Are there as many successful marriages out there that came from hard work versus the “he’s the man of my dreams and we are so in love” types?
I feel we have had love but my husband says all our struggles are due to the fact he doesn’t have those deep feelings; and perhaps never really did? I am scared to death.
It’s been 17 years and he’s exhausted and, I think, wishes he had married a “trophy wife.” I am trying not to be devastated but be hopeful instead. However, he thinks we need to separate. I think it just opens the door to more thinking in that direction. I know there are things we can change to have more love and peace in our home, but can he be convinced of that?
Successful long-term marriages don’t just happen. They are forged in the fire of hard work, sacrifice, and adversity. It is a myth to believe that if you just feel “in love” all the time you’ll have a good marriage. That is fairy tale fiction that won’t create the conditions for enduring marriage.
Your husband isn’t feeling a deep connection to you anymore, but getting rid of you isn’t going to fix the problem.
I remember hearing marriage educator Tamara Gilliland once share her thoughts about fairy tale endings. She said that when she gets to the end of a fairy tale book with her little girls, she always makes them repeat after her, “and they lived happily ever after … with lots of hard work, tolerance, and mutual respect.” I’m sure her children had no idea what those big words meant, but I guarantee they knew there was more to a happy ending than just riding off into the sunset in love.
Your marriage needs marital CPR as soon as possible. Find a marriage counselor who isn’t neutral about marriage and commitment. You want to work with someone who will support the commitment you made to one another 17 years and teach you both how to find each other again. Dr. Bill Doherty, marriage and family therapy professor at the University of Minnesota, warned that not all marriage therapists are created equal. He said that some therapists are so individually focused that they will encourage the dissatisfied partner to “do what makes them happy.” This is a recipe for divorce and has never helped a struggling marriage stay together.
Dr. Doherty compared the cycle of long-term marriage to living through the seasons in Minnesota. He said:
You move into marriage in the springtime of hope, but eventually arrive at the Minnesota winter with its cold and darkness. Many of us are tempted to give up and move south at this point. We go to a therapist for help. Some therapists don’t know how to help us cope with winter, and we get frostbite in their care. Other therapists tell us that we are being personally victimized by winter, that we deserve better, that winter will never end, and that if we are true to ourselves we will leave our marriage and head south. The problem of course is that our next marriage will enter its own winter at some point. Do we just keep moving on, or do we make our stand now–with this person, in this season? That’s the moral, existential question. A good therapist, a brave therapist, will help us to cling together as a couple, warming each other against the cold of winter, and to seek out whatever sunlight is still available while we wrestle with our pain and disillusionment. A good therapist, a brave therapist will be the last one in the room to give up on our marriage, not the first one, knowing that the next springtime in Minnesota is all the more glorious for the winter that we endured together.
Let your husband know you want to repair the connection. Tell him you want to feel connected to him and that you trust he can learn to feel connected to you again. I believe that the term “soul mate” should only be reserved for couples that have been married longer than 50 years. Our souls are mated to our partners when we pass through the challenges of life together and keep holding on to one another tightly. I think it’s a dangerous myth to believe that there is someone out there who won’t require any self-sacrifice and hard work. Even the best matches in partners still require hard work, tolerance, and mutual respect. I hope your husband decides to face his marriage and build something beautiful.
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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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