My wife does not want to be intimate with me

What you need to know:

All attempts to make love lead to a fight and me being accused of not caring and not being patient.

My wife lost her mother six weeks ago. She has now lost all feelings for me and does not want to be intimate at all. All attempts to make love lead to a fight and me being accused of not caring and not being patient. Am I being inconsiderate?  

Jeremiah Mukasa

Dear Jeremiah,

It is true that intimacy keeps the relationship strong, the reason you are stressed and wondering why your wife is behaving that way. However, your wife is still suffering the effects of her loss and this is bereavement grief.

Trying to adapt to a significant loss can vary dramatically from one person to another. It often depends on a person’s background, beliefs, and relationship to what or who was lost. I may not describe the relationship between your wife and her mother but as said above, it is possible that your wife had a special relationship with her mother and she is struggling to adjust to leaving without her.

When people are grieving, they can bounce between different thoughts as they make sense of their loss. Thoughts can range from soothing (“She had a good life.”) to troubling (“It was not her time.”). These feelings and erratic changes might in one way or another affect how one relates with their significant others. Two months might be enough for one person to resolve and devolve and then move into acceptance but since grief is individually based, it is not possible to know the length of time one might take. You might have to support your wife during this period by letting her know that care about what she is going through.

Intimacy on the side of women is usually affected by the present emotions. Other conditions, most notably depression, can complicate grief. The person’s level of dependency on the departed can also cause complications. It could be that your wife is undergoing one of the stages of grief, which is most likely depression that usually presents with symptoms such as loss of interest.

Everyone grieves in their own way and in their own time. Some people recover from grief and resume normal activities within six months, although they continue to feel moments of sadness. Others may feel better after about a year.  The grieving process often involves many complex and complicated emotions. Yet joy, contentment, and humour do not have to be absent during this difficult time.

Support your wife by listening in a non-judgmental way, talking about your feelings with her, and listening to one another. The more you show understanding, the more your wife will open up to intimacy. Time too is a healing factor. Give your wife time to heal and talk more often, and find out if she needs external support in case she is overwhelmed. Otherwise, the situation will normalise when she eventually heals and learns to cope with the loss.

Reader advice

Be patient

Loy Lilliane. You must be patient and respect her time of grief. Until she is ready, even if you ask her how many times, nothing will happen and the more you keep pestering her, the more you will irritate her and even remind her of some annoying and nasty past experiences she went through with you. Be patient and wait for her to heal. When she is ready, you will be the first to know.

She needs your support

Martha Zion. I understand it is hard for you but remember that she is still grieving. Try as much as you can to allow her as much time as she needs to cope with the reality that she now has to live her life without her mother. For some, it is not that easy to get over such a loss the reason she needs time and support.

Time heals all wounds

Gertrude Nakaddu. Understand what she is going through. Do not give up on your spouse. Show her love even if she is pushing you away and most importantly, Pray for her. Time heals all wounds.

Take care of your wife

Phoebe Miriam. Be with her, comfort her and nurse her to recovery. Try as much as possible to be understanding, she will soon respond to your needs. Remember that women respond to verbal and emotional care more than anything else. Be patient as you do the needful.

Engage in activities

Ivan Waswa. Can you introduce something new such as watching movies together after meals or going for evening walks? You can start joining fellowships when not busy. Such activities will give you time to be close to each other and talk, which in the end also creates intimacy.

She needs to heal first

Wynee Gee. Loss of a loved one can be traumatic. I am, however, surprised that six weeks is making you wail. Have you had a child before? How long did you wait before you became intimate again? Anyway, do not take your wife’s grief lightly. Deal with it and get her the support she requires to start healing.

Provide counselling

Benard Okong. Perhaps her mother’s death greatly traumatised her, and she might be suffering from post-traumatic depression. All she needs is counselling and medication and the only person to help her get these is you. Be the best husband she can ever have during this time to help her get over her grief.

You might push her away

Katalina Kate. Do you know that the side effects of losing a loved one include stress, depression, confusion, and denial, among others? Six weeks is such a short time and if you show her your impatience, you will push her away forever.

You caused it

Yang Rutensia. Chances are you started pestering her way before the six weeks. At this rate, expect a longer waiting period since you interfered with the healing process.

Evelyn Khorono Lufafa is a counselling psychologist with Sermotherapy Counselling Foundation