My husband and I have been married for almost nine years and together for almost 10. We have a healthy and mostly happy life together. However, I have communicated with him, over and over again, with and without counseling that I need more physical affection outside of sex. He does a little better for a little while, each time we have this conversation, but then goes back to "his" normal behavioróhe is not a very affectionate person by nature. He is a good person, and I love him very much. However, it is getting to the point that I am having thoughts about someone else giving me the affection and attention and heartfelt conversations I need and deserve. Please help.
As a relationship expert, Iím very appreciative for this letter as it really targets a concern that is very common between couplesÖ and one thatís also very frustrating! To many outsiders it might seem that you are being too fussy or demanding. After all, by your own admission, you experience a "mostly happy life together." Since realistically, no marriage can be perfect, isnít that enough?
The dilemma you have is in the basic difference in your needs. As you, yourself, say, "He is not a very affectionate person by nature." So, itís not that he doesnít care about you. As a matter of fact, it does seem that when he is reminded of your needs, he does make an attempt. The problem is that because itís not who he is, it doesnít hold.
When I speak about your needs, I donít in any way mean to indicate that youíre needy. It is human to have needs. And, as Dr. Gary Chapman writes in his book, "The Five Love Languages," each person has a particular modality in which the expression of love resonates.
In your case, what this means is that for you, physical touch is the way that you know youíre loved. However, itís not the manner in which your husband shows it. Therein lies the problem. From your letter, I canít tell the modality that works for your spouse. According to Chapman, the other four types of expression are verbal, acts of kindness, time or gifts.
Of course, one of the main issues when a couple commits to one another is learning how to accept their differences. And there are always differences regardless of how many similarities there are simply because that each of the individuals has been raised by two different families.
There are several suggestions I can offer to deal with the situation:
1. You ought to discuss this with your husband. Women tend to have a better pulse on the relationship and men often donít do something about it until they realize thereís a real problem going on. Clearly, youíre getting to the point of serious concern. You need to let your spouse know this. However, this can be presented as what it isÖ a serious concern youíre starting to have.
Perhaps by seeing this situation in the light that Iíve offered, you will be able to approach your husband in a less frustrated way. This will then allow you to present your feelings more factually and less emotionally.
2. If something doesnít come naturally for someone, it will tend to be forgotten after a bit. Thus, when your spouse does do something you like, remember to appreciate it when they do it. This reinforcement will help.
3. Thereís also nothing wrong with periodic reminders of what you need. Again, if you realize this doesnít come naturally to them, the fact that he or she is willing to do it when theyíre reminded does shows us the they care.
4. Do check-ins with one another on a regular basis so that you can each have a chance to let the other know whatís working and what needs improvement. This will help make sure issues donít build up.
5. And, donít forget to find out what the otherís preferred way of being shown love is. You might be surprised to find out it may be something different than what youíve been offering.
In order to have a long-standing marriage that works means always being willing to work at it!
Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com