Why am I attracted to other men, but not my husband?

Q: I want my marriage to work. It’s the right thing for my kids, plus I am afraid of being alone with 2 children. My husband is a good man. Good men are hard to find. At the same time, I don’t feel that physical connection with him anymore.  I don’t even like him touching me, but I am extremely physically attracted to someone else. Why is it that this other man can make me feel so good and my husband can no longer do this for me? What should I do? – Woman in a Marriage Crisis

Dear Woman in a Marriage Crisis,

Just like nearly everything in life, no relationship is perfect. One man might be a great lover, but not a great conversationalist. Another might be a great provider, but a terrible lover. Few if any people have every single quality we desire in a mate.

Once you allow yourself to accept this fact, you’ll have a much easier time seeing the shortcomings of your marriage as problems that you can solve over time. Rather than seeing your lack of attraction to your husband as a fatal flaw—one that can only be solved by either replacing him or cheating on him—you’ll look into ways to build a healthy attraction.

Excluding that temporary insanity that most of us feel during the early days of a relationship, long-term attraction is not a magical quality that you either have or don’t. You can create it. I know this because I did just that in my own marriage. A few years ago, I would have rather had all of my toenails extracted than have sex with my husband. Now I look forward to it (the sex, not the toe nail removal).

This is what I recommend:

* Launch Project: Attraction. Tell your husband about it. Explain that your yearning for him has waned over the years and that you’d like to get it back. Be honest. Reveal your weakness for other men. Tell him that you want your marriage to work and that you don’t want to have an affair, but you are afraid that you might. Ask him to help you fall back in love with him.

* Start having sex on a regular basis, even if you don’t want to do it. Sex helps build a connection that will turn into a healthy attraction over time.

* Deal with any turn-offs. If he needs dental care, tell him. If he needs to spend more time on personal hygiene, tell him.

Teach him how to romance you. Give him an instruction manual.

* Teach him how to please you in bed. Again, if needed, given him an instruction manual. Also, add variety to your sex life. In long-term relationships, monogamy often turns into sexual monotony, but it doesn’t have to. Be creative and be willing to try new things.

* Touch often. It’s really the simple things that keep a marriage going. Hug before you leave the house or when you come home. Hold hands. Sit closely on the couch. Stroke his arm or pat his back. Constantly be looking for new ways to have skin-to-skin contact.

* Be transparent.
 Allow him to know the real you and vice versa. The more you get to know each other on a deeper level, the more your attraction will grow.

* Put on blinders. It’s normal to occasionally feel attracted to other people. You’re married. You’re not a eunuch (or whatever the female version of one would be called). You can look, but you can’t touch. Practice the art of healthy self-control.  Learn how to release your attachment to wanting it all. Learn how to be happy with the wonderful man you already have.

Do you have advice for Woman in a Marriage Crisis? Leave a comment.

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How to save a marriage when your spouse doesn’t want to try

Q: My spouse has given up on our marriage. She wants a divorce. I don’t. What can I do to win her back? – Desperate

Dear Desperate:

I wish I could give you three surefire ways to winning back the love of your life. Unfortunately, they just don’t exist. It takes two people to have a good marriage, but only one person to end one. Quite often, once people make the decision to end their marriages, they make a mental shift that prevents them from seeing any good in their marriage. Their minds are made up, so they focus all of their mental attention on the reasons why their marriage isn’t working and do not allow themselves to see a single reason to try one last time.

This is a tough mindset to break, but it’s worth trying. This is what I recommend.

Step 1

Set up a time to talk about your marriage. It should be a time when you are both relaxed. The kids should not be around. No one’s favorite show should be playing on TV. Definitely don’t do it if either one of you is pissed off. You need to both be calm.

Step 2

Ask her to give it one final try. Negotiate for an extended warranty on your marriage. You can’t talk her into loving you, but you might be able to talk her into trying by saying something like, “Will you give me four months of your time? During these four months, I promise to do everything I can to become a man you would like to be married to. If, after four months, you see no improvement, you can leave and I will not try to stop you. If, after four months, however, you see some improvement, we can extend the trial date another four months and another four months and so on.”

If she agrees, move on to step three. If she refuses, there’s really not a lot you can do.

Step 3

Launch a marriage project. Because your spouse is the one who has given up, your initial four months are going to have to be lopsided in favor of doing everything possible to make her happy. This might not be fair, but it is what it is. Get over it. Ask her to make two lists. One is a grievance list. She should make this list first. On it, she should write down everything that makes her feel disappointed in her marriage. It should be a list like:

1.    I don’t feel attracted to you.

2.    We have nothing in common.

3.    I feel suffocated.

Her list might be really long. Expect that. It’s also going to hurt. You need to be ready and open for that, too.

Her second list should be everything she expects from a perfect marriage. It might go like this:

1.    Someone who adores me.

2.    Someone who makes me feel beautiful.

3.    Someone I’m attracted to.

And so on.

Resist the urge to argue with her about these lists. Your knee jerk reaction will be to say, “But I do all of those things. I’m the perfect husband!” If she agreed with that, she would not want out of the marriage. More important, the moment you start to defend yourself is the moment she goes back to deciding that the marriage is over. Stop defending your actions. Stop trying to convince her that you are the perfect spouse and she’s blind if she can’t see that. That hasn’t worked for you, right? What you need to do now is become that perfect spouse for her. You need to build a cocoon around yourself and, during the next four months, evolve from the slimy little worm that she thinks you are and into the butterfly that you know you can be.

Take those lists one item at a time and talk about how you can become the man she wants. Diligently work on becoming that person. Take the initiative. Don’t expect her to save your marriage. Remember: she’s given up. You’re going to have to be the big person here. Again, it might not be fair, but it’s reality. Get over it.

Step 4

Don’t ever become complacent and don’t ever assume that your efforts are working. Continually check in with her. For instance, let’s say she wants more romance in her marriage. Let’s say you do that by sending her flowers every week. Let’s say she hates flowers. Then your efforts at creating more romance are falling flat. You need to constantly get feedback from her. You need to work hard on getting to know her, on understanding her, and on learning everything you can about her.

And you have to work hard on your consistency. You absolutely cannot relapse during these initial four months. You really need to show constant improvement in order to win her over. You’re going to have to become a new person. There might come a time when your marriage starts to work and your wife seems like she loves you again. It’s really important to not get sloppy during this phase. Keep giving it all you’ve got.

Step 5

Assuming everything goes well and you are able to extend your marriage warranty beyond four months, you’ll eventually want to work on things that make you happy, too. Slowly address these issues, one at a time.

Good luck!

Do you have advice for Desperate? Leave a comment.

This post was sponsored by Dotty Evens, a marriage counselor who is a lot like me. There was a time when Dotty wasn’t happily married. Like me, she did everything possible to change that situation, and she succeeded. She has a wonderful e-newsletter that offers her tips and tricks for a happy marriage. In each issue, she answers a frequently asked question about marriage, such as, “How can I rebuild trust after infidelity?” She offers great advice, and it’s free. If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free, bonus report that details the 5 tactics she used to save her marriage.

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5 ways to affair-proof your marriage

Are you thinking that you shouldn’t have to affair-proof your marriage? Your partner should know better, right? If your partner has an affair, there’s something wrong with your partner and not with you!

That’s true.

But it doesn’t make finding out about an affair any less devastating. It doesn’t make it any easier to make that next decision: should we stay together or not? It doesn’t take away the pain, the hurt, and the anger.

More important, affairs happen, a lot more often than most people think. I know because I hear about them and I see them in progress. Married men quite often proposition me when I’m out with my friends. They feed me a load of crap like, “My wife doesn’t mind that I do this. She won’t have sex with me. Woe is me. I need an outlet.” Ladies: take comfort. I usually respond to such talk with this: “Well I completely understand why your wife doesn’t want to have sex with you.”

Note: Someone accused me of being a man hater in the comments after I wrote this post. I actually like men, but I don’t like when they think I’m dumb enough to fall for something like that. It’s an insult to my intelligence, which is why I use the insulting come back. I also really dislike using the he/she construction, which is why I often pick one or the other. So, for the rest of this blog, know that: men and women both cheat. Sometimes they have compelling reasons to do so.

Through this blog, I also hear from men and women who are contemplating an affair, who are in the middle of an affair, or who are feeling guilty about an affair.

Their spouses have no idea.

I also have heard from many people who are floored when their spouses walk out of the marriage, usually to start up a relationship with someone else. They never saw it coming and often say things like, “I don’t know why she left me. I gave her everything. I was the perfect spouse.”

Here’s the thing about affairs: they are easy. That’s why they happen. Getting a divorce? Not easy. Repairing your marriage and getting what you need from your spouse? Definitely not easy. Having a fling with someone who offers you the few things your spouse does not? Much easier.

That’s why you need to affair proof. You cannot take your marriage for granted. Here are 5 ways to do it:

1.    Have sex regularly. I often hear women say things like, “I get back at my husband by withholding sex” or “We stopped having sex a long time ago. It’s not important to us.” Here’s the thing: it might be very  important to him. If that’s the case and he’s not getting it from you, he’ll be more tempted to find another way to get it. And he’s going to feel justified about it, because you were the one who shut him out. The more often you have sex with each other, the less often either one of you will be tempted to have sex with someone else. Exhaust your sex drive at home.

2.   Never stop flirting. Part of the lure of the affair is the “I like you” and “I like you right back” validation. After many years of marriage—once we’ve gotten set in our ways—we forget to validate our partners and then the excitement and lust drains out of the relationship. Try to compliment your spouse everyday. Tell her that her butt looks great in her jeans. Mention something about how flat his stomach is looking lately. Eat each other up.

3.    Never stop dating. In the beginning, you probably planned fun things to do together. You saw movies. You went on weekend trips. You went on hikes. Then you had kids. Now your idea of a date is watching TV once the kids are in bed. Bring romance back into your marriage. Go on vacations without the kids. Bring back activities that you both love, but have stopped doing together. Find new ways to connect.

4.    Emotionally stimulate her. I’m going to go on one of my sexist benders here. Go ahead and complain about it in the comments area. Here goes. Men tend to have sexual affairs. Women tend to have emotional ones that happen to also be sexual. In other words, men tend to stray in order to get laid. Women tend to stray in order to have someone to talk to, someone who understands them. This is why a woman’s affair tends to end a marriage. She usually falls in love with the object of her emotional affair. Men: this is why you just can’t ignore your wife’s need for conversation and emotional stimulation. Yes, she needs a life outside of marriage. Yes, she needs emotionally stimulating friends. And yes, she needs you to talk and listen every once in a while. If you don’t, she might eventually meet someone else who fills that need.

5.   Continually work on your marriage. Once every so often rate your marriage on a scale of 1 (I wish you were dead) to 10 (I am thrilled to have you in my life). Talk about ways to get your marriage closer to 10. The happier you are together, the more invested you will be in your marriage and the less likely either one of you will be to stray.

Do you think it’s important to affair-proof your marriage? Do you have additional affair-proofing strategies to suggest? Leave a comment.

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What to do when your man doesn’t talk

Q: I recently got married to a guy who should have been perfect for me. The problem is that he doesn’t communicate at all. I feel sad and alone most of the time, and I never know what he’s thinking. How do I get him to open up? — Lonely and ignored

Dear Lonely and Ignored:

Welcome to my world! My husband is the strong and silent type, too. Your answer lies in a combination of acceptance and gentle prodding.

It’s important to understand that he may never become a talker. Some people are talkers, and some aren’t. Me expecting my husband to morph into a conversationalist is like him expecting me to suddenly develop an interest in car racing. Just ain’t going to happen.

That said, you do not have to continue to suffer in silence. Use this advice.

Ask him to listen.
 Explain that you don’t need him to chatter back at you, respond, or fix your problems. You just want him to listen with rapt attention. This will take the pressure off him to talk. If you want him to do certain things as he listens, tell him. Perhaps you want him to make eye contact, hold your hand, nod every once in a while, and so on. I know it sounds silly, but these are things that women and some men do automatically. Strong and silent types? They need an instruction manual.

Make a list of topics that you absolutely need him to communicate.
 For instance, you may want all financial purchases to be made jointly. You may want some parenting decisions to be made together (what time should Johnny’s curfew be?) and some not (whether or not it’s a good time to play catch in the backyard). Again, the ability to know the difference between Must-Talk-About-Now Topics and Better-Left-Unsaid comes naturally to some, and not so naturally to others. Teach him how to know the difference.

Let him talk when he’s ready. If you need to discuss something that will probably make him uncomfortable and shut down, bring it up calmly and ask, “When would be a good time to talk about this?” This allows him time to think things over, prepare a response, and calm down from the stress of being confronted.

Talk while you are doing something else. Do it while walking, while sitting in the car, or over dinner. This reduces tension, which may allow him to more easily open up.

When he does talk, reward him. This is important, especially if he is finally opening up for the first time. Hug him. Say thank you. Take him to the bedroom.

Talk about your loneliness. Explain that you want to feel close to him and you worry that you might turn to someone else for this closeness if you don’t get it from him. Ask him to help you affair-proof your marriage.

Don’t ask him what he’s thinking or feeling.
 You’re just wasting your creative energy on that one. The answer to, “What are you thinking?” is probably, “Nothing.” The answer to “What are you feeling?” is probably “I have no clue.” Instead, ask him very specific questions that cannot be answered with a yes or a no, questions such as:

  • Why do you root for the Mets?
  • Tell me about the most interesting thing that happened to you today.
  • If you could do anything with your life, what would it be?
  • If you could live anywhere, where would you want to live?

Find an outlet for your need for conversation.
 It will never be him. Find a group of girlfriends who love to chat. Get involved in online discussion groups. Sit at the local coffee shop, diner or some other hangout spot for a few minutes everyday and chat with strangers.

Do you have advice for Lonely and Ignored? Share it in the comments area!

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33 Surefire Ways to Screw Up Your Marriage

1.    When your spouse comes to you with a problem, you downplay it, saying, “Things will get better in time,” or “You’re blowing this out of proportion.”

2.    When something bothers you, you don’t tell your spouse because your spouse should know not to act this way without you saying anything!

3.    Your relationship with your children is more important than your relationship with your spouse.

4.    You refuse to compromise. It’s your way or the divorce court.

5.    You belittle your spouse because it makes you feel better about yourself.

6.    You constantly brush off your spouse’s sexual advances because you are “not in the mood.” You do not look into ways to get yourself in the mood. Thus, you can’t remember the last time you had sex.

7.    You treat your mother-in-law like vermin, even though you know this bothers your spouse.

8.    You let yourself go. You no longer take steps to make yourself sexy and desirable for your spouse. Sometimes, you don’t even brush your teeth or bother to make sure you don’t have B.O.

9.    You cook your spouse’s least favorite foods on purpose.

10.    You flirt with the opposite sex, even though you know it bothers your spouse.

11.    You refuse to give your husband the “atta boy” for doing mundane things like emptying the dishwasher simply because he never gives you an “atta girl” for doing the same thing.

12.    You never tell your wife that she’s sexy, beautiful or hot, simply because she never thanks you for emptying the dishwasher.

13.    You only hug your wife or grab her rear when you want to get busy. You never do it just to make her feel good.

14.    When your spouse says, “We need to talk,” you reach for the remote control.

15.    You stopped dating your spouse the day you got married or the day your first child was born.

16.    Your idea of the perfect vacation is one you take with the kids. You would never hear of going away somewhere just with your spouse, even though you have many viable baby-sitting options.

17.    You never notice when your spouse has a new haircut because you rarely look at your spouse.

18.    You don’t try to understand your spouse’s hobbies and passions.

19.    You refuse to give your spouse space, because space makes you feel vulnerable.

20.    You don’t take turns reaching each other’s dreams. You think your spouse is there to support you and not the other way around.

21.    You stopped getting to know your spouse years ago. In fact, you just read that sentence and thought, “What else is there to know?”

22.    You belittle your spouse in front of other people.

23.    You refuse to give your spouse a second chance. You hold every single indiscretion against him for eternity, no matter how many times he’s said, “I’m sorry” and no matter how successfully he’s changed his behavior.

24.    When you fight with your spouse, you try to get other people around you—your kids, your friends, your parents—to take sides.

25.    If your spouse asks you for a favor, you say, “No” because you don’t think he deserves one.

26.    You only practice random acts of kindness with strangers. You don’t do it for your spouse.

27.    When you see your spouse struggling with exhaustion, depression, anxiety and other issues, you do nothing.

28.    When something is bothering you and your spouse asks you about it, you shut down, even though you know this bothers your spouse.

29.    You can’t bring yourself to say, “I’m sorry” even though you know you were wrong.

30.    You can’t bring yourself to say, “You’re forgiven,” even though your spouse has said he’s sorry.

31.    You’ve told your spouse so many lies that you need to write them down in order to keep track of them.

32.    You are living a secret life that your spouse does not know about.

33.    You make fights with your spouse about “who is right” rather than about “how can we fix this.”

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