We Don't Spend Enough Time
with Each Other

Letter #2

Dear Dr. Harley,

My wife and I have been married for almost 12 years, both work full-time and we have one child in day-care and the other in elementary school. Ever since my wife and I have had children I have gradually lost almost all romantic feelings toward my wife. I feel at this time as though we are roommates who share responsibility for two healthy and wonderful children.

Over the past few years I've tried to discuss the situation with my wife and even asked if she was willing to go to counseling, but she refuses to even recognize that there is a problem. Several times over the last few years I've told her that I no longer love her. I know how devastating this would have been to me, and I didn't do it to cause a deeper chasm, but to make her aware of how I felt and how far our relationship had deteriorated. My wife is a wonderful mother who makes many sacrifices for her children. And I spend almost all my waking moments after work with our two boys. But I have received almost no care from my wife.

A typical weekday for us would be: Getting up before dawn (she around 4:45) and (me about 5:15) daily. I drop my one son off at 6:30 am at day-care and go to work. My wife puts my oldest son on the bus and then goes to work. I arrive home about 3:30 pm and begin making lunches for the next day, setting the table for supper, helping my oldest son with his homework. My wife then arrives home about 5:00 pm with my other son and I will then try to entertain them so that my wife can get changed and sort through the day's residue. We usually eat between 6:30-7:30 pm and then it's bath and pajama time for the boys and bedtime for them between 8:30-9:00 pm. Then my wife begins preparing for the next day and I attempt to resolve any household problems that may be outstanding. Most nights I go to bed around 11 pm and my wife remains sleeping on the couch until midnight or so and then comes upstairs.

During the entire day we never touch one another or even say particularly nice things to one another and with the exception of a quick kiss in the morning as I go to work, there is absolutely no contact between us, and sad to say, I don't miss it at all because I no longer have romantic feelings toward her.

My question to you is, should I remain in this relationship for the sake of the children, because quite honestly if it was not for them, I would have been divorced years ago. You may suggest that we try to somehow rekindle our love, but from my perspective, I can't imagine ever loving my wife again.

I would like to know what you would do if you were in my situation.

H.C.

Dear H.C.,

If you think about your situation logically, you will agree with me that your greatest failure has been to meet each other's most important emotional needs. The love that you once had for each other was created because you took time to give each other your undivided attention, and you met each others needs whenever you did that. The needs for affection, conversation, recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment all require undivided attention and time.

In other words, you have scheduled romantic love out of your relationship, and, to nobody's surprise, you don't have romantic love anymore. I admit that getting back your love for each other will be harder than it was when you got it for the first time. Back then, giving each other undivided attention was almost effortless because you didn't have the children you are now raising. You both thought that once you had children, your love for each other would stay put, even though you were no longer taking time to meet each other's emotional needs. Now you know it doesn't work that way.

The solution to your problem is to do what you did when you were dating and, perhaps, when you were first married. Take time every day to give each other what you need the most -- interesting and caring conversation, affection that communicates your care for each other, You will find that taking time to be alone will be one of the most difficult missions of your life. Your wife will not be very interested in the idea because she doesn't love you any more than you love her. You've been telling her you no longer love her, but she is more polite -- she keeps her negative feelings to herself. She may not only feel no love for you, she may actually hate you. It's true, she has not been meeting your needs, but you haven't been meeting hers either. You've also been upsetting her with your pronouncements of your loss of love.

Those first dates will prove to both of you how incompatible you have become over the past few years. Conversations will be contrived and awkward, and finding mutually enjoyable activities may prove to be almost impossible. But if you can stick to it for a few weeks, you will find yourselves warming up to each other, and you will make the re-connection that you need to rekindle your love for each other.

To help you get through all this, you will need a road map. Read my book, Fall in Love, Stay in Love. It will help you learn how to talk to each other when you are giving each other undivided attention, it will help you understand the meaning of affection, how to improve your sexual relationship, and how to create recreational companionship. The rest of the book will help you get to the place where you feel like doing these things for each other.

You are out of love with each other for innocent reasons. In your enthusiasm to care for the children you love dearly, you have neglected each other. It now seems to both of you that those feelings cannot return. But you're wrong. Those feelings of love you need in your marriage can return by changing your schedule, and re-learning how to meet the needs that brought you both together in the first place.

You need time for each other's undivided attention desperately, because time is what it takes to meet each other's most important emotional needs.

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