"He Lost Interest in Our Marriage"

Listen in as one real-life couple works through a major crisis in their relationship with the help of a marriage therapist.
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THE COUPLE

Lauren: 33, freelance graphic designer
Mark: 32, bartender and teacher
Married: 3 years

THE COUNSELOR

Cori Robin, Chicago

THE BACKGROUND

Lauren and Mark live like roommates -- they barely spend any time together, much less have sex. Lauren misses the way things used to be and wants to find a way out of the rut. Mark won't even discuss their relationship and has been hinting that he wants a divorce.

LAUREN

Mark and I have turned into an old married couple -- and we're barely past 30! We couldn't keep our hands off each other when we started dating after college. We talked late into the night about everything. We went running along Lake Michigan and checked out hot bands at local clubs. We had seven or eight years of a great relationship. But since our first wedding anniversary, we've been living like roommates. Part of it is because our schedules are out of sync. I work from home during the day. Mark teaches and is also a bartender on nights and weekends. We've only had five days off together in the past year!

I feel like we're so disconnected. We rarely have sex -- once a month at most -- and it seems like I'm always the one to make the first move. Mark just goes through the motions. He doesn't say "I love you" and he even forgot to buy me a birthday present last year. When I ask him what's wrong, Mark tells me I'm too needy and either changes the subject or leaves the room. What's "needy" about wanting some TLC from my husband?

MARK

I have to be honest. After 10 years I've gotten a little bored with our relationship. And unfortunately I'm just not as attracted to Lauren as I used to be. She doesn't look or act like the beautiful, confident woman I fell in love with when I was in my 20s. She's gained 20 pounds since our wedding, so she lives in yoga pants or flowing skirts to hide the extra weight. When we were dating, she wore lots of sexy outfits but she doesn't even try to look good anymore. She never puts on makeup and she wears her hair in a ponytail 24/7. Lauren knows she's let herself go, which has made her so insecure. She says things like, "I'm fat and ugly. Why are you with me?" It's true that her weight bothers me but her attitude is even more of a turnoff.

And here's something else: It drives me crazy that she interrupts me when I'm grading papers to complain that our sex life is bad. She's constantly bringing up her friends Meg and John, who apparently have sex three times a week. Really? Good for them, but I don't care about what other couples do in the bedroom.

LAUREN

Believe me, I'm not happy about how I look. I guess I've been overeating out of frustration. My marriage is falling apart and my career isn't going well, either. I lost a lot of clients when the economy tanked a few years ago, and even though things have picked up, I haven't been able to rebuild my client base or raise my fees. I'm not sure being a freelancer is such a good idea anymore. I like being my own boss and setting my own schedule, but the downside is outweighing the positives at this point. We're barely scraping by on my salary and Mark's income from two part-time jobs. So what if Mark hates my clothes? I'm not going to go buy a new wardrobe when I feel bad about myself and money is so tight. I know it bugs Mark that I interrupt him when he's grading papers, but I need to talk to him when he's home, since I barely see him.

MARK

I'm not really in the mood to talk about anything, much less our relationship problems. My life fell apart two years ago, when I dropped out of a history PhD program. Ever since junior high I had dreamed of becoming a history professor. I thought being in academia would be amazing, but the truth is, it's not as cool and rewarding as I imagined. It's a lot of hard work for crappy pay, and there's no career security until you get tenure, which takes about 10 years. Intellectually, I know dropping out was the right decision, but I feel completely lost, and I'm pissed that I put myself in this position. At 32 I shouldn't still be trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. So I don't have much patience right now. The last thing I want to do when I come home at 4 a.m. wiped out from bartending is listen to Lauren complain about our sex life or berate me for avoiding her. I'm not sure talking will do any good, regardless. I wish Lauren would just give it a rest.

LAUREN

Well, not talking isn't a solution -- our communication problems are just driving us farther apart. I'm sorry Mark gave up his dream of becoming a professor. If I'd known how miserable he'd be without a clear career path, I would have encouraged him to stay in the program until he found something else. At the same time, I'm beyond tired of watching him mope around. I can't remember the last time he smiled or laughed at something I said. But despite our problems, I still love Mark and I'm hoping we can get ourselves out of this depressing rut before it's too late.

MARK

I love Lauren, but my feelings have changed from romantic to platonic. Between dating and marriage, we've been together 10 years already. Maybe it's time to accept that our time is up. I think we should move on, but Lauren wants to try marriage counseling. I guess it's worth a shot. It can't hurt, right?

Continued on page 2:  The Counselor's Turn

 

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