A Reader Writes…
My wife is cold and distant and on Sunday she told me she didn’t love me any more and our marriage was dead.
We’ve been married nearly 11 years and together 14 and have three wonderful girls. As you can imagine I was distraught.
Our problems started I believe with the birth of our third child. We had three kids, 5 and under and I guess it was a real strain. I’ve said many times that I felt that she was changing in front of my very eyes and becoming more and more withdrawn from me. It seemed only the kids mattered and I was just the guy who paid all the bills and provided. Sex stopped completely 3 years ago and I got more and more frustrated.
Every 6-8 months or so there would be row with her promising to try harder and be respectful to me. I feel, and she agrees, she has treated me pretty badly in this period e.g. not speaking to me for a day or two for no apparent reason. I don’t claim to be perfect but I work very hard for her and the girls and always but them first. I’ve been so confused as to what the problem could be as our home is harmonious and there are never any rows etc. We actually seem to get on. There are none of the various bad behaviour such as violence, raised voices, excessive drinking or third parties involved.
Anyway Sunday and Monday was very tough with lots of talking and crying etc. On Tuesday, a friend sent me a link to your book which I bought on Amazon and I was suddenly filled with hope. I think I got to Chapter 4 and maybe jumped the gun. On Wednesday morning I sent her an email going through the acknowledgement, apologizing etc. and telling her I was confident we could repair the damage but there was no pressure on her and I would be as patient and understanding as possible etc. (I sent a mail rather than talking so as not to result in me crying or something and explained that).
Well, her response was completely dismissive and aggressive which the book said it might be and I took it pretty badly. However, I did speak with her sister who also spoke with my wife. There seemed to be sudden sea change in her attitude in that maybe she wasn’t thinking clearly. She repeated this me yesterday and we agreed we would work at it to resolve our problems. We did agree however, to talk a time out from talking as we are both emotionally and physically drained by this weeks events.
I have a suspicion that she was depressed after the birth of our child. Raising the kids alone while I was at work and many miles from her family was a terrible strain on her and I think she may have resented me not being there to help during the week. We have had many good times and actually do get on very well 90% of the time. Its just she seems so sad deep inside at the minute her thought process is completely negative. She also spends excessively on the credit card to feel better then comes down immediately afterwards.
When asked by both myself and her sister would she like to be back in love with me again and happy she said of course. Its just her negativity stops her seeing a way back. What should I do now (apart from finish the book!) Should I back off and give her space to clear her mind? And are we on the right track?
I think your ‘harmonious home’, ILYB, depression and the credit card splurges may have the same cause.
Let me explain. If you hardly ever row, you have to suppress stuff (tell yourself it doesn’t matter or distract yourself) and slowly but surely all your feelings get switched off—not just the nasty ones like anger and disappointment. Throw in the problem that if you don’t tell anybody how bad things are, nothing can’t get solved – and slowly but surely, you feel stuck, helpless and hopeless. As you can imagine, that’s very depressing.
Finally, when you’re depressed, you need something pretty strong to blast through the greyness and that can be spending—because for a moment you feel powerful and you get a temporary boost from treating yourself. Except, about five minutes later you’re feeling guilty and ashamed as well as depressed!
I’m glad my books are helping and I’d like you to read a third one too—I Love You But You Always Put Me Last (sorry about all the reading!) As this seemed to start around the time of your third child, I wonder if parenting is at the bottom of what’s gone wrong with your marriage.
Perhaps you’ve been so busy providing, while your wife has been so busy caring for the kids that you’ve not only gone in different directions but exhausted your marriage too. It will also help explain about assertiveness (also covered in My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Any More).
So in a nutshell, my advice to your wife is to ask for what she needs, you to listen (and ask questions so you truly understand) and for the two of you to negotiate when there is a disagreement (rather than you just agreeing to anything to keep her which is OK in the short term but just adds to the problems in the longer term). I sum this up with “I can ask, you can say no and we can negotiate.”
Finally, you are on the right track but it will take time (as it’s taken about three years to reach here). So don’t get downhearted if you take three steps forward and one back.