How to cope with my wife who's "fallen out of love" with me?
August 13, 2011 5:41 PM Subscribe
My wife and I married over 27 years ago when she and I were 25; we’d known each other for three years. Our marriage has had its ups and downs--in many cases, the "downs" were provided by her unwillingness/inability to communicate honestly and openly and by my anger at same as well as my on-and-off depression. That said, we always had fun and shared love. In particular, I always stuck in there during arguments in order to try to get her and us to a point of honest communication.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Late last year, my wife started therapy to deal with these communication issues. Initially, this went very well, and she was more open to talking, unprompted, about her feelings, thoughts, etc. After the initial burst of talking subsided, she still reported she was benefiting from therapy.
At her request, I started therapy to deal with my depression. I also responded to her request that I be kinder in my speech to her, irrespective of my mood. In particular, she focused on carving out more space to find herself and her identity in our marriage (we have no children). I've accommodated all of her requests and have tried to be a better, kinder person in our dealings because I do love her very much.
Over the last three to four months, however, I've felt her distancing herself. The kindness and warmth that characterized her speech and behavior towards me have been replaced with polite neutrality. Our physical contact is minimal. She has become very self-centered in her outlook and behavior where previously we always consulted with each other and took each other's feelings and preferences into consideration.
Over the last few weeks, she has started opening up in her communication again, but everything she has to say is negative: She’s dissatisfied. She feels constrained by our marriage. She feels our approaches to life are too different. She can’t commit to working on our marriage because she’s unsure it works. She doesn’t love me romantically any more, only as a friend. She’s tired of having to plan things around the two of us.
This is all bad enough, but she deals almost entirely in vaguenesses. She can’t describe the source of her dissatisfaction or any meaningful way she feels constrained. Further, it’s almost as if saying these things out loud has made them true for her, so she has become even more distant towards me. I feel as if she’s hypnotized herself with these ideas. The change from even last month to now is shocking. It’s almost as if she’s decided on an outcome—me out of her life—and she’s just trying either to make me so unhappy that I leave or to justify her desire to leave with vague complaints that don’t correspond to her situation.
Despite the wrenching, heartbreaking nature of these words (be they "true" or not), I’ve been surprisingly calm and collected and have talked to her for hours to work through the ideas she’s presented. I don’t know if the fact of having said all this out loud will release whatever pressure has built up in her, but everything she says and does is so completely out of character for her that I’m concerned that something other than bottled-up resentment is the cause for this dramatic change. (I don’t think there’s another man in the picture.) Yesterday, she raised the idea of her being alone "for one or two weeks" to have time to think (something that isn't really practicable given our situation).
Does anyone have any experience with, or thoughts about, this type of situation? Is she just giving voice to 27 years of suppressed feeling? Can someone who says these sorts of things still be able to rebuild a marriage on a new foundation of openness? Has my eagerness to commit to her, to make concessions and to accommodate her devalued me in her eyes? (I know some of these are impossible for readers to answer, but I pose them to reveal my thinking.) Despite the fact that we’re not “perfect” for each other, we’ve had a good marriage up to now built on a lot of similarities and a lot of love, and it’s tearing me to shreds to hear her tell me these things. I just can't understand how someone could turn 180 degrees on a marriage so quickly.
I apologize for the length of this posting, but it’s barely enough to tell the story. We’re scheduled to see a couples therapist in two weeks, but, at this point, I’ll feel lucky to get there still together.
I can also be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.