'I'm forcing myself to love my wife'

All Woman

Dear Counsellor,

I recently married a woman whom I have felt conflicted about since day one. I feel like when it comes to our commitment to entrepreneurial greatness, we do well. However, when it comes to our personal relationship, it kind of sucks.

Both of her parents are Christians and I really like them, so I decided to trust that things would get better in time, but they haven't. I really admire and love having the approval of her parents since I lost both of mine. The whole family makes me feel like I am part of the family.

I feel as if I married the idea of my wife more than I married her as a person. I am not really in love with her. I feel like I am forcing myself to love her, and it's not fair to her. I don't think I really love her; I am just trying to make her happy at the expense of my own happiness.

I feel terrible for what I have done and I want to do what's right. We constantly argue and disagree, and I feel that this crazy relationship is affecting me mentally.

I want her to be happy, but I want to be happy too. I can't keep tormenting her by trying to make myself do something that I don't feel.

I just want to be happy. I was going to write down a few scenarios along with positive/negative consequences and decide.

How should I look at this situation, and what should I do?

The first line of your letter is quite instructive, and clearly indicates the source of the marital issues you are now experiencing. You had reservations about marrying this lady, but went ahead anyway, hoping that after the lovely wedding ceremony the love sparks would ignite.

One of the mistakes couples make is to allow family and friends to dictate when they should get married, and to whom. The matchmakers see the couple obviously enjoying a good friendship, and they immediately start sowing seeds of marriage in their heads, when the couple would be better off being good friends rather than romantic partners.

The challenge you have is akin to some marital relationships where the matchmakers are on the sidelines watching while you both try to give them a good show. However, behind closed doors the reality of the fractured relationship comes to the fore, and you have an unhappy couple who have no connection beyond the physical, and sometimes that connection is not even there.

I hope couples who are in relationships and contemplating marriage learn from your experience and appreciate the importance of beginning premarital counselling before a wedding date is set. Some couples attend premarital counselling sessions as a ritual, and unfortunately some pastors conduct these sessions as if they are not as important as the marriage itself.

If you discover in these sessions that there are more deal-breakers than deal-makers, then you need to reconsider whether marriage is in the best interest of you both, despite what the cheerleaders may think or say. Enough said.

Doing your list of pros and cons is a start, but I would strongly recommend that you see a marriage therapist as early as tomorrow. The truth is, what you will be doing now is what you should have done prior to getting married; but better late than never.

No doubt your wife is aware of your present state of unhappiness, and might respond likewise. The constant arguing and disagreements are just the symptom of the communication deficit in the relationship, but the counsellor will help to address these.

I note you said you are forcing yourself to love your wife and that you are not in love with her. Are you saying that though you both share entrepreneurial interests there is nothing else that attracts you to her? When you do your pros and cons list, do another one on your wife as well, and be honest. Certainly, she must have some positive and likeable qualities that you may have overlooked while focusing on the negatives.

As you said, it is not fair to your wife, as the decision to get married was not hers alone. You are also correct in saying that your happiness is important. The conversation about these issues must take place in a neutral setting with a non-aligned third party. Happiness should be the goal of both partners, and if that ingredient is missing, then there is work to be done

For committed relationships, keeping the love boat afloat is a work in progress. It's just that some enter the relationship with the boat intact, while others must do minor (or major) repairs before the boat can leave the dock.

Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to agapemft@gmail.com or powellw@seekingshalom.org. Check out his work on www.seekingshalom.org and his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MFTCounselor/.

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