Reader Discontented writes,
My husband and I have been married almost 20 years, and have 2 kids who will be heading off to college within the next 5 years. my husband is a great guy, fabulous lover, wonderful father, hardworking, cooks, cleans, the whole package. The problem? I think we're heading for divorce.
We rarely argue, but also rarely do anything together. The last few years have been very stressful for other reasons, and now that life is returning to normal I'm realizing that we have nothing in common. All conversations seem to revolve around the "to-do" list, kids, work, or world events. I can't remember the last time we laughed together or that he smiled at me.
Sex has dwindled (I've gained 20 lbs but I'm only a size 8, and he has a health condition) to once a month or so. The only other physical contact is a quick kiss before we go to bed or work. We've talked about getting out to do things together more often, but nothing has come of it. His health issues sometimes mean he's not up to going out, and I don't want to put pressure on him. I want him to want to do things with me, not to be another thing that he feels obligated to do. I'm lonely, even though I'm rarely alone.
I've read many of the articles on your site, and want to fix things, but I'm scared to try. Trying would shine the light on the fact that something's wrong. What if he's really not attracted to me anymore? What if our relationship can't be fixed? It's easier to coast along than to face rejection.
I want to make our relationship better, but I'm afraid that trying will hasten the end of our marriage (I can't afford a divorce right now). Do I wait to try until I can handle any repercussions (5 yrs)? I really don't want a divorce; I have no desire to find someone else, but I'm not sure I can live this way for 40+ years.
You sound like this common couple I often see in counseling, The Wife Who Wants More And Her Annoyingly Satisfied Husband. Many people in this situation and others also feel lonely in their marriages. Check out this story in the New York Times, too. You are not alone in feeling disconnected from your husband, but this doesn't provide you with much comfort right now, I'm sure.
I think that are coming to a point in your life where you're realizing that it's just going to be you and your husband pretty soon, without the pitter patter of little, or even teenage, feet. You want a deeper connection, and to be reassured that your husband isn't going to leave you. You also, understandably, want sex. Speaking of which, has your husband been checked for low testosterone? This is one potential reason for his lack of initiation, and also his medical condition and the meds he may use to treat it may also be the culprits.
I believe that your husband may well be happy with you, and might be shocked that you would be unhappy or anxious enough about the state of the marriage to seek help. Have you asked him how he feels? He may well believe that you two are now close enough not to have to talk as much. He may be embarrassed about his lower sex drive and therefore doesn't bring it up. He may think you talk plenty about the kids, current events, and so forth. You may feel this is small talk but he may feel it's satisfying and interesting.
Rather than telling him that you feel you're headed toward divorce or that the marriage as a whole isn't working, I think you can first try telling him how you feel, just the emotions that you feel when certain concrete things happen in the marriage. For instance, "I feel lonely when you we don't go to bed at the same time." Also, you can try initiating different types of conversations. Some of these date night questions could be great starters. Another time (don't do all this at once), you could have a sit down discussion about sex, and how his medical issues may contribute, and your desire for physical intimacy, even if it isn't intercourse. And if he isn't laughing or smiling, think about whether you are. It is hard to laugh alone.
I would be interested to know about the marriage you saw at home growing up. I think that you are scared of divorce for a reason, and it may be due to some abandonment, trust, or attachment issues on your part. You may want to see a therapist to discuss connections between your early life and your current feelings, and the marriage you saw and the one you currently have. You may have seen one parent disappointed with the other and assume that your husband is disappointed with you. Or you may be familiar with this dynamic, which is why you're disappointed in him.
A therapist may also be able to help you to determine what path you want your life to take overall after your kids are out of the house. Maybe you are worried you'll be adrift without them and this is time to reexamine your social, career, and other life arenas, and see what else could benefit from your focus and work, aside from the marriage. Mid-life (and for women, post-menopause especially) is a time when people look over their lives and can either become mired in hopeless and regret, or else make conscious efforts to live the second half of their lives in a new and different way, doing something that makes them excited.
Good luck and keep me posted! Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, And Try Something New With Your Husband. Novelty Releases Dopamine And That "In Love" Feeling.
This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.