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DW, marriage, communication, sex and stuff.(329 Posts)
Hello, Ive posted in Dadsnet and Feminism already for advice regarding specific parts of my slightly dysfunctional marriage, so its time to bite the bullet and whack a post in relationships!
Bit of background, Im male, DW and I have been married five years, together ten. Both mid 30s, two DCs (2 and 4) and no sex life. Ive considered and tried various anaphrodisiacs and been reading a lot about PIV/Feminism womens views of sex and got myself thoroughly paranoid about the number of women with disappointing sex lives and I think DW may be one of them.
Ive tried to broach the subject a few times, but she says its tiredness/stress (understandable considering the young kids I suppose), Ive asked whether she enjoys it when we do have sex, she says yes. Ive even asked if she fakes it! She says no. Not sure whether I believe any of it because I know she wouldnt want to hurt my feelings, and there does seem to be a big proportion of women out there who arent happy.
I help around the house as much as I can (still got to buy a copy of Wifework to make sure Im covering all bases) and I think we split things pretty equally despite me being fulltime working and DW a SAHM. She has the option of lie-ins at weekends (but rarely takes them), I try to do all the kiddy stuff at weekends to give her a break and cooking/cleaning in evenings is my responsibility most of the time too (she tends to do most of the laundry and cooking for the kids).
So I suppose the question is, how long should I wait before putting an ultimatum/suggesting counselling/ending the Marriage? (rhetorical: I know only I can answer that) I love DW and would do anything for her (have considered chemical castration at times), but this is getting me down and Ive started having slightly suicidal thoughts which I know isnt healthy. The constant rejection I could cope with if I knew what the reason was. Could be a case that counselling for me is required.
I think it all started about 5 years ago when we were TTC, after 1 year DW became pregnant and morning sickness put a kibosh on any intimacy, a year later we DTD once and number two came along, again Morning Sickness meant a nine month break, BFing extended this and it all fell into a rut so weve only DTD six times in the past five years! Putting that down in writing is quite shocking.
Anyway, DW has issues with her body post pregnancy. I find her sexy and attractive, but my constant reassurances fall on deaf ears (havent seen her naked for five years either). I think she may need some help to improve her confidence as nothing I can say changes it a jot. Not sure on the best way to approach this one, so any words would of advice would be good. I think once shes happy with herself then we can talk more about what she wants out of life and whether she even wants me in it.
Sorry, this post is all a bit disjointed and Ive probably missed stuff out but its cathartic to get it down even if this gets no responses!
"So I suppose the question is, how long should I wait before putting an ultimatum/suggesting counselling/ending the Marriage? "
What was your sex life like five years ago? Be honest here. Also, how affectionate are you with each other day to day? How 'close' are you in the ordinary course of events? Do you hold hands or kiss in public? Do you snuggle on the sofa watching TV or exchange flirty texts? Do you share private jokes, give each other compliments, romantic gestures ... that kind of thing? There's no 'normal' when it comes to sex-lives but IME, couples who have had a strong physical & emotional connection to begin with can survive the inevitable lulls in 'sex' as long as they remain affectionate
Sex 6 times in five years! No wonder you are wondering what to do. I suppose until your wife accepts there is a problem there's not a lot you can do; saying it's stress and tiredness wouldn't be an answer for me and I would expect my partner to be a bit more active in trying to find out the cause and solution. A relationship without sex isn't a relationship to me, the sex is as important as the communication, in fact without the sex there's no closeness, you're basically just friends sharing children together. It's up to you how much long you are prepared to wait but looks like unless you both try counselling and perhaps a visit to the GP, this will just continue and probably, from your part anyway, kil the marriage altogether.
Cogito - It varied, but probably twice a week, not quite the levels some folk on here enjoy! We are not very affectionate at all, whenever we're in public we're with the kids, holding their hands, looking after them rather than focussed on each other. No snuggling on the sofa, evenings tend to be for housework, cooking that kind of thing, then by 10ish I'm thinking about heading to bed. No flirty texts either. We give each other compliments, gifts, romantic gestures.
I think the affection thing is something I need to work on. Friends sharing children, as Jan says, seems to sum it up at the moment.
I don't know if this is a 'normal' lull experienced by most couples with small children though. If it is then I can probably hack it, it's just the not knowing that is difficult.
The other issues of whether she enjoys it, whether she finds me attractive or what she's thinking about us complicate matters more. I just wish I knew what to do, she deserves a husband, partner and lover. At the moment she's just got a flatmate who coparents.
Again, it's unhelpful to think of 'normal' because we're all individuals and we have different definitions. It helps you not one iota to learn that, as a mother of a young baby, I thoroughly enjoyed a exciting sexual relationship and treated it, aside from anything else, as a way to wind down from a tiring day and reinforce my self-image as a desirable adult woman rather than just a sleep-deprived, nappy changing automaton with teats...
What I think you have to focus on is that neither of you seem happy and then put this to her. She's feeling insecure about her appearance. You're feeling insecure because you're being rejected sexually. She says she's tired and stressed. You're depressed and slightly suicidal. There's a lot wrong here and I think you could achieve a lot as a couple if you started putting each other higher priority rather than the DCs all the time.
When did you last take a break together as a couple btw? A weekend without the children or even just a grown-up, romantic night out? Aside from sex, what did you do pre-DCs that kept you connected as a couple and which has since gone by the wayside? Did you have some common interests? What did you enjoy talking about?
Is your wife happy with the current situation? Does she know that you aren't?
My gut feeling is this isn't about sex - it's about intimacy and feeling a connection. Stop the housework and make time for each other.
Sorry to break this to you but it sounds pretty normal/standard for a busy couple with 2 very young children, it sounds like you've never been very intimate together and couples really need shared time and intimacy when sex is thin on the ground.
Your talk of chemical castration and suicide really isn't normal or healthy though, lots of people cope with sporadic sex lives, how do you think people with partners who are away for months at a time cope?
It sounds like communication is the main issue, counselling probably would be useful.
Cogito - Yeah, you right about normal. It's useful to have a yardstick, but also not very useful as it could set up your expectations.
We need to have a long old talk I know, I think DW does too, she is I suspect reluctant to discuss it though.
Been years since we went away as a couple, before kids. We went out for our fifth wedding anniversary a few weeks back. It was great, but it doesn't happen often, babysitting is problematic. We used to watch films together, go out to the pub, cinema, restaurants, cycling, gardening. All of that's gone now, the DCs have become the priority, to the detriment of the marriage.
Anything - She doesn't seem unhappy, whether she's actually happy I really don't know now (it's the communication thing again). It's easy to fall into a status-quo which makes me think she's content if not happy. She's always tired when I'm around although I don't think it's anything medical.
Lots of those hobbies are very doable when you have kids even without babysitters.
Why not get a lovefilm/netflix type of deal and make one night a month/week "Movie Night". Do the absolute bare minimum essentials in the house, then make some popcorn and sit and watch a film together.
Gardening - get the kids involved, bucket of water & paintbrush and get them to 'paint' the house while you and dw enjoy the real gardening or just sitting in the garden with a glass of wine.
Cycling - can you hire a trailer for the kids?
I think you've got to get back some of those old interests. If you went out and it was 'great' then there's another angle for the conversation i.e. 'how can we do more of that?' Babysitting agencies exist so it might cost you a few quid but what price a better relationship? If you don't go out, create a romantic night in. Put the kids to bed early, buy a bottle of wine and slap a few steaks on the BBQ... Forget the housework.
'Always tired' if it's not medical means you have to find ways to give her a break. If you can't go away as a couple what can you do between you to get her more sleep?
The one key suggestion I'd have for you is to take the emphasis off 'sex'. If at any level someone thinks that they only get to be treated nicely if they put out, it turns a nice gesture into a pressure situation. Keep the emphasis on reconnecting, being more affectionate/intimate, making time, reducing tiredness, making each other feel special, prioritising yourselves as a couple....
Oh another thing, I find (as a SAHM) that Dh taking over in the evening/weekends isn't really a break for me. I can still hear the noise of the kids and the general monotony of being at home if that makes sense. Could you maybe treat her and a friend to a cinema trip for a proper break?
Some great ideas, thanks everyone.
"The one key suggestion I'd have for you is to take the emphasis off 'sex'. If at any level someone thinks that they only get to be treated nicely if they put out, it turns a nice gesture into a pressure situation."
Yep, I learnt that particular lesson a long time ago, to my embarassment and shame!
PiHigh - Interesting about the noise etc. at home. I hadn't considered that angle. I have encouraged here to go out with friends before, not really sure why she doesn't. Cinema/pub/clubbing anything to unwind I'd be happy for her to go out. Will try again though.
Lots of things to talk about here. Will try this evening (assuming it's diplomatically a good time - various other stresses ongoing at the moment, but when aren't there!).
Did your DW have a career before children? Could she be needing something at her own intellectual level? Has she ever spoken about it? May be she's struggling with feelings to do with that?
You sound really caring BTW
The time to give an ultimatum is NOW.
But not the nuclear option (D, leaving her), just a calm and factual statement as you have told us that you feel unloved and uncared about, that sex is very important to you to express closeness, that her 'meh' makes you feel very rejected.
That you HAVE BOOKED A COUNSELLING session and that you want her to come with you. That, if she doesn't, you will go along anyway.
Apparently nothing cuts through the denial that there is a problem more, than counselling.
Next level of ultimatum (after you have explored the issues that counselling brings up): that whilst you love her very much and she is the one you are attracted to, her continued 'meh' is going to be taken as acceptance of an open marriage and you are going to find your sexual needs fulfilled elsewhere - and do it. I think that might get a reaction/her off to the doctor to check her hormone levels etc.
Tbh husband, I think you are Too Nice, have given her too much power in the marriage and she takes you for complete granted and doesn't respect you. Do go to counselling, and let us know what comes up?
Getting a bit tough with this wife might get you the results you want.
If it is any comfort, this woman thinks your wife is being very unfair, very uncaring and could do with a bloody good kick up the arse. Man up and get angry about this! You sound like a lovely caring man, if just a bit too lovely and caring.
How well do your DCs sleep? Who takes care of the night wakings? I have a 4yo and a 1yo, the 1yo is an awful sleeper. I deal with him every night. Frankly I'm too knackered to think about anything else when I go to bed than sleep. Can you give your DW a night off or whisk her away to a local hotel for a night (or send her on her own, also throw in some spa treatments)?
If you can't give her some time away, what about some time for grooming without the DCs around? I feel much happier once I've had a warm bath and a hair-removing session! Would she like a gym membership? Does she like to run or go to exercise classes? All of that, time away from the children, will help her to feel better about herself.
Yes, the work/intellectual thing definitely matters. My own self-esteem goes through the floor at times because "all" I do all day is look after the DCs and do housework. Maybe she needs to go back to work?
Get a cleaner, if you can afford it! That will probably help your sex life, seriously, if your DW feels like less of a drudge. And some childcare wouldn't hurt.
Lastly, could contraception be the problem? I found that my contraceptive pill made me feel exhausted and depressed and have been like a new woman since I stopped taking it. Until I get different contraception sorted I am reluctant to let DH near me as I want to avoid another pregnancy at all costs, it would be a disaster for us. Could you have a vasectomy if you don't want to have more children? The threat of another pregnancy might be at the root of her reluctance.
Good luck. Please be patient and try to find out (gently) what is really going on.
Too harsh WellWobbly.... Kicks up the arse? Open marriage? Power? Really? The stage you're describing is not where the OP find himself at all. Reading what he's written I'm not seeing 'meh' and neither am I seeing malicious withdrawal of affection or (which is the time to issue ultimatums). I'm seeing two people who are prioritising everyone except themselves, live like ships that pass in the night and have got into some bad habits, but who (and this is very important) ... when given a chance such as their fifth anniversary... are perfectly capable of being intimate. I'm never shy to suggest to anyone that they have to lay what they want on the line but, in this instance, I think there's hope. Counselling, certainly. Threats of screwing around?... that's just childish.
Hi Keepit I responded to your first post in Feminism (it's PromQueen here, with a new name) and wanted to just pop in to say I'm glad you've posted here too. The posters here are very wise and I'd listen to them if I were you. (Except the bit about ultimatums and open marriages, as Cogito says, that sounds a bit to me).
Cogito, why is men's distress denied and minimised here? Why are women ALWAYS given the benefit of the doubt on Mumsnet? Men are NOT animals for wanting sex. It is a normal and natural desire for love.
To calmly say: I am unhappy my needs are not met... are as important and valid for men as for women, and even though she is a precious woman his wife SHOULD listen to him and take him and his needs seriously. That is called love.
I am only extending to this husband what I wish for myself: to be heard, to be taken seriously, and to be met half way.
And, if she refuses to take him seriously (which I doubt if he does the constructive process of clearly stating his position/boundaries and going to counselling), then yes he does have the right to tell her openly and honesty that he does not want to lose his family but that he will get his sexual needs met if she won't.
If you look at the marriage contract, providing sex is in there. I know mine was the really old-fashioned one, but it is a fundamental part of the contract of marriage: I keep myself only to you, and you provide sexually. Both to eachother.
'Screwing around' is not so if it is done openly and honestly and with fair warning, giving the other person the opportunity to revise their stance and priorities. The whole point of affairs is that they are SECRET and DECEITFUL which means the spouse is not negotiating on a level playing field.
When she finds out he is serious and he is determined I am pretty sure it wouldn't get to that.
Cogito, women can behave badly and with laziness and lack of care, and sometimes they do need a jolt to catch their attention. Sorry if my language (kick up the arse) offends.
Sexual needs which must be met?! This isn't the 1950s.
I'm with cognito.
Can I just say, you should know if she isn't faking it. Things, er, quiver and jolt and pulse around your cock / tongue / fingers in a way which leaves you in no doubt.
That you have a doubt about this matter suggests to me that she was faking orgasms.
Which suggests to me that it was pretty inevitable that your sex life petered out.
You make yourself sound reasonable enough, but reading texts about feminist issues isn't going to help (you do realise that just because one author has a vagina, she doesn't speak for all womankind, don't you?). I'd be well suspicious if my husband did that, and find it a turn-off, whether it was done in a "I've been a good boy and done my homework and now can I have a shag, please" way, or a more sinister, "Look, I've done THIS, THIS and THIS in the house, and even read THIS shite by a WOMAN, now SHAG me for fuck's sake" way!
Sexual needs which must be met?! This isn't the 1950s - personally I agree with this statement however there are many threads on mumsnet when if the woman isn't satisfied with her sex life it is considered perfectly acceptable for her to give her DH/DP an 'ultimatam' - there are countless threads about a woman's 'right to a satisfying sex life'.
Why doesn't this work the other way, double standards (again) on Mumsnet ?
Whoa, loads of responses now. Okay I'll try and cover all questions.
Career - Yes she had a career of sorts, and still maintains it to a certain extent (small business, working from home) it's the type that can be dipped into and out of as she wants/has time. I've sked her if she'd rather be at work than a SAHM and she says she'd rather be a SAHM. I'm sure she misses the adult company though, who wouldn't?
DC waking at night - DD sleeps well and generally all the way through. If she needs attending then it's generally serious and will require Calpol and reassurance. So we'll both get up. DS doesn't sleep as well, but is older, we used to take it in turns, but now it is more often me as he plays up for his mum more than me. Not sure this is an issue, I can get by on far less sleep than DW.
Contraception - I had the snip last year, FDW has been off the pill for a few years now. I know she's concerned about another pregnancy. I have more faith in Marie Stopes than she does!
Wobbly - May be a bit overkill, I've read about sex-rank, alpha males etc... on the Talkaboutmarriage forum. Not that convinced about it all. Yet. May be a tactic to use in the future, mind you when it gets to that stage all-bets-are-off anyway. I get your point about marriage contracts etc. but that argument smacks too much of power games for my liking (call me a Beta male if you like!).
Themaltesecat - Yeah, I know I should know. Not easy to be objective when you're involved in the situation. I know I'm paranoid, I just don't know how much!
I think it's a bit unfair to pin those other two arguments on me. I'm not after a pity shag, or a forced sex, I'd rather go without, either of those two may as well be voluntary rape from my POV. I want to be the lover my wife wants, and if that's not possible (either because I'm not attractive, or because she's asexual) I want to get out so she can find someone who can fulfil her needs.
You sound like such a lovely man, Keep. What loving and caring loyalty.
Do go to counselling, you might find you are a bit too 'nice' and that once the dynamics in the family are tweaked somewhat, you will all be so much happier. All of you.
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