What can we do to rekindle the spark in our relationship?
Dear Neil: My husband and I have been married for five years, and we are in an intimacy rut. We don’t have children, we both work, cuddle at night before falling asleep, and we have plenty of alone time. I’ve tried to put the moves on him, but often get denied with “I’m tired” or “not tonight.” I’ve tried talking with him about my needs, and while he agrees we need to work on this, nothing changes, so it’s the same conversation every couple of months. I feel I am just nagging anymore. Any ideas? We need to find the spark again.
Dear Unsatisfied: Getting married does not automatically mean you’re going to have a lot of sex, or that your partner is committed to fulfilling your needs. Sex can make us feel vulnerable and exposed emotionally. It may be that your husband is threatened by greater levels of intimacy. It could be that he is troubled by something in the relationship, or angry at you or resentful. And this is all assuming that he is not in another relationship, that he is not having problems with being aroused, that he remains attracted to you and that he still wants you.
Assuming he is interested in fixing or changing this, here’s what you could do. First, tell him you would like to have a serious conversation with him, and schedule a time that works for both of you. Then ask him how he feels about you, about the relationship, about how committed he feels to the marriage and about your sex life.
Your goal at this point is to listen and understand, not to talk. Give him the opportunity to talk about how he’s doing in the relationship, how he’s feeling, what he wants different, whether he is upset or dissatisfied with you and how he feels about his sex life. Listen very carefully, and don’t be defensive. There’s a fair chance he will reveal what’s in his way, and if he does, both of you must look at how to fix what’s broken.
But let’s say he says nothing is wrong at all, that he is committed as ever, that he finds you appealing and attractive, and he wants sex to be more plentiful. If that is the case, then see if you can’t change the times for the two of you to be romantic. Early morning, lunchtime, cocktail hour, before dinner, weekends, during the day … you get the idea.
You could also ask him if there is anything that would help him be in the mood more frequently. If the two of you were to create the perfect environment for lovemaking, then what would he include? What conditions or circumstances are most conducive for him? You could ask him to take care of you, even if he isn’t in the mood. (Your arousal is likely to help arouse him.) You could also ask him to fully address questions about sex, including: “I appreciate and enjoy … ; I’d like us to … ;I’m uncomfortable about … ;I’d like you to …; I’d like us to change …; I’d like ….”
Other things you could do include: taking a weekend getaway together; renting an X-rated movie; find a book illustrating different positions and see if the two of you could experiment with every one of them; dress up in something hot and sexy. Also, try being more affectionate by touching and kissing more.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 24th year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777 or email him through his website at http://www.heartrelationships.com. He is the author of the new book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive.”