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Dear Mark,

My partner and I have been married for 20 years. He is handsome and intelligent and I love him very much. The problem is that I don’t believe in my heart that he loves me. I think that he cares for me and loves me but is not “in love” with me. I feel like he tolerates me. I know I’m not the easiest man to live with.

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Dear Mark,

My partner and I have been married for 20 years. He is handsome and intelligent and I love him very much. The problem is that I don’t believe in my heart that he loves me. I think that he cares for me and loves me but is not “in love” with me. I feel like he tolerates me. I know I’m not the easiest man to live with. I’m strong willed and opinionated. I know this sometimes drives him nuts but he rarely says anything to me about it anymore. In fact, I can’t remember the last time he complained. At first, I was happy about that. I thought, “He’s finally accepting me for who I am,” but now it’s like he’s not even in this relationship. He spends more time with his family and his friends than he ever spent with me. He seems happy, even content, but I feel left out. I’m not sure how to bring this up to him. Any suggestions?

Signed, David, Boca Raton

Dear David,

You have to talk to him. In couples therapy, I use the term “crossing the bridge” into your partner’s world. I would ask him, “What is it that you need from me that you are not getting in our relationship?” He may or may not take the bite. But if he does, take a deep breath and just listen to him. Try not to defend yourself and just hear what it is that he is saying to you.

It sounds like he may have many frustrations with you. It sounds like he has tried to tell you over the years, but at some point he just gave up. From what you have said, it doesn’t sound like he loves you any less. He just has less invested in the relationship because he is trying to protect himself. He has come to you and said “this bothers me” and you have responded with “this is just who I am,” so he takes that information and decides “then I will be who I am.” In that moment, the connection between the two of you began to weaken. Over the years, it has weakened more and more.

Your job is not to find out if he still loves you (although, hopefully, you will find this out). Your job is to find out why he is hurt – what you have done to hurt him – and then develop a dialogue so you can communicate to him your frustrations about him. This has to be done outside of the old conflict. You have to develop a new way of talking. A good couples’ therapist can help guide you through this. To find one near you visit GettingTheLoveYouWant.com and type in your area code. I hope this helps.

Sincerely, Mark Rutherford LCSW

 

 

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