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Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Spinning My Wheels

Advice from Dr. Stanwix – Spinning My Wheels
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

I have nothing specific to complain about and that’s where the problem lies. My husband and I are in a serious rut. There is really nothing of interest (good or bad) that happens in our relationship. We don’t talk about things the way we used to. We don’t do things together besides eat and sleep. The bedroom is by no means what it was when we were first married.

I am very worried about this, but my husband doesn’t seem to be bothered. It seems that he could go on like this indefinitely. I want to talk to him about this, but I never get the impression that he finds it is something important enough to discuss.

Is this the way our relationship is going to continue? We will be retired soon and our children will soon be leaving the nest. How will we spend the rest of our days together if we have already lost the art of communication?

Can you give me some advice so I can jumpstart our relationship? I would also be interested in your thoughts on how to move forward if we aren’t able to break out of this rut.


Spinning My Wheels


Dear Spinning My Wheels,

Yours is certainly not the only relationship that is in a state of torpor. Many couples suffer from this problem, especially in middle age. For some it is a short term cooling period in the relationship. This can happen after you’ve retired, your children have left home or simply because you’ve grown extremely accustomed to one another. In these short term cooling periods, one (or both) of the partners realizes there is an unsettling lull in the relationship, and it should be addressed.

For others it is a long drawn out ice age. What happens is that, after so many years with our significant (or insignificant) others, we begin to take them and our relationship for granted. At other times, this freeze is a result of our attempts to regain some of the life we have ceded to all of the responsibilities and obligations that we have in our daily lives. Let’s face it, with our jobs, spouses, children, social obligations, etc. there is very little time we have for ourselves. In middle age, many of us feel that we have been robbed of our identity. We feel that we no longer have command of our lives. We feel cheated because there are so many dreams we haven’t had a chance to fulfill. We sometimes blame our partners, even though the responsibility for this lies with us. This may be what’s happening with your husband.

As with just about every other aspect of a relationship, the key to getting beyond this freeze is communication. It may not seem that your husband is interested in discussing your current lackluster life together, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bring it up. If it’s important to you, say something. Invite him out to a nice dinner together so you can discuss things away from the hustle and bustle of your daily routines. Or, if you think things might get a bit emotional, plan a dinner at home when your children are away so that you can openly discuss your situation.

If your husband isn’t enthusiastic about meeting or doesn’t want to change things, then you know that there is more of a problem than a mere rut. He may be having an affair. He may not love you anymore. He may simply want to be on his own. None of these things are easy to take, but it’s better to know now so that you can get on with your life than to go through the motions for another twenty or thirty years. As you pointed out, things will become even more monotonous once you are retired and your children are out of the house.

If you both agree that you need to spice things up, then you need to work through certain routines and habits that have become far too ingrained in your way of interacting with one another. Plan a special date each week where just you two are together. Look for interesting things to do together. Plan special outings with the entire family. Respect and appreciate that you both need some time to yourselves. Take turns babysitting while the other person goes out with his/her friends or works on one or more of his/her goals.

You may also need to jumpstart your intimacy. I am not only referring to sexual intimacy. I am also talking about emotional intimacy. You should definitely talk about your feelings. However, in these cases, actions sometimes speak louder than words. There is no better way to do that than through physical contact. Why not ask him for a hug? Or simply go up and give him a big hug and a kiss when you see him. You might also offer to give him a back rub or massage. (Make sure he gives you one back!) With your busy schedules and responsibilities, it may take a bit more initiative to get one another aroused. However, after a little petting, you might be able to reinvigorate your love life as well.

Best of luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix


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