Tuesday, April 07, 2009

It's Not Easy Being A Wife

Posted by Anonymous.

(This post was written, in part, in response to a topic on Momversation a few months back. The original discussion - "Which is harder: marriage or parenting?" - can be found here.)

Which is harder, marriage or parenting?

In my case, marriage is definitely the harder. I wasn't so keenly aware of it before having children, but now, as a parent, it seems to me that the kind of romantic love I felt for the most important men in my life, including my husband, was always driven fundamentally by the desire to have children. I now have a boy and a girl (ages 5 and 3 respectively), and I struggle daily with the fact that I cannot seem to muster the slightest physical desire for my husband (or any man for that matter). In fact, I mostly experience revulsion, anger and impatience whenever I am touched by my husband. By contrast, my desire for intimacy with my children is overwhelming. I never tire of gazing on them, holding them, hugging and kissing them, tickling and cuddling with them. And they respond with a yearning and receptiveness I feel I've never experienced from any man. But I see that my husband often feels toward me the way I feel toward the kids. It is the one black cloud in my life that I cannot reconcile, except out of a sense of duty and guilt.

It seems so unfair that before I had my babies, I lived almost entirely in the hopes of finding a man who would let me lavish my passions on him. Most of them sensed a trap, I suppose, and fled. But not my husband. And I loved him, or so I thought, until my children came along. Now he wants me back, and I don't know what to do, because I don't want him. This feeling is beyond my control; it owns me. And what is frightening is that I cannot tell whether the intolerance I have for his total way of being is a hormonal, stage-of-life type of thing, or whether I actually don't care for him as a person. My husband is handsome, kind, smart, and above all, a magnificent father. We are very different. He is a pragmatic, hardworking, plain-speaking man. He is a professor in science and technology studies. I have lived my whole life in the arts world. We have different tastes and sensibilities. But we parent well together; and our strengths and differences seem to complement each other. I just don't know why I can't desire him. I feel like a wretch for not being able to summon any gentle feelings for him (except occasionally pity, because I think he deserves so much more affection from me than he gets).

Parenting is not easy; I've sought counseling to deal with conflicts with my son that sometimes seem insoluble. But I somehow feel like parenting is a safer and more "natural" territory for me than marriage. What kind of work can one do to improve a marriage when the whole idea of a relationship with a man is unappealing?

16 comments:

Marie said...

I for one, feel that what you are going through is 100% normal and WILL get better.

You may also want to check our your hormone levels with your doctor. This will get better you are just experiancing "mommy guilt".

Anonymous said...

You should definitely try to figure out what your deal is. Because it sounds like you've got a great guy there, and you'd probably regret not having him if you end things.

Anonymous said...

I had the same feelings to my husband after our second was born. Counseling helped immensely, especially when we went together.

Mr Lady said...

I think a lot of parents go through this. For my marriage, it was my husband. It's devastating to be the unwanted party, this I know.

For us, 7 years in, it came down to him getting help or me getting a new husband. He got help. It saved us. And I am grateful.

Talk to your doctor. You CAN have that back, you might just need some assistance.

Amy said...

I agree with the other commenters. Get yourself to the doctor, right now, and get everything checked - your hormones, your thyroid, everything.

Then get yourselves to a shrink/counselor. Together.

No husband and father, particularly one as terrific as you've described, deserves to live in a loveless marriage. You deserve better, too. It sounds like you're transferring a lot of (possibly inappropriate??) affection onto your kids. You need a professional to help you slog through this, pronto, and to teach you what's appropriate and what's inappropriate in your relationships. It sounds, to me, like you're pretty confused about those boundaries.

Your kids aren't going to be as receptive to your affection as they get older (naturally, it's a normal part of growing up) and eventually they're going to go to college and forward into their own lives, and THEN what will you do? Call up your 24 year old son for a snuggle? Yeek!

You don't want your kids to grow up with issues. If you can't do it for yourself or your husband, get a professional on this for your kids, who you obviously love a great deal.

Mbdiamond said...

We went through a period of almost 3 and a half years where I was completely uninterested in my husband. It was a tough time for our marriage - we even came to a point where it seemed not worth saving. Intimacy is the glue that holds love together - you definitly need to instrument change!

For me, the change was getting off Depo... so apparently hormonal. We're at a good place now and enjoy each other very much - and often!

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

Yup, I went through this too. Finally after 15 years my husband wanted a divorce. Boy did that change how I felt dramatically. We managed to save our marriage, but it was very difficult.

I think you need to imagine your husband in love with another women who responds in kind to his affections, and imagine yourself on your own without him. Believe me your disinterest in him would change in a heartbeat.

Just talk to any woman who is in her 40s or 50s and divorced, kids grown, having difficulty finding another man. Oh how she would have acted differently with her husband if she had only known how good it really was.

Saving the marriage you have now and investing the time to make it work is the answer. Your children will soon be sullen teenagers who barely say hello to you let alone kiss and hug you.

Anonymous said...

I think it's really easy to fall into the "mommy" trap. I have to work at remaining being a sexual being and maintaining intimacy w/ my husband. And sometimes it's real work too! But worth it!

I find that thinking about sex, reading Cosmo and keeping my head in the game *every day* is the secret to staying interested in my husband. I skip a few days and I start feeling just as you describe.

Anonymous said...

When my daughter was younger and I had trouble being intimate with my husband, it helped me A LOT to read dirty books and kind of work up to it.

Also, I for one want to disagree with the commenter above who mentioned your affection with your kids maybe being inapropriate. I didn't see it that way AT ALL. It is not sexual, it is affection.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, all of you, for your words of comfort and understanding. It is immensely reassuring to know that my strong feelings have been experienced by others -- to me, they feel like such a dirty secret a lot of the time and I can't express them to my husband though the problem does occasionally get addressed when he gets sad and tells me he feels unloved. That is when I go through a lot of pain.

I am heartened to suggest to him the idea of going into counseling together. It's hard to imagine that the PHYSICAL deadness can be changed, but I'm sure things can be improved. I started taking Zoloft about 8 months ago (knowing that I'd experience even more of a fall-off in sex drive but feeling that the tradeoff was necessary), and my GP has been resistant to do anything else drug-wise to help me with the problem of a non existent sex drive. Zoloft is my only antidepressant option right now because I'm still nursing my three year old (who probably gets no more than 1/8 of a cup milk daily). Doctor also says that nursing dampens sex drive, but I find that hard to believe in my case, since I'm really lactating minimally.

Yes, I know that intimacy and closeness with my children will not be a long-lived affair, and I am also cognizant of the dangers of looking to them too much for emotional fulfillment/contentment, whatever. I know that it will just be me and my husband all too soon. Many of you stress the importance of dealing with that now, rather than later, and I will do that.

Thank you so much, again. You are all great!

Anyway, you're all great! Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

It's the zoloft! I was on it when I got married - way, way before I had kids. I felt so dead hat I didn't even want to be touched. Not even HUGGED and sex was such a chore! Welbutrin can affect milk supply, but I've know several mothers who used it successfully while breastfeeding.

Anonymous said...

I don't have kids and I struggle with the same kind of thing with my husband. Sometimes I feel like I just can't stand for him to be in the room one moment longer.

Counseling helped a great deal. For one thing, it helped me to understand where some of that feeling comes from; and for me, it has nothing to do with how much I love my husband. Because I do--I adore him. We're great together.

The issue between us is that I'm highly introverted and he's highly extroverted. And I mean highly. He would love to have dinner with friends or family every night of the week. He has lunch with friends during most work days. He wants my attention for 100% of the time we're at home alone together.

Me? I'd like to have dinner with friends once a week, see family oh... just about never, and have three or four nights a week completely alone. Completely. Alone. I have a creative pursuit that never gets as much time as I think it needs.

Because my husband is closer to society's norm, it's been a struggle helping him to understand that I am just not like him. I can love him with every fibre of my being and still not want him in the room with me every waking hour.

Longwinded, sorry! Anyway, I sympathize, and I hope you find a way to be together that feels satisfying to both of you.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I know welbutrin is probably the way to go if I want to enjoy sex, but I tried it once for a couple of weeks and it was like being on amphetamines. For my nervous temperament, it doesn't work so well. But that was a long time ago; maybe I'll give it another go. God, I feel like such a druggie! There was a time when I felt too proud to use medicine to help my mind. Motherhood changes things, that's for sure. . . .

And to Anonymous who spoke of the introvert/extrovert relationship -- that's very interesting. I wonder how you can feel so certainly that you love your husband when he is such a different type of person and it clashes with your internal needs (not that I doubt you, but the difference you're talking about seems kind of parallel to mine and this is part of what I sometimes see as irreconcilable). But the whole thing is confusing. I feel fairly confident that if I could get my sexual desire back, I wouldn't feel that we weren't a viable couple together. . . . It doesn't bother me that we're such different sorts of people with different interests; what kills me is that I have no desire for intimacy, comfort, cuddling or sex . . . . And I know I'm not a cold or unphysical person, since I used to WANT him and those feelings now are transferred to my children. . . .

Anonymous said...

Introvert anon here... yes, the fact that we're sexually compatible is very important to the success of our relationship, but also we share most of our ideals, he believes in my creative talent, and when I am feeling social we like to do the same things. I feel like our personality difference is quantitative more than qualitative, if that makes sense.

Also, I have had a lot of relationships. I don't know if I would be able to be so certain of my love for my husband if I hadn't tried and failed with a dozen other people. A recurring pattern has been that no matter how strongly I felt for someone, I needed time away from them. I didn't always understand what this meant about my nature but once I did, it became easier to separate the times I just needed space from the times something was actually wrong.

Anonymous said...

I totally get what you're saying. After spending all day with my four and two year olds, loving on them and playing with them and being climbed on, breastfeeding my toddler, etc. the last thing I want is to get felt up by my husband when he gets home from work.

For me, it's a matter of sort of retraining him. When we were younger, I totally didn't care if he just grabbed my boobs and groped me... and now I HATE it. I've instituted a rule (I had to be direct about it because my subtle hinting went right over his head) that he simply cannot start groping me without being emotionally affectionate first. I need a platonic hug, a gentle kiss on the neck, he needs to ask me about my day and listen when I answer. Usually that's enough to warm me up that I sort of want to get groped a little. He doesn't always play by the rules, but then he gets pushed away... but at least he understands why. Maybe it's not the ideal solution but it's enough for us that I'm not worried about him sating himself in the arms of another woman.

Eva Robertson said...

To Anon with the groping husband -- I've heard many women talk of touched-out syndrome precipitated by having attached infants. Somehow I feel not totally honest pinning my distaste for my husband's physicality on all the affection I give/get from my kids, since I don't feel fed up with them . . . . but still, all the giving with one's body that one does as a mother -- it is exhausting.