Advice

Sex and intimacy issues are driving a wedge between me and my spouse. How can we find a middle ground?

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

My husband of only a few months constantly pressures me about intimacy to the point that when he does not get it or enough of it, he literally has a meltdown and throws an adult temper tantrum. It has caused many arguments as of late and I am at my wits’ end about it. I promise you, I am not exaggerating. This goes beyond newlywed behavior. We both work from home and he wants to mess around all the time. He will even follow me into the bathroom! He’ll take a break and come interrupt me while I’m working and when I tell him to stop, he says things like, “I can’t help that I am attracted to my wife.” I feel like the implication is I’m not attracted to him.

The truth is I do see myself as a very passionate person and I think intimacy is about more than sex, but if we don’t have sex it’s like it’s not good enough for him. He accuses me of not being into him. Even worse is when he then interrogates me about past relationships in terms of how frequently I had intercourse with previous partners.

We have had many conversations about sex and they all end in arguments in which he walks away denying any wrongdoing. Also, he was sexually abused from age 12-17 and while I think this is something worth discussing, he feels this is not a factor in his present-day attitudes toward sex.

I have expressed my needs to have a healthy relationship that includes openness, honesty, respect, kindness and caring, and understanding, with intimacy including sex but not limited to only sex. He’ll then come back and tell me because he’s healthy, and his sexual desires are healthy, this is a healthy relationship.

He has told me his idea of love and being loved and cared for is grounded in sex, and being without it — he had two past marriages with low or no intimacy — makes him feel unloved. But I have found these behaviors to be very abnormal, uncomfortable, unusual and, frankly, clingy. I am not sure what else to say or do. Please help if you can.

Wanda says:

This must be frustrating — the feeling that no matter what you do for him, it isn’t enough, and that his excessive physical demands are devaluing and belittling. He’s setting a high and unrealistic baseline for what normal love, marriage and intimacy looks like, and that’s unfair. Thankfully you’ve been able to remain realistic; I hope you can hang on to that and continue to see past his tantrums and ground yourself in some basic truths as starting points.

Truth 1, the two of you love each other enough that you got married, which is romantic and exciting! Truth 2, he’s been married before and didn’t let divorce deter him from trying again, which is admirable. And truth 3, the most obvious but hardest to face, I don’t think this is about you at all. Your letter implies that your husband’s insatiable appetite and petulant attitude weren’t really an issue before you actually got married. If that’s true, then it’s logical to assume that something about being bound by marriage has triggered this confusingly overaggressive sexual energy coming at you 24/7.

What your husband is saying, asking for and projecting are obviously deeply rooted in an emotionally troubled space. Maybe it’s the childhood abuse, possibly it’s the intimacy issues in his past experiences, or maybe now that he’s safely married to you, he feels free to release some really over-the-top demands and complicated needs. Unless he’s able to be honest with you and stop blaming and walking away, the cycle will continue. I strongly encourage the two of you to seek out counseling; and if he won’t join you, go alone.

Wayne says:

It’s hard to believe there could be anything more arousing than a grown-ass adult practically demanding sex, melting down and starting arguments when they don’t get it, then denying their deep-rooted sexual issues and shifting them onto their partner.

After just a few months of marriage and dealing with this, do you still believe that his two — two! — ex-wives were lacking in sex drive and intimacy? More likely he was pulling the same exhausting routine on them that he’s doing with you — constantly killing the vibe to the point where it ruined any chance at sex short-term and likely setting the stage for a doomed relationship long-term.

Your new husband needs to quickly understand that his tedious unwanted advances and broken-record whining are actually massive turnoffs that have already cast a dark cloud over your shared sex life during its honeymoon phase. And worse, he’s chipping away at intimacy, trust and chances of a healthy relationship with you.

I believe you’ve got an incredibly strong grasp on this situation, not to mention admirable patience and willingness to forgive and try to forget actions that would be really tough to get out of your head. It’s your husband who truly, urgently needs to see an expert and get to the bottom of his sexual issues. I don’t think this is couples therapy territory, either: he’s too emotionally immature and sexually insecure to do this with you, at least for now. He needs to work to get to a better space and understanding of why he does what he does and feels how he feels. And if he isn’t willing to explore that and grow, I’m sorry to say that I don’t see this situation calming down or him suddenly respecting your space or perspective. I wish you luck.

[I’m married to an extreme extrovert, and I’m starting to worry that by myself I’ll never be enough]

[My boyfriend is great but won’t stay the night, and our relationship is at a standstill]

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@adn.com.

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