DEAR HARRIETTE: My wife and I have been married for more than 20 years. We have a solid marriage, but the intimacy seems to have faded away years ago. I feel like we are living as roommates more than husband and wife. Occasionally, I get mad about this. On more than a few occasions, especially if I’ve had a few drinks, I call my wife out on this. She got mad at me recently because I said something about her withholding sex from me in front of her family. Hey, I’m frustrated. I guess I figured if I say it in front of people who know her, they might be able to help me. It backfired. She got angry and slept in the other room. What can I do to get the spark back? -- Wanting More, Shreveport, Louisiana
DEAR WANTING MORE: Therapists suggest that the longer couples go without intimacy, the more challenging it can be to find your way back to it. Rather than humiliating your wife, which never works, consider getting help. A relationship coach or even a sex therapist might be helpful to you both. Chances are, something that happened years ago created a divide, and then the two of you just settled into a celibate lifestyle. You have to both want to find your way back to each other in order to get there.
Tell your wife how much you miss her and want to be closer. Ask her if she would be willing to get help with you. Be sure to have this conversation when you are sober and alone. You might also apologize for the times when you have embarrassed her in front of loved ones. Make it clear that you want the romance back, and you want to work with her to reclaim it.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My co-worker is going to a fancy event, and she asked me if she could borrow my shoes. I thought that was an odd request, but I get it. She doesn’t have dress shoes, and I do. The thing is, I don’t let people borrow my shoes -- not even my family. I’m kind of skittish about the hygiene of this. How can I say no without hurting her feelings? She is so excited about this event and wants to look perfect. -- Not My Shoes, Denver
DEAR NOT MY SHOES: Be honest. Tell your co-worker that you have never loaned out your shoes because you are a germaphobe. Make it clear that this includes your family, too. Admit that you may be an extremist, but this is who you are.
You can pivot by telling her where you bought your shoes and making recommendations for where she can find affordable dress shoes. The good news is that there are many affordable outlets to consider. If you are up for it, you can even offer to go shopping with her to help her pick the perfect pair. This will show her that you care about her, even as you have your boundaries. But stay firm. If you aren’t comfortable lending your own shoes, don’t do it.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)