Don and I were high school sweethearts, and have been married now for nearly 20 years. I do love him but I feel as if I have grown emotionally while he's stayed a big kid. He seems to be happy to just exist in our relationship. We don't fight, but we don't really talk about anything significant, either. I'm beginning to resent his sexual advances because he gets what he wants (the sex part) but I'm not getting what I want (the emotional part.) I have brought up the subject several times, and he makes a half-hearted effort to give me what I ask for, but I honestly don't think he's even capable of understanding my feelings or my needs. We have two children, and I don't want to end our marriage, but I find myself increasingly unhappy and resentful in all things. I fear this will get so bad, I will, one day, have to leave him. What can I do?
--Not 16 Anymore
Dear Not 16
Alas, this seems to be a very common complaint among women. I'm not suggesting that men are shallow, but generally speaking, they do not give as much importance to their own feelings and emotional gratification as women do. Men tend to compartmentalize different aspects of their lives (work, marriage, sports, family, etc) whereas for women, there are no walls inside. Everything is related and everything impacts on everything else That's why men are generally able to have sex with a woman even if they are angry or upset with her, whereas a women needs everything to be just right. It's just the way they/we're built.
It is unlikely you will be able to push or bully your husband into any deep change. He's just not like that. In fact, the more resentful you become, the more you act on your emotion, the more likely he will be to distance himself further. (Men tend to think: "Who can understand a woman's emotions? I'd best just stay out of her way when she's in 'one of those moods.'")
As I have said (and will continue to say) again and again, you cannot change others. You can only change yourself. I realize you are frustrated at his seeming "unwillingness" to give you want you ask for, but I would guess it is not so much unwillingness as an inability or limitation.
Yes, it's important to communicate and let him know how you are feeling, but there also needs to be a certain level of acceptance of him, as he is, on your part. Rather than getting upset because he doesn't give you EVERYTHING you ask for, it would be better to negotiate. It is important, when you negotiate, that you communicate with him in a way he understands. That means, if you get emotional, if you are crying and upset, he will probably only register the overall feeling of the conversation ("Oh no! She's mad at me again!") vs. the actual request, ("After sex, I really need to be held for a while. I know you don't always feel like doing it, but it means a lot to me.")
Rather than turn it into a "war" in which only one of you can win, approach it as a situation with "win win" potential, a negotiated compromise where you may not get everything you want all the time, but you both get more of what you want/need more often - because the lines of communication are open. (You might also be surprised to discover that he may have needs that are not getting met, too -- even if it's just to have some quiet alone time,)