BRENT STOLLER

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Sex Isn’t the Answer

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Sad woman embracing her husband

Oh my goodness, my husband loves to watch porn on Tumblr. He has tons of multiple-partner fantasies — but he doesn’t want to have sex with me.

We have been together for almost 16 years and married for seven. I am over 10 years younger than he is, in my 30s, and my sex drive is at its highest. I have been diligent about not “letting myself go.” I work hard to keep myself healthy, so he’ll continue finding me physically attractive. Meanwhile, he has gone through several weight fluctuations, which he’s blamed at times for our lack of intimacy.

I feel like I’m the weird one with a high sex drive. I’ll get out of the shower, sans clothes, and the vibe he gives off is, Meh, I’ve seen this before — not interested.

Last year, we went through a rough patch, because he was emotionally involved with one of his married coworkers. It’s possible something more went on, but he has never given me a straight answer about that. Now, I’m just trying to put it behind me.

He said I never showed affection, and that’s why he tried to find it somewhere else. But that’s all I do! I kiss and cuddle, cook and clean, and try to get him to be close to me. But in the face of my advances, he seems to be bored, and buries himself in his phone.

I have a day job and play music on the weekends as my passion. He works in the music industry, and I go to see him conduct his concerts. When I’m there, I give him my full attention. But when he comes to see me perform, he sits in the back and, surprise, is always on his phone.

I get all kinds of attention from strangers, but I am 100-percent committed to my husband. It’s just gotten to the point where I hardly even try to initiate sex. Any suggestions for us?
–No Thrill in Kill Devil Hills; Kill Devil Hills, NC

Why won’t your husband sleep with you? The reason could span the spectrum.

It could be something standard, like the byproduct of being together for nearly 16 years. Many long-term couples go through stretches where they must fight to keep those romantic sparks simmering.

Or, it could be something more serious. Maybe your husband is addicted to pornography, or maybe this is his way of withdrawing from your marriage.

Whatever the explanation is, this lack of intimacy is a symptom of a deeper disconnect between the two of you.

That’s the real issue here. So that’s what we need to focus on fixing.

You mentioned you’ve worked hard to stay healthy and fit, so you’d remain appealing to your husband.

I don’t know how you’ve done that specifically. But I do know your overall strategy had to include some form of the following:

-A clearly defined goal

-A set of guidelines and structure to support your efforts

-A commitment to success

Those three pillars are required whenever you want to achieve or change something. And they have kept your body in shape.

Now, they can help get your marriage back into it…

Clarity

In order for this relationship to work, you and your husband have to be on the same page, and you have to want the same things.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case at the moment.

The two of you may be living together under one roof, but you’re living separate lives.

Forget what’s (not) going on in the bedroom; it sounds as if you’re not connecting in any other part of the house, either.

You’re doing what you can to be an attentive partner. You cook and clean. You kiss and cuddle. You even walk around naked after a shower. (The definition of “good naked.”)

Yet your husband isn’t getting the message. Or, he’s choosing to not get it.

Either way, the only way to bridge this gap is to communicate as honestly and directly as possible.

You have to talk about what you both want, what’s important and what you need from one another. You have to talk about where you are, and where you’re headed — or not headed — as a couple.

And yes, you have to talk about where you’ve been.

Your husband had an affair, if not a physical one, an emotional one.

And whether you discuss it or not, and whether you know the details or not, it still happened. And it’s still impacting your marriage.

Even if he won’t say another word about it, you can.

You can tell him how it affected you, and how hurt you were/are by it, and how the two of you can go about rebuilding trust.

The concept of closure has become cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less critical. The past casts a long shadow. And it’ll follow you around as long as you let it.

Structure

Like you, I don’t want to let myself go.

While I was blessed with a good metabolism and haven’t had to worry about my weight, I have had to begin worrying about my health.

Several years ago during my annual checkup, a blood test revealed that my cholesterol reading was approaching a professional bowler’s game score.

I was told that the first step in bringing it down was to decrease my intake of fried chicken and brownies and increase my output of push-ups and squats.

Given how lazy/ADD I can be, I knew want-to wouldn’t be enough to ensure follow-through. So I created a schedule to help me adjust my diet and exercise.

Monday through Friday, I’m a (semi) choir boy on both fronts. I work out each morning, and I eat as cleanly as I can throughout the day.

Come the weekend, though, I put away the chin-up bar. And if I feel like it, I pick up a cheeseburger.

Thankfully, this schedule has kept me on track — and my cholesterol on a steady decline.

The same strategy can be adapted to your marriage.

Set aside time throughout the week to be with each other — go for a walk together, have dinner, talk about your day.

And don’t just discuss doing this in the abstract; put it on your calendar, like you would a doctor’s appointment.

You don’t have to be an SEC football coach with a school-issued cell phone to schedule love.

This structure not only sustains your sanity, it’s a source of support. Whenever you don’t feel like prioritizing one another, it reminds you of your place and time, of what’s fleeting and what’s enduring, and of what’s most important.

Commitment

“You cannot make a real commitment unless you accept that it’s a choice that you keep making again and again and again.”

That’s a quote from the movie, “Keeping the Faith,” starring Ben Stiller, Ed Norton and Jenna Elfman. Milos Forman’s character is explaining to Norton’s character what it takes to be a priest.

But he could just as easily be explaining what it takes to be married.

While love is meant to be natural and spontaneous, marriage, at times, is something you have to work on.

It may start at the altar, in front of friends and family, with a dramatic, “I do.”

But in order for it to last, both partners have to keep saying, “I do,” every day, not just with their words, but with their actions.

And even though these words and actions, from uncomfortable conversations to scheduled quality time, can feel anything but romantic, they often lay the groundwork for romance.

*****

WE NEED YOUR QUESTIONS!

This column wouldn’t exist without you. So if you’re struggling with life, love or anything in between, all you have to do is complete this form, and we’ll do what we can to help.

Anonymity guaranteed.

*****

This originally appeared on the Good Men Project.

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