Stuck in a LOVELESS Relationship
I’m stuck in a marriage where it has gone stale, no sex, no communication, where I feel like I’m part of the furniture, totally taken for granted. The other day I was at the gym and whilst I was on the treadmill (no pun intended, but that kind of sums up the way I feel about my life right now) I saw a guy working with weights.
He caught my eye and he smiled at me.
After I showered and changed I stopped for a coffee and he was there with a mate. He noticed me, kept looking over at me and smiling. It made me feel so good. I got to wondering – ‘Am I in the wrong relationship? My husband never looks at me that way any more. I might just as well be invisible.’
“Do you think I should leave?”
This is a story I hear many times, with a few variations – but the backstory is still the same.
I wanted to learn more about Linda and her relationship. She told me she and Andy had met each other at university and married three years later. After leaving Uni they were both focussed on getting their careers off the ground. Then, unexpectedly, Linda became pregnant. They had planned on a family but not right now. It was decided Linda would give up her career to be a full-time mum for the time being. A couple of years later a little brother joined Maisy.
Linda finally resumed her career a year ago when the children started nursery, but it fell to her to organise the childcare as well as juggling her career. Meanwhile, Andy’s career has really taken off. He is recognised as the hard-working guy that he is and gets promoted to a very senior position, which means longer working hours and some travelling away.
Can you see why they have drifted apart?
Linda feels firmly stuck on that treadmill. Work – children – running the house. Her life seems boring and monotonous, no wonder she is disgruntled. Just as you or I would feel wearing the same outfit day in, day out!
I wanted to know when it all started to go wrong. Linda felt it was when she became pregnant. Up to that point, even though they were both working hard, they made time for each other, and had – fun! Something that she admitted was sadly missing.
Linda felt she had been pushed into putting her career on hold, and she still felt very resentful. She told me she had tried talking to Andy about it, but she didn’t feel he wanted to listen, so what was the point? Things had continued in the same way ever since. She was fed up with the arguments and stonewalling when she tried to bring up the subject. She didn’t have the energy any more, which is not surprising when she was juggling her career, being the main carer for their children, as well as the cooking and cleaning (most mums will identify with this, I’m sure). Meanwhile, when Andy was home, he would be working all evening or down the pub with his mates or playing golf at weekends, although Linda said they did spend some family time together at weekends.
I stopped her there and asked her what she wanted
Did she love Andy? Was she in love with him? Or were things so bad that she wanted out?
She thought for a moment … and then with tears in her eyes, she said she wanted back the man she had met and fallen in love with. She wanted him to change. She said she didn’t want to leave her marriage, because basically, Andy was a good man, and she still loved him, just that she didn’t like him very much right now.
Linda wanted him to notice her, and pay attention to her, make her feel attractive once again. She wanted the perfect man and partner, meeting all her needs, which is a rather idealistic viewpoint, as none of us alone can meet all the other’s needs.
Decades ago, a man wanted a wife who took care of him and she wanted someone to provide for her.
But things have changed so much. We now want a lover, best friend, confident, provider, handyman, parent, financial adviser, playmate, someone who loves, cares and supports us and makes us feel like we are the most important person in their life ………… and that’s a tall order, to be able to provide that in the way we want and expect it.
The relationship had become neglected
Both Linda and Andy had neglected their relationship. Each of them had had their focus elsewhere. Andy needed to concentrate on building his career, as he now had a wife and baby who depended on him to provide a home and feel financially secure. Linda’s time was taken up with the baby – and let’s face it, they are extremely demanding. So, neither of them had the energy to find time for each other. Then weeks turn into months and years. Habits are formed, communication – even if it existed at that time – completely broke down.
It became clear that they had never sat down and really talked honestly to each other. There had been the usual hints and digs that hadn’t made the slightest difference for any length of time. All that had happened were recurring arguments, defensive behaviours on both sides, intermingled with threats of leaving and door slamming.
Communication had spiralled down into one of blame, counter-blame and humiliation. Neither expressed their needs or asked for what they wanted more of – or less of.
My sense was they were scared of talking to each other, because of what happened when they had those arguments. They were fearful of hurting each other, and fearful of more painful criticism levelled at them.
So, neither rocked the boat. Linda had convinced herself that it wasn’t that bad. They had some good times as a family … but deep down she really missed the love and affection she really craved.
We can’t expect the other person to do all the work in changing
Until that discussion is held, neither Linda nor Andy can move forward, or make a decision as to what to do next. Not the mudslinging or heated arguments, but a real grown-up honest discussion. Which can be really uncomfortable, but if done with kindness and compassion can be really helpful.
Waiting for the other to make the first move isn’t going to happen, and you just can’t pile all the blame on the other person. You need to take your part in what has happened – even if that is doing nothing!
One of the following may happen
•They both refuse to have that conversation and continue in the same way
•Neither is prepared to make the first move, take responsibility for their part, or work at making the changes each needs to make
•Andy declares he no longer loves Linda
•Andy may think there is nothing wrong with their relationship
•Andy may be feeling just as unhappy as Linda, but waiting for her to make the first move
•They talk it through and negotiate what each of them can do to repair the relationship
•Linda has an affair
What would you do in those circumstances?