Ask Dr. Claire

Frazzled, Tired and Husband Is Demanding, What Should I Do?

Dr. Claire,

My husband and I have been together for about 4 1/2 years.  We run two businesses from home, and we have a two-year-old son whom we take care of ourselves. We don't take him to daycare or have a nanny. I'm primarily the one who does the day-to-day business operations, and I play the most active role in looking after Johnny.  I'm also the one who bears the typical household responsibilities.

There are some days that I'm able to keep up with things, but more often than not, there's usually one area that I can manage while everything else falls behind. For example, the business will be taken care of, but there are toys spread out all over the house, dishes aren't done, mouths get hungry, and I'm inadequately nourished bc of snacking, and laundry's piling up.

My husband helps with the child rearing, but mostly, it's playing with Johnny from time to time throughout the day and disciplining him when necessary. Mostly, my husband does some managerial things for business, and he works on projects around the house (we're fixing it up to put on the market).

I always feel overwhelmed, and I can't keep up.  Even today, I realized I haven't showered since Monday evening... it's Friday afternoon! I said all of that to ask, where does sexual intimacy fit it??  My husband keeps saying that he's going to get what he calls a 'subby' (meaning a 'sexy time substitute' to fill in when I'm too tired or busy or whatever).  The problem is my sex drive has disappeared... ever since I had my son, I haven't been terribly less interested in sex.  Quite honestly, it's not even on my mind a lot of the time.  And when the opportunity presents itself, I'm too tired.  Well, he responded by telling me I needed to take a course or read a book or something about how to keep my husband interested.  He said I was lucky to have a husband like him who wasn't going to cheat because if he were any another guy, he would've found someone else by now.

What can I do to help the situation?  I want to make him feel wanted and loved, but at the same time, I feel unappreciated & misunderstood, which doesn't exactly make me want to hop in the sack. What should I do?

Thanks, A Frazzled, Tired Mom



Hi Frazzled, tired mom,

I appreciate your question and reaching out; your question is not simply answered. I often see situations similar to yours in therapy. A client will come to the session wanting to improve intimacy, but the real issue is a lack of martial communication, support, and cooperation, not to mention the couple is exhausted most of the time. Ironically, a vast majority of the time, sexual intimacy issues are solved outside of the bedroom and have nothing to do with sex.

In this situation, I would strongly recommend increasing your self-care. Start with making sure you get enough sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition. You’re correct, snacking is fine now and then, but it sounds as if you are not mindful of what you eat and when you eat. Just as you would do for your son, be mindful of preparing your meals and snacks throughout the day. And be sure to get enough sleep and exercise; these aspects of physical self-care all contribute to having a healthy sex drive. Sleep deprivation, stress, exhaustion, irritability, depression, and anxiety all decrease sexual desire and interest.

Next, I want you to consider if it’s an option to bring in a person to help with some of the household tasks. Perhaps there is a person in your neighborhood looking for some work and if you can afford to do so, a couple of hours a week to help with laundry and cleaning could open up some time for self-care and rest! I also want you to talk with your husband and divide the household chores and business demands in a more balanced manner. From your description, you’re responsible for so many things; you’re barely getting things done for yourself and always playing the game of catch up and overwhelm.

I also recommend starting couples counseling as soon as possible. The question you ask is not just an issue with you; it’s an issue with your husband and both of you as a couple. Meaning, you alone can not fix this situation, it must be done as a couple. I am deeply concerned your husband is attempting to motivate you to have sex through threats of getting a “subby.” Please schedule an appointment with a couples counselor to discuss this and other issues.

I do hear what you are saying, you and your husband have full, demanding and busy lives. Not only are you responsible for two businesses, but you also have a young child who requires attention, nurturing and care. What seems to be missing from your life as you describe it, is quality time with your husband and shared responsibility for childcare and household responsibilities. While you both run the business, from your description, you’re the one taking care of everyone and everything, which is draining and not sustainable in the long-term. I also think couples counseling would be beneficial to improve communication skills, learn the behaviors needed to increase emotional and physical intimacy.

I would also recommend reading some of the posts I’ve written a three post series on sexual functioning here at I hope you and your husband are able to implement these suggestions to move into increased health and well-being.

Take Care, Dr. Claire


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