She Feels Neglected

Q: My husband and I have a nine-year-old daughter that we both adore. The problem is that while he showers her with attention and affection, he hardly knows I exist. He expresses no interest in me or what I do. We rarely have sex, though we used to have a wonderful sex life. I'm actually pretty attractive and stay in great shape. I feel like the odd person out. This hurts so much. I've expressed these feelings many times, after which I occasionally see short-lived improvement. The last time I brought it up, he rolled his eyes and said I was nuts. I'm wondering if I should settle for a platonic marriage and be a third wheel? -- Mare, 53

Dr. Susan: No one should have to be a third wheel in her own marriage. After all, your daughter will be a teen soon and, if she's normal and healthy, she'll soon begin to have her own life more and more. And then your husband will have no one to shower with attention, and no one to shower attention on him. He needs to be sat down calmly and unemotionally and have life explained to him. Children do not benefit by having one parent favor them to the extent that the other parent is utterly left out. Not only does this provide a bad model for her own future relationships, but it gives her an inaccurate idea of her place in the family. You matter!

Your husband may be at that age where his own sexuality has dimmed to the point where he values companionship more than physical intimacy. Or he may have performance anxieties, which are very common. Even so, there are things the two of you can do if at least one of you is interested in resurrecting this part of your lives. Don't let him get away with rolling his eyes. No one should be allowed to express signs of contempt. He owes you a genuine adult conversation about what's troubling you. Just try to keep it from sounding as though you're jealous of your daughter. (And it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep an eye out to be sure his affection for her isn't crossing any lines.)

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