Dear Beth

Marriage breakdown

Happiness is: gorgeous wild flowers adorn Ontario meadow

Saving a Marriage

Hi, ... we've been married 18 years and two weeks ago I asked my wife what's been bothering her lately and she said that she feels nothing for me any more. She says she still loves me and cares for me, but not like before. I asked her was there someone else and she said no. I asked her what caused this and she told me it was my yelling, even at the smallest thing that would go wrong. I asked her why she hadn't told me sooner, when I asked her months ago what was bothering her and she said she was afraid I would yell at her, I said wasn't it worth the chance to save our marriage and that I ended up not yelling anyway, but she said she didn't want to take that chance. I asked her for another chance and she said she wasn't sure she wanted me to have one. Well that was two weeks ago, I haven't yelled in over two weeks, I've cut my caffeine intake to nil (I think it was making me edgy, I didn't start drinking coffee till I was in my twenties) but, she still isn't sure how she feels or if she will feel anything, I even help out around the house more. I try to talk to her about it, but she gets bitter, even angry when we do, even though I stay calm, she won't talk about it, except that my yelling hurt her and that she doesn't know if she can get the feelings back. I don't know what to do anymore, I love her so much, could you please help!


Beth answers: Unfortunately many people are so afraid of losing their relationship if they speak up about a relationship problem that they won't assert themselves until they have got to a point where they have pretty much lost interest in their partner. I have seen many cases of this, and in some cases it really is too late. This is one reason why a marriage check-up after a few years is a good idea, especially if there seems to be less joy in the relationship than previously.

Do not panic. You have succeeded in opening up the subject, and you have been responsive to your wife's concern. There is a big backlog of resentment and probably of fear also, and the two of you have not been communicating on a deep level for a long time. So be patient. It will take time to rebuild the relationship based on openness. At the same time, your marriage is at a critical stage, and its rebuilding will require both of you to learn new interpersonal skills. I recommend that you not take a chance on trying to do it by yourselves. If you can work with a good marriage counsellor you will have the best possible chance of succeeding and of minimizing the time, pain and stress involved.