Out of Love

Dear Diabetes Health, I hope you can help me. I am 49 years old and was diagnosed with type 2 five years ago.  My husband still wants sex. I don’t even want him to touch me.  He is very mean to me. He yells at me and calls me names.

My sugar control is pretty good. My A1C is about 7%. I’m about 20 pounds over where the doctor wants me, but my girlfriend tells me I still look good.  But my husband calls me “his little piggy” and worse things. Then he wants sex!  

We always had some problems, but he didn’t used to be this way until the last few years. We’ve been together 18 years, and I used to love him. What can I do?


Dear Marguerite,

You are in a tough situation, and we give you credit for managing your diabetes well despite your husband’s attitude. Insults are a bad sign for a marriage. Possibly he is involved with someone else or wants to be.  Perhaps diabetes just makes him too uncomfortable. But your 18 years together counts for something, too.  Possibly you can turn things around.

Let’s start with your communication, which has broken down. Try talking to him in “I” messages. That means talking about your feelings and how his actions affect you, instead of focusing on what he is doing wrong. You can say something like, “It really hurts me when you call me names like ‘Piggy’.  It doesn’t help me do better; it just makes me want to give up.  Could you please call me [something more positive]?” That’s called “assertiveness,” (standing up for yourself) and it often works.

It sounds as though neither you nor your husband feel loved. Gary Chapman PhD, author of The Five Love Languages, says that we all have “love tanks” that need to be filled.  When our love tank stays empty, it is hard for us to act positively towards our partners.  Many times, this is a problem of communication – each partner may be giving love in a way (a “love language”) that the other doesn’t understand. It may be that you were giving him love in a language he didn’t understand. It is even possible that he occasionally tries to give you love, but he isn’t speaking your language.

Chapman says there are five love languages: words, gifts, touch, acts of service, and “quality time,” which we call “undivided attention.” Few people “speak” all five, but it’s important to be at least bilingual – to give and receive love in your main language and your husband’s. For example, he might feel that he is giving love by working hard to provide, while what you want is some undivided attention. Or you might give love by providing him with attention, when what he wants is more touch.  Or something – as you can see, there are many ways to miss each other.  The key is to learn your partner’s language, so you can give love in a way he can take in, and feel any love that he is trying to give you.  

Dr. Chapman advises spouses in your situation to say something like, “I want to be a better wife (or husband) to you.  If you have any suggestions that would help me be a better [spouse], I am open to them. You can tell me now or think about it and tell me later.” Try to act on the advice he gives you, and ask him for feedback every week on how you are doing.

This is hard to do, we know. It should be him saying those things to you, but he’s not going to. So it’s up to you. Check out Dr. Chapman’s web site for more on this.

When it comes to sex, don’t do something you don’t want to do. But it would be good if you could get to a place of wanting some.  Think about what would make you interested in sex with him, and ask him for it.  Or remember the things about him that used to turn you on, and try to focus on those. Look at some of our previous columns for ideas on boosting your desire and finding sexual activities you might like.

Dr. Chapman says that giving sex can be an act of love, which you can give whether you actually feel love for the other person or not.  You’re just doing something good for them, giving a gift.  (As a religious counselor, Chapman is talking about giving sex in the context of marriage. We would say people can give love in this way to other people as well.)     

Reconnecting is going to be a long process, and you might want to get professional help from a counselor or clergy. And keep taking care of yourself! With better communication and the right love language you might be able to fix this.  Let us know how it goes.

We’ve got a new web site.  Check out our programs for couples at http://coupleswellness.sitesvp.com

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