I am a 35-year-old man who has been happily married for 11 years, but over the past two years my wife has started turning away from me when I kiss her or show her love and affection. We are still in love, and I cannot imagine not being with her, but if we can’t rekindle our sex life soon I feel like we will hit rock bottom. What can I do? – T, Putney
I am sorry to hear that the intimacy between you and your wife is disappearing. It can be very hard for couples to start talking about intimate issues together let alone work out how to fix them. This is mostly because feelings of anger, frustration, disappointment, inhibition, etc build up over years creating a wall of resentment that makes it very hard for each person in the couple to talk about what is going on. So, before you can start talking about how you feel, you have to restore communication between you.
Here are some tips on how to create a space where you can start talking about this together:
- Avoid blaming. Often the person wanting more intimacy will blame the one they feel is withholding it. Try not to do this. Or to use blame-y words like cold, frigid, ungiving, selfish, etc. Instead try to understand what is going on with her.
- Use I-statements. Say “I feel a bit rejected” rather than “You keep pushing me away”.
- Don’t avoid. Pretending there’s no problem will not help you to move on, and could damage your relationship. Try to express your feelings about this to her.
- Keep talk constructive. Pick a time when you are both (relatively) relaxed and can give each other your full attention. Or ask “when would be a good time to talk?”
- Listen respectfully. You want to talk and this is your chance but make sure you listen too. Give her your full attention, and don’t interrupt when she’s talking.
- Try to understand. Often it is stress or tension that blocks us from being able to feel close to someone else, so gently encourage her to talk about what is going on for her.
If you feel this new approach isn’t helping to restore emotional intimacy, it could be worth considering couples therapy. Couples therapists are expert at helping to restore communication between people. They are also aware of how anxious you both might be talking about intimate things with a near stranger so they will help to set you both at ease and guide you into talking about how to rekindle your sex life.