A Reader Writes…
My wife and I have been together over 13 years and have just ‘celebrated’ our 9th wedding anniversary. My wife opened up a business in 2005, our 1st child was born in 2006 & second in 2009. She is strong willed with a wonderful, outgoing, positive, personality and these traits are really needed to run a successful business like hers.
Her business struggled for the first few years, I admit that back then I had hot/cold relationship with it her business as I knew that it made her so happy yet it was taking up so much of her time for very little pay and at the same time dealing with a very young child and a husband who wasn’t coping too well at becoming a father and finding himself down the pecking order after the children and business.
On the surface our relationship was still good, and it still is, we love each other and love spending time with each other. We moved to a bigger place before child 2 came along and once there really struggled financially. My wife’s business still wasn’t paying her much and we ran up quite a bit of debt. It was at this point we first we should have had some hard talks about us and how to work better together but we weren’t working as a team but working separately albeit for a common goal.
About two years ago my wife really started pushing me away, didn’t want to cuddle or kiss me. At this point whenever I asked her what the problem was all she could say was that she didn’t know and that she felt very sad inside but didn’t know why. After a day spent with some friends, one of them suggested that my wife maybe suffering from some kind of depression. I talked my wife into going to see a therapist, which she did for 8 or 9 sessions. After one of the sessions she said that the therapist asked if it might be helpful if I went for a session or we had a session as couple. My reaction was, something which I now, amongst many things wholeheartedly regret, to say that my feelings hadn’t changed so I didn’t need to go.
During this time we decided that I should spend the weekday nights staying in the town where i worked as my wife felt as if she needed space from me and she said that it might help as she would hopefully miss me and want me back. It was at this time that we realised that the intimacy had really disappeared from our relationship.
Things improved after her therapy finished, in that she made some effort to cuddle and be intimate with me but I look back now and I realise that she was always distant from me and that she really needed to ‘get in the zone’ before she could be intimate with me. During this time she was telling me that a problem she had was that she felt like I was a brother or friend and the spark had gone. I was still burying my head in the sand thinking that it maybe still be due to the manic pace that her life is run at, juggling the children and her business and that things would improve given more time.
At the beginning of December last year we had another chat and decided that things still weren’t good between us and that I should try staying in London during the week again, and that we would get through Christmas and then think about going to Relate for help.
At the end of this January I found emails between her and a guy who she met at a wedding last summer and found that she had been corresponding with him since the wedding. She said that it was just a friendship and was safe as he was on the other side of the world but the more I found, the worse it got. He had sent a couple photos of himself naked to her, her saying in a roundabout way that she loved him and them having a 40 minute skype session while I was away in London. My reaction was that of an angry parent and we sat down that evening and she emailed him to say that the relationship had been discovered and that it was over.
The next day we booked & started Relate, we have now had 8 sessions. The sessions have been hard and we have for the first time in our relationship been arguing; the last few weeks have been pretty brutal for both of us and we are not sure if further Relate sessions can help us move forward. In the last session she admitted that she no longer wants to be married to me.
I have also found and bought two of your books ILYB and ‘My Wife doesn’t love me anymore’..’. I had to get her to read the Introduction to your ILYB book on Amazon before seeing the title for her to admit what the real problem was. The books have been both good and bad. My wife has always disliked self help books and I have never read any before. The ‘My Wife’..book has helped me deal with the situation we are in and is help react more positively to situations that have turned up. The ILYB book seems to help my wife reinforce her feeling that that she can’t change the way she feels about me; and that her head is saying she should try but her heart is saying that she has already tried on her own for 4 years to change the way she feels but it hasn’t worked. She is understandably sceptical that anything can help her or us in our situation.
It is obvious that my wife’s feelings for me have moved from Loving Attachment to Affectionate Regard but one of the big issues we have is that she says that it now feels wrong to touch me other than a friendly hug. I think that this is as I now been labelled as ‘brother’ but we just don’t know what we can do about it.
I have now started therapy sessions with a psychologist to help me deal with the stress and anxiety of the situation we are in. My wife is willing to keep trying but is doubtful that any therapist can help change the way she feels. We just don’t know what to do or how to go forward. Can you please give me some advice as I dearly love my wife and want her to be happy again but hopefully with me and not alone.
Your wife is right. No therapist can change the way she feels or would want to – more help her look at and examine her feelings rather than fight or wall them off. However, when it comes to making decisions, we need to have not just the heart but the head as well. Our feelings are clues on how to behave, not the only way of resolving something. In a way, I think the two of you are split into two different camps. You’re using your head which I call the “reasonable mind”, she’s using her heart which I call the “emotional mind”. To make a good decision, you need a “wise mind” – which is a combination of both.
When your wife does listen to herself, she knows she’s unhappy but she’s been trying to force herself to change for four years. What I’d like her to do is understand why she’s unhappy. When you were at Relate and you were arguing so much, I think this will provide a lot of clues for what needs to change. If you read I Love You But I’m Not in Love With You you’ll discover that people fall out of love because they don’t argue enough. They try to keep everything nice and they swallow their feelings. Slowly, but surely, they switch off all of their feelings.
So what else could be causing this unhappiness? I’ve got two thoughts. The first is that your wife is strong-willed and outgoing and reading your letter you come across as sensitive and caring. This is a wonderful combination for a relationship but if you are not careful you can pull in two different directions. In a crisis, she will become more strong willed and you will become more caring rather than meeting in the middle. I explain more about this in Learn to Love Yourself Enough and in particular, about being balanced towards the anima and the animus. In a sense, we’re back to the reasonable mind (anima leaning) and the emotional mind (animus leaning). I know this is coming to across as complex but read the book and it will become clearer.
The other thought is if you’re becoming like brother and sister, that the sex will be a problem. Certainly when somebody is very caring, like yourself, in bed it can come across as “what would you like?” which is incredibly considerate, but not taking charge can feel very annoying for some women. In my counselling room, women often complain: “Do I have to take the lead in everything?” There’s more in Make Love Like a Prairie Vole where I explain how to get a balanced approach in the bedroom as well.
So summing up, if you like each other, you enjoy each other’s company and you’ve got two children I think there’s hope, but it’s going to need a lot of work and looking at yourself as much as looking at your wife. So I’m pleased you are going to see a psychologist to get support on your journey.
All the best.