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Your Turn: “My Wife Ignores Me”

In a feature I call “Your Turn,” in which you, the readers, get to answer the question, I’m presenting the following letter without commentary from me:

How can I get my wife to get out of her own head and live in the moment with me? We have been married for 7 years and have a 3 and 1 year-old. Mostly, our lives are happy but lately I’ve been frustrated with her inability to step out of her mom-centered managerial mindset and focus on our relationship. Basically, I feel like the 5th or 6th item on her daily list and most days, she doesn’t get to me. It’s not just sex, though that is part of it, because I can’t seem to tell if she is really in the moment with me and actually enjoys our sex life or if her mind is still thinking about what needs to be done today, tomorrow, next week, next month. There’s always something to be done.

For example, one Friday we both left work for the day at noon to enjoy a relaxing afternoon without the kids. We had a quickie 15-minute romp which, to me, seemed like she felt that it was a necessary task that she had to get out of the way. Then she launched into directing me to clean the pool and cut the grass. I didn’t enjoy the sex because I felt like she just wanted to get it over with or that we were expected to do it because we were alone. She tells me that she likes sex and tells me what I do feels good and that she has orgasms, but I don’t know if she’s being entirely truthful. We’ve talked, and I have tried to get out of her what she wants, what she likes, but its always a general reply like: “It all feels good to me” or “I like whatever you do.”

I do a lot to take the pressure off her. I do almost all of the cooking, most of the cleaning (bathrooms, mopping floors, dishes and laundry) and we both work at good jobs that allow for flexible hours. I change diapers, give baths, feedings and read bedtime stories every night. I give her foot rubs, back massages, I take my time with foreplay, I am romantic, I bring her flowers, I write her little love notes sometimes in her lunch bag that I also pack for her every day before work. I am in better shape now than when we got married and I still find her incredibly sexy, and I tell her all the time.

I am at a loss, what more can I do to get her to really see me? — Mr. Invisible

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Comments on this entry are closed.

avatar Mom of Teens August 25, 2011, 7:38 am

I’m sorry, Mr. Invisible, it sounds like you’re going above and beyond and doing everything right in your efforts to reconnect with your wife on that level. However, there’s nothing that you can do to make your wife’s priorities change while your children are this young. When my children were that age, it was very difficult for me to get out of the 24/7 Mommy mindset. My only advice is to give it time, unfortunately – lots of time. By the time your youngest is in kindergarten your wife will probably be ready to view herself as a sexual being, not just a stressed Mommy with peanut butter in her hair.
Another thing to consider is that many parents of children this age feel “over-touched.” I had a clingy preschooler and a baby on my hip for the better part of 2 years, and at the end of the day I just wanted my body to belong to *me* again. I explained this and asked my husband to be patient about it, and while his feelings were probably hurt at the time he was sweet about it. There were times that I took care of him just because I love him and wanted him to be happy, so don’t be discouraged if you think your getting some out of pity – it’s because she loves you and values your happiness. Keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy your porn until your wife is able to be the partner she once was.

avatar matbo August 25, 2011, 8:23 am

Have you tried refusing sex? Like honestly just say no and use the time to talk instead. If as you say she feels it’s a duty, then show her it doesn’t have to be, that you value her mind and you would be with her regardless. Then be with her regardless. Prepare a nice deep topic about life, love and the universe or politics, her favorite band, bond over and awesome past experience and get into the feeling of just being you as a couple again.

But props for still being romantic!

avatar MissDre August 25, 2011, 9:28 am

I am not a mom, so I cannot honestly say how a mother with little kids running around would feel about this… but I think if I was already stressed out about all the things going on in my life and then suddenly my husband turned down sex, it would be one more thing to worry about. I might start thinking maybe he’s no longer attracted to me now that he sees me as a ‘mommy’ or that something is really wrong!

Moms here, please correct me if I’m wrong. But if I’m stressed, I’d just want my man to be there for me like he has been, not suddenly refuse to have sex with me.

BriarRose BriarRose August 25, 2011, 9:33 am

I don’t think refusing sex (on purpose, as a punishment or to make a point) is ever a wise idea, but that’s just me.

avatar lets_be_honest August 25, 2011, 9:47 am

I don’t think that was the point though by matbo even though it began with ‘have you tried refusing sex.’ I think he/she meant take it out of the equation so she doesn’t have to feel like she’s fulfilling an obligation, but only doing it when she really wants to and is in the mood. Not a long-term solution, but I think taking the stress of her marital obligations (sex) out of the equation and really focus on each other and conversation could really help in the long run. Make her recognize that she enjoys her husband’s company…leading to better sex.

BriarRose BriarRose August 25, 2011, 10:41 am

Excellent point. Taking it out of the equation for the time being might give them more time to focus on each other and enjoying each other’s company.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 25, 2011, 1:06 pm

Good luck in refusing sex when she never seems to want it anyway….

avatar Maracuya August 25, 2011, 1:58 pm

Why’d they thumbs down BGM? Harsh, but true. If she doesn’t initiate and they don’t have much…

avatar Quakergirl August 25, 2011, 3:12 pm

I think the thumbs down were because he missed the point– it’s not about refusing her initiations, but more that he should take the option off the table and allow them to reconnect without that pressure for her every time they have 15 minutes alone together. If she initiates, by all means, he should be receptive.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 25, 2011, 6:34 pm

Right. Yeah. Because NOT having sex is always so successful and bringing couples together… Hey, she doesn’t care about sex. Taking it off the table is only giving her more of what she wants… But then…that’s increasingly what these conversations are all about… Meanwhile the odds of her initiating sex are about the same as me knocking up Lady Gaga….

avatar Quakergirl August 26, 2011, 12:28 am

It’s about not making her feel pressured just because they have time alone. There’s nothing about feeling pressured to have sex with someone (even your husband) that brings a couple together, either.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 25, 2011, 8:31 am

I agree with Mom of Teens, you’re doing all the right things! Like her, I also felt over-touched when I had preschoolers. The constant clinging and hanging on left me just wanting some personal space. I needed quite a bit of time to unwind, by myself, before I was ready to be touching/touched by my husband. The other thing with toddlers is their constant business, doing things nonstop, that can sometimes get them into trouble. They have no common sense, and especially my son, could get into trouble in a moment. The nonstop vigilance was exhausting. I listened nonstop too, even in my sleep, and I’ve never been able to stop that. Even now that my youngest is eleven I listen in my sleep. So now, if my husband slips quietly out of bed during the night, I’m instantly awake because I can’t stop listening. That may be part of the problem for your wife, because the kids can be into trouble at any moment she can’t shut off the vigilange, even when the kids aren’t there.

By the time your youngest is 4 things should begin to get easier. When they are old enough for school then even easier. I know that’s a long time at this point but when you look back in ten years it’s not so bad. I hate to say this, but I found that the years we had a two-year-old in the house were the worst and you’ve just finished one of those years and still have one of those years to go. Things may get worse before they get better but know that you can ride it out and that they will grow up and things will get easier and you and your wife will love each other. You can do this but it may be a matter of patience and time. Your wife is lucky to have you and she probably knows that and loves you all the more for all your efforts. She may still be burned out even with all that you do and you are probably getting burned out too. Continue what you’re doing and know that you love each other and that things will get better easier with time. Your wife is a lucky woman!

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 25, 2011, 8:39 am

I should say that when my son could get into trouble I mean things that were dangerous to him and even the house. Like trying to turn on the burners on the stove because he loved running electronics. Trying to shove things into the VCR including his hands. Climbing onto the refrigerator. Stacking chairs and stools on top of the table to reach the light. Running to open the door for any stranger that knocked. Opening the door and running outside in the winter. Climbing into the kitchen sink and turning on the garbage disposal.

avatar artsygirl August 25, 2011, 9:00 am

Wow what a courageous (and terrifying) son!

avatar Flake August 25, 2011, 9:47 am

My 20 month old has figured out how to get things that are out of his reach. Now he is dragging the chair everywhere with him :) Last evening I caught up with him at the stove. One more thing to worry about…

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 25, 2011, 10:14 am

That brings back memories! We had a gas stove with knobs on the front (so easy for a toddler to reach) so ended up pulling all the knobs off and keeping them in a basket that he couldn’t reach. Then when we wanted to use a burner we put a knob back on the stove and used it then removed the knob the moment we were done. I think we started this when we found the stove clicking with the burner trying to light and the smell of gas in the air and realized he had turned a knob.

avatar dobby August 25, 2011, 1:38 pm

I do the same thing with the knobs because my dog turns the gas on all the time… I know this is a kid story but I don’t have kids, I have dogs… :)

BriarRose BriarRose August 25, 2011, 8:41 am

Sounds like it’s time for some joint marriage counseling. You are starting to feel resentful, which is never a good thing in a marriage. I can commiserate with your wife–I think every working woman with children can. Your brain never feels “off” and relaxing seems like an impossible task. An afternoon off is just a chance to try to catch up on chores and errands in an effort to try to get on top of things, which you know realistically will never happen. You are constantly worrying about everything, from cleaning to birthday parties to work to that nagging throat clearing habit your child has, and does it mean she’s sick or just have a nervous tic? You love sex just as much as your husband, but it takes longer to get in the mood than it does for him, and you just can’t seem to shake the thoughts of everything you need to take care of before going to bed.

Especially with children as young as yours, it truly will be difficult for your wife to feel in control of her life and her family, and thereby, start to relax a little bit. So like I said, I do understand what it’s like for her. All that aside, I will reiterate: marriage counseling. What you’ve described sounds like my marriage. My husband was very involved with our child, and very helpful. But he couldn’t understand where I was coming from, nor I him, and we both started to grow apart, and eventually divorced. Looking back, I wish that:

A. We had read “The 5 Love Languages”
B. Had gone to counseling earlier
C. He had been more understanding of how utterly stressed and exhausted I felt ALL THE TIME and had put less pressure on me for sex and to “relax”
D. I had realized that chosing to clean the kitchen or folding the laundry or anything like that over sitting down to watch TV with him was not always the right choice
E. We had made a joint effort to get chores and errands done during the week so the weekend was more relaxing and more enjoyable for everyone
F. We had had sex with more often-as in, we jointly made a point to plan it–unromantic, perhaps, but with 2 working parents and 2 children, you don’t really have much choice

I could keep going on and on about the “I wish I had” and “you should do”, but I have to get back to work (being a single, working mom is even harder than being a married, working mom, as it turns out) and tell you that you two need to discuss this honestly and openly. DO NOT HOLD IT INSIDE. My husband kept all of his thoughts on this matter (which were surprisingly similar to yours) to himself until he apparently couldn’t take it anymore, and asked me for a divorce out of the blue. By then he was so bitter that marriage counseling did no good. Your marraige is completely salvageable, if you BOTH make the effort.

avatar Mathys August 25, 2011, 8:55 am

I’m going to have to disagree with you, BriarRose. The last thing that I would want to hear from my significant other is: “I’m not getting any, there must be something wrong with you, we’re going to a counselor until you start putting out.” No matter how lovingly phrased, that’s the message being delivered, and I can promise you that it wouldn’t be well-received by most women, mothers or not.

avatar amber August 25, 2011, 10:13 am

While sex is an important part of what the LW and Briarrose were talking about I don’t think they’re saying I’m not getting any let’s go to counseling.They’re saying I don’t feel like you value me as a spouse anymore we need to work on us as much as we work on the house/kids. At least that’s how I view it.

BriarRose BriarRose August 25, 2011, 10:20 am

I don’t think the LW was talking just about sex, nor did I mean go to counseling just because you feel like you’re not getting enough. I meant that there seems to be a geniune disconnect between the two of them as life partners. That’s why #1 on my list was I wish we had read “The Five Love Languages”, a book which helps partners learn the way their partner wants to receive love (words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, gifts, physical touch). The LW seems to be craving quality time, along with physical touch, and it’s entirely possible his wife has no idea.

He said he feels invisible to her. That’s a huge problem in a marriage, and not just to do with sex. That’s why I think marriage counseling is the way to go. I imagine his wife is not entirely clued in to his discontent, and left unchecked, it will only breed bitterness and resentment, certainly not healthy things to have in a marriage. He mentioned sex, yes (which is why I responded to that) but I feel the issue is much more than that.

avatar Neil G. August 25, 2011, 1:41 pm

I think BriarRose is dead on here. Really I think that the problem here isn’t a relationship problem, it’s a communication problem – something which an outsider’s perspective might be able to reframe for the couple. There isn’t anything here that says to me that their relationship is broken and needs to be ended, nothing indicating infidelity or irreconcilable difference or anything like that. So yeah, start communicating. There are ton of books out there that can help facilitate a dialogue and I can tell you from experience that the “Five Love Languages” is a great place to start.

avatar Amy August 25, 2011, 9:33 am

I’m sorry that you have had to deal with this in your life – but what AWESOME advice! Thank you very much for sharing!

parton_doll parton_doll August 25, 2011, 9:48 am

I am so sorry for what happened to your marriage, but I agree that this is the best advice. Thank you for sharing something so personal.

avatar lets_be_honest August 25, 2011, 9:50 am

Sometimes a planned, scheduled time for sex really does work. I know when I’m not in the mood because I’m in mommy-mode, etc., once I’m in the moment, I always know it was worth it.

BriarRose BriarRose August 25, 2011, 10:15 am

Thanks to each of you for the sympathies, but I’m honestly much happier now. This was of course not the only issue in our marriage, and not the sole reason for our divorce. A military lifestyle, combined with my husband having an emotional affair, contributed heavily. But still, I stand by everything I say. I think our marriage could have perhaps been saved, but by the time this all came to light, my husband was beyond wanting to try. I feel like the LW’s marriage has promise because he seems to care enough to try. Hopefully his wife feels the same way and they can get through this rough patch together.

avatar 2_J August 25, 2011, 8:51 am

I don’t know if it’s just me but, althoguh i really agree with the commenter’s here, especially, BriarRose, but Wendy, i think some of the “your Turn” blogs should be answered by you. This is one of them i think.

avatar Maracuya August 25, 2011, 8:57 am

I am curious what Wendy has to say. Maybe after everyone gives their two cents? We were complaining about the YT being too easy after all.

avatar PFG-SCR August 25, 2011, 9:19 am

I think some readers don’t always respond because Wendy gives such great advice, so it might partially be to “pull in” those readers with real life experiences. Plus, she’s interested in the responses as she’s going to be in the similar situation, as well.

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 25, 2011, 9:25 am

I think that until you’ve had toddlers you can’t really fully understand this situation. In two years Wendy will be living this and then in a few more years she probably would have lots of advice for the writer.

avatar callmehobo August 25, 2011, 10:51 am

Wendy DOES answer the Your Turn letters- only the responses are sent directly to the LW.

avatar PFG-SCR August 25, 2011, 8:55 am

This is so common after couples have children, especially when both parents work full-time. There is so much to try and balance, and even though you do an incredible amount of the work at home, there’s still so many responsibilities that she has. She probably feels overwhelmed (at least to some degree), and being the mother of two very young children is demanding. Plus, if she works in a stressful job and/or is the type of personality to not be able to “mentally leave work”, she’s likely thinking about that while at home.

I agree with Mom of Teens above that you need to recognize that it’s going to be this way for a while. I also agree with her about the fact that she probably feels “over-touched”, and if she’s still nursing the 1 year old, her hormone levels are affecting her interest in sex. Even if she’s not, her hormone levels might still not be quite what they were before. Additionally, the phrase “a woman’s largest sex organ is her brain” is never more accurate when describing a working mother.

However, this is the downward slide that happens to a lot of couples and their marriages. For some, they are able to regain the relationship that they previously had, but for others, they do not. But for the latter case, it’s often because neither partner is consciously aware of how bad it’s gotten, nor is either partner focused on taking steps to improve the situation. The fact that you do recognize it and are doing things (taking an afternoon off from work to spend on each other) is a good sign.

I’d keep doing what you’re doing because they are making a positive impact. Continue to try and find ways to focus on you and your wife as a couple instead of parents. While the afternoon together was wonderful, being at home means she is aware of all that needs to be done there. If you can get away for a long weekend (maybe if the grandparents will take the kids), it’ll will allow her to relax more and focus on each other. But, make sure that it’s a “good time” for her – don’t just spring it on her – because of what’s going on at work and home.

The amount of changes in your lives in the past three years has been significant. Life with the kids will get a bit easier when the youngest is about 3-4 years old. I just wouldn’t lose sight of the fact that your marriage still needs to be a priority, and if your wife isn’t able to come around to that thinking, you need to work with her to determine how to best make that happen.

avatar kerrycontrary August 25, 2011, 9:08 am

I don’t have kids so I’ll give the advice my parents would…I would suggest getting away for a weekend vacation (without the kids obviously) or even getting a hotel room in your own town. When you take the afternoon off you are still at home and that’s a place that your wife can’t turn off her brain thinking about everything that needs to be done. If you are 2 hours away or in a hotel room you two can solely focus on each other. I know this may not be financially feasible for all couples but that’s my suggestion!

avatar lets_be_honest August 25, 2011, 9:54 am

Or if you can’t afford that, take Friday off and get ALL the chores done. Or hire a cleaning lady for a Friday, let her sleep in Saturday, drop the kids off somewhere and spend the day together. I know when my house is clean and most of my chores/errands are done, I can relax. After relaxing and catching up on sleep, maybe she will be more settled down to enjoy a night with you. OR, show her this letter!!

avatar EC was here August 25, 2011, 10:12 pm

I don’t have children, so all I can offer is advise on what I feel is a successful marriage – my parents. I know when my sibling and I were kids my parents made a point to have a date night 2x a month. They traded off babysitting with another couple who had kids close to the same age. On the nights the other couple went out my parents watched the kids. My parents have been married for 37 years, and they still have date night. The LW sounds similar to my father, he made sure to pitch in around the house and is a romantic. I think possibly trying to arrange a date night, or even an afternoon alone AWAY from the house would be beneficial to them.

avatar artsygirl August 25, 2011, 9:11 am

Two words – date night. I know it is cliched, but try to plan an adults only activity each week or every other week. Maybe a night out, dinner drinks, movie or an afternoon picnic and walk through a local park. You can switch off who chooses where you go and what you do.

Also, do you have some friends who are new daddies too or even older dads? Maybe you can spend sometime with them to help put this all in perspective. From the response it is apparent that this is a really common (though unpleasant) thing. Men who have gone through this and survived might be able to offer some suggestions too.
Best of luck!

avatar MissDre August 25, 2011, 9:35 am

I think this is great. My best friend has three children age 4, 6 and 9 and I can’t even tell you how excited she gets when she’s able to go on a “date” with her husband. Just out to see a movie and then a coffee together somewhere… I know it’s really refreshing for her and gives her the boost she needs to keep going when she’s starting to feel worn down.

avatar Fairhaired Child August 30, 2011, 1:25 am

Yes! I don’t have kids, but I have an extremely hectic work schedule (lately I’ve been doing 60+ hours a week at different shifts – day, evening, night whatever). And for me and my boyfriend our personal lives were kinda slumping more towards “roommates” that shared a space rather than romantic happy couple – even though he was super sweet and helpful like this LW. The BIGGEST thing that turned our relationship back into that – a relationship – was him talking to me about how he understood how hard I was working – but that he also wanted to spend some quality time with me. And we’ve started going out on cute dates (at least one every 1-2 weeks). Which really just let me focus on “this is us time, not time for bills, chores, errands etc”. And being out having fun doing whatever (bowling, going on walks, movies etc) made me want to have more us time when we got home ;).

Now whenever I’m in a “slump” of feeling just so over stressed and over worked – I just say “lets go do something, I want to dress up etc..” and just the motion of actually putting together a cute “going out” outfit actually makes me happier because its a seperation from the normal daily grind.

Budj Budjer August 25, 2011, 9:19 am

Dude – you make me feel bad because I don’t think I’ll be as awesome a husband / father as you….I can’t offer any advice as I am not and never will be the mother of young children, but hopefully you find some consolation in my compliment…?….maybe??

avatar TheOtherMe August 25, 2011, 9:39 am

That’s sweet Budj. I can’t really give my 2 cents either because I don’t have children of my own but my BF has 3 teenagers (16–18–18) and even just being a “part-time, “sorta step mom” I can’t stop thinking about the various chores that need to be done.

LW, you seem like an awesome person, dad, husband, that’s all I can say. Maybe you can show our positive compliments to your wife? Hang in there LW !!

avatar silver_dragon_girl August 25, 2011, 10:25 am

I now have an internet crush on you. FYI.

avatar TheOtherMe August 25, 2011, 10:30 am

Me or Budj ? LOllll !!

( I also sometimes reply under the wrong name )

avatar silver_dragon_girl August 25, 2011, 10:36 am

Would it be weird if I said both? ;)

avatar TheOtherMe August 25, 2011, 10:43 am

no. “we” love you too xox

Budj Budjer August 25, 2011, 11:17 am

yay internet love.

avatar PFG-SCR August 25, 2011, 10:41 am

Did you see the exchange last week where we actually got to see what Budjer looked like?!?!

avatar TheOtherMe August 25, 2011, 10:44 am

yes. (cutie) but still no music though..grrrrr !

Budj Budjer August 25, 2011, 11:29 am

Like us on facebook (.com/underwatertigermusic) and you can listen to our stuff :P

Budj Budjer August 25, 2011, 11:31 am

Disclaimer: They are demos…sick-nasty professional recordings are coming out in a couple months.

avatar TheOtherMe August 25, 2011, 11:34 am

I’m not on facebook :(

Budj Budjer August 25, 2011, 12:48 pm

myspace and reverbnation too.

avatar silver_dragon_girl August 25, 2011, 10:48 am

I did! ;)

avatar TheOtherMe August 25, 2011, 10:50 am

Your turn, PFG !! :D

avatar A August 25, 2011, 9:20 am

I definitely agree that Marriage counseling is key here. If nothing else it will give you a fixed forum and quota of time each week to communicate. Your wife is stressed and busy and tired and worn and with that in mind hearing you tell her how her priorities arent as they should be may well not be enough and might even infuriate her- often it takes the comments of a person outside of the relationship to make to someone really see where they are going wrong. In addition a therapist can give you the tools to redress this imbalance. And while i appreciate that things improve in time, I dont think hearing that it will be better when your child youngest is 3 or 4 is much solace. You have endured this for 3 years and its already caused so much frustration, hearing that you have to endure it for double that before there is a chance of improving is not a solution, especially as you dont want this to stop you from having more kids if thats what you really, want for fear of repetition. See a counselor and try and make your wife see that her priorities( not necessarily through any fault of her own) are backward and your relationship needs to come higher if its going to survive!

avatar wendyblueeyes August 25, 2011, 9:28 am

I remember those days well! And my husband was a workaholic, so my plate was full. Here’s what we did to solve the same problem: we hired a lawn service (I threw my back out pushing the mower up the incline in the yard), hired a cleaning lady every other Saturday (you will be surprised how much she can get done in 4 hours), had date night every Friday, sometimes alone, and sometimes with other couples, and went away for a weekend alone twice a year (my birthday in June, our anniversary in November). Date nights and weekends away had just one rule: no talking about the kids. My sister gifted me the weekend babysitting for my birthday, my mother-in-law gifted me the November time. Do this and I promise, your wife will feel less stressed and you will be back on track.

avatar MissDre August 25, 2011, 9:36 am

I love this idea!

Skyblossom Skyblossom August 25, 2011, 10:21 am

Or, if you can’t afford a cleaning service maybe you can hire a teen to watch the kids while you get the chores done. That gives you some cling free time and without kids interrupting you the chores are done more quickly and easily. Even an adult babysitter is probably cheaper than a lawn service or cleaning lady. Another option can be to trade babysitting with a friend. So one weekend you watch their kids and they get a kid free afternoon/day/whatever and then the next week it’s your turn. Two of my cousins hire women who watch the kids, do some cleaning during nap time and cook dinner.

avatar Monica M August 25, 2011, 12:57 pm

I totally agree with your suggestions. Get help with chores is possible and spend couple time with each other without kids.

avatar heidikins August 25, 2011, 2:20 pm

I know that finances are tight for many people, but I’ve never really understood the “I can’t afford ___ even though it might save my marriage.” If it was a Ferrari, sure, but it’s a babysitter. A babysitter (or cleaning lady, or lawn service, or weekend away) is FAR cheaper than a divorce with attorney’s fees, child support, alimony, etc.

xox

avatar Flake August 25, 2011, 9:40 am

First thought: Oh god, I hope my BF never feels that way.

I agree with the posters above.

I don’t think you need anyone to tell you that kids change things… FOREVER… Not just when they are young but for freaking ever.. You do sound like an amazing and loving husband, father and partner in general. Your wife is definitely lucky :)

I would like to mention some things from personal experience.
- I love my BF, find him incredible attractive and definitely enjoy sex. I still can’t bring myself to do it as often as I think I ”should”. And even when we are doing it, it takes a conscious effort on my part to enjoy it and to not let unrelated things ruin it. And yes, we do it whenever we are alone, because it doesn’t happen often, and I would just hate to waste any opportunity to get close to my BF.
- As above posters have mentioned, I am constantly tired. The mental exhaustion is incredible. I have never dealt with anything like that. From the moment I come home after work until I literally fall into bed, I do not stop. I do not sit down. To be fair, neither does my BF.
- Was your wife ever depressed? I had PPD. It was never medically diagnosed, because I never went to see a doctor about it, but now, having gone through it, I know what it was. And 20 months on, I am still not fully over it. Dealing with that, on TOP of everything else is very tiring.

I would love to be the same person I was before the kids. But that is impossible. And that is how nature intended it. Once you become a mother, everything changes: physically, mentally, hormonally. And it makes you a better parent, but not necessarily a better wife. There’s nothing you can do about it. The only thing that helps me is remembering that one day I will look back on this time and miss it very much.

I assure you that your wife is doing her best. She is being the best mother she can be and the best wife. And she needs your support and understanding now more than ever. She knows how lucky she is. Hopefully, as your children grow and become more independent, she will have more energy to dedicate to your relationship.

P. S. I think couples therapy is an excellent idea.

P. P. S. Happy parents mean happy kids :)

avatar MsMisery August 25, 2011, 9:57 am

Jeebus, with all the stuff you say you do for the household, how can the wife still have a honeydo list?????

Budj Budjer August 25, 2011, 10:03 am

I was wondering that too, but if what the other commenters say is the LW’s situation it could be that the LW’s wife is on constant baby detail which is what allows the husband to do the cooking / cleaning and would also explain why she isn’t into the sex so much (all the grabby toddler affection all day).

BriarRose BriarRose August 25, 2011, 10:11 am

Not to be completely cynical, but I once heard my then-husband telling one of his friends about ALL the stuff he did, and yes, it was stuff that he definitely had done–once or twice. It wasn’t like it was his set “job” to cook dinner, he had done it a few times here and there. Same with some chores around the house or errands. He did however, handle all the lawncare and always emptied the dishwasher (my most hated chore) and was very helpful with our child. I guess I just take it all with a grain of salt, since we only have one side of the story regarding the division of chores and child-rearing in their home.

avatar Flake August 25, 2011, 10:18 am

That’s the thing. There’s ALWAYS something to be done. And you cannot do it together because the kids are too young to help. So one of you has to constantly entertain/supervise the kids (which is fun, but exhausting), so that the other person can do other things (such as go to the bathroom without for little fists knocking on the door, or take a proper shower and shave your legs finally).

Budj Budjer August 25, 2011, 10:21 am

All the ladies here are making me scared about children….I think I can put that off a while.

avatar Flake August 25, 2011, 10:26 am

It’s not scary… I call it intense :)

avatar Quakergirl August 25, 2011, 10:48 am

Household chores are like hydras– cross one off the list and two more grow in its place. More like six when you have kids. There’s always something to do unless money, space, and time are no object.

And as BriarRose said, he may do all these things some of the time, but I doubt he’s doing all of them all the time.

avatar mcj2011 August 25, 2011, 10:00 am

Mom of Teens and Sky Blossom – dead on!

I am this wife & have this husband. He’s wonderful does everything to help but sometimes, between work & our home lives, I just want to decompress. NOOO TOUCHING. I know my husband gets insulted sometimes. But my kids are young and now that they are 5 and 3 things are better, not 100% back to normal, but definitely an improvement. I think that you have kids constantly in need for things that sometimes sex becomes just another thing someone needs from you and it’s sort of like okay get this over with quick before the kids wake up and i have to get that wash in or something along those lines, your constantly thinking what has to get done. From being single to married to having kids, it’s all stages in life and you need time to just readjust what you are used too. With kids first you adjust to one and when you are on schedule you have another so it takes a bit more getting used to. It takes time, but continue doing what you are doing because your wife does appreciate what you are doing and is more grateful than you know, she’s just at a point where she doesn’t know how to juggle it all. It will get better.

MaterialsGirl Elizabeth August 25, 2011, 10:43 am

I don’t even have children yet, but sometimes I need the decompress time too! I do a lot of the household management as well as work, and sometimes, I need some breathing space .. no touching! i don’t even want to cuddle. After I get my ‘me’ time, then touch away! This is very good to think about and recognize about myself before we have children…. i should probably warn him :)

avatar Quakergirl August 25, 2011, 10:59 am

Same– no kids yet, but I definitely relate…I feel horrible, but sometimes I do see sex as just something else he needs from me. I’ve been working somewhere between part time and full time, but Quakerboy works between 80 and 90 hours a week, so I do literally all of the household chores, bill paying, errand running, etc. on top of work. I know he has no time to do any of it– he barely has time to sleep– but it’s exhausting. He comes home and the apartment is perfect and bills are paid and there’s food in the fridge and it’s like now you want to have sex, too? How do you think all this stuff got this way? It’s 11pm– I’m tired and I just want to cuddle and fall asleep watching The Daily Show.

Friday night date night is really, really helpful for us. He either picks up dinner or we go out then see a movie– it’s just nice to have him do something just for me sometimes. It’s much easier to get your mind off things when you’re being treated like a wife/girlfriend and not like a mommy/maid. I’d definitely suggest LW makes some time for adults-only outings. The romantic gestures are a great start, but actual time alone away from the house is a big part of it, too.

MaterialsGirl Elizabeth August 25, 2011, 1:19 pm

He’s actually suggested taking walks out to the beach (Hooray Chicago!!). We live up near the *fantastic* Hollywood beach, which is beautiful at dusk. It’s a really good time to just hold hands (or not) and relax/breath. THEN I’m much happier with the touchy/feely stuff.
Our problem also is that he has a very different cleaning approach than I do. His is more whirlwind all-at-one time and ignore it for weeks after, while I’m more, “let’s do a little at a time/clean dishes up immediately after dinner” type. His way stresses me out big time.
I hear ya, QuakerGirl. I can’t imagine adding kids to the mix even if I subtracted work.

avatar Quakergirl August 25, 2011, 2:53 pm

Mother of god the dishes!! I once came home from a several-day work trip to a sink full of dishes! He did them later that night, but I couldn’t even fathom how they weren’t driving him up a wall. I’m like you, I like to get things done a little at a time and clean up messes right when they happen. He is the complete opposite. It drives me bananas, but I try to be as patient and understanding as possible. If that’s the biggest problem we have, it’s not such a big problem :) But yeah, having little kids is going to be quite the interesting time period in our lives.

avatar VioletLover August 25, 2011, 6:54 pm

AUGH my boyfriend is EXACTLY like that. I mean, he doesn’t leave things filthy, but they’re not -clean-. He would let the dishes pile up, or the trash, or the laundry, till it becomes this giant THING that takes an hour or two to take care of. I tried to point out how much easier it is to just take things a little at a time. If you bring your dishes to the sink, rinse them and stick them in the dishwasher -as they become dirty-, then when it’s time to “do” the dishes, all you have to do is run the dishwasher. SO much simpler.

avatar callmehobo August 25, 2011, 10:39 am

LW,

Have you talked to your wife about how you feel? Have you let her know that you feel that some of your needs are not being met? I know that you said you talked to her about what you can do to improve your sex life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you let her know that you feel like she is disconnected.

I know it sounds really simple, but sometimes good, honest communication will help resolve the situation. If you feel like you can’t resolve the problems by direct communication, then by all means, employ the use of a mediator or marriage counselor, like others have suggested.

Even though you are doing all these things to help, your wife may not know that you are feeling like your needs are not met. Just like you can’t get into her head to know if she’s really into the sex, she doesn’t know that you are stressing out about it! Especially since you seem to be doing all the right things.

Good luck, LW!

avatar Jena August 25, 2011, 10:45 am

Is there a chance that she would rather just talk about things? It sounds to me like a big issue might be that with you taking care of a lot of the physical tasks, she may think of sex as expected or as “payment” rather than something to be shared/enjoyed. Perhaps she wouldn’t mind doing some of the work but just needs someone to hear her out as far as her stress level; merely not having to do the dishes or put dinner on the table is one thing but when you’re feeling enclosed in your own world like she seemingly is, it can be hard to appreciate those tasks.

avatar cookiesandcream August 25, 2011, 10:54 am

LW, I first want to say kudos to you for being such a kind, compassionate man! I’m sure that many women out there are hoping to meet a guy like you! :)

When I first read your letter, it was obvious to me that your wife is incredibly unhappy. She seems very passive in her life (“It all feels good to me” or “I like whatever you do.”); it most likely is due to the fact that she needs to take care of everyone else in her life before she takes care of herself. In all honesty, women are expected to take care of everyone else before they take a moment to think about their own needs and desires. In fact, the more a woman sacrifices, the more praise she gets for being “such a good mom” or an ideal wife. Honestly, I’m not in any way shape or form trying to blame you or saying that you’re a part of the problem, but your wife may be just looking at you as another item on her to-do list since women are most often the caretakers of the family. In the process, your wife may have very likely lost a sense of self because she doesn’t know who she is anymore. At the end of the day, when you and the kids are asleep, it’s just her and she could very well be unhappy with how her life turned out or who she has become.

Does it seem like she’s just operating under auto-pilot? I think it might be because there’s a whole lot of truth to the saying, “A woman’s work is never done” because, quite frankly, a lot of the mundane, everyday chores that need to be done falls upon the shoulders of women. I want to commend you for picking up some of the slack because I know many men who wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing. I just have one quick question though: when you do all these things, do you expect recognition and praise or do you just do it without her asking? It would annoy me so much if I had to ask my husband to do something, and then find him expecting some form of recognition for doing something that had to be done and that I would have had to do anyway. I’m not saying that this is you, but I just wanted to see if that was a possibility because there’s a HUGE difference between doing something out of choice and doing something because it’s expected of you. Also, if you haven’t done so already, make sure you’re doing this a daily basis rather than a whenever you feel like basis. Since there’s always something to be done, I get the feeling that she has precious little that she can call her own. Does she have an active social life? Does she have any hobbies outside the family and home? When was the last time she got un-interrupted alone time? Is she allowing her to-do list to consume her life because she’s terrified if she forgets something or makes one tiny mistake she’ll be labeled as a bad mom?

I think you’re doing so much for your wife in terms of concrete actions (i.e. cooking, cleaning, and child care), but to be honest I don’t see much that you’re doing in terms of your wife’s emotional health. You say that you try to take some of the pressure off, but what exactly do you mean by that? If you mean the pressure of having to do everything in the home, then I think you should continue contributing to the household, especially on a regular basis. But if you mean the pressure to be the perfect mom and wife that society expects her to be, then that is definitely something you two will need to discuss together. When was the last time you two had an honest, hold-nothing-back heart to heart? Does she know that she can come to you to talk about absolutely anything? When was the last time you had a date night? I think in this case some therapy for her might be handy to help her find some more balance in her life.

Also, I just want to throw this out there: has she had a physical lately? It might benefit her to see if her physical health is all there because this might be a sign of post-partum depression.

I know this is a mini-novel, so I’ll end this by saying that I see a lot of hope for the two of you because you’ve already proven yourself to be a caring husband! Best of luck to the two of you!

avatar Flake August 25, 2011, 11:12 am

Completely agree with you.. especially the PPD part, because the wife’s attitude sounds a lot like mine, and I know I had PPD.

caitie_didnt caitie_didn't August 25, 2011, 11:45 am

I don’t have children, so anything I say with respect to this should be taken with a grain of salt, but along with the Post-Partum depression, I wonder if the wife is maybe dealing with some body image issues as well? Having two children so close together is bound to seriously change your body in a permanent way, and the wife might be having difficulty adjusting to her new body while coping with being a mom of two (not to mention hormonal changes). I feel like this could account for some of her passivity when they do have sex.

avatar parrt August 25, 2011, 2:09 pm

you should be a slave to your wife is what you are basically saying.

avatar Sue Jones August 25, 2011, 11:46 pm

Yep because she is being a slave to your children!

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 26, 2011, 2:43 am

Good luck finding a guy who “happily” puts up with that attitude. Women who are slaves to their children are often, frankly, lousy mothers whose children turn out to be entitled spoiled brats by the way…

avatar Sue Jones August 26, 2011, 2:50 pm

It just comes with the territory. At the toddler stage it is 24/7 and you work like a slave to keep your children fed, happy, safe, clean, not crying, etc. Ask your mother what YOU were like at that age>

JK JK August 26, 2011, 2:55 pm

If you truly think you have to be a slave 24/7 for your children to be fed, happy, etc, you’re doing it wrong.

avatar Patti August 27, 2011, 1:17 am

I agree with that. I am not mommy. I’m me. I read, I have thoughts and concerns that go beyond organizing my dishes and kid’s clothes. I’m current with world events, I read the news every day. If I didn’t I’d feel weird.

avatar melikeycheesecake August 25, 2011, 11:04 am

I have been told over and over again that husbands will get “jealous” during this stage of a marriage. I’ve already discussed this with my fiance but I realize once the time comes… he may feel over shadowed. You sound like an amazing man and husband! So many props for being romantic and caring about what she needs/wants. Try to look at her current role as Mom and Wife in a different light. She is raising your children the best she can… that will hopefully make you happy. She is trying to keep your house neat and clean… hopefully that will make you happy too. I hope as the children get older this situation will get easier for you! Maybe… go on more dates outside of the house (when you can) so that you won’t expect her to have a list of house chores to do that day. I’m sure I was not much help but I wish you all the best!!!

avatar Flake August 25, 2011, 11:16 am

Just a joke I want to share:

A husband comes home, and sees dirty kids running everywhere, dishes in the sink, toys everywhere, no dinner on the table… So he looks over to his wife and asks, ”What happened here, what is going on??”
The wife looks at him and says, ” You know how you ask me what do I do at home every day? Well, today I did nothing!”.

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 26, 2011, 2:45 am

Right. Because going to a job you hate and dealing with lame-ass office politics is so much fucking better. You know what? If you don’t want to stay at home with the fucking kids, then DON’T HAVE the fucking kids!! Really. It’s. That. Fucking. Simple. It’s not like there is a fucking shortage of idiots on the planet anyway…

avatar Flake August 26, 2011, 6:11 am

What the heck has got up your butt?? Where’s all that aggression and frustration coming from? This was just a freaking joke…

P.S. You definitely proved your point about there being no lack of idiots…

bittergaymark bittergaymark August 26, 2011, 2:29 pm

I had a bad night. That said, if having kids is such a nightmare, maybe some of you should have (I dunno!) stopped after one? Seriously, it appears that some of YOU can’t handle motherhood with flying colors and that you now view not only as such a terrible burden, but one that has also rendered your husbands into giant burdens as well. (Don’t touch me! The babies touch me! Don’t touch me! I sound psycho but I have floors to clean! DON”T TOUCH ME!!!!!)

Um, okay… If you think your family doesn’t pick up on your resentment…well, sorry, but you are sorely mistaken.

JK JK August 26, 2011, 2:39 pm

I love you more and ore with (nearly) every comment you post. So agree about the resentment evident in several comments! And the fact the the families surely notice it.

avatar AnitaBath August 26, 2011, 2:43 pm

Holy hell, who is “you?” Are you just stereotyping everyone now and suddenly everyone who disagrees with you has more than one kid?

avatar Flake August 26, 2011, 2:48 pm

There you go with your judgements again.
I don’t resent my family at all. And actually we spend a lot of time together, cuddling, dancing, hugging. Personally, I have no problem with being over-touched. And yes, I am weird like that, I don’t like when my feet stick to the floor (that’s just a personal thing). I love my husband and surprisingly we have a pretty good sex life, we have sex 3-4 times a week on average. There are, however weeks when there is no sex, and there are weeks when it’s happening every day. My love for my family does not change the fact that the lack of sleep for the last 3 years is getting to me every now and then (my husband on the other hand can sleep through anything :)). But I KNOW that this particular stage is temporary and things will be different, and in some ways easier couple of years down the road.
Why can’t you admit that while you obviously have an opinion on the subject, it may not be the only correct one?
Before telling a guy to walk out on a 7-year old message and two kids, or encouraging him to cheat on his wife, why don’t you tell him that maybe, just maybe, there is a deeper reason to his wife’s perceived lack of enthusiasm. He does sound that he is doing his part, but that may not be what his wife really needs.

avatar Flake August 26, 2011, 2:55 pm

”7-year old marriage” oups…

avatar Quakergirl August 25, 2011, 11:19 am

This is such a tough situation, because I totally understand where you’re coming from, but I also really feel for your wife. I don’t even have kids yet, but I think a lot of the time I feel like her. I can’t disengage from being “household manager” because I feel like if I don’t do something it won’t get done, or worse, it will get done incorrectly and I’ll have to redo it. I once started an incredibly irrational fight about laundry because I assumed that Quakerboy didn’t know how to do it and kept nagging him about specifics…even though he has obviously done laundry before, and quite successfully. He told me to just take a nap and he’d do laundry, but I couldn’t relax because all I could think about was everything ending up pink or him forgetting to put blouses on the delicate cycle. It’s the same with sex. I can’t vouch for all women, but for me, sex is not relaxing if I have 30,000 other things to do. I can’t just not think about them. And being put in the position of having to either have sex and then be interrogated about why I look tense or say no because there’s 30,000 things to do and feel like the world’s biggest jerk is not a fun choice. I’d strongly suggest you talk to her about it in a non-accusatory way. Let her know she can say no and you won’t be angry. And as other readers mentioned, maybe let her initiate more or ask her when a good time is for her.

And yes, the occasional help with chores is lovely, but it’s still…chores. It’s kinda like buying her a new blender or a new vacuum cleaner. No matter how much it helps her, it’s still mommy related. One thing I really love is being told “thank you” for doing all that boring householdy stuff. Yes, it does have to get done, but hearing that makes me feel like it’s appreciated and not just expected. Nothing makes you feel less like a wife/girlfriend than being treated like the cleaning service or babysitter. The notes and the flowers are a *great* start, though. I love the suggestion other readers made about having a cleaning service on a Friday then taking her out that night while the grandparents or friends watch the kids. That way her mind is totally clear and she can focus on being the sexy, fun wife you know she still is.