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The reason you’re not having much sex? It might be that your spouse is afraid.

“You love your bike more than you love me.” Sean is lonely in his marriage. His wife, who used to be all over him, falls asleep instead of initiating sex. He used to make her laugh constantly. These days, he’s lucky to get a smile. His confidence and his sex life have disappeared.

“You’re crazy,” his wife, Heather, responds. But she doesn’t make a move to wrap her arms around him. Instead, she retreats into a pair of headphones to watch a movie. Sean gets busy cleaning their kitchen sink.


What Sean doesn’t know

Heather got her feelings hurt when Sean wouldn’t come swimming with her. She’s been struggling lately. Feeling out of shape and bored.

Then she saw a facebook post from a college friend who’d recently run a triathlon. This was her swimming buddy in college. Heather felt jealous. Then bucked up and told herself to get back in the pool.

But she was scared. Scared to go to a new pool. Scared she’d look like a whale in her swimsuit. Scared her swim times would pale in comparison to her college races.

So, she asked Sean to come with her. Sean makes everything better. His manner is easy and light. Nothing bothers Sean, and she relaxes when she’s with him.

No matter how much she begged him though, he wouldn’t come with her to the pool.

She feels alone in this endeavor to get back in shape.


What Heather doesn’t know

Sean is madly attracted to his wife. But he’s embarrassed to initiate sex because Heather has “fallen asleep” every night lately.

He’s intimidated by Heather. She’s always got a project going. He feels like the weak link in their marriage. He’s trying to find the same passion in his own life that Heather always seems to have.

When she asked if he wanted to go swimming with her last month he felt even more like a loser. My wife is so repulsed by me that she feels like she needs to drag me out to exercise, he thinks.

So, he didn’t go. He didn’t want to be her latest project.


What’s happening in this marriage

Both of them have hit a slump, and their confidence has evaporated. Confidence is a key ingredient for lovers in a long-term marriage. It’s normal for confidence and sex drive to vacillate over the course of your marriage.

Heather is embarrassed when she compares herself to her college friend. The more embarrassed she is, the more afraid she gets that she’ll never change. The more afraid she is, the more she masks it with enthusiasm. But what she really wants is a partner who’ll help her face her fears.

Sean doesn’t sense any fear in Heather. Instead, he projects his own insecurities onto her. The more he imagines he disgusts her, the more he sees her invitation as controlling. But what he really wants is a lover who wants him to join the adventure.

They both lack confidence. Lack of confidence is a common reason for a waning sex drive.

Friendship is the bridge between lovers and partners in your marriage.


The lover and the partner want opposing things. Until they remember how to be companions, they will tug and tug on each other, causing more and more conflict.

By offering companionship to both the lover and the partner, the friend brings them closer together. This reminds the partner and lover that they ultimately want the same thing: intimacy.

You want a lover. You want a partner. There’s a struggle in that tension.

When your spouse is your partner, you feel like you’ve got a teammate to help you face the scary stuff in life: being a grown up, or facing a new fear like finding a new swimming pool.

When your spouse is your lover, you feel like you’re wanted. When you feel wanted, your confidence grows. When you don’t feel wanted, your confidence sags.

Imagine the role of partner and lover on opposite sides of a tug-of-war rope in your marriage, each side pulling on the other. The roles of partner and lover can cause tension in your marriage.

But then the role of friend comes along and picks up that rope in the middle and lifts it up. Magically, the partner and the lover come closer together.

When your spouse is your friend, you feel less alone. You have a companion for anything you do in life. There’s someone there to help you face the scary bills you need to pay. There’s also someone there to make you feel wanted at the end of a long day.


What Heather and Sean need

They need to remember they are lovers and partners. They need the lift of friendship to connect what is tugging them apart.

They each need a lover. Their lack of confidence makes them shy as lovers. When confidence returns, they will become bold again.

They each need a partner. They aren’t on the same team. When they help each other, they are united by a shared goal.


What they both don’t know

Heather gets really into training. The more she trains, the more her confidence returns. With her confidence comes her sex drive and one night she snuggles up to Sean.

He’s surprised, but returns her soft kisses.

In the morning, as they share a cup of coffee, Heather confides, “How come you don’t want to come swimming with me?”

“It’s not that I don’t want to,” says Sean. “I just feel like you’re always trying to change me.”

Heather is mystified

“Change you? I’m not trying to change you. I was scared.”

Sean is mystified

“I’ve never seen you scared,”

Heather points to time after time in their marriage that she was scared. All the times that Sean felt like she was trying to control him.

Turns out when Heather is scared, she tries to control everything.

Turns out when Sean senses he’s being controlled, he bolts.

The partner and the lover, at opposite ends of your marriage relationship, tug and destroy the friendship that lifts the tension and connects these two extremes.

Heather got more lonely and more hurt because Sean didn’t come to her rescue when she was scared. A partner would have helped her face her fear.

Likewise, Sean got more lonely and hurt because Heather was moving forward without him. A lover would have wanted him to join her in the pool.

Ask Yourself:

When you get scared, how do you mask that fear? Hide? Run away? Control?

When you feel controlled, what do you do? Run? Do the opposite? Cave to your spouse’s way, then resent them later.

Clarity about these feelings will help. Here’s a great formula you can use in your marriage communication that makes fear transparent—instead of it masking as control or hiding.

When you’re scared, whether you run like Sean, or control like Heather, this article will help you understand your spouse’s fears as well as your own.

What’s the take away?

When you feel rejected because your spouse isn’t initiating sex, notice that you feel rejected. Your feelings won’t be denied until you notice them.

Then, once you’ve tended your own hurt feelings, get curious about all the ways your spouse might be feeling rejected.

Key thing to remember: A confident person has no trouble initiating sex.

So if your spouse isn’t initiating, there’s something missing for your spouse. Get curious about what that is.

Fear plays a huge part in your confidence. Your confidence will influence how well you communicate with your spouse. Address the fear and confidence will return. Lovers thrive on confidence, so get ready for great sex you long for.

Here’s a great article about how fear is impacting your relationship.

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