This is a preview. The full article appears in Neil's book: Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship

Dear Neil: I’ve been married for 37 years. My husband no longer notices me. For Christmas, he bought me a book I’d already read, the same calendar I’d already purchased and a lovely pair of earrings. I had told him about the book and calendar when I read and bought them. Last evening, I put on a nice nightgown and perfume—and he didn’t even say anything—we just had sex.

I’ve given up trying to reach him and I don’t know how much more I can take. I’ve asked him to give me one compliment a week, as I don’t think that’s too much to ask. But recently he said he thinks I’m being selfish for asking for that. An example is: “I wish you’d tell me I look nice” and the response is: “You know you look nice so why should I say anything?” I feel invisible, and am concerned that my marriage is over. Could you address this issue?

Invisible in Denver

Dear Neil: I’ve been seeing this man for over seven months. In some ways he makes me feel cherished, but in other ways it feels like he does many little things to prevent a successful reciprocal relationship. He’s very passive. I feel like I’m the only one managing to keep the relationship going much of the time. He acts very ambivalent, and I don’t feel he makes an effort to show me I’m valued.

Confused in New Orleans

Dear Invisible and Confused: One of the most common power struggles couples fight about is related to the theme in your two letters. It’s the question: “How important am I to you?”

If I’m important to you, I need for you to show it—through words, being “sweet,” being affectionate, romancing me, treating me as if I am valued and cherished, and being responsive to what I say is important to me. If you will show me how much I matter to you, I will feel blessed to have found you, and I will richly reciprocate as long as I am still invested in our relationship.

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Tagged: intimacy skills   relationship skills   romantic intelligence  

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