Ask Amy: Husband’s heart is no longer in it
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for 37 years. During our marriage our sex life was good (but infrequent).
Our kids are grown and moved out. My husband has heart issues and is on a lot of medication.
These meds make it impossible to have sex and he can’t take ED medications like Viagra, due to his heart issues.
These problems have made my husband very upset and he has stopped wanting sex all together. I’ve told him many times that I completely understand, and he is no less a man in my eyes.
But now there is nothing — no sex, no kissing. Nothing. He barely pays attention to me anymore. He escapes into the TV room when he’s home.
I feel very lonely and alone. I need advice on how to talk to him about this. — Lost and Alone
Dear Lost: Sexual dysfunction and loss of libido is common in men who have had heart surgery or treatment for heart disease. (Your husband should see his doctor!)
My theory is that he proactively avoids affectionate physical contact because he associates this sort of contact with having sex. Because of his libido, impotence, and other medical problems, he is avoiding romantic contact because he can’t face the physical risk — and the fear and awkward conversations that force him to confront this extremely painful issue.
Over time, withdrawing from physical contact in order to avoid sex has led to him withdrawing in other ways.
You want to hug, hold hands, and kiss your husband. The way back in would be to make eye contact, tell him that you love him, and that you would like to hold hands with him and continue to walk through life together. Will he hold hands with you for five minutes? Set a timer.
Practice touching and demonstrating physical warmth and gauge his comfort.
Once he is confident that physical affection won’t lead to sex, pressure for sex, and all of the discomfort surrounding it, he should feel more comfortable being physically close with you. Physical closeness, warmth, and comfort will be good for your relationship - and also for his health.
Dear Amy: Over the past few years, my friend has become increasingly immersed in self-help empowerment through books, blogs, and podcasts.
It started after a breakup about five years ago, and she found strength, security, and solidarity in the gospel of self-affirmation and authentic living.
Now, every conversation is dominated by her rooting out “toxicity” in everyone else’s relationships and she is continually holding space for us “to live our truths” as she sees them.
She’s stopped dating, saying that every man she encounters suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (a disorder that she retroactively applied to the ex), and she discourages everyone in the group from dating because of this.
Pandemic isolation has only accelerated the issue, and we can no longer speak at all without her going on at length about what everyone else needs to do to achieve the equilibrium she feels.
Our friend group is very pro-therapy in general, but this friend says that whenever she’s tried therapy she’s ended up counseling the therapist more than the other way around. Now it’s affecting her professional life, as a colleague told her boss that she’s patronizing and a poor listener.
I miss my friend. How do you help someone who’s so convinced she’s helped herself? — Self-Helpless
Dear Helpless: If your self-actualized and evangelizing friend feels so strongly about everyone around her “speaking their truth,” then this dictum applies to you, too.
I’m not saying this would be an easy conversation, but it is necessary for friends to tell one another the truth. This is both the burden and the joy of friendship.
Start your conversation with this phrase: “Can I offer you some feedback?”
Wait for her response.
Use “I statements”: “I feel like you’ve stopped listening to me because you are so focused on providing guidance. Right now — I need a friend, not a life coach.”
Dear Amy: “A Fan, Not an Alum in Chicago” wondered about wearing T-shirts from colleges they had not attended.
The late, great comedian Mitch Hedberg told a joke about doing college shows and always buying a T-shirt at the college bookstore: “While walking down the street one day someone shouted at me, ‘Hey, Wash U, did you go there?’ I shouted back ‘Yes, it was a Wednesday!’” — Comedy Fan
Dear Fan: Another Hedberg gag: “I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it.”