Q: I have been engaged for two years to a widower who was married for 22 years before his wife died. When we first started dating he wanted to tie me down to him right away, but now, for the past few months, he has barely talked to me or seems to have very little to do with me. He doesn't ask me anything about my life, such as How was your day? I work part-time and have been job-hunting, but he doesn't seem to have any interest in anything I do. Yet he insists he still loves me with all his heart. That's really hard for me to believe, as he doesn't even seem to care if we spend much time together anymore. I know something is going on but he insists it is not. Should I just leave and not go back? I have been crying on and off for the last five months because of his detachment from me. He gets mad and tells me there is nothing to talk about when I question him and tells me it is all in my head. But then why is my heart breaking? Could it be all in my head? -- Kate, 50
Dr. Susan: Two years into any relationship, things change. They have to. You couldn't sustain the early level of excitement forever, or you'd simply burn out. It's not unusual for one of the partners to "lose interest" sooner than the other, which shows up as pursuing other interests and not wanting to spend as much time together. In your relationship, nothing terrible is necessarily going on. But your heart and your head are trying to tell you that something isn't right. It might have something to do with expectations. Maybe he really does love you, but simply isn't the sort to be very attentive. Maybe that's how he treated his wife and so it seems normal to him. On the other hand, your needs aren't being met the way things are. If he loves you, he should be willing to talk to you about your needs and not get mad. Perhaps you could suggest a few ways to spend more time doing ordinary things together, such as shopping or planning a small trip. You could suggest having a brief daily conversation to talk about your day. Most happy couples schedule ways to connect daily, or else they find their love turning flat.
Let me add one small suggestion for you: crying off and on for five months sounds suspiciously like a sign of depression, and you're at a common age for women to feel out of sorts for hormonal or other reasons. You may want to talk to a medical professional, just to be checked out. Beyond that, if your man won't even talk about ways to improve your life together, you may finally decide that being engaged to him isn't worth the trouble.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.