Wife Cools Down

Q: My wife of five years is becoming less and less affectionate. Her reaction to my concern is first to deny it, then she becomes hostile and refuses to discuss the issue. My ex-wife also displayed a gradual loss of affection over the years, until I could no longer deal with it. Is it normal for couples to suffer this type of loss? We're both around 50. I love holding hands, kissing frequently, and giving frequent I love you's. I do not want to lose my wife, I love her so much, but I love, want and need a certain level of affection. Do I just live with it? Do I confront her and risk her anger? --Larry

Dr. Susan: I feel for you, Larry. It doesn't sound like you're a sex machine demanding that your tired, hormone-depleted mid-life wife act like a wildly abandoned sex kitten and hang from the chandelier before breakfast every day. You just want to be reassured regularly that she loves you as much as you love her, via words and small physical gestures. Fair enough. I do worry that she gets angry when you try to talk about it and that you're afraid to bring it up again. Anger is often used manipulatively this way. Is it at all possible that she's afraid of YOUR criticism that she isn't measuring up? The fact is that all relationships go through enormous changes over time, and many people do feel less sexual desire as the years go by. Is it possible that she's hesitant to be touchy-feely because you'll take it as a sign she's ready for sex every time? Talk about what affection means to both of you, and try to sound non-accusatory ("confront" is the wrong attitude). I-messages work best. "I used to love it so much when you'd hold my hand while we watched TV. It was the coziest best feeling in the world. Couldn't we do that again?" If she continues to be hostile when you gently ask for a sign of affection, she may be harboring some hidden anger. In which case, you may need to try marriage counseling.

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