My husband and I have been together for four years, although we married recently. We love each other very much and have regular, enjoyable sex.
The issue is that since lockdown my husband is terrified of being without me. I have to travel for work, and he is having panic attacks at the concept of not being able to come with me. (He often can, as he is able to work remotely, but it’s not always practical.) He counts down the days from when we last had sex, especially if I’m in a busy period at work or will have to travel soon. I find that quite stressful and a turn-off. If we can’t be together working from home, he wants to spend all our evenings together, and gets upset if I read an article on my phone, even if I’m cuddling him as I do it. If friends or family are coming to visit, he is stressed for at least a week beforehand about getting to spend enough time with me before they arrive. I’m nervous about mentioning work commitments that take me away from home overnight.
I love travel and this is partly sucking the joy out of my job, which involves translation and writing. I want to compromise, but I’m not sure what more compromise I can find.
His mum died the year before the pandemic, after a very long illness, and he struggled with being alone then too. He has had counselling and made a lot of progress since her death. He recognises that he is probably trying to make up for a lack of affection when he was younger.
We have talked about couples therapy and I found a therapist we agreed to try, but we haven’t arranged anything yet. His counsellor feels that he still has his own things to work through, which could be the case, but I also feel something needs to change.
In situations such as this it is reasonable – in fact, desirable – to add couples therapy to individual therapy (with a different therapist). In your case, I recommend this starts as soon as possible, especially as you are being negatively affected by your husband’s dependence and urgently need support and tools. Relationship problems frequently manifest in a sexual way, or are played out in a couple’s sexual arena, but quite often the problem is not, essentially, a sexual one. Underlying mental health issues, or relationship factors such as unexpressed anger or resentment, can seriously affect the erotic connection, as well as poisoning feelings towards each other. Hopefully, you will be able to maintain compassion, receive help and understanding yourself – and he will achieve healing.
Pamela Stephenson Connolly is a US-based psychotherapist who specialises in treating sexual disorders.
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