I don’t read advice columns very often, but a friend in Seattle sent me a link to Friday’s Seattle Times column, written by Carolyn Hax. In the column, Hax advises a woman says that she’s thinking about divorce because she longs for intimacy in her marriage, an intimacy that was never there.
In her letter, the woman writes,
I’m not at all attracted to my husband — the result, I think, of his preoccupation with work (even when he’s home, he’s usually thinking or talking about it, or on his phone or laptop) and just an overall lack of physical chemistry. We’ve never had a good intimate relationship — something we both acknowledge — and I’ve ached for something better almost the whole time we’ve been together. He says he’s content.”
She goes on,
we’ve got two young children and, for the most part, we are great co-parents, manage the household pretty well together, communicate well and have a solid friendship. Many would say I’m lucky, but the idea of spending my life in what feels more like a business relationship than a marriage breaks my heart.”
I really feel for this woman, but I love the advice that Hax gives her, advice that you don’t often see. She tells the woman that she needs to a)Think about her decision in the long-term and b)See that she has a great foundation for building a more passionate marriage.
The whole purpose of a disinterested observer like me is to point out things like this: You appear not to be giving enough thought to long-term consequences — as you try to find your way out of the pickle you got into by not giving enough thought to long-term consequences.”
She goes on to tell the woman that her account of her marriage shows a relationship that has great promise to become the fulfilling, romantic marriage she’s looking for.
You want to fix your mistake, not repeat it. So put aside for a moment your emotional impulse to dismantle your marriage, and weigh the logical case for (re)building it. You say you are good co-parents and friends who communicate well. That’s not a “business relationship”; that’s an emotional one. Solid at that.”
I can’t agree more. I’ve seen countless marriage in which one partner is lonely and dissatisfied while the other one is perfectly content and often doesn’t know that anything is missing for their spouse. In almost all of these marriages, the unhappy spouse even admitted that they and their spouse had a great friendship. Well, that’s a great foundation for building an exciting romance!
What I really love about Hax’s reply is that she suggests complete and simple honesty as the first step to rebuilding the marriage.
Your husband is “content”; that suggests powerful motivation for him to cooperate if you let him know the full truth of your emotional state. Admit you’re lonely, since that’s what you are; admit you’re desperate to feel close to someone, since that’s what you are. Admit you’re so discouraged by his glued-to-a-screen absenteeism that you’re terrified of living the rest of your life this way, since that’s what you are.”
I can only add, “Amen, amen, amen!” If you’re feeling like this woman, lonely and unhappy with the level of intimacy or lack of passion in your marriage, the first step is to lay it all out for your spouse. They can’t fix something if they don’t know it’s broken. Let them know how you’re feeling and then both of you can start working on changing your marriage for the better.