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Alicia_MSW
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 506
Experience:  Specializing in mental health counseling
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My husband and I have been married for 15 years and we have

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My husband and I have been married for 15 years and we have three children - my eldest daughter is from a previous relationship but the younger two are my husband's.
We have had a very stressful few years including the death of my baby nephew (a congenital disorder), a house fire (which meant we had to move out of our house for three months and spend the months after we had moved back in overseeing re-decoration, cleaning etc), my husband was made redundant from a very high powered job in London and, subsequently, (three years ago) I was diagnosed with MS. I am quite a tough chick and my attitude to everything is that we're still alive and we have a good life. My husband now runs a very successful business but he is permanently stressed, bad-tempered, cold, detached and on anti-depressants. We have not had sex for months and prior to that it was months! I have always been a very sexual person and I just miss love, warmth and intimacy. We have sle[t in seperate beds for a couple of years now.
Where the hell do i go from here? I don't want my children to come from a broken home but, by the same token, I think it's probably more damaging for them to live in an unhappy environment. And, actually, I am still very much in love with my husband and "fancy" him more than ever. However, although he insists to the contrary, it's fairly clear that the feeling is not reciprocated.
HELP!
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.

Alicia_MSW :

Hello, I'm Alicia. Thanks for your question. I'm happy to help you today.

Alicia_MSW :

It certainly sounds like you've both been dealing with an extremely high level of stress over the past several years, and unfortunately, in many cases, relationships are often the first casualty of too much stress. You're not just dealing with garden-variety stress levels, however - a house fire, death of your nephew, your husband losing his job, these are all very high on the scale, taking each one individually. Combined, it's amazing that you've both been able to handle it and survive everything that's happened and still be together right now - albeit with the problems you've described, which are by no means easy to deal with. Since there's so much to take into consideration, I'm going to switch our chat over to a Q&A format so I can give your question some thought, and then I will post my response. Also, if you have any questions after receiving my reply, please reply first prior to rating. Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX give me a few moments to write my response.

Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.
Our chat has ended, but you can still continue to ask me questions here until you are satisfied with your answer. Come back to this page to view our conversation and any other new information.

What happens now?

If you haven’t already done so, please rate your answer above. Or, you can reply to me using the box below.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

OK. Thank you very much and I look forward to hearing from you again.


R

Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.
Hi Rachel,

I thought it might be easier to reply to your question this way, so that you don't have to sit in front of the computer while I type everything out in the chat format. I first wanted to comment on the fact that you mentioned your husband is taking anti-depressants. Although the lack of physical intimacy is - I am imagining - partly caused by excessive stress, it could also be a side effect of the medication he's taking. Lack of sexual desire is a somewhat common side effect of many anti-depressants. I would suggest that he speak to his doctor about this, as a change in medication may be helpful (again, in part) to remedying this issue. If you want to read more about this, you can review this information:
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=51118

It's a long time for you to be dealing with the lack of physical intimacy, and I do empathize with that, because you're both missing out on a very beneficial way of dealing with your stress! Just from what I've read so far (and I think you might feel this is not the case based on your last comments) I do get the sense that your husband loves you, and that he has simply been feeling overwhelmed and doesn't know which way to turn. A lot of men need to feel like they can figure things out, handle things on their own, and take care of their family, (without medication, without therapy, etc) and when they can no longer ignore the need for these types of interventions, not only can they become depressed, they tend to withdraw, emotionally speaking, as an attempt to protect their feelings of woundedness - they retreat into themselves to try to figure out how to handle all of the external and internal factors that are going on. And if they can't find a way to deal with them, then they might throw themselves completely into work or other avenues as a means of mental escape. Whereas many times, we women like to talk about our feelings and share them with others - and we get "stress relief" from the mere act of sharing. And it seems to me that your husband is dealing a few key factors here - lack of time to think about these things (he's running his own business - which I imagine is pretty stressful in and of itself, without all of the other issues on top), no outlet for his stress, no one to talk to about his stress (if he talks to you about it, perhaps he feels emasculated or like he's doing a bad job as a "man", if you know what I mean) - and so with no cessation of the constant barrage of stress, he's just withdrawn to the point where he's not responding to you (physically and, I get the impression, emotionally.) Now, that's fine for a short period of time (a few weeks, a few months, even) but this has gone on much too long, if you've mentioned that you've been sleeping in separate beds for the past few years.

Now, my advice to you is based on the impression that you both want to work this out and stay together. You say you don't want your children to come from a broken home - but you don't want to keep going like this. So, the first step is that you both need to verbally agree that your relationship is the priority right now. You need to make a commitment to work on the relationship and work through these issues together - there cannot be any more of the withdrawal behavior as a means of dealing with stress, for example - you need to rely on each other as a source of "stress relief"(through sex, but I'll get to that in a bit, through conversation - and through doing something fun together. I am getting the feeling that you don't really do "fun" stuff together - going out to dinner without the kids, seeing a movie, going for a hike, whatever that is - it is important to have fun together, and not just for stress relief, but for the overall health of the relationship.)A relationship is a two-way street and "fixing things" is a cooperative effort.

The next thing I would like to advise you, if possible, is to stop sleeping in separate beds. Whatever the reason, if it is at all feasible, this is the first small step you can take towards re-establishing intimacy. Unless there are extenuating circumstances (health reasons, etc), sleeping apart should not be an option. You should both make the commitment to try to sleep together, if not every night, then every other night, to start.

The other important issue that I feel is lacking is communication. There is no intimacy without communication, and this is something that needs to be re-established in your relationship. I'm sure that when you were first together, you were attracted to many things in him, and vice versa, and had lots of stuff to talk about and discuss. Try to find those things in each other that you were first attracted to, sit down and make time to discuss this, when the kids aren't around. I'm not saying this is going to be easy, and he might say he doesn't have time to talk about it, but I think that starting from a positive perspective is crucial. So when you talk to each other, avoid pointing out the negatives. Try not to say, "you don't do this, you don't do that"(for example) but focus on his positive points. Try to show your appreciation for each other (this is important for men so they feel acknowledged for their hard work, but it's also similarly important for women.)

However, that being said, I think the case may be that these issues are too difficult for you to deal with on your own - and especially because it's been going on for such a long time. I would hate to hear that your marriage broke up because you both weren't able to address these issues and work on them together. I am not sure if your husband would be open to the idea, but in addition to the above, I would suggest seeing a marriage counselor - at least on a short-term basis. A few sessions can work wonders for opening up the lines of communication and re-establishing intimacy, because you talk to each other differently when there's a neutral third-party in the room. You learn to listen to each other and you learn different ways of interacting and coping - but learning to really, truly hear what the other person is saying is one of the biggest benefits, and something I think is lacking right now. If you have interest, you can find a marriage counselor on this website:
http://www.ukcouplescounselling.com/findacounsellor.htm
or
http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/

So, I think the physical issues will resolve themselves on their own once you can start the process of working through the other underlying issues.

If you haven't read Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus, by XXXXX XXXXX, I'd also suggest getting a copy (and perhaps share it with him) - it does explain a lot about how the opposite sex thinks and operates, and that understanding alone can help you both develop a more compassionate attitude toward each other.

I hope this helps, but please let me know if you have any questions. Best wishes.
Alicia_MSW, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 506
Experience: Specializing in mental health counseling
Alicia_MSW and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thank you so much for replying in such depth. I agree with everything you've said - think I just needed it spelt out for me. I will organise counselling straightaway - I broached the subject last night with my husband and he said he thought counselling would be a good idea (a miracle, I know!). Thank you, again, so much.


With kindest regards R

Expert:  Alicia_MSW replied 2 years ago.
You're welcome! I wish you the best of luck - and I think things will work out. Please let me know if you need any help in the future :)

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