Misses Wife's Friendship

Q: I have a decent marriage and great kids. We've been married 11 years and I've never physically cheated. How can I find the friendship we used to have? I feel I can't talk to my wife about my real feelings. She says I can but it doesn't play out. She's very conservative and slightly insecure, so that when I try to be straight with her, she just gets hurt. -- Samuel, 35

Dr. Susan: You say you've never physically cheated? I hope that doesn't mean that you've gotten emotionally involved with someone else who appears to listen to you more open-mindedly than your wife. Regardless, relationships change over time. Did you used to be able to talk about real feelings with your wife at the start? She may have shut down and become insecure because you tossed out some thoughts and feelings she didn't know what to do with. It's hard for me to guess what you might be saying that's hurting her, but sometimes a husband will say he finds other women more attractive, or that he wishes his wife would be more adventurous in bed. Such confessions tend to make a conservative woman panic. Was she not conservative before? It may be you who has changed the most, so it's you who might be better able to take the lead in helping her come around. Remember to use genuine I-messages. "Lately, I've been feeling like shaking up our sex life a little. Wouldn't it be fun if we . . . ?" She may say, "No way!" In which case you can respond, "Okay, then, can we come up with some small changes we can make that would liven things up just a bit?" That takes the pressure off her and keeps it on the couple as a unit, where it belongs. I get the feeling she genuinely wants to be emotionally available to you, so rethink what you call your "straightness," and try expressing yourself in gentler ways. Your goal is admirable, so don't give up.

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