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Enlivening Ourselves


Dear Dr. Norquist:

I have been married for over 15 years and love my wife and always will. For quite some time I have been doubting my feelings about her and staying married. I can honestly say that it has been at least ten years since my wife has told me she loves me (other than in response to me saying it), initiated affection, sex or any other romantic overture. I am an affectionate man and my affection is rarely received with anything other than a lukewarm response. Many times my efforts at intimacy are strongly rebuffed.

We have been to marriage counseling and it was not very successful. Practically everything I said at the sessions was viewed as a personal attack by her, despite the therapist’s attempts to help her see things in a different light. It was suggested that we read a book on relationships and do some exercises to help us. My wife never read the book and eventually dismissed the whole marriage counseling process.

We have two children. I love them dearly and would do nothing to hurt them. I look to my kids and other areas of my life to find joy, and am usually successful in doing so. However hard I try to minimize my marital problems, I know deep down that my life is not as complete as it could be.

When we were dating, my wife was affectionate and loving to me. I am unaware of any incident between us that could have brought her to the present state of affairs. Her parents’ relationship with each other is a distant one. They are unaffectionate people and show no affection to my wife; I cannot remember the last time I saw my wife kiss either one of her parents.

I am struggling with this daily and trying to keep perspective. How can I go on living like this? While I do not want to do so, if things do not improve, I can easily visualize myself leaving the marriage when my children are older.

Dr. Norquist responds:

Life is full of trials. Depending on how we respond to these trials we either grow in wisdom and depth, or we become more rigid, closed-hearted and burdened. As you know, no one else can determine for you whether or not you should leave your marriage.

As a first step, I’d suggest that you find a way to communicate with your wife (as lovingly as possible) how the lack of expressed affection in your relationship affects you, and how you are questioning whether or not you can stay in this situation for the long term. It is important that you do your best to communicate this from a place of love, and a desire to give the marriage a chance. She needs a chance to understand that you are expressing a heartfelt need for more closeness and more connection with her.

She may love you deeply, yet, ironically, because you are so important to her, she may feel too vulnerable to express this to you directly. Perhaps the issue for her is fear of intimacy rather than a lack of love. When you express your concerns as I suggested above, she has an opportunity to look at her own fears and needs and consciously decide how to deal with them, with more awareness of the consequences should she refrain from doing so.

Should she not be open to your feelings and needs, you need to contemplate deeply what the consequences are for everyone should you decide to stay or to leave. Search your heart. Ask inside for guidance. Spend time often visualizing the consequences of either decision.

Know that we all need to feel connected with important others in our life – especially an intimate other. Dr. Dean Ornish makes the adverse health consequences of ignoring the importance of intimate relationships quite clear in his book “Love and Survival” (1998). Which decision holds the most growth for you? Remember, you are the keeper of your own well being.

 Check out Dr. Norquist’s new blog GrowingThroughParenting.com

(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at drnorquist@chaitanyacounseling.com. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. Ó 2019 Chaitanya Counseling Services

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