Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue.
First, let me say I can imagine how frustrating and distressing this situation must be for you. The two of you are living under immense amount of stress and tension. And on top of that you have terrible pain in your hip area. And on top of that money is going to get even tighter with your losing your health insurance coverage soon. Wow. That is a whole lot. Your marriage is incredibly strong. You don't recognize this, but I'm telling you. So the main part of my answer is going to be on how to strengthen it more. But before that I want to take a moment to talk about your physical pain.
You are waiting for a hip replacement. Okay. While you are doing that I want to introduce a concept called the mind body connection. Mostly we are trained to treat our pain on the basis that it is a mechanical, biological problem: you are the driver, your body is the "car". Your body hurts, go to a mechanic (doctor) and have it fixed. But we are not built that way. Our "selves" and our "bodies" have an intertwined relationship and pain is not just part of our body's system and irrelevant to our "selves", our feelings, experiences, thoughts, etc. So let's look at something that ties together that pain and the inner self. This is something called the mind-body connection. The idea of mind-body connection is that the physical symptoms you (and most of us) are feeling are not the disorder; they are symptoms masking the emotional and psychological realities (mind) that each of us is too scared to face. On the surface it sounds strange and almost anti-modern. How can things about me I am not ready to deal with cause pain. This isn't the place to give a full class on mind-body connection, but I can tell you that you will find many resources on the web.
The idea here is that I'm not trying to get you to throw away the x-rays or anything like that. I'm responding to what's happening in your life: you don't have money for expensive treatment like acupuncture or Western pain management with an MD. And this pain is adding to the problem I'm addressing, your marital harmony. Because you have less ability in that area when you are in pain. And mind body work is something you can learn on your own and see if it will help you. Okay?
I want to give you an example from someone I worked with:
Her husband died in an auto accident. She never grieved properly for a number of reasons. She at one point fell off a ladder and broke her foot. Her foot just wouldn't heal properly. she wound up with an acupuncturist/massage therapist who told her, "Your foot will never heal until you let yourself grieve for your husband." She was shocked. She came to see me and worked on letting herself grieve. She's fine now. The concept, though, that her foot's healing from the pain of the break was somehow related to her emotional healing from her husband's death was at first impossible for her to fully accept. But she did and it helped. This is just one example.
So this method requires you to allow yourself to see the pain as a manifestation of something more emotional within. This approach is the mind-body connection approach. You can Google it and get acquainted. I know many people who have been helped with this approach and I know many people who scoff at it. I hope you won't scoff at it because it can help you who are rather treatment resistant in the easy treatments if you are interested in a more alternative approach to looking at your physical pain. I would like you to focus on the work of Dr. John Sarno. He is elderly now but very active and it is interesting how much more mainstream his work is becoming. The controversy is not as interesting for you as the need you have to open yourself up to your own emotional life! Dr. Sarno's work is one opening to that: that physical pain ailments are very often the physical masking of psychological and emotional suffering that we don't want to face. He has a video out now, though you might want to start with his older books such as The Mind Body Prescription. His older books have a lot of symptoms you have to read through at first. Please don't tell him, but I have most of my patients just scan through some of those sections. He believes it's important to read them, so if you want go ahead. But I've had good results without it for us impatient types. Here's the Amazon page for The Mind Body Prescription. You'll see that it has more reader reviews than most books because people are very passionate about this.
That our bodies can respond to our psychological/spiritual selves is really not so strange if we think about it. The studies in my field of psychology and in medicine are just starting to be done confirming this connection. For example the studies showing the connection between spiritual practice and healing from surgery; the greater longevity of people who have regular church attendance. And many other connections.
So that is something I'd like you to explore for your pain and your psychological well being. Now let's get to our discussion about your marriage.
So you are finding yourself saying to yourself that marriage is not supposed to be like this after that many years. Is this what is supposed to happen? And the answer is what you know it is: no. That's not what's supposed to happen. Well, then, how DOES it happen?
From what you write, the sense you give is that what happened is atrophy. Atrophy is what happens to muscles when they are not exercised and used regularly. They lose tone and eventually lose ability to activate. LOVE is a muscle. And love can atrophy. It slowly wears out until you can't find how to access it any more.
But here's a truth that is SO IMPORTANT:
Even if you two divorce, each of you will have to start EXERCISING your love muscles to feel what you don't feel now! It WILL be easier because it will be new faces and new bodies, but they will become familiar soon enough. The truth, though, is that it will take exercising your love muscles in new relationships. So why not try with the person you've each already devoted so much effort to?
Let's make a good faith effort to see if the ship can be righted. Okay?
Therefore, I want you to print out my answer and take it and him to a Starbucks or other quiet place and discuss it and commit to the program to try to make your marriage a success. You're going to start with a book. You'll get 2 copies, one for each of you. Each night you're both going to read a few pages or a chapter and do the exercise there if there is one in those pages. Every other night, or at most, every third night sometimes, you will get together, either at home or at the Starbucks and talk about what you read. What you think of it, what it inspired in you. Make notes in the margins. And each one talk about the subject of the pages and what you think. That's your assignment and dates. This is why I asked about schedules: the two of you have to arrange your schedules to make time for this. Your marriage is the most important thing you are building. For generations. So treat it that way. Make the time!
The book: It's by the foremost researcher into relationships in our day, John Gottman. He's famous for being interviewed on TV and being able to tell when a couple will get divorced within 5 minutes and having 90% accuracy. I've studied his therapy and use his therapy in my practice and that's why I'm concerned that you two do this. So the book is the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. You can get it cheaply online or see if you can get it locally to save time.
Now, a secret: the magic is not in the book. The exercises and Gottman's insights will be very useful and important for the two of you. But the magic is in the act of working together on your marriage! The two of you paying attention every single day to your marriage and making effort every single day: that's the magic ingredient in great marriages that GROW in love as the years pile up. I want to make sure you both understand this as you are trying to do this without therapy, without the expense of therapy. Because that's the key to our work here. Okay?
We humans are not built to tolerate emotional vacuums. When we have an unfulfilled emotional need, and we want that need fulfilled, and we don't find a way to fulfill it, we have created a vacuum. Our emotional selves feel the void and want it filled. So we feel the sense of "missing" something and life seems unfulfilled. You both seem to be in the throes of this vacuum. That is what this program was about.
If this work gets you two to first base but not all the way, if it isn't a home run, then consider therapy even though it will mean a financial investment: the two of you MUST work on how emotional connections are made and maintained. The two of you together need help in learning how to make your marriage more emotionally intimate and positive. There are two types of therapies I recommend strongly for you two to consider.
One type of therapy is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Why? Because it focuses on how there have been created emotional barriers and how to get through those barriers. Please consider it before you take other action.
Here is the web address for their therapist finder:
On the website you'll also find excellent books by the founders, Sue Johnson and Leslie Greenberg. I recommend letting the therapists you call know your financial situation and seeing who is willing to work on a reduced fee basis. Do NOT be embarrassed. Know what you can actually afford to pay and then negotiate the fee. if the person does not take a reduced fee, fine, keep calling.
The other therapy is Gottman therapy. Yes, the same Gottman as the book above. Seek a therapist who is certified by the Gottman Institute. Here's their web address for finding a therapist:
Why? Because his couples therapy model is the most straightforward model available. I hope that therapists working in these types of couples therapies are listed for your area. If not, find a couples therapist who makes you feel confident in his/her skills and values. But my goal is for the two of you to use Gottman's book to begin to learn the skills you need. He to talk. And you to smile more.
I wish you the very best in this and in the future!
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