It's been 6 months, I figured I would check in and provide a short update. Following the advice from our prior discussions, I did pursue the admiration angle, but as you know this needs to go slowly to be genuine. My last post was on 6/13 -- for the next 3 weeks things actually got progressively worse to the point that W was treating me like an unwanted roommate. I started looking at apartments and was ready to move out.
I figured there must be love busters at play that were effectively blocking my efforts, and indeed there were. I worked to resolve those issues (which were minor in my view and very easily changed).
As part of the conversation around the love busters, W told me that she was not "in love with me", defined as having feelings of romantic love, and didn't know if she ever had been. She went on to say that it's not important to her, and she doesn't need those feelings in her marriage. I suspected that she felt that way -- I was listening to a radio show with a psychologist who was saying that some women set benchmarks such as "I should be married by the time I'm 30", or "I should have kids by the time I'm 32", and as those ages approach they are tempted to compromise their decision making, such as marrying someone they are not in love with but who are "good enough". The psychologist was obviously advising a caller not to do that, but I feel that I may be on the losing side of one of those compromises as we got married when W was 30 and had recently come out of a 4 year relationship. She wanted that relationship to result in marriage, but the guy got cold feet and moved out.
In mid-July, we had a blow up over how she was treating me, discussed the love busters, etc. Armed with the love buster information things steadily improved for a while, but then started to deteriorate again.
I met with my MC and IC, and they both said that the fact that I was actively "working on myself" as a husband and making an effort to improve the marriage was putting pressure on W, and that I needed to back off and "just be" for a while. Beginning in about September I put that into practice and things improved a bit again, and for the last few months we've been in what I would call a very comfortable equilibrium.
In a marriage without the scars ours has had, I'd probably say our marriage is "good" at this point, but not great.
The issue I have is being in a marriage where my W says she has no romantic love for me, doesn't feel she needs it, and isn't interested in trying to foster it. She takes a "leave well enough alone" approach to things, and effort on my part to make things better or more intimate cause her to distance herself emotionally. That's not to say that she's cold, ignores me, or doesn't seem to "like me". In fact, she acts the way you'd act if you lived with a roommate you like. She's pleasant, is willing to go to dinner or a movie with me when I ask, is happy to have a pleasant conversation when I start one, will return hugs when I offer them. In addition, she'll have sex if I ask, but it's clear it's for me and not for her. She's giving in this regard, treats me well, but at the same time the relationship simply is not satisfying by virtue of the missing romantic love.
My MC advised me to divorce at this point, he said that she's not going to work on it with me and likely never will. He said that at my age, it would be a crime to let another 10 years pass without being in a satisfying relationship.
My IC who also worked with W before she worked with me said that W is "full of cr@p" and actually loves me very deeply, but that she's like a petulant teenager who will not allow me to see that because she's very afraid to let anybody in. She advised me to ignore that, and know that romantic love will come and go in any marriage.
For now, I'm following that advice and sticking with it because it's "good enough" given the cost to the children and our financial situation of dissolving our marriage, but it is unfortunately not satisfying.
Obviously I'm open to any suggestions or advice.