Will this marriage ever be about love?

Are you happy with your dating/partnered/single life right now? What do you need to know about what's next?

Tell me all of the things. It feels good to write it out. Email your own questions to [email protected] or fill out this easy form, please. 

I have been married to my husband for over two years now. We are a sort of an arranged match as in we were introduced by our families. But the decision to marry was entirely ours, and my husband was clear that he did expect love in the marriage. We took a year to decide and so many things fit. Our long-term goals and values are similar. It made sense. Then he told me about his anxiety and I saw it in action and suddenly I felt this urge to protect him and reassure him and from there on.

After we got married, he decided to get medical help for his anxiety. I know the bare minimum about this, that he's getting medical help and a lot of it had to do with his work, which is extremely competitive. I never forced him to talk about something that obviously made him uncomfortable.

In terms of showing affection, he holds my hand sometimes in bed, and that's about it. Now I understand that a person with anxiety is going to be hyper-focused on themselves, and I accepted that for what it is. He is a good husband, supportive of all that I want to do, takes care of himself, and whenever I have asked him for support, he has been there for me. He doesn't talk much; by the time he comes home, all he wants to do is read a book and relax. I have tried to get him to open up by asking him questions without nagging, trying to do stuff with him, but none of that works. He would rather just sit and read a book, so I read a book next to him.

And largely this was OK by me. I knew him opening up would be a long drawn-out process, but I am in this for the long haul. He's never said"I love you" to me, but I never doubted it. And I didn't say the same, because I know it puts pressure on the other person to reciprocate.

All this changed some six months back when I discovered that he had been looking up his ex online. For context, they met in college, fell in love, wanted to get married, but eventually broke off the engagement some six to seven years before he met me because their values and future goals were too far apart. I asked him about it and he told me it was curiosity, which I would have understood if it was a one off thing, but he was looking her up regularly and he didn't have any answer except for curiosity. He offered me access to his emails and social media to show that he hadn't been in touch with her. I didn't want to look it up, because I knew he wasn't in touch with her. Who googles someone they're in touch with? But he's pining for her and that breaks my heart. I asked him to block her and I told him about all the things I had been doing to get him to open up and he agreed to talk a little more. He asked me to ask him three questions every weekend and he'll answer them, but it did look like he was doing it just to appease me.

Unfortunately that month, a few things things happened together. His doctor reduced his medication and something stressful came up at work. Our chat had already made him anxious that maybe we'd get divorced, while that's not something I ever mentioned. All this together meant that he came very close to a breakdown. I also found out that I was pregnant. It's something that's very important to him, but he wasn't even able to express happiness on that, he was doing that badly.

The last six months, I have focused on supporting him. He has taken a lot of effort to help himself also. Unfortunately though, the whole opening up and talking more issue has taken a backseat. In terms of showing affection, he definitely tries to spend more time with me and consciously makes time for me which I appreciate. But it's still sitting together and maybe watching a show we both like or reading our books.

I have had my insecure moments and in one of them I took him up on his offer of looking up his mails and social media. She remains blocked everywhere. However, I did find his old email id and there I found mails between them. I understand now how he and I are much more compatible in the long term sense than they ever were. There were, fights which is not something that we have. This gave me a lot of reassurance. But he also was a lot more open with her than he has ever been with me. There are open expressions of love; he wrote her poetry. And all I've gotten is him holding hands with me. Lately that also comes right before we're intimate, and I wonder if that's the only thing I mean to him.

I know it's unfair to expect someone to express love in the ways that you want. But I can't shake off the feeling that I get the bare minimum. I had assumed that it was because he wasn't comfortable with displaying affection, but that's clearly not the case. And I don't know how to bring this up with him without causing him to become anxious again. I don't know if my undemanding nature is what is at fault here. Should I throw tantrums like her to get attention from him? How can that be healthy?

- taken for granted

If possible, you need to find a therapist who can help you figure out how to get to know a new-ish parter, and how to support someone with anxiety without losing yourself.

Also talk to that person about why you got married and your expectations for relationship growth. Yes, this union was blessed by family, so I get why it felt good. I also understand the belief that intimacy grows over time. But I would like to know how you and your husband discussed the expression of love – what he thought might grow over the years. Maybe it's just not happening for him. Maybe he doesn’t want it to.

Regardless, you're not getting what you want. If that’s the case, can you stay?

Tantrums are not the answer here. They’re not even in your DNA, it seems. But questions are. You both hoped something would evolve here, so maybe it's time to find out what love looks like to both of you.

The question of the moment is: is this the marriage he wants? On the best day, when you have time to focus on each other, will there be hand holding and you coming up with a list of questions? Or more?

I understand the pregnancy changes a lot, but it doesn't alter what you both see as happiness. If he's content with things as a they are, as far as intimacy goes, that's no good for you. If he's unhappy too, well, that's something. It means you both need to take steps in some direction, whether it's together or on your own.

Make one of your three questions about whether the status quo is good enough for him and then consider next steps.

– Meredith

Readers? Are the three questions enough? What if you found out a partner was more emotionally intimate with an ex?