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I am not employed but my wife is. We have no kids yet. I am so stressed up I don't even satisfy her sexually sometimes. She knows the problems I go through and I think she should understand me better but she talks bad and that even makes me feel lesser as a man.
Sometimes I try to explain my situation, but when I do, she starts saying that I should hear myself and that I don't love her. I want to ask a question; does sex come first in marriage such that I can put sex before my spouse and if she can't perform, I do away with her?
Dear Allan, thank you for reaching out.
Your question is a little confusing but based on your brief description, it sounds like the levels of stress in your home are quite high. Stress in men can be directly correlated with poor sexual function in that it constricts blood vessels, thus restricting blood flow to the penis, among other things.
There is another consideration; your wife. Her response to sexual arousal could be hampered by increased cortisol levels (a stress hormone). Both of you are also probably also distracted and disconnected during sex as a result of the stress you're experiencing.
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What does all this mean?
Even on days when you may physically want to have sex, stress can interfere on a physiological and psychological level. It is easy to blame it all on the loss of a job but I also believe that these difficult moments in life are really opportunities for us to see ourselves as we are, and perhaps change into who we hoped we were.
In other words, if you can only be kind to one another when you are happy then the loss of employment simply exposed an existing vulnerability in your relationship. The good news is, this is also a great – albeit painful – opportunity to practice new ways of being a husband and a man in your home and in your bed.
What can you do?
Seek to lower your stress levels because this will free you physically, psychologically and physiologically to enjoy sex with your wife again. I bet you're wondering how? Here are just a few suggestions: I hope you will add your own to the list and get started on at least one of them this week.
- Be kind to yourself first, and then to your wife. It's not easy to lose a source of income and it's certainly not easy to endure harsh words from your life partner. Extend grace to yourself and to her; you're both in a difficult situation.
- Take charge of the things you can change e.g. your job search process, your response to your wife's hurtful words, your sleeping/eating/drinking habits, your non-financial contribution to your marriage, let go of what you cannot change and know the difference.
- Understand that this too shall pass. I know that when we're in the thick of things, it's difficult to believe that things will ever get better but they do and they will. Trust the rhythm of life, that things always change.
- Try to separate who you are from what's going on. You are still a husband, even if you're not employed at the moment. If you feel that your wife has crossed this line, you can stand up for yourself without attacking her. In this way, you will also earn her respect once she realises that you are not so easily pushed into a negative reaction. Walk away and/or take a time out during arguments if you must.
- Extend the same kindness to your wife and separate who she is under stress from who she really is. If her behavior is new, try to reflect that to her instead of hitting back with your own words. I know it won't necessarily be easy but I believe it will be worth it. Instead, try to hear what's underneath all those hurtful words. When she says that you don't love her, she's simply expressing her fear so reassure her instead with your words and actions. Your wife could be feeling anxious about the future and insecure about the possibility of change. She could also be feeling sexually frustrated and/or insecure if indeed you are sometimes unable to satisfy her as you claim. As the sole bread winner, she could also be feeling the stress of providing for both of you. You can minimize some of this stress by communicating your efforts in searching for different work, by helping out in other areas and by continuing to express sexual and non-sexual interest in her.
- Connect with your wife in other ways that have nothing to do with sex. The truth is, sex is about more than the act itself. It actually begins long before you get to the bedroom. Remember that this is your chosen life partner and when this is all over and you have a more stable source of income, you will want to look back on this difficult season and be proud of who you were when your marriage went through a rough patch.
- Do something every day that makes you feel good about yourself. This is crucial! You need a space in your life where you feel whole, good and useful. Meet up with friends, read a good book, take a walk, work out, eat something you enjoy, watch your favorite sport or team, plant something and nurture its growth, make yourself useful in other areas of your life...the possibilities are endless!
Remember, even though these issues with your sex life may have been triggered by the loss of employment, ultimately it's about your ability to cope.
As you improve how you cope with the stress in your life, you will notice that you are happier and less worried, irritable, tired and all the other unpleasant side effects of stress. This will allow you to have a more satisfying sex life, one which you can enjoy.
Maggie Gitu is a marriage, family and sex therapist. Reach her on: [email protected] or via her
Facebook page: Maggie Gitu
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