No one wants to look for trouble in their marriage where none exists. I've seen perfectly good marriages struggle greatly because one spouse decided to over-analyze and complain about even the smallest, most benign issues. So it can be very important to separate the big issues from the little ones. But there are some issues that people want to address regardless, because this issue affects how they view their marriage (and feel within it.) One such example is feeling loved.

A wife might explain: "for about two years, I have not felt loved by my husband. I think the whole thing started when we had two life-changing events in quick succession. The first is that we had a child. The second is that my husband took a high-stress job that required him to be gone a lot of the time. Once those two things happened, it seemed that my spouse and I were both always running from one task to another, just to stay afloat. My husband has almost come to treat me like an associate in the business of running our home. He doesn't show me spontaneous love anymore. Last week, he gave me a filing cabinet for my birthday. This hurt me, but he said that it's obvious I needed a place to organize all of my records for our child. More and more, I do not feel loved in my marriage. My husband shows affection to our child, so I know that he is capable of it. But he never shows it to me. This is becoming a major problem. I don't want to make any life changes that would affect my child, but I do not want to go through life never feeling loved. Every human being needs to feel love. So how do I tell my husband that I don't feel loved without him getting angry or defensive? I don't want to make an even bigger problem for myself, but this has got to change."

I think that you're right on both counts. Feeling loved by your spouse is vital. And if this is missing, it can greatly and negatively affect your marriage. However, it's very important to choose your words carefully. If you make your husband feel criticized or critiqued, he may withdraw even more and, as a result, you may feel even less love. (My husband withdrew so much we ended up separated. More on that here.)

Some Considerations About Talking In Specifics: Here are a couple of things that you may want to consider when you attempt to talk to him about this. You probably do not want to speak in generalities. What I mean is that you probably do not want to just generally tell him that you don't feel loved. This is confusing and it really is not giving him anything concrete to work with. Instead, you want to take some time to think about what, exactly, he could be doing to make you feel more loved. The more specific you can be in this, the less confusing your directive is to him and the more likely it is that you will get what you want.

Perhaps you'd like for him to compliment you more, to notice your efforts, or to physically hug or touch you to show his emotion and affection. Then, you want to prioritize these things because it may be overwhelming if you ask him for everything all at once. Start with what is most important to you. And then systematically work through your list as you begin to see results.

Setting The Tone Before you Go In For The Kill: Also, you probably want to create feelings of goodwill before you ask anything of him. One way to do this is to do something nice for him so that the mood is a positive one. When he reacts with appreciation, you might try something like: "I'm glad that I was able to do something to make you feel good. I miss the times when we were both able to do nice things for each other to show our love. I know our lives are much busier today, but I do really feel the void. Do you think that you could physically show your love more? Like more spontaneous hugging and kissing? I don't mean to sound petty, but these things are important to me and they make me feel closer to you. I also think it's important for our child to see what a loving family looks like and demonstrative affection and attention is all a part of it. Can you do this?"

Know That He May Think He's Already Showing His Love and You'll Need To Correct This And Then Offer Positive Reinforcement: He may respond as many men do - to tell you that you know that he loves you and that he shows you this by how hard he works for the family. Many men equate earning a living and taking care of the home as a way to show their love. And both of these things are very loving.  (Make sure that you acknowledge this so it doesn't just sound like you are complaining. And make sure you make a big deal of it when he does make an effort to do better.)

Because showing their love doesn't always come naturally to men, they sometimes feel clumsy and awkward about this, especially if you have to ask them to give a little more. So even if his attempts aren't perfect, make sure he knows you appreciate the effort. Because that will mean he will want to try it more, and over time, you should see a big difference. You want to set up an environment where he is willingly and enthusiastically trying to do better and is getting positive reinforcement so that he will keep it up.

After my reconciliation, I tried to make any changes to my marriage gradually.  And I prioritized exchanged affection because that is very important. But I knew that we were somewhat fragile and I wanted to set it up where we could feel like we were successfully making progress.  This worked pretty well.  You can read more on my blog at

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