Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected].
I look forward to hearing from you!
My name is Brittany. I am 26 years old and I have four children, two with my current partner.
I gave birth to my fourth child six months ago. I have gained about 25 to 30 pounds since I gave birth, and I have been trying to lose the weight the last two months.
I have been with my boyfriend for about six years. After I gave birth I could understand my boyfriend not wanting to be sexually active but he continues not to want to. We have been sexually active once since the birth.
He doesn’t kiss me passionately like he used to, either. He still cuddles with me in bed but that’s the only affection he shows me. Before I got pregnant I would just jump on him, to be blunt, but I have stopped due to being rejected .
He has recently told me he does miss that, but when I replied with maybe we should try to be more sexually active and try new things he said we don’t want to get pregnant right now. He will not use a condom and I was taking birth control but figured if we aren’t sexually active what’s the point.
I have caught him on plenty of occasions looking at other females on the street and I have mentioned it before, but because it continues I don’t even bother to say anything anymore. I feel like my body is so unattractive to him and that is the reason he doesn’t do the things he used to, and he uses the excuse that “married” couples don’t have sex very often.
For the past two years, I have mentioned to him I would like to get married, and he has told me he does too. When my daughter was born six months ago, we agreed that if I gave her his last name, we would get married after she was born because I didn’t want to have a different last name. He says we are already pretty much married, but we will make it official.
We have a couple thousand dollars coming to us in the next few months and I have mentioned marriage but he would rather spend the money on a new vehicle or dog. The dog will cost about $2,000 so I feel he would rather have an animal then marry me.
A couple of days ago, he told me if it means that much to me we will get married but I feel it was only because I was complaining about it and telling him I wanted to change the baby’s last name to mine. I feel like I am forcing him to marry me and I don’t want to force him—I want him to marry me because he wants to.
I have noticed that a couple of nights, he was talking to himself in his sleep and waking up in the middle of the night with an erection. I think he might be having dreams about other women he finds more attractive.
I know my self esteem is low and he has said during my work outs, “Wow, I can tell it’s working!” but if we are out and I mention I’d like something not so healthy like a cupcake or chocolate he says plainly no, that I don’t need it. I am about 160 lbs so I understand that he doesn’t want me to look like this, but it makes me feel even more like crap when he says that.
Now I wont get naked or change in front of him. I try to cover my stomach and won’t let him touch it and I feel when he does accidentally touch it he weirdly moves away as if he is grossed out. He tries to tell me I’m not fat and he wishes I wouldn’t put myself down but I can’t help the way I feel.
The other day we were out shopping and a blonde girl walked past us and I watched him do a double take—I see him look at girls all the time. I try to look good for him and he doesn’t bother to pay attention, yet sometimes for no reason he will grab me (breasts, for example) and laugh, then stop and nothing more. When I try to touch him back he quickly removes my hands and tells me to stop.
I can’t try to be sexually active with him because I don’t know how to go about it, and I’m so scared of being rejected. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough and he is looking for something better than me.
I honestly don’t know at this point what to think or what to do. I am trying to look better for him but I just don’t feel I am good enough any more. It makes me really sad.
Lately I have been trying to tell myself that we are just friends with children together and don’t sleep with other people. If I tell myself this, then I wont be hurt if he doesn’t want to kiss me or be sexually active or even look at other woman.
I truly love him with all my being, but what am I am I to do? Please help me.
Dear Lonely Mom,
I am featuring just your letter in my column this week for two reasons; first, this is a complex question, and second, I believe countless couples can relate to it.
At your young ago of 26, you have the tremendous burden of four children and are weighed down by insecurity about your body as well as where—if anywhere—your relationship is headed. Your fears and stresses are creating a self perpetuating cycle of negativity, which puts a wall between you and your boyfriend.
Your boyfriend, in his own right, seems confused about where you stand. I don’t blame him. You say you want to be intimate, but don’t bother to take birth control. You won’t get naked or change in front of him and you wonder why he won’t look at you. You say you don’t want to force him to marry you, yet you use the ploy of giving your baby his last name to encourage him to do just that.
You need to get clear about what you want and why you want it.
If you want to be sexually intimate with your boyfriend, tell him. He may not be able to hear you because there’s been so much static lately. Tell him again. Make it clear in many different ways, including just listening to him when he talks and being happy to see him when he comes home. Either he will come to trust that you mean it and reciprocate, at which point the wall will start coming down, or he won’t, and you’ll know that you have bigger problems.
To do this, you must be able to believe in yourself. Your boyfriend has given you many signs and signals that he is still attracted to you. And though his looking at other women so blatantly is crass and annoying, it is no reflection on his attraction to you. Try not to worry about it so much. Also, when you do catch him, you can jokingly say (as I do to my husband), “Hey, put your eyeballs back in their sockets!” and give him a light punch in the arm. Hopefully, with a little humor, he will learn to be more discreet.
Again, his reaction to your new strategy will determine your next move. If he laughs along with you and says you’re still the woman for him, forgive him and believe him. Forgiveness and belief are a choice. If he gets angry or belligerent, that’s a big red flag.
You mention trying to “look better for him.” That’s the wrong approach. Anytime we try to change ourselves for someone else, we feel resentment because at the core of that change is the belief that we are not good enough. You will never lose weight or feel beautiful if you’re coming from a place of fear.
So what can you so? Make another choice—to love yourself. Look good for yourself. Eat healthfully for yourself. Exercise for yourself. Do these things because they bring you joy and happiness. People who live this way radiate light. No matter what your husband’s reaction, you will feel better and make better decisions.
Finally, if you can afford it, go to counseling—and if your boyfriend won’t go with you, go alone. The two of you have let yourselves become disconnected and when that happens, a third party can be helpful at expediting healing.
There is a lot at stake here for your young family, and therapy would be a great investment. Maybe even better than a $2,000 dog!
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Gareth Williams/Flickr