When Love Isn’t Enough: our Alcoholic Marriage is still in Recovery.
“I know you love me,” I said to my wife. “I just don’t think you like me.”
Her eyes shifted down and her empty stare fixed on her feet. I’d just stumbled onto her deepest, darkest, most tormenting secret.
“I know you love me, Sheri,” I continued. “We have four kids together, we have a business together, both of our names are on the mortgage. We’ve built this life together and we depend on each other because neither of us could do this alone. We’ve been together for so long that I can’t remember life before you.” Sheri was staring at the wall, at nothing in particular while I spoke. She just couldn’t bear to look at me.
She could say she loved me, because she did.
After what we’d been through, there was a bond, an eternal respect, and, on some levels, an unbreakable trust. It was unlike the unconditional love a parent feels for a child, but it was deep and permanent in a different way.
There really wasn’t anything romantic about the love Sheri felt for me. We’d been battling to restore intimacy since shortly after I quit drinking years ago. The love was about fulfilled material needs, division of chores and responsibilities, coparenting, and mutual respect. Frankly, from my best estimates from watching different couples move around the world, our love was stronger than most. But it wasn’t enough, and the root of the problem had just occurred to me. My wife loved me, but she really didn’t like me.
Alcoholism recovery is indescribably hard, and sobriety is just the first excruciating step. Alcohol has the properties of a liquid, meaning it is hard to contain, and it flows into every crack and cranny of our lives. Returning life to normal, to pre-alcohol status, is a universally debunked aspiration. It can’t happen. Alcoholism changes everything, and life in recovery, even when wildly successful, in no way resembles the pre-alcohol past.
Everyone involved has two options: They can learn about the disease that impacts their lives and find restorative peace, or they can suffer a kind of suffering with no end date, and that doesn’t naturally diminish over time. In fact, the suffering left behind when the alcohol…