Dear Annie: I have been married for over 20 years to a woman who has been a good mom, but not a woman I am in love with. I care about her tremendously, but I have lost all interest in her romantically. She refuses to work to help with the rising cost of living and impending college tuition for two older teenage kids. She doesn't really keep a clean house. I do as much or more of the cooking — probably as I prefer to. She wears T-shirts and, half the time, no makeup when I get home.
She just doesn't seem to care about pleasing her husband. I've asked about counseling for years, but she blames me for not going. "You wouldn't do it," she says.
I want to live the rest of my life happy and in love. The thought of living without being in love for the rest of my life is terrifying. I'm a romantic and need that spark.
Then along comes another woman. Yeah, same old story, I know. There is absolutely nothing going on between us, but I admit I wish there were.
So, I can see what's out there that I want to be with. But I'm married and feel obligated to that person who helped build a family. To say I am conflicted is an understatement.
I know if I left, then there is zero guarantee and little chance of the other woman being interested. Yet, to be able to try to find happiness, to give that a chance, that is starting to seem worth it. My marriage has been going through this for 15 of the 20-plus years. It's not new. So being in a highly emotional state, I keep thinking I need to choose between finding passion or remaining in stale obligation. I need advice. I don't want to hurt my wife. I don't want to hurt my kids, although I think they are old enough to deal with me leaving. I want to be happy. — Conflicted
Dear Conflicted: Marriage is a two-way street, and I'm sure your wife is not thrilled about being married to someone who is highly critical of her. She can probably sense that you don't find her attractive romantically and is sad about that. It could be part of the reason that she seems to have given up looking nice for you or cooking you a nice meal.
Marriage is a give and take, and it sounds like neither of you is giving, and you're both unhappy. At this point, marriage counseling would be the first step to take.
When your wife says about marriage counseling, "You wouldn't do it," is she right? If so, look in the mirror. You were close during the first five years of your marriage. With professional help, the two of you might rekindle your early romance. It will take a lot of work, but I can't think of anything more important. If during your counseling you decide that you don't want to make it work, then set her free. No one should have to be in a relationship where the person outwardly says they are not "in love" with their spouse. But remember that there is a difference between love and lust.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]