Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr Holmes and Mr Baer,
2020 has been a great challenge. Working from home was an eye-opener, realizing I’d missed the growing up of my eldest. For the past 12 years, I was the one carrying most of the burden for this family: decision-making, financial stability. It made me a better person, self-reliant and happy within myself, not depending my entire happiness on others.
I no longer know where I stand in my marriage. There’s no third party involved on my side, maybe I fell out of love? I care for my husband, but not in the way that he wants. I lost the desire or intimacy a long time ago. My husband had the luxury to shoulder only what he wants to pay. I did not pressure him because I earned more. I didn’t mind taking care of our expenses as long as he was there for us as a husband and a good father.
But he would get irritated whenever we go out on weekends because he could not play basketball, so eventually our kids and I went without him. Maybe I learned to accept the fact about him being a happy-go-lucky person, not really playing an active part in the family.
Mostly, what makes us fight is sex.
He makes it sound like it’s my obligation to him because he is my husband. Even if I explained what I’m feeling, he doesn’t listen. But having sex with him is draining me further, until I’m almost empty.
He only thinks about himself, enjoying the convenience of having a wife who provides for everything. He recently confided to a friends that he is tired of being in this marriage, that if I don’t initiate fixing it, he won’t either.
I’m not sure if I still want to be in this marriage. I cannot force myself to have sex with him anymore. But I want to do my very best to keep this family intact for the sake of my kids.
Thank you for your email. We live in an age where women as primary breadwinners are becoming increasingly common although there are still many countries and cultures where it is frowned upon, or worse. Many men have evolved alongside these women but far more continue unreconstructed, believing in masculine preeminence in marriage. This is often reinforced by religions, which interpret the bible literally and preach that women must obey their husbands in all things.
Not all men accept women’s emancipation, even when they say they do, and your husband seems to be a prime example. He appears to be happy to reap the rewards of your higher salary but is conspicuous by his absence when it comes to household and family duties. However, you have to consider the extent you are partly responsible for this since you have let him opt out of so much of family life.
Given the way you feel about your husband, it is scarcely a surprise that you don’t want to have sex with him. This is exacerbated by the fact that he seems to consider it his due, perhaps on a par with his liking for basketball i.e. yet another self indulgence. A woman’s desire for sex in a marriage is often closely aligned with the degree of trust she feels for her partner and so if that trust is absent, so many times is her desire for sex is too.
Your husband seems to treat your home as somewhere he visits when he wants a meal, sex on his terms not yours, a little time with the children. You say you want to keep the family intact but just consider what role models you and your husband are offering them. The way you both behave is the way they will think marriages are supposed to work; since both of you are deeply dissatisfied it seems reasonable to limit the children’s exposure to something this dysfunctional.
Thank you very much for your letter. The impression I get from reading it is your consistent effort to make anything negative about your marriage (your carrying the entire burden of your family) into something positive ( “made me a better person”).
On the one hand, that can be an admirable skill. However, on the other, it can be such a wasted effort, especially when your constantly misplaced optimism is within your marriage – the very relationship that is meant to buffer you from “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” It is not only ironic, but counterproductive to remake the institution meant to give you comfort and joy in times of hardship and distress, the very situation that causes such hardship and distress.
Pretending all is well when it isn’t takes up so much energy, doesn’t it, Sue? I suspect that is one reason you feel “almost empty” when forced to be intimate with him. Because sex is not necessarily verbal, it connects with what is deepest within us, a primitive place that needs no words.
That he cannot understand this, is bad enough. But worse, not only is he not even willing to try, he has the arrogance to brag about this to his friend!
Please consider leaving him, Sue. I cannot help feeling that the sense of joy and freedom following such a decision will be worth the effort to keep your children secure and, in time, happy… especially when you realize you need not waste your energy pretending your marriage is intact when it so clearly isn’t.
All the best and good luck,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.