Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, no holds barred. This week, our resident sexologist Isiah McKimmie tackles a husband who is stung by his wife’s “constant rejection”, a woman who wants tips to increase her libido and a wife who can’t stand her husband’s best mate.
I’M STUNG BY MY WIFE’S CONSTANT REJECTION
QUESTION: I’ve been married for seven years and I worship my wife — there’s just one problem. I feel bad even bringing this up, but for a number of reasonable reasons (we have two young kids and both work full-time) she’s not often up for sex. I understand why she’s not, I really do, but at the same time I’m really stung by the constant rejection. It’s starting to affect my self-esteem and my overall happiness but when I mention it to her, she gets upset and lists all the reasons why she’s not leaping into the sack like she used to be. Where do we go from here?
ANSWER: By her reaction to you raising the issue, it is likely she’s feeling guilty, upset that she’s hurting you, like she’s failing as a wife and possibly that there’s something wrong with her for not feeling ‘in the mood’ more often. She probably also feels despair because she isn’t sure what to do about it.
If she’s spoken to her friends, they might feel lowered desire too and conclude it’s a normal part of life, not something that can be overcome.
I can tell you have a lot of care and understanding for your wife. Be aware that we are usually harder on ourselves than other people are on us. She might need some reassurance that you’re not blaming her and actually want to increase closeness with her.
Unfortunately we’re given a lot of misinformation about sex that reinforces a myth that women have lower sexual desire than men and that it fades as they age or after having children.
While desire changes throughout our lives, it’s possible to cultivate and rediscover this desire.
It’s understandable this is affecting your confidence and happiness. When our partner seems to not be interested in us in that way anymore, it feels like a rejection.
This needs to be seen as a shared problem, something that’s happening in the relationship, rather than something that is her fault or her problem to fix.
You need to work on it together, as a team.
There are potential ways that you can help increase her desire. Though she needs to want this for herself also.
Look at how you can reduce the things in her day that cause her stress — and encourage her to find ways of feeling more relaxed.
Think of everything you do throughout the day as foreplay. Are there other things in the relationship that she needs? What are the ways you two connect during the day, and when you come home at night?
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Consider arranging ‘bedroom dates’ which aren’t necessarily about sex, but are about the two of you making time to connect and be physically intimate. This can help give your wife time to ‘prepare’ and shift her mindset to ‘lover’ rather than a ‘doer’ trying to take care of everything. Set these ‘dates’ at times when you’re both less likely to be tired, for example, by going to bed an hour earlier on a Thursday night.
Building your connection outside the bedroom might also help you feel less of the sting of rejection and more loved.
HOW CAN I GET MYSELF IN THE MOOD?
QUESTION: How can I get myself more in the mood for sex? By the time I get home from work and have cooked and cleaned up from dinner, I’m exhausted but my boyfriend has other things on his mind. I know sex is important, so how do I make it less of a chore?
ANSWER: Ideally, intimacy is something you both look forward to because you enjoy it and it helps you connect. It shouldn’t be a chore at all.
Instead of just looking at things you can do to increase turn-on, start by reducing things that block it.
It sounds like tiredness and stress are inhibiting your desire. Are you cooking and cleaning by yourself? Your boyfriend could help with this.
Do you feel supported and loved by your boyfriend throughout the day? You may need more connection to feel in the mood.
Start with things that you do enjoy, like swapping a massage with each other or just cuddling. This can help cultivate desire.
I HATE MY HUSBAND’S BFF
QUESTION: I don’t like my husband’s best friend. He’s obnoxious, rude and not even nice to my husband. It’s got to the point where I can’t stand to be around him. So far I’ve held my tongue, but now my hubby wants us to go for a weekend away together and the thought of it makes me sick. What do I say?
ANSWER: Using labels like ‘rude’ and ‘obnoxious’ will likely make your husband defensive. Try to explain the specific behaviours or things his friend says and how it impacts you.
For example: When John said ‘xxx to you’, I felt frustrated, because I think you deserve to be spoken to better than that.
Talk to your husband about your concerns for the weekend away. Again, be specific, rather than sharing overall judgments.
There’s a reason your husband continues the friendship. Get curious about what your husband likes about this guy and what he enjoys about their friendship. It might help you to see him in a different light.
Isiah McKimmie is a couples therapist, sex therapist and sexologist. If you’ve got a question you need answered, email firstname.lastname@example.org