Tough Love

My wife of 14 years has fallen out of love with me. I am ADD/bipolar and tend to have problems when my work is not going well. When I was in the Army, I was successful and we were pretty happy, but after getting out and moving up here, I emotionally abandoned her as my search for a good job dragged on for three years. She has her own mental-health problems, and we just grew apart, taking for granted the small things that keep you close, and she withdrew after first trying to buoy me and receiving very little in return.

Now she wants her space and has become a new person (that I find very attractive), and I am having a hard time dealing. We have two kids, 6 and 9, and want to be close for their sake. She may decide to leave me—she does not want to give me false hope that everything will work out if I receive successful treatment and stick with the lifestyle changes that I have made.

I am feeling better and doing the things that I need to do and that I think are good for her, too (i.e., housecleaning, laundry, diet and exercise). I do not expect these measures to win her back, but I would like that. I need help in giving her space. It has been two weeks. For the first part, I had to talk to her every day, alternately raging (not violently or shouting) and pleading, unable to understand how she can fall out of love and just walk away from our past and, more importantly, our future.

I have centered myself in part due to her willingness to talk to me and by reaching out to friends and family. I have not talked to her about our relationship for 24 hours and counting, as a space-giving measure.

I just need a woman's perspective on how to keep a level of contact that I enjoy (not sure how much is appropriate) and ways to let her be. I love her and find the new woman she has become very interesting and alluring. I like being around her and find it hard to be away. I don't want to lose her, and I want her to know that.

How can I let her be and set her free without abandoning her? Or should I abandon her and let her sink or swim? We live together and prefer things that way, since I work nights and she works days. This way we can keep the kids in a relatively stable house. We are not rich, so we cannot really afford to get two places. I am sure you have seen and heard worse, but this still seems tragic to me and I would appreciate your tips.

Walking a Thin Line

Didn't you ever read that Hallmark plaque: "If you love something, set it free . . . "? All right, that's horseshit. Anyway, the best thing for you to do is to get and keep your mental-illness issues in check. Regardless of whether or not you two stay together, the fact that you have chosen to breed means that you're now obligated to raise your kids in as sane a manner as you can possibly manage. The last thing this world needs is more fucked-up teenagers, so if that means medication, you be a good little boy and pop those pills. Hopefully you're in therapy, because it sounds like you've got an assload of problems besides those already diagnosed.

As you wisely noted, the problems you're having with your wife are of your own making. If you neglect a plant for a couple months, it dies. Why would you think a marriage would be any different? I'm so sick and tired of people hiding behind diagnoses, not taking responsibility for their actions, and, even worse, not realizing what they've lost until it's gone. Snore.

What you should do is exactly what you're doing, fully realizing that there's no guarantee she's going to change her mind about you. Continue to be considerate and sane, and perhaps in a week or so, you should tell her that you still love her and want to try to make things work. Inform her that you're willing to discuss things on her schedule and then respect that. You neglected her for three years, she's entitled to a few months of indecision. You have a choice not to bug her—too bad if it's uncomfortable for you; suck it up and be a man.

Need some perspective? Write Dategirl at dategirl@seattleweekly.com or c/o Seattle Weekly, 1008 Western Ave., Ste. 300, Seattle, WA 98104.

 
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