You love your wife but she has told you “I love you but I’m not in love with you”
You want to respect her feelings but you crave closeness and if you’re being honest – sex. So what do you?
This post is about how to achieve lift-off and bring back physical intimacy:
We’ve been married for 10 years, 2 gorgeous daughters aged 7 & 5 but in recently, she had a spontaneous kiss with a friend from her sports club & shortly thereafter declared ILYB…. She swears that nothing further has happened & I believe her. In the last 2 months I’ve done a lot of reading to understand how/where things went wrong & it seems to be that we are typical of a couple who seldom fed their marriage & allowed other things to become more important.
What I’ve realized though is that we are very different people. I’m Left Brained, logical & structured, she is Right Brained, creative & emotional. For a long time I blamed our problems on her emotional state, but I’ve moved on from that & want to accept her for who she is. We also have different love languages, I like words of affirmation & quality time (spending time doing stuff together), she likes quality time (talking) & as I learnt 3 weeks ago physical touch, which I’d forgotten about in the last 5 years.
In my mind physical intimacy was always the pinnacle of everything being perfect (which is probably why it didn’t happen enough). In my wife’s mind it is a pre-cursor to everything being fine. So if I re-introduce too soon, then I fear rejection, but if I don’t address her (prior) need then I will be opened up for more criticism. Knowing that she has expressed ILYB… would she be open to me being intimate?
You’re doing really well and learnt a lot. Congratulations. I’ve got five thoughts to help you and anybody else in the same situation:
5 suggestions for how to bring back physical intimacy
What is the biggest turn off of all? In my opinion, it’s anger. For many partners, it might not be on the surface – and everything seems nice and ‘don’t rock the boat’ – but in many ways that’s worse. The anger has turned from something hot (that will burn off) into something cold (like a hard lump of resentment).
Unfortunately, we don’t like it when our partner gets angry and we’ll either try and fix the problem or walk away. So I’m going to ask you to do something counter-intuitive, just sit there and listen, nod your head and ask questions. No more, no less. It’s only when someone feels truly heard – and loved angry bits and all – that they are ready to try nice things – like dates, physical intimacy etc.
When you have heard all the nasty stuff without getting defensive or trying to explain (which can be heard as making excuses), you’re ready to take a step back and discuss the bigger picture.
Here are some suggestions:
- What messages are girls given about sex?
- What messages are boys given about sex?
- What lessons did we get from our parents about physical intimacy?
- What expectations did I have about sex?
- You could also try finishing this sentence, “good sex should be….”
When you know more about your partner’s attitudes and how you might have come across, I’d like you to make a fulsome apology. (I cover this in detail in both My Wife Doesn’t Love Me any More and My Husband Doesn’t Love Me and He’s Texting Someone Else). For example, “I’m sorry that I came to bed so late that you felt I wasn’t interested in sex” (Don’t explain why as this lessons the power of the apology).
3. Ask open questions
Instead of coming up with a plan on your own for how to bring back physical intimacy – which could easily be knocked back and bring you down – I’d like you to work as a team. You can do this by asking open questions.
- What is stopping us being intimate? (If you get back the answer because ‘I don’t love you’, ask your partner: what is putting bricks in the wall between us?)
- What would need to change? It is unlikely that your partner is going to want to resume sex (by which I mean intercourse, oral sex and mutual masturbation) but he or she could be comfortable with cuddling in bed, having a bath together and washing each other’s hair or other forms of physical intimacy.
4. Agree limits
One of the barriers to restarting intimacy, when one partner is uncertain about their feelings, is the ‘one thing leads to another’ trap. In your partner’s mind, agreeing to lie in your arms while you watch TV together could be an invitation to have full penetrative intercourse – especially if you’ve been in an ‘all or nothing’ relationship where you either stay over your side of the bed or go ‘all the way.’
Once you’ve addressed the idea of limits and agreed to stick to them, it’s amazing how much you will enjoy the foreplay elements of sex. It is wonderful to hold and be held, to stroke and be stroked but we forget about these joys when we’re trying to rush towards an orgasm. Adding good foreplay into your sexual repertoire will really aid your long term connection and when everything returns to normal will allow you to be close – even when tired, stressed and not in the mood for sex.
5. Give positive feedback
I’ve put this item last on the list but really it belongs in each of the five ways for how to bring back physical intimacy. When your partner opens up to you – even when he or she is angry – say ‘thank you, it really helps to know how much I’ve hurt you.’ I know this is hard, but it will open up the lines of communication, release some of the poison and allow you to make realistic plans.
It’s the same when you talk about sex: “Thank you, it was really useful to understand…” and acknowledge how difficult it is has been too. It will help your partner not to feel judged for what he or she has said. Finally, when you do have some physical intimacy tell your partner what you enjoyed.
There is more about how to talk about sex and how to bring back physical intimacy in my book: Have the Sex You Want: A Couple’s Guide to Getting Back the Spark.