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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5334
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology helping with relationships
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HI. Found your website and have a marriage question. I have

Resolved Question:

HI. Found your website and have a marriage question. I have been married 25 years and the last two have been
without intimacy and sex. About 2 years ago my wife checked our emotionally from our marriage. I have felt guilt because
previously before she pulled away from me I was having lack of confidence issues. A year ago I got the courage to talk to her about our sex issue and she shut down the discussion. I haven't brought up the discussion since and lack the nerve but I am extremely unhappy being so distant from my wife emotionally. I need to see a therapist. My question is what kind of therapist do I need? Do I need a sex therapist or marriage therapist. I will be going alone so should I book an appointment and then go without telling her? Thanks for any help
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.

Hi! You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.

Going to individual therapy to talk your feelings out will be useful for its own sake, but it is not going to address the marriage problem. At best, XXXXX XXXXX can help coach you on how to get her to come to therapy. So if your goal is to make changes in the marriage, we need to discuss how to get her to be willing to participate in making changes.

Why does she refuse to go to couples therapy?

Is this a refusal on her part to do anything to change the no-sex situation?

You had a loss of confidence issue. About sex? Or confidence about something else?

What was her reason for reacting to your loss of confidence by shutting you out? Why did your loss of confidence not make her want to try to help you?

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I do not know why she refused the therapy. She feels like she is taking care of everyone else. She does have alot "on her plate".


She is taking care of her mother alot . Hospitals and doctor appointments and grocery shopping for her and helping her on house problems. We have a daughter with diabetes who is in college but my wife spends alot of time with the insurance and coaching her on the phone. She was studying for a masters in teaching through an online university which she has just finished in August after 2 and a half years of intense studying and started a new job in September as a fourth grade teacher.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I can't tell if you are getting my replies or not.
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 5 years ago.

I am so sorry: the system did not alert me that you had replied. I only found out while doing a manual review. I apologize.

Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. First, let me say I can imagine how frustrating and distressing this situation must be for you. I'm concerned about the neglect that's happened in your marriage. What do I mean?

I doubt the problems began just 2 years ago from the timeline you've given to me. That's perhaps when things became visible. What happened here?

You don't spend a lot of time telling me about yourself. But it might be similar to your wife's story. It seems that your wife has devoted a tremendous amount of energy to giving to other people. To your daughter and to her mother, for example. And she's drained her remaining reserves in getting her Masters. There has been nothing left, it seems, for the marriage.

Why not? Somehow the marriage was able to be pushed to the background over the years until it was not an important part of life to work on. What happened?

Communication is the muscular system of love. And love is the circulatory system. Let me repeat that because it's so important: it's not sex; it's not beauty or looking good; it's not being smart or clever. Communication between the two people is the love muscle; it's the muscular system of love. The desire to give to the other person, to make the other person happy is the heart of love, the circulatory system.

It seems the two of you have let the marriage just coast along as if it's like the house: it just is there until something goes dramatically wrong. That's just maintaining a balance to get what each person needs, to take from the marriage what one needs. But that's not the purpose of marriage. And when that becomes the purpose, then the heart of marriage, the desire to give to the other person begins to wither. And then the communication becomes one way: everyone is talking basically to themselves, not each other.

From what you write, the sense you give is that what is happening is not yet atrophy. Atrophy is what happens to muscles when they are not exercised and used regularly. They lose tone and eventually lose ability to activate. And love can atrophy. It slowly wears out until you can't find how to access it any more.

So, we'll try to see if we can get her to be willing to put her "heart" back into this, to reactivate her giving circulatory system. I want you to print out my answer and take it and her to a Starbucks or other quiet place and discuss it and commit to the program to try to make your marriage a success. You're going to start with a book. You'll get 2 copies, one for each of you. Each night you're both going to read a few pages or a chapter and do the exercise there if there is one in those pages. Every other night, or at most, every third night sometimes, you will get together, either at home or at the Starbucks and talk about what you read. What you think of it, what it inspired in you. Make notes in the margins. And each one talk about the subject of the pages and what you think. That's your assignment and dates. She is busy with her new job, but this is her marriage. If your spouse had a life threatening illness, you'd find the time. Your marriage has a life threatening illness.

The book: It's by the foremost researcher into relationships in our day, John Gottman. He's famous for being interviewed on TV and being able to tell when a couple will get divorced within 5 minutes and having 90% accuracy. I've studied his therapy and use his therapy in my practice and that's why I'm concerned that you two do this. So the book is the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. You can get it cheaply online or see if you can get it locally to save time.

Now, a secret: the magic is not in the book. The exercises and Gottman's insights will be very useful and important for the two of you. But the magic is in the act of working together on your marriage! The two of you paying attention every single day to your marriage and making effort every single day: that's the magic ingredient in great marriages that GROW in love as the years pile up. I want to make sure you both understand this. Because that's the key to our work here. Okay?

If this work gets you two to first base but not all the way, if it isn't a home run, then consider therapy: the two of you MUST work on how emotional connections are made and maintained. The two of you together need help in learning how to make your marriage more emotionally intimate and positive. There are two types of therapies I recommend strongly for you two to consider.

One type of therapy is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Why? Because it focuses on how there have been created emotional barriers and how to get through those barriers. Please consider it before you take other action.

Here is the web address for their therapist finder:

On the website you'll also find excellent books by the founders, Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg.

The other therapy is Gottman therapy. Yes, the same Gottman as the book above. Seek a therapist who is certified by the Gottman Institute. Here's their web address for finding a therapist:

Why? Because his couples therapy model is the most straightforward model available. I hope that therapists working in these types of couples therapies are listed for your area. If not, find a couples therapist who makes you feel confident in his/her skills and values.

I wish you the very best in this and in the future!

Please remember to click the green accept button because: even though you have made a deposit, I do not get paid for my time unless you press ACCEPT. Feel free to continue the discussion as my goal is to get you the best answer possible. You can continue the discussion even after pressing ACCEPT. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue, just put "for Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

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