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Can a marriage be sustained without healthy intimacy?

My husband (of 4 years) and I have been having marital problems. For about a year, my husband's affection towards me gradually waned until about the only time I received any was when he wanted sex. Last spring we took a trip to Italy that was supposed to be the honeymoon we never got to take, in the hopes of reconnecting with each other. Unfortunately, we ended up fighting more than we sparked any romance. About a week after we returned from the trip, I left for a 6-wk Officer Basic Course in the Army. A week after I left he met another woman at a friend's wedding that he became infatuated with, and two weeks after that he called to tell me he didn't love me anymore. He wouldn't talk to me about it until I got home, so I spent the last half of OBC preparing myself to come home to a broken marriage and find a way to move on. When I got home, he decided his words and actions were in a moment of loneliness and that he did still love me. He asked me to forgive him for what he said, and even harder, to forget about his behavior for the past year. He promised he would change and would never make the same mistake again. We have been in counseling for several months and my husband has made many of the changes he had promised. There were many times one of us were ready to split for good, but it looks like we may have finally reached a place where we can move on and rebuild our marriage. However, in the process, I have lost just about all the attraction I used to have for him. I do anything I can to avoid any intimacy beyond a quick kiss. I go to bed hours after he does in the hopes that he will be too tired to do anything once I get there. In the rare times I do give in to sex as an attempt to keep him happy, I feel empty and I basically count the seconds until it is over. Our reconciliation is so fragile right now that I am not able to talk to him about my problem. Is this something that can return as our relationship heals? Should I force myself to show affection I don't feel with the hope it will help the feelings return? Can a marriage be sustained without healthy intimacy?


Wendy's advice

A marriage may survive without healthy physical intimacy, but it won't thrive, which is why it is extremely important to continue marriage counselling. You may not yet feel you are ready to discuss this problem, but faking affection you don't feel will not solve your problems, it will only complicate them, so discussing how you're feeling with him is necessary. Begin by telling him how glad you are to finally be at a place where you feel your marriage can be rebuilt and that you appreciate all of his hard work over the past few months. Be positive and make it clear that sex is an area where YOU are struggling, and that this is not about his attractiveness (even if it is right now--you need him on board and supportive, not defensive and hurt). Be sure he understands that this is something you want to fix with his help and the help of a professional. Finally, ask him to be patient with you while you work through this because it isn't a problem that's likely to go away overnight. Also keep in mind that you and your husband may be able to receive free or subsidized counselling because you are a military member, and the chaplain at your base or unit should be able to give you some information on this. As you continue to work on rebuilding your marriage, take time to focus on your successes. It helps to look back and see how far you've come together.

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