Reluctant Spouse

17 Dec

Dear LetterBalm: My wife and I have been happily married for more than 25 years. Our kids are out of the house and living their own lives. My wife had a serious heart attack three years ago, but she has been given a clean bill of health. She takes medication, and the two of us have modified our diet and exercise programs. After her treatment, my wife announced she didn’t want sex anymore. I thought it was because she was afraid of stress on her heart, but her cardiologist has reassured us she can resume a normal life. She doesn’t want to discuss it. I tell her she’s beautiful and I love her, I buy her flowers and little gifts, I take her to surprise nice dinners – none of this moves her. We don’t fight or anything, we just don’t have the old closeness, and she’s given me no reason why. I don’t think she’s having an affair, but I need to get to the bottom of this. How can I move her to talk?

–Missing the Intimacy

There’s no arguing that you must talk to your wife. But how to reach her? You need to reassure her that it’s common for people who have suffered heart attacks to be nervous about engaging in sex, and that you want to reconnect with her more than anything. If you haven’t broached support groups and therapy, now is the time. Ms. L.B. says you should reassure your wife that you’re willing to take things one step at a time, no hurry. But you also have the right to get some straight answers. If she won’t commit to sex ever again, your relationship has changed, and you need to discuss that. Only you know how far you want to go with it:

Cara, we’ve been so happy together for so many years, but we haven’t been intimate for the past three. You haven’t given me a reason why you’ve refused to have sex, even after I’ve given you a lot of time to open up to me. I certainly haven’t denied that you’ve had a serious health scare, and if you don’t love me anymore or you’re seeing someone else, as your husband I need to know. If it’s a matter of being afraid to have sex or if you don’t think I’d find you desirable, that’s not the case and we need to talk about this. Among other things, there are support groups for those who have been through what you’ve gone through. But if you flatly say sex is over between us, you’ve changed the rules of our marriage, and we need to discuss that. From the bottom of my soul, I hope that’s not the case. I love you more than ever, but I need to know where I stand, and whether we move forward.

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