Ask a Psychiatrist and Get Answers to Mental Health Questions ASAP
Welcome, I am a professional counselor, Behavioral-Consultant and relationship expert.
You've provided some good detail in your presenting question so I'm going to provide you a strong, practical answer to your question. I'll be back shortly to post the answer for your review.
Let me start by saying it’s really wonderful that you are taking proactive steps to re-build your relationship with your wife. I love the fact that you are willing to really support her and be there for her so she can really learn to love and trust again. Good for you!
Please, before addressing the issues related to sexual intimacy directly with your wife, the relationship and treatment evidence show very clearly that it is important to first deal with emotional or attachment based issues in a marriage or relationship. When these are addressed properly, the sexual intimacy will often spontaneously resolve in a natural way through increased emotional connection and trust.
You can start by reading 2 of the best relationship books on the market with your wife, written by the leading relationship experts. Both books will guide you through a structured conversation designed by the world’s 2 leading marital therapy researchers and therapists. I advise that you take 1 hour every day and create a relaxing, comfortable space together free of any other distractions. Make a real date out of it each time but an emotional and learning date not a sexual date yet.
Do something special to prepare for the shared reading and talking. Make your wife a beautiful diner. Let her know that you want to explore your emotional intimacy and really strengthen your love and trust of one and other before you even start to talk seriously about sex (unless she changes her mind and by all means let her know that you’d love to hear from her as soon as she does). This means you commit to waiting for sex until she feels fully trusting emotionally and ready for making love. She’s been through some difficult experiences to be jaded, as you describe.
I want you take turns reading one chapter a night. You always start and do the reading very slowly and gently. Divide each chapter into 2 sections and let your wife read the second section each night. You can then answer the questions at the end of the each chapter together. I recommend starting with the book “Hold me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson. I provide links for this and another book later in my answer. The book will guide your conversation.
If you find this process doesn’t really make a positive difference in your marriage in relation to your presenting issues, you may need to go to counseling. I’m suggesting the best marital counseling in the world for as developed by the relationship therapist scientists who wrote the two books I recommend. I now you don’t have much money but a strong healthy marriage is worth it. EFT therapy as I recommend next, gets results in as few as 7 sessions with most couples. EFT will protect you from spending money needlessly or even harmfully.
There are 2 types of science-based marital therapy that I think will be most effective here for you. The first and most desirable is called emotion-focused-marital therapy or EFT. EFT is proven to work with highly distressed couples and to even cure mild to moderate depression in one partner by repairing the marriage better than medication or depression targeted therapy. It most often gets the kind of positive results you’re looking for in as few as 7 sessions as I said earlier. Insurance companies love EFT because it’s science-proven to get results. These results are maintained when researchers follow up with couples 5 years after the therapy! Again, there can be no sexual intimacy between a married couple without first developing and repairing the capacity for both partners to experience full emotional intimacy and full trust. This particularly true for woman. So you must be very patient and supportive as you’ll learn from the book Hold me Tight.
The second best form of evidence-based marital therapy, in my view is called Gotmann Therapy and is based on the work of Dr. John Gotmann. His approach is more behavioral but also results driven. His approach teaches couples how to communicate more effectively and how to avoid negative communication patterns like criticism, defense and stonewalling which reliably predict divorce. I provide some video links for you below to get a sense of both the Gotmann and EFT approaches. Attending a Gottman marriage seminar may be a cost effective alternative.
Finally, it’s important to realize that maintaining a healthy, happy marriage takes skills, like being a good driver, dancer or gardener. Most of us aren’t born with these skills and have to learn and practice them. I highly recommend that you read books and even attend marriage seminars with your wife once you get things stabilized and once you reconnect emotionally and physically. I’d recommend sticking to books recommended on the Gottman Institute a site and the EFT site. Most of these books can be found in your local library to save money.
An EFT or Gotmann therapist will be able to work with you on sexual intimacy. If there are still problems after successful marital therapy, you can get a referral to a clinical sexologist. These professionals are highly trained in the area of helping couples develop highly satisfying and healthy sex lives. There is nothing in what I’ve heard you describe that can’t be addressed, repaired and improved. You can work with a sex therapist on a consultation basis where you meet once or twice to ask lots of questions and get resources so you can read and practice at home with minimal cost to you.
I also suggest exploring the extent to which there may be clinical research in EFT or Gottman therapy at your local area universities or medical centers. Sometimes you can get world class marital therapy for free by participating confidentially in such research projects.
I recommend taking some time to really look over the following resources and links. You may then want to share this information with your wife:
Here are some links to help you get started:
Dr. John Gotmann (couples communication videos and link):
Here’s the second book I recommend, but any of Dr. Gottman’s books are highly recommended for your reading dates with your wife (many are in the library)
If you choose to go to couple’s therapy at some point, please make sure that you choose a therapist from this list with a “C” or an “S” beside their name and credentials (s is usually better):
I strongly advise seeking out and working with a fully certified EFT therapist or advanced clinical trainer of therapists who also does therapy with clients. This will insure you and your wife the highest level of clinical competency, should you choose therapy.
Finally, and again, you may also consider working with a clinical sexologist or trained and licensed sex therapist, who can provide demonstrated training and experience working with married couples. These experts are highly trained to assist clients to work on increasing the quality of their sex lives and positive healthy sexual experiences with their partners. But again, remember, work on the emotional connection first. As I said, many couples find that their sex lives naturally repair as their emotional connection is expanded and repaired. A trained EFT or Gotmann therapist will be able to advise you regarding a referral to a clinical sexologist.
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