20 June 2001
He's Too Distant
Q: Dear Dr Love,
I've been married for the last one and a half years. I love my husband very much. My husband works abroad for a month and then comes home for a month each time. We used to have great sex before we were married but now our sex life sucks. I miss him very much and when he comes back home for his break, he takes about a week to recover from jet lag/time difference. He goes to bed by 8.00pm and he drinks with his friends or at home. When he comes back home, we have sex not more than twice. I'm beginning to feel very unsure about myself. He used to find me irresistible but now, even though we snuggle a lot, we never kiss or have sex. I trust him with all my heart and he has given me no reason to doubt him. But since this has been happening (for the last 6-7 months), I am beginning to wonder if he has been sleeping with another woman while he's away. He is 44 years of age and I am 33 years old and I would say that I keep myself in good shape and am an attractive lady. Sometimes I get so frustrated and he knows that and every time just before he leaves for work, he'll say that we've got to work on our sex life. Being away from him for a month is bad enough and I feel really miserable when he is at home and we don't even end up having sex as often as we should. At times I feel much closer to him while he is away because in his emails, he writes really sweet stuff and tells me that he misses me and is always thinking of me. Please help me as this is killing me and I want our marriage to work. We lack intimacy and I am really yearning for it.
A: My instincts say he's not having an affair but had lost his libido for some other reason. Men don't like to acknowledge open-ended problems, that is, ones without a concrete solution. They particularly hate admitting sexual deficiencies - that's probably why he only mentions the issue as he's leaving. He wants you to know that he's aware of the problem but doesn't know what to do. He's also obviously tired after his trip and doesn't perhaps feel up to sorting things out. I can understand that you want more sex, especially with your husband away so much but I do want to make the point that you already do have intimacy. When couples are experiencing sexual difficulties, a sure sign of a solid relationship is if they're still cuddling and staying close in other ways. This is a great gift. However the overall situation is clearly unsatisfactory and the situation can only get worse. You need to let your husband know that it's not up to him to fix things, that as a couple, you can work on your sex life together. Ask him for more time alone together when he's home. A good sex life needs time and care. There are lots of other strategies you can employ as well - writing to me is a good start, there's other information available on these matters and you can also consult a therapist for further guidance.