Forcing Unwanted Affection

by Patricia Lewis
(Hilton Head, SC)

My husband and I have been married for four years and we dated three years prior to that. My situation is this: when we were dating my partner showed me a lot of affection and I also showed him a lot of affection. We both agreed that we loved having that in our relationship and that it was OUR desire to continue that into our marriage.

In less than a year into our marriage, my husband told me one day that he didn't think all that affection in a marriage was necessary. He also told me that if I was looking for a romantic guy when I married him, that I married the wrong person.

I was hurt, but I accommodated his desire and backed off from affection. When I say I backed off from affection, that is not to say that I withheld sex, I would never do that. My problem is that once I backed off from the affection, he is now accusing me of not showing him any affection! I explained to him that I was trying to honor his request. He stated that even though he said that, that I am supposed to keep giving him affection anyway. Is this what I am supposed to do?

I'm hurt and confused. It feels like an effort to control to me. Desperately needing your answer, ...


Ben's Answer:

Your husband sounds confused and conflicted about this. It's not uncommon for men (and women) to start to feel smothered in a relationship after getting married and feeling that deeper commitment. If he's feeling trapped, he may be desiring more freedom and he might not know how to get that or what it even means. A healthy relationship has to allow both partners to differentiate. In the beginning of a romantic relationship there is often a deep emotional intensity, attraction, passion and togetherness - but this can start to lead to a loss of personal identity, individuality or separateness.

In order for the relationship to evolve and grow in a healthy way, you both have develop yourselves and feel independent - to feel your differentness. This can become confused with a loss of sexual attraction or affection.

I suggest having a talk with him about these issues and don't just focus on the affection aspect of the issue. It's just a symptom of a deeper problem and working through it can lead to a great relationship if you're both committed.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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