"I don't know if I love him anymore"

Mary's request for help with her relationship, and Elly's advice

I'm Mary and my partner's name is Steve. I don't know if I love Steve anymore.

We have been together 13 years, on and off.  We met when we were 20, we were both party animals.  Life was fun and crazy.  Things got violent and we broke up.  A few months later we got back together, after he got counselling.  We quit drinking, but began smoking weed.  Life was good - make love not war, peace love and harmony for 3 years or so - until I got pregnant.  

I quit drugs, had the baby and he continued on.  He began experimenting with cocaine, and that grew into a crack addiction.  I was working out of town at the time, and one day I came home one day and EVERYTHING was gone.

2 Adults and children. Would it break your heart to break up the family?Breaking up a relationship so often means breaking up a family

Changes in addictions

There was a stack of pawn slips on the counter with a post it that said "I'm sorry". We broke up again. About a year later we got back together. Our problems continued. He drank, and occasionally did drugs. I got pregnant again. I ended up leaving when the baby was about a year and half. Again, we spent a good 8 months or so apart. He went to treatment and we tried again. Things have been going well. He's sober 3 years now. We get along ok - the kids are happy and adjusted, our daughters are 9 and 5 now. We're in a good place, I work and keep busy with kids, he's a student and keeps busy with a dance group.

We get along better when were apart. When we have to spend a weekend together tho, it usually ends up in an argument.  

Work, hobbies and interests

He likes sports and like I mentioned, he's a dancer. It takes a lot of his time and he is committed to the group. Even through our breakups and his addiction, he stayed with the group. He goes at least twice a week, if not more often. I keep busy with my kids. I drive them to dance classes and piano lessons. I took up Piano myself, and I enjoy it. I spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks, so I don't mind driving. I like to read or go on the computer.

I work in a restorative justice area. I'm supporting mostly supporting us right now. He makes money with his dancing, and he gets social assistance for him and the kids. That covers the daycare, Hydro and most of the groceries.  I pay the rest of the bills. Our two cars, cell phones, cable internet etc. etc. The house belongs to his parents.

The positives ...

I love watching him dance. Its his talent and he is very good at it. It makes me feel proud of him. I love that he is a good dad - a great dad. I love how far he's come in his life - he's overcome a lot, not only with his addiction issues, but also with a troubled childhood.

Doubts about loving him

I don't think that I love HIM anymore, I like him he's a good guy and I'm proud of him... I don't enjoy being intimate with him, its more like just another thing I need to do around the house. He is a very handsome man, and when I compare him to anybody else I would still choose him, but sometimes I can't even stand him kissing me. I get frustrated with him.  

I step in his pee when I go to the washroom in the morning.  I'm busy all week and he can't be bothered to throw in a load of laundry or clean the table off. He leaves his crumbs on the counter. I feel like if I'm doing all of this anyway - I might as well just do it for myself. I enjoy cooking, but lately I feel like I don't even want to make a big supper because its just more for me to clean up afterwards. He thinks I'm lazy and just don't want to clean.

I've talked and talked and talked - then I stopped talking because I realized that he is a man, and needs to be respected too. I may ask him to do something, but I don't expect that he'll actually do it. I'm always frustrated and angry but I can't talk about it because then he calls me a nag, or immature or crazy.

Says if the laundry or the dishes or crumbs on the counter are so important to me then I should just do them myself.

Were both very committed to our family. We want to bring up our kids in a healthy mom and dad home. (neither of us had that growing up)  Lately, with my not being interested in sex - (and getting heavier and heavier) I do worry that he will pursue that need elsewhere.

I've been on meds for depression for the last… 3 years. Basically since we got back together.

Childhood traumas

We have both suffered major traumas in our life. His parents were alcoholics. His younger sisters were apprehended by children's services, he was already a teen and drinking along with them. He was an alcoholic by grade 12. I was sexually abused as a child, and my parents divorced when I was 3 after my brother died.

Elly's Advice

Mary, firstly I have to say how much in awe I am with how the two of you have pulled through so far, after all the problems you both have faced. From what you say - you are clearly committed parents as well. You have overcome some very challenging circumstances as a couple. 

Relationship advice?

I can see that you have both invested in your life as parents and in yourself individually. I suspect though that there is much information missing from your story that you probably wouldn't want broadcasted, but would have helped me advise you better.

What about your relationship?

I see no evidence of any investment in your life as a couple - indirectly you have - you have stuck by Steve through thick and thin - sure, that has been a major investment, but Steve and you seem not to have really worked on your relationship directly.

You may have stuck by Steve also because you could not imagine yourself leading any other life. Perhaps you didn't have the confidence to leave?  

I guess it was a combination of things that kept you both together - your commitment, love, wanting your children to feel loved, safe and secure with both parents together, etc.

How to save your relationship

Your relationship is like a plant - if you don't water and feed it, it will wilt and die. Steve may well be spending more time away, because he too feels that the relationship isn't working anymore. It is all becoming a vicious circle and it is time to take action.

I recommend the Save Your Marriage (relationship). The author, Lee Baucom, PhD, has very similar views to myself on couple counselling and what really works in terms of what really can save a relationship, therefore I am happy to suggest you go with the advice in his book.

Recently, I also came across a really fun resource: Text The Romance Back. Your relationship is in desperate need of a major injection of romance!

Most definitely, I recommend you connect with Regain to discuss all your trouble with an online professional, licensed therapist. He or she will take all the time to really 'get' your situation and help you to figure out your next step. For more information, see my page: Online Relationship Advice.

The problem with antidepressants

Your antidepressants may contribute to your weight-gain, won't make you any happier and may lead to long-term damage - mentally and physically.  You would do well to discuss with your doctor how you can come off them. There is really not much evidence now that they work at all - see my page Natural Depression Treatments and scroll down to the video for vital info on antidepressants.

Also - very significantly - according to Prof Helen Fisher, antidepressants also depress romantic feelings!

I wonder how much time there is for you to spend time with friends, socialise and have fun. That is something that would really contribute to your well-being.

Stay or walk away?

You didn't ask me a question Mary, but I suspect that you have been thinking about whether you should leave Steve. I do not have enough information to say anything sensible about that, but I recommend my relationship test: Stay or Walk Away. From what you have written at least, I can read between the lines that you may feel all Steve's attention goes to his dancing and the children and that there is perhaps little for you. I suspect that both of you are unhappy with the relationship now, Mary, but it seems there is much to fight for and my goodness - all the evidence is that you both have the personal inner resources to overcome a difficulty when you put your mind to it!

I wish you all the best for happier times, Mary and do come back and comment.

Elly

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