I have been married for 13 years now, but I really feel as though I am living with my brother. I was away for four years, visiting yearly, in the early part of the marriage. We have two children and I love my husband, but I feel abandoned, neglected and frustrated. The truth is that I get no affection from him, as he is clueless about his role as a husband. He is OK in terms of providing for the children and the family, but with me there is no connection, no time spent together, no communication on important issues such as money, and sex is once or twice a month. I always tell him how I feel, but things remain the same. Anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions are like any other day – no gifts, nothing. Sometimes I try to console myself and wipe away the tears, but mostly I am in a state of total depression.
I am not sure if he just doesn't care or doesn't understand. I know he is committed to the family in that he will not walk out, but other than that I don't know. He doesn't face up to problems in the relationship. I've told him more than once that we need to see a counsellor, but he is silent on that matter. I want to be a good wife and mother to my children, but his indifference stifles my enthusiasm. I am giving and not getting back anything. Everyone thinks highly of him and considers him the perfect husband, but we are far from being the perfect couple. If it wasn't for my children, I feel I would have left this country long ago.
Please help. I am at my wits' end.
What you have described is an example of what Sternberg calls “empty love” – there is some measure of commitment to the relationship, but there is little or no intimacy and passion. In such a scenario, the relationship is merely existing, as one or both partners have fallen out of love and have no desire to rekindle the flames. So because they are married, have children, and possess shared assets, they live like siblings and are committed to the relationship in that sense.
Sadly, this is the scenario that exists in many relationships, and dare I say in many Christian marital relationships, where the emphasis is on presenting the “Loving Couple” show for onlookers. I am not suggesting that couples should wash their dirty linen in public, but instead of living a lie, you should try to attend to the issues on the home front so that your in-house actions can truly match up with your out-of-house show.
When a relationship has reached the stage where there is no regard by one or both partners for special calendar events like birthdays, anniversaries, etc, no communication, no family plan, no emotional or physical connection, you know that the union is in dire need of expert intervention.
What do you believe is the reason for your husband's lack of interest? Does it have to do with your absence in the early years of the marriage? What contribution may you have made consciously or unconsciously to the present situation? How do you treat him? Do you in any way belittle his manhood? Men don't respond very well when their egos are bruised. So, inasmuch as you blame your husband for his insensitive and uncaring ways, turn the searchlight on yourself to see if you bear some responsibility for the decline of the marital relationship.
If every attempt on your part to encourage the emotional connection between both of you is met with your husband's indifference, then you both sound like candidates for expert professional help. Although you have tried to discuss the situation with him, he appears unmoved by the emotional pain you are experiencing. He might very well have told you that you are the one with the problem and so you are the one to seek counselling.
It is sad when couples who once shared a loving, emotional connection allow the pressures of life to drive them apart from each other. But that's the route some relationships take. If you can no longer pull together as a strong team and be united emotionally, spiritually, and physically, then so be it. Maybe you should get a makeover –both inside and out. Involve yourself in a project that you enjoy, and stop worrying about your husband's uncaring attitude.
Live your life for yourself and your children. Stop moping around, and show them how independent women operate.
All the best!
Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org; check out his work overseas on www.seekingshalom.org, e-mail email@example.com.