"We Became Parents...and Stopped Having Sex"

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His Turn

Lashing Out

"I realize that it's never okay to punch a wall and throw a book," said Rick, 36, his voice heavy with remorse, "and I've apologized repeatedly. I'm not sure what came over me, but my outburst was probably the result of two years of frustration. Beth isn't the only one who's unhappy.

"I've accepted that we'll never have sex as often as I'd like, but I won't apologize for being attracted to my wife and having sexual needs. I feel disappointed and undesirable every time she rejects my overtures.

"I'm also under a lot of stress as the main breadwinner. Beth stopped working, which I supported, but her spending habits haven't changed. She refuses to buy generic-brand diapers or baby shampoo and she constantly relies on take-out food. I'd rather eat sandwiches if she's too tired to cook.

"My mother-in-law is another problem. She upsets Beth constantly; frankly, the less they talk, the better off we are. But when I urge Beth to limit their contact, she says I don't 'understand.' Here's what I do understand: We're headed for divorce if we don't stop fighting. The tension in our house is so bad now that Beth and I avoid each other most of the time. Is that any way to live?"

"I Feel Like I Can't Do Anything Right"

"My childhood was horrible. My dad was a merchant marine who was at sea most of the time, so parenting was left mainly to my mom, who lacked the temperament to nurture a plant let alone three kids. If I brought home a less-than-perfect report card, she berated me in front of my friends, saying, 'You've embarrassed me to tears.' Once, in junior high, I made a sarcastic comment as my mom was driving me and some neighborhood kids to school. She pulled over, yanked me out of the car and beat me as my friends watched. More than 20 years later I still remember the rage and humiliation I felt.

"She died of a heart attack when I was a sophomore in college. Later that year, I fell in love with a fellow student and got married. I was 20; she was 19. We lacked the maturity to weather the inevitable rough spots and no one was surprised when we divorced 14 months later.

"When I joined the weekly Bible-study group, I immediately noticed the gorgeous redhead across the room. But beyond Beth's appearance, I liked her wry sense of humor and insightful analysis of biblical passages. I was on the verge of asking her for a date when she suggested coffee. Within a few weeks we were in love.

"I was thrilled to become a father, and I've always tried to do my share of the childcare. But Beth's nitpicking is maddening. She checks to see that I'm doing everything her way and corrects me if I'm not. Plus, she hovers when I feed or change Alex and insists on being the disciplinarian because she's worried I'll spank him. She makes me feel as though I can't do anything right. So I lash out.

"Still, for all our problems, Beth is the love of my life. I want Alex to grow up in a loving, happy, two-parent home, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen."

Continued on page 4:  The Counselor's Turn


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