Dr. Romance helps a reader when they contact her about dealing with family members and trauma.
Dear Dr. Romance:
I've seen your website and I think you may be the exact person to be able to help me.
My wife and I have been married for just about 10 yrs., we have 3 beautiful children, and we live fairly comfortably (money is not too big of an issue). I grew up in a fairly affluent family, with good strong ethics -my wife calls us the 'Beaver Cleaver Family' .
My wife had a different experience in another country. From what little she's told me, she had a terrible upbringing. She was born as a product of rape, so never had a father. Her mother really had no money so they moved around a lot. She herself was sexually abused when she was about 10. I know of a lot of alcoholism in her family. I don't know everything about it.
My problem is we don't have sex anymore. Maybe 6 times a year, if that. I can't live like this any longer. To cope with the lack of intimacy, I drink on weekends, but never let it affect work or kids. She has a huge issue with me on that. I love my wife to death - I tell her all the time - that I here for her. I am a very big romantic - but every time I show any affection or speak of sex or intimacy, she closes up like a box and can't even look at me - and at times will even get angry with me.
I've taken her on trips, bought her big gifts, wrote poetry, wrote love letters - but I get nothing. I believe the last letter I wrote her was about 5 pages long - telling her how much I love her and that now I 'need' her back - like it was when we first were dating. She's never read it.
I'm at the last straw, I need to make love to my wife and have the 'returned' affection. If she doesn't change, I cant see any other option but to leave her. But that thought just kills me inside - I still love her too much. And especially I have to think about our beautiful children. I've tried taking her to 3 different theropist - she went once and never went back - she said they weren't listening, understanding, to her... Do you have any suggestions, books for her to read, anything to help all?
Yes, you have a big problem. If your wife had a rough upbringing and was raped, her whole idea of sex was skewed by those experiences. She is probably suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and needs therapeutic help. To help her get where she needs to be, find a sex-positive counselor and go as a couple. The counselor should soon discover your wife's history, and suggest that she get counseling on her own. I know you've tried therapy before, but you may have to try more therapists until you find the right one. Read my article "Guidelines for Finding and Using Therapy Wisely" to help you find the right counselor.
Your wife is right that she needs to feel that the counselor hears her. I'm not sure that she wants to work on this; she just wants to make you happy, so she goes to therapy to please you, and then doesn't like the therapist. Although I usually recommend that men court their wives, in your case courting your wife is not working, because the problem is not that she doesn't feel loved. The problem is that sex is repugnant to her because of her early experiences. Because she loves you, she manages to have sex with you once in a while (despite her abhorrence of it) and that's probably the best she can do until she works through the PTSD and the pain from her childhood. You need to let her know that she has to face this or lose you -- don't keep that a secret until it's too late. I have suggestions for YOU to read, not for her. "Asking for What You Want" and "Guidelines for Being Understood By Your Partner' will help you communicate more effectively with your wife. Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage will also help.