an affectionate and conversant husband, to understand the five stages of the sexual response, and how to build romantic love by giving each other fifteen hours of your undivided attention each week, read my book . If you struggle with some of the Love Busters I mentioned, read my book Love Busters: Protect Your Marriage by Replacing Love-Busting Patterns with Love-Building Habits.

Steven W. Harley, M.S. has over 25 years of marriage coaching experience in helping couples meet each other’s emotional needs. He can help you!

I consulted Jo Coker, a psychosexual therapist (, who said: “This is such a common problem and usually it is disguising other major problems.”

The erectile dysfunction is not something to discount easily and should, Coker advises, be medically checked out in the first instance. Has your husband been to seen a GP? I appreciate that it is a difficult subject for you to bring up with him.

“Typically,” Coker explains, “when a man loses his erection, the partner personalises it and then retreats. What then tends to happen is people become more distant. They don’t communicate and every conversation turns into an argument.” Furthermore, what may be happening if your partner fears erectile dysfunction again, is that he will fear physical closeness and you in turn interpret that as rejection. And so it goes on.

Coker continues: “His parents not being overly affectionate with each other doesn’t necessarily explain why your husband is like this. His parents’ generation tended not to be so demonstrative.” Although we note that you say your parents are very affectionate together – this may throw your own relationship into starker relief.

I think it is very much worth trying to reconnect, because you can’t really think about splitting up if you haven’t tried as far as possible to fix this. I think therapy would really help you: either try your GP or find an accredited local therapist through the College of Sexual and Relationship Therapists site ( .

It would be most beneficial if you could go to therapy together, but you can’t make your husband go. I appreciate that even asking him to go may be too much at the moment – but, remember, you can have couples therapy on your own and he can join you later, or not at all. It would be amazingly beneficial for you to talk in a safe place – this problem is nothing to be ashamed of.

What you and your husband need is communication and when you do eventually sit down and talk, it will be amazing what comes out. I always think that seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes can be incredibly intimate, or incredibly alienating. That is the risk, but either way it is illuminating and, unless you want to spend the next 30 years in this dulled state, it is a process you have to go through. Good luck.

Your problems solved

Contact Annalisa Barbieri, The Guardian, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, or email [email protected] Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

Follow Annalisa on Twitter @AnnalisaB

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