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Together for 15 years and feeling alone, what to do?

LLB
Community Member
I've been married for 8 years and before that, dated my husband for 7 years. We have one child together, just over 14 months old.
I am experiencing problems in our marriage.
1. My partner's libido is almost non existent for the past 3 years and we haven't been intimate for the past 17 months. Due to this, I struggled to get pregnant and the pressure during then really put a strain on our relationship. I begged him to seek professional help and he went for one test, which tested his testosterone levels and apparently he's all good. I've tried many times to talk to him about possible ways of resolving this issue but he's either too proud or he doesn't think there's an issue at hand, end result is that he just dismisses my requests. Now that we have a child together, he seems so relieved and doesn't think there's any problem at all (or is he pretending?). I don't understand how he can stay so calm when I can see this glaring problem exisiting in our relationship. I don't want to talk to my friends about this issue as we all know each other and I don't want to embarrass him as he's a very proud person. My husband has also stopped kissing me, hugging me or holding my hands. He only kisses, hugs and holds the baby now. I get so sad sometimes, that I wonder if he even still loves me.
2. Since the birth of my baby, my husband has critisised me frequently. Little things he say that hurt me a lot, such as, "what kind of mother are you?", "stop coughing so loud, you're waking up the baby, control it geez!" I react very badly to these comments and we often end up arguing. I understand having a baby can be stressful but I always thought we'd take it on together, not for him to constantly critise my parenting skills.
I hesitant to talk to my parents or friends about my relationship problems as I don't want to create unnecessary noise from outsiders.
Anyone out there going through similar situations? How have you dealt with it?
17 Replies 17

sparrowhawk
Community Member

Hi LLB, welcome to the forum.
I'm sorry to hear you are experiencing such issues. I am not married myself but did have some thoughts.

Many people do struggle to conceive and it is by no means a failure or a shame, though it can feel very much that way. Perhaps your husband is feeling that sense of shame, or has a fear of being a failure? I'm just making an assumption here, but it sounds like that could be an issue especially as you mention his reluctance to get tested and his pride, as well as his relief when you became pregnant. The topic of shame is not an easy one to broach with others, but there are gentle ways of doing it.

Not feeling loved or desired by your partner is a very difficult thing. You mention that he doesn't initiate physical affection with you. What happens when you try to initiate such things? Are you able to try?

The criticism you experience would also be very wearying. This could also be coming from any sense of shame or embarrassment he might have - trying to deflect responsibility or "failure" from himself and put it onto you. I can see such comments would make you very emotional and hurt, but arguing back with him is actually satisfying his own pride and showing him that he has "won". Perhaps you could try something less combative but also assertive, like simply taking a deep breath and walking away, or saying something along the lines of "When you say things like that, I feel criticised/hurt." You make it not so much about his behaviour but about your feelings. You are right that the parenting of your child should be the responsibility of both of you. You said that he is physically affectionate towards the baby, but does he do anything practical (help with feeding, changing nappies, so on)?
I understand your hesitation to talk to others, but it is really important too that you have the space to vent your feelings. Sharing here is good as it is a safe space, but the fact it's online means you don't get the sort of validation and comfort that does come through body language, tone of voice, and face-to-face conversation. Do you have anyone in your life with whom you might feel comfortable enough to share some details, just to offload?

I know I have asked you a lot of questions and I don't push you to answer them by any means. I just hope this has helped in some way. Best of luck to you.

LLB
Community Member
Thank you Sparrowhawk. Your reply is much appreciated.
Regarding initiation, when I try to touch him intimately, he would push my hands away and tell me he's too tired or that it's too late. If I leave him be, he'd watch TV or do work till late hours and then go to sleep immediately. If I try to plan it, he feels somewhat forced and because it isn't spontaneous, he's not in the mood. I tried to not bug him too much about it because I didn't want to apply undue pressure but when I leave it be, he can just goes without. I feel like we've became two housemates. What upsets me is that he rejects the notion that there's any problem at all. How do I get through to him?
He does help with baby when he can. We both work full time so we are both quite tired on a daily basis. He does think his job is more important than mine because he gets paid more, so he expects me to do more of the baby raising. He also expects it because I'm the mum. I don't understand this sentiment as he's the dad, but the ugly truth is that he has certain expection of what a mum should do and apparently I don't fit it.
I will try not to argue but know that it is very difficult for me as we are both quick tempered and both are stubborn people who won't back down from an argument.
People I can talk to in real life would be hard to come by. What's also hurting me is that everyone sees me as this happy easy going person and I feel like a fraud that behind doors, I'm so sad and depressed.

sparrowhawk
Community Member

You're welcome. I'm sorry it's so hard for you to be intimate. Do you think you could try suggesting you go out for a "date night", or to do something romantic in the time you have together? If he likes spontaneity more, you could try to plan a surprise for him. It could be going for dinner, seeing a movie, going for a walk. I know you have a little baby and it's not always easy to get someone to mind them, but perhaps having time just on your own is needed.

The hardest thing would be his denial of the problem. It sounds like you are trying very hard to be honest and open with him about how you feel, but at the same time respecting his space. That is the best you can do. What is his general reaction when you confront the problem? Does he get angry? You did mention he is quick-tempered so it make it harder to initiate such a discussion.

Great that he is helpful. If you don't do this already, perhaps you could try giving him some praise and affirmation (honest, of course) about what he is doing. You could say things like, "Thank you for helping with X/Y/Z", "You really made this easier", "You are a great dad", etc. He could be feeling a bit insecure and out of his depth, which is understandable with any new parent.
What are his particular expectations of you? That you stay home with the baby? Sometimes our expectations of others can be misguided, because we can push our own demands, wishes and ideals onto them and try to force them to cohere. Have you been able to confront him (gently) about his expectations of you?

Because he is naturally hot-headed, and because he knows you to be also, it is likely that he will expect you to return fire with fire. If you challenge his expectations by responding calmly, or by walking away, you will break the cycle and shake him up a bit. It's possible that when he is able to get an angry response from you, he feels that he is in control and has "won". Responding in a peaceful and non-confrontational way will challenge his control and, actually, will give the "power" to you.

Are you connected in any way with any other new mums? I know you mentioned you work full-time, but it may help to link up with other parents as most likely they will have some similar experiences. Or even just a good friend or trusted family member, though you may hesitate to disclose such personal things about your husband to them.

sparrowhawk
Community Member

I just wanted to add, too, that you are not a fraud. I am guessing you are trying to present your best self so as to avoid worrying people or causing any problems. That is such a big battle to fight, it takes courage, commitment and energy. In reading your posts I don't see a fraud at all, I see a woman who is very real, caring and vulnerable. I really recommend also that you try to find something that is just for you. Something to celebrate you, that you can do in your own time, and that brings you enjoyment or peace. It could be having a nice bath or shower, working on a favourite hobby, listening to some music you like, doing mindfulness or deep breathing. I recommend you find something and do it every day. Make some time just for you. I try to do it and it helps me immensely.

Wishing you all the best. I am always here if you want to talk.

LLB
Community Member
Hi Sparrowhawk,

Thanks again for your replies. I will respond to both posts here.

I was in a mother's group and made some friends. Unfortunately our friendships are quite superficial and once I went back to full time work we no longer do any activities together. I should be grateful that my husband does want to help whenever he can, which is not often the case with some of the other mums. I think our major problem comes from the different parenting styles, he is much more protective whereas I'm much more relaxed, and that creates tension.
I would love some time to myself, even though it's near impossible. The only time I get to myself is when I'm in the shower or bathroom, and I treasure those. Sometimes my husband will stand outside my shower holding a crying baby telling me to hurry up as he can't stop the baby crying. Having alone time is also where our views clash, my husband doesn't understand why I need time away from the baby, as "aren't all mothers want to be close to their babies?" And so maybe at the end of the day, I'm just not as maternal as he expects me to be.
I will try to compliment him as appropriately as you suggested. He's never gave me any positive feedback on me being a mother and I know how much that bothers me. I hope this brings about a positive cycle.
We have argued less in recent days. I have gone quiet and that has resulted in a cold war, which I find utterly uncomfortable. So I'm still trying to figure out how to ...not argue with him while trying to get a serious conversation going.
Regarding the issue of our lack of intimacy. Whenever I bring it up, he brushes it aside with we are just too busy (which we are, but I still believe that if we really wanted to, we would still find time for it) or that there is no problem. The conversation doesn't go on much further than that because he will go quiet and that's the end of the discussion.
I tried to have date nights with him, before baby was born. We'd have dinner and as soon as food is finished, he'd want to go home. When I suggested why don't we talk more during dinner out, his replies were "What for? We can talk at home too." When I suggested a walk in the park, his reply was "why? Where are we going? Xxx Is on tonight, I want to get home before xxxx to watch it." I just feel like he doesn't want to do anything romantic with me anymore. Any spare time he has these days, will be spent watching things he'd like to watch.
I haven't tried in recent days because I'm slowly caring less and less about our lack of intimacy. I'm also starting to get bitter. Is this the beginning of the end?

Nothappyuni
Community Member

Hi LLB,

I am under a great deal of pressure for end of uni assessments exams, this time of year always makes me extra aware of the distance between my wife and I. Please don't hate me, but your story makes me feel better. I have been told again and again by my wife that all women hate sex and physical contact. She rattles off the names of all her friends and acquaintances who do not have any physical contact with their partners. Her psychologist has told her to tell me that if I am not happy with her not wanting any emotional contact, I SHOULD LEAVE.

Romance is something I struggle to remember, 25 years together, it wasn't always like this. The funny thing is I spent more time with our kids then her, now she says that is one of the reasons she is so distant.

As I have said in other posts, I am forbidden to leave- through threats etc- I must be quiet and not complain about the brutal lack of affection I must live with every day.

There are so many parallels with your husband and my wife, the T.V shows, the excuses. I was brought up to be a respectful partner, if she says no, or indicates she is not interested, I don't press it, in fact now I don't even try.

We live separate lives, passing one another in the hall like ships in the night. My relationship is over, it has just become a facebook farce. If you believe in yours, you both have to do something. Change only comes when both people are prepared to change. I feel it is simply abuse when one person keeps making adjustments to please the other, who just takes it all and gives nothing back. You have a child, who need parents, but it will impact that child if they grow up with parents who are unhappy with one another.

sparrowhawk
Community Member

Mother's groups can be so helpful but relationships in such groups can also be superficial if there is no opportunity to spend time together. In terms of being grateful, I try to remember that "should" is a judgement word. What I am grateful for is different to what others may be grateful for. It is important to be grateful, certainly, but when we say "I should be X/Y/Z" we automatically put ourselves down.

I can see why your different parenting styles could cause tension. Are you perhaps able to see why he may be so protective? I can see you really want to work with him as a team in parenting, and that does take balance and sometimes compromise.

Each person needs time for themselves. It's not selfish or being self-absorbed, it's just a simple human need. Are you able to articulate (if you feel comfortable) why you need alone time, and what it means for you to have time for yourself? Also, how does your husband go with alone time? Does he have it, or demand it of you?
Needing and taking time away from your baby does not make you a bad or less loving mother. You just need some space for yourself, and that is perfectly okay.

Positive feedback and affirmation is also crucial in helping us to feel supported and valued. Perhaps complimenting him will encourage him to compliment you. Since he is not doing that for you (yet), you could even try keeping a journal and writing down daily things that you did well, particularly regarding parenting. Or you could write a list of things you like about yourself. These are little ways you can give yourself some positive vibes.

Those cold war situations are hard, especially when no one is ready or willing to start the conversation. You are willing but still perhaps trying to find the right way. That takes a lot of strength especially if you are more hot-headed....so good on you.

You are right. The fact of the matter is, we make time for what is important to us. I am not saying he doesn't want to be intimate, but what was the situation like before you got pregnant? You said he has low libido, which does create an additional challenge.

You mentioned in your first post that you wonder whether he still loves you. Maybe you simply need to be upfront and ask him. Most likely he will deny any problem and get defensive, but broaching such a sensitive topic and actually saying you are unhappy may rattle him a bit.

LLB
Community Member
Hi Nothappy@uni,

I feel your sadness and helplessness. I have in fact heard many stories not unlike yours from a man's perspective.
What really upsets me is the indifference my partner shows. I see the lack of intimacy as a big issue that needs addressing and yet he seems to think it's no big deal. I actually don't know how he really feels about it. Whether he's just putting on a front that it's not an issue and secretly hurting inside or he really feels that way. I have said many times that we can work on it and that I'm not mad at him for not wanting it, I just want him to try to want it. So many sources I've read online tells me not to push the issue, not to apply pressure because it makes the matter worse...etc. and I've tried so hard not to nag at him, but it is so hard when one is doing all the work, and the other doesn't seem to try at all.
I don't know what to do anymore.
I know after 15 years, the relationship might get a bit stale but it shouldn't be completely void of any physical intimacy right?
This issue has slowly crept into other aspects of our lives. I don't feel as close to my partner anymore and question whether he still loves me.
I feel like I'm slowly watching the boat sink, dragging myself and my partner down into the murky water of resentment. It's not a place I want to be and the feeling of despair, it's soul destroying.
I'm sorry for the rant. And I'm not mad at you for feeling better. I'm glad you feel better. I hope your situation can change though. Thanks for your reply.

Nothappyuni
Community Member

Hi LLB,

Once again I feel guilty about it, but your sadness helps me so much. (thanks for not being mad)

I know I am not alone when I read your words, what is more, I know that my 'partner' is not being truthful when she says all women get tired of sex or contact with their partners. It honestly blows me away to read what you say, I was becoming convinced it was "just me" and "I needed to wake up to myself and stop being so demanding".

I know I have attachment issues, I am told it is unhealthy to love people and not need anything else, but I don't see what the problem is if two people love one another deeply - equally, why is it wrong? We did for about 18 years, then one of the children became the centre of my parent's life. (All our psychologists counsellors have said it is extremely unhealthy what my partner does.)

Everything you say I can empathise with, they are like my own thoughts. You're not ranting at all. It is spooky actually, I feel I am drowning at times, literally! And there you are being pulled down into murky water.

It is soul destroying!

I so hope your life becomes what it should be, that you find happiness for yourself, somehow I think that would be great for me too. Be good to yourself, and let me send you a big hug down the internet OOOO, make it 4 of them, that is a big long hug!