I am a 33 years old man that has been married for 11 years to a wonderful woman. My problem is that for the majority of our marriage I have had problems expressing my emotions and being intimate with her. Because of this I haven’t been able to be there for her emotionally when she needs me, in fact it caused me to shutdown and in some cases resent her.I tried many times to tell her how I feel, or be there for her, but I always seemed to do it all wrong. My attempts at expression would always come out as criticisms and sometimes even personal attacks. Everytime this occured I would feel so ashamed and terrible about myself for hurting her.After awhile I just shutdown for the most part, too afraid to speak for fear of saying something I didn’t mean and hurting her again. This of course upset her even more since to her it seemed as if I was pulling away from her.We have gone through two seperations now and on this last one she told me she doesn’t love me anymore. The only reason I know my mistakes is because I have read almost every relationship book in the bookstore to understand myself and what went wrong.One book I read spoke of the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse’ in communication, criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. I went through everyone of them unknowingly. My other problem is that I don’t think I truely knew what empathy meant until just recently, much less express it.After reading and absorbing all this information I feel as if all the lights in the house just went on for me, it has opened so many blocked doors inside me. I desperatley want us to work this out and tried to talk with her but she has told me that she has already gone through these emotions and is not able to trust me with her emotional needs any longer.I have asked her if she would go to counceling with me but she refused. We have 3 children together and are on friendly terms, we can talk casually ok, but it is killing me to see her multiple times a week when I come for the kids and not be able to reach out to her.Is there anything I can do to regain that trust with her and prove that I am the person she needs, and can trust in, with her emotions again?
I was so sad to read your letter. It sounds like you have seen the light but that it may be too late for your wife. The last thing you can try is the following: Don’t try to force her to trust you. She has put up a wall to protect herself.She thinks that she needs this wall, so don’t ask her to take it down. Instead, tell her what you told me above. Tell her that you understand how hurt she has been by you and that she has she doesn’t trust you any longer. Tell her that you were emotionally illerate and didn’t have a clue about how to communicate your own feelngs or respond to hers.Then ask her if she would be willing to run an experiment. Ask her to keep her guard up and not trust you. At the same time, tell you something that requires an emotional, empathic response from you. Tell her not to expect that you will be any different from before, but at the same time let her give you the chance to demonstrate that you are.If she is willing to do this exercise with you, then ask her if you can do it again. If she allows you to demonstrate over and over again that you are different, then and only then might she consider letting down her guard and trusting you again.If she refuses to try, then I am sorry for you. You will grieve the loss of this marriage and view it as your training ground for your next marriage. I see what a sensitive man you are and I also see how much you have grown. If you can’t make it work with your first wife, I know that you will make your second wife happy for sure.