QUESTION: I have been married for
11 years my husband and I have two children and we are having problems.
I am a very loving person and my husband is not. He feels I demand
too much love and attention. I feel he gives me no love or attention
all I ask for is a hug or kiss every once and a while and maybe a
comment of I'm doing a good job or I look nice. Am I being excessive?
If things don't get better I have thought about having an affair just
to get that companionship the laughter. Am asking to much?
ANSWER: Your needs for laughter and
companionship are real, but "having an affair" is not the answer to
your problem! Infidelity will only damage an already faltering relationship,
from which your marriage may never recover.
You have been married to your husband since you were
16 years old and he was 20 years old. Since you married so young,
you skipped the single young adult stage of development. You did not
have a chance to experience the freedom of being a single adult woman
with a chance to clarify the type of man you wanted to marry. It is
likely that you did not know as a teenager what your desires would
be as an adult woman. Qualities that you looked for in a husband at
16 could be quite different from someone you would marry at age 27.
It is also possible that you have not yet defined
your life outside of marriage and motherhood. If this is the case,
it is critical that you devote a good part of your energy to "getting
a life". An affair is a distraction often used to avoid much needed
self- development. Women who have exclusively defined themselves through
marriage and motherhood early in life may be more vulnerable to depression.
This depression may sometimes express itself as increasing marital
You and your husband have two children and a history
of 11 years together as a family. Your commitment to one another may
well need to be reviewed in light of currently emerging needs and
values. I suggest taking your initial commitment seriously, which
includes staying abreast of one another's needs. Remember that this
is your family and your marriage; get on track together to see what
can be done to create the kind of atmosphere in which both of you
You might start out by remembering your first date.
Share with one another what attracted you to your partner. How did
you support one another in establishing yourselves as independent
adults in the world? You must have been very important to one another
during that period of growth. Acknowledge the positive ways you helped
each other grow.
Then, review your experience of becoming parents together.
Did this happen quickly or even precipitously? Or was it planned after
an initial period of forming your couples' relationship? If you also
skipped the stage of becoming a couple together without children,
then you may have had very little time to get to know each other.
Early responsibilities of marriage and family could have given you
a strong bond and purpose together, which may have been what you needed
as a teenager to separate from your own family. However, now you may
be longing for the courtship, romance and freedom of these missed
stages of early adulthood. "Having an affair" may symbolize a yearning
to regain lost opportunity for laughter, fun and companionship. And/Or
it could be standing in for the lack of developing your own life!
If your husband is able to understand that your needs
for fun and spontaneity can stimulate the marriage, perhaps he will
be more willing to listen. Attempt to trace your respective experiences
of fatherhood and motherhood. And ask yourselves where you may have
lost track of one another. Did you ever have romance and laughter?
Did he ever express his love to you in words or physical affection?
You have every right to want to be loved in a way
that reaches you. Hugs and encouraging words are important to you!
One key to success in a marriage is for each person to be able to
"speak" the other 's language to an extent. While it is fine to be
different. It is also critical that those differences are understood.
True understanding lends us the capacity to extend ourselves to our
loved one in a way that causes our partner to "feel" loved. It is
not enough to simply "know" we are loved. We must also experience
it viscerally to feel satisfaction in relationship.
Gently and firmly communicate your need to "feel"
loved to your husband. It is time that he stop minimizing your needs,
for this will only make you cry out louder. Ask him to refrain from
trying to "talk you out of your needs" and ask instead that he consider
his responsibility to understand you. If your husband wants to remain
married, he must accept the responsibility that comes with marriage.
As his monogamous lover you do depend on him for feeling "special".
This is the nature of monogamy. You are no more "demanding" of affection
from him, than he is "demanding" of not showing such affection in
the marriage. Defining a loved one as "demanding" is an attempt to
ignore rather than engage in a discussion about the definition of
If you stay together (in a satisfying manner) throughout
your lives, you will go through many such discussions which metamorphasize
your relationship. Some couples describe these transformations in
the relationship as having 3 distinct marriages together. New visions
for the marriage are a result of the needs that emerge throughout
the life cycle. Harville Hendrix's book, "Getting the Love You Want"
can also prove useful in establishing a shared vision of your relationship,
which is necessary for your marriage to successfully get back on track.
Consider the reality that your desire to have much
more from your relationship may also be fulfilled from "getting a
life" for yourself. Take your needs in the marriage seriously, but
do not avoid finding meaning in life that is not defined by your marriage
alone. You may be stagnating on other levels, and pressurizing the
marriage instead developing interests, skills and activities (other
than an affair!) outside of the home.
You owe it to yourself to develop interests that will
serve to stimulate your growth and sustain a sense of wonder and excitement
about life. Turn your energies towards finding these interests and
developing friendships based on activities outside your marriage.
Both you and your husband need outside interests and relationships
which stimulate and support your marriage like underground springs
feed into a river. Any marriage is likely to implode without external
Some of your answers will come from self-exploration,
others from mining the development of the marriage with your partner.
"Having an affair" is an escape fantasy. Confront the work to be done
in your partnership and your own development. These two avenues hold
promise for substantial change rather than a precipitous exchange
of one set of problems for another. Roll up your sleeves. There is
work to be done!