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Dear DSO: “I feel like I will never be good enough for my husband”

Dear DSO,

I’m hoping you can help give me some hope. My husband is a huge fan of your work. He read your book (The Dead Bedroom Fix), went through a lot of changes, and our marriage has improved a lot.

We had a lot of problems after the birth of our twins four years ago, and we never fully recovered. We both let ourselves go. We stopped having sex. I was extremely stressed out and never in the mood for sex. He grew angrier and angrier with me, and we ended up in counseling. That helped a little, but not much. I felt more open about expressing why exactly I wasn’t in the mood, but it didn’t change the fact that we weren’t having sex. We went over a year without touching each other.

He came up to me after work one day and apologized for his attitude and said that he understood what I was feeling and he was going to give me space. After that day, he stopped asking for sex completely. He also started spending more time away from home. He went to the gym a lot. He was really careful about what he ate. He started dressing better. He even got a new car. He was going through a major midlife crisis. I thought he was having an affair, so I started spying on him. I felt guilty for everything we went through, but I worried about me and the kids. I don’t work and we depend on him for everything.

My spying showed me that he read your book and listened to your podcast. I listened to your stuff and I agree with some of your points and disagree with others. What helped me was that I saw he was talking to a friend of his about our situation and said, “The only thing I can do is hope she notices my changes. I’ve tried everything else. I really don’t want to break up my family, but I’m at the end of my rope. I can’t live like this anymore.”

I decided to tell him what I saw. All of his messages and things were on his office computer and he knows I use it sometimes to look up stuff, so it wasn’t like I was technically spying on him. I cried a lot and apologized for what I put him through. I told him I would put in more effort. I appreciated him being so patient with me, but I can’t just flip a switch and immediately turn into the perfect wife that he wants. He said he understood. He said all he needed to see was that I care about us and that I was working with him to get back together again as a happy couple. I agreed 100%.

We tried a different therapist. This one was way more open about sex and taught me how to be more open. I also went to a doctor and saw that my hormones were completely screwed up. I nursed two babies for so long and being completely stressed out all the time almost destroyed my body. I got on a program and started eating better, exercising, and sleeping way more. My husband has been the best partner during all of this. He has stepped up and encouraged me to go out and do things. The past year has been great overall.

I’m still very stressed out, but not about the kids. I’m stressed out because I feel like I’m constantly in a race to keep up with my husband. He doesn’t push me or try to make me feel bad. He is just always in what I call his “go go go” mode. He’s always working out. He’s always talking about his business. He’s always planning trips for us. He’s always telling me how much he appreciates my hard work. He’s always motivating me to do better. He always wants to go out on date night. It’s constant and it’s tiring. Sometimes I just want to go back to the old us and relax. I feel like if I don’t constantly work at this relationship and keep up with him, he will just find somebody else that can.

I want to tell him that I need to take a break, but I worry that it will just show him that I can’t keep up and he will give up on us. I’m also worried that I may slip back into my old depressed ways.

So this is the problem for women like me. We love that our husband works so hard but it’s not really fair to us. We have a lot on our plates and we may not always have it in us to be 100% all the time. We’re getting older. I sometimes think what would be best for him would be a younger girlfriend on the side to keep him happy. I would never suggest that to him but I think that would probably make him happiest. I think what you do is great for men, but it may not be the best for couples. If a guy gets too far ahead he may leave his wife behind. I feel like that’s what is happening to me.

Boy, that’s a lot to digest! I completely get your point. Here are some quick, not-so-nice man-centric thoughts that come to mind:

1. Welcome to the world of the dude! This is exactly how we navigate life. We have to always perform… or the world has no use for us. It certainly keeps us on our toes and working hard! Food for thought: If he decided to drop his business and go work part-time at Walmart, how would you feel about him as a partner? Exactly. He has to work to maintain your respect and partnership. You don’t think he’s stressed from work? You think all of this is easy for him? Think again.

2. Welcome to being married to a winner! Nobody said it would be easy. You’re right. If you can’t hack it, there are a lot of other women ready to take your place. Yes, probably younger ones, too. Not very nice of me to say, but I have a feeling one of your girlfriends would tell you the same damn thing. “He encourages you, loves you, wants to wine and dine you, he goes to the gym a lot, he has a successful business…? Girl, you’re lucky!”

3. There’s room for compromise here without you slipping back into your old ways. You can tell him that you just want to veg out this weekend instead of going hiking. You can tell him that you want to set aside every Wednesday to doing absolutely nothing and let him play Mr. Mom. Based on his past actions, I’m betting that he would be cool with that. As long as he sees the general trajectory going in the same direction, life is good for him. Men are SIMPLE.

Much of what you are describing is a lot of anxiety on your part… anxiety born out of imagined scenarios. “If I don’t keep up 100%, he’ll leave me!” Says who? Certainly not your husband. Not his actions. I mean, look at what he’s gone through already with you and look at the work he put into himself to turn things around. It worked, didn’t it?

Don’t be a loser. Don’t be somebody who says that the other person’s success makes you feel bad. Your husband has probably lost some loser friends and colleagues along the way as he progressed through life. He certainly doesn’t want to add you to that pile of people in his wake. He wants a partner and lover to take along on the journey. Don’t let something like your anxiety rob you of what could be an amazing life journey with somebody who loves you to death.

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