TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
LifestyleAdvice

When I try to rekindle intimacy with my husband, he insults me

HI, CAROLYN: In an attempt to rekindle the intimacy in my marriage, I have had discussions with my husband about how we as a couple can evolve. I am feeling that it is not possible to live up to his expectations. Here are two examples:

Me: I'd like us to be make time for intimacy.

Him: If you made more of an effort to be more feminine, I would be more attracted to you.

Then eight months later:

Me: same request.

Him: If you were more detail oriented about how you do things, I would find you more attractive.

When asked to be specific, he used the example of me rarely rechecking the tire pressure on my bike before going on a short ride. My perceived lack of detail is seen as a shortcoming. Is this unfair? Isn't this subjective? One person's idea of detail is probably not the same as someone else's. For the record, my suggestions for counseling have been rejected.

Confused

CONFUSED: I can't conceive of wanting intimacy with someone who says things like this to anyone, much less a spouse. Loneliness sounds like an upgrade.

There has to be more to the story. Something like: You and he had years of happiness before the need for rekindling, a shared sense of purpose. You enjoyed daily displays of his respect.

Without something powerful in your history together to keep you there, or without a game-changing explanation, like a personality change due to illness, I can't see overcoming his cruelty. Ever, unless he came around and renounced it completely.

So casual, so selfish, so dehumanizing.

Here's the one thing that would make something close to sense as an explanation for his responding as dismissively as he did: He has his own reasons for the lack of intimacy — he can't anymore, physically, is my guess — and he feels ashamed of that, and his responses are desperate attempts to offload this shame onto you.

That's horrible in its own right, to believe it's OK to deal with suffering by trying to make someone else suffer instead; what mature, whole person feels better for doing that?

But at least the avoidance of one's own pain is a recognizable emotional impulse. Otherwise — and again, barring mental effects of illness — all you have is someone who says empty, hurtful things to you just because ... what, it's somehow easier than just admitting he doesn't share your interest in closing the romantic gap?

While that message wouldn't be a welcome one, either, at least if he had said that directly, then you wouldn't be twisting right now, wondering how to live up to his arbitrary "expectations" in hopes he'll again find you worthy of his attention. You'd know where you stand.

Of course, his indirect message to you also makes it pretty clear where you stand in your marriage: alone. Counseling sounds like the right idea. Since he won't go, it'll just be for you, to help you explore what's going on with your husband emotionally and/or physically — and how, regardless, to give yourself the love and respect you deserve and go where that leads you. Please take good care.

More Lifestyle