Evidently I have a great relationship.
I don’t recognize it as such because I’ve never been in any other relationship, so I don’t realize how good I’ve got it.
This is what my therapist hypothesized yesterday, at the conclusion of our hour-long session.
I am willing to entertain this hypothesis because she’s right, I’ve never been in another relationship and it’s entirely possible that I DON’T realize how good I have it, because I don’t know what a truly “bad” relationship looks like. I don’t even know what a decent relationship that eventually won’t work out looks like.
Not having been in another seriously, long-term relationship is one of the great regrets of my life. I worry it will cause me lasting unhappiness.
Here’s the thing. I know, on an intellectual level, that Mi.Vida love me. He is clearly committed to our family and marriage. He has grown immensely over the past six years, and has finally arrived a place where he participates willingly (and with minimal complaining), in all the many aspects of our family life. The truth is, he has a better attitude about all his responsibilities as a father now that we have two kids (and he has more to do both with the kids and around the house and less free time to enjoy) than he did before when he had significantly fewer responsibilities. I didn’t really believe he’d ever get to a place where he handles the mornings with Osita without dumping the resulting stress on to me, or that he’d take ownership of dishes duty and general kitchen clean up (every night, always) without me ever asking or even suggesting it. And while he does sometimes get stressed, and walks around emitting his toxic stress waves all over the house, he never lets his “woe-is-me” sigh pass his lips when he feels put upon, he just gets up and gets it done.
These are all huge, MASSIVE improvements and they help me to feel more confident in our relationship than I have in a long, long time. I have other reasons to feel confident in our relationship. My therapist (who has met Mi.Vida in the ten or so sessions we’ve had with her over the past five years) enumerated the evidence I have that Mi.Vida loves me and is committed to our marriage:
1. He has gotten a better paying job to provide for his family.
2. He helps around the house and has a good attitude while doing it.
3. He is a great dad and is loving and affectionate toward his kids.
4. He enjoys sex and has no trouble “preforming.”
5. He talks to me.
6. He exudes love for me.
She says numbers 3-5 are especially important because men who are unhappy in their relationships have a hard time being involved fathers, performing consistently during sex and talking to their spouses. She mentioned that whenever she saw us, before and after our sessions with her, we were always talking to each other. She says that most couples who come to see her just sit in the waiting room silently and rarely utter a word to each other. It’s true that we rarely have that problem…
So there are all the reasons I should KNOW that my husband loves me and that our relationship is strong. So why do I doubt it? Why do I worry that we won’t make it in the long run? Why don’t I feel as loved as that list demonstrates I should be?
I honestly think it comes down to the fact that Mi.Vida just doesn’t touch me. He so rarely shows me love or affection with his touch. He almost never initiates hugs or kisses, let alone snuggles me. And when he does cuddle me, it quickly becomes clear that he’d like it to evolve into something else. Most of the time I’m waiting for it to become something else, so I can’t even enjoy it. I just want to lie in bed next to him without having to have sex three minutes later. Is that so much to ask?
Physical touch is my love language. Mi.Vida grew up in a family that does not hug much, if at all. It’s just not something that he does. I’ve mentioned it SO MANY TIMES, told him that I NEED him to hug me, but he just doesn’t do it. He may try for a few days, but it never lasts, and eventually I’m left feeling like he doesn’t love me.
It might seem crazy, that I could doubt that my husband loves me when there is all that evidence enumerated in the list up there, but truly, without physical touch it’s like I can’t register any of it. As far as I’m concerned we’re partners or co-parents, but not husband and wife. And honestly, I worry that if this keeps up some day I’ll meet a man who does show me physical affection and I’ll be so drawn to it that I’ll do something I’ll regret. I can’t believe I’m writing that, but it’s true.
I honestly don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ve had this conversation with Mi.Vida so many times and nothing changes. I don’t know how many different ways I can say it. I don’t know how I can make him understand. I’m sure he thinks that he is doing PLENTY to show me how much he loves me, and while I can rationally see where he’s coming from, emotionally it just doesn’t register at all. I can’t help that I don’t FEEL like he loves me, even if I KNOW that he does.
It’s funny because my therapist said that it’s clear Mi.Vida “exudes” love for me. Another friend has used that exact same phrase, “exudes love,” when describing how he acts toward me. I’m assuming it’s true, because they are both intelligent women who know me well and have witnessed Mi.Vida during important moments in our relationship and yet, both times I was shocked that they said that because honestly? I don’t feel that love being exuded at all.
I don’t know. I feel like something is wrong with me. I feel like this is all my fault. I worry that I don’t realize what I have because I’ve never been in a relationship before. I want to retrain myself to register all the things Mi.Vida does to show me how much he loves me, but I just don’t know how. It’s like rewiring my brain… I’m not sure it can be done.
And I’m not sure his can be rewired to take a moment every day to really stop and hug me.
If neither of us can change, what will become of us? He doesn’t seem to be able to show me love in the way I understand it, and I can’t seem to register love in the way he shows it. Are we doomed to a mediocre marriage? Will we eventually get divorced? Why is intimacy so hard?
How do you know that your partner loves you? Do you feel your past relationships are important in helping you recognize what is good about your marriage/relationship now?