Dear Thelma: My wife doesn't want to have sex anymore after having children

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Dear Thelma,

I've been married to my wife for close to 10 years and we recently welcomed our third child, who is now past six months of age.

To put it simply, our sex life has progressively diminished with each child, for reasons I'll explain below. All of our children were delivered via Caesarean, by the way.

Doubtless, we both have our own careers to tend to. However, she spends her available free time at home on social media or watching TV. I usually try to join her to spend time together. But when it comes to moments of intimacy, we just don't come close anymore. As I write this letter, it's been three months since our last sexual encounter.

When we were dating, a little over a decade ago, she told me that she didn't view sex positively (due to previous adverse experiences) and that she also struggled with dyspareunia. She was also shameful of the fantasies that turned her on, and often needed additional stimulation from a certain type of videos.

In the end we often compromised with alternatives to penetrative sex - but she often said she felt obliged to do them, which would then cause me to feel terrible for pressuring her, and eventually I stopped asking.

When we do have sex, she often says that I'm not dominant enough in bed. I've tried to improve over the years, of course.

Nowadays with the addition of kids and the busyness of life, my advances are met with excuses like she's tired and most recently she complains that she doesn't feel like her body is attractive. I always tell her how attracted I am to her.

Instead, she much prefers massages, which I try my best to provide. These massages always end in her sleeping (she'll be very happy the next morning). In reverse, she doesn't like to massage me as she says she's tired.

Neither of us (to my knowledge) is having an affair. I did suggest that she seek counselling, or check her hormone levels - but that discussion upset her considerably and she responded by asking me to seek sex workers if I was so desperate. Obviously, I was upset with the suggestion, as I am against such actions.

In other areas of our life, we do argue sometimes, and I admit, more than usual due to issues with children and life. But none of them are unresolved arguments. I'm neither verbally nor physically abusive to her, and many of my colleagues and friends see me as a gentle personality. I wonder sometimes if I'm not assertive enough. Or even if I am no longer attractive to her.

Would appreciate your help.

A sexually frustrated husband

I'm so sorry to hear this. And thank you for writing so openly about a very private issue.

There are several layers to this discussion. There are issues that should be addressed by your wife, and issues that should be addressed as a couple.

First, your wife had some adverse experiences that haunt her. I suggest she talk it out with a therapist who is skilled in dealing with victims of violence and abuse.

The dyspareunia, having pain during or after intercourse, needs a medical doctor's care. Find out what's going on, and see if there's a fix. Again, it's your wife's body so she has to lead with this.

As a couple, understand that pain is traumatising. You know how it is when you're scared of the dentist: Just thinking about going makes you tense up and have the shivers. As your wife associates intercourse with pain, this will impact on your intimate and personal relationship.

I think that's part of the reason why she snapped at you with that suggestion about prostitutes. From your letter, I expect she's sore, tired, anxious and that she just lost it a little bit. Give her a hug,and let that go.

Get the medical issue fixed, and then slowly enjoy exploring each other pain-free. Be patient, be loving, be kind. For every memory of pain, you have to create new memories of joy and sweetness. You're overcoming a lot of pain and trauma, so expect healing to take some time.

Which brings me onto the other part: Your wife enjoys domination fantasies. As we saw with the publishing frenzy of 50 Shades, this is a hugely popular bedroom activity. It's often misunderstood, though.

I think both of you need to be very clear that enjoying games where you tie each other up and pretend to be powerless is nothing to be ashamed of.

We enjoy action films and murder mysteries but that doesn't mean we want to see real shootings or killings. Bondage and domination games fall into this category. They are make-believe, with two adults playing out a fantasy scene. Sometimes this includes spanking or other physical games; it's whatever the two people find exciting.

While anything two consenting adults do together in the bedroom is fine, the issue here is that you two have different styles of lovemaking. Once the dyspareunia is eliminated, and your wife has processed her past, and you two have overcome your misplaced shame, you should be able to negotiate well together.

Work out a system that works for you both. Maybe one time your way, one time her way? If you are stuck for game ideas, there are some excellent guides you can consult, online and in book form. They will help you create a plan you're both comfortable and happy with.

Finally, there is the fact that you have three kids plus careers and you are both understandably tired. As it's been some years since you were both happily active, I suggest you start by setting regular dates.

Set clear expectations: Set times for dinner and chat only; times for dinner, chat and intimacy; massage only; and times where you are intimate only. Stick to your agreement, even though it may feel a bit awkward. Once you've rebuilt the habit, it will become easier and you should both connect again naturally.

I hope this helps. Please know I'm thinking of you both.

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