Dear Harlan: I’ve been married for five years, and we have a 3-year-old son. Lately, my wife has been acting distant. She spends a lot of time texting friends and on social media. She will scroll through Facebook in bed, but when I bring up the idea of being intimate she will tell me she’s too tired. When our son goes to sleep she spends the night talking to her friends or watching shows that she knows I’m not interested in watching. When I bring up going on a date she tells me that she doesn’t want to spend the money on a babysitter and has no other ideas. She used to be much more physical and excited to see me, but I don’t see that anymore. I find that we’re in a routine and she doesn’t want to get out of it. I’m getting tired of trying and making suggestions. I don’t think she’s having an affair. Is this just what happens after five years?
— Wanting More
Dear Wanting More: A kid, a job and everyday exhaustion can leave you feeling distant from your partner. It isn’t uncommon. What you do next will determine what happens next. The first step is recognizing it. The next step is deciding how you will respond to it. While you can’t control your wife’s actions, you can be intentional about what you want and work to understand what she wants. This is the opposite of blaming, resenting and attacking. So, what do you want? First, what can you do to feel better about yourself that isn’t dependent on her? This can be exercise, a new hobby, meditation or some kind of self-care/self-improvement. Next, what can you do to help you feel more connected to you wife? Make this about you, not about her. Check in with her and see how she feels. Plan a time when you can have a happy, uninterrupted conversation. Ask her how she’s feeling. No blame. Just share. Bring up a couple of times when you have felt disconnected, and ask what she was thinking or feeling. Ask with no expectations. Make it safe. She might be depressed, stressed or worried about something that she hasn’t shared. If you still find it hard to connect, reach out to a couple’s counselor to help you connect. This doesn’t have be the new norm.