Rough child­hood leaves wife dis­tant, un­af­fec­tion­ate

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - ARTS & LIFE - El­lie

Q: I’m 59, mar­ried to a won­der­ful woman, 42. I adore her bub­bly per­son­al­ity, her beauty takes my breath away. But she’s un­ro­man­tic and un­af­fec­tion­ate.

My first wife died young; the sec­ond cheated and left me and our young chil­dren. I was dev­as­tated.

I met my cur­rent wife sev­eral years later. I fell in love but waited two years be­fore telling her.

She wasn’t in­ter­ested in a re­la­tion­ship.

Years later, we ac­ci­den­tally con­nected on a dat­ing site. She sug­gested meet­ing for din­ner and con­fided that, years ear­lier, she’d loved me, too. We re­cently mar­ried. No hon­ey­moon, no cel­e­bra­tion. We fi­nally had sex sev­eral months later. Only once more since then.

I’m in good phys­i­cal con­di­tion and have al­ways had a large ap­petite for sex. When I men­tion this, she an­grily says that no one will force her to have sex. I never have.

I’ve shown her ro­mance and pas­sion, but she re­jects my at­tempts, won’t even hold hands or hug with me.

She says “I love you” to me of­ten, but her ac­tions don’t match her words. Though I loved my two prior wives, I’ve never felt love like this. But I’m so lonely.

She even wanted to keep our mar­riage a se­cret, and only told her clos­est friends.

She had a rough child­hood, grow­ing up with an al­co­holic father who of­ten bru­tally beat her mother.

She was mar­ried be­fore 20, to a young man who beat her.

Af­ter leav­ing him, she re­mar­ried years later to an­other man who fa­thered her chil­dren. He was con­trol­ling and emo­tion­ally abu­sive. She left him af­ter he cheated.

She’s said that no man will come be­fore her chil­dren. I’ve said that I’m a fam­ily man, and I love chil­dren.

I firmly be­lieve that her child­hood and ex­pe­ri­ences with two harsh men have made her put walls around her heart and emo­tions to pro­tect her­self.

But it’s tear­ing my heart apart. She says that I’m be­ing con­trol­ling and emo­tion­ally abu­sive when I ex­press how hard this is on me.

She won’t let me kiss her un­less she wants a kiss. She sleeps in a sep­a­rate bed­room from me. We haven’t kissed in four months.

This is just killing me.

I do be­lieve that she loves me be­cause her best friend told me so. But I don’t know how long I can live like this. I NEED love and af­fec­tion, and sex, too.

Am I wast­ing time wait­ing?

Very Lonely Hus­band

A: Yours is a story of yearn­ing, but your wife’s is a story of deep trauma and pain.

Though your de­sire/need for love and sex is un­der­stand­able, her very pres­ence re­quires cer­tainty of emo­tional safety and trust. That’s how she sur­vives her past and sur­mounts its for­mer vi­o­lence.

When she says she loves you, it’s as far as she can go, so far.

When you com­plain ver­bally about the ef­fects on you, she with­draws, be­cause there were those pre­vi­ous men who took out their anger on her phys­i­cally.

If she’s had any pro­fes­sional ther­apy in the past, she needs more. But she may still fear fac­ing up to her own mem­o­ries.

Mean­while, you could gain the un­der­stand­ing/in­sights that she needs from you:

Talk to a ther­a­pist your­self about how ex­pe­ri­enc­ing bru­tal­ity from child­hood into adult years af­fects that per­son’s way of cop­ing with life.

Staying emo­tion­ally sup­port­ive of her will go far­ther if you can be pa­tient longer. You’ll have more hope of bond­ing closer.

She al­ready took a step for­ward just by ad­mit­ting to love.

El­lie’s tip of the day

Over­com­ing years of phys­i­cal/emo­tional abuse, re­quires ther­apy and sup­port, for love to be trusted.

El­lie Tesher is an ad­vice colum­nist for the Star and based in Toronto. Send your re­la­tion­ship ques­tions via email: el­lie@thes­tar.ca.

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