Would your husband rather watch the game, go out with his friends, or surf the Internet than be intimate with you? Relationship expert Michele Weiner Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Wife, shares seven tips for getting him back into the bedroom.
I know how much your husband’s lack of interest in being sexual with you hurts and even angers you. However, if you approach him when you have anger in your heart, you will be transmitting those feelings. Even if you’re not saying you’re angry, he’ll know. Before you approach your husband, you have to center yourself and come from a place of love and caring. Remember that no matter how upset you’ve been about all of this, he’s been upset too. Even if sex isn’t all that important to him right now, the fact that it’s been such an issue between the two of you is wearing him down. Find some compassion, and take a deep breath before you speak to him.
Timing Is Everything
Regardless of what you wish to discuss with your husband, it’s important to choose the right time. I know, there’s never a right time to talk about this heated issue, but trust me on this one: some times are better than others. You might begin, “I have something important to talk to you about. Is now a good time?” If he says yes, then let ’er rip. If he growls no, ask him when he would prefer speaking with you. Then — assuming he doesn’t respond, “In a decade,” or something equally ridiculous — honor his suggestion.
One of the best ways to avoid defensiveness in others is to use “I-messages.” If you’ve ever taken a communications skill-building class, you probably already know how to use I-messages. If so, remind yourself to use them when you approach your husband. It’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment.
But since I don’t know you, I will assume that you don’t know what an I-message is. When you use I-messages, you talk about your thoughts and feelings rather than comment on what you believe your husband is thinking or feeling. Here’s an example. Instead of saying, “I’ve asked you to read a book with me, and every time you say ‘No,’ you’re just being controlling,” you say, “I feel hurt when you turn down my suggestions to read a book together. It would really mean a lot to me for us to do this together.” Or instead of saying, “Since you haven’t gone to a doctor, it’s clear that you don’t care about my feelings,” you say, “When you choose not to go to a doctor, I feel as if I’m not important to you.” Talk about how you feel and avoid accusing, assuming, mind-reading, or diagnosing your husband. Then allow your husband to respond to your comments. He may not agree with your perspective, and that’s okay. Feelings aren’t right or wrong; they just are. Listen and acknowledge what you hear him say. For example, if he tells you that he won’t read a book with you because he thinks that’s a stupid idea, you might respond, “I know that you think reading a book together would be stupid, and maybe it would. But it’s something I would really like to try.” Don’t become defensive or tell him he’s wrong. Just continue sharing your feelings and your request.
Take Ownership of Your Feelings
Throughout your conversation, remember that regardless of how your husband responds, do not blame, criticize, or condemn him. You might even admit that you’ve been overly focused on sex recently because you’ve been missing him so much. Assume responsibility for what you’re feeling rather than point to his inadequacies. Make sure he doesn’t feel attacked. He needs to believe that you are on his side, no matter how challenging that might be.
Once you’ve set the tone for a collaborative, loving discussion, tell him that you realize that sex may be less important to him than it is to you, but you’re asking that he take a step as a favor for you. Tell him why that would be such a good thing for you. Eventually he will see the benefit for him, but for now, he may not be able to see that. Don’t let that deter you. Your husband doesn’t have to agree that your sex life is unsatisfying or that the two of you have a major problem, and don’t try to convince him of it. Just let him know that you will be the happiest person in the world when he does one thing for you.
Don’t overwhelm him. Just ask that he do one thing, such as go to a doctor, initiate sex at least once a week, and so on. The more specific you can be, the better. Make action-oriented requests. For example, instead of saying, “I want you to care more about our sex life,” say, “I got the name of a great doctor, and I’d like you to talk to him.” Instead of saying, “I really need you to be willing to learn more about sex,” say, “I heard about this seminar on low sexual desire that’s being offered in town on Tuesday night. I’d really like you to attend it with me.” Get the picture?
Find an Effective Hook
Talk to any talented salesperson, and she or he will tell you that no two buyers are alike and that in order to persuade someone to take action (buy), you need a hook. You have to find something that will motivate your “buyer” to “close the deal.” For example, you wouldn’t try to sell a home to a childless couple who plans on remaining childless by boasting about the quality of the school district. If instead what they were interested in was purchasing the home for investment purposes, a good salesperson would talk about how home values in the neighborhood continue to rise.
Similarly, when you approach your husband, you have to package your ideas in such a way that he feels inspired to change. You have to offer reasons that make sense to him. Along those lines, perhaps you’ve noticed that I keep suggesting that you take ownership for wanting a better sex life and stop trying to get him to agree that your sex life is a problem for him. I’m assuming that your husband might be more willing to change if he were doing it as a “favor” to you than if he thought he were flawed in some way. But the truth is, I don’t know your husband, and that might not be an effective strategy. If not, you need to find some other hook that will inspire him to change.
For example, he might be more motivated to visit a doctor or take a positive step toward a better sexual relationship if it meant you would stop “nagging” him. I know you’re not really nagging and that what you want from him is perfectly reasonable. But if he feels that you are nagging, he might be eager to do something different just to “get you off his back.” Now, don’t get your feathers ruffled. Remember, I’m on your side. But if you present it to him as a promise that you’re going to stop nagging when he ____ (fill in the blank), he might be the first in line to do what you ask. If that wouldn’t be a turn-on for your husband, just think about something that he’d find truly rewarding. Then package your request with a promise of your doing whatever floats his boat.
Reinforce Small Signs of Progress
If your husband shows any sign of coming toward you and agreeing to do what you are asking, such as saying, “I will think about it,” or “I guess I can do that,” thank him for his positive intention. Making a change always starts with thinking things through first. Few people just jump head-first into action. They have to mull it over for a while and get used to the idea that they are going to do something different. You can respond by saying, “Thanks, that sounds great. I will check in with you in a few days to see what you’re thinking,” or “Thanks for taking me seriously. I appreciate it very much. I have a great article for you to read while you’re thinking things over.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michele Weiner Davis, MSW, author of The Sex-Starved Wife: What to Do When He’s Lost Desire (Copyright © 2008 by Michele Weiner Davis), is an internationally renowned relationship expert and author of several books including the bestselling The Sex Starved Marriage, the bestselling Divorce Busting, The Divorce Remedy, and Change Your Life and Everyone in It. She has appeared as a regular guest on Oprah, 48 Hours, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, and taped a seminar on PBS entitled Keeping Love Alive. A therapist in private practice specializing in Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy, her highly-acclaimed workshops have earned her national recognition. She lives in Illinois with her husband and two children.
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