independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

This Life: I don't think I love my wife anymore. My feelings have just changed. How do I speak to her about it?

There's no easy way to say this, but I think I have fallen out of love with my wife.

Nothing of significance has happened. I haven't fallen in love with anyone else, although I have been tempted to be unfaithful. Our children, whom I adore, are now almost adults and are at home less and less. It's their absence from the house that has made me realise how little we share as a couple anymore.

We don't seem to have anything in common and on the few occasions we have been out together on our own, conversation has dried up. To distract myself from this situation I have taken on more work projects and different physical activities. I thought maybe I was burnt out until we went on holidays together and discovered that it didn't improve things.

I don't know what happened. I have tentatively tried to approach the situation with my wife but she doesn't seem to understand or want to talk about this. Even if I talk about it I don't know what it is I want to say or do. I think she has changed or maybe I have. Perhaps it's better to say nothing. The thought of starting out all over again paralyses me but I don't want to live the rest of my life like this either. I am in my 50s.

Putting it out there, even in the form of an email, means you have already set events into motion. Many take years to acknowledge that a love has died, some would never dare to say so. To see the words in print must be shattering for you. It is surely one of the most heartbreaking things a spouse can hear. For that reason, I would ask you not to say them but to seek a way that the two of you can begin a conversation about the point you have reached in your lives.

So many will read your email and think -- this could be my life. Funny how we are surrounded by confessional tales in the media but behind closed doors couples are as reticent as ever to admit looming troubles.

Roddy Doyle's new collection of short stories, 'Bull Fighting', deals with various crises facing modern Irish males but one of the resounding features is the bewilderment and boredom faced by so many of his characters. I wondered if the stories were written from the female perspective, would the confusion have been the same. Roddy reckons it would.

Neglect

We live our lives worrying about the next pay cheque or future job and neglect our relationships. It's so much easier to take them for granted. If we don't ask the right questions, we don't have to deal with the consequences of an answer we don't want to hear.

You've probably had plenty of opportunities over the years to heed the alarm bells but decided to ignore them. If, as you put it, you don't want to live the rest of your life like this, it is time to take action.

To suggest you have nothing in common is wide off the mark. You have decades of life experience together that only the two of you share. You have children, whom despite their ages will always be that little bit dependent on both of you. Even if you walk away now, the common thread that links your lives will always draw you back in contact with each other.

What you have lost is the ability to communicate. Your email resounds with confusion. You think she has changed, perhaps you has changed. Perhaps neither of you have changed but the time you once gave to each other has been replaced by other things.

I'm not surprised your wife is reluctant to broach the subject. I suspect she understands all too well. Once the words are out there, there is no going back. You noticed the change when you went on holidays together. Maybe she noticed the change long before this but was afraid to acknowledge it.

Often when a partner or friend wants to tackle a serious issue, we think the very worst and do our best to avoid it.

The concept of starting all over again is terrifying for anyone, not least your wife. If she suspects that's on the cards, she may well postpone the conversation for as long as possible.

Investment

So far your method of dealing with relationship troubles has been to scarper off into work and hobbies. To what extent have you attempted to work on your marriage? In a short-term relationship, the option is always there to leave when love fades but long-term partnerships require investment.

It's odd to think that it needs work but anyone in a life-long partnership will tell you so. You could go but don't you deserve to give this the best shot you can?

Marriage counselling certainly works for some people, although not all. If your wife is reluctant to get into a conversation about this, then you may have to simply state your case. Do have a look and see what sort of counselling is available in your area.

Walking out now is terrifying but if there's no comeback for this relationship it may eventually be the right thing for both of you. It won't be easy. Your children for one will likely be devastated by the news and getting accustomed to a life of making appointments to see your own family will be painful.

The fact, however, that so many today are living fulfilling lives into their eighth and ninth decade is a reminder of the waste it would be to spend so many years in an emotional limbo.

There could be a whole new future out there for you and a world of possibilities to be explored. But first off you need to figure out if what you have is worth saving. The worst you can do is walk away and then spend the rest of your days wishing your old life back.

Tread very carefully and remember that anything you say and any decision you make can have life-changing consequences for those closest to you.

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