Confirmed what I had 'known'

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-17-2007
Confirmed what I had 'known'
11
Mon, 10-07-2013 - 5:11pm

DW, 41 and I, 43, have been married for seven years, kids 6 and 4.  For a while, the sex had become mechanical/methodical/lacking spontaneity (kids can do that) and having a 'I wish I was doing something else' vibe from DW.

Well, the other morning when we had some alone time, it was confirmed that sex was not that much of an enjoyable activity for her.  She acknowledged that intercourse is an important part of intimacy, and that is important/good, but she got no ecstasy from it.  It has been this way for a long time.  Once I am 'done', she excuses herself to the bathroom and goes on with her day, certainly no coming back to snuggle or even do it again.  

She is overly focused on the fact that she is 41, not 'hot' and feels ignored by society due to her age/looks.  Like most of us, she is neither fit for the magazine cover nor someone to avert your eyes from.  She is within ten pounds of before the children were born, and she knows that I find her attractive.  

She wants to be forgiven for having a low drive, for not being that into sex and all that goes with that.  I don't think that calls for forgiveness, but I have told her that I forgive her.  

Any comment or what to do would be appreciated.  

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2009
Mon, 10-28-2013 - 12:09pm

Self esteem body issues never go away for some women (and men).  It sounds like that's a big part of her problem.  The question is why?  If she's not a fan of media, and she's not comparing herself to anyone else, then it's something within her.  By any chance was she ever sexually abused as a child?  That can really mess up a woman's sexual response, especially if she never told anyone, or she's never had psychological help for it.  It's amazing what your mind can do to your self esteem.  Growing up, I was tall and skinny.  I was tease about both.  I was called "tall in the saddle" and "a long drink of water".  I was taller than all the boys in 6th grade!  I was very self conscious about my height thru my teens.  Finally tho, some boys got taller than me.  Then I made the terrible mistake of marrying someone who was completely insecure and very controlling.  And of course he continually told me how lucky I was to have him......since I was so skinny.  Then I had children and my weight became "normal" but now according to him I was fat.  I listened to this brainwashing until one day I had the gumption to file for divorce.  By then I'd matured enough to know what he was doing to do me........and I was perfectly happy with my weight, my height and my image.  I look back now at old pictures, and realize that I didn't appreciate how attractive I was thru my marriage and even after.  I was very lucky that I had the self esteem to be able to get beyond that.  Now I'm in my late 70's, and my body is terrible....and guess what?  I don't care, and neither does my partner (his isn't so great either, lol) but we both know there's a lot more to love and sex than what a person LOOKS like.  Maybe she needs to get some kind of counseling regarding her self image and her sexuality.  I wish both of you luck, because even though it's not the MOST important thing in a marriage.......a good sex life is a wonderful thing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-09-2008
Sat, 10-12-2013 - 11:45pm

Just a really weird note here.  This board is named "mismatched l's".  I typed up a post and until I removed the entire word "l" from the content, the profanity filter refused to post it.  ?????  I remembered it's done that in the past, too.  I just now changed this one to use only "l" instead of the whole word, let's see if it posts.

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-09-2008
Sat, 10-12-2013 - 11:42pm

That was so well put.  I haven't read every response, but has anyone broached the issue of menopause here?  You'd be surprised how many women are moving into menopause much earlier than you'd think, or how long it takes many of us to get to the END of it.  Or that things can start to hurt.  Some get there late 30s although I've heard many "old school" doctors just ignore the notion a woman might get there that young, many of us find it seems to take up permanent residence in our bodies, lasting ten years or even more (personal experience, guys, not something I read).  It's sad so many of us seem to just fade out , I'm there myself, and it was always a pleasant and important part of our marriage....until I just lost interest.  Nowdays it's an occasional thing I do for him, not much for me, he never complains, I honestly think he's slowed down himself.  Other things can affect you, stress, medications, personal problems you might not even know are alive for her, and if she really does look at herself and sees nothing special, well, that alone can do a number on you.  I agree wholeheartedly that counseling just might help put her on a new path where she can understand lots of us start doubting ourselves due to the stupid MEDIA and its never-ending focus on being gorgeous forever and a size 2, both unattainable for most of us mere females.  What is wrong with AVERAGE???  It's where most of us live.  I feel so bad for teenage girls these days, I'm sure looking back we shared some of those doubts, too, but I don't think young girls quite know what to do with the whole issue, they just cave to peer pressure, and we all know, once you discover how good it all can feel, well, enough said.  We're all okay just as we are, but it's a hard lesson to learn and society makes it so much more difficult.  It chills me to know my very pretty niece got addicted to tanning beds, and though she's a NURSE, she still partakes sometimes because she learned a tan is highly desirable.  By whom?  Nothing prettier than just nice skin, healthy skin, man or woman.  That there is some ideal out there....just makes me sad at my age. 

 

Avatar for slah54
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-04-2012
Sat, 10-12-2013 - 8:45pm
Mahopac: thank you for sharing your side of the self-esteem issue. I was always on the opposite side - knowing that I was never going to live up to society's ideals of beauty. I was never going to be the most attractive woman in the room. But in my 50's I have realized that I can do something about my self-esteem. Exercise can help keep me trim, and is great for improving one's mood. I can dress to accentuate my best features. I can focus on my positive friends, and spend less time around negativity. I can fight declining looks with everything I've got. And as I feel better about myself, my husband has benefited. AnotherJoeBuck: Your children are still young. I remember always being tired when my kids were that age. I gave my hubby what I could. I was fortunate to marry a patient man, and now that our kids are grown our sex life is vastly improved.
Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 10-10-2013 - 11:28am

I'm a 51yo woman and I still care very much that people think I'm attractive.  My self-esteem in my 20s was closely linked to knowing that I was the prettiest woman in the room, and I could still claim that distinction through my 30s.  Letting go of that aspect of myself in my 40s was not easy and I too went through some "beat-myself-up" times for not being able to stop the clock.  So no, self-esteem issues do not miraculously resolve themselves when you're in your 20s.  (BTW I'm also a highly successful business executive, happily married for 23 years, and a parent of brilliant, successful young adults, so you would think my looks would be really unimportant - but old self-images die hard.)

Our society holds up women like Jennifer Aniston and Cate Blanchett and says "This is what a 44yo woman looks like!" and millions of 44yo women look in the mirror and see a normal 44yo body and think, "I look like crap."  You don't have to watch TMZ or read gossip articles to know what society holds up as desirable for 40+ women.  Heck, 40+ women like Halle Berry have babies and are back in bikinis in two months.  You'd have to live under a rock not to notice that expectations for women's appearance have skyrocketed into the stratosphere in the last 10 years.

It is enough to make any woman feel sub-par.  I'm not saying all of us do, but it does affect women's self-esteem.  You need to accept that this is where your wife is.  She's a midlife woman who's realized that her body has peaked and is only going to look worse in the future.  It may seem trivial or puzzling to you, but this is where she is.

Which does not of course mean she needs to stay there.  Counseling can certainly help.  Counseling for both of you might help you get to a better sex life that is richer and more honest than it has been, as well as a better life overall.

Avatar for slah54
iVillage Member
Registered: 11-04-2012
Wed, 10-09-2013 - 4:32pm
Self esteem and body issues can extend well past the 20's. I know I didn't really like myself much till I was in my 50's. It didn't matter how often my hubby told me he loved the way I looked, I had to believe it too. (Sorry, I didn't mean that to be discouraging.)
iVillage Member
Registered: 09-17-2007
Wed, 10-09-2013 - 2:44pm

Thanks for the responses.

It is worth exploring why she cares that society doesn't care that much for average looking 40+ year olds.  She isn't a big consumer of mainstream media, so she isn't comparing herself to people on sitcoms.  She has been checked by the OB/GYN and came back fine.  She hasn't seen the GP in several years.

As for My Sex Toy #3, I don't know what my limits are.  I have told her that things aren't awful, and I would tell her when they got that way.  I think partners owe that to one another.  A hall pass is an interesting idea, but I don't have the time to pursue new, outside relationships, expecially with children requiring time/attention.  I don't want to, either.  Maintaining the friendships I have is hard enough.  

#1, she knows that I enjoy sex and that I didn't sign up for this sex life and that is why she asks for forgiveness.  She is in pain as well.  I think the sex issue isn't a reflection of how she feels about me, but how she feels about herself, and that is the sad part.  She knows that I find her sexy and attractive, but she doesn't feel that way about herself.  Hmm.  I thought self-esteem body issues stopped being an issue in a woman's 20s.  I guess not.  

#2 There is not objective reality, I get that.  Hopefully through constant and honest communication, you can understand what the other party is thinking even if it is not in line with what you are thinking.  She hasn't had any 'sexual pleasure is dirty' feelings that I am aware of.  I try to treat sex as a normal/exciting/loving/gratifying/bunch of other stuff act.  I am comfortable with my naked body and let her know that her naked body is a big turn, too.  She has never had the desire to make love only in the dark or with a shirt on, fwiw.  

Saturday morning is our typical private time.  This week will be different, but I can't say how.  I'll try to post an update.

It can be hard to post.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-17-2007
Wed, 10-09-2013 - 2:25pm

test.

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Tue, 10-08-2013 - 5:47pm

Here are my thoughts about the situation (in no particular order):

1. Does she realize that, although sex may not be important or essential to her personally, it is important and essential to you personally and you are just as much a part of the relationship as she is? Does her love for you or her desire to keep the marriage vital impact the way she thinks about sex?

2. I have learned that actions (yours and hers) are filtered through the lens of our individual histories and values (yours and hers), which leads to beliefs correct or incorrect (yours and hers), which leads to emotions positive or negative (yours and hers), which in turn leads to new actions (yours or hers). So, if her behavior seen through the lens of your mind leads you to a belief that she is less than totally committed to you or that she is more concerned with herself and her children than with you, she ought to have that information before it leads to emotions and actions on your part that would be detrimental to her and the family. Simultaneously, you ought to know that the beliefs you adopt from her behavior are colored by your point of view and are not necessarily objectively true, so you might want to check in with her about those beliefs before they take over your emotions and behavior. Does she realize that her behavior is a result of her emotions, which result from her beliefs, which may be influenced by messages that are prevalent in the society and not objective reality? Those messages may include the idea that she is not sexually desirable because of her age; that sex is morally wrong, disgusting or offensive; or that sex oppresses women. Is she open to messages from you that contradict those? How effectively are you sending those messages?

3. How long are you willing to remain married to someone who behaves the way she is behaving? Does she know what your limits are? If she is unwilling or unable to change her behavior, are you willing to accept this behavior for the remainder of your life? If not, is there a compromise position? Compromises might include you getting a "hall pass" from time to time to have sex that is satisfying for you without risk to her, the marriage or the family.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-2003
Tue, 10-08-2013 - 5:37pm

Has she had her thyroid checked?  You would be surprised the difference having your thyroid functioning properly will make.

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