Restless Wife

Q: My wife isn't into me the way she used to be. She says I don't do things with her anymore. I do try to do things with her but it just seems like she wants something more. Lately, she's been more secretive in some parts of her life. She turned 42 today. Is this just a phase, or could there be something else going on? -- Judd, 45

Dr. Susan: None of us, alas, is the same person we were ten or twenty years ago. Meaning, our reaction to our mate has probably changed (whether we think our mate has changed or not). I prefer to say that the marriage is going through a phase, rather than that your wife is. The two of you can make it a joint project to revive your relationship, whereas if you think she'll simply outgrow this phase on her own, you're both taking a big risk.

Quite simply, she's used to you. The same old words, actions, and activities are no longer sufficient to stimulate her. She wants to do things with you, but not the same old things. Of course, she needs to take half the responsibility for figuring out what might be fun and exciting and novel for her. Some couples enjoy sitting down (with a glass of wine or a dish of ice cream) and brainstorming a long list of things that would be fun to do in the next couple of years. And be sure she has time to think of the top ten things she's been wanting to do that have somehow slipped by. You may not get to some of them for practical reasons, but if you're the least bit committed to staying together, you'll come up plenty of ideas that are actually workable.

Let me get you started: have a picnic in a new place; designate one day a week as a Fun Day and go out to eat, see a movie, talk a walk in a new neighborhood or shop at some place she's been wanting to check out; take up a hobby that's new to both of you but that both of you think might be fun (digital photography, square-dancing, writing a joint memoir, rollerblading, gardening); get a book about sensual massage and try it on each other; have a weight-loss contest that includes some sport or exercise you both can do; learn a new word each day and each of you find a way to use it in conversation; volunteer together in the community (it might help her count her blessings).

Your mention of her being secretive is worrisome. Don't YOU keep your concerns a secret. Let her know how much she means to you and that you want to try for a more fulfilling marriage, and that this sense that she's holding things back is scary for you. Don't be afraid to seem vulnerable. What have you got to lose?

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