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    Simple advice on keeping your relationship alive
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD posted:
    It's easy for relationships to get lost in the shuffle of life. So many things need to get done each day; and I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure that the days are getting shorter. But, failing to nurture your relationship can spell trouble somewhere down the road. Too often, by that time, you'll find that you are going different directions, or your relationship problems are blowing up like land mines.

    So, it's essential that you nurture your relationship. What do you do to keep your relationship a happy adventure together? For this and much more info on relationships, please visit Dr. Becker-Phels Blog here: The Art of Relationships .
    mamabeary responded:
    I agree that in the shuffle of life, romance and the warm and fuzzy feelings you once had in the beginning get lost sometimes. I have been in a relationship with my husband for 36 years. We were only 16 when we met. My husband and I recently celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary in Italy and we had a beautiful time. The challenge now is to keep the fire we reignited there alive while we parent our children and do all of the mundane things that make up this beautiful and difficult life we have created. Thank you for the tips. I really appreciate them and will bare them in mind as a reminisce about lattes in Sienna.
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to mamabeary's response:
    Congratulations on your anniversary; and your celebration of it sounds wonderful I wish you many more happy years together!
    olderbutnotbetter responded:
    Sounds all well and good, but if this 'effort' remains one-sided (as in my case), then what's the point of continuing? I've done pretty much all that you suggest (even couple counseling--my wife thought that to be stupid), but it still has me disillusioned and wondering why to continue the relationship. I've been married 25 years, and to say we're in a marriage slump is a huge understatement.. We're emotionally detached, physically detached, and just don't seem to work togther well anymore. I can admit to us both acting in contempt towards each other at times, and the effort to maintain the relationship on my part has all but but extinguised. But continue I do because of the kids and all that has been invested into it, but at some point I really won;t care anymore. So as my advice to tkae away from your column: Please DO NOT EVER let it get this far in a relationship, or else you may reach the point of no return.
    dfromspencer replied to olderbutnotbetter's response:
    Your situation makes me sad. What if you try this? Sit her down some time, and talk to her about the way you feel? Be as open and honest as you can. We men do not like to talk about our feelings, but you must if you want to save this marriage. Tell her why you fell in love with her in the first place. Then ask her why she fell in love with you? Then concentrate on those reasons, and try to recapture that spark.

    Have you tried romancing her? Take her out on dates, make her a special dinner, with candle light, the whole nine yards. If you can rekindle a spark, perhaps its not too late? I hope its not, for both of your sakes, and the kids.

    Best of luck to you, Dennis

    P.S. You will have to convince her to work with you on this. If you both cannot work on this together, your marriage will never work out. Remember, it takes two to tango. D.
    olderbutnotbetter replied to dfromspencer's response:
    Been there, done that on the romancing and 'opening up' front. To no avail I'm afraid. Honestly I think we've passed each other in what we feel life should be at this point. It stopped being about us, and all for the kids years ago. I keep telling her that we were an 'us' long before the kids came about, but I just don't think it registers. Look, I'm not without fault, and I've done my share to fragment our closeness, but I've admitted it and am trying to show how much it means to me. But when things from 20 years ago keep getting thrown back in my face (Not bad things mind you, just old male friends kind of things---arguments, bad feelings, etc..), or when I tell her I don't agree with her or her family in her family squabbles (I'm being honest, but in a supportiove way), I keep getting told that I don't really support her. Sorry to vent...I'm just so over it at this point...When I honestly try to look ahead 10 or more years for myself, I don't see my wife as part of that...does that make me such a bad person? I feel guilty to feel that way, but it is something I've told her (in a roundabout way, not that direct), and she just gets mad. There's a LOT to lose I know, and it's not something I take lightly.
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to olderbutnotbetter's response:
    Maybe you are done trying at this point. And, if you are, that's understandable from what you've shared.

    But, if at any point you have it in you to want to reach out again, I'd suggest returning to the couple therapy conversation. Tell her (again) how you loved her and were happy way back when; that now things are more tense between the two of you, but you really wish it was better again. Explain that the only way you can think of that might help you get back there is couple therapy-- even if she has little hope of it helping, would she be willing to try? Ask: What is it that she wants? (maybe the two of you can work on that in therapy?

    This very well might not work. You obviously can't make her try. So, at some point (maybe now?) you may decide there is no hope left to even bother trying. This doesn't make you a bad guy at all; but it is a very sad situation. I do wish you well through all this.
    olderbutnotbetter replied to Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD's response:
    Thank You. I appreciate your advice. I can't speak for my wife, so it's in all likelihood she'll have a different response. So as I stated, I'm not devoid of blame..just trying to offer my observations as to what I've tried, and how it has left me 'empty'. My wife may clearly feel the same, but she won't talk about it...with me or with a therapist. Her response is usually "I don't want to talk about it" or "I'm done talking". She walked out of the previous attempts at therapy, vowing to never do that again. And then turned around and called me an idiot for even getting her to a therapist to begin with. And because of all this, I feel uncomfortable around her, to the point that I know we're emotionally disconnected, and we both just avoid those subjects that start bad feelings up again. I can say with 100% certainty that I do love her, but am not 'In Love' with her anymore. Yes, every couple has its ups and downs, and I expect that. But this feels so much different.. so much resentment on both ends...

    But I'll keep trying to get through for now, and will once again suggest therapy as a last stop attempt.

    Thanks for the 'ear'
    irishhottie responded:
    hey I've been seeing my boyfriend for almost 7 months and things are ok. When they should be fantastic, let me explain. His care broke down 3 wks ago and can't come to see me unless he takes the train. But, if he did that he would have to transfer at one place to go somewhere else to get to near where I live. Besides, that eve b4 his car broke down he wasn't making an effort in coming to see me for "US". He works usually till 8pm at night and then has to walk home and make dinner. Not only is coming to see me an issue but cmmunication is as well. plse help me, I'm not sure what to do. If i should stay in this relationship or not. Lastly, not being greedy or anything but when ur in a relationship your significant other gives the other person little gifts to show the person that they care or are loved. I love him and he treats me great but need help. for valentines this past one-I got a sweet card and chocolate. Have gotten roses at least 4 times already. Hey, i knw he dsnt have alot of money but somehting small does not cost alot..its the effort and time you put in to do it.
    fcl replied to irishhottie's response:
    I'm not actually sure what you expect from him. What kind of effort are YOU making to be with him? I don't really understand what you mean by

    he wasn't making an effort in coming to see me for "US".

    Could you tell us more about that?

    Apart from that you seem to have a list of things that he's "supposed" to do. Why? Who dictates these rules? Aren't you happy with him? Why do you want proof of his attention? In 7 months you've had roses at least 4 times - umm, that's a lot more than many girls get . You don't have to constantly be showered with gifts. BTW, what was the last gift you gave him?

    Why do you say that communication is an issue?

    It sounds as if you expect him to do all the running and find him lacking when he doesn't. Are you meeting him halfway?
    There's nothing inherently dirty about sex, but if you try real hard and use your imagination you can overcome that.
    irishhottie replied to fcl's response:
    I am happy with him!! The last gift I got for him was I bought us both dinner when we went out. Communication is an issue because I always call him, text him-sometimes and send him nice emails, as well. Its like he only calls me if I call him more than once. I'm meeting him more than half-way and hes not. It's like he expected me to come and spend time with him this weknd but didn't go cause i went last time once and twice more to help him with things..since his car broke down. He grtly appreciated it and said i was the best grlfrnd. I don't expect to be showered with giftsat all. But, don't feel like hes showing his love for me....actions speak louder than words!. We are both in love with each other too. I felt like at the beginning when of us dating he made a real effort to "romance me. He not, anymore! I think i've been romantic toward him. hopefully this is what u were looking for in terms of more information. More advice would be greatly appreciated.
    fcl replied to irishhottie's response:
    Honestly, I thin you should stop the bean-counting. Different people expect different things from a relationship. You had he clearly have different views. For some people (like you), material things are of utmost important. For others (him, for instance), simply being there and caring is the way they show their love. Not everyone is into calling and texting - some do it all day long, others find it a nuisance (it may get in the way of their work, for example, or they may prefer to set strict boundaries between their working and private lives).

    Try to focus on the things that he DOES do rather than what he doesn't and you might realize that he's not so unromantic after all ... but please stop keeping tally - it will only make you unhappy.

    Finally, there's a book called "the five love languages" by Gary Chapman that you might find interesting. It explains how different people express their love in entirely different manners. There's a website too where you can assess your particular love language. It might help you understand the differences there can be:
    There's nothing inherently dirty about sex, but if you try real hard and use your imagination you can overcome that.
    Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD replied to olderbutnotbetter's response:
    Given her responses, I have another suggestion that you might want to try (though you might have tried this, too). You can approach her and ask her to tell you about how she feels (her anger,hurt, sadness, etc). Prepare yourself ahead of time to really listen. Don't interrupt or respond (other than to let her know you are listening). You might even want, after she seems done, to ask if there is anything else. All the while pay attention to how you feel. No doubt you will feel angry, misunderstood, and a host of other such emotions. But pay attention to any sadness or other vulnerable emotions at seeing her in such distress. To be honest (and probably because you'll feel the need to), briefly acknowledge that you have you own different perspective, but that you are also aware of how upset it makes you to see her so upset. Basically, you want to let her know you hear her pain and that it affects you deeply. Stay with this as long as you can -- don't jump too quickly to solutions. If she seems to soften, to feel your caring, then you can switch gears to asking what she wants to do to make things better -- or is she really "done" and does she really not want to talk about it or work on it. Whatever comes, do your best to not act defensively. If you feel defensive and can't get around it, say that you need a break to think about what she's saying. Then spend some time alone (perhaps talking with someone you trust who is also supportive of helping you) to think about how to proceed.

    You would also probably find individual therapy helpful to sort through your own feelings and to help you decide how best to proceed in your marriage. What I am suggesting above would likely be incredibly difficult to do and you might want to seek therapy before even trying it.
    dfromspencer replied to olderbutnotbetter's response:
    Hi, again.

    Along with what Dr. B-P says about not jumping to solutions, ask her if she has any ideas how to fix this? We men are just naturally the "Mr. Fixit" type. Try not to do that this time, if you get her to talk with you? Give this situation to her to fix, then ask if there is any way you can help. This, then, puts the burden on her.

    I think, once the burden of fixing your marriage is on her shoulders, she may find how much you have tried, and work harder with you? Maybe she will want to go to couples therapy afterall?

    Do you think she has grown comfortable with how things are now? And that maybe she likes the way things are? I hope not, for your sake.

    If all else fails, think of your own sanity, and end things before it does permanant harm. This doing things for the sake of the children, is not healthy for any of you. The children pick up on these things, more than we would like to think.

    I really hope things work out for you. To me, you sound completely miserable. Marriage should be a happy union, not a "job" you have to work at!

    Best of luck to you, Dennis
    dfromspencer replied to irishhottie's response:
    Hi, Irish, me too!

    I have to go with what FCL says about not keeping count. Men show their affections in many different ways. If you ask me, his making the effort to come see you is huge. He must live pretty far away? His working so late, doesn't help. He has bought you more things than i would have. Material things do not prove love. Actions prove love!

    Wow! So you bought him a dinner? A as in one? I guess thats ok, you said you have gone there to help him with things. Helping him probably meant more to him than a dinner?

    I feel as if you should be the one to make a little more effort, and go see him more often? That effort alone, would mean more to me, than anything you could buy me. Try that, see what happens?

    Best of luck to you, Irish, Dennis

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