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I need to learn how to love my wife again.

Following several years where my wife was out of state for long stretches of time, first to attend graduate school and then to help care for her terminally ill father, my wife was angry at me for what she called my lack of "support" for her, put on about 15# (at 5'0"), began drinking heavily, became angry and verbally abusive about once weekly, hit me about once a month, and on a couple of occasions threatened to kill me.

A year ago I'd had enough of this and moved out. This came as a complete surprise to her and she begged me to move back the following day. Since then she has been attending Mass regularly as well as OA and AA meetings. We have been seeing a couples counselor through her church. Although we have had disagreements over the ensuing year, there have been no more drunken tirades or physical abuse. She has not made any progress in returning to her baseline weight but her drinking has decreased 90%.

The problem is that after ~5 years of long periods of separation while she was in school and helping care for her father, followed by ~4 years of dealing with her drunken rages, I really don't still love her. Because we have been together for 15 years, we have shared a lot of good experiences and I care for her. However, because of her past behavior I have had one foot out of the door psychologically for many years, and though I have not been unfaithful I have often looked at female acquaintances as potential partners if I should "pull the trigger." Though she has controlled herself fairly well over the past year, I am often reminded of the hell she has put us through. Though she is interested in sex, I have no sexual interest in her, because of the past 9 years of baggage as well as her weight gain.

How can I fall back in love with my wife?
 

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The first is to let your self off the hook for that feeling of failure you have. Because i am guessing, you feel that you failed. which depending on your outlook on marriage, you didnt exactly keep her out of harms way. so you do play a part. But let yourself off the hook for this. It is done and over.
The second is to decide to.
I am a firm believer that men love differently than women. And we decide to love who we want.
There may be occasions where the resentment is too much, too many bridges burned, that you may never get around that. There is not path to decide to love her.
But if you make your mind up to love her, you will at least find the bridge left standing, if one is still there.
Decide to, and see if you end up doing so.
The third is to recognize your mistakes, and not repeat them. And not let her repeat them. Whatever danger you see, you stand between it and her. Even if she protests. Because you have a dog in this fight to. It isn't just her. Even once you find her, it may be on the same road you found eachother before. It ends in a dead end, as you have already realized. Lead her to a different road.
If you dont decide to lover her, you arent going to even have the chance to.


EDIT: When you look at her, say in your mind "This is my wife". Let it plant back in your head.
 

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Why did you move back in? All the begging in the world shouldn't have mattered if you felt this way.

after ~5 years of long periods of separation while she was in school and helping care for her father, followed by ~4 years of dealing with her drunken rages, I really don't still love her.
 

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The problem is
I really don't still love her
we have shared a lot of good experiences and I care for her.
I am often reminded of the hell she has put us through
I have no sexual interest in her
How can I fall back in love with my wife?
Buy a copy of "The Love Dare" and do what the book says. With so many bad memories, it can be a real challenge to remember the good times.
 

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I think you actually can fall back in love with people, but with so much baggage, you're essentially dealing with a different person from the one you fell in love with.

I'm always in favor of honest discourse. If I were in your shoes, I would tell my spouse directly what my feelings were. Life is really too short to spend so many years in an unhappy limbo. Maybe if you completely level with her, you can work together towards an end point that you agree on.

And FWIW, she needs to stop drinking completely.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for all your thoughtful responses.

Bribius: Yes, I need to decide whether or not the last bridge has been burnt, and that decision is surprisingly difficult. I still feel comfortable with her, and we've shared many experiences over the past 15 years, and yet, after so much difficulty in the past, it's difficult for me to feel fully committed to the relationship. During our difficult period, on several occasions she did clean up her act for 4-6 weeks at a time, and so now I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop - for her to blow up in another rage. Maybe my feeling that her change for the better is only temporary will subside as time passes. On the other hand, maybe this is just as good as it gets, and I need to decide if I can live with the status quo.

A Bit Much: I planned my exit for months. In the past, when we were fighting and I would suggest that I spend the night in a motel for her to cool off, she threatened to throw all my belongings out of the house into the yard. I secretly rented an apartment and waited until she had gone out of town to visit her mother so that I could rent a U-Haul and move out my personal belongings without having to call the police (no, I didn't take the furniture or empty the bank account). She was completely surprised and distraught to come home to find me gone. To answer your question, she played me, but in her (or my) defense, she hasn't assaulted me since I returned.

Ten_Year_Hubby: "The Love Dare" - ordered from Amazon.

alte Dame: I know she needs to quit drinking completely, but that's a decision I can't make for her. I know I should talk with her but it's a hard discussion to have under the best of circumstances ("I'm not sure I love you any more ..."). There are two additional factors - first, I still clearly remember her wild drunken rages, and second, on the flip side, her behavior and attitude recently have been as good as they have been in years, and I hesitate to rock the boat, so I avoid the discussion out of cowardice and simply feeling too tired to keep fighting. I am hoping that the book that TYH suggested may provide a starting point for a discussion.
 

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The book His Needs Her Needs, from Dr Harley proclaims to restore romantic love in a relationship. My wife and I had success with it. Your mileage may vary.

I suggest the work books and the love busters book as well. She attacked you physically, so you are probably going to have to shore up the holes to keep the boat from sinking. In other words good things that build up feelings of love don't take effect until you stop damaging each other.
 

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You need professional help to get past all this. You were abused and there isn't a book out there to help you get past this. Don't even waste your money. SHE is the one who should be reading the books not you.
 

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I don't think you got played. You just decided to break down and give into her (which I'm sure has been your pattern with her over the years). That's not her doing, it's yours. You left, you should have stayed gone. Now you're there and miserable over the choice you made.

She has major issues to work out. You know it and still you turned around and moved back in without them all being resolved. The drinking, the abuse... she's a broken woman.

This IMO is your main problem:
I hesitate to rock the boat, so I avoid the discussion out of cowardice and simply feeling too tired to keep fighting.
You're playing yourself. Just because she's on her best behavior now hasn't changed how you feel about her one bit. I doubt it ever will. You can forgive, but you can't forget... and to be honest, I don't even think you've forgiven at this point. You didn't give yourself time to do that, apart from her.
 

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Leopold - Ask yourself how you see your life in the future, say 3-5 years from now.

- Do you want peace and solidity?
- Do you want love, trust and respect?
- Do you want some joy?

People in good relationships have these things. It's not a pipe dream.

I will say again that I believe no healing can really start until your W completely stops drinking. If she does that, it will take a long time (probably several years) before you really know what kind of person you are living with. Then, you can make a decision. And even then, you won't know if she will revert to form.

Or you can decide differently right now. Remember that Penelope was a smart, unwavering wife. You don't have a wife who doesn't waver.
 

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Mavash: We are getting professional help from a couples counselor now, and from another marriage counselor several years ago. I'm not sure how much it helps, but it does represent a safe place where I can discuss unpleasant issues without having to deal with her outbursts. You're right, though, she needs some individual counseling, but I'm not sure she is ready to see that yet.

ABM: You've certainly grasped the fact that we're a pretty screwed up couple. Here's the strange thing, though - individually, each of us is (fairly) ok. The wife has the best social skills of anybody I have ever met. If I am not flying with her, she will be best friends with whoever sits next to her on the airplane. She is amazing to watch at parties. However ... she has never worked outside the family business (we moved away from her family the week after we married), and she has made no close friends in the three cities where we have lived since we married, and started drinking heavily about 7 years into the marriage. I have a successful medical practice, friends, interesting hobbies, though shy. Together, though, we've had the problems I've described. Maybe you're right, she's a broken woman and I need to be out of the marriage.

alte Dame: You know, peace, solidity, love, trust, respect and joy do sound like a pipe dream to me now. I went through a divorce almost 30 years ago, and now, nearly 60 years old, I'm not sure I have the energy to do it again.

It sounds that if we are to stay together, she needs to make some changes, and that the first two incremental changes she needs to make are to get some individual counseling and to get off the sauce.
 

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I didn't realize you were 60. I am 58 and come from a mindset where I really want some real peace in my life. At the same time, starting over seems really more like a decision to simply be alone.

I, too, had sick and dying parents, a troubled marriage, and a drinking problem. The alcohol was the greatest determiner in the end, since it both directed and transformed every interaction of every day. Once it was completely out of the picture, excellent things happened, but it took a long time.

I wish you the best with your challenge here. Again, I think you can have the 'in love' feeling again, but your dynamic would have to be redefined.
 

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I need to learn how to love my wife again.

Following several years where my wife was out of state for long stretches of time, first to attend graduate school and then to help care for her terminally ill father, my wife was angry at me for what she called my lack of "support" for her, put on about 15# (at 5'0"), began drinking heavily, became angry and verbally abusive about once weekly, hit me about once a month, and on a couple of occasions threatened to kill me.

A year ago I'd had enough of this and moved out. This came as a complete surprise to her and she begged me to move back the following day. Since then she has been attending Mass regularly as well as OA and AA meetings. We have been seeing a couples counselor through her church. Although we have had disagreements over the ensuing year, there have been no more drunken tirades or physical abuse. She has not made any progress in returning to her baseline weight but her drinking has decreased 90%.

The problem is that after ~5 years of long periods of separation while she was in school and helping care for her father, followed by ~4 years of dealing with her drunken rages, I really don't still love her. Because we have been together for 15 years, we have shared a lot of good experiences and I care for her. However, because of her past behavior I have had one foot out of the door psychologically for many years, and though I have not been unfaithful I have often looked at female acquaintances as potential partners if I should "pull the trigger." Though she has controlled herself fairly well over the past year, I am often reminded of the hell she has put us through. Though she is interested in sex, I have no sexual interest in her, because of the past 9 years of baggage as well as her weight gain.

How can I fall back in love with my wife?
It takes a long time to truly forgive someone for hurts they've caused, especially when there have been repeated hurts over an extended period of time. You need to see that change has taken place, and that it will last.

I feel concerned when you say she's going to AA and has cut her drinking by 90%. This means she is NOT working a recovery program, and I think you'd be wise to keep an emotional distance.

If she was working a recovery program honestly, you'd see her showing gratitude and feeling more hope and optimism. In other words, she'd be a more likable person who would be easier to love.

Don't try to force what isn't coming to you naturally. There's a very good reason your mind is saying, "Whoa, there, partner!"
 

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Mavash: We are getting professional help from a couples counselor now, and from another marriage counselor several years ago. ...she needs some individual counseling, but I'm not sure she is ready to see that yet.
I agree with Mavash. IC is needed now. You describe a woman who has very serious issues that go well beyond simple communication problems. My experience with such people (e.g., my exW) is that MC is a total waste of time until they first spend several years working on their underlying issues. Hence, if you are correct that she is not ready to pursue IC, I'm afraid there is little chance for your M to succeed. Further, I suggest you see a psychologist -- for a visit or two all by yourself -- to obtain a candid professional view on what it is you are dealing with. Take care, Leopold.
 

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Uptown: She has made contact with individual counselors in the town where we now live and in the town where we recently moved from, 60 miles from here. She said that neither had appointments soon, but that she'll be going to each of them in November to see which is a better fit.

Ten Year Hubby: I bought and read The Love Dare. The issue that I had after finishing it is that it comes from such a ... Christian point of view. It made a big point of loving one's spouse even if the spouse didn't reciprocate, or even if it did not feel genuine -- God would take care of it. Here's the problem. At this point I'm faking it with my wife, and doing a pretty convincing job of it. According to The Love Dare, I need to just keep this up, and ultimately God will put into my heart the love that I'm not feeling.

Maybe this IS as good as it gets, and I'm being selfish and unrealistic in wanting a relationship with somebody who loves me for being myself. It seems that all my wife wants from me is money -- nothing quite so crass as cash, but she wants expensive jewelry (one of our last big fights was when I disappointed her by not buying her a $4500 piece she had told me she wanted for her birthday - and not even a "milestone" birthday), or expensive trips (she always wants to stay in an upgraded room in an expensive hotel).

I find myself resenting her since it seems that whatever I give her isn't enough. I have struck up occasional friendships with women at work, and while I have not pursued these beyond conversation, I find myself wondering whether perhaps it would be best for me to leave my wife with one of these women (when you don't know somebody all that well, it's easy to imagine that they don't have flaws!). Then I feel guilty about being emotionally and psychologically unfaithful to my wife.

I don't know what to do or where to turn, and I feel pretty despondent.
 

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became angry and verbally abusive about once weekly, hit me about once a month, and on a couple of occasions threatened to kill me.
Leopold, an important issue is whether your W's abusive, unstable behavior is due to alcohol abuse or, rather, to strong traits of BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). This is an important distinction because it is rare for a BPDer (a person with strong BPD traits) to have the self awareness and ego strength to stay in therapy long enough to make a difference.

Significantly, a 1993 Canadian study found that nearly all "spouse batterers" have a personality disorder and about half of them have full blown BPD. Roger Melton summarizes the results of that study at 50% of Batterers are BPD. Hence, given that your W was hitting you on a monthly basis -- not to mention the death threats -- I believe it would be prudent for you to read about BPD traits so you are able to spot any and all red flags that are occurring.

Of course, a diagnosis of "having BPD" can be done only by a professional. Spotting the red flags, however, is not difficult when you know which traits to look for. There is nothing subtle about BPD traits such as verbal abuse, physical abuse, inability to trust, black-white thinking, and temper tantrums.
So now I am always waiting for the other shoe to drop - for her to blow up in another rage.
Leopold, you've been walking on eggshells. Stop doing that. There is a good reason why the #1 best-selling BPD book (targeted to the abused spouses) is called Stop Walking on Eggshells.
Uptown: She has made contact with individual counselors in the town where we now live and in the town where we recently moved from, 60 miles from here.
I'm glad to hear she is willing to consider seeing an IC (even though she has yet to make an appointment). What I was suggesting, however, is that you see your own IC -- and do so without her being present. Specifically, I suggested "you see a psychologist -- for a visit or two all by yourself -- to obtain a candid professional view on what it is you are dealing with."

If your W suffers from strong traits of a personality disorder like BPD or NPD, it is very unlikely HER therapist will tell her the name of her disorder, much less tell you (even if you are the one paying all her therapy bills). It is common for therapists to withhold this information from their clients (and their spouses) whenever the client has strong traits of BPD or NPD (or any other PD).

This withholding of information is done for the protection of the client -- and because the therapist is ethically bound to do everything he can to protect that sick client. Hence, your best chance of ever receiving a candid professional opinion -- whenever PDs are involved -- is to see a psychologist who is not seeing her and, thus, is ethically bound to protect only YOUR interests.

If you are interested in reading about BPD traits, Leopold, an easy place to start is my brief description of them in Maybe's thread at http://talkaboutmarriage.com/general-relationship-discussion/33734-my-list-hell.html#post473522. If that description rings a bell, I would be glad to discuss it with you and point you to excellent online resources. Take care, Leopold.
 

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She is making an effort to change her ways. It means she cares enough about you and the marriage to make a big effort. However, the pain you feel isn't going to just vanish, especially if you do not treat it.

Are you both talking about what happened and why? Not just placing blame, but actually trying to get to the bottom of the reasons this stuff happened, why she didn't realize it was going to push you away and why you allowed distance and neglect to continue?

Have you guys talked about the give live languages, his needs her needs?

Has she gotten anger management training? Have the two if you tried MC?

You won't be able to fall back in love until you forgive her and let go of your resentment. You won't be able to do that until you understand and work through the issues. Change alone isn't enough. It's time to heal the communication breakdowns between you both that weakened the marriage, the individual issues you both have that drive a wedge between you, and to rebuild a bond with trust honesty and respect at the core. If you're going to try to make it work, you guys have to get to the real fundamental malfunctions and repair there. Won't happen unless you're both willing. After that, there's room for love. Without it, none. Nothing grows in toxic soil.
 

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Here's the strange thing, though - individually, each of us is (fairly) ok. The wife has the best social skills of anybody I have ever met. If I am not flying with her, she will be best friends with whoever sits next to her on the airplane. She is amazing to watch at parties.
Leopold, her having great social skills outside the family does NOT rule out her having strong BPD traits. The vast majority of BPDers are high functioning, which means they generally get along fine with casual friends, business associates, and total strangers. None of those people pose a threat to the BPDer because they are not close enough to trigger her two great fears: abandonment and engulfment. There is no close relationship to abandon and no intimacy to cause engulfment. Heaven help those folks, however, if they make the mistake of drawing close.

This is why BPDers typically have no long-term close friends (unless they live a long distance apart). And this is why it is common for BPDers to be the life of the party -- and to be kind and considerate all day long to complete strangers -- and then go home at night to abuse the very people who love them.

My BPDer exW, for example, was very outgoing at parties. And she would sometimes bake 5 or 6 loaves of bread and then go running through our condo building giving them away to her favorite neighbors. Moreover, she has a warmth and purity of expression that immediately puts total strangers at ease. When they meet her, they have the feeling they've known her for a long time after talking with her for just 30 minutes.

As with your W, she would be seen talking to folks on the airplane like they were best friends. Because she has very low personal boundaries, she usually likes people almost immediately -- and can later become very disappointed with them just as quickly. Your W sounds very much like her in that regard.
 
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