Dear John: My wife "Linda" and I are approaching our 19th anniversary. We are at a dead end in our relationship. We are both in our mid-40s, with high-pressure professional careers: Linda is a director of human resources, and I am a professor of music at a local college. We support each other's careers and share housework and family responsibilities, but lately, I've realized that we've been putting up with each other just to keep the home running.
We don't really display intimacy or real love toward each other. Linda resents the fact I stand up to her on certain issues regarding our children and our relationship. She feels I have grown to hate her. On top of this, we have not had sex in the past two years. — Troubled Marriage, in Spokane, Wash.
Dear Troubled Marriage: When a couple regularly makes love, they generate the connection needed to give meaning to their lives together. Sometimes, familiarity can put a strain on passion. If we go a while without passion, the relationship may start to feel meaningless. Your marriage has entered an emotional "winter" — when there is a distancing, both physically and emotionally.
Unfortunately, if the physical frost cannot be broken, no emotional warming will occur. Unlike nature, we have to instigate our own emotional "spring." While spontaneity may be easy in the beginning, it needs a little help as a marriage matures.
Your relationship needs a romantic overhaul. This means time away from routine in a setting that allows for real romance. If your marriage can be saved, take the ball and run with it. Line up a babysitter and book a long weekend away — for just the two of you. Write her a letter that reminds both of you of the reasons you fell in love with your wife and still love her to this day. You can read it to her the first night of your getaway.
Dear John: I recently got in trouble with the law. I won't go into details, but since then, my wife has been on my case to change my behavior, my attitude and just about everything else she can think of. I'm trying my best, but I cannot change fast enough. Because of this, she has threatened to call it quits.
Deep in my heart, I still love her, although I know I have not demonstrated this to her as best as I can. I want our marriage to last for a long time. I'm 37, and I want to try to do the right thing. How can I explain to her that it will take time for me to change? - Puzzled, in Albuquerque, N.M.
Dear Puzzled: Your wife's ultimatum is a "delayed reaction response" to her frustrations over your problems. Although you've made attempts to change, a recent crisis might have reinforced all of her previous concerns.
If you have indeed stopped the offensive behavior, she should demonstrate her support and appreciation. On the other hand, if she has set her limit on how much she will deal with your problems, and you have not resolved the issue in a manner she can accept, I support the concept of you both separating until you are able to do so.
Sometimes, our greatest motivation is regaining that which we've just lost: In this case, it would be her love. If she does not stand strong on this issue, you will never change. Use her show of strength as a standard for your own.
John Gray is the author of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." If you have a question, write to John in care of this newspaper or by e-mail at: www.marsvenus.com. All questions are kept anonymous and will be paraphrased. To find out more about John Gray and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.