I’m a 36-year-old man, married eight years to a woman who is basically the Belgian version of me. We have two girls who are 4 and 7. Our youngest child has special needs. I love my children, but my wife and I simply tolerate each other because of our shared interests and, of course, the kids. We never have sex and our relationship has devolved into a pseudo-friendship. We have talked about getting things on track, but there never seem to be any results. I would really appreciate any advice you might have with this situation.
If you want to keep your current relationship or are seeking a new one, please understand you will screw it up. Repeatedly. Without meaning to, you will say things to hurt your partner. You will be inconsiderate. You may even grow bored in the long run.
Maintaining a good relationship is less about getting everything right and more about realizing that you and your partner are both perfectly flawed human beings. Sometimes a little advice goes a long way.
You understand the situation at hand, and you gave no indication that you want out. It sounds like you feel restless and trapped by your wife, and want to be heard, validated, excited and get laid on a regular basis. This is my advice:
Look at your conversations
To speak is to take action. Be mindful about who initiates your discussions about how things are going. Who speaks loudest or the most? Are both parties listening? Do either of you see progress? Be purposeful.
Define concrete terms
Don’t passively talk about “getting things on track.” Explain what “better” looks like to you: at least X days of one-on-one time without the children, and sex Y times a month. When I moved out of a Manhattan studio, I didn’t want a better apartment — I wanted a one-bedroom place with a dining area for parties. Apply this same level of specificity and focus when expressing how you need to be loved.
Get to know your partner before having children
If you’ve been married eight years and the oldest child is 7, it is possible the two of you were together less than a year before getting pregnant. While this is not independently problematic, kids make it very difficult to leave — so think hard first.
Commit to change
If it’s over for you, don’t drag your partner through indecision. Want out? To end your relationship, say when and why you are leaving. Alternately, if you wish to keep and strengthen what you have, voice your concerns, listen to your partner’s needs, show up, seek counseling or do whatever else it takes to make things better in the short term. Check in and re-evaluate as time goes on.
Don’t be afraid of your differences and be ready to talk them out
Seeing someone as a copy of yourself is an attempt to dodge challenges. You avoid each other’s vulnerabilities because neither wants the confrontation. This ultimately stunts your growth as an individual and partner. Learning to value your differences — and getting them out in the open — is a step in the right direction.
Twanna A. Hines is an award–winning educator and sex columnist. She has contributed to CNN, NPR, Sirius, Lifetime, Mashable, Nerve, Fast Company magazine, CBC (Canadian National Radio), Paris Première (French television) and Al Jazeera. She’s online at FUNKY BROWN CHICK®, and you can follow her on Twitter @funkybrownchick. Send your deepest love queries to firstname.lastname@example.org