How to Meet the Emotional Need for
Sexual Fulfillment (Part 1)
Dear Dr. Harley,
Three weeks ago my husband of 16 years said he wanted to separate. He said he felt that
his emotional needs had not been met for a long time and he doesn't want to fight to have
them met. We don't argue very much, we respect and truly like each other. I know that
I have a difficult time meeting his emotional needs because of my childhood.
I am presently in therapy to learn how to overcome my problems. Both of us deserve a
chance to have our needs met, but I don't know if I will be able to meet his.
What do you think? I would appreciate any and all comments.
I would guess that the need you do not meet for your husband is sex. You mention in your
letter that he is tired of arguing with you about it, and he wants a separation. Over the
years he has probably tried numerous useless tactics to improve your sexual interest, like
arguing once in a while and threatening separation. Apparently, your sessions in therapy
aren't working very well either. Nothing has worked so far and I'm sure you think that
nothing will. What will you do now?
You mention in your letter that experiences in your childhood have prevented you from
meeting your husband's need for sex (I assume that this is the need you are referring to).
Your husband is probably very frustrated with the progress that has been made toward
resolving those childhood issues. Most men are frustrated, because such therapy does not
usually help their wives become better sex partners. My experience and the experience of
many sex therapists I know has convinced me that trying to resolve childhood issues does
not lead to great sex between a husband and wife. In many cases I've witnessed, it has
actually led a couple to divorce.
On the other hand, sexual inhibitions are relatively easy to overcome using other methods
that do not require a rehash of the past. I believe you can learn to meet his emotional need
for sex in spite of unpleasant experiences you may have had in your childhood.
One of the greatest sexual inhibitors is a bad relationship. If you and your husband are
not getting along very well, and that seems to be the case if he is threatening to leave you,
your first order of business is to resolve your marital conflicts by taking each other's
feeling into account. I'm afraid that more or better sex will not accomplish that objective.
When a couple has a bad relationship, I do not begin by encouraging more sex. First I fix
the relationship, and nine times out of ten, sexual problems disappear, with or without
unresolved childhood experiences. I spend very little time fixing sexual problems these
days because most couples I counsel don't have sexual problems after they have learned
to follow the Policy of Joint Agreement.
If I could be convinced that you do, in fact, have a loving and caring relationship with your
husband, and you still have sexual problems, then my advice for you can be found in my response
to the letter that follows.