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I read this quote on this site about when to tell your spouse you have a problem:

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My experience with couples agrees with the results of this study. In successful marriages, spouses expect to change to accommodate each other's needs, so when a spouse registers a complaint, it's a signal for action. In failed marriages, on the other hand, spouses expect to be accepted as they are, without change. A complaint is interpreted as an unwillingness to love unconditionally, a failure of the complaining spouse. So instead of adjusting to the complaint, the defense is offered, "if you really loved me, you would not try to change me. You would let me continue to do whatever it is I'm doing."

I have been dealing with this dynamic for the last year -- I expect to change to meet my W's needs, but she expects to be accepted "as is". What do I do in this scenario?

I have explained to my W what I need to put deposits in my "love bank" -- my love language is "words of affirmation", I also like physical touch. I expect to have a mutually rewarding sex life. I struggle with whether my expectations are too high, or if I'm overly needy or codependent, but in many discussions with others and through therapy, I don't believe they are, I believe my expectations are reasonable.

My W says that providing "words of affirmation" makes her feel uncomfortable, so she's not going to do it. She said she's willing to engage in sex for my benefit, but can't be expected to enjoy it herself, and is not interested in working on it. She does not enjoy kissing. She says that she loves me, likes being married to me, but just wants to be accepted "as is", to have nothing expected from her, and to have me treat anything she provides as a gift.

I've been trying to lower my expectations and accept this situation for several months now, but it's not working, I'm dissatisfied with the relationship. We have three young kids, a great financial situation, and I do love my wife and want to avoid divorce. I'm just not sure what to do with this situation. I've explained in a non-threatening, non-demanding way exactly what I need, I've confirmed that she understands it, yet she has made it clear she's not willing to meet my needs.

What do I do?

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Hi, Accuray. Welcome to Marriage Builders.

Most likely, your wife is not in love with you. (Although she may say otherwise, and she may not even be aware!) If she were in love with you, her feelings would prompt her to want to do things for you, and her feelings would also cause her to become more likely to enjoy sex, etc.

This is a really common scenario.

The way to turn this around is to get your wife to fall in love with you. By using the principles on this site from Dr. Harley, you can learn to make large, massive Love Bank deposits every day. Eventually your account in your wife's Love Bank will pass the threshold of romantic love, and her feelings and actions towards you will suddenly change! Dr. Harley says this is not gradual, it is very sudden, and he has had men he's worked with tell him they woke up one day and their wife was completely different, and they even wondered if she'd started taking hormones or something!

This can be a bit of a long arduous process, but you can see results in just a few weeks if you are able to make serious progress towards the love bank deposits that really count the most.

First off, are the two of you able to spend any time alone together? If so, how much each week, and how do you spend it?

Second, do the two of you ever fight or argue? If you do, tell us about it; it really does take two to argue, and we can teach you how to not argue with her even if she wants to argue with you. Arguments are like atomic bombs for your Love Bank account balance.

After your wife is in love with you, there may still be some adjustments to be made, i.e., she may be doing things for you that she would like and may need to learn new habits that you would like, but at this point there will be a lot more willingness. I don't think Dr. Harley uses the following language in the paragraph you cited, but he talks about relationships in terms of the "Buyer's Agreement" versus the "Renter's Agreement." What you are expressing you want is the Buyer's agreement: a willingness to fix things together to make the marriage liveable and happy and fulfilling for both of you, forever. Currently your wife's emotions are leading her to a Renter's agreement: do whatever it takes for now to get by, until next month.

Dr. Harley's approach to getting husbands and wives to adopt the Buyer's agreement is twofold: the first step is to get them to fall in love with each other, and the second step is to get them to adopt the Buyer's agreement so that the love will be sustained for life. If you can follow the plan here (and we can help!) you can get your wife to fall in love with you, and then you can see if she is willing to adopt the Buyer's agreement.


If you are serious about saving your marriage, you can't get it all on this forum. You've got to listen to the Marriage Builders Radio show, every day. Install the app!

Married to my radiant trophy wife, Prisca, 19 years. Father of 8.
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If your wife is not on board with MB, some of my posts to other men might help you.
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Lowering expectations isn't going to work, ever.

Welcome to MB. Here is a newsletter about what to do when a spouse refuses to meet your needs: http://forum.marriagebuilders.com/ubbt/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=2264789#Post2264789

There are two more parts, in the Newsletter forum.

The three little ones are a great incentive to keep working on things instead of calling it quits right away. There are lots of stories on here about reluctant spouses who eventually got on board and realized that marriage actually requires care and feeding, so don't lose hope just yet. My experience wants to warn you that things will get tougher before they improve.

Your fastest horse will probably be phone coaching with Steve, but I ask: has your wife read the basic concepts here? Have you? I would start there, and try filling out the emotional needs and love buster questionnaires and sharing them, if she is willing. Don't force them on her.

The four INTIMATE needs are affection, conversation, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment. If she has other things as her top needs, she is likely in withdrawal, and many spouses can be drawn out of that.

Into conflict. Hang on! smile


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Originally Posted by CWMI
Your fastest horse will probably be phone coaching with Steve, but I ask: has your wife read the basic concepts here? Have you? I would start there, and try filling out the emotional needs and love buster questionnaires and sharing them, if she is willing. Don't force them on her.

I would actually recommend Jennifer for reaching a disengaged wife. While I have no direct experience with Steve (and most everyone says great things about him) we had a similar situation and Jennifer was a great help.


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Jennifer it is then! We worked with Steve, but it was my H who was disengaged, so that makes sense.


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Accuray Offline OP
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Thanks all, here are some answers to your questions:

Originally Posted by markos
First off, are the two of you able to spend any time alone together? If so, how much each week, and how do you spend it?

Yes, my W's love language is "Quality Time" so I have focused on providing that. I was giving her full and undivided attention for 15 - 30 minutes a night initially, until she complained it was too much and she wanted to connect less. She said she wants "a few times a week", otherwise there is nothing to discuss.

I also like to do a weekly date night, but recently she said that with the kids' schedules, weekly is too much, and she wants to do it monthly. WRT my hobbies and interests, she won't engage in any of them.

Originally Posted by markos
Second, do the two of you ever fight or argue? If you do, tell us about it; it really does take two to argue, and we can teach you how to not argue with her even if she wants to argue with you. Arguments are like atomic bombs for your Love Bank account balance.

We really don't argue much. One cycle that we do get into, however, is that she tends to "assign" unhappiness to me. i.e. she'll tell me I'm upset with her when I'm not, and won't accept that I'm not upset. That then does make me upset, because I'm not being listened to, it pushes my buttons. Overall we get along really well. If we were just business partners we'd be great.

Originally Posted by Markos
After your wife is in love with you, there may still be some adjustments to be made, i.e., she may be doing things for you that she would like and may need to learn new habits that you would like, but at this point there will be a lot more willingness. I don't think Dr. Harley uses the following language in the paragraph you cited, but he talks about relationships in terms of the "Buyer's Agreement" versus the "Renter's Agreement." What you are expressing you want is the Buyer's agreement: a willingness to fix things together to make the marriage liveable and happy and fulfilling for both of you, forever. Currently your wife's emotions are leading her to a Renter's agreement: do whatever it takes for now to get by, until next month.

Well, she uses "Buyer's Agreement" language, but "Renter's Agreement" actions. The issue I have with the love bank deposits is that it looks like "pursuit", and we are very much enmeshed in "the pursuer distancer dance", where I am both the emotional and sexual pursuer, and she is the emotional and sexual distancer. She has recognized this dynamic as well, she likes me to pursue her, because it tells her that everything is okay, but her response is to distance. When I eventually burn out and withdraw, she'll pursue me just enough to get me pursuing again and will then withdraw. If you read about that dynamic, continuing to pursue, or make love bank deposits, just perpetuates the cycle, and you can't break out of it.

Originally Posted by CWMI
has your wife read the basic concepts here? Have you? I would start there, and try filling out the emotional needs and love buster questionnaires and sharing them, if she is willing. Don't force them on her.

I have read a huge library of relationship books, including "The Five Love Languages" which is closely related to the basic concepts. My wife read the book too. We "get it", she doesn't feel good about doing it.

Originally Posted by CWMI
The four INTIMATE needs are affection, conversation, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment. If she has other things as her top needs, she is likely in withdrawal, and many spouses can be drawn out of that.

Of those four needs, her top one is conversation. She is not interested in recreational companionship or sexual fulfillment, and enjoys minimal affection, she likes hugging, but that's pretty much the extent of it.

I will look into speaking with Jennifer -- in the meantime, any other thoughts, suggestions or questions?



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Accuray, here are some radio clips of Dr. Harley talking to a husband whose wife is not really coming through for him in their marriage. In their case they are recovering from an affair. You guys are fortunate that you don't appear to have that kind of marital damage at this time. Listen to how Dr. Harley coaches the caller and explains how wives change when their husbands make enough love bank deposits:

http://www.marriagebuilders.com/radio_program/play_segment.cfm?sid=3324
http://www.marriagebuilders.com/radio_program/play_segment.cfm?sid=3325
http://www.marriagebuilders.com/radio_program/play_segment.cfm?sid=3326

I agree with the comments about about not lowering expectations.

One thing Dr. Harley says is that if the husband is on board with the Marriage Builders program, the chances for the marriage are very good, much better than if it is the wife who is on board and the husband reluctant. The husband has greater potential for being able to win his wife back to the marriage by making love bank deposits.


If you are serious about saving your marriage, you can't get it all on this forum. You've got to listen to the Marriage Builders Radio show, every day. Install the app!

Married to my radiant trophy wife, Prisca, 19 years. Father of 8.
Attended Marriage Builders weekend in May 2010

If your wife is not on board with MB, some of my posts to other men might help you.
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Read MB materials. I liked 5 languages, too, but got a bit disgusted with the author when he wrote a similar book for the workplace--where most affairs start, and where married people should not be looking for ways to increase intimacy.

Get rid of all the other jargon from other things you read, and focus on MB. Top of the page, click Basic Concepts, and start!


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A word about Five Love Languages: we have this book and like it, but as a man I find it maddening that the book is not more specific about what to do. I saw lots of examples of what NOT to do, but not a lot of practical help as far as what to do, for the clueless husband. smile

I remember when we were reading the book together my wife said a particular section perfectly expressed what she was feeling. I read it and understood the problem, but said I still didn't know what to do different. So we were stuck! smile


If you are serious about saving your marriage, you can't get it all on this forum. You've got to listen to the Marriage Builders Radio show, every day. Install the app!

Married to my radiant trophy wife, Prisca, 19 years. Father of 8.
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Originally Posted by markos
One thing Dr. Harley says is that if the husband is on board with the Marriage Builders program, the chances for the marriage are very good, much better than if it is the wife who is on board and the husband reluctant. The husband has greater potential for being able to win his wife back to the marriage by making love bank deposits.
(threadjack)
Markos, can you provide a quote or context for that? I'm curious as to Dr. H's logic behind that. I would think it's the other way around - it seems to me that a wife, once checked out, is harder to bring back than a disengaged husband. Just curious.
(end threadjack)


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What are your hobbies and interests, and how much time do you spend on them?


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Originally Posted by Accuray
Yes, my W's love language is "Quality Time" so I have focused on providing that. I was giving her full and undivided attention for 15 - 30 minutes a night initially, until she complained it was too much and she wanted to connect less. She said she wants "a few times a week", otherwise there is nothing to discuss.

This is a sign that she is in the state of Withdrawal. You make the biggest Love Bank deposits by spending time together (whether your love language is quality time or not) meeting the four intimate emotional needs: intimate conversation, affection, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment.

You will need to make overtures to her: take the initiative to plan recreational activities that you know that SHE will enjoy, arrange babysitting, invite her out and try to get her to spend time alone with you. During this time you will need to become GREAT at the skill of intimate conversation first and then affection. There is an article here you can read on meeting the need for conversation that will give you four "friends" of intimate conversation and four "enemies" of intimate conversation to remember and practice, or avoid, as appropriate.

Because she is in withdrawal you will only be able to make little Love Bank deposits at first. Over time if you don't make any withdrawals, she will become more willing to allow you to make bigger Love Bank deposits. She will move to the state of Conflict, where she will be very selfish, but is still open to you making deposits, and you will need to hold the course (and possibly endure some nastiness) before she moves into Intimacy.


If you are serious about saving your marriage, you can't get it all on this forum. You've got to listen to the Marriage Builders Radio show, every day. Install the app!

Married to my radiant trophy wife, Prisca, 19 years. Father of 8.
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Thanks all, I will listen to the clips. We are indeed recovering from infidelity. My W had an "emotional affair" for about 6 months with a coworker. I found out just after it ended. When I confronted her I was asked for divorce. It's been a tough journey back, I have done "Divorce Busting" telephone coaching as well as marriage counseling and individual counseling. I would say that things are stabilized for her, I'm trying to make them great.

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Originally Posted by Accuray
We are indeed recovering from infidelity. My W had an "emotional affair" for about 6 months with a coworker.

Do they still work together? Her reluctance to spend any time with you - sexual or otherwise - indicates that they may still be in contact.


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I have the same situation with my wife. We've had a terrible sex life for 10 years, after 3 kids, I was almost completely ignored. Even after finding MB and HNHN books, she is an 'independent' woman, with the most relict acne to improve our sex life and our marriage.

I am SO frustrated, I am considering plan B.


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Originally Posted by CWMI
What are your hobbies and interests, and how much time do you spend on them?

You name it! I like biking, swimming, skiing, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, skating. I'm teaching myself to play guitar. I like to go for a walk for exercise. I'm not fanatical or ultra competitive about any of them, I just enjoy them. How much time do I spend doing these things? My first priority is my family, so I spend time with my kids and my wife before I focus on these things. I do these things when my wife wants space, when the kids are otherwise occupied, or when I need a break. I probably do road biking the most at this point, and typically ride about 4 hours per week. I would love for W to join me in any of this. She claims to have no recreational interests, so it's hard to do something she enjoys because she doesn't claim to enjoy anything physical.

Originally Posted by Markos
This is a sign that she is in the state of Withdrawal. You make the biggest Love Bank deposits by spending time together (whether your love language is quality time or not) meeting the four intimate emotional needs: intimate conversation, affection, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment.

I can't meet 3 of those needs because she claims not to have them and isn't interested in engaging.

Originally Posted by bitbucket
Do they still work together? Her reluctance to spend any time with you - sexual or otherwise - indicates that they may still be in contact.

They do not, they have been at separate companies for over a year. He declared "no contact" to save his own marriage and I'm certain he has stuck to that. I know people say that all the time and then have an unpleasant discovery, but I'm not new to this anymore, and I would know if something were going on -- it's not.

I'm going to call and sign up for the telephone coaching.

WRT intimate conversation, I believe I am very good at that, but it's very one-sided. W basically likes to talk about her work and the kids and that's it.

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Originally Posted by bitbucket
Do they still work together? Her reluctance to spend any time with you - sexual or otherwise - indicates that they may still be in contact.

Also, it's not the case that she is reluctant to spend any time with me -- she does like spending time with me, and will complain if we're not spending enough time together. She's also willing to be sexual with me, she's just not willing to engage in it for her own satisfaction. She claims she has very low desire (for anyone), and has always been that way. I believe that's a strong factor in why her emotional affair did not go physical.

I don't want to paint this situation as overly grim, she IS engaged in the marriage and is making some effort. She stepped up the sexual frequency for my benefit and engages without being passive aggressive or anything. She likes hugging me when we fall asleep. She claims that her needs are met, and that she's happy if I'm happy. She knows I'm not satisfied with the relationship, and that makes her feel badly -- but it doesn't motivate her to do anything about it.

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You'll need to find things that you both enjoy doing together. My H is much more physical than I am, and he sorta beat me over the head about family bike rides until I relented and went on one...it was nothing like he imagined, I don't know why he expected us all to go riding off full-steam when one of the kids was still on training wheels. After that, he quit asking.

Now we go boating (I know, we are fortunate to both be able to afford it, and live in an area where it is frequently possible), which we enjoy both alone together, and with the family. There are water sports for him and the teen and the older babes, and there is cove-sitting and noshing and swimming for me. Sometimes with wine coolers! smile

If she doesn't enjoy anything physical, what are your less-strenuous interests? Have you filled out the recreational inventory available on the site? We discarded anything that we did not both rate positively, which included some highly-favored activities by one or the other. When you find new things you both enjoy, it feels less like giving up a favorite activity.

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I'm confused. This:

Originally Posted by Accuray
Yes, my W's love language is "Quality Time" so I have focused on providing that. I was giving her full and undivided attention for 15 - 30 minutes a night initially, until she complained it was too much and she wanted to connect less. She said she wants "a few times a week", otherwise there is nothing to discuss.

I also like to do a weekly date night, but recently she said that with the kids' schedules, weekly is too much, and she wants to do it monthly.

Does not square with this:

Originally Posted by Accuray
Also, it's not the case that she is reluctant to spend any time with me -- she does like spending time with me, and will complain if we're not spending enough time together.



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I can't meet 3 of those needs because she claims not to have them and isn't interested in engaging.
You offer to meet them, anyway. Expect her to keep telling you "no" for awhile. Still make the offers, over and over again. Don't quit just because she throws up a wall and says "not interested."

She's in withdrawal. It's expected that she will not be interested in engaging in those things. It's expected that she will claim to have no need for those things.

But engaging in those intimate emotional needs is how she will fall in love with you again. No woman ever wakes up in the morning and thinks "Gee, I hope I don't get swept off my feet today." So pursue her. Chip away at the wall and make as many lovebank deposits as she will allow. She will eventually come out of withdrawal, and will start to respond.

Don't just throw up your hands and say "I can't do it! She won't let me!"


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