A Reader Writes…
I am currently reading “ILYB…”, and fortunately I came across this book in a time when I feel quite hopeless about my current relationship. It has given me a lot of strength and hope, but I feel it might be too late for me to save my marriage. I have been married 13 years, and my wife and I were together 5 years prior to that. We met at university and neither have ever really had other relationships.
I was on the receiving end of the “ILYB” conversation a month ago, but my wife told me her she had been having thoughts about it for years. We started counseling together and individually about three weeks ago and while I thought things were progressing, in our couples session yesterday she said that she did not think what was wrong with us was fixable and that we need to start a plan to separate that makes it easy on our children, aged 5 and 7. I respect her for thinking of the children, but my heart is absolutely broken. I love my wife immensely and am not ready to give up.
We do have communications issues. I have not been the best listener. I am a confrontational person who says what is on his mind; my wife is the opposite. She has kept all of her feelings about us bottled up until the last month when it all came spilling out. She has told me that she needs to start living for herself, not me. She wants to grow as a person, and I am not the person she thinks can help her with that. There are a whole host of other issues, most of which can be summed up as communications related. Many times we are saying the same thing but in different ways, and this creates friction.
There have never been any infidelity in our relationship or any physical abuse. We are currently still living together and sleeping in the same bed, but there is no intimacy. We have placed no timetable on when we might tell the kids, how we might tell the kids, and what a separation might look like. We are still spending the weekends together as a family at our ski house, and still have plans for a family vacation in April.
My wife told me last night that we need to take things day by day, while I told her I am not ready to give up and have asked her to keep her mind open to alternative endings to our problems, i.e. separation is not inevitable. Our therapist has told me to give my wife psychic space, and to be patient.
What else can I do? Can you help me with my next steps? What can I or should I do to help this to a happy conclusion, which in my mind this means keeping my family together?
When someone hasn’t been ‘heard’ by their partner for a long time, they will have a lot of unhappiness inside and it needs to all come out. Part of that process is saying: I’m frightened we can’t fix this. So you’ve got to listen carefully and act on her unhappiness but don’t give up and think: it’s over. The fight has just begun.
If you haven’t been a good listener, you need to make that your number one goal. Use the techniques in Flop Flip and do the opposite of what you did previously. Imagine that every word your wife says is true – from where she is standing – and do you best to accommodate her requests. Don’t wait for encouragement that there is ‘hope’ make those changes right now.
It will take a while for your wife to register your efforts. There will be times when you will be downhearted but don’t plead for reassurance or ‘is there any spark of hope’ – because this will just push her further away. If you’re feeling desperate, open my book and read (or better still get the audio book of ILYB because I have narrated it myself and hopefully my calm measured tones will help you feel calmer too.) I would also get ‘Help your partner say yes’ and ‘Resolve your differences.’ as they will also help you keep working on your marriage (even though alone to start off). Remember don’t beg, put pressure on her, talk her round or sneak up on her for a cuddle. It will just show you are NOT listening. I can’t tell you how many times I see men drive their women out the door just because they want a moment of feeling better. Please don’t fall into this trap.
Your wife will notice the changes but she will fear it is just for today (or until she agrees to ‘try again’). So you’ve got to keep going and keep going (with no encouragement). However, she will stop talking about telling the children and needing ‘space’ and slowly the atmosphere will become less toxic. Once all the bad stuff has flown out, she will slowly begin to remember and be aware of your good points and you will get a fair hearing.
Remember this is not a quick fix (something us men infinitely prefer) but putting right years of mis-communication and being wrapped in your own stuff. It will take time but with patience, resisting the temptation to get reassurance and being cast iron in your commitment to change, you will break through and have the sort of marriage both you and your wife have always wanted.
Simona Baiao says
We have two small boys (4/8) and a number of stresfull events since they were born. I came to realise that I have been dealing with various degrees of depression as I kept trapped in the whole range of negative bubble in the last few years and I have gradually become a very bad partner and numbed to feelings. Kids, work and house came always first and I have taken my husband for granted. My husband suggested I should get therapy but I didn’t think it was needed and I could get through things my myself, I wasn’t actually aware I was in such a bad shape. Once I’ve got to the bottom of the curve I had a few therapy sessions. A few weeks after I got better but in the meantime my husband has decided to break up as he has been very unhappy in the last few years when he has also gradually shut down. Now my husband is fully convinced there is no fix to our 16 years marriage and the best for all of us is the divorce. He has decided to leave the family house and I feel I feel it is such a shame that I cannot demonstrate the changes at distance. We will meet around the kids but I believe he will do his best to avoid me at any cost. The bad news only broke a few days ago and I will fully apologise however my husband doesn’t want our behaviour to follow a script as he feels it is not coming from the heart and will not last. We have seen a therapist in your practice and he mentioned that following the counsellor advice at home will give a false sense of progress and we will soon get back to old habits.
He feels he doesn’t love me and doesn’t like my behaviour nor my personality now.
I am very committed to work out how we have let our relationship to die and my THREAT / negative bubble take over our lives but he thinks he best way for everyone is to be apart. As I have started already to get myself back to my own self and towards the happy place, I am very hopeful we can also get our relationship and family back to the harmonious life we’ve had but he is decided and has decided.
What can I do?
Andrew G. Marshall says
Listen to his doubts – rather than try and convince him that he’s wrong. Share your concerns about how to make the changes stick. If he knows you don’t see this as a MAGIC solution, but are really prepared to do the work, he is more likely to relax his scepticism.
huw jones says
I had the i love you but not in love with you just last week and she is convinced that we can’t fix it and that she wants to leave.
The issue is i had been stonewalling her ( as i have found out) i wouldn’t communicate with her one word answers moody and snappy and wouldn’t reciprocate any affection. As soon as she told me this it was like a light bulb moment i couldn’t believe i had been this way to the woman i love. She had tried to tell me before but it hadn’t really gone in. I just buried my head in video games and crapy tv shows. I am searching myself for the answer to why and i am sure it’s to do with been cheated on several times in my previous relationship.
I have just brought the ILYB and MWDLM and been delivered today i hope to take inspiration from them to fix this.
I have hopefully done some right things ( i am sure many wrong things) as we have been talking lots i am making the effort every time to talk about her day what she has done with the kids. We have two boys 3 and 5 and we can talk very well it doesn’t descend in to arguments and we are brushing around the edges of our feelings while talking about many things.
i am trying to listen and validate her feelings but feel i end up talking to much and not asking her questions to draw this pain out but i don’t want to push her and it’s still been a matter of days from the bombshell.
We have talked about what has been wrong and i can see the hurt in her that i have caused i wish i could make it vanish but i know it is a long road back to trust, and she said last night she appreciated the efforts i have been making but she thinks still feels the same ( only a week later) i told her i understood that was perfectly except able for what i had done, it had been a very short time and i had no expectations of her, but i would keep developing me and changing my behavior and that it wasn’t for the short term but the next 50 years.
What is really confusing me is we still sleep in the same bed, this morning she told me she loved me, this was after a longish hug and i reached back my hand and she took it and i told her i loved her. ( she hasn’t said it for days – it’s i know or silence)
We have brief moments of holding hands or hugs, i have backed of trying to kiss her for the moment , this is nothing sexual just trying to reach out and show my love and affection in small ways physically and i always do it with her knowledge.
I think this is just the confusion that is raging inside between staying or going … her not thinking the change is permanent or could be permanent.
I fear i’m walking a very fine line between pushing her away more and trying to fix it but i am committed to this 100%
Hopefully the books will help and probably hard to tell from my ramblings much, but i would appreciate any immediate advice. I am so glad i found this site and hopefully your books.
Andrew G. Marshall says
She is trying to believe that you can change and it won’t be for just a couple of weeks to lure her back in. I’m glad you’ve bought the books as it will help you understand where she is coming from. Well done. When you’ve finished them, please look at ‘Wake Up and Change Your Life’ as this will explain how to cement in the changes. In a nutshell, my advice is be patient and don’t be too downhearted when there are sets backs or she wavers (because they will happen). It’s how you deal with the tough moments that will be the real test, for your wife, of your resolve. Good luck.
huw jones says
Thank you for the reply. I thought i would come back and update the situation.
Its been another tough couple of weeks, taking probably a couple of steps back last week. As we went over the same old ground. I am now not going to initiate any conversations about the situation trying to draw out the feelings she has and acknowledge them i think is done for the moment.
I think Sunday this week may have been a little turning point. I over heard her on the phone with her mum and she was going to go to see about what benefits she could get if she left.
I confronted her about the matter saying i thought she was doing something behind my back and not been honest as we had discussed even if she felt it would hurt me. Something i would of perhaps swallowed down previously and let fester inside.
At one point i was really angry\heart racing and got up to walk out, at which point she said she couldn’t talk to me. The old me would of carried on, but i sat down and we talked.
After she told me that she felt so suffocated and didn’t think she could take much more. We discussed how to give her more space. She doesn’t get much with the kids or myself about, all though i took sometime off in half term to look after the boys and take them out for her to have some time to herself.
We agreed that she would go to her mums to stay for the night as she wasn’t sure if it was been in the house or me that made her feel that way, and be back in the morning for when the boys woke up. After lots of tears and hugs when the boys went to bed, she left for the night.
She text me as soon as she got her mums saying she was very upset, i reassured her that it didn’t mean anything and was just a chance for head space, and that if she needed me to go somewhere and for her to be at home i would go and do what ever she needed.
At which point she said that yes we could take it day by day and she loved me.
I was surprised to see her back home a couple of hours later. We held hands in bed for some time that night.
The next night i asked her if she wanted me to leave and stay somewhere for the night, she was adamant that she didn’t or that she needed to go anywhere. She also didn’t go and see about the benefits.
We have held hands when we go to bed for the past few days which is really nice and a positive step i feel. We have also been decorating our youngest sons bedroom together and discussed other little house projects together. Again little positive steps to maybe her seeing a future for us. Maybe just maybe the initial crisis is over.
There is still a long way to go i know and many weeks\months of probably uncertainty as she hasn’t actually said anything about trying again. I am actually going to see a relate councilor in just over a week. My partner is thinking about coming not sure if she will yet we’ll see.
Still working on the communication and listening and it’s still really hard, i have brought the book you mentioned, not read it yet i was probably reading to much over and over, trying to find that magic answer, so am taking a few days off letting the dust settle and regrouping with a clearer mind.
Andrew G. Marshall says
Well done. It shows how important it is to listen. Keep remembering what the old you would do and find something different.
I don’t know if you do same sex relationships at all but I thought I’d give it a crack. So my now ex partner and I had been together for 4 years. Yesterday she gave me the ILYB talk. She said that she loves me and I’m her person and that maybe it just wasn’t enough. I’m her first girlfriend and she always had male partners before me. Anyway, we were really great and I got along well with her family, I even call them mum and dad etc. but about a year ago or so we had a bit of a break because she was confused about her feelings for me (being unsure about all the labels of being lesbian, bisexual or whatever) and she was going through a bit of depression as well. This led to the decline in our sex life too, we always hold hands, give little kisses and cuddle but nothing more.
We had a break, she had a quick relationship with a man to see “what she wanted but came back to me and said it isn’t about being with a guy because she didn’t feel any spark or anything anyway when she slept with her then partner. So we got back together.
But since then I guess we’ve just been cruising along and not really made any changes. I mean, we got a house together but still went back to our routine of going to work, having dinner together and watching tv.
She got a job in a different state and we agreed we’d “figure things out” and do long distance but I guess that week of being apart has just pushed her to make that decision of yup, were done. I love you but I’m not in love with you.
She says if she could change how she felt she would she just doesn’t know how. I’m not sure what to do now. I don’t want to pressure her or anything and give her her space but at the same time I don’t want to feel or look like I’m giving up.
Andrew G. Marshall says
Yes, I do same sex relationship – anybody who is in a relationship and wants help. I would ask her what help she wants. I would tell her your plan, so she knows what you’re doing. If she doesn’t know, I would ask her about anger… can she express it? What stops her? What makes her angry? (It won’t be just your relationship… and my guess is that she started swallowing her feelings long before she met you) Onde she can let out the so called nasty feelings, she will start expressing all the feelings and these will include the loving ones