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?