Ask Andrew – My wife doesn’t love me anymore
Andrew, My wife of 11 years has told me that she doesn’t love me any more and she feels empty inside. I came across a story about you in one of our leading newspapers on the weekend and subsequently followed onto your website. I have been married for 11 years and we have 3 children aged 8, 6, and 4. My wife and I are committed, trusting individuals and both nurturing and family oriented. When my wife fell pregnant, she said that she wanted to be at home until the children started at school. After our first child, she experienced PND and we worked through that as best we could (without medical advice or assistance). After falling pregnant with our third child, I began to notice that she was less affectionate with me and I would always initiate sex. Even to stop for a quick hug or loving peck was a bit of a chore for her as she would quickly push away after a quick hug to ‘get the washing’ or to ‘hurry’ as she had heaps to do before needing to pick up the kids from daycare etc etc. I approached her about this and told her that I felt it important for us to take time out throughout the day (even for a brief 30 seconds) for am affectionate hug or peck. I told her that her lack of affection towards me was pushing me away and I didn’t want this for us. I look back now and realise that this could not have been helpful at all.
When our youngest turned 2 she decided to return to the workforce as she felt stale being at home for 7 years so she returned to work 3 days a week, and this is when I begun to see some changes in her (mostly wonderful changes). She became more confidant again, assertive and had a bit of a hop in her step again, but at the same time was becoming more edgy with me and would opt out of a disagreement/debate (we dont really fight) because she says that i would always justify myself rather than hear her view. In reflection, I can see that what I was doing was trying to have her see the incident from my point of view so that she could understand why the incident came about or why I reacted the way I did, but what I was actually missing was the opportunity to see that it was how the incident would make her feel rather than why it came about. I missed that opportunity to see her side.
Eventually, she begun to make her own circle of friends in her industry and they would have end of month drinks. on one particular evening, i was nearby and called her to say that i would drop by and have a quick drink with her to which she told me NO and that she did not want me to come. the following day i brought this up and she told me that she did not want me to be a part of her circle of friends and that they were her friends from work and she wanted to keep it that way. She felt that her work friends knew and appreciated her for all of her qualities and abilities and knew her as ‘Belinda’ and not as ‘John’s wife’ or a mother of 3 children. I realised that she was developing her own identity and she was holding onto it for dear life. for the next 12 months our relationship continued to be plodding along without fighting or despair but i did notice that more things would get under her skin, until in July last year i confronted her and she finally told me that she was considering separation. After some massive changes on my part (helping around the house more, being home more often and trying to be as supportive and understanding as possible, she finally broke down and wanted space in October last year. I have to point out the my work requires me to meet with clients after hours and from Monday to Thursday i would get home late at around 9pm and sometimes a little later. I would always leave the home in the morning late to make up for it and take the kids to school or drop her off at the station on her way to work. I realised that all of these years i had owned her evenings and she had felt trapped, so the changes i implemented was changing my work to only Monday and Tuesday evenings and Wed and Thurs were hers to do as she felt she wanted (gym, yoga, friends etc etc). In October we separated for one month to give her space and settle her ‘Spinning Out of Control’, but no-one knew, not even the kids. we each spent a few nights out of the home and alternated so as to keep the children protected. This seemed to work as after one month she came back and said that she wanted us to move forward together. she felt that she did still love me but it was buried deep deep down.
During the month apart i did not talk to her about our issues and everytime we spoke or crossed paths i would act normal and as though i was keeping well. I feel that this made her recovery easier as well. In November we moved back in but she was still distant and having numerous ‘Bad days’ before she finally conceded and went to her Doctor and was diagnosed with Depression just before Christmas. She started to take antidepressants and we went on holidays over Christmas. She started to feel better but was weary of calling the Psychologist which he had referred her to as she felt that counselling was Draining and only brought up the past which was something she did not want to keep on going over and over (we actually started to see a counsellor in August together and she saw someone else on her own as well which made her realise that she had lost her identity over the years and then she started to become angry and resentful towards me but we stopped after 3 sessions and didnt return as she felt that our counsellor was on my side – then we separated in Oct). Eventually in Feb we took another holiday for one week and it was during this trip that she told me I Love You for the first time since September, but we still had no connection during sex and had only had sex 3 times since September.
Just after our return from our trip, i begun to notice her fall back into her depressed state and looking lost again, so i tried helping out even moreso but eventually in March i felt helpless and worse still, i felt that i was only around to accommodate her and the children rather than being a part of a partnership. i told her that i wasn’t happy at the moment and she jumped straight in and admitted that she wasn’t either and that she felt empty and didn’t love me anymore. She said that it was over. We agreed that we would separate on the condition that she seek help for herself and she has opted for a Life Coach rather than a Psychologist. It has been 2 weeks that i have been out of the house and we have told the children. I am living very close by and i still pick them up from school a couple of times a week and with them on the Wed and Thur nights whilst she goes to Gym, Yogo or does the shopping. Routine as normal but i am not at home and she is feeling a lot better and more relaxed. She has said that she does not want me to wait around for her to sort herself out because she is fearful that after 6 or 12 months, if she gets herself out of the ‘CRAP’ that she feels, she may still feel nothing for me and would not want me to hate her for this as i would have been ‘waiting’. she says that she is taking one day at a time and her only focus right now is to take one day at a time and to get off the antidepressants. She is learning to laugh again, and is adamant that she has NO interest in any relationships with anyone and she is trying to find herself again. I feel that i am doing the right thing by not bombarding her or staying in the house and forcing us to FIX things, because we just dont know what there is to fix, but after researching and reading i have come to the conclusion that over the last few years she has felt little support from me in the raising of the children as i have been working like a mad man, and she has felt less like communicating with me because i would only Justify myself. Regardless of the massive changes that i have made (she now says that i am the perfect husband but cant understand why she is feeling the way she does especially since she hears other women complaining about their husbands all the time), i believe that the loss of real communication and understanding of one another has caused this wedge and i dearly want to bring us back together. I am also aware that she had an emotional relationship with someone mid last year and this caused much confusion for her, but that is well gone and she realised that it was a result of everything else we were going through. I want to entice her to understand what our issue has been (communication) but am conscious that i dont want to press the issue in fear of pushing her away. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to have my wife back and to have her return to the person she is deep down, passionate, loving and affectionate. I understand that these have been the most difficult years with the 3 children but now with the youngest about to embark on school, the stresses are waning. PND with our first didnt help and a few little issues along the way have all contributed to distance and now this, but she has really closed herself off to me and i know deep down that she loves me, but does not feel love for me anymore. She has a brick wall as a defence and seems timid to let in down. each time i see it come down a little, something may happen and she slides it back up again. What do you suggest i do? I am eager to try anything, including coming to the UK to see you. Thank you,.
The good news is that this sounds like a classic case of ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ – no arguing, keeping things nice on the surface, but hurting underneath. To start off, you are shutting down all your negative feelings but slowly but surely, they all get switched off. If you haven’t bought it yet, please read ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’. I would also get ‘Help your partner say yes’ as it explains how to get better cooperation and has a chapter on the problems of coming back from the brink.
Next, I want to congratulate you on the changes that you’ve already made and to suggest keeping the following in mind
1. When you’re hurt, it is very easy to get angry and lash out. It’s perfectly understandable but reinforces the idea that there is a fundamental problem with the relationship and it can’t be fixed. So try and keep calm, take a deep breath and respond in the most generous way possible.
2. When you’re first in love, you interpret your partner’s behaviour in the best possible light. So if your beloved doesn’t phone, it’s because they’re busy. (This sets up a positive circle.) When you’re separated it is easy to interpret everything in the worst possible light. They don’t phone because they’re seeing someone else. (This sets up a negative circle). Baring this in mind, when your wife does something that appears nasty – stop and think what other reasons she might have behaved in this way. (And maybe ask her why? Rather than jumping to the wrong conclusion). Remember she will also be putting the worse possible spin on your behaviour, so put your motivations on the table. ‘I have a business meeting on Wednesday, I’ve tried to change it, but I can’t so I won’t be able to…..)
3. Don’t pressure or push for reassurance (that it will be OK). This puts you into enemy camp. Your goal is to be your wife’s ally not her enemy for filling up the hole inside her. Although it feels very personal, not all of her upset is to do with you!
Finally, you will need support yourself during this period (and it is probably going to take months rather than weeks). So consider reading, ‘Learn to love yourself enough’. These problems can be FIXED but it will take a lot of patience, under-standing and occasionally biting your tongue. But you know what, reading your letter, I think you can do it.