He's Too Tired for Sex
Q: We're married two years, and for the three years that we dated, he was always ready for sex. Now I realize I'm more into sex than he is, and I'm always the one who initiates. We're down to once a week. Then I found out that when I was at work, he looked at porn on the Internet and therefore the sex we had wasn't the same. I consider that cheating. I spoke to him about it and he swore on my life that he wouldn't do it ever again. By the way, I'm 32 and he's only 25.
He would still get aroused by me and was very affectionate and would make me feel good, but late last year I found out, because I sensed a change in our sex life, that he was again looking at porn. I am a very sensual person and would love to try new positions and lotions and such, nothing kinky. Never have I said no to him. For him to prefer pictures over me was devastating. He assured me that he would never ever do it again, and though I hadn't forgiven him, I told him I'm willing to work on this. Then I got pregnant and things have gone downhill. Our sex life is gone. He's always "too tired." So I have stopped going to him, and he never comes to me. And when he does, he's not very sensual, just kisses a bit and then goes straight for sex. Now we have sex once a month, and that's after I complain and bitch about it to him. I am sick of getting rejected sooooo many times that I have given up and take sleeping pills to sleep. All I can think of now is that he is either having an affair, or he's using porn again. Talking to him is like talking to a wall and we end up fighting. Sometimes I just hate him, but I don't want to leave him because I have a son from my previous marriage and my husband is a wonderful father to him. Things are only going to get worse when the baby comes in a couple months. Help! -- Marnie, 32
Dr. Susan: Ouch! I've been there, Marnie, as have plenty of other wives of all ages. Your young husband has a very strong sex drive, like most men, but his drive for novelty and variety is even stronger, which he's dealing with in a way that's hurting your marriage. That said, he's not going to change completely, no matter what he promises you. Part of the problem is that you've taken his girlie pictures way too personally, when it's not a personal matter to him — or that's what he might tell you if you were open to hearing his side. While a porn addiction can certainly get in the way of an intimate relationship with a real live woman, every man who likes pictures isn't necessarily dangerously addicted. He lied to you, which is inexcusable, but if you can possibly do so, look at it through his eyes: You gave him no choice. It was all or nothing, so he said he'd give it up, though he couldn't or never intended to.
Also try to realize that some men have a hard time feeling excited by their pregnant wives or by their wives when they've become new mothers. This is temporary! You can work through it together. Talking doesn't have to lead to fighting. If you could get beneath the fury, down to the hurt, and share that honestly with him, you might be able to work out a compromise. Here's what I would say to him, if I were you: "I love you so much, and I think you still love me. But when I get rejected over and over, it hurts like hell. And when you seem to have a lot of energy for two-dimensional women and none for me, I wonder how we can go on this way. Can we talk about how we could both have what we want? I can see how much you want variety in your sex life, and I'm thankful that you're not seeking out other women in the flesh. But when I think about the pictures you prefer to me, it makes me feel so bad about myself, as though something is terribly wrong with me." At this point, if you've been speaking from the heart, without bitching or accusation, he might reassure you that nothing compares with you and that no picture can replace what he feels for you. (And even if he doesn't say it, I'm hoping and betting it's true.)
I wish I had the perfect answer for you, Marnie. The fact that men have easy access to porn makes them feel they can have any "woman" they want, whenever they want, with no effort whatsoever, without having to put themselves out in the least, without thinking of how another person feels. It's selfish, it's lazy, and it's part of male human nature, more or less. That said, we women can learn to live with it, to not take it personally (because it's about their intense urges, not our flaws and lacks). This kind of accommodation on your part won't be quick or easy or a once-and-for-all decision. But if you love him and want to keep him in your life, tell him he owes it to your mutual future to work on a solution with you. That may mean he'd agree to hold off on the other stuff for a week at a time (or three days or whatever) to allow himself to build up a little interest in being with you. I wouldn't suggest you bluff about leaving him — not until it's not a bluff. Many marriages don't recover from the period you two are just embarking on now, so if he cares, and you care, you both need to give it your all. Good luck!
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Advice for Her
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.