Q. My husband and I have been married for 12 years. A few months ago, he became distant and recently he told me he sees me more like a friend and wants something deeper than we have, especially in our sex life. I had a hysterectomy and I have been feeling depressed, so I guess that hasn’t helped. We booked to see a marriage psychotherapist, but at the last minute he said he thought it wasn’t going to work and we are now separated.
I still love him and I am confused, because six months ago he said he loved me so much that he couldn’t live without me. Is he going through a midlife crisis as some people have suggested, or did he really stop loving me? I would like to have an answer so I can move on. Name supplied
A. I can see a picture of you in my mind standing in a devastated landscape after two bombs have gone off. The hysterectomy knocked you about emotionally, and separation on top of that is almost too much to take in.
Even if your head knows that other people have been here and survived, that doesn’t help your heart. Maybe it feels as if taking a step in any direction is only going to cause more pain. That could also be why your husband is cutting off – he’s made the decision and doesn’t want to hurt you any more.
I spoke to someone at Relate about your letter, and a 20-minute conversation really helped me to make sense of the little you’ve told me – I feel convinced that such support would benefit you as well.
Therapist Ammanda Major thought that you could have been in grief for your body after the hysterectomy, and your husband might have felt locked out. This is by no means to say that anyone is at fault, but she wondered how much you’d been able to talk as a couple about what the hysterectomy meant.
Even in an excellent relationship, some subjects are trickier than others– and when it touches on sexual difficulties, then you’ve lost a means of comfort and communication at the same time.
All of this suggests that you need a lot of gentleness for yourself, but also to allow some healing to happen with your husband. My sense is that it might be too soon for you to approach him and say, ‘I appreciate it’s over, but I’d like to understand why.’ Perhaps that’s an aim for when you feel stronger.
In the meantime, your 12 years together still means something. Relationships do end, and that doesn’t negate the good. I’ll never forget a friend who said to me after my husband died, ‘With your tears you are honouring what you had.’
You can do this alone, but I believe the path would become clearer more quickly with a friend or counsellor beside you as a kind and objective guide.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email email@example.com, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.