DEAR AMY: I'm 56 years old. I've been married for more than 20 years, and we haven't made love in more than eight years. Is our sex life over forever?
I've brought this up with my wife only five or six times in the last eight years, and it's always the same. She says we're not connected, not communicating. If only we were connected more, she says. What does that mean? One time we took a two-hour hike together. She felt ever so slightly more connected to me that day but not enough for sex.
I'm like a pot of boiling pasta on the stove, boiling over every year or so, then the heat is turned down, and I find myself simmering instead.
I love my wife. I think she's attractive and I am in love with her. She's put on weight in the last 20 years, and I know it bothers her, but I think she's pretty, beautiful and sexy.
Sex is one of the only ways I know to show my love and to show that I am loved. I do get to demonstrate my love in other ways, like making her tea when she's sick or buying her jewelry. I'm a good husband. We share kitchen chores and carpooling. We are as equal as anyone in this department. And I never leave the seat up!
We haven't even kissed more than a quick peck at the departure gate at the airport or when I give her jewelry. What I'd give for a 10-minute kissing session — she's such a good kisser.
I cannot believe that our sex life is over. It breaks my heart.
DEAR SAD: One thing your wife needs to realize is that sex itself can be a way to feel connected and to communicate. Men sometimes use a sexual connection as a way to communicate. Women tend to see a sexual connection as the result of happy and healthy communication.
Life — kids, chores, work and family — muddles this intimate connection. You can try to initiate a new one by putting your duties aside and, for instance, lighting a candle, holding hands, and talking and whispering to your wife.
Devote 10 minutes each day to looking her in the eye, stroking her hand and asking questions and listening. And, yes, 10 minutes of kissing (without the pressure of sex) would be wonderful. The reason hiking together eased your connection is because it was just the two of you, outside your home, having a new experience together. Can you share more experiences like this?
Bring this up again. Ask her open-ended questions about connection and listen to her responses.
More physical intimacy (eye contact, hand-holding) will bring you closer. You both crave connection, but you'll have to be intentional and behave differently in order to get it. A marriage counselor could help start (and continue) the conversation.
DEAR AMY: It's that time of year when I almost dread checking my mail for fear of receiving yet one more high school graduation announcement!
This year for the first time we received two college graduation announcements. Is this the new trend? Do we need to send a gift for this event like we did for their high school graduation?
Please don't misunderstand, we are proud of these individuals, but an announcement seems like a gift request. Will a card suffice?
— Dreads Mail
DEAR DREADS: Yes, a card will suffice. If you are invited (and choose to attend) a graduation-related event, a gift would be gratefully received, but please don't dread these announcements. Treat them as the good news notifications they are and sincerely deliver your congratulations to the graduate.
DEAR AMY: The letter from "Fearful" gave me the willies. She reported that her ex-husband abused her to the point that the police were involved. Now, 20 years later, her kids wanted to have a relationship with their dad and planned to invite him to family events.
My reaction was, "Wow. Nice kids!"
DEAR UPSET: I could understand these kids' desire to know their dad, but they needed to do so in a way that didn't force their mother into his proximity.
Send questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Dickinson's memoir, The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.