Dear Emuna,

My husband is very affectionate with me most of the time. We married after only dating a short time and he was my Prince Charming. About a year into marriage we began to have horrible fights. I definitely played my part and was not “fault free”, but he would take shots at me regarding my seeing a therapist (I had high levels of anxiety and was diagnosed with PTSD. This was the first therapist that was actually helping me control the anxiety) to telling me how all I do is spend (he spends large amounts of money - I don’t spend anything on myself.) and how I need to start “ pulling my weight” (I had a great job that he encouraged me to quit so I could travel with him for work and have some time with my kids since they’d both be leaving for college in a few years at that time).

A couple months ago I was rushed to the ER with what I thought was a heart attack or stroke while he was on his way home from work travel. A friend picked me up and brought me back to my car and I came home to sleep off the Xanax the doctor had given me (it was a severe panic attack). When I woke and he wasn’t home. I called and he had gone into work and then to the gym. I was crushed. It was the smack that finally opened my eyes that this man does not care for me.

My heart is broken because my love is pure and true. I always hold myself responsible and make changes when I’ve wronged him or have hurt him in anyway, but I do not get the same at any time. He does not even apologize and never feels he’s wrong. I have asked on several occasions that we go to counseling because I’ve wanted to believe so much that what we have is truly special and nobody can be that great an actor, but he’s refused time and time again.

All I’ve asked this man for is love and quality time. He acts like he loves me, but the quality time is usually him on and off his phone and/or computer, and then he can’t understand why I get upset. I have talked to him over and over to exhaustion about the same issues that never get resolved. I love him fiercely but I feel I’ve exhausted all options and am at a “take it or leave it” option only. which is a horrible place to be. Any thoughts or direction?

At My Wit’s End

Dear Wit’s End,

I hear your pain and frustration, but you also seem to be giving me some mixed messages. You say that “He acts like he loves me” but then every example you give seems to suggest the opposite. You say that “you love him fiercely” yet your letter is a litany of complaints with no suggestion of any positive character traits. So again, while I empathize with your pain and loneliness, I think you need to ask yourself a few tough questions.

If, as you say, you still love him, ask yourself why. I don’t mean this tongue-in-cheek but very seriously. In fact, you should sit down and make a list. Why do I care about this man? Did you fall in love with him or with the idea of marriage (your description of him as your Prince Charming suggests a fantasy element here)? If it was with the idea of marriage, then I think you are in trouble and it’s not his fault. If you fell in love with a fairy tale, it’s not surprising that reality is troubling. And you need to begin by adjusting your expectations.

But if you fell in love with a flesh-and-blood human being, then list his good qualities. Remind yourself why you married him. Instead of concentrating on what you aren't getting, focus on what you are. Keep looking for the good.

Additionally, every relationship and every human being can be crushed under the weight of too great expectations. I still remember a couple I knew where the wife would ask the man literally non-stop all day, “Do you love me?” Her incessant need for reassurance and attention actually destroyed their marriage. He kept pulling farther and farther away until there was no relationship left. I don’t know if that’s happening here, but I think it’s possible that your emotional neediness is overwhelming your husband and he is pulling back. Cut him some slack. I imagine that it was painful that your husband wasn’t home when you woke up from your hospital experience but, in fairness, he didn’t know when you were going to wake up and maybe he though that if he went to the gym and got some work done first, he could be more available to you.

I would advise that you don’t always assume the worst motivation on his part. I don’t really know if your marriage can be improved but I suggest you begin (since you are the only one who can) by expressing greater appreciation for him and expecting (and asking) for less proof of his love and commitment to you. It also sounds like your marriage needs a little fun. Can you take a walk together? Can you create a date night in your home? As the current restrictions ease, can you go out somewhere together? Even a really good relationship is bending under the strain these days. And no relationship can withstand the constant taking of its temperature and the constant burden of too-high expectations and demands. Try to tone down the intense emotion and focus on small daily interactions and joys. As always, ask the Almighty to help you.