Great stuff! Thank you for reading my sitch, I think you've summarized where I stand nicely.
Yet you understand her to be unwilling to do the things that make you feel loved and cared for, the things that create and maintain your romantic connection to her as your wife. As far as you can tell she simply wants to be accepted and appreciated �as is.�
Well, she certainly wouldn't describe it as "unwilling", she describes herself as "incapable", or "I'm just not wired that way". I believe it to be unwillingness, because I believe she IS capable if she were motivated. Yes, she says she simply wants to be accepted and appreciated "as is", and that it makes her feel badly that "as she is" is not good enough to meet my needs. (Which makes me feel like the bad guy)
Your current understanding of why your wife refuses to do the things you�ve asked is they are essentially unpleasant for her. She doesn�t like to express admiration, she doesn�t like physical affection much and she doesn�t enjoy sex. She�s willing to engage in these activities for your benefit, but not with much true passion or enthusiasm.
YES, although just to clarify, she's willing to engage in sex for my benefit, but not expressing admiration or physical affection.
Yes, I agree this is a challenging situation. "His Needs Her Needs" specifically was written from the perspective of husbands and wives who are willing to work together to improve their marriage. That doesn't work well for the spouse who wants to be accepted "as is".
?? - Has your wife always been so uninterested in the things that matter most to you? (Admiration/Sexual Fulfillment/Affection)
As covered in "His Needs, Her Needs", she did engage in recreational companionship with me before we got married, but over the next 15 years gradually dropped all of them.
She was certainly much more affectionate while we were dating and after we were married, but that pretty much tailed off after we had kids.
Sexually I was satisfied with our relationship before kids, but after that it got less passionate and less frequent until we were in a marriage that would be characterized as "Sex Starved" my Michelle Weiner Davis' definition. Sex Starved does not mean that you don't have sex, it just means that your desire gap is great enough that it causes the higher desire partner to be resentful and to withdraw.
I believe that was the root of our undoing -- I got very resentful about my W's lack of interest in sex and took it very personally. As a result, I withdrew emotionally and stopped spending "UA" time with her. You know how that cycle goes, and I do too, it leads you apart. I believe the difference is that I more or less accepted the marriage as it was and was able to be happy within it because I really didn't need much. I thought my W had accepted it too, but she was far more unhappy than she let on. Instead of discussing it with me, she started shopping for affair partners. I understand why people do that, and I've forgiven her for it.
When we started to reconcile, I viewed it as an opportunity to "push the reset button" and start a new marriage that was better than the last one. I really went on a marriage improvement quest to understand what it takes, and to get myself in a position to deliver. I've just been frustrated that she's not there with me, and really seems content to go back to how things were with just slightly more "UA", but not a ton.
If so I�m curious how she ever deposited enough in your love bank to cause you to fall in love with her. I struggle to imagine you married a woman who made it clear she was not going to meet your needs in marriage. I suppose it is possible.
I hope my write-up above cleared this up. She did not make it clear to me in advance that she wasn't going to meet my needs or I wouldn't have married her! At the time, she was meeting my needs.
Interesting thing about the love bank -- based on the affair, and her subsequent unwillingness to meet my needs, you'd think my love bank would have a negative balance by now. Why do I still feel in love with her?
?? - If she used to be better at meeting your ENs, what happened? When and why did this change?
I think there are many factors at play here. I think we fell into many typical relationship problems that emerge over time, as you have children, etc. etc. Marriages probably follow a cycle of gradual decay. If you do 15 things for your spouse in year five, you may only do 14 of them in year six. The one thing may not be missed that much. By year fifteen you may no longer be doing any of them. It takes effort and commitment and for us those probably fell by the wayside.
The affair and divorce request were a crisis in our marriage, and crisis can motivate change. I certainly took it as a challenge to find a path to the best marriage I can have. I've seen the potential and I want it. For that reason, my EN's and my expectations are also higher than they were before.
In discussing the affair, my W presented her complaints and unmet EN's as justification for what she did. I have embraced them, and have made it my mission to satisfy them. By virtue of the investment, I have an increasing awareness of the fact that my own EN's are not being addressed. Maybe if I were contributing less I wouldn't care as much. Make sense?
It is possible there is a currently unseen reason for your wife�s attitude towards your unmet ENs. She may not know why herself. If there is a reason that could be discovered, understood and addressed, you may have something you can work with.
So, aside from simple ambivalence, why do you think your wife is unwilling to meet your ENs? What is keeping her from doing the things you ask?
I think there's a cocktail of reasons behind this. I think we could probably find one or two that seem to fit perfectly and say "ah ha! that's it!". In reality, the causes are probably far more complicated and may be layered, which is to say that if one is alleviated, another may rise to take it's place, and getting to the bottom of all of them may not be practical, I don't know.
I know she generally feels unworthy, I know she struggles with some depression issues, I know she works very hard to keep it together. I know it's important to her not to need help from anyone. I know she was raised by a narcissistic mother.
She also says that she has accepted herself for who she is. She says that she is baseline unhappy, but she's accepted that about herself, and is therefore not willing to work on it. She says that she could go to therapy, for instance, but the pain of going through it isn't worth it to her to make things better.
1) Maybe she truly feels incapable of meeting your needs in the ways you�ve proposed. If she could do what you ask, she would. But she feels she simply is unable to do so.
I went to a good MC who picked up on this theme. He told me that she views meeting my needs like working in a rock quarry. Every day you show up, pick up your shovel, and shovel rocks from one pile to another. The whole time you are shoveling from pile A, there's a conveyor belt dropping more rocks on top. Therefore, no matter how hard you shovel, it really doesn't help, so you might as well go slow and do the minimum, because what's the point? I think she feels that if she meets my stated EN's, there will just be another set that will take their place, and she'll never be good enough. i.e. if I give you A, you're just then going to ask for B, C, and D. MC said this has more to do with her than with me, and that my needs aren't really inappropriate at all.
He said that this dynamic of feeling the EN's are insurmountable makes W feel "unsafe" in the relationship, because her contribution is never good enough, and that reinforces helplessness and feeling trapped. Therefore, his advice was drop expectations and work on acceptance.
2) Maybe rather than requests your wife is hearing complaints. She interprets your requests as essentially negative judgments against her. Ie �A good wife would do X� When interpreted in this way, she naturally resists fulfilling your needs out of duty. The motivator here is guilt, not love, and thus not very inspiring or durable.
Oh yeah, I'm hypersensitive to that. I don't complain, and I don't ever say things like "a good wife would do X". She does tend to hear everything as a complaint however. When I'm not commenting an anything she'll invent complaints, assign them to me, and then get upset about it. i.e. she invents things I might be upset about. A couple weeks ago we met at the movie theater and were driving home after the movie in separate cars. When I got home, she said that I was very upset with her and thought she was a terrible driver. I had no idea what she was talking about, and she explained that I had been following too close, which obviously meant that I was frustrated with her driving. I know I was 3-4 car lengths back in a 30 mph zone all the time, so I have no idea what she was talking about.
If I compliment her on anything, she tends to interpret that as a veiled complaint. If I compliment a meal she made, she'll interpret that to mean that I think all her other meals are bad.
3) Maybe your wife is not in love with you.
I believe that's it, although she says otherwise.
4) Maybe your wife does not value your ENs as being worthy or important.
That's not it.
What do you think? What is your best answer to that question?
I think she "loves me" like you would love a sibling, I do not feel that she's "in love" with me in a passionate sense, because if she were, she'd be motivated.
Dr. Harley proposes that keeping the love bank deposits coming can build that "romantic love", but I question that hypothesis. I believe the love bank deposits can prevent the love from eroding, but I'm not convinced that they can create passionate love where none exists.
I'm hopeful that the coach can convince me otherwise.
My W is happy to stay in the marriage "as-is", she's not complaining about anything, other than the fact that I'm not happy and that she's not meeting my needs.