Reader Lonely Husband writes,
My wife has been a driven, successful woman ever since we first met 10 years ago (we married in 2009 and now have 2 kids, ages 18 months and 3 years). I've always admired her ability to devote so much energy to her profession, not to mention her volunteer commitments and her family. She handles stress, deadlines, and multi-tasking better than I ever could. It's one of the things that originally attracted me to her.
But the commitment to her job comes at a cost to our marriage. The intimacy and affection between us have both taken a big nose dive recently. She's often on her laptop from the moment she leaves work through her very late bedtime.
Our sex life has been largely non-existent for over 4 years. Granted, she was either pregnant or breastfeeding a good chunk of that time. But it's been over 8 months since she's stopped breastfeeding, and she still hasn't shown any interest in revamping our sex life. I've proposed scheduling sex, but she won't ever commit to a schedule, since other obligations always have the potential of getting in the way. I showed her one of your columns, but her response was lukewarm. She also has some post-baby body issues, despite my reassurances that she still looks beautiful.
It's 2016 and I don't have an issue with my wife being the breadwinner of the family. I'm thankful for the lifestyle we have, and I'm grateful that our finances are not typically a source of stress. I'm reasonably certain she still loves me, but the lack of sex and general intimacy between us is a major source of frustration. I got her to verbally agree to dedicate 20 minutes each week to us getting back in the bedroom together, but most weeks there are any number of roadblocks that prevent it from happening - usually work obligations and the resulting fatigue.
The constant rejection hurts, no matter how legitimate the reason is. She's the type of person who gives 110% to every project, yet she seems to put little to no effort in getting our sex life back on track. I try to empathize with her demanding schedule and her being a mother of two young kids, but my patience is running thinner by the week.
I definitely feel like I'm contributing my fair share, and I think she would agree. I do 90% of the grocery shopping and cooking. I get our girls ready for daycare each day, and always assist in getting them ready for bed. And we split the laundry/cleaning. We have a pretty solid foundation together, but it feels like a fundamental component of our marriage is missing.
I love my wife, and I often daydream of the way things used to be between us before work and kids dominated our lives. This current situation just does not feel sustainable. Some changes need to take place, but I don't know where to go next.
I hear you. You're in a situation that a lot of women have historically been in, and as women have more high powered jobs and increasingly become primary breadwinners, more men will be in your position as well. One question I have is whether your wife wants to be the primary breadwinner, and whether she loves her job. If she doesn't, and she feels pressure to perform, and if she doesn't want to leave her kids for as long as she does every day, then there may be some resentment on her part. Even if she is "driven," she may not like the current situation, and this would be necessary to explore in order to figure out these intimacy issues.
But for the sake of argument, let's assume that she wants to work as much as she does and she is passionate about her career. In this case, you're right, you are third down the list after kids and job. She is not feeling sexual because she goes from work mode to mom mode and there is nothing left over. This is of course worse because she has two kids under three and stopped breastfeeding only 8 months ago. It takes a long time for hormones to level out, and even more time to start feeling like a woman versus just a baby caring machine.
I think honestly that your wife may feel all touched out and work is a refuge for her from the demands of her life. She enjoys working the way that other people enjoy zoning out in front of the TV. I derive a lot more positive feelings from work than from the drudgery of parenting most days, and many people feel the same way, whether or not they admit it. Also, you are criticizing your wife for her lack of intimacy with you, and she feels that she is a disappointment to you. This may also drive her to work even more, since at work, people aren't disappointed in her.
I understand how lonely you feel, and you are correct that this loneliness can lead to the deterioration of the marriage. Also, the lack of a sex life is a huge issue that impacts intimacy and overall happiness, and can lead to depression in both men and women. That's why I emphasize it in articles like the one your wife didn't like.
But I believe that the issue isn't only her devotion to work. I think your wife isn't going to schedule sex because she doesn't feel close enough to you in a romantic way to even contemplate sex. It may seem awkward and foreign to her at this point, after four years of minimal intimacy. I think you may need to start smaller, with scheduling date nights, or even scheduling emotional checkins (using prompts like these), rather than scheduling 20 minutes to "getting back into the bedroom." (What does that even entail? Pep talks?) If your wife feels her romantic interest in you returning, then she is likelier to want to make that connection physical. Right now it sounds like the romance is gone along with the sex, and this makes you guys into roommates or co-parents.
Perhaps your wife would commit to sitting down together and talking on a deeper level (no small talk) twice a week, or getting a sitter to watch the kids while you two have dinner out one night. If she cannot get off the laptop even for this, then I believe that couples counseling would be in order. But if she will reconnect with you romantically, I think sex is much likelier to be back on the table (and by on the table, I mean in bed with the lights off, because she has two kids under three).
Good luck and thanks for writing in. Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Keep Your Expectations Low Till The Kids Aren't In Diapers Anymore.
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. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.