DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have not been getting along for quite some time. We argue a lot and rarely speak in friendly terms to each other. We were just with family for Thanksgiving, and while we had a decent time, it wasn't without the normal and extremely uncomfortable moments when he spoke to me like I was stupid or something. His classic is saying sexually inappropriate things to me in front of other people or groping my breasts or my behind when other people are in the room. When I tell him that I do not like when he does that, he acts like I am blowing things out of proportion. It has gotten so bad that I don't really want to go out with him anymore. I'm tired of being embarrassed.
I have asked him to go to counseling, but he refuses. We have two children and tons of debt. I don't feel like I have a way out, but I know something's got to give. What can I do? -- Beyond Humiliation, Denver
DEAR BEYOND HUMILIATION: In this time of discomfort, are you and your husband sexually intimate at all? It sounds like he is taunting you, possibly because you are "denying" him. Sometimes when relationships erode, the sexual component dies, thereby leaving a couple without that key connection of tenderness that can act as a salve to heal emotional wounds.
If you and your husband are at a crossroads that has gotten so brittle that it does not include any form of intimacy, it may be difficult reclaiming each other -- but not impossible if you both want it.
Start by inviting your husband on a date with just the two of you. Go to a place where you believe you can both enjoy yourselves and have enough privacy to talk. Talk to your husband about your life together. Express your concerns about how poorly you two have been getting along of late. Tell him that you do not think that the way things are going right now is healthy for the children or for the two of you.
Ask him how he feels about your relationship. Do your best to get him to open up about what he is experiencing and what he wants. Tell him that you want to take this time to talk about what you want for your life together and for your family. While it may be incredibly difficult to speak directly about the sensitive aspects of your marriage, make the effort. Before things escalate, ask again if he will consider counseling to help you through this rough patch. By all means, let him know how you are feeling, including how upsetting it is for you when he speaks to you in a degrading way and when he gropes you. Suggest that you work together to find your way back to intimacy.