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'I Save Children's Lives Yet My Wife Won't Have Frequent, Varied Sex With Me'

Since you seem to want full-on problem solving mode from me versus just sympathy, I will give you my perspective without sugar-coating it.
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Multi-ethnic couple ignoring each other while lying in bed at home
Multi-ethnic couple ignoring each other while lying in bed at home

Writer Never The Problem writes,

I am completely in love with my wife and, after nine years as a couple and six years of marriage, am just as physically attracted to her as ever. We have three great kids together and by most standards, have a successful marriage. Though there are many things about our life together that I love and would not change, I wish we could recover at least some of the frequency, variety, and urgency our sex life had in the first few years of our relationship.

I made a New Year's resolution this year to work not only on getting us together more for sex, but also just to work on moments of emotional connection and physical closeness in general. Some parts of that have gone well -- for example, we have been going out of "date night" at least every two weeks for the past few months (it was her idea as much as it was mine, actually). For a couple of months, we were even having sex at least twice a month, which is quite a bit, compared to our track record over the past two years or so. There was even a conversation in which I said something like this: "you keep acting like you're too busy or tired to do it, but then you end up enjoying it." And the exact words of her reply have stuck with me: "Yes, that's true. I do." Yet the last couple of times we have had sex, I have still been hurt to hear her say "make it quick" or "do we really have to do this?"

I have to say that I've figured out a lot about myself, my wife, and our marriage by reading the DrPsychMom blog (I think I've read every single post about couples, sex, and women's issues with men at least once, if not more). I feel like a bit of a cliché ("My wife and I have three kids under age 6, I have a hard job, I feel stressed, and my wife won't have sex as often or as enthusiastically as I want... help!) don't want to be a whiner, and in her defense, during the past 6 years, she has spent all but 8 or 9 of those months either breastfeeding or pregnant. Still, our third baby is now 12 months old, and I can't help but feel now is a reasonable time to re-devote some attention to our sex life.

Recently, I took her out for a romantic anniversary dinner at a restaurant she loves, followed by ice cream (one of her favorite things in the world) and then a romantic moment at home when I surprised her with a bedroom lit by candles and tried to have a chance to make the sex extra-romantic. We did the deed, but only after she said "I hate this kind of thing. It's so corny," even though she planned the same scenario early in our relationship.

I feel that at least some of the time, my wife could give me more options than just "no." For example, say "not tonight, but we can do it this weekend after I'm better rested" Or, "I feel sweaty and gross, but maybe you could join me in the shower after the kids are asleep." Or even, "I really want to do that with you, but I'm exhausted, so let's try to do it in the morning if the baby finally agrees to nap in her crib," etc.

So I'm not hoping for a miracle (well, I sort of am, though I know transformations take hard work), but I would like to get back to the point where it's not a struggle to have sex somewhat regularly and have both of us participate with some enthusiasm and perhaps spontaneity. I have previously (before this last baby) suggested scheduling sex, given the complexity of my work schedule and our children's schedules -- and my wife seemed very opposed. Efforts at spontaneous, non-date night sex (with no discussion of whether we are going to do it -- e.g. just trying to start making out on the couch or bed) have not been well-received lately. And efforts to be funny or clever (or even just friendly and nice) with come-ons have been been met with at least mild negativity ("that's so dorky and awkward, and I'm not doing it with you.")

What do you think my next steps should be? I work hard at my job (which often quite literally involves saving the lives of other people's children), I adore my wife, and I try hard to be a good partner, father, and provider. And I am honestly happy with many aspects of our relationship. But I know I would feel a lot better if we really addressed this missing piece in our happiness and connection. And I honestly believe it would be good for our relationship.

Dear NTP,

As the name I gave you implies, this is a classic variant of Mr. Perfect and His Crazy Wife, called Mr. Perfect And His Cold Fish Wife. Since you seem to want full-on problem solving mode from me versus just sympathy, I will give you my perspective without sugar-coating it. I think you may sound kind of irritating to deal with, especially when you're not getting your way. You "save children's lives" for a living, so that likely means your schedule sucks and you're not around a lot, although you do make bank, if people say that anymore. You likely tend to be kind of a narcissist, not to mention a dude with limitless energy and a Type A personality that invariably ends up criticizing his wife for some perceived failure of energy or imagination, as I discuss here.

Your wife is either currently still breastfeeding or stopped in recent months, which means she biologically has the libido of a post-menopausal woman, which you may understand, being a doctor. She has three kids under six which is tremendously exhausting, especially if she's always planning around your erratic, super-important schedule of saving kids' lives. And she can't say anything about it to complain, because you're saving kids' lives. I'm sure every mom whose kid's life you save wants to give you a blowy, which may stoke the flames of your discontent. And your fellow doctors and nurses probably think you're the bomb too, since you sound like exactly the kind of high-energy, problem-solving, outside-the-box thinker that is awesome at work and makes their spouse wish they would just take a damn Xanax.

Although you read my blog avidly, where's the mention of my idea where you wait, idling around just saving a life or two, until your wife initiates sex? That article is here, and it often takes some of the pressure off the lower libido spouse. Otherwise, you need to chill out. That is my professional recommendation. Stop with the candles and the poetry. You probably make your wife feel inferior on a regular basis just by virtue of your job and your can-do attitude. Now you're out-romantic-ing her too.

Stop thinking of how she could be different, down to verbalizing alternate ways that she could reject you. You're not her therapist or her life coach. I know you want her to act differently, but she doesn't. You're disillusioned, which is normal. You have three small kids and your wife has the libido of a sweatsock. You can either ride this out without being up her butt (literally or figuratively) with some grace and patience, two attributes which she has likely shown to you in regards to the vicissitudes of your career, or you can complain over and over, making her sorry that she ever tossed you the bone of telling you that she likes sex sometimes.

If you can't pull back and be happy with your twice a month sex till she's at least 6 months post-breastfeeding, then get thee to a couples counselor stat. This problem isn't just her. In this whole question/essay, which I edited down incidentally, there was nothing about anything that YOU may contribute to this or any other marital issue. I suggest you use that massive brain and all that energy to write down a list of ten things that make you annoying to live with. If anything has a chance of getting you laid, it would be that list, although it would be necrophilia because, after receiving this list, your wife would likely drop dead of shock. (On a positive note: you sound like a guy who would buckle down and knock any assignment out of the park, so your list would likely lead to a lot of introspection and increased self-awareness.)

Keep me updated, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, The Guys Who Save Kids' Lives Aren't Getting Laid Either, So Everyone Should Feel Better About Their Own Lack Of Sex.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice, including therapy, coaching, and consultation here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.