My spouse is intelligent and awesome and all that great stuff. About two years ago she got a new job and now she works all the time. Early mornings, late nights, weekends. When she isn’t working, there are kids and the dog and the PTA and friends all demanding her attention. About every two months she pays attention to me. It feels awesome, but it hurts too much when it goes away. I think I’m just one more needy entity on her to-do list and I understand how that isn’t very attractive. But it’s unavoidable — she has a big list and I am on there, somewhere. We’ve talked about it, we’ve gone to counseling, and I think she feels better — but her job is relentless and I’m still feeling stuck. Any ideas?
I had this boyfriend once, on and off, for years. He was a fine person, but like all boyfriends, especially the on-and-off kind, he had his limitations, which I didn’t really feel like seeing, so I just ignored them. This was all fine and good until one Friday, instead of my regular habit of going straight to happy hour, I decided to go to the gym, of all places. My punishment for trying to exercise on a Friday evening was slipping on the ice, breaking my leg in two places, and getting a nice big hot-pink cast that came all the way up to my hip.
Suddenly, what had seemed like a situation I could tolerate—his flakiness, his inability to do anything more grown-up that eat with utensils instead of his hands, his lack of focus on any activity that didn’t involve balls (you can take that any way you want)—became unbearable. I actually needed him. I needed him to do things like help me take a shower, cook, and drive me to doctor appointments. Within about a week he was like, Ehhhh, I’d rather go out to the bars. So I broke up with him. When he wasn’t available and meeting my needs emotionally, it was easy to say I didn’t care, or I didn’t need that. But since it became a physical, concrete absence of his help and support, I couldn’t ignore the facts any longer.
You’re stuck. Your wife knows this, and won’t change. You’ve been to therapy together, and she won’t change. You can’t make her change. Some things are inevitable—the kids and the dog aren’t going to take are of themselves—but if she really wanted to make the time for you, she could. She could skip a Girls’ Night Out. She could miss a PTA meeting or volunteer for one less committee. I don’t know if she could work less or not, but my guess is that she could. She just doesn’t want to. You can’t make her change and since therapy didn’t seem to help, no one else can, either.
You have to decide what you can live with. Can you live with the pain of only being paid attention to every couple months? Can you learn to accept that she has no time for you, and isn’t willing right now to make it? Do you think being on your own would be better? I don’t know the answer to these questions, since I’m not you, but I do know that you need to assume nothing will ever be different, and then act accordingly.