I would like your take on this relationship:
Married 6 years; the husband moved into his wife’s home. Husband’s language: “your house,” “your neighbors.” Wife’s: “our house,” “the neighbors.”
Husband is 52. Third marriage with two adult children from a previous marriage. He enjoys sitting at the computer, reading science fiction, woodworking. Occupation: construction. Very intelligent.
He never says goodbye when he leaves the house. When he comes home he addresses the dogs that are jumping all over him while saying to her, “You haven’t petted them all day.” Turns on the computer or goes to the patio and starts reading a book. No kiss, no “how was your day?” Works Monday-Friday and travels every weekend to the town he grew up in to do woodworking stuff. He’s in bed every evening by 10:30 p.m. Not hiding anything. No porn sites, just woodworking, eBay, YouTube, music, or movies. He does not invite the wife to watch. No affair on the weekends. It’s a small town. At home he mows the yard, takes out the trash. Reads a book at dinner.
Wife is 46. Second marriage and no children. Enjoys exercise, walking her dogs, a DIYer. Occupation: registered nurse. Works from home four days a week, including every other weekend. Says goodbye when she leaves the house, gives destination and estimated time gone. Greets her husband when she arrives home. Cooks, cleans, washes dishes, grocery shops, changes the light bulbs, does the yard work, dog care, etc. Buys gifts and cards for their families, to include her stepchildren and step grandchildren.
No sex in this relationship for 3.5 years. Husband voices no problems with the relationship. Wife cries all the time and has asked the husband to go to marriage counseling, read books on relationships; he refuses. The wife has started going out with her friends, although it only makes her sadder.
They are both very nice people. As an outsider you would never know their relationship was like this.
— A Sad Picture
Dear Sad Picture,
I want to say something like, “Circles feel like paths because they are well worn, and the footprints lead us to believe we are following, or the sound of someone behind us that we are leading, when in fact we are alone and going nowhere.” But that is way too wanna-be Zen for me.
It sounds like this relationship has become one that’s based on proximity, not interaction. It’s like saying I have a relationship with my coffee maker because it’s in my kitchen cabinet, yet I don’t drink coffee and have no idea how it even works.
I could make a hundred guesses why the husband behaves as he does. Since sex has been missing from the most recent half of the marriage, the wife might reflect back to the time when this change occurred. Was it slow or sudden? When did he stop communicating? Maybe he has issues about moving into her home; maybe he suffered a childhood trauma recently remembered or found out he isn’t the father of his children from the previous marriage. It could be anything, and this search for an answer could drive her nuts, so she shouldn’t overanalyze it. As long as he is mute and refuses any discourse, therapy, or other intervention, no answer will save the relationship. It might help her reach a resolution, but she should carefully consider what she wants and what this answer could mean.
What does she want? To stay with him and continue to fight a one-sided battle or to move on and find happiness for herself again? The wife should definitely seek counseling on her own. She will gain insights not only into herself, but her relationship, too.
She could try speaking to her adult stepchildren, who may be able to offer some insight into his behavior and personality. She should be discreet and respectful in her approach, not dramatic, and let them know she is both concerned and suffering.
She could also take a break — write her husband a thoughtful and caring letter explaining her feelings and needs, then take a trip or visit a friend for a week or two and reflect on what she wants in her life. The letter should be given to him the day she leaves; it should encourage him to think about their relationship and ask that he either write her a letter or be prepared to discuss the issues upon her return. If he’s unwilling to meet her halfway, she needs to figure out how she can be happy with the relationship she has or be prepared to move on.
Much patience, insight, and luck,
Your Uncle Mat
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