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    Includes Expert Content
    My One-Sided Marriage
    gskern posted:
    The short version of my struggle is that my wife of 20 years has, from pretty much the first Day, flatly refused to participate in building our relationship. And what I have learned in all these years is that as long as I express no disappointment or hurt or frustration, and as long as I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself, we "seem" to get along and she "seems" more or less happy, saying sweet things to me, telling me what a terrific man I am, etc.... But the moment my inner loneliness (at not really being known, not being free, and not being genuinely loved in this relationship) comes out, she's off on a tirade about "how much work" this marriage is, and how "exhausting" it is trying to love me, etc. etc.

    Not sure what to do, and the loneliness aches badly, sometimes.
    Thanks for your suggestions.
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD responded:
    20 years is a long time to live like this. I'm wondering, what motivates you to stay? No one can change a relationship alone, and it sounds like she is not willing to work with you on it. So, if you are still committed to the marriage, have you considered couple therapy?
    dfromspencer responded:

    Yes, I am with Dr. Becker-Phelps on this one! Also, you may even consider single therapy? You might learn some very important things about yourself, and possibly, your wife, too?

    Did you know this about her, before you married her? What about a year after you married her? Did she act this way, then? And if so, why have you stayed with her?

    What do you mean, when you say "loneliness aches badly, sometimes"? I thought you said she was all lovey dovey as long as you never pushed her?

    If this has gone on since day one, why now? Why pick this particular time, to bring this up? Why not on day one? Why didn't you get out then? Or, even before then, if you knew how she was?

    Do you think you have done this for a reason, marrying her? Perhaps you felt you could help her overcome these feelings? Or just help her in every way? Mold her into your perfect thoughts of what a woman should be?

    Hmmm, so many questions, and so little info.? My advice would be, sit down with a counselor, make a list of all the positives in your marriage, and a list of all the negatives, and take it from there!

    I hope you can get this worked out? After twenty years, its harder to let go. I wish you peace!

    gskern replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
    I stay because I made a vow promising to do so, and because we have two terrific (teenaged) kids whom I want to spare from the negative impact of Divorce (which in my view is worse than at least maintaining a "peaceful" home)... We may just have to agree to disagree about that...

    We haven't gone to couples "therapy", per se, but we have gone to a little bit of counseling. It didn't help at all. Honestly, I think bonafide Couples Therapy would be very helpful, but the simple fact is that we just do not have the money. If we did, I'd set it up in a New York minute.
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gskern's response:
    If you think that couple therapy might be very helpful, you think there is a chance that she would be open to changing or working with you. I'm curious about what makes you think this and wonder if your answer might provide some guidance about what you might do to improve your situation.

    Also, as for not being able to afford therapy, I'm wondering if you have looked into low cost options. There are clinics and training institutions, which offer therapy on a sliding scale.
    gskern replied to dfromspencer's response:
    So to answer most of these, one-by-one:

    I did not know she was so unprepared to step into the Marriage role; that's partly to be expected, as we dated a very short time before getting married...

    She has consistently pushed back against any expectation that she should be an active participant in this relationship. And she does absolutely nothing to deepen her personal understanding of Love or of the "mechanics" of Marriage Relationships (e.g., how to Listen well, how to Resolve Conflicts, etc.)... Been that way since Day 1 and continues to this day...

    As to why I've stayed, see my answer to Dr. Becker-Phelps, above...

    Yes, she acts "lovey-dovey" sometimes - as long as Mr. Happy is all she sees from me - but True Love, of course, is about working to truly KNOW someone, to know their Heart and to care for that Heart... that Person... And the very pro-active, purposeful efforts to do that are the very things she does not do. So the "lovey-dovey" stuff seems thin, impersonal, almost perfunctory. Lots more could be said here...

    I HAVE been bringing this up since Day 1. Granted, I've done it badly many times, but 20 of years is plenty of time to try bringing it up in every.conceivable.manner (from shouting to whispers, to letters and email, to calm conversation over dinner)... She soon goes ballistic virtually every time, calling me "needy", bitterly complaining that the relationship is "too much work", "this is exhausting", "it'll never be enough", etc. etc... It just has never dawned on her how "little" it would take to get things moving in the right direction...

    I have no pre-conceived notions as to how she should be, and I'm not trying to change her. But it's true that there are certain "fundamentals" that both the husband and wife have to have a grasp of, if their marriage is going to work (this is why there is such a thing as pre-marital counseling)... There are general, universal principles and behaviors that nearly all successful marriages have (and these are the things marriage counselors try to impart to both, to help heal marriage problems)...

    I don't know what the answer is, but it's clear that only one of us has ever been actively involved in this marriage. I guess I need to find a way to feel "connected" and "loved" despite my marriage, even as I "hang in there", keep trying to do the right things, and hope for Change at some point...

    Thanks for your Feedback.
    gskern replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
    I think she is at least a *little* bit open to the idea of working things out; she's not an inherently "mean" or "hateful" person; but it will take someone - a professional - confronting her DIRECTLY before we'll know if she's truly willing to work toward change, or whether she'll run (using some excuse like, "I don't like that therapist")... Nobody - not one single person - has ever directly confronted her over the need to understand Love, particularly Married Love, and to gain a basic grasp of Marriage "mechanics", not to mention her making a personal Commitment to try to practice these as we grow together...

    Thanks for the point about low-cost options. I guess I've been assuming Therapy would be expensive... I'll look into that.
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gskern's response:
    Your situation is certainly a very difficult one. I can't think of how you can change things other than, as you suggest, trying to change how you perceive things. But given how you describe the situation, that will take a lot of understanding her and won't necessarily help you to feel any happier in your relationship. Are there any ways in which she seems to show caring for you? Does it help to focus on these? Also, as I said in my last post, maybe you can find a low-cost therapy to help you.
    gskern responded:
    Dr. Becker-Phelps, these are precisely the things she refuses to do... Wouldn't you agree that it takes BOTH persons, each driven by their own *personal* Commitment to the success of the relationship, and doing these very things you wrote about, in order for the Marriage to work?

    And by implication, then, wouldn't you also agree that if one of them (certainly if both) does not participate, the Marriage will never get off the ground?

    That, then, is *exactly* where we've been for 20 years.
    dfromspencer replied to gskern's response:
    Hi again,

    I don't have any more suggestions for you, but i did want to come back on, and wish you the very best luck!!!

    This situation you are in, i don't think i would have had the staying power you have? You have put up with this cold heart for so long, i am simply amazed. Well, not cold hearted, but very close to that?! Do i have pity for you? No. Not pity, more like despair? My feeling is, you will never have what you so sorely want?! It is a shame, but it is what it is, and you can take it?! So, all i can do is, wish you tons, and tons of luck!!!

    I sincerely hope you get what you ask for, i really do!!!

    Good luck!

    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gskern's response:
    I absolutely agree with you that it takes both people in a marriage to make it work. You say she is absolutely not interested in working on your marriage, nor does she show caring. You also say that you don't consider leaving an option. So, the only other question I have is how do you want to proceed? What do you think you can do to make the best of this situation?
    gskern replied to dfromspencer's response:
    Hi Dennis:
    Thank you for your kind thoughts.
    Yeah it's very unfortunate: She has had a very willing and able partner in me, all these years, with whom she could -- if she chose -- build a strong and happy marriage; but she flat-out refuses to do so, and she blames ME for her lack of participation and for being, in her view, "the main problem" here... She also thinks good relationships -- ones that were, in her view, "meant to be" -- shouldn't be "this much work" (though she cannot see that she hasn't PUT much work in... go figure...)

    The ironic thing is that she says she's lonely, too!
    I cannot get her to understand that the only good way to Receive is to Give... We get out what we put in to our relationships, generally speaking, and that she need NOT be "lonely"... Again, it all leaves me scratching my head, but... here I am, 20 years later, and we might as well have gotten married yesterday; we've made almost no progress at all in building a marriage relationship because IT.TAKES.TWO, and to the extent that she has just never shown up, here we are...

    We'll see about the future: Hopefully, with the advice here, some Couples Therapy I'm trying to set up will help.

    Interestingly, I've tried talking to 2 pastors about this; after meeting with her, and seeing her "turn on the tears" in their offices, they can't understand why I have doubts about her "Love"; but of course they don't see what I see, at home, when it's just the two of us...

    So we'll see. Thanks again for your thoughts.
    gskern replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
    She blames ME for her lack of effort in this marriage; what little effort she does put in -- sometimes being sweet and kind to me -- isn't really an effort to KNOW me, and honestly, is here today and then gone tomorrow...

    What has gotten me through, for 20 years, has been those once-in-awhile periods where it "seems" like things are going well; we're not fighting, the sex is pretty good, we do things together, etc...

    But then I realize she really isn't making any effort to KNOW me; and as soon as any normal Conflict arises, out come the weapons and she goes on the attack, excusing herself and blaming me... telling me I need "help" with my "issues"...

    It's then that I realize all over again that there is no Foundation here.

    I am pursuing Couples Therapy with her. If that doesn't work, I don't know what else to do. I suppose I can last until the kids get out of high school and "leave the nest", in the next 4 years or so, and then perhaps we can discuss going our separate ways... I don't know.

    Thanks for your thoughts and input!
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to gskern's response:
    I truly, truly hope that the couple therapy helps. You obviously love her, want it to work, and want to be happy together. I have to believe that ultimately she wants to be happy, too. Hopefully you can find a happy future together. I wish there were more I could do for you. Whatever happens, I wish you well.
    tac30 replied to gskern's response:
    I'm going through the same exact situation in my marriage since day one as well. Have anything changed since? How was couples therapy? Did it help?

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