Dear Ellie: During my 37-years’ relationship with my husband, we worked together in our business, then closed it seven years ago, able to live comfortably.
We owned our house and divided our chores. He’d do most outdoor jobs, and I’d do all the cooking. About 14 years ago, I had breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy, radiation treatment. I was also diagnosed as diabetic.
He was very supportive, taking over house-cleaning and some cooking. But, more recently, we started having fights and arguments.
He’d accuse me of not appreciating and respecting him.
Most serious, was his accusing me of not loving him as he loves me.
He believes that I disapprove of his life choices, only care about making myself happy. He’d criticize that my parents spoiled me.
I don’t know how to answer his accusation that I’m “not considerate of/or care for him.” I buy little things for him but he says this doesn’t show “caring for him.” To be fair, he’s good to me and does buy me things.
I don’t know what else I can do to make him happy.
I do know I’m often thoughtless, e.g., when he’s working outside on a hot, humid day, I don’t think to bring him water.
Once, he got so angry and wouldn’t speak to me. I wait for him to calm down but sometimes he makes it difficult.
Is all this my fault? How can I improve myself? Couples therapy isn’t an option as he believes he’s in the right.
Am I self-centred and don’t recognize it? I’d like to recognize the mistakes I made and avoid them in the future.
The most important thing that you’ve assessed correctly, is recognizing and accepting that you can give more to this relationship.
Where you are not correct, is labelling yourself “helpless.”
Far from it. Instead, you’ve reached out for help to understand how your marriage has deteriorated toward a state of mutual doubts and his disappointments.
Dig deeper. Once you closed your business, stopped working together, then experienced serious illness, the partnership changed.
You focused on his chores. But he felt unsupported as a man.
His repeated mention of not being loved, was and still is, the key to moving forward.
However, it won’t help to turn against yourself with blame, and personal faults. The best way to clear these self-defeating guilty feelings is to do better.
Those who say “couples therapy isn’t an option,” don’t want to expose themselves to assessments they don’t like.
Of course, not all counselling “works,” but many people do discover from professional advice what they’ve been pretending not to understand/trust/believe.
Go on your own if he won’t attend, and open your own mind to making positive changes. You can still have years ahead together.
He wants to be loved and appreciated. Now, so do you.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the woman who’s seeking help for her “lost libido,” which happened in her mid-60s (June 8):
“She should be very seriously considering changing doctors and insisting on such a referral for further investigation.
“The letter-writer should go to the referred doctor along with her husband. The information received would likely be very educational for both partners.
“As a man, I think her desire to feel sexually aroused would be a major turn-on for him, as he will see that she’s seriously investigating what has become a marital problem.
“He may actually learn something for his own knowledge, if his own body stops reacting as in the past.”
FEEDBACK Regarding Unending Grief (June 11):
Reader – “I’m 66, and lost my spouse of 40 years to cancer, three-and-a-half years ago. He was funny, capable, sexy and handsome.
“I understand this journey of grief which continues and likely never goes away completely. I want to hold on to a piece of it.
“The idea of dating is so uninteresting to me. My friends and family who’ve stood by me patiently, lovingly, are enough.
“Last year I started a new hobby to make new memories. I bought an electric guitar despite having no musical background. It’s FUN and excites me. Those words weren’t in my vocabulary for a long time. But it gets easier.
“My advice to “Unending Grief” is: “everything in YOUR OWN time.” A tiny but powerful book, is “Finding Your Way When Your Spouse Dies” by Silas Henderson.
“Cry whenever you want. Don’t apologize.”
Ellie’s tip of the day
There’s more to married team-work than dividing chores. Caring/kindness/loving actions and words, form long term bonds.
Send relationship questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.