Making the First Move

Q: My wife and I have been married for three years, with two young children. My question is what do I say to her to get her to understand that at times I want her to initiate lovemaking? I've mentioned this to her, and she said that she likes to be pursued, but a lot of the times when I do pursue her, she rejects my advances. When we first started dating she couldn't keep her hands off me. She keeps saying that things will change but that only lasts about a week and then she goes back into the same funk. We both work full-time, plus I'm a full-time student, and when I get home from work a lot of nights she announces that she is sleepy. I know once she gets off from work she has the kids to deal with, but on the days I don't have class or work I deal with them. Also before I even go to work I deal with the kids, so I feel the burden is equally divided. So what do I do or say to get her to want me just as bad as I want her? -- Paul, 31

Dr. Susan: Welcome to the real world of female libido, Paul. I'm only being somewhat tongue-in-cheek when I say that, for men, the last thing to go is sexual desire. Look at the animal kingdom, where certain male spiders almost always get their heads bitten off by the female after sex, and yet that species of spider keeps on going for it. It's nature's way of ensuring that genes get carried on. What I'm trying to say is that you probably aren't going to be able to get your wife to want you as much as you want her, as often as you want her. How about aiming for a better ratio of acceptance to refusal? I hope she can still get really into it at times. (If not, her hormones or her general health or your erotic style may be implicated in her avoiding sex. You need to rule out fatigue, depression, and hidden resentments.)

I suggest you try hard not to take it personally when she says she's sleepy. Talk about it when both of you are relaxed. Ask her what her best times are. Reassure her that she's won't have to exert herself more than she has energy for. At least one expert recommends that you make a deal: she'll do it when you want to, but she gets to choose how. This is a tough transition, and some relationships never get to the next level. She may initiate lovemaking if you can hold off long enough, but then again, she may not. One thing you can't expect is that things will ever go back to exactly the way they were before you had kids. But they can get really good again if you open up to one another about what you need and like.

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