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Monday, July 30, 2012 - Page updated at 05:30 a.m.

Dear Carolyn
Carolyn Hax: Kids grow — and so does their father's resentment

By Carolyn Hax
Syndicated columnist

DEAR CAROLYN: My wife and I have been together for 16 years, married for 14. We had children late and have two lovely kids.

Our love life sucks and is totally up to her. I do try to add romance to our lives with notes, flowers, dinners out; the extra effort seems to matter none. Since our children, I seem to not matter.

— J

DEAR J: I urge you to resist any temptation to go Mars and Venus with this issue, because, like all stereotyping, it oversimplifies and vilifies.

I'm sympathetic to you, but your hopes lie in your sympathy for her. I suspect this isn't so about husbands and wives, moms and dads, but about roles and emotional limits.

I'll wager your wife is the primary caregiver. If so, then here's something to consider: Not everyone is comfortable with the abundance of noise, speech, color, smell, touch involved with small children. This affects men and women, introverts especially, older more than younger, and leads both men and women to withdraw.

So, maybe your wife is among those who have only so much sensory capacity on any given day, and by the end — with even the most beloved spouses — just want solitude, silence and a cradle of cool sheets.

Obviously, not every freeze-out breaks this way. Sometimes there's just a plain, old-fashioned alienation of affection. If she's not only sex-averse but also short-tempered and distant, then skip the rest of this and find a marriage counselor skilled enough to get you talking, and qualified enough to diagnose depression in either of you.

However, if your freeze-out is a matter of your wife being as good a friend as ever but having nothing for you physically, then it would explain why your romantic gestures go thud. Steal a weekend (or overnight) together at a nice, local hotel while a trusted relative or sitter cares for the kids. Or, to offer her weekly, scheduled her-time for physically restorative things (kickboxing, yoga, painting). Or, skip the gestures all together and just talk honestly about how badly you miss this part of your life with her — not in a begging, blaming or end-of-tether way, but in a what-can-I-do-on-my-end-to-understand way, besides be patient till the younger's freshman year.

I won't promise it will happen with your marriage, but in some others with the problem I'm describing, the physical connection does grow back. Open your mind to a multiyear solution. Thinking long-term about sex isn't an area of human excellence, but you love your wife, and your family's on the line.

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Copyright 2012, Washington Post Writers Group

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