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Changing Your Stripes
My name is Ian. I'm 32 years old, live with my partner in Ireland, and have two children, ages 3 & 6.
Having read some of the amazing advice you've given people on your site, I felt I had to come to you in my time of need. I am currently killing myself inside. It's such a painful thing to write. I am flooded with thoughts that my relationship to my once upon a time soul mate, is over.
We're probably like most people that end up in this situation. I guess some make it and for other couples, it just wasn't meant to be. My fiancee is a wonderful mum to our 2 children, she works hard (as do i) to make sure that ends meet and we can provide a home for our family.
About 2 years ago, we separated for about a month, the feeling of being in a relationship with someone that treated me more like their housemate than their lover, eventually got too much for me to take. I was certain I had fallen out of love with her.
We eventually got back together. Although, i remember when i was away i felt so free and like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. i still knew and fully accepted my responsibilities as a father and to continue to pay my share or the bills to ensure my 2 children were secure. i could not help feeling that i returned to her out of guilt, for imagining how bad i was making her feel, breaking her heart, and tearing down the world around my kids. i know now that these were not the right reasons to stay together, but i did it.
Now I've hit rock bottom again! there is little to no intimacy between us. When there is, it's always instigated by me. there are rarely little hugs and cuddles when getting in from work. it's hard to come back to a home every day with no signs of affection. over many years this has such an effect.
There would be times we could be intimate, but after reading many posts at your website, I think this comes down to me being a touch-based person and she is not. it's always be me instigating intimacy, and if i dont initiate it, it generally doesnt happen. thats so depressing its killing me inside. so sex is a rarity and when it does happen, and it is over and done with, I'm left thinking "great", sex isnt the be all and end all but the affection/intimacy IS — as without affection what is there between a couple that differentiates them from just being friends?
I am feeling too scared to end it. What it would do to her? i know my kids would be ok, and they'd probably be even happier through more quality time together. But i am ridden with the guilt of being the failing husband and father. This thought is destroying me inside (and i'm surprised i can type at this moment through the tears).
i've tried talking over our issues with her, but i dont think its going to work. But i havent left yet although dont think i can stomach another day more of this pain. i dont think i can tell her again that everything will be ok, that i can be happy with myself in a week, a month, or a year. i dont want to feel like this again or hurt her. i am so lost right now.
Things haven't really changed. we're good mates but nothing more. again, there is no intimacy or affection between us.
she accused me yesterday (with my mum trying to mediate) of wanting to live free and easy. i told her i love my kids and none of that would change, i would still pay everything i do now, but i cannot handle being in an emotionless relationship anymore; and do not want the kids thinking that's how a committed couple should be.
i know she probably said this out of anger, but where is the "i love you, i dont want you to leave or us to break up?" i feel like she's trying to make me feel guilty at failing as a partner and father. i questioned if she really truly loves me. She says she does, but i am not convinced, if she is satisfied to live like we have been, with no emotional love and affection. Is there any hope?
i dont think i can get over this feeling that it is over and that she is just trying to cling on to things out of fear of being alone. i am 32 and she is 35. we both agreed that, given our loveless relationship, we would have split up by now, if we didnt have kids. when i think about leaving my children, not seeing them every single day, it rips my heart open - but i dont feel the same about leaving her
Do i just need to grow a pair and leave? Do I need to let her get on living the rest of her life? to find someone that she can truly be happy with?
Related Articles: Lasting Love: The Love that is Chosen, The Love that Stands
As you have mentioned, you will do your children a great disservice by staying together in a loveless relationship, because it teaches them, by example, how a mother and a father should NOT behave as parents living under the same roof. With no love and affection in your relationship, you send the WRONG message to impressionable children. You have recognized this.
But by splitting up, you also send a WRONG message. Now you must decide which WRONG choice is the lesser of two evils.
But there is another alternative that you and the mother of your children may not have considered. It is an alternative that I teach loveless couples (both emotionally and physically) every day in my counseling practice:
Becoming a different person for the Other to respond to. Becoming a NEW person who is different from the one who doesn't get along, and doesn't love, and doesn't show affection to the Other — the Other who has not yet become NEW and Different. Change is what is needed in both You and your Partner.
Change is what my book is about: The unlikely occurrence that a Tiger could actually Change her Stripes and become a New kind of Creature.
You can only control YOUR SIDE of the relationship: Your Partner will make her own choices! But it is fascinating to see the CHANGES that happen when only ONE person makes changes in a relationship. You see, Relationships proceed like a dance; when you do different choreography, it become very difficult for your partner to continue dancing the same loveless dance.
When You Change your contribution to the Dance, You necessarily cause your partner to pause and consider how the dance will proceed. For example, if you refuse to do the Tango, then it's nearly impossible for your partner to continue doing the Tango — because it's take TWO to Tango!
When YOU change, she must necessarily change, because she CAN'T keep doing the same dance without your cooperation. Said another way: When you change one ingredient in a relationship recipe, you will bake a different cake.
So, my advice to you IS to begin changing YOU — whether you stay together or not. For if you do not CHANGE, you will simply bring your OLD SELF to the next relationship, and similar troubles will arise.
Begin with Changing You — not as you or I intellectually contrive that change, logically — but experience a profound and lasting Change that only your Creator can accomplish; Become a New You that is different from the one that your partner chooses NOT to be affectionate with.
Send me your response to what I've written, and I will say more.
Dear Dr. Matt,
It's crazy isn't it, I've swung from having thoughts of everything is over, to contemplating trying to take her out for a "date" and seeing how we get on without any of life's other problems around us. And i was even quite positive about doing this when I thought of it.
Yet, I keep coming back to the same feeling: that am I just delaying the inevitable, and I can't get her to change! She knows the affection thing has been an issue with me for many years. Why would she suddenly change now? it was an issue when we split up two years ago, and yet I'm back feeling the same way.
This time i haven't left yet but we had a conversation recently in which i said i was scared this wasn't going to last unless we changed things, and nothing has changed so far.
I have met someone at work as well, she's older than me (7 years in fact, 39), but we really connect on the same level. i've mixed feelings about leaving my fiancee because of the history and ties. And at the same time i'm afraid that this new woman could be the right woman for me (many meet their real love 2nd time around right?) and that I could lose that if I don't act.
I am scared that whatever decision I make, I could regret for the rest of my life — a decision of which you only get to make once in a lifetime. Although I'm very confused right now, I know i felt the way i do about my fiancee BEFORE this other woman came into the picture. I felt this way about my fiancee years before I even knew this other woman. In some ways i feel an opportunity has arisen to be with someone whom I can connect with in the same way; we connect so well it's scary. Yet, i'm very wary of that "new" relationship feeling.
I had the urge to email you because of Tiger Stripes quotes, and what I can only conclude was a spiritual dream that i had many many years ago.
In my dream, i was at a fair ground with big tents and there was a Tiger there which i assumed was out to get me, so i ran and hid inside a tent. i could see the Tiger's silhouette walking around the outside the tent, so i ran in the opposite direction.
When i got out in the open, i was confronted by a tall dark figure (couldnt see his head) and the Tiger walked into view in the background. The tall dark figure simply said, "are you going to keep running, or are you going to become one with the Tiger?" as which point I kind of drifted and merged into the tiger, and then woke up.
I've never had such a bizarre dream in all my life, but it stood out as being quite spiritual; im not religious but do believe in spiritual things. I'm wondering if the meaning of the dream was as symbolic of the statements you make regarding Tiger Stripes and Change?
Thanks for your response!
You speak of meeting your "real love." Can you remember when you first met the woman you've had 2 children with? Back then, you thought you had met your "soul mate." Years later, you are enticed by the freshness and mystery of a new relationship.
If you were to travel forward a few years in a time machine, and find out your fate with the "new" 42-year-old woman. You would discover that wherever you go . . . THERE YOU ARE. You would discover that you've brought the same "old" bundle of tendencies into a "new" relationship.
You will discover that you and your new partner need to work at making your relationship great. Ironically, you will find yourself in the SAME PLACE you are now — but with a different woman.
Your current relationship may not work out: If it doesn't, it needs to be because she decided NOT choose to put her heart and soul into making it work; and NOT because YOU decided not to put your heart and soul into restoring and renewing the freshness that you first had with your "soul mate."
If you can't put your heart and soul into this relationship, then, you will need to make the SAME DECISION at a future time, and your ability and motivation to GIVE ALL will be no better than it is NOW.
You need to face this decision, once and for all:
What is the meaning of "one with the tiger"?
The answer to the second question is easy and obvious, as it applies to your life. On the back cover of my book is this quote by Robert Louis Stevenson:
You cannot run away from a weakness;
I encourage you to "Change Your Stripes," and give your whole heart and soul to the project of Changing Your Side of the Relationship Dance. For if you don't do it now, you will need to do it later!
I encourage you to present to your current partner a "new" man! And as you dance "new" choreography in the relationship, this will necessarily invite your partner to Change herself — and thus Change the choreography she is dancing, so it meshes and becomes "one" with yours.
Over time, as you patiently love your partner, . . . if she does not choose to take up your loving invitation, and if she does not choose to give her heart and soul to the process of Change — "become one with the tiger" — then things cannot work out. Why?
It take the commitment of TWO to make a great relationship, but only the decision of ONE to break it. Again, the failure of your present relationship must NOT be because you did not give your heart and soul to making this relationship fresh and new and alive.
If you do not "fight it out, . . . and stand" . . . then you are "running."
The Transformation of Change that I speak of cannot happen as you apply your own determination and will power — CANNOT. Instead, a lasting and profound Change from your Core, a Change of Heart, happens only with the help of your Creator.
To mention the Creator, is not to speak of religion. The word "religion" points to institutions and groups that organize in support of Spirituality. Instead, I mention the Creator in terms of your personal Spirituality — your direct relationship with Him, apart from any social institutions.
You've had a dream that invited you to Spirituality: "are you going to become one with the tiger?"
"you must at sometime fight it out, or perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?"
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
Hi Dr. Matt,
I do understand what you are saying although sometimes I think it is just a simpler case of "i don't love her anymore," i just need to be sure, and if i can put myself and her through it to try.
Thank you for all your replies, it is amazing to talk to someone like you with the analysis that you make. by the way, i am taking my fiancee out tonight, but i havent written off the fact that sometimes "new love" just happens, and that all of this could be a hell of a lot simpler than it is! Probably the wannabe psychologist in me, love this stuff — obviously prefer not to be in the middle of it!
Your words are revealing. You write "sometimes I think it is just a simpler case of 'i dont love her anymore' and i just need to be sure."
To speak of "love" this way, the kind of "new love" that just happens. . . is to describe something that is beyond your choice? An elusive feeling of "new love" that comes and goes beyond your control? What you are really saying is that you "choose not to love your fiancee anymore?"
Truth is, the highest kind of Love (real love, lasting love) is a choice that you make; an idea that I explain in this article.
You have twice failed to comment upon what the Creator would have you do. You say that you place importance upon Spiritual things, yet you've avoided discussion about possibilities that the Creator can bring about, as you are faithful to the Creator.
Because the Creator has given you freedom of choice, You are free to choose any alternative you desire, but there is a catch: You are NOT free from the inevitable Consequences of your choices.
In the end, Consequences will tell you whether you have chosen Well . . . or chosen Worse.
Joyful Living is the consistent Consequence of having chosen Well. In every conceivable circumstance, Choosing the alternatives that the Creator will lead you to, is equivalent to Choosing Well — Choosing Optimally.
Here's a question I invite you to grapple with: What is the purpose for your mortal existence, anyway? Do You Know? When you take a broad perspective of your Immediate Mortal Life and add the realization of your future Life Here After, . . . does it matter, at all, which choices you choose here and now?
In order to fully understand how you should proceed, in an optimal way, you will need to understand WHY the Creator has created you, in the first place. If you don't understand this, then you cannot clearly see your way forward.
You've had a dream that YOU have describe as "quite Spiritual." If this Dream was Spiritually Inspired, then you need to be True to It:
"The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. Denial is a way of lying to ourselves.
Because you are a creation of the Creator, your optimal way forward is to do what the Creator would have you do. The Bible declares that "God IS Love." As you follow your Spiritual Intuitions that come from God, you will naturally become like Him — you will become Loving as He is Loving.
Can you imagine the following words coming from mouth of the Creator, the God of perfect Love: "I don't love my fiancee anymore"? And can you imagine the following words being spoken by the Creator: "I have fallen out of love with her"?
There is something wrong with the kind of love that falls and fails. Clearly, any "love" that Falls and Fails is NOT the Highest Kind of Love. Here's how the Love of God is described in the Bible:
"Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one.
If your Dream about becoming One with the Tiger was Spiritually Inspired, then that Dream came from your Creator. The Creator is trying to communicate with you. So will you Become "One" or will you Run?
Again, you are free to ignore Communications coming from the Creator, but you are NOT free to escape the consequences of NOT following the Creator's Way.
Your optimal way forward, in terms of your greatest growth in becoming like the God of Love, and the optimal way forward in terms of your highest happiness, is to hear and heed the sweet invitations coming from the Creator.
Or, you are free to "keep running."
Your current relationship may not work out: If it doesn't, it needs to be because she decided NOT to put her heart and soul into making it work; and NOT because YOU decided not to put your heart and soul into restoring and renewing the freshness that you once had with your "soul mate" — a restoration mediated solely by the Creator.
As you will Love as the Creator Loves, here are the possibilities: "There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance. Love will never fail." . . . The scriptures add these words of unlimited possibility: "And Jesus said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
You may have difficulty coming to grips with what I have written. You may be tempted to deal with the previous ideas intellectually (as a way of muffling your inner voice, the voice of Truth). In the end, self-understanding and self-fulfillment will be achieved by honesty, rather than by reason. The optimal way forward, is to get out of your Head and honestly follow the Spiritual Intuitions of Truth that the Creator has revealed to you, and will continue to reveal to you.
As these principles apply to your life, think upon these Truths from the Bible:
"God is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God,
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
"Old things pass away, and all things become new;
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
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