Cold Feet Persist 20 Years Later
Dear Annie: Nearly 20 years ago, after a tumultuous breakup, I met and married my current wife. I cared for her, but I did not love her as one should love another when entering into marriage.
After the breakup, and, honestly, before, I was lost. I was in my mid-20s and fearful I would never meet someone, get married and have children, and I thought of this commitment as my last opportunity. The relationship was going well until one of her family members shared that my girlfriend, now wife, was questioning my commitment, as I had yet to propose -- which I was not ready for but did shortly after, out of fear.
Over the years, I have and continue to have difficulty showing any emotion toward her, resulting in heart-wrenching fights, verbally brutal arguments and constant disagreements that continue to plague our family.
Many times, we have contemplated divorce, but she is indescribably petrified to be alone and I worry that she could not handle it. As the years went on and our children were born, I pushed those feelings down, until last year when she suffered a miscarriage and I realized there was nothing to keep those feelings from resurfacing. I told her I didn't love her and I am not sure I ever did. I also took off my wedding ring, which I haven't worn for months now. I thought that would be the end of us, but to my astonishment, it wasn't.
For the past year or more, we have been sleeping separately and have been emotionally and physically disconnected. I have told her that she deserves so much better and should allow herself the opportunity to be happy, but she is so afraid of what others will say, including her family, that she refuses to consider separation. I have tried to reassure her that, regardless, our lives will be intertwined forever and I will always be there for her and my children both emotionally and financially, and that we will work together to parent and amicably split everything. But still, she declines to even consider separation as an option.
My wife is a great person. She is extremely kind; she is a wonderful mother and does everything she can for our children and our family. But she deserves so much better than me, and most importantly, she deserves happiness.
How can I help her see this? Or should I just surrender and continue to endure this mundane lifeless purgatory, as it stems from my selfishness and fear? -- Going Through the Motions
Dear Going Through the Motions: Your wife certainly does sound like a great person and a great mother. She is being held back by not just her fear but also her love for you and for the family you've created together. This news that you never loved her -- delivered right after a miscarriage, no less -- is undoubtably causing her a terrible heartache.
Still, a marriage that one partner does not want to be in is detrimental for both partners, as well as the children. My suggestion is that you reexamine your feelings with a professional, to make absolutely certain that she is not for you and that everyone would be better off apart from each other. In therapy, it is possible you will discover that you actually do love her, but, just as she is terrified of separation, you might be terrified of letting yourself go, of admitting any vulnerability. A professional therapist can help you make sense of what is best for you, your wife and your children.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.