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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! ~ Erica
About a year and a half into our relationship, my partner and I had an unplanned pregnancy.
In the beginning of our relationship, I was afraid of getting hurt by him. He was 35, and I was only 25. Even though we were at very similar places in our lives—we worked together, our interests were the same, friends were the same—I was still very cautious.
I usually listen to my gut, but I decided to trust him and stayed in the relationship.
When I first told him I was pregnant, he asked if I would abort the baby. I told him no, but I would give it up for adoption if he really did not want it. We eventually decided to have the baby. We now have a beautiful 3-year-old daughter, who brings so much joy into our lives, I can’t imagine my world without her.
The last year or so, my partner has been very distant. It seems like he is always somewhere else in his mind. It has raised the doubt I had in the beginning all over. He is a wonderful father and attentive with our daughter, but not always with our relationship. When he is present, he is an amazing partner—but it just comes and goes.
After a huge blowout this summer, he told me he was bored in the relationship. He said I was uninspiring, and the reason he hadn’t wanted to give the baby up for adoption was because he didn’t think I was strong enough to do so. Ouch.
After many, many yoga sessions, trail runs and nights of crying, I came to realize—I do have things I need to work on, but in general, I am doing my best and giving life my all. I have embraced my choices and am happy to be where I am. If he can’t see that, it’s his problem.
After five years together, he knows who I am and what I have to offer.
He decided it was a good idea to go to therapy for himself. After his first few sessions, he told me he was depressed. He says he loves the life we have built together, our daughter and me. However he feels I forced him into this life by having our daughter. This absolutely was devastating to hear.
I told him he did not have to stay in the relationship if he was truly unhappy. To stay would not be fair to him, our daughter or me. He deserves happiness, and I deserve someone who wants to be with me for me—and our daughter deserves happy parents.
He admits struggling to fully embrace what we have together, but he is trying. He apologized for some of the things he said during our blow-out this summer, which is great to hear, but I just can’t shake this doubt.
I love him. I love our family. I want to trust him, and I want to keep building a life together. The major “but” is—I want a partner to build my life with, because he wants to, not because I “forced him.”
I don’t want to be the source of someone’s depression.
I don’t want to live in fear that one day he isn’t going to try anymore.
I also don’t want to rip my family apart.
I know he is trying. It makes my heart physically hurt when I think back to that conversation.
~ Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I shared your question with a group of my Northwestern University cohorts (all training to become licensed clinical therapists), and among us, we agreed that the idea that you have “trapped” your husband with this marriage is unfair and false.
You and he share the responsibility for the conception of your child. You were willing to put the child up for adoption, which he chose not to do—whatever his reason may have been.
Your husband does sound depressed, and it is great that he is in therapy, but you need to be in therapy as well to sort out these feelings of indecisiveness about your marriage.
Regardless of any initial foreboding about your relationship—how the partnership came to be or the mental state of your spouse (as long as it isn’t abusive)—in a marriage, you’re either in, or you’re out. Your lack of clarity about what you want is contributing to the instability of your family.
If you do decide you want to fight for this, I think you two have a great chance of sorting things out. Your husband seems willing to do the work, you notice that he is “trying,” and he has been able to slow down and apologize for some of the cruel things he’s said.
You say you love him and your family, and you are willing to work on this as well—just writing this letter to me is evidence of that. Between the two of you, there is still a lot of potential for compassion and growth—and more than enough reason to recapture the love.
Make sure you don’t let pride get in the way of fixing what is broken.
My boyfriend is a lot older than me—almost 18 years. When we first got together a couple of years ago, we had sex all the time—now we almost never do.
Is this because of the age difference? Is there something wrong with me? I am an attractive, physically fit woman, and we still seem to have a lot of fun together, so I don’t think he’s “just not into me.” But maybe I am delusional?
Aren’t guys supposed to want sex all the time?
I’m afraid to talk about this with him, because I don’t want to hurt his feelings, or make him think he is not satisfying me—but I can’t go on like this much longer.
What should I do?
I understand that conversations about sex can be singularly awkward—but if you’re going to stay with this guy, you’re going to have to speak up.
I don’t know what the reason for your boyfriend’s low sex drive might be—it could be related a new medication, he could be depressed or have some other health issue, he might be having a mid-life crisis or any number of other things. He may not even know what’s going on himself.
As to your notion that guys “want sex all the time,” that’s just not accurate. Everyone—man or woman—has an individual sex drive that may wax or wane depending on age, health and other life circumstances.
Talking openly and compassionately about this might be an opportunity for the two of you to become closer to one another, and even if that’s not the way it pans out, at least you’ll have more understanding of what you’re dealing with.
Then you can make a decision about whether this is still the guy for you, or if you are no longer a good match, and it’s time to move on.
Author: Erica Leibrandt
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Daniel Zedda