If your wife is craving fun and wants to forget about kids and responsibility, how do you become part of the answer rather than the problem that’s holding her back?
A Reader Writes…
I bought your book I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You for my wife as this was exactly what she told me at the start of the year. She has started to read it but she now seems to feel that the relationship is completely over. She is insistent that we must separate and divorce and I get the impression that any attempt by me to get her to examine her feelings is just me forcing to try to think differently, which she resents.
She just says she has been feeling this way for 4-5 years, perhaps longer, and that she knows what she thinks so what good is counselling going to do?
We have not been intimate for ages and it’s now got to the point where she doesn’t want me to kiss her, touch her or see her naked. The idea of me touching her seems abhorrent to her although she did allow me to hug her the other day as I was so upset with the situation. I accept that she may have fallen out of love but I seriously wonder whether my wife is having a mid-life crisis (although I know you don’t like the term). I also feel that there may be other issues clouding her judgement. She has experienced periods of depression in the past and only recently told me she never tool the medication she was prescribed. She is is very adamant that she would never ever take anti-depressant medication.
She seems to be questioning the whole marriage and wonders whether she got married and had children for her father’s sake who was terminally ill and died in 2002 a year after our first child was born. She wonders whether she had children so he could at least experience a grandchild. Her mother, with whom she had a poor relationship, passed away almost 2 years ago. She says she never wants to marry again and wants to live alone even if she finds another committed relationship. She questions the custom of the wife taking her husband’s surname and questions whether humankind is meant to be monogamous.
She seems to be craving more fun and says she has found it increasingly hard to be a mother, wife and full-time worker. She compares our life now to before we had children and seems to find the decreased opportunities for socialising hard to take. She talks warmly about friends she had in her late teens when life was completely carefree.
She wants to go on holiday by herself and just seems to want to have fun. She tells me of the attention she gets from other men when she does go out with friends and seems to attach huge importance to the fact that she looks younger than she is (she’s 46). Her youthful looks seem so important to her. She says that while she still looks good she still wants to have fun.
She seems to place importance on materialistic things and says that sometimes a woman wants a nice house and a decent car, but seems unable to accept the financial constraints. She says the house is a tip and seems to blame me entirely for this.
She says our sex life has been very poor and one of her major complaints when we were still having sex is that I insisted on wearing a condom. I didn’t want to withdraw and she wouldn’t consider using any form of birth control. It was either withdraw at the point of ejaculation, have sex during her cycle when she would be unlikely to get pregnant, or not at all. I found this extremely irresponsible. I was very inexperienced sexually when we got together.
There also seems to be a slight tendency to drink alcohol more, although not excessively.
I have tried to respond to some of her issues, by being tidier around the house for example, but she says it’s too late now and seems to regard them as me trying to change her thinking, which I suppose I am, as I want to work on the marriage.
I feel now that I may have blown it completely as I got very angry tonight and my frustrations poured out. I said that she says she wants to separate but we are still living in the same house a couple of months after she first mentioned this. I suppose I made her feel guilty by saying that we must try counselling again for the sake of our two children (aged 7 and 11) but she just said again that she knows how she feels and she will never again feel the way she used to about me (I get the “I want to be your best friend line”), something which I did start to accept but now I don’t want to throw away the marriage without a fight. We did try a couple of relate sessions but I didn’t find them very useful and as she was adamant she was going to leave, I saw no point in continuing (something I very much regret). My wife has been going on her own to talk about not only her ‘out of love’ feelings but also about other childhood issues.
I have also been giving mixed messages by one the one hand saying I wanted her to be the one I grew old with and then, when it dawned on me that she was intent on leaving, that my sexual attraction to her had also disappeared (perhaps to lessen the hurt I was feeling).
If indeed my wife is experiencing a midlife crisis, what can I do to help and is there anything I can do to if she has definitely decided to separate and divorce? How do I know, and how does she know, whether this is what she truly wants? Do you see any hope in this situation?
Of course, your wife is having a mid-life crisis. There is nothing that makes us realise that our time on earth is finite that sitting at our parent’s death bed. No wonder she’s questioning the choices she made – especially if her father was such a huge influence—now that she’s an orphan.
However, I think you’re asking the wrong question! Far more interesting is: Why does she perceive you as the enemy rather than an ally? We all need to stop and ask:
- Does my life make sense?
- Am I in the right job?
- What next?
- But why can’t she turn to you and discuss these issues?
My guess is that you are part of the problem—and in a more profound sense that not being very tidy. It’s all very well to ask her to examine her feelings but at the moment, all that will achieve is finding more reasons to be angry with you. What I think would be much more productive is getting you to examine your life and your attitudes.
- What would you like to be different?
- How do you feel about your journey through life and being middle aged too?
- What would you change about your marriage if you did get a second chance?
- Why can’t communicate effectively with her?
You obviously love her dearly but none of that comes across in your letter.
So do I see any hope? I think it all depends on you. Getting angry, telling her to think of the children, trying to pin all the problems on her mid-life crisis (so it’s about her not the two of you) are all classic mistakes that men make when trying to save their marriage.
If you’re prepared to listen, acknowledge and not try and put her back in her old life (which isn’t working with her) but happy to change and be part of her change, there’s no reason why your relationship can’t flourish. I explain how to win back your wife—even if she says it’s over—in my new book My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Anymore. It requires quite a bit of giving—without getting anything back in the short-term and that’s tough.
So to answer, your question—how do you know if your relationship is over or not? Do you still love enough to be generous and put your hurt to one side for a while? Your wife has already answered it but the jury is still out for you.
My new book
There are three skills that you need to turn round your relationship and recover from a midlife crisis. I outline them in my new book It’s Not a Midlife Crisis, It’s an Opportunity. It’s written to be read by both you and your partner (with a section for each of you) and tips on how to communicate better and build a team to tackle the situation together.
Been ‘happily’ married 16+ years, two younger kids (8yo & 12yo) and two older kids (both 19yo, 1 each from our ex-s). My wife had seemed to be drinking more over the last year. She also felt distant and not as vested into the family. Finally, she had a moment where she just flipped and my life has been a living hell since. She has displayed every single sign of someone going through MLC (midlife crisis). She’s now in the depression phase and starting week two of group therapy. She’s still distant and cold with me. She seems to have small interest with certain things, but the kids and I are not one of them. I am torn to shreds and so messed up inside. I try to be understanding but it is so difficult. I am fighting two battles in my head/heart all the time. One battle is ‘forgiveness’… I am deeply wounded by her cheating. It is constantly on my mind and I don’t know how to get over it. Second battle is ‘her MCL’… I try to be supportive and understanding. Try to help heal her, but it is so painful to be constantly pushed away. Since 9/1, I can’t sleep (avg 2-3 hrs night), don’t eat, only smoke cigarettes and drink coffee or water. I have anxiety attacks multiple times through out the day. I have cried every single day and the pain only feels like it worsens. I don’t know how much more I can handle. I don’t know if I should stay or if I should leave her. I miss my ‘old’ wife (who probably never existed) beyond any words could ever describe. I was never been bad to her, never gave her a reason to doubt me. Her mom loves me and is constantly telling her how lucky she is to have a genuinely ‘good man’ like me. This all happened because we never fight, there wasn’t ever a reason to. She was always on board with everything. Despite my repeated inquiries she always said “it’s fine” or “i’m ok”. She never objected to anything. Now I learn she was depressed all these years!?! I feel so betrayed, so hurt… She never opened up to me, would hardly ever tell me how she felt. She did lie often and I feel that my love is blinding me. Maybe she is a bad person, compulsive liar, manipulative and incapable of really loving anyone because she does not love herself. Idk what to think, I have no one to talk to about this. I have no outlets, no friends. I’m 43yo and feel alone in the world because I put my wife above all. She was my Alpha and my Omega. I am so hurt… At times, most the time, I am living from one breath to the next. Trying to be strong for my kids, but they see through me and the pain I am in… God help me…
Andrew G. Marshall says
Sorry to hear about all your pain. It sounds like a living nightmare. However, it is not your job to heal her (and trying to do so leads to her pushing you away – because she will see it as being manipulative). Of course, you can be generally supportive but the best way to do that is to focus on getting yourself stronger, eating better etc. Otherwise, you are just adding guilt at hurting you to her multitude of problems. I would definitely consider getting counselling to recover from the infidelity and to cope with your overwhelming pain. Next, I’d like to tell you that it was not your job to make her open up and talk about her problems either – so don’t beat yourself up that either. The reason that she did not speak up earlier was probably something to do with her childhood. Either there was no conflict (because everything was hidden) or huge dramas (and she decided it was too risky to speak up). You can discover the problems of never arguing and how they hold the seeds of ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ from the book of the same name and look at my book ‘It’s not a midlife crisis, it’s an opportunity’ where I discuss about how to be supportive to someone who is depressed. So summing up, focus on yourself. Find outlets, friends and someone to talk to. These are all things under your control. Sorting out your wife’s head is her job.
I was married for 5years we was together for 14 years before that. My wife just told me out of the blue that she didn’t love me anymore but wasn’t in any rush to get a divorce but that didn’t mean we was getting back together either and asked me to move out of our rented home to give her space to think about things which i adventually did. To later find out she was seeing someone else behind my back which she denied even tho i had proof of the affair. This was 3 months after i had moved out and trying to win my wife back then after finding out about the affair i asked her for a divorce after which she broke all contact with me and we haven’t had any contact over 4 years now and we are still married i have later found out she has moved abroad and sold everything out of our marrital home after agreeing we would split everything 50 /50 im just wondering if this is some sort of a mid life crisis
Andrew G. Marshall says
A midlife crisis is nearly always sparked by unresolved issues from our past – in particular our childhood. We think that if we can rise above the past by being successful, finding perfect love and gaining approval that everything will be fine… unfortunately at middle age a lot of our hopes get thrashed by experience. The corner office is not going to make us happy. Love is more complicated than the movies told us. I explain more in my book ‘It’s not a midlife crisis, it’s an opportunity’. In a nutshell, a midlife crisis is not something that just passes and you wake up one day and think ‘that was stupid’, I will go back to the old life again. You need to understand why life wasn’t working for you, you need to answer difficult questions like ‘how do I make my life more meaningful’ and do the hard work that you’re currently doing on yourself. Sadly most people would rather answer an easier set of questions like ‘do I fancy my coworker’ and that their only mistake was picking the wrong person to ‘save’ them from their own crisis. However rather than thinking about your wife, I wonder why you’re not focusing on what you need to move on from this marriage…. Have a look at my book ‘Heal ad Move On’
elder romero says
Hello Andrew my wife told me she don’t love me any more after 23 years of marriage. she started changing little by little one day in the month of January she came to my room and give my a big hug. She start crying and told me you really trying to wen me back don’t you. I responded back yes baby dear I love you very much I will do anything to wen you back. She responded back too me it will not be easy. Then she was very cold the following weeks, in February 14 she came too my bed at night and wee have sex. But she back up again and went cold for a few more weeks and April 9 my birthday she by me a cake, stake and she let me have sex again. That was the last time little by little she make this big wall around now she told me I don’t love you any more she wanted me to live the house . we have 3 kids 17,18 and 9 my oldest daughter told her mom that she is very selfish. My wife was 100 for cent in the religion but now she say she hate religion she is very angry with God because she say for years pray for me too change and now that I have change she docent love me any more. So she du not read the Bible wen she used to read the bible every day since we got married. She was a completely a different person I miss my wife very much this is not my wife. She keeps loving my kids the same the problem is me. The only guilty one is my EVERYTHING IS MY FAULT Please help me I don’t know what to do?? she ask me to live the house if I want another opportunity but I tick she just wanted me out the home for her freedom. She do not want any men in her live and I do believe that she is having remorse of conscience because she is berry ultra conservative..
Andrew G. Marshall says
Everything is not your fault. I have spent almost thirty five years as a couples therapist and I’ve counselled thousands of couples and I have NEVER met someone who was wholly to blame for the breakdown of their marriage. Having said that, the only person you can change is YOURSELF, so think about what you would like to do differently. Read my book My wife doesn’t love me anymore – because it will explain the steps you need to take. If you think your wife is having a midlife crisis. Get my book ‘it’s not a midlife crisis, it’s an opportunity’.
David Calow says
Andrew, how does this all work if your wife has said things like, I love but I’m not in love with you, she wants a divorce, all my efforts are too little too late, she’s empties the house of my belongings, she spending a lot of time with a female friend, my children mainly stay with their mother but do have time with me, just in process of doing a no contact strategy for a couple of months in terms of no relationship contact, of course we need to cominitcate re the children, no idea whether it’s a mid life crisis but in a way I hope it is, would explain a lot, she also said things like we should never have got married etc, hope for some help please
Andrew G. Marshall says
Read my book ‘It’s not a midlife crisis, it’s an opportunity’ so you understand what is truly going on (and it is deeper than most people imagine). Of course she is not going to encourage you and say it is ‘too little too late’ because she is frightened that after a couple of weeks everything will slide back into the old ways – which are clearly not working for her. If you are serious about saving your relationship throw in ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’. She might have given up but that doesn’t mean that you have to!
I’ve been married for 10 years. I had previously gotten to the point where I thought my marriage was solid, and I came to the conclusion that “real love” was what I had from my wife: she knew all of my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and failures, and accepted me and loved me for exactly who I was…whatever life put before us, we had each other and we could get through it together. That all came crashing down a few weeks ago…
Our oldest (my stepson) graduated high school (we still have younger children as well). She told me after the graduation how much she appreciated the father I was, and that she knew she had taken me for granted regarding all that I do for our kids. That was great to hear and I thought things were better than ever. A couple weeks later, she tells me she is not happy in life and some of that is because of decisions she has made (while she did not speak the words, I feel like I am one of those decisions), and she feels trapped. She didn’t say “divorce”, but expressed that she was considering it without saying the word. After a couple days of shock, we talked and she expressed some frustrations about me (some which seemed reasonable and some that didn’t), which I acknowledged, and agreed to address these issues. Since that point, she has been strongly opposed to sex or affection, seems like a completely different person who is not the least concerned with my needs or well-being, and seems to actively try to limit any positive effect I can have on her life (If I try to do things she likes or make time for dates, activities together, etc. she always has a reason she can’t or doesn’t want to).
I’ve read a lot about midlife crisis, the 6 stages, etc. and I can’t express the amount of fear and unrest it gives me. Something I read said I should take care of myself, and somewhat detach from her, getting my own friends, dressing well, finding my own happiness, etc. It also said I should not engage in any form of affection unless she initiates it. This is incredibly hard for me to do, but I tried it and she actually responded positively by asking why I didn’t kiss her on my way out (despite turning her cheek to me each time I tried over the last few weeks). It makes sense to me that she has a desire for what she can’t have, and by me constantly offering affection, she won’t want it. However, I feel if I completely stop, she will eventually internalize this as another reason why she’s unhappy, or possibly use it as motivation/justification to find physical affection from another man. How do I start trying to create my own happiness outside of her and limit my affection that she is not responding to (and frankly doesn’t deserve based on her current actions, although this is hard for me to accept), without her seeing it as another reason I can’t fulfill her needs?
I’ve always been sensitive, loving, supportive, tell my wife she looks great, etc., so I know doing more of this won’t change anything. It seems like a huge risk to me to withdraw from the things that she once loved an appreciate though.
Andrew G. Marshall says
I am sorry to hear about the problems in your marriage. It sounds painful and you sound alone. I wonder if you are charging off trying to fix everything before you have worked out (or possibly she has worked out what the real problems are). She told you she is not ‘happy’ because of some of the ‘decisions’ she has made. I would like you to do a lot more exploring (what are these decisions) and understanding (how much are they about you, her childhood, her first marriage, work etc) before we move onto action (withdrawing affection). We simply do not know what is going on. So I would ask her to revisit the conversation and ask ‘what are you unhappy about’ and LISTEN. Don’t make a assumptions (I am one of the regrets). Don’t try and fix it and come up with solutions (women find this infuriating – like you are not really listening). Instead ask open questions – they start with, who, what why, when, how. So for example: when did you start to be unhappy? How unhappy? What would you like to do differently?. When tempted to interrupt – or tell her that it’s not like this (from your point of view) – bite the inside of your mouth. So you listen some more… and then tell her ‘Tell me more’. You will hear lots of things that panic or worry you but sweeping things under the carpet has not worked so far. So it will not be easy – there will no magic fix (like withdrawing affection) but more exploring and understanding. Slowly, you will understand what is the matter. She will think you are an ally and prepared to listen (rather than one of her problems). A way forward will emerge. In the meantime, I suggest you learn about yourself (look at my book ‘Wake Up and Change Your Life’) Read my book ‘It’s not a midlife crisis, it’s an opportunity’ so you can gain an insight into what might be happening inside your wife’s head and that the MLC is not necessarily a disaster if you listen to the issues that are driving it.