Can This Marriage Be Saved? We’ve Been Growing Apart for Years

July 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm , by

Chances are that the husband you’re currently married to is, at least in some ways, different from the man he was when you first laid eyes on him. Odds are also pretty good that you’ve changed a bit, too. (And not just in dress size.) Hopefully the differences are good, and you’ve grown together as a couple. But Pam, a 41-year-old marketing manager, and her lawyer husband, Ross, 45, have decidedly grown apart. (Read the full story in our August issue, which hits newsstands this week!)

Pam’s turn Ross is more like her roommate than her husband. Their conversations never go deeper than the grocery list, and his 60-hour workweeks leave her stuck with all the parenting duties even though she works as well. If she complains about feeling overwhelmed, he’ll help for a few days then go back to his old ways. She knows their relationship isn’t terrible, but whenever she expresses that she misses their closeness, Ross says it’s not that bad and refuses to discuss it. And she’s in charge of everything around the house, not just parenting. The man can’t give her a single opinion – it’s like he’s an employee waiting for instructions. She’s also overwhelmed caring for her aging parents. The final straw came when she almost had an affair with a coworker because for once, she’d found someone that made her feel like a whole person, not just the director of the family.

Ross’s turn Pam seems so much happier at work than she does at home, and it makes Ross sad. He’s jealous of her coworkers and can’t remember the last time her eyes lit up for him like they do when she talks about them. He doesn’t think they live separate lives, just that they’re busy with work and the kids and can’t spend time together like they used to. Whenever he tries to help around the house, Pam criticizes him or asks why he didn’t do other chores, too. Her anger is off the charts, and they have epic battles every time they fight, so he avoids the confrontations completely. And of course he has ideas and opinions, he’s just been deferring to her to keep the peace. He didn’t mean to brush her off and doesn’t want a divorce.

The counselor’s turn This couple, like many others at their stage of marriage, woke up one morning and suddenly felt disconnected when in fact they’d been growing apart for years. Among the kids, jobs, elderly parents and household issues, couples stop nurturing their marriages as they did when they were young, so the closeness begins to die. Pam and Ross did still love each other, they just had to shift their priorities and improve their communication. The first step was cutting their work hours, including the time they spent checking emails when they were at home. They met for a drink after work once a week, took walks together on weekends and set bimonthly date nights. Pam had to learn to ask Ross for help instead of silently wishing he would and getting angry when he didn’t; Ross needed to speak up and give his opinions when he had them and let Pam know when he was upset instead of retreating. As their communication improved, they reworked their responsibilities so that Ross helped more with the kids and Pam felt less burdened. After a year in counseling, they still have their issues but are committed to being a team for good.

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