Q: I've been married eight years, and I love my husband dearly. But sometimes when we make love, it seems like he has no feelings for me, only for himself. He is a little rough at times. Afterward, I can't help feeling I've been taken advantage of. I want to enjoy sex, but I feel degraded because of his approach. What can I do to resolve this problem?
A: To use an emotional word picture, it's as if you're preparing a scrumptious, elaborate feast of your husband's favorite foods, but there's no plate set for you. You're left out of your own sexual relationship, which must be lonesome and frustrating. Not much can happen to change this until your husband really hears your hurt. Pray that he will begin to listen and understand the problem.
Your letter doesn't indicate that you've tried to talk with him about this. Don't expect him to read your mind or somehow automatically know how to change. Be prepared to verbalize your needs, feelings, and desires. Think about how you are expressing them now. Feelings have a way of coming out, often nonverbally. Maybe your husband will catch on if you try a different technique for expressing your feelings. It often helps to use first-person statements or emotional word pictures. As you express your feelings, find out about your husband's feelings, too. Don't assume that he intends to be unfeeling or unkind. Sometimes what comes across as sexual selfishness may be something else, such as fears or frustration, in disguise.
Perhaps your husband will begin to see that an unselfish approach will bring personal benefits for him, too. Maybe he has even been wishing all along that you wouldn't hold back, not realizing that his own behaviors are keeping you from becoming vulnerable. He may actually welcome your suggestions and some solutions.
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Melissa McBurney is a marriage therapist. Together with her late husband, marriage therapist Louis McBurney, they co-founded the Marble Retreat Center in Marble, Colorado, where they counseled clergy couples.