Q: Love your column. I never thought I would I have to write you but my situation is getting to me. Married seven years with three wonderful kids. I love my wife dearly. I'm more attracted to her now then when we first dated. But here's my problem. Our lack of intimacy and her lack of affection is killing me. She is never in the mood, never initiates. She never tells me she appreciates me. I have told her how I felt and how much this hurts me. I have cried during our discussion yet she thinks there isn't an issue (readers, please go easy on me). She is always turning me down. Nothing hurts more then being rejected by your significant other time after time. Sometimes I just want to give up.
She thinks I don't understand her and I'm unreasonable. I do understand we have three very active kids and both work. I cook and prepare dinner on most nights. I help feed, bathe, read and help our oldest with homework every night. (This is the reason why it irks me when she claims she is too tired for intimacy.) When she has had a rough and stressful day at work, I try my best to keep the kids away from her and let her relax. I'm not looking for praises from others. I just want acknowledgement from my wife and not be taken for granted.
I don't want a divorce, it's not an option. I don't want my kids shuttling back and forth between parents. We both adore our kids. If we were to separate, it pains me how this will affect my kids life. I want to work things out. I love her dearly and want to spend the rest of my life with her. But this emptiness is killing me. I have suggested counseling but she thinks we don't have any issue. She's very adamant against counseling and thinks I'm overreacting. Meredith and readers please help me. Can counseling help my marriage? I'm I asking for too much?
– Sometimes Love Is Not Enough, Cambridge
A: Love is almost always enough, SLINE, especially when love involves considering your partner's needs. You're not asking for too much. You want your wife to be more than a friend. You're attracted to her. That's pretty great.
But something seems to be missing in your letter. When she says you don't understand her, what is she talking about? It makes me wonder whether there's a bigger reason she isn't interested in affection. Like … a chemical thing. Sometimes we lose our drives for reasons that are beyond our control. Sometimes a medical doctor winds up being more of a help than a head doctor.
Here's my thought: e-mail her. Write a letter to your wife. She can wave off a problem in person, but in writing, she'll have to put it into words. It might be a more comfortable way for her to say uncomfortable things.
You can tell her how much this is getting to you. You can tell her that you're concerned that the lack of intimacy will drive you apart. You can explain that intimacy doesn't have to mean sex. If she's exhausted and simply wants to cuddle while watching "House," that would be nice. She may believe that this is an overreaction and that intimacy isn't a key part of your relationship, but you don't agree. Ask her in writing what she wants to do about this. You're certainly open to suggestions, unless her suggestion is to ignore the problem.
And most importantly, ask her what you're missing. Is it just the hectic schedule? Is there more? Is it something physical? She's saying you don't understand her. You want to understand her. You're ready to listen.
Something tells me she won't brush you off in writing. As many of our letter writers will tell you, writing is a good way to get some quick, clear honesty. Make her do that. If she can't, therapy is just about the only option.
Readers? How can the letter writer get his partner to listen? Any thoughts? Discuss.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.