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Ask Dr. Margaret – What to Do About Apathy in a Relationship

Here is my first ASK DR. MARGARET column!  I got some interesting responses to last month’s post!  One man thanked me for writing.   Then flatly stated he  “hadn’t learned much…. She talks, I listen”.   Told me he enjoyed it.  I laughed a little.  At least it sounded like he felt affirmed!

Here’s another.

mental health, therapy, marriage

Dr. Margaret:  When I read your post, I realized that my husband and I just co-exist.  It’s not that we fight.  I don’t know if I care enough about him or what he thinks or does to fight.  It’s like I gave up a long time ago.  And now I am just making the best of it.  I think that’s the way a lot of couples are.  Thanks for your post.

Apathy is a terrific problem in long-term relationships.  I would rather have people come into therapy describing knock-down drag-out fights than long silent evenings.  Fighting with each other (not the violent kind) at least demonstrates that you still care.

So these words are disturbing.  The man in the Gray Divorce post, in his reaching out to his wife, was not apathetic.  He was reaching out to her, even though their life together had been far from perfect.

Is there anything you can do?

If apathy is accompanied by bitterness, then change is extremely difficult.  Not only have you detached, but you have allowed anger to deeply entrench itself.  That nut is almost impossible to crack.

However, if both people can shift their focus to the present, allow fresh, new information to come to the fore, then a different connection is possible. That takes some work.  Some practice.  But it is do-able.  If you want to take the risk.

Sometimes we choose familiar pain.  I understand that sometimes it is simply too scary to risk changing.  And that is okay.

Good luck and take very good care.

Dr. Margaret

Please email me if you have comments or questions about this post at  All emails will be confidential unless requested otherwise.  Suggestions might be questions about the process of forgiveness in therapy or anything else that the post brought up for you.  I will welcome any and all responses.

midlife boulevard, columnist, midlife women, middle-age, midlife crisis

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford has been in practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas for over 20 years. She began blogging in 2012 with the website “NestAche”, and following with in April 2014. Her work can be found here on Midlife Boulevard, as well as the Huffington Post, Boomeon, WeWantMore, BetterAfter50 and Arkansas Women Bloggers.

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