My husband sustained a spinal cord injury just a year after we married. He said that he pretty much is not interested in sex anymore. I try to be understanding and assure him that to be even cuddled or for him to hold my hand and talk a bit would be wonderful...but he refuses to even do that. He does not touch me at all. When I go up to even hug him goodbye he pushes me away as soon as he can. I have begged him to go to marriage counseling with me to get help but he refuses. This has gone on for years and to be honest I feel like I am going to go insane. His refusal to even try to work on our problems has made me resentful and I have stopped even trying. I live in one part of the house and he lives in the other and we don't spend time together at all without fighting. Part of me thinks, "Leave and get a life" and part of me still loves him, feels sorry for him, and feels that marriage is a sacred thing and when I said for better or worse it was a vow that I should live with. I just don't know what to do anymore. All I know is that I am miserable.


It sounds like you are both miserable! Obviously that's not a great way to live your life together. Unfortunately it often gets to this point before one partner gets fed-up or worn-out and, through desperation, reaches out for help. Since you’re the one reaching out, I'll direct my comments to you. While the cuddling, holding hands, and talking combo is a great prescription, one that I would definitely include somewhere down the line if I were a therapist, it is a prescription based on understanding from your point of view as a woman. I'll give you some over generalized insights about men that may help you to have a better understanding from your husband's perspective. I'll also offer a few general words of advice.

Avoidance seems to be a common reaction for men when faced with inability to live up to an expected role. We are trained to be goal oriented and to finish what we start. We are also trained not to show our fears and not to reveal our weaknesses. Cuddling and holding hands translates into an initiation of intimacy, which for many men means the start of sex. Talking means sharing our feelings. Your husband is likely feeling incapable of being the husband he imagined when he said I do, and incapable of being the lover he was before his injury. He probably also senses that you feel sorry for him which is likely to compound his feelings of being a burden instead of a provider. Cuddling, holding hands, and talking may all be painful reminders of his inability to fulfill his role as husband and hence may be interpreted as direct threats to his manhood. Sometimes fighting and displaying anger are the only other actions that we are well versed in when the first line of defense, avoidance, isn't working.

What does this mean for you and your relationship? Begging, pleading, and trying to get your husband to change have not been successful. The other option is changing you. If he will not go with you to counseling, go on your own. Work through your conflicted feelings then make a plan for how you will relate to your husband with the support of a therapist. You can let your husband know that you still love him and are committed to the ideal of marriage, but from now on you will not be trying to change him as his lack of willingness only feeds your resentment. You will be doing whatever you need to do to gain a sense of sanity for yourself. Then he will have to choose to make his own changes in order to maintain and improve the relationship or to continue on in misery on his own. Choice can be empowering and give us a sense of control we need to act in ways that we know are good for the heart.


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