By Alecia Rice
Q: We are a couple in our mid-50s who’s been married for 22 years. My relationship is great with my wife, except when it comes to desire; she doesn’t seem to have any. I’m concerned that something’s wrong between us. Why doesn’t she feel anything for me? — Patiently Waiting
A: Dear Patiently Waiting,
I wouldn’t necessarily go straight to the thought that “she doesn’t feel anything for me.” That could be the case, but it’s important to confirm what’s going on by having some honest conversations.
There are potentially a couple of streams feeding into this river that you can discuss. You’re in a long-term marriage which can sometimes turn quite routine and mundane from familiarity. If you find that you can predict with amazing accuracy what your days and nights are going to be like in your interactions and conversations, you might want to consider how you can freshen things up a bit by changing the routine. Oftentimes, merely relating to each other in unexpected ways with intimate conversation churns up new feelings which can build new magnetism into the relationship. Being attentive to her long before you want to be intimate also helps create a deeper connection.
Many couples your age experience the same thing. It’s quite often related to the hormonal changes happening in the woman’s body as she enters menopause and much less about “not feeling something” for her spouse. A phrase that I came up with years ago that seems to resonate with many women is, “I want to want to.” There’s still a desire to connect in sexually intimate ways, but it’s like the pilot light has been extinguished and the flame has to be relit and coaxed back. A patient and present husband, who wishes to encourage, engage, and understand (rather than blame her for the changes in her body), will make her feel safe. The truth is that she’s often more aware and disappointed in those changes than you are.
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. It’s important to change things up by creating a safe space to have these emotionally sensitive conversations. Then you can build bridges of understanding that consciously create paths to move forward together in new ways towards intimacy.
Q: I hate confrontations in my relationships. They jangle my mind and body and make me nervous. I don’t want to run away and know that I need to show up for them, but I would like to do so in a more conscious way. How do I get better about dealing with them? — Jangled
A: Dear Jangled,
Confrontations in relationships certainly aren’t fun. To respond to the tension, I’ve learned to reframe them as “conversations” rather than “confrontations.” This can make an energetic difference in how we approach and receive one another. You can probably sense the difference in your body when you consider these two words.
A confrontation is a “clash” of closed energy that sets up defenses, often insinuating that someone is “being nailed for doing something wrong.” A conversation is an “exchange” that generally has the more open energies of curiosity and respect. It also contains the desire to work things out for better understanding and resolution toward a better relationship.
Of course we can be hurt or upset about things that need to be addressed regarding our dignity and self-respect, especially when we’re looking for certain painful behaviors or patterns to end. This can set up dread and tension in our minds and bodies. How we proceed with the encounter can make all the difference in the world as to how it’s ultimately received by the other individual.
A few tips for energy management when approaching the conversation to ease tensions:
- Identify thoughts/feelings ahead of time that are draining emotional charges—this will help to ease your tone.
- Be firm on the issues and soft on the person—use “I” statements, instead of accusatory “you” statements, e.g. “I feel…” instead of “You did…”
- State your issue neutrally, then openly listen to their perspective.
- Ask questions to clarify.
- Try not to take things personally.
- Be accountable for your imperfections.
Disagreements create tension that can separate us. When we address them with thoughtful consideration, forethought, and respect, tensions may be released for both parties…ultimately nurturing deeper bonds of connection.
Alecia Rice is a Spiritual Alchemist and a personal advisor for those ready to unravel their issues with conscious choices. She offers grounded perspectives for energy management and sage insights in columns, videos, and podcasts. Visit www.AskAlecia.com for more information. Submit personal questions and quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org.