Carolyn Hax: Advice

Wife puts ‘fix-it’ issue on husband

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: My wife of 20-plus years says she isn’t getting emotional satisfaction from our relationship any longer and I have to do something about this. This has come as a great surprise to me, but I’m willing to admit, although I love her deeply, that our routine may be just that … routine.

But will just changing our routine get her to emotional satisfaction? Without a clearer understanding of it, I’m not sure what I am supposed to do, and I’ll do anything.


Well, she has to do something about this, too, because it’s a marriage and nothing will work unless it’s mutual.

The obvious recommendation is counseling, because “emotional satisfaction” is about intimacy, and being handed an edict to “do better!” is not exactly a path that will take you there.

Intimacy is about knowing yourselves and each other on a level not available to people outside the relationship, and that comes from many different kinds of sharing – sharing the workload of your daily lives, sharing yourselves physically, sharing memories, sharing what’s on your mind even when it’s not your proudest moment, sharing your fears, sharing your vision of the future, sharing the sides of you that you know the other appreciates most, sharing freely, period.

It’s about feeling safe to share this way because you have each other’s backs.

If you two have gotten out of the habit of turning to each other in the course of your daily lives, then reminding yourself of how you used to share, and then making a conscious effort to make those same choices again, can bring you closer without outside help.

If you never really were in that habit, though, but instead built a relationship on the motions of and/or appearance of couplehood, then you really might benefit from the guidance of a skilled therapist – or from a reputable seminar/retreat to nudge you onto that more intimate path.

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