Offer unhappy wife more than good body, comfortable lifestyle
Q: My wife and I have been married 15 years. We are both in our mid-40s, with kids under 10. She is a stay-at-home mom, and I have a steady, above-average-paying job. She has received everything she's wanted for a comfortable lifestyle.
My wife told me recently that she has lost feelings for me and that it has been happening over the last several years. That would explain a lot of her behavior toward me. She doesn't speak to me much in pleasant ways, uses foul language much more and has become a drama queen. We rarely have sex (twice in the last year). I take care of myself, exercise regularly and have a good build.
We have sought counseling before, though her feelings toward me didn't come up. This all has taken the wind out of my sails, and I've become distant toward her. I've tried spicing things up, asked her what I can do to help get us back, cut my hours to do more with the family, and helped out more around the house, but these obviously haven't helped. The thought of going through a divorce sickens me, but I'm left wondering what else I can do.
At a loss for words
A: Listen to her?
If I'm reading your letter correctly, these are the things you have offered her for 15 years: the comforts your above-average income permitted; your well-cared-for physique; and, when you smelled trouble, spice, counseling and some housework.
Now, each of these has obvious value, and the counseling in particular says you were at least willing to approach the emotional side of your relationship. Yet: You had counseling and didn't discuss her feelings!?
From what you set out here, I have zero sense of that emotional side, and zero sense that you have a sense of that emotional side. (That tracks, I swear.) Instead, I just see a domestic business partnership: You pad her house; she raises your kids.
So, do you know how she feels — fortunate? Taken for granted? Energized? Drained? Do you know whether she's lonely, like many at-home parents? How does she derive fulfillment? Does she ever ask herself whether this is all there is?
Do you know how she sees herself now? In the future? Before she had kids? Before you?
What does she regret?
Whom does she lean on when she's sad? What makes her laugh? Feel understood?
Again, maybe I've read less into your letter than is actually there, but what's there feels as warm and personal as a granite countertop. Empathy, intimacy, inside jokes, forgiveness, bear hugs, where are these?
Since you don't want to shake hands and terminate the partnership, don't just come home early and ask her what you can do. Come home, apologize for not listening sooner and really start listening now. Find out who she has become. Consider counseling of your own to challenge your superficial thinking about marriage.
Or ask her the kind of questions I just asked of you, and get to know your wife. Ask them of yourself, too, so that you can offer her more of yourself than your taut body and fat wallet. She's poised to downgrade her lifestyle in hopes of finding … more. If you join her search, maybe you'll find it together.