My wife is a stranger

My wife withdrew from me, and from our sex life, after our first child was born. Then, about three years ago, her unhappiness about moving to Sacramento caused resentment for us both. She is now happy here but has not said, “I love you,” or even held my hand for two years. Obviously, we don’t have sex. I love her, and it seems wrong not to show it, but she becomes rigid when I touch her (sexually or otherwise). When we talk about this (with or without a counselor), she says her needs are not important to me and that I’m only interested in sex. I ask her to define actions that would show her that I love her and that her needs matter. Then, I do those things, but nothing changes. The pattern just repeats. For months, I have cheerfully pretended there is no problem so that she would feel no pressure while I did my best to show that her needs are important. It has made no difference. I want to continue counseling, but she is uncomfortable with it and resists. I am afraid she’ll find someone else who makes her feel passionate.

Be still. Unlike our childhood fairy tales, there is no act or incantation that will retrieve the wife you once knew from this woman who is often a stranger to you. Something in her has died—perhaps her dreams—and she is grieving. The unhealthy pattern here is that she expects you to repair this problem and, like a fairy-tale hero, you swoop in to fix it. But nothing you do will have any effect until she tends the profound wound she carries within. Such wounds are frightening and make counseling seem dangerous. After all, good counseling is intimate. It inspires discomfort because it inspires change. Your wife may feel that, after moving and having children, she has had enough change. The loss of interest in sex after childbirth is often just self-protection. True motherhood is a path of constant giving. To provide anything more to anyone else can seem unfathomable. I suggest you find a marriage counselor you both respect. Failing that, continue counseling, even if she refuses to go. The process will help you deal with those “Nothing I do is good enough” feelings, the fear that she (or do you mean you?) will find someone else, and the ruptured trust that has inspired both of you to feel uncertain about the other’s love.

I am 20 years old and just broke up with my boyfriend because I caught him nearly breaking his neck to stare at a woman (he didn’t know I could see him). I’ve always felt insecure with him. For example, once when we were with a group of friends, he started massaging my very attractive best friend’s neck. Another time, he humiliated me because I could not accept his habit of watching porn. Is there something wrong with him, and was I right to break up with him for that?

Yes. One of the purposes of dating is to find a companion who is compatible with you as a friend, partner and lover. A true lover loves all of you. So, as author Michele McCarty writes, if “a witch turns you into a frog-face overnight” your beloved will still love you because he is connected to who you are on the inside. This time, look for someone who has your best interests at heart and who is willing to change and grow with you. Look for someone who respects you and your gender. Look for someone who is truthful with you, so trust can blossom between you.

Meditation of the Week

“Think of letting love flow through you, instead of trying to hold on to it. The supply is from God. There will be enough,” writes Paula D’Arcy in her autobiography, <i>Gift of the Red Bird: A Spiritual Encounter</i>. What do you use to block the flow of love in your life?