It sounds like this is a crisis, a turning point in your relationship. I've had a few of those during my longer relationship (8 years), and they are scary as hell. I think, when you are together with somebody for a long time, life goes on and both partners feel like they know each other, while really they are changing in smaller or bigger ways all the time. And then you come to the point, where one party realises , "wow, I've changed and there is this want/need I now have that is not met in my current relationship".
It is scary for both, because you're looking at each other and seeing all the ways in which, all of a sudden, you are different and potentially incompatible unless those can be breached. It feels like you are staring right into the very concrete prospect of the relationship being over. And the crisis demands change, which is also scary, and yet the biggest danger to the relationship is if nothing is done, because the want/need will continue to be unmet, and the resentment will cause unhappiness and strain the relationship.
So, I think it's great that you are thinking about how to get to a place where you can both be happy. It is also great that you are trying to communicate in a constructive way. It seems your wife is also trying. Both of you are human, and with the crisis and fear, it is difficult work.
Originally Posted by amk
She never seems to want to discuss anything I'm interested in. It's nearly always all about her (which is a polar switch to a year ago). After 12 years, it's really destructive to my self-esteem to have my absolute best friend in the world no longer expressing the same compassion, empathy, desire and love (seemingly) as she used to.
I have often sacrificed or stifled my own desires for that of my family. I think the results of that over the last 12 years are crashing down upon me now.
What I hear here is maybe something of a silver lining with this crisis - something that might be underlying some of the problems, and which could be addressed to make both happier. It sounds to me that both of you might have some people pleasing tendencies. In your case, this is evident in that you say you have stifled your own desires for your family. This is not uncommon, but in the end, it may not be the most beneficial thing. It may make you a caring, selfless partner and parent, but sacrificing your wants will also lead to feelings of resentment/entitlement it does sound like you are experiencing. Feelings of "unfairness" of it all.
In your wife's case, paradoxically, it is all the behaviours you describe that make me think that she has also operated in this kind of selfless way. Not just because she used to take you into consideration before, but also because she has done this uncharacteristic u-turn that (at times) makes you feel she doesn't want to listen to or consider you. I will try to explain this further.
I've been very strongly socialised, as a kid, to please the people I love. This is something that makes me a very flexible person in general, because my default reaction in situations is that I am happy when other people are happy. Strangely, it is also something that can make a person act in quite unfair ways in specific situations, particularly if they don't recognise the people pleasing tendencies and start work to actively managing them.
When you are socialised to please, you put aside your own desires for those of your loved one - in a romantic relationship that is your partner. Crucially, this is not something they have asked of you. While you don't see it, you are not actually doing anybody any favours. Because you don't express your own desires, your partner has no possibility to meet them. Also, for the same reason, your partner has no idea about the want you sacrifice for your partner/relationship. You feel like, since you've been so good and sacrificed so much, you should be appreciated more. Whereas, they may not notice that sacrifice at all since they never knew it wasn't something you wanted.
To the unfair part, which may go some way in explaining why, suddenly, your wife isn't interested in what you want. The stronger the tendency you have for defaulting to pleasing others, the more difficult it is to recognise or express what you want. But sometimes, there is something that you need so badly. You try to push it down, try to sacrifice it like your other desires, but when it is something so strong, this becomes impossible. In this situation, it becomes clear that this is something you have to have, period. You just can't be without it. But since you have no tools for reasonable negotiation (since you pretty much never express wants when they aren't that urgent), and this need feels so pressing, you move to the opposite end. Instead of asking for what you want, you inform your partner that this is how it will be.
I have done this. I'm not proud of it, but I can honestly say that, at the time, I saw no way to get what I needed except demanding it (not poly-related). It is also about lack of practice in enforcing boundaries: you don't trust yourself to pursue what you want/need if you don't make it very clear that this is something you will get, end of story. You are afraid you will be talked out of it. You are afraid that your partner won't understand/respect it: not because some fault you see in them, but because you've practically never expressed a want so that you'd have evidence of how they will react. And somewhere really deep down it feels like you're the most selfish person to want/need this thing (or anything at all). Even if, logically, you don't think that, this belief makes it so difficult to ask for anything.
After one starts to manage the people pleasing, it doesn't immediately get easier to ask for what you want. Rather, it is something you force yourself to do despite of how it makes you feel.
I've gone on about that, because it's been significant to me. Hope it helps (might want to share with your wife and ask her if she feels it is something she can relate to or not). I can go on and on (as can be seen
), it's just complex stuff to try to describe. Please ask me to elaborate if anything feels unclear.
On to one other thing.
Originally Posted by amk
I realized that I had been far too dependent on my wife for my own emotional stability and self esteem- thus why I was feeling clingy. Having identified the problem and after proactively engaging a solution, I have already noticed results. My wife isn't as annoyed when I'm around and seeks me out to spend time with me (after only 5 days). So, I'm on the road to a better more self-sustained me. Perhaps this is all for my betterment.
This is excellent stuff. Definitely something that will be a huge improvement for you and your relationship. Keep it up!