I’m 39 years old and I have been married for 14 years, but whenever I talk to my husband, it turns into a big misunderstanding or argument. I’ve tried different ways of communicating with him, and I’m still trying. I hope that one day he will change. The first years of marriage were wonderful. Then he started sleeping with women I considered friends. We moved out of state for a while. I began to trust him again and didn’t feel insecure. Since we’ve moved back, I keep finding women’s shoes and clothing in our car. I even saw him driving with another woman, but I couldn’t catch up. He denied it and accused me of tripping. Yesterday, my sister confessed that she slept with him. Why do I put myself through this?
You’re heavily invested in hoping that your man will change. But do the math: 14 years of marriage minus a few good years in the beginning and a relatively short but peaceful period living out of state. That’s about a decade of maintaining a commitment to a man who is not committed to you. So if your husband continues to be himself—intimidating you in conversation and having sex with other women—do you want to remain married? After all, while it’s possible that your husband will change, given the odds, it’s not probable.
Stop gambling with your life. Divest yourself of the belief that one day he will (“Abracadabra!”) suddenly turn into a man who treats you like a wife. You have suffered indignities for too long. Make an appointment with a therapist capable of companioning you through this thicket of lies. Then start interviewing attorneys who specialize in divorce. You can’t save a marriage if one partner refuses to communicate and continually disrespects the boundaries essential to intimacy. P.S. Don’t confide in your sister about any of this. Don’t confide in any relatives who confide in her, either. If you need someone to talk to, call me.
Why am I most interested in sex when my wife is least interested in it? I push her until she relents, but sometimes I feel bad about it. We love each other, don’t get me wrong, and it’s never bad, but I don’t understand myself. Can you help me figure this out?
You’re a hunter going for bear. You like tracking the signs of weakness in your prey and exploiting that vulnerability until your wife is overpowered by your desire—or until she runs away from you, screaming, searching for refuge in a locked room. Seriously, though, there is a trigger in you that needs to prove your attractiveness. When your arousal fails to stir anything in your wife, you feel challenged and your ego, in all of its insecurity, is increasingly insistent. It demands to be soothed, comforted and reassured, immediately. Over time, you have learned to use sex as a cartonful of sugar to silence your ego.
The problem with this path, of course, is that sex is no longer simply a powerfully intimate act between you and your wife. Now, sex has become the drug you use to stop your ego’s tantrums. That’s not fair to you or your wife.
The solution to your dilemma is inside you. Sift through your past and excavate the source of your insecurity about being undesirable. Determine what motivates you to fear not having your needs met right away. Consider your first lessons and experiences with sex. What did you learn about its purpose and potential? Gaining awareness of your inner life will free you and your wife to enjoy your sex life completely without being pestered by the visceral drama that now drives you to ignore her humanity.