Relationship Breakthrough: Uninterested husband, Too-serious boyfriend, Over-concerned Adult Children

Relationship Breakthrough: Uninterested husband, Too-serious boyfriend, Over-concerned Adult Children. Dr. Abby tackles the sex, relationships, and overbearing children in this month’s advice column.

Dear Dr. Abby,

My husband and I have been happily married for 4 years, and now he has no interest in sex. I sometimes wonder if he is no longer attracted to me. Is there someone else? I am unsure if I should say something or wait it out until he comes back around. 

Feeling Unwanted

Dear feeling unwanted,

Four happy years is a wonderful, solid foundation for your relationship. It also means that you know each other and cares about each other. There comes a time in a marriage when one or both of you change. This is when most people say, “He’s not the same man I married!” to which I say, “And you are not the same woman he married.” You both change due to your environment, job change, parenthood, financial issues, aging, health diagnoses, and outside influences. One of those changes is interest in having sex.  So, you go to bed one night, and you get, “I’m exhausted,” and the next night, “I’ve got so much on my mind.” Over time, you begin to realize that it has been quite a while since you have been intimate. All you could think is: What is happening? What did I do? Maybe I should dress nicer or do my hair? Is he over me? Is there someone else? Let’s pull it together and think through this.  Evaluate each of the following topics and see which one might help you get to the bottom of this. 

Is there something taking up a big part of his energy? This means his mental, physical, or emotional energy. At the beginning of the marriage, being together physically is a grand part of life, and when something huge comes along, sex might get kicked to the side.  One distraction might be the overwhelming responsibility of taking care of children or elderly parents, especially if there are issues like sickness or hardship. We are not programmed to take big hits like that and function normally simply. Job pressure can drain someone of all their mental and emotional energy, and we need time to find solutions, recalibrate, and get back on our feet. Is there something different happening with his physical health?  

If he has been working out more or doing big projects around the house, his muscles or back might be sore and take up his energy.  If his hormone levels or blood pressure is out of whack, it could cause him to act unusually.  Are there issues at work or with his parents/family members?   Many men would take loads of pressure from work and other parts of their lives and come home acting mostly normal. When they try to de-stress by playing video games, watching TV, or going straight to sleep, the family thinks they are lazy or disinterested.   The reality is that they are carrying heavy burdens that they are not mentioning.  The best approach is to share your thoughts about his current behavior. Specifically, describe your own feelings rather than point out his actions.   Be prepared for a little bit of resistance, but know that talking it out will reveal what is really going on so that you can work together to bring that spark back into your marriage.

Dear Dr. Abby,

After my divorce, I started dating a great guy. We have so much fun together, and now he wants to get married. I enjoy the time we have together, and I want to keep the relationship fun for now without getting married. 

Girl Just Wants to Have Fun

Dear girls just want to have fun,

I get it.  You just experienced the stress and pressure from being in a marriage that did not work out, and now you are free like a little girl doing cartwheels in the middle of a big patch of open grass. This is the best! And now you have found someone to have fun with, and each time you spend together is like another cartwheel. You talk and laugh as you learn things about each other and share amazing moments.  

But recently your boyfriend has expressed interest in getting married. Do you know what that means? It means that his moments with you were not metaphorical cartwheels in the grass. Instead, they have been tiny confirmations that you are the one for him, the one he could spend the rest of his life with. This whole time, your mindsets were different. It’s time for a talk. I know you are saying, “No, I don’t want to have these serious conversations! I want to go dancing or zip-lining.”   Take a moment to decide if this is someone you care about and respect. If so, keep reading.  The best way to approach this is to listen to him and look into his eyes when he talks to begin to take your stance beside him rather than opposite him. Tell him that you appreciate his openness and that you want to share your thoughts and feelings as well. Explain to him that you love spending time with him and having so much fun with him. Tell him what you like about him and that you are thankful that he had come into your life at this point when you needed someone to make you happy.   Share that you have just left a difficult marriage, and you don’t want to be married again so quickly.

Ask if he is willing to be part of your growth and your journey as you move forward into the next stage of your life. Tell him you would love to get to know him more and build a strong relationship with him before considering marriage. Remember to keep a tone based on the idea that you really care about him, not a defensive “how-could-you?” tone.

When you share your feelings, you will both experience the joy and freedom that comes from being open with each other.  Be prepared if he is hurt by your response, understanding that it hurts to have an idea rejected (even if it is just postponed for consideration at a later time).  Give time for your response to sink in and respect his feelings. If this guy is really someone you are happy with, it’s worth the effort to have the talk and build your relationship because a person who brings joy to your life is an excellent prospect for a husband! One more note… dating is tricky, and a wise approach is to be strategic by knowing what your goal is.   If your goal is only to have fun, make it clear from the beginning. If your goal is to find someone to marry one day and have children with, say so. This will prevent confusion later in the relationship.  Happy Dating!

Dear Dr. Abby,

Last year, my husband and I finalized our divorce. It was mostly amicable, and we’re both happier now that we’re divorced. The problem is that my adult son and daughter have somehow gotten the idea that I was abandoned and am broken-hearted. They treat me like a victim and their father as a villain. I have explained that we both wanted this and are both happier, but they have this story that they’re not letting go of. How can I get them to see things as they are, respect that this divorce was my choice too, and stop treating their dad as the bad guy?

Not a victim, I have overbearing children

Dear not a victim, I have overbearing children,

Ahh, yes. Don’t you miss the good old days when our children used to take everything we said as the full truth? When we didn’t want the children to get hyper from all the sugar, we told them that the restaurant was out of ice cream. They totally believed it! Those were the good old days… Well, now your children are grown up. They see what they see, and they think what they think. During the divorce and all the scenes related to that time, your children chose aside. In all divorces, sides are chosen, and anyone who cares about you will feel the loss, the hurt, and anger with you and for you. Here are some things to consider as you try to understand their feelings. Leading up to the divorce, each revelation, interaction, and conversation you had with your ex-husband involved highs and lows. They also gradually made things clearer for you as you moved toward the decision to get a divorce. Remember that your children were not part of each conversation. They did not hear when the two of you shared the agreement that divorce was the best solution. They did not hear when you might have shared how thankful you were for the time you had together. 

Their heads’ ideas that caused them to feel like they are the abandoned victims are based only on their information. Maybe they can’t erase the image of you crying yourself to sleep. Maybe they still see and hear their father yelling at you. The amount of time these negative ideas have been able to grow in their minds may explain why they don’t believe you when you tell them that you are happy. Now, it’s not an easy fix. They are set on believing the negative. Since they are adults, they have minds of their own. They don’t believe things simply because you tell them. They have to see these things for themselves to believe. They will have to see what their father is like now to believe that he is not a villain. They will have to see how you live to see that you are happier. Your job is to go on with your life, understand that your children love you very much, and understand that it will take some time to see what you are trying to tell them. Give them some space by not mentioning your ex for a while. Talk about other things in your life, like work, hobbies, working out, or hanging out with your friends.  A day will come when they can say, “Now I see what Mom saw in Dad, and I understand why they are much better apart.”  When they start to see it on their own, it will be more genuine than just taking your word for it.

   

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