I have been with my wife for over four years. I was married before but that didn’t work out as the person I was married to actually turned around and said that she never ever loved me. When I found myself falling for my new wife I got very scared and instead of talking to her I said that I didn’t love her or miss her. I thought I was being cruel to be kind. Anyway after two months of being on my own, I was missing her so much and asked for another chance. She gave me another chance and we did have our ups and downs but eventually she got me to open up.
When I asked her to move in, again I did this all wrong because, as soon as she moved in I went away with some friends on a pre-booked holiday.
This has become a reoccurring issue in our relationship, I put my friends before her. The other day I wasn’t feeling too good on the last day of our holiday, I got a call from some mates, one of them lives quite a distance so I only get to see them once a year. I suddenly perked up and decided to go and meet up for a couple of hours.
Now what really hurt my wife is that she was worried about me and wanted to do something on our last day before we went back to work. To see me put my friends before her has broken her. She has become very distant and says she doesn’t want to be treated like a doormat. Where am I going wrong and how do I put it right?
It’s very, very hard to hear that you’re not loved. Even when you might have suspected it, having it confirmed is usually, for most people, a crushing blow at every level. Many people carry on trying to make things work even when signs point to the relationship leaving a lot to be desired. Sometimes it’s easier for all sorts of understandable reasons to keep going. Maybe your first wife did the same as you until it became impossible to ignore the disappointment and ‘what if’s’ any longer. But, however the end of your first marriage came about, I think the legacy has been to make you unsure if you can actually trust anyone again.
When you got together with your new partner and decided to move in with each other, I’m betting there was a real struggle going on for you because part of you was aching to tell her how happy you were but at the same time, you were really frightened that even at the point she was moving in, she might reject you. Therefore, going away with friends may have seemed a less scary option than waiting to see if she actually cared enough about you to move in. From what you say, it looks like this is a pattern you keep repeating. You love her but need to test her commitment to you. So, you make sure you always have something else that needs attention, just when she could reasonably expect to have your full attention. In other words, taking that final step towards this being a mutually satisfying relationship is simply a step too far.
So, what to do? You probably know that if things don’t change, you may lose her. It seems you do not want that to happen, which put bluntly means that you need to do something different. I don’t mean that you need to become a different person; from what you tell me, your new wife recognizes that you do lots for her but would like to feel that you make sure she’s number one on your list.
You tell me that she feels broken by recent events because from her perspective you chose to be with others at times when her sense was that you needed to be with her. One way of looking at this is to say that you simply have a different set of priorities and if you can negotiate this it might be the answer. It’s important to remember that one of the successful indicators for many couples is that each partner can ‘tolerate’ not always having to be put first. There’s sufficient trust and companionship that having the odd time where a friend or family member needs something does not feel threatening.
One of the things that strikes me from your longer letter is how there seems to be no discussion between you and your wife about how you’re going to manage competing priorities and I think that’s the place you need to start if you want things to be different. Basically, putting time aside to discuss things like this in a calm and reasonable way may help reassure both of you that things are OK. Maybe that’s all you will need to do to make everything seem less worrying.
However, going back to the point I made about the legacy from the past, it might be an idea to have some sessions with a counsellor to fully understand what has happened. Sometimes getting more of a handle on why we keep doing things that are clearly unhelpful and likely to jeopardize what we most want helps us to make better choices. I’m tending to think that this could be a really positive way forward for you so that you can start to focus on getting the happy, healthy relationship you would like to have with your wife but are currently fearful of asking for.
Ammanda Major is a Relationship Counsellor and Sex Therapist.
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