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Lonely in Marriage? You’re Not Alone

Charlotte Brontë once said, “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” And that is how we too often mis-label loneliness. Loneliness exists in our collective unconscious as this unquenchable fire that burns through our happiness and rages behind unassailable walls that surround our hearts. It evokes images of pitiful solitude in black and white, and most affects those whose days are spent alone.

But what I am seeing more and more in my practice, is a crippling loneliness that affects men and women within the bonds of marriage. An insidious loneliness that walks hand-in-hand with shame and holds you hostage – bound and gagged so that you cannot speak though you are surrounded by ears longing to hear. We have confused loneliness with being alone, and the two are not always connected. For many, it is less like Brontë imagined and more like Haruki Murakami quipped, “Sometimes I get real lonely sleeping with you.”

Last week, I received a letter from a lady who had met me at one of my seminars. The form she had filled out on my website dropped into my inbox innocuously enough. But as I opened the email, I was completely unprepared for the depth of her vulnerability. Without any background information or details, she said, “I’m so lonely for him that I can’t open up anymore. I bury a ton of pain and cannot share. Is there any hope?”

Her words moved me deeply, not only because she was in so much pain, but also because I have been seeing a growing trend of lonely people in my coaching. Obviously, people come chat with me when there is something they want to discuss about their sex lives. But more and more people are identifying the core reason for bad or non-existent sex as deep loneliness. They feel cut off from their spouses, and this isolation translates into distance in their sex lives.

When I asked one woman, whose husband frequently leaves town to hang out with his buddies, if she could ask him to stay at home more often, she burst into tears. “I am afraid. I think I want to be with him more than he wants to be with me. What if I tell him that I miss him, and he confirms my suspicions that he just doesn’t care?” A man who had come to me for sexual dysfunction looked at me at the end of one of our sessions and said, “How come I can tell you how I feel about my wife, but I can’t tell her?”

Too many people long to connect with their spouses, but cannot find the words to express this desire. Their loneliness runs so deep that it shuts their mouths and cripples their relationships. The fear of rejection they feel extinguishes any whisper of courage to speak up. To the world around them, they may look like perfect couples, but behind the scenes they are slowly dying inside.

In a recent post on Red Letter Christians, Micah Bales made a significant comment about loneliness, “In a society where so often we are judged by our résumés, productivity, and reputation, unconditional love is unspeakably precious.” There is no doubt that we live in a culture wherein success – even the illusion of success – is the ultimate goal. We fear that if people took a peak behind the masks we wear and saw the truth of who we are, (which is probably not as successful as what we portray on Facebook, around the office or when chatting with the moms at school pick-up) they would not want us anymore. If they saw who we really are, we would no longer be worthy of their time, attention, smiles and laughter.

But no matter what we project to the world around us, our homes should be the place where this precious unconditional love thrives. This is the place where we should truly be able to be ourselves…all of us. They should be the safe places to let our guard down, to take off our masks and just be real.

But this comes at a cost. This requires us to have the courage to speak with our whole hearts. We must be willing to let our partners hold our hearts and trust them to bear the weight. This is scary, particularly when they have not been gentle with our hearts in the past, or when we are afraid that the weight will be too heavy for them to bear.

The book of John assures us that “Perfect love casts out all fear.” But sometimes our deepest fear is that our love isn’t perfect. And when that fear takes root and we become afraid to speak about how intensely we love, want and need each other, what we are left with isn’t really love at all. It’s just a pale shadow of what could be.

Loneliness abates when it is met with connection and community. It eases when we hear, “You are not alone. I want you. I need you. I love you. We can walk this road together. We won’t always walk it perfectly – sometimes we will be stumbling more than walking – but I will be with you.”

So maybe, just maybe, choosing to admit that we’re lonely  taking that first trembling step of courage is the best place to start.

Sex and Cancer Survivors Thrivers

I love my job. There is no doubt in the world that I am doing exactly what I was made to do. I love reading about, writing about and speaking about sex.

But during Spring Break, I experienced one of the high points of my career. I was invited to speak to a support group for women in various stages of breast cancer on sex and cancer. To give you a bit of a peak into my personal world, I am a cancer orphan. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer and my father to brain cancer. My aunt is a breast cancer survivor. Cancer has ravaged my family and daily impacts the way I think, act and view life.

And yet, here I was, standing in front of a group of women who had been radically affected by cancer but who were determined NOT to be defined by it. They had come to hear me speak so that they could find answers and share solutions with each other on ways to have a good sex life once again.

There is no doubt that we live in an amazing age. More and more women are detecting cancer earlier and are surviving a disease which would have been certain death twenty years ago. Kids are getting to have their mothers for longer. Husbands are not been widowed as often.

But there is a shadowy side to this phenomenal survival rate. When you survive, you have to live life after cancer. Many women find that their sex lives are radically altered due to chemotherapy, surgery and the trauma of their experience. Their bodies don’t respond the same way that they did before cancer. They might have pain and discomfort. They have been launched into menopause and have to tackle all the effects of this passage in life. They grapple with bodies that no longer look the same…different breasts, scars, and defiled body image. And they may face a chasm of sexlessness which began during the early stages of diagnosis and was never quite bridged even after they were given a clean bill of health.

Under these circumstances, how do you restart the conversation with your spouse? How do you begin to have sex again? How do you get past all the physical and emotional hurdles that are thrown at you? These were all questions that these women had.

As I watched them share with each other, I was once again moved by the power of women talking openly and honestly about their sex lives. I have found that the most devious and insidious enemy of a great sex life is isolation. For if you feel that you are the only one who is dealing with the problems you face, you will be less likely to seek help. When we come together and share (with guidelines about privacy and confidentiality, of course), we can break through barriers that we had previously viewed as insurmountable.

Allow me to share with you five things that these women taught me from their own journeys:

1)   You are not alone. If you are struggling with sex after cancer, the issues you are facing have been faced by scores of women before you. Join a support group and see how other women have found solutions, read up on the subject, and talk to your doctor about different avenues to try. (Here is a great book suggestion: Woman, Cancer, Sex)

2)   Understand the stages. It is highly likely that when you are first diagnosed, you and your spouse will focus on the life-saving decisions you have to make. As you go through treatment, you will focus on making your appointments, having energy for your family and keeping a positive attitude. Sex will slide down on your priority list. This is normal and completely understandable. However, there will come a time when life normalizes and sex will come back into your thoughts. Making it a priority in your relationship once again might feel awkward and stilted.

3)   Communicate, communicate, communicate. Finding the ways to address this issue with your spouse can be difficult. The topic becomes the 800lb gorilla in the room that you both dance around. He is thinking, “If I bring it up, she might burst into tears.” You are thinking, “I wonder if he misses it?” If you are looking for a way to bridge the communication gap over this thorny issue, take a drive. Ask your spouse how s/he is feeling about sex and listen to his/her response. Sometimes being side by side (rather than face to face) helps diffuse some of the tension that has built up.

4)   Get uncomfortable being uncomfortable. There is truth to the saying that everything you want in life is outside your comfort zone. If you are going to have a good sex life again, you are most likely going to have to try new things to see what works with your new body. You are going to have to be brave and courageous. Perhaps you will need a vibrator to “find” your orgasm again. Perhaps you need a lubricant which does not contain any estrogen to combat the vaginal dryness. Perhaps you will need to find a naturopath who can give neuroshots to restore sensation to your pelvic floor. Being willing to push past your inhibitions in order to find solutions that work for you is a crucial piece to restoring a good sex life.

5)   Begin with sensate focus exercises. If you are wondering how to begin having sex again after a long dry spell, start slowly and don’t immediately shoot for gold. Trying sensate focused massages are a great way to get started. Remember point number 4 – communicate first about your desires and goals for the exercise. For complete instructions, read this article.

Finally, remember that every couple handles life after cancer differently. The key is making sure that how you approach your sex life is truly working for both of you. If you need some more tips on how other couples have dealt with this situation, check out this article from the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

Top Ten Technology Flirts

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Yesterday was a crazy day. You know the type where you have to carry a colour-coded schedule just to make it through the day without doing something foolish like, well, forgetting your kid at school??? (Don’t laugh too hard. We did that earlier this week) It was bonkers. Eric and I were flying in different directions, Riley had places to be and needs to be met. We ended the day flopped on the bed together, eating pizza and watching a kid’s movie about enchanted princesses and undying love.

After we put Riley to bed, Eric and I ventured downstairs with ambitious plans to work some more. This is one of the significant pitfalls of working from home. The lines between work and home life get completely blurred and it becomes exceedingly easy to work all the time. There is no such thing as a 9-5 work schedule. That could be a blog post in and of its own!

But on this occasion, we were just too tired to work. Instead, we ended up sitting right next to each other with our computers out. Then we found each other on Facebook. And we starting flirting. Outrageously. Which led to hearty laughter. Then our friends and family started to chime in on the discussion and we giggled even more. At last count, we were up to 32 comments and one “like”. I’m not sure what the record for comments on Facebook is – I am sure that we fell far short of that record – but that was a lot for us!

This interaction led me to think: who is your spouse flirting with on Facebook today? If it’s not you, there is a problem. This is a skill set you might want to pick up.

Realizing that this is a significant issue, I consulted one of my techy guru friends for his hottest tips on ways to use technology to flirt with your spouse.  Around here we call him JDog.  I think you’ll find him to be as refreshing and enlightening as we do.

J-Dog’s Top Ten List:

J-Dog’s Note: Ok, so Eryn-Faye asked me to come up with ten ways to flirt using technology, and I thought, “Oh, that’s easy!” Turns out that with the steady march of this thing we call ‘convergence’, the lines between various technologies are becoming less and less clear. Some of these suggestions will obviously cross over to others, and some won’t as much. The one commonality should be creativity – as long as you can think of something fun and creative to say to your lover, the technology can help you convey that message. I managed to come up with ten, although the last one is illegal, so don’t do it, ok?

Also, I’ll add the standard disclaimer that I’m a guy, and in spite my attempt to balance this with tips for both sexes, my own biases will show. Whatever.

1. Texting. Most people have mobile phones these days, and many couples each have their own. Texting is usually free, especially between family members (check your rate plan before going crazy with the texts, though!). Send your spouse a short, badly-spelled note informing them of just how hot you think they are. If you’re female, include details about your underwear. While this is quite effective if they are at work, it can be even more fun to do when you’re in the same room as each other. It’s a very good way to build the sexual tension between you when you’re at a party, for example.

A sub-genre of this is known as ‘sexting’, and is generally more risqué (and risky!) and involves sending sexy photos of yourself to your spouse’s cellphone or email. A couple things to keep in mind if you want to try this are that you shouldn’t be stupid and include pictures of your face, because it’s pretty much guaranteed these pictures will not remain entirely private (especially if the recipient is a guy!). Also, be very careful when selecting the recipient from your address book, as a slip of the finger on that tiny keypad means the wrong person gets to see your naughty bits! Again, check your rate plan to make sure it’s not going to bankrupt you to send that picture.

If you don’t have a mobile to send text from, most carriers allow you to send texts from their website, or via email. For example, for Telus Mobility customers, you’d send an email to tendigitmobilenumber@msg.telus.com. Check your carrier’s website for details on how to do this.

2. Skype. This would include other kinds of real-time text chat as well, such as MSN, Yahoo! Chat, or Google Chat. Whatever network you both use, put it to good use by turning up the heat now and then. If you are apart from each other during the day, try to get online at the same time now and then, and just talk about how much you love each other, or how much you miss them. Tell him about your underwear. If your network of choice supports video, use it! It’s amazing what a turn on it is just to see your lover’s face while you talk to them. And if you have the opportunity, live video can spice things up in other ways too!

3. Music. It’s long been known that music is a great way to romance a woman. Dudes, fire up iTunes and buy her a gift card or use the Gift This function to send a specific song directly to her inbox. Browse the Latin and Jazz genres, or find a new mix of one of your old favourites. Girls, just send him a song about underwear. There’s lots on there, trust me.

4. Twitter. You can say a lot in 140 characters or less. Tweet about your lover. Let your followers know how much you appreciate them. Just for fun, start a hashtag with their name, and use it lots. And use the private message capabilities to add some spice!

5. Facebook. Eryn-Faye mentioned this one in her post, and I have to say it was a lot of fun watching that conversation go on! Facebook is a great way to publicly flirt with your lover, and letting your friends inject their own humour into the process can result in some hilarious moments. Use your status updates to brag about how great your spouse is – making oblique references to their sexual prowess not only tells them you think they are ‘all that’, but it is a great self esteem booster to have one’s praises sung in public. Doesn’t hurt the libido, either – which is what we’re going for here!

6. Telephone. Sure, it’s old-school, but sometimes, it’s just what the doctor ordered. The ability to hear your lover in real-time, with no delays, jitter, or dropped packets can be very refreshing. Call her up and let them know exactly what you’d like to do with her when you get home. Or, call him up and tell him about your underwear.

7. Voicemail. If your lover works in an office, you can call the switchboard and ask the receptionist to transfer you directly to their voicemail, rather than ringing their extension. This way, you can leave them a surprise message – be sure to preface it with “Darling, please make sure your speakerphone is off”!

8. Email. Even those of us without mobile phones have access to email, and this can be put to great use in the flirting game. Guidelines involve not using corporate email accounts for naughty exchanges (get a gmail account – it’s free, already!), and remembering to be careful about sending incriminating photos. Underwear shots are great, as long as your face isn’t visible.

9. Video. The availability of video recording technology such as camcorders, cell phones, and webcams means that it’s easier than ever to create a visual delight for your lover. This can be a lot of fun, especially because it’s so very ‘naughty’. You know what makes your lover tick, so include those things in your video. As with other forms of electronic flirting, it’s very important that you ensure the privacy of your material: no faces or identifiable markings such as tattoos; don’t use workplace networks to send private files (most log everything, and copies can be made for auditors or investigators upon request); and make sure that your personal computer is secure, both from outside penetration (hur, hur) as well as from family members (especially children, for heaven’s sake!). I would suggest getting PGP encryption keys and using them to lock all your private files.

10. Hack one of those roadside construction signs with the big digital displays. Replace the warning message about the bridge washing out or whatever with something that tells passersby how amazing awesome your lover is. You have fewer characters than Twitter, here – so use shorthand! And wear gloves so you don’t leave fingerprints, ok? I’m just sayin’…

As with all types of flirting, it’s important to remember that the most effective methods will employ your lover’s Love Language. Once you have that figured out, technology and gadgets can really help you push those buttons!

Eryn-Faye’s note: Ladies, for what it’s worth, underwear seems to be a consistent theme!

Missing the woman I fell in love with

By Josh Lerman on parenting.com

Tue April 7, 2009


(Parenting.com) — My wife and I share a home and a bed. We kiss goodbye in the morning and hello in the evening with such ritualistic regularity that if one of them somehow gets missed, I worry it means bad luck.

We have a marriage in which we tell each other things, without large, dramatic fights, a marriage that in our affection and respect for each other seems awfully good in comparison to those of most of our friends.

But somehow in the past ten years or so since our first daughter was born, in the mad swirl of breastfeeding and colic, of Pull-Ups and wipes, dinners and playdates, car repairs and sweeping, versions of each other that we used to take for granted — versions of our relationship — have gone missing.

Christina and I met around 20 years ago. The friend of a friend of one of my college roommates, she appeared to me first at a party a few weeks after graduation. I thought she was gorgeous, and remember standing in the kitchen talking to her, trying to make her laugh.

She left the party early, and I later heard she’d gone off to Europe. There was a boyfriend.

But through the coincidences of social life in a big city, I ended up living with a high school friend of hers, while she returned to New York to work in the same office as another friend of mine from college. We became part of each other’s circle of friends.

Over the next year or two, as we spent time with each other on a semi-regular basis, our banter became more flirtatious, and I finally asked what she was doing Friday night. She answered “Something with you,” and we’ve been together ever since.

What I remember most about our first years together was our laughter. We giggled in bed at night and over the course of long weekend mornings, lying on our backs, legs draped across each other’s legs. Shameless hilarity in restaurants, malls, on the sidewalk — a private world of absurdity and delight, in love with the ridiculousness of the world and each other.

We moved in together, married, and bought an apartment. Jobs gotten and lost, money pressures, depression, a relative’s drinking problem, fertility issues — the stuff of adult life — all pounded at us but ultimately pushed us closer. At last we became parents together, sharing the shocking face-smack of responsibility and obligation that comes with the precarious-seeming beauty of infancy.

Of course we were still silly together — it’s who we were — but there was less time, less energy. Christina’s body, during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and even after, it seemed, was owned by our daughter Olivia. The baby was lavished with affection, but maybe not husband and wife so much.

The baby was tickled and sung to and spoken nonsense to and made to laugh, but maybe not the husband and wife so much.

A new job, more fertility trials, the dehumanizing infinity of adoption paperwork capped by waiting, waiting, and finally our baby, a second daughter, Lucy. Our life continued, almost on autopilot.

The children grow and their needs change. They must be fed, the mortgage paid, the sidewalk shoveled, bedtimes enforced. The obligations — to the preschool, the PTA, my job, Christina’s work, Olivia’s preposterously plentiful homework — are a constant, staticky background to our lives.

My wife and I support each other, can count on the other, and on random weekends away can recapture flashes of that old lightheartedness.

And there are new shared pleasures: looking at each other in baffled rapture at the half-wit brilliance of 4-year-old Lucy explaining “how they make grass”; beaming with outsize pride at 9-year-old Olivia’s dance-recital seriousness and grace; witnessing a spontaneous, unexpected gesture of affection from an older sister to a younger. And the attempted mom-dad hugs in the kitchen dissolving into four-headed laughing kiss-fests.

But it’s too little, too fleeting. We spend so much of our lives passing each other on the way somewhere. Me on the way to see whether the sudden, eerie silence from the girls’ room is Lucy scaling her dresser like a climbing wall (it is). Christina on the way to the basement to put the laundry in the dryer because no, I have to admit, it wouldn’t occur to me to do it on my own.

Our bedtimes drift apart — Christina’s closer to the girls’, mine later toward a precious hour or two of private, need-free quiet time listening to music, reading, or watching bad TV.

What’s gone is the pure selfishness that brought us together. Something that belonged only to us, that was unique to us and part of us, has gotten lost.

But isn’t this what happens in life — that what I remember was a time, not a thing, and we can no more recapture those versions of ourselves than we can travel to ancient Rome? That a normal part of becoming an adult, of raising a family together, is leaving behind treasured swaths of the love affair that got us here — the mindless lust, the inside jokes, the laughter? Perhaps. But even so, selfish though it may be, I miss my wife.

So we must build on what we had — what we still have. We’re different people now, in different lives. We’ve changed, and so our love must change. The problem isn’t really that something is lost. It’s that we’ve been looking in the wrong direction, sitting there waiting for something to materialize instead of getting up and making it ourselves.

We’ll have to try a little harder to see past the day-to-day. If I do, I’ll find my wife — she’s in the basement taking stuff out of the dryer.

And if she can postpone bedtime for just a few minutes (please!), she’ll find me down in the living room watching bad TV. I can’t tell you how easy it would be to get me to turn that damn thing off.

By Josh Lerman

Copyright 2009 The Parenting Group. All rights reserved.  Read the original article here.

And read Eryn-Faye’s response to this article in her blog, then share your thoughts too!

Co-dependent Issues

Dear Eryn-Faye,

My question is how to handle a co-dependent relationship issue.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year and a half and my boyfriend won’t let me keep anything at his place or introduce me to his parents. Exceptions are toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo. This took almost a year before I was permitted to leave these basic items at his home.

To say my boyfriend is territorial and defensive is an understatement.

My boyfriend says that he is protecting his mother and has had negative experiences in the past and does not want to cause her anymore stress from relationships that could possibly fail.

Furthermore, my boyfriend has asked me to marry him during sex and then afterwards, once back to reality, he changes his mind. He says that saying things like “he wants to marry me” heightens his sexual experience and that I take things too seriously. I am beginning to resent his lack of empathy for my feelings.

I love many things about my boyfriend and am perplexed in how to address these issues without causing a big argument.

I feel disposable in the relationship when my boyfriend treats me this way.

I have tried to address these issues with him and am at my wits end….

Suggestions are more than welcome…

Let me begin by saying that my heart goes out to you right now. I can understand that you are frustrated and need some outside insight on your situation!

In my practice, I often speak with couples about the three “C’s” – commitment, communication, and consummation (aka sex). These elements provide the foundation for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. If you are weak or lacking in one or more areas, then the entirety of your relationship is in jeopardy.

Commitment is the element which binds the couple together through thick and thin. It is not only the decision that “I am with this person”, but also the decision to make healthy sacrifices for your partner because you recognize their individual value. As we deepen our commitment, we realize that our own selfishness is a hindrance to our relationship and with it we will not grow as a couple. The tricky part about commitment is that both parties have to be on board. If one partner is constantly sacrificing for the other out of fear of making the other partner mad, or starting a huge fight, or being left by their partner, then there is a breakdown in the whole system.

Communication is the freedom to express what we are feeling and thinking with our partner without the fear of retribution. It is how we let that person really get to know who we are – our likes and dislikes, why we react a certain way, what our dreams are for our lives. It is also the way we do check-ups on our relationship – are we meeting each other’s needs, are we showing love to our partner in a manner that they understand, how can we work to correct the issue that we are facing together in our relationship.

Your boyfriend’s lack of desire or willingness to fully incorporate you into his life and his blatant lack of regard for your feelings lead me to think that he is not willing to develop the commitment or communication part of your relationship. I was horrified by his explanation for saying he wants to marry you during sex as just to “heighten his sexual experience.” (By the way, I did mention this situation to a few of my male colleagues, just to get a male perspective on your boyfriend, and they were all equally as horrified.) The general consensus was that his actions and comments do not reflect someone who is interested in a healthy relationship.

I am also concerned that you might be struggling with some underlining self-esteem issues which are the source of why you allow your boyfriend to treat you in such a manner. A counselor will help you understand your worth as a person, break patterns that you might have which lead you into unhealthy relationships, and shed light on ways that you can develop healthy relationships with people who value and respect you.

I realize that this is “messy” and maybe it is not what you wanted to hear from me. However, I would love to be here for you as you walk through these issues, and I welcome any further questions that you have. Please feel free to write back at any time!

Warmly,

Eryn-Faye, Passion Coach

Isolation

The other day I was having coffee with another one of the moms from my daughter’s school. She mentioned that she and her husband had moved to the area shortly after her daughter was born. Struggling to balance all the responsibilities that are part and parcel of being the primary caregiver to a newborn, she would go to the grocery store just to have human contact. Inevitably, this would be when the child would start to cry, and Mom would leave so that she didn’t have to endure the caustic glances from strangers. In fact, she didn’t find any friends in the area until her daughter started preschool and she connected with one of the other moms. Surprisingly, I have heard many, many stories similar to this one.

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The sense of isolation is particularly profound when dealing with sexual issues. Despite the fact that we are besieged by media images about sex, talking about the “nitty-gritties” of our personal experiences is still very taboo. And so we fall into the trap of thinking that we are the only ones who deal with X, or put up with Y, or are hiding the secret of Z. Compounding this misconception is the belief that the ubiquitous “they” have a better sex life than we do. Allow me to burst that bubble for you. I have never met a couple who has a phenomenal sex life all the time. Despite our best intentions, life just gets in the way.

No matter what is impeding the sex life that you have always dreamed of, you are not alone. There are other women who are allergic to lubricants, hate having sex because they were molested as a child, are fearful that sexual odors will be a turnoff to their partner, would rather sleep than have sex, have husbands who are less interested in sex than they are, have never had an orgasm — the list goes on and on. Resources exist to help the situation you are in right now.

Realizing that you are not alone is the first step. Getting the right resources is the second. But there is a third, equally important step. When I speak to groups of women, I encourage them to broach the subject amongst themselves – a support group of sorts. I won’t always be there for them, but now that we have “broken the seal” on the subject, I encourage them to continue to talk about the issue. I don’t mean in such a way that embarrasses your husband or belittles your relationship with him.  Remember that talking about an issue is different than just talking about your husband.  However, talking together breaks the sense of isolation, and when this is broken, we can get the help we need to make our sexual relationship thrive.

Believe me when I say that each of us privately struggles with the question of if, how and when our secret anxieties should be divulged to friends.  But stepping out of fear is the premise behind trust.  Ironically, it is the fear of being different (isolation) that keeps us isolated.  Letting go of that fear is the risk we must take in order to forge the connections that sustain life and give it richness.

Recently, I was speaking to a group of ladies. After my talk, when all the other ladies had moved on to the delicious food and drink that was being served, one woman snuck back in to see me. She was obviously very nervous even though it was just the two of us, and it took her several minutes to work up the courage to say what was on her mind. Finally, she got it out. “You know, talking about this stuff was taboo years ago. If I had known then what you just told me, I might still be married.”   I, like her, was utterly heartbroken by that thought.  What a tragic consequence of silence that is unfortunately repeated over and over by women leading lives of quiet desperation, believing they are alone.

Isolation is a killer. Your marriage doesn’t have to be a victim.

Losing the Spark

Dear Eryn-Faye,

My husband and I have been married 40 years and in our early sixties. Five years ago our mom and pop business of 10 yrs went bankrupt and have done nothing since job-wise. Now one of us is getting a small pension, and we struggle to get by.  There is almost zero conversation between us, and we have nothing in common except for two married children who live.  I feel very alone much of the time. My husband does not like company so I never invite people over to save embarrassment. What to do–I have tried several approaches but almost anything I say–I get “oh woman” and remarks like that.  We are both educated but my level of confidence has gone down the drain and am depressed — Both have health problems which does not help.  For me-sex has become a task–help please!

As I read your email, a few thoughts came to mind. First of all, congratulations on having 40 years of marriage! That is quite a feat in this day in age! Sustaining a marriage takes work, and you have obviously been very committed to your husband.

From what you have written, it sounds like you are feeling quite isolated and alone. I would love to see you break out of this cycle and develop some friendships. If your husband does not like company at the house, then find it outside of the house. Here are a few suggestions of things you can try:

  1. Join a club. There are lots of organizations which are focused on social responsibility and volunteerism, such as the Lion’s Club. They are great avenues to serving your community as well as building personal relationships. Likewise, there are clubs which are formed around a common hobby, such as quilting, running, or reading.
  2. Become a volunteer. Non profit organizations are always looking for help to achieve their mandates. For example, you could check out your local food bank, children’s hospital, or home for abused women.
  3. Join a church group. Many larger churches have groups which meet throughout the week to meet the needs of their parishioners. These groups are often organized into age categories, or common interests, etc.
  4. Get a part-time job. You will need to check to see if this is an option given the fact that you are on a pension (sometimes working violates the conditions of the pension and is therefore not a good idea). Even if you are flipping burgers, you will be making a little bit of money (which will help on the home front) as well as connecting with the world around you. Don’t let your age get in the way – many people in their sixties are realizing that youth is just a state of mind and that they are too young to retire!

You might be asking yourself – how will any of this help my marriage? For a few reasons: first and foremost, the weight of being your only companion is very heavy for your husband to bear. Even if you are very involved with your children, having friends outside of your family helps you continue to grow as an individual and that will bring new life into your family relationships. Along those lines, men really don’t like to talk as much as women do. Biologically, they are “built” very differently than us, and they are very uncomfortable with the level of communication that we need. If you can create relationships with other women, you will find your need for communication much better satiated that expecting your husband to meet 100% of those needs for you. If you would like some books to read on this subject, Dr. Scott Haltzman’s books The Secrets of Happily Married Women and The Secrets of Happily Married Men and are both excellent resources.

Feelings of isolation and depression, as well as stress about finances, are all challenges to the intimacy of a marriage. It is not surprising that sex feels like a chore for you! As women, we reach out sexually when our emotional needs are being met. And for men, it is the opposite – when their sexual needs are met, they can reach out emotionally. So, continue to make sex a priority (I can give you a list of tips and suggestions to make it fun if you would like!), but branch out beyond your home to build friendships too.

I would love to hear back from you as you try new things and explore your options! Please write again to update me or ask new questions!

Sincerely,

Eryn-Faye, Passion Coach