Welcome to ‘Between the Sheets,’ a new series in which we answer questions about sex, relationships and finding happiness in and out of love. Got a burning question? Send it to email@example.com.
“I fell in love with my husband for all the positive qualities he brings to the table. He's a great father, supports my career and is my best friend. But I don’t necessarily feel like he’s in love with me anymore. We only have sex about once a month, he rarely offers physical affection and he never plans date nights or special moments. How do I communicate what I’m lacking, without discounting all the efforts he does put into our marriage?”
A couple with different love languages can often seem like two ships passing in the night; all the signs of affection are there, they’re just not visible to the other person. And as you mature into your relationship, there will be times when you feel like more of a partner than a lover. So how to deal? By remembering these three dictums:
Love evolves—learn to appreciate it
Several years (or more) into a relationship, the whirlwind romance inevitably dies down, and life is less roses and new sex positions and more runny noses and soccer practice. You make the effort early on, but as you add more obligations to your plate, sometimes you’re not always your best self with your spouse. Sometimes you’re your sweats-and-swear-words self, and damn it, that’s OK too.
The best gift of mature love is letting yourself relax into this role, by recognizing the drawbacks but celebrating the wins. So maybe you don’t own quite as much (OK any) lingerie, but you now get to freak out in front of your husband, without worrying that he’ll break up with you. Or you get to admit you hate Star Wars and he goes to see the newest movie with his buddies. Bottom line: You get to be yourself, and that’s something to value.
You can’t expect fundamental changes in your spouse
When routine sets in, and you’ve been with someone for years, you get to see who they really are. (This is why most experts agree that you should not marry a person within the first two years of knowing them.) And the guy you’re with now is likely the person your husband always was, just the most authentic version of himself (rather than the version who was trying to impress you with surprise weekend getaways). If he shows love through acts of service—doing things to lessen your load, being a good dad—then don’t expect him to be verbally effusive. If he shows love through low-key quality time with you, then he might not be the type to surprise you with dinner or buy a lavish birthday present. No person can be all things.
You say your husband is a great, supportive figure in your life, a good dad and best friend. But if you’re not feeling love (or maybe passion?), my guess is that you need a perspective-shifter. The next time your husband does something kind (picks the kids up so you don’t have to, encourages you to ask for the raise), try to see it as an act of love instead of a simple act of kindness.
But you can ask your spouse to make efforts to show more love
While you can’t expect your husband to change completely, you can expect him to meet you halfway. It sounds like you’re a quality time and physical touch person, so I think your first step is to ask for more, in this regard. Do you want to hold hands when you’re out? Do you want a touch on the thigh when you’re at home on the couch? Do you want more sex each week? Come with a set of goals, sit him down and have that conversation. Ask what love looks like to him, too. When people feel loved, they tend to feel more inspired to give it back.
Next, it’s your job to implement what you’ve asked for. Initiate sex more often, reach for his hand when you’re out and plan dates for just the two of you. Yes, you want your husband to do these things too, but by setting an example of what your love language looks like, you give him a fighting chance. And something tells me he’s up for the challenge.
Jenna Birch is a dating coach, journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life & Love.