Has He Already Lost Her?

Q: My wife and I have been married for almost 17 years. We have had our ups and downs, but for the most part we have been happy and have shared everything. We bought a house that needed a lot of repairs, and about 9 months ago I started to feel something was not the same. She started wearing sexy underclothes. She spends more time away from home, saying she and her friend from work stop at a restaurant for drinks. When I confronted her about the changes in our relationship, she initially told me she just was not happy anymore and that it had been a while since we felt like a couple and she had resentments and she still loved me, but not as much. I admitted that I may have neglected her while working on our house and told her I was sorry. She mentioned separating then, but we agreed to try to work through it. We have not had sex in months, and she shows no affection towards me. I have been trying very hard to make her happy and make our marriage work. She isn't trying and won't go to counseling. She has been to two parties at the homes of friends from work without me. I sometimes think she is cheating and other times I think she may just need her space. I cannot get her to talk to me about what's going on, all I get is that she's not happy anymore. I love her and I want our marriage to work, but at this point I am not happy either. Can you tell me if this sounds like a situation that can be worked through with time or if maybe it's time to call it quits while we still get along well? -- Geoff, 39

Dr. Susan: Only you know whether the two of you still have enough going for you to be worth the struggle to stay together (and if you have kids, it's always worth a very serious effort). I'd be very concerned that your wife wants a separation and won't try counseling. This sounds as though it goes far beyond her needing a little "space." If she isn't having an affair already, she may be actively setting the groundwork for getting herself involved in one. People misunderstand marriage. It's never been guaranteed to provide happiness to both partners at all times. You don't just use a love thermometer or a happiness barometer to see if the relationship is worth keeping. We are all responsible for our own happiness, but in marriage, that doesn't mean you go off on your own in search of fresh excitement. You find ways to confront the issues together. You worked hard, she got bored, she blamed you and went looking for new ways to get her needs met. Your marriage sounds fixable, but only if she's willing to face you and work through the resentments. Couples often find themselves happier than ever before once they've tackled the "downs" together.

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