Marriage at a lull?

Originally Published: April 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: December 12, 2008
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Hi Alice!

I have been having a lot of trouble with my husband. It's not necessarily trouble, but I've been unhappy for a long time. Lately, nothing seems good between us anymore. He doesn't want to do anything. Our anniversary came and went without a card. So did Mother's Day and my birthday. We haven't exchanged a hug or a kiss in I don't know how long, and sex between us doesn't even exist. What am I going to do? Please help.

Signed,
Very unhappy

Dear Very Unhappy,

Being unhappy is trouble. Ups and downs are a natural aspect of all relationships, especially long-term relationships where some of the flash and dazzle subdues into the more sustained benefits like steadiness, trust, and reliability. But that certainly doesn't mean you should live without happiness or the physical intimacies and affectionate gestures that can make love such a pleasure.

Rather than speculating about what may be going on with your husband, talking openly about your concerns could help clear the air. Have you told your husband how you're feeling? Have you asked him why he isn't interested in doing things together, acknowledging important dates, and why his lust seems to have faded? He may be under unusual pressure at work, having a physical problem that he's not discussing, or experiencing a host of other challenging, embarrassing, or painful issues. Asking him what he's feeling, how he's experiencing the relationship, and then sharing your side of things might help you two come to a new understanding of the state of your marriage, and decide on a course of action to make things better.

Remember to try not to attack or accuse him, but to discuss diplomatically how you've been acting towards each other. Find a time when you can sit down quietly and calmly to talk about some of these things. You might want to start off by preparing your husband for a serious conversation. Some examples of relatively easy ways to start a conversation like this might be, "I love you and our marriage is really important to me, so I want to talk to you about some things I've noticed." Or, "Would you be willing to talk with me about some things that have been hard for me recently?"

If an honest conversation seems impossible or not pro-active enough, you may consider seeking the help of a professional. Couples counseling could be a good step — you can ask a doctor, a therapeutic referral center, and friends and family for referrals in your area. Columbia students can bring their partners for couples counseling at Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS); to make an appointment, call x4-2878. If your husband is unwilling to go with you to counseling, it still might be helpful for you to seek someone out to help you work with the issue, and if it's more comfortable for him, your husband might want to do the same.

Often, acknowledging that a problem exists is a first major step towards solving it. You sound like you're aware of aspects of your relationship you'd like to change, and that is a great place to begin. Sharing your feelings with your husband, and trying to come up with ways to create those changes can lead to a revitalized marriage with renewed sexiness, thoughtfulness, and affection.

To love!

Alice