A reader writes in (lot of details, buckle up):

“Good morning. Though this is embarrassing and shameful to discuss, would you consider addressing why women lose sexual interest in their husbands/partners? I know you don’t work directly with women (I’ve inquired before) but this latest development in my 12-year tumultuous relationship is very disturbing and I’d be interested to read the analysis from the male perspective (happy to pay?).

No matter what bs has happened between us in the past, I’ve always maintained strong loving emotion towards him and desired him. But now it’s cringe to think about on a visceral level- I don’t want to feel this way! It’s terrible. It’s wrong. I believe in marriage. Is there hope for a situation so bad?

Obviously we don’t/can’t communicate successfully or I wouldn’t be reaching out to internet strangers about so personal an issue. There’s some suspicion of borderline personality disorder along with alcoholism and anger management issues with him. Divorce would be quite literally the biggest failure of my life and it would disrupt the homeschooling farm life of my 3 boys so drastically. I want to be a good wife. But honestly, I am miserable and feel terrible about myself and the relationship almost daily

*Divorce isn’t just a failure superficially, I am such an introvert and have invested 100% of myself in this relationship, it would be devastating on every imaginable level.

I do wonder if I’m doing him a disservice by staying despite how I feel. I want to do what is right (morally, emotionally and logically) but can’t see up from down”

I really can’t pinpoint why the sudden switch. In some ways it has been gradual as we stopped kissing years ago, no foreplay, etc. But I still enjoyed making him happy and getting the attention I guess. I think it’s the lack of mental/emotional connection. He wants to be around me and the kids but doesn’t really connect to us on a personal level. He is often unkind/rude to me  and lacks emotional control – yells, pouts when he’s upset, silent treatment type stuff, tells me not to touch him if I’ve upset him (usually by sharing my feelings on some other thing that happened).

I think I always had hope that we would get closer or things would settle down emotional roller coaster-wise once he got settled in a career (finally did so at 38!) , but I realized after a few incidents over the past few weeks that he’s not going to change and just boom, it got icky. And now he’s mad about not getting any sex, which I understand as a need, but it’s like he’s not able or interested in hearing my take on any topic, especially one so emotionally charged.

I cant psych myself up for it no matter what I try, quite literally feels like being with a stranger

I don’t want to lose him and I hate feeling this way

Final thing. If I had to make this novel concise I would pinpoint the yelling/sarcasm/rudeness over minor differences in opinion. I do not mind disagreements, actually love a good healthy debate, but I cant stand being yelled at/interrupted/mocked/mimicked etc. Feels childish and I believe I’ve lost respect over that

By more emotionally connected I do NOT mean more emotive- quite the opposite is needed! I feel like his emotions control my life, he can’t handle a bit of stress without getting angry, he has no hope or dreams for the future that he believes in and has a plan for making happen, he takes all my feelings personally (ie gets angry if I’m sad about my mom’s death or having a hard day with the kids etc), I can’t turn to him for guidance or leadership. He seems childish and sometimes almost feminine emotionally.

There are many things I still enjoy and respect about him but the instability and Eeyore-like attitude -especially about work,  always complaining how poorly he’s treated, how hard he has it, he’s referred to himself as a loser, talks about how he’s going to fail all his tests for his current apprenticeship. What happened to the motorcycle-riding, camping/hunting, jack-of-all trades hard-working man I thought I married? The one who was going to have a bunch of kids with ke and move to a small town to make our dreams come true?

He refuses more kids and my clock is almost done ticking over here and we are still in the city with no plans for change. Every idea or plan I’ve suggested, including me returning to work so we can do the small town dream, he ridicules (sometimes going along with it far enough to get pre-approved or once I took a job running an audiology clinic and then poof he changed his mind). Am I being spoiled? An ingrate? Are we just incompatible and I’m in the wrong trying to change him? I don’t believe you have to be soul mates for a great marriage, you each just need to be what the other needs and fulfill your roles. I’m trying to be the dutiful wife here. Hoping you have some actionable advice for what I can change or do better/differently to bring the spark back.”

What it sounds like is going on is fairly simple, and unfortunately common: anima possession.

(RELATED: Anima Attraction)

Essentially, this guy has not been dealing with his emotions — aka his needs. This has probably always existed to an extent, but there are two reasons they are jumping out more now.

First, he’s older. And the older you are when you have an injury — whether emotional of physical — the less you can “move” around it. In youth you not only have more energy (and so can spend it more freely), but the blockages are newer and less calcified. Over time, however, the accumulated damage makes it impossible to avoid. Feelings start to “leak” out of the unconscious. And gradually, the man becomes less masculine, and acts more like a child.

The second reason is connected, yet slightly different. He’s unhappy with his life. It sounds like he was a man of spirit with ambition and dreams, but a series of setbacks and missteps has wrecked his confidence. His career was him settling — he never figured out how to be successful doing what he wanted, and the realization that he will never do that has caused him to resent everything in his life.

Including you. Probably because in some way he blames you, and the kids for “holding him back” from achieving those dreams. He had to settle because he had to provide a future for all of you. This is why he is both needy towards you sexually, yet treats you badly — and why he doesn’t want more kids, and heavily drinks. You are his source of validation, and he hates you for it. He numbs himself to forget.

Most of this is not your fault. If he promised you too much, it was his own lack of boundaries that was responsible for it. Moreover, his inability to move towards his dreams was less you than his own internal resistance. It’s normal when someone self-sabotages — even as they attack themselves — to also blame it on outside variables, especially the people closest to them.

So it’s understandable why you have lost attraction for him abruptly. You’re not simply exhausted from the years of drama, but because you have realized nothing will change. Yes, it is common for such a “flip to switch” — especially sexually with women.

He has given up, and you know it. Even if you haven’t been able to put this into words, that is what has happened. He is not simply dissatisfied with his life, but no longer sees any hope of changing it.

All you can do is tell him this, and prepare to leave. The ship is sinking. You staying in the situation is only enabling it.

You need to understand your co-dependence is a major factor of what got you into this mess. You “don’t know anybody else, this would be the biggest failure of your life” — this is pressure you are putting on him to make you happy. This is the pressure that makes him guilty, that indirectly controls his actions, and makes him stay with you even though he himself at this point also has mixed feelings about the marriage and your future together.

There is a chance these things can be salvaged. But you need to take some steps to develop your own agency, and give him — and you — some time and space to process the reality of what has happened. The old relationship is dead, the only question is if a new one can rise from the ashes.

So have the conversation and take preliminary steps towards an indefinite separation. After a few months if there are no changes on his end, move towards divorce.

There are three big takeaways from this story for you gentlemen:

1) Capitulation — not failure — is what disgusts women. It is OK if you lose. It is is OK if you have setbacks. It’s not ok if you give up. Lack of success might mean a lack of comfort, but it’s lack of confidence that kills desire.

2) Do not blame a woman for your internal issues. When we are at war with ourselves and self-sabotage, our natural impulse is to project our resentment outward at those we love. Yet the reality is we would be doing the same thing without our woman present. The anger at her is simply because of guilt — with her around, our ineffectiveness is seen and has consequences for others. With her we are forced to be a man, yet we are show to be wanting.

3) Admit fault — or else. The moment a woman becomes more conscious in the relationship than you, is the moment she loses interest in you. If she is aware of your patterns yet you aren’t, she will no longer view you as a leader or trust you. You are better off admitting your baggage and taking ownership of it — no matter how humbling that is — than pretending you aren’t behaving in a way both of you know you are.

Anyway, that’s enough for today.

If you are a man in need of help in your own marriage, apply to work with me here: www.patstedman.com/application

– Pat