Karen Kleiman MSW, LCSW

This Isn't What I Expected

Are You Experiencing Early Ambivalence in Your Marriage?

It can sneak up on you...

Posted Apr 14, 2016

Source: Photodune

Communication pathways are thwarted by depression.  Paradoxically, as emotional needs become heightened, relationship numbness can ensue. Here, numbness does not refer to a complete lack of feeling. It refers to a defensive position, a shutdown of sorts, usually because of the extreme emotional complexities associated with depression and anxiety.

Too much anger, resentment, or guilt can make anyone tired and weary. This kind of emotional fatigue, if not attended to lovingly or professionally, can create the numbing response.

Sometimes, when ambivalence drops in on a marriage struggling to recover from postpartum depression, it can result from sheer exhaustion. It is no secret the sleep deprivation can be the greatest enemy of all. Working on the marriage can just feel like too much to do, with so much going on and so little energy to draw upon. Moreover, depression is an extremely self-absorbing illness, forcing the sufferer to worry and hyperfocus on how she or he is feeling most or all of the time. This distorted perspective can lead to uncertainty and doubt in the relationship, because, quite frankly, nothing feels good. When this happens, a recovering couple can find themselves completely polarized, where there is not necessarily contention or hostility, but there is now a division between the twosome. And that, never feels good.

Ambivalence can take the form of apathy but in actuality it is concealing the hurt and vulnerability. It’s crucial that you know the difference. If it’s defensive, it is a cop-out, relied on by people who choose not to be accountable or responsible. Even with a silly example like, do you want to go see a movie tonight? “I don’t care” is a weak response. Of course you care. Take a stand. Have an opinion. Share it with your partner.

Are you experiencing the early stages of relationship ambivalence?

  • I don't care anymore.
  • I feel stuck.
  • No matter what I say, it doesn't make a difference.
  • Whatever ...
  • My partner doesn't seem to be invest anymore.
  • Some days things feel great. Other days, I can't believe we are still together.
  • I'm honestly not sure how I feel.
  • Everytime I offer a solution, my partner back down and avoids any effort to make something feel better.

Pay attention to your marriage.

Copyright 2016 Karen Kleiman

Adapted from Tokens of Affection: Reclaiming your marriage after postpartum depression (Routledge, 2014)