Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: Husband and I (married five years, young kid) have had some issues and have been seeing a marriage counselor off and on over the last six months. The sessions are going well.
However, there's a pretty major thing I've been leaving out: I feel like I've fallen out of love with my husband and have felt this way for about a year now (so it's not a fleeting thing). So we may be getting along better, but I don't know that I want to (or should) stay married to him when I feel so . . . indifferent toward him. So, do I bring this up in counseling? How?
Answer: With the counselor in a solo session. Don't just assume it can't be fixed without teasing out difference(s) between now and five years ago. Good luck.
Comment: I think that's pretty normal. I look at love like the tides. It ebbs and flows with high and lows. I've been married 23 years. Some days I ask myself, "Why did I get married?" And then my spouse does something or we do something together and I tell myself, "Yes, that is why I married him."
Answer: Thanks for this. I agree this is common and therefore a strong possibility, one worth holding on to as a point of reference, even a goal.
Since it could be other things, and since even if it's just a tidal thing that can be heavy to leave unspoken, I still think solo counseling is a good idea. Some have pointed out that couples counselors often won't see one party solo, in which case I think it's worth pursuing the solo part with a different therapist. The marriage counselor can provide names, no doubt.
Either way, patience is important - to recall what brought them together, to dig into what has changed, to see whether there's a foundation to build on anew. The alternative is too heartbreaking to be anything but a last resort.
Question: How do I decide when to be honest and when to spare feelings? I want to be honest with my boyfriend, but am stumped when he asks if I have concerns about him long-term. The answer is that I do, but they are shallow and I can deal with them. He's 10 years older than I, significantly overweight with no muscle strength. It would really hurt him if I mentioned these things, and I truly can overlook them.
Answer: But, why is he asking? Are you asking that of him?
If it's just conversation, then you can say, "Of course I do - I have concerns about myself long-term. I'd be nuts not to. Why?" ... then see where that takes you. But if he's asking out of insecurity, be it about himself or about your relationship, then both the share-it-all route (hurting him) and the spare-feelings route (misleading him) have some major hazards.
So it comes down to, how freely can you speak with him, and how much more freely would you like to speak?
By the way, please don't dismiss your concerns because you think they're "shallow." Treat any real concern as a legitimate one, even those you aren't proud to have.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.