Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Couple Must Work To Restore Intimacy

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I have been married for a long time, but we have not been close for years. We look good at a party, but we don’t share any type of intimacy. In part, it’s my fault. We were at each other’s throats some years back, and he was not nice to me at all. That’s when I stopped being intimate with him. After a while, it just started being habit that we weren’t romantic. Now, our son is about to go away to college. I worry that if things don’t change, we won’t have a reason to stay together. I can’t make it on my own financially, but I also don’t know how to turn the romance back on. Do you have any suggestions? -- Turn It On

DEAR TURN IT ON: You can’t have it both ways. Either you work to repair your marriage, or you prepare for the potential of a life on your own. If your husband is interested in intimacy, figure out how to reignite your own interest -- assuming you want to. Would the two of you consider going to counseling? You could choose marriage counseling or even sex counseling. You need to address the problem before you in an open and thoughtful way, which is why professional help may be in order.

You have to decide what you want in your life. Staying with your husband for financial reasons while withholding intimacy doesn’t necessarily seem like a fair trade. Once your child is gone, you are probably right: He may no longer feel obliged to stick around. You need to answer the questions of what you want and what are you willing to do to have it. After that, the work begins.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got into a stupid fight with my sister the other day, and I realized that we had fallen back into childhood behavior.

We had to make an agreement about something that we are doing for our mother, and the conversation -- over text -- got extremely testy and childish. When my sister, who is older, started digging in, I did, too, until we reached a standoff, and our younger sister ended up stepping in and being the adult in the situation. How ridiculous. Can you recommend ways to avoid falling into childhood behavior patterns with siblings? This is getting old. -- Stuck in the Past

DEAR STUCK IN THE PAST: Review what happened between you and your sister, and consider how you might handle the situation if it were between you and a colleague or friend. What would you have done differently? Make a list. Next, think about different times when you have interacted with your sister and fallen into childhood behaviors. What were the triggers? List them.

Next time you engage with your sister, pay attention to the conversation. If you feel things beginning to sink into old reactions, take a pause. You can stop communicating for a bit and take a few breaths to collect yourself. You can use a tactic that you would use with a colleague or friend. You should remind yourself that you have the power to stand up for yourself and not need to become unsettled by your sister’s behavior or your former way of responding to her. You can become the adult in the room.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)