"I have been married for three months. My husband and I are both in our 40s. When we met, we laughed a lot and talked for hours. He was very expressive physically as well as verbally, until about six weeks ago. He stopped holding my hand. Now he never kisses me if I do not kiss him first. He never hugs me or says anything to show how he feels. I do not know if there is any feeling of love left for me.

The only time he touches me is when he wants to have sex. He penetrates me within seconds, without foreplay, which is painful. I feel very resentful and used because this is the only time there is any physical contact between us.

About a month ago I asked him about it directly, pointing out this was not how we used to be. He was just silent. I have explained how I feel on several occasions now, but this seems to have made the situation worse. He actually said that if I keep going on about this, it will push him away. What can I do?"

Your new husband sounds like he has a very different concept of how to be within marriage than when dating. He is shutting down because of his lack of skill in handling a woman who needs an emotional and sexual lover. Hating failure, he would rather play a power game with you, trying to bar you from challenging him, and punishing you when you seek to communicate. This doesn’t make it right, but I am hearing a man who is overwhelmed and reverting to models of marriage that he remembers in his subconscious and therefore feels safer with, despite the fact that it contradicts logic.

Take a step back from the direct issues and learn how to be together first – how to enjoy time off, relax, hear about each other’s days. You are a newly married couple with a lot to adjust to in having someone else around. Learn each other’s daily and weekly rhythms: when to give each other space to unwind quietly, and when to have fun together. Sometimes things that are rejected are not an absolute position, but a matter of timing. Not being prepared to talk has a backdrop of whether you’re tired or relaxed, for example. It is easy to panic and go into your own fears of rejection and disaster rather than find ways to believe the best. Living with the realities of the wiring of the opposite sex can be a weird and wonderful experience.

You say, ‘I do not know if there is any feeling of love left for me.’ This may be a bit dramatic considering that he stopped being physically demonstrative only six weeks ago. Believe in the love that you have built together and all that has been expressed in the past.

I wonder what model of marriage he grew up with as a child, and therefore what he assumes to be normal? The task is going to be to gradually build your own vision of marriage as a new couple. I would recommend you do the HTB Marriage Course to help you lay some good foundations. Log on to relationshipcentral.org to find one near you, or alternatively order the DVDs and do it at home. Don’t present the idea to your husband as a response to your hurt and his failure, as he will then just perceive doing the course as a prolonged way of shaming him.

When it comes to sex, don’t allow him to penetrate you without foreplay. Tell him you want to touch for longer, to make him feel good as well as you. Turn the attention onto tantalising him with some nice touch and egging him on to giving you the same, rather than turning it into an argument about the lack of foreplay. Don’t ever allow him to just ‘penetrate you within seconds’. He may be worried that he will ejaculate during foreplay rather than being able to wait, so be careful not to touch his penis too much. If he does ejaculate too soon, encourage him that it is not a big deal and just something that you will get better at together as you learn to make love.

Your husband probably needs to feel some successes. Hold up his strengths while gently waiting for the quality of love that truly reflects your commitment to each other.