Dear Carolyn: I got married two years ago to a wonderful woman. We are in our mid-30s and decided to wait one year before trying to have kids. Despite neither of us having any obvious medical issues, we’ve been unable to conceive.
About three months ago my wife told me that she was unsure about our relationship. She said the reason she fell in love with me was because I would make a good father, but since kids aren’t immediately on the horizon, she feels that I don’t give her enough energy as a couple, and that, while she loves me, she has felt more in love with previous boyfriends.
This would have been great to hear before we got married.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m an introvert and probably not the most exciting person to hang out with, but I treat her well, and we have fun.
We’re in therapy, but it’s been very hard for her to come to grips with her emotions. I can’t help feeling like she married a concept instead of me. I also think part of the difficulty is her coming to terms with not being able to have a child as quickly and easily as she wanted.
While I love her and want to continue the relationship, I can’t help but think the foundation of our marriage isn’t solid enough to last, and I’m getting deeply hurt in the process. How much is enough? Is this worth trying to salvage, or should I try to minimize the damage to both of us and move on?
Carolyn says: Uuuugh. I’m so sorry.
And of course you’re hurt. You thought she married you for love, and you just found out she hired you for a job.
What is “enough,” you ask? That. That is enough.
But first, please know this, because it’s important: It doesn’t mean you’re “not the most exciting person to hang out with.” Your wife’s unhappiness is not rooted in your failure to provide what she needed. It’s rooted in her decision to marry someone who didn’t provide what she needed — to think she could set those misalignments aside for the purpose of getting the family she wanted. (Not uncommon — even with “wonderful” people.)
This matters because what you provide is what somebody wants, needs, finds exciting. Someone else. Maybe you haven’t met her yet, and I won’t give you empty assurances that you will, but it’s a no-brainer that there are women “more in love” with an introverted, respectful, fun, he’d-make-a-good-father style.
Which is why this wretched thing might be good for you. When your wife married you for the wrong reasons — I take her word for all this, I should emphasize, and draw no conclusions of my own — she stopped your search for that woman.
So step away from your marriage, for now if not permanently, and think it all over, and heal. Maybe then you’ll see what you were denied by this marriage, that “more in love” feeling, and you’ll grow ready to look again. We all deserve people who feel lucky to have us.
It’s a long shot, but maybe, too, it’ll help her see you differently. Good news for you either way, even if painfully achieved.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.