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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I have been married for 16 years. For the first 13 I underwent daily emotional abuse which came in various forms. The primary form was verbally, but it also included severe affection and sexual dysfunction. Almost 4 years I go I ended up in an emotional affair, and this woke my wife up tremendously. She admitted her abuse and we have spent the last 4 years trying to overcome the years and years of abuse.

I am an ENFP and my primary love language is words of affirmation, and this seems to be impossible for her. And I really mean impossible. I don't think it is, but its hard for me to argue with the results. She has a severe mental block that prevents her from sharing with me how she feels about me. She says, 'I love you,' or 'you mean everything to me,' but it ends there. If I ask her, "what, specifically, do you love about me? What, specifically, means so much to you about me?" she is unable to respond.

I'm not riding her all the time, and because of her history of insecurity, she quickly feels inadequate, and she carries a great deal of guilt for all the years of abuse. I have loved her through all of this, but I find myself in a precarious position.

After 16 years I am at a place where I am no longer willing to live without this central core need I have. She is so caring and sweet in every other area of our lives but this one. And the problem is, this is the area in which I feel loved or not. Is this a product of the years of abuse?

How do I overcome this? I have no feelings of intimacy for her right now, and I struggle to even tell her I love her. I can't look at her without being reminded of how much she seems unable to reach me. And the little things she does do just so of irritates me because it seems like such a feeble attempt...

Arg! I feel like I am not giving her the opportunity to get better because she is a constant reminder that she does not measure up. I have always loved and adored and showered affirmation and affection on this woman, and now I just want to get away from her so the pain will stop!

We have two amazing kids, and we are amazing parents together. If I pretend like everything is fine then she is happy and the house is peaceful and life goes on, but I am dying inside. What in God's name do I do??
 

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fwiw, she's more unhappy with herself than you are, most likely. So unless she goes to therapy by herself, as well, to learn to love herself, she probably won't change.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
What is the role I should play in trying to convince her to seek help? When I mention anything about her reading books or going to a therapist is sounds to her like I am validating her inadequacies. How do I get around this?
 

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Tell her how glad you two have come so far and that you'd love to be even closer and think that a marriage counselor could help you both. That way you have started with a positive spin and there is no criticism.

I'd mention it after a particularly loving time, perhaps after she says "You mean everything to me" follow that with positive reinforcement by saying you are so glad she feels that way and launch into the ways you'd like to be even closer. That' way it takes on more of a tone of "I can't get enough of you".
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Gosh that sounds good, but unfortunately you are describing my approach pretty accurately. I am always good to start a conversation I know might go into an area where she needs help by complimenting and validating her. I will also say that these words of affirmation generally only come on the heels of her finding out I am in need of them, which tends to lesson the impact. During certain discussions about this, she has indicated that she is saying all she is thinking/feeling and that what I want from her isn't inside her. Its a damn vicious cycle...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
If she says, "you mean everything to me," and I let her know how much I appreciate it, if I follow that with anything resembling the notion that she did not nail it, she feels inadequate.
 

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I would suggest opening up a real conversation about your lives. Not about what anyone is missing in the marriage, but rather hopes and dreams and whether they were realized...get her talking about safe stuff so that she starts to see you as a partner, not an adversary.

Read up about toxic shame; it's a good chance she has it, and it will be holding her back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Wow, yeah I did a quick Google search on Toxic Shame and I think you are most probably right. She has carried a tremendous amount of insecurity for the whole of her life, and it undoubtedly has been a major contributor to her stuff...

I guess the biggest problem for me is that I am so weary of living this way, and I understand what it takes for people to change, that it seems like it would take years of therapy for her to overcome this stuff... My God I don't think I can wait that long... :-(
 

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So she isn't speaking your love language, something that you clearly want her to do. This is half the problem.

What is her love language? Have you worked on perceiving HER love language as a sign of being loved? It's no easier or harder than learning to speak another person's love language.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
About 10 years ago, when we initially went through the Love Languages program, hers came out as Acts of Service. It made sense to us, because that was something she tended to do as a means of communicating love to me. I love this about her, and have absolutely appreciated and recognized these acts as a mechanism for her loving me. I have validated, and never taken for granted these things. In the last 4 years, however, we've had our physical/sexual relationship blossom, so she feels like that now her primary love language is physical touch. That's no problem for me, and we have always been very affectionate to one another. I recognize and appreciate these things from her, and I have no doubt in my mind she loves me. What it boils down to, is that these things don't make me burn with passion on the inside like words do. I'm not sure I can learn to feel that way about anything else. I'm open minded to it of course, but I'm just not sure about it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
In addition, every day that goes by without me feeling validated and loved seems to pile up. And on top of that there are these little de-validations that occur all the time that make me go into the deficit.
 

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I would suggest opening up a real conversation about your lives. Not about what anyone is missing in the marriage, but rather hopes and dreams and whether they were realized...get her talking about safe stuff so that she starts to see you as a partner, not an adversary.

Read up about toxic shame; it's a good chance she has it, and it will be holding her back.
I just read up on Toxic shame and all I can say is Wow!

Its odd how much of this pertains to both my husband and my life in different degrees, we have both acknowledged things from our childhoods that have poisoned us as adults. We have spent many years together with lots of love but victimizing each other in different degrees.

I opened up about my demons years ago and I'm just starting to accept that none of the things that happened to me as a child were my fault, however, how I let them affect the rest of my life is.

We as parents have worked hard to not let things in our lives affect our children, they seem like they are becoming wonderful adults with empathy and understanding.

I now have to question if I have allowed my low self esteem, insecurities and co dependence poison them.
 

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In addition, every day that goes by without me feeling validated and loved seems to pile up. And on top of that there are these little de-validations that occur all the time that make me go into the deficit.
I would bet that it's these de-valuations that are a major part of the problem. Does she recognize that she does this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I would bet that it's these de-valuations that are a major part of the problem. Does she recognize that she does this?
Well, not naturally. She struggles with intuition on this point. For instance, there was an evening not long ago that we were talking about going to a counselor. I am all for counseling and therapy, and quite frankly I love it. I go to a therapist regularly just for myself. Anyway, we were laying in the bed and I was stroking her hair and we were having a good, non-emotional conversation about the logistics of meeting with this particular counselor. At that point I told her that it was a good idea we determine what our goals were in meeting with this person.

You have to understand, that we have been through numerous marriage classes, conferences, we've read numerous books (or at least I have) and we had been to a therapist together once also.

Anyway, I knew that we had a tremendous amount of insight into our relationship, emotional needs, etc. and so I started quielty and calmly talking about these things and my desire for us to maximize our visit. I asked her if it was ok for me to give the counselor a quick re-cap of our marriage when we first started so that he would be working with the most information he could.

She immediately got defensive, and I perceived she was bothered by this. She said, "shouldn't we let the EXPERT tell us what to do?" And that really made me feel bad.

I have spent the whole of our 17 years together, reading, researching, studying, digging and scratching to try and create a whole relationship with this woman. We have been through horrific abuse, neglect, etc. and I have been the only one pouring energy into finding out where the problems are so we can resolve them.

For me, this was a great moment for her to squeeze me, and say, "Thank God you have fought so hard for us baby! I know you have spent blood, sweat, and tears for years and years fighting for us! I am so glad you never were willing to settle for mediocrity and you continued to believe in me and us when there seemed to be no hope! I trust you in this, and although I know you are not a psychologist, you certainly know far more than I do, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to rebuild our relationship..."

OH MAN!

Had she talked like this to me I would have shot to the moon like a rocket, but instead, she did the opposite. She insulted me, she basically told me she had no confidence in my intellect or my insights. At least that's how it is for me. I am so starving for this, that I feel so fragile.

Again, I am going to therapy myself to try and work on this issue, and to try and overcome my desire for these seemingly unattainable things...
 

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My husband and I recently through something similar. I have no idea what prompted it, but he has gotten more critical and less satisfied, yet won't (or can't) explain to me why. It started to be a cycle. He criticized, I would reframe the issue or ask why it was important to him, and instead of being responsive, he'd keep repeating his criticism.

I reached the breaking point recently. Without getting into a lot of background, let me just say he is my primary and practically only source of emotional support the last few years - not fair to either of us, but there it is. Because of that, his criticisms hit me especially hard, and I told him so. He was completely shocked when I recounted eleven or so criticisms in the three days prior, and the two positive comments he made.

Suddenly, he was back to the guy I first met, which made me suspicious. I asked him about that change, and he said he realized he had been taking me for granted. Oookaaay.

So that's his part of the equation, but meanwhile, I have a duty to my relationship to find healthy ways to meet my needs when he can't, because it's unfair to expect our partner to be someone they aren't.

In your case, since she is not a verbal affirmer, perhaps you could find a way to find that through volunteer work instead. At the same time, though, she has to stop criticizing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
For the last 4 years I have really tried to develop relationships that meet this need I have for validation. All the friends I have are intimate ones in which we are vulnerable to one another. I have always related to women more than men (6% of women are ENFPs, only 3% of men are) so I have always valued female relationships higher than male ones. Anyway, I have men and women alike who validate me in lots of ways, the problem is I am looking for this within the context of romance, which I am not able to have with those friends... It just sucks...
 

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So you have this 'bucket.' Every time you do something loving for your partner, it puts a drop of love in the bucket. We each have our own bucket - runs off our own mind, with our own history, personality, Emotional Needs, etc.

So your partner can be dropping all amounts of drops of love in your Love Bucket by meeting your Emotional Needs. Could even fill it up. Could even have it overflowing, so that you are SO in love with your partner that you'd jump over the moon for them.

But...

Your partner can also be Love Busting you. Doing things that upset you, make you unhappy, make you feel unwanted or unloved. Love Busters can be as huge as buying a motorcycle without asking you to as tiny as leaving dirty Q-tips all over the house when they know it bugs you. In your case, it could be NOT finding a way to show love to you.

Anyway, every single time your partner LBs you, no matter how big or how small, it pokes a hole in your Love Bucket. A teeny tiny hole from just a few LBs, no worries, all that love in your bucket is pretty safe, it may just trickle out a little through the tiny holes the LBs made, slowly, but if they're busy meeting your ENs and filling your bucket, it will never go empty.

But if the LBs are big enough, harmful enough, things that REALLY get you down, well, those tiny pinholes in your bucket turn into nickel plug-sized holes. And what happens when you have holes that big in a bucket? The 'love' just gushes out the holes, until guess what?

You have NO love left for your partner. No matter what they do to 'love' you, it'll never be enough because they won't/can't stop hurting you. Those holes in your bucket (heart) will never heal if the LBs don't stop.

THAT is why you are now feeling how you feel. She can't/won't stop the one thing that hurts you, so you're running out of love.
 
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