My wife and I seemed to be having a disconnect. For example, I try to initiate sex, but she rejects me. I sigh and roll over, but she still offers no response. It wasn't like this in the beginning. What's the problem and what can we do?
Unfortunately, most couples haven’t learned the proper expectations of marriage. Perhaps the biggest eye-opener is that in order for you to have a thriving relationship, you have to be "mindful" of it. Of course, you got hitched because you love each other, but if the relationship is going to last for the long run, there are going to be bumps in the road and skills that are needed to handle those bumps.
When you were in the initial phases of your relationship, love-making was something you both desired and enjoyed. Thank you for raising this concern; from my practice I know many others have the same issue. Yes, even sex can become one of the "bumps." And what makes this matter even more complicated is that most couples have a difficult time talking about sex since it opens up a sense of vulnerability.
So, again let me state that partners having different needs is not an atypical problem. Many times it is the result of nothing more than life getting in the way—all the other stresses of jobs, kids, etc.
When you were first dating, you made your relationship the priority. The good news about a committed relationship is that you can feel more comfortable with one another and relax a bit; the bad news is that you become too complacent and the relationship gets put on a back burner. In other words, it’s likely not personal.
You stated, as the initiator, that you were always being turned down by your wife, you felt rejected and let her know by turning over and sighing. While your actions may have felt like you were screaming volumes to her, it is quite possible that she really didn’t get it at all.
Communication has two parts—the sending part and the receiving end. If you're trying to send a signal and it's being turned down, it would behoove you to realize that the way you are expressing your need isn’t coming across or being recognized. Therefore, as difficult as it may be, it would make more sense to try to be more direct with her.
It is also very understandable that if this is going on for a while, you would start to experience a sense of no longer having the same kinds of feelings for her as you once did. However, it’s also possible that this is the result of you closing down because you are hurt.
Relationships go through periods of ups and downs. There will be rough spots. The trick is to know how to handle the difficult times. When you notice that you’ve gone off track, look at the relationship to see what needs adjusting. Some couples benefit by doing a regular check-in with one another, perhaps bi-weekly, so that nothing builds up.
Aside from physical intimacy, having emotional intimacy in your relationship is very important. One of the ways to gain this is by being open with one another and expressing your needs. Before you decide that there’s nothing left in this marriage, try talking, without attacking, about your feelings and needs. You may be very pleased with the intimacy you gain on several levels.
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 co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.