"What can I do about my marriage?
"After 2 kids, with me financing us 100% and being a good father & helping in the house, our once healthy relationship transformed to me feeling cold, lonely, and disconnected.
"A kiss goodnight is the most I can hope for lately."
It just happens that for the past 2 hours, I was just coaching a man whose marriage has just suddenly ended last week, under much the same circumstances.
He is a fantastic guy. A loyal and committed family man who also has two kids. He is also the dominant breadwinner. He also works his ass off. and like you he can’t understand why - despite his best efforts - his relationship struggled and why his wife couldn’t appreciate his sacrifices.
In the end, after a year of him working hard to create a stronger family, a better life, and to become even more the man she wanted - she ended the relationship, suddenly and terribly.
Why she ended the relationship
We can only guess at many of the reasons, and chances are that she doesn't really know either. Humans are complicated, with confused and conflicted thoughts and emotions.
But perhaps this is the most important thing to understand right now...
That right now, your wife is feeling the same things you are. She feels just as lonely, cold, and disconnected as you do,
I describe it like this…
Love is easy, but relationships are hard.
Love is just a feeling, a happy connection that two people feel when the biochemistry is right. Oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine are a powerful combination.
Relationships are an entirely different thing. They involve;
- Unwavering commitment
- Significant sacrifice
- Constant compromise
- Understanding, communication and healthy confrontations
- Intense effort, especially when you have a house to clean, children to raise, a dog to walk
- Life changes, and constant exhaustion - especially when kids come along, and you’re at work all day paying the mortgage
For her, it’s likely that she can deeply appreciate all of your contributions on a rational-brain level. You’re working hard, and sacrificing a lot, because you love your family.
She knows this.
But on an emotional level, it’s quite possible that she just feels abandoned and Isolated.
How you got here
If you're like most modern families, you're mostly working your ass off to support your family, while she's working her ass off to raise the children.
From her perspective...
- She has the primary responsibility for raising two kids on her own.
- She may feel like she's put her life, and her career on hold.
- Unless she has good friends who are nearby and available, she likely feels lonely and isolated from other adults.
- She may even feel isolated from herself, lacking in real adult-level thought, interactions and discussions. Like a rusty door, even opening is an effort.
Daily, she's exhausted to the core, and then expected to be emotionally and sexually available for her hard-working husband when he comes home.
Yes, it's fair for you to need intimacy. You're human too.
But... she’s feeling dead inside, and has nothing to give.
These experiences may not sound that terrible, yet they are more emotionally challenging than you may think.
Moreover... this situation is not at all natural.
What Society Got Wrong
The way we build families today isn’t really how humans were designed to build families.
If you look at our nearest evolutionary cousins - bonobos and chimpanzees, families are always part of a larger tribe. Children are never raised in isolation, because raising kids is incredibly demanding work, and parents can’t do it well alone.
Parents need sleep, self-care, and an extra arm or three. Kids need a wide range of perspectives, skills, and ideas to expand their minds and their world.
A tribe gives you those things, and we have deprived ourselves of them.
Family isolation is a societal problem. and there are huge consequences to it. High divorce rates, emotionally warped kids, “fragile” families that can’t handle losing a job or getting hit with an unplanned medical bill.
Your work situation may be equally unhealthy, in that it isolates you from your family too, and may trap you sitting at a desk for 40+ hours a week. How healthy is that?
Not so much.
So what can you do?
First, understand that she's not the same woman you married.
Not exactly, because life changes us. People constantly grow and change, and both relationships and parenting change us in deep and fundamental ways.
Everything from her biochemistry to her body... her mental state and her emotional state... her friendships and daily life experiences... all of these have been entirely rewritten.
She’s a different woman now, shaped by a different life than you met her in.
However the woman you met is still there, and you might be able to redesign your life so that she can re-emerge.
Consider a radical redesign of your life
At this stage, if you want to save your family, be ready to be radical, quitting everything, uprooting and moving your life.
It won't be easy, and it will be incredibly scary.
You'll have to be willing to "give it all" for your family, to create this situation-
- One in which she feels deeply valued ( not just needed ).
- One which has adventure, new experiences, and new surprises on a daily basis. This depends a lot on her personality, but boredom and monotony is a killer for many relationships.
- One where you can each be 50% involved in raising the family, and 50% in some kind of career or personal life mission. Learning, growing, doing new things daily.
- One in which she can be herself again, the woman you fell in love with.
Every option has to be on the table. Her happiness, and your happiness, come before anything else, because without those… what’s a family for anyway?
I'm talking big changes here, like;
- Changing your career so you can be home 50% of the time, and she can work 50% too.
- Quitting your job and switching roles, so that you're the primary caregiver for your kids, and she's the primary breadwinner.
- Moving to a new country.
- Moving her parents in, or a nanny, or a sister, so she has a tribe to help raise the kids.
Basically whatever works.
Big changes will be scary, involve huge sacrifice, and may even seem impossible- but you have to ask "what's most important to me in my life?"
Dream together. plan together, and redesign your life.
Connect deeply, by discussing your pain
Talk about what you're both experiencing. Ask her what she's experiencing. Share your pain with each other, with love and zero judgement or blame.
People connect emotionally on shared pain, more than on shared pleasure.
From there you can begin to discuss what might be possible to change.
Get a good relationship counselor
"Will counseling really help?"
ABSOLUTELY! ... sort of.
In my view, counseling is much more beneficial while your relationship is already healthy and strong, and you're both motivated to make it better - in the way a fitness coach will help you to improve your body.
Unfortunately, many people see relationship counselors as doctors, who are only called on when you're quite ill. In the world of relationships, it's often much harder to recover at that stage.
Let's look at your situation.
At this point, it's clear that a lot of pain and disconnection has built up between the two of you. If these are intense enough, counseling may not help you save your marriage.
To repair your relationship and create a beautiful, solid marriage, both of you must be committed to;
- wanting a better relationship together
- believing it can happen, and
- willing to let go of past resentments
If either of you are unable or unwilling to do all three of those things, there's little that a counselor can do.
However, even if that's not possible, it will almost certainly help you to understand each other better and improve your friendship and as co-parenting skills - which is essential since she's the mother of your children.
No matter what happens, she will always be family, and part of your life.
Invest in that relationship, always.
One final note, because I'm often surprised by how few people understand love languages.
If you’re not familiar with them, look into love languages- they’re a very useful tool in understanding what triggers love and connection in a relationship.
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