Marriage in a Rut
Dear Dr. Diana
My wife and I used to be sweet to each other. Now we don’t
treat each other as well as we treat our friends and even strangers. I’ve talked to my wife about this and she
says it’s my fault that I don’t listen to her and that she’s irritated with me
most of the time. Needless to say, that
didn’t feel very good and I’m not eager to open the subject again. I know the old saying that familiarity
breeds contempt but I don’t think I’m so bad.
My wife left her first husband because she got “bored” and I’m worried
that she is drifting away. Admittedly,
the way it’s going is killing our love.
Do you have any suggestions for me? What can
I do on my end?
It’s not uncommon for a couple to find themselves stuck in a
negative pattern of relating after years of being together. With familiarity, sometimes people take each
other for granted and aren’t as patient with each other as they once were. Because your lives are closely intertwined,
you occasionally step on each other’s toes, sometimes without even knowing
it. All couples feel hurt, frustrated or
disappointed with their partners at time, but unless you understand what went
wrong between you, it’s impossible to know how to make it better.
I can understand how hurtful it must be for your wife to
tell you that she finds you irritating.
After the sting subsides, have you thought about why she might be
feeling this way? Has she told you things that bother her and yet you continue
to do them? Has she tried to tell you
her needs or feelings and you don’t really hear her? If so, it would be natural for her to either
turn up the volume by being angry or withdraw and numb out to protect herself
from hurt and disappointment. It would make sense that you might withdraw too. When people go numb, ‘life’ as they know it
can get boring.
Much of the time, people don’t know how to ask for what they
need very directly so it’s easy to miss it.
Both people have to be aware enough of what they are feeling in order to
express it. And then speaking your needs
without blaming can help the other person to hear without getting defensive. Effective
communication between loved ones also requires emotional presence from both
people. In our hectic day –to- day lives, we can miss
our partner reaching for us because we are distracted by something or other. They can try to tell us and if we blink or
cough, we can miss their tentative attempt to express their heart. It can be scary to be vulnerable and speak
about our needs and deepest feelings with the person who matters to us the
In the meantime, what
did you do in the beginning of your relationship with your wife to show her
your love? How did you treat her sweetly
in the beginning? You might invite your
wife out on a date to a place that you know she really likes. With the soft lighting and romantic ambiance,
you could tell her that you really want to get it right with her. What she like in the relationship that she is
not getting from you? Does she feel like
she is precious to you? If not, maybe
she can tell you what would help things be better between you. If she is hostile in her style, you can tell
her it hurts you when she speaks to you that way and makes you feel hopeless
and like pulling away, but you don’t want to.
Hang in there. Step up to the plate and work on it. Give it all you have. Then if it doesn’t work out, you will know
that you did everything you could. But
hopefully, it hasn’t gone that far. The
number one cause of divorce is emotional disengagement. When both parties withdraw and go numb toward
each other…the connecting fibers in your marriage start to fray.
Try some bibliotherapy: by reading the following books:
“Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Life”
by Sue Johnson Ph.D.
“What Makes Marriage Work” by John Gottman, Ph.D.
If progress isn’t made, consult with an Emotionally Focused
Couples Therapist (the only approach to marriage counseling that is based on
empirical research where 75% of couples experience a reduction in marital distress
and increased satisfaction within 8-20 visits. You can find a list of local
therapists at: www.iceeft.com/ or www.sdpsych.org/
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