Wife Craves Change
Q: I have noticed lately that my wife has been getting distant. I asked her about it last night and she told me that she is not in love with me anymore. I am a good dad and provider, but obviously not a good husband. She says I am a great guy but she feels like she needs change. She is 40 also and I love her so much! I am overweight and she isn't; could this be it? I am very active in the community and with our kids. I have a million questions and I am afraid to ask her any of them. She has agreed to see a professional with me, which I'm happy about, but I feel so helpless. I don't want to pressure her but I feel like I need to do something. We have been married 16 years and I want to be with her forever but I am afraid that she wants out. What can I do? -- Fred, 40
Dr. Susan: I wouldn't say you're "obviously" not a good husband. I'd rephrase that to say your wife's missing something in her life that she feels you should be providing. Maybe her dissatisfaction is about you, but more likely she's having her own crisis and finds it easier to foist it onto you than to look deeply at her own expectations. Marriage isn't a place where you go to get all your needs met. It's about facing the world together as partners and helping one another through various challenges, sharing the triumphs and the sorrows, and all that good stuff. On any single day, either of you might not feel "in love," but that means nothing.
It's natural for you to have questions when your wife socks you in the stomach with that announcement. I can see why you're questioning your own desirability (i.e., your weight). But no, it's not your weight. Though if you've let yourself go physically, that could contribute to other resentments and dissatisfactions on her part. And yes, it might affect how attracted she is to you. A 40-year-old woman may be at her sexual peak, and she may be wondering what she's missing, especially if you've both allowed your erotic life to fall by the wayside as you've gotten involved with kids, jobs, community and just getting through your busy days. Maybe she's already begun fixating on some other guy, but that doesn't mean it's too late to repair your relationship. Begin by acting as if you're not afraid of her (even if you are). Talk gently to her about your love and your fears and your willingness to do anything within your power to help her feel good about herself and you again. Make time for one another, no matter what the cost to your other commitments (assuming you can get good care for the kids and don't literally neglect them). And if you don't get satisfaction from the first counselor you see, do not give up. Good luck!
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.