I looked in a mirror - and saw this entry by CharlesCS.
Having been in your computer chair, I pretty much concur with TW and Jythier. Some people call it "growing apart", but it's more correct to call it "continuing bad habits". Short answer: counseling. If you're willing to do what it takes, then that's what it takes. And be ready to have some self-image battering, 'cause you're definitely exacerbating the situation but you don't want to see/admit it (Lord knows, I didn't!).
Flashback: 2004. Almost every evening found me in front of the PC. Gaming, surfing, whatever. Wife was doing household stuff or watching TV back in the bedroom. I taught at the time and had a horrid schedule: 8am - 12pm & 6pm-10pm daily, most Fridays off. I was also the lead tech for the school's systems, senior tech instructor and network admin. By the time Friday rolled around, the LAST thing I felt like doing was dealing with people! So I played on the 'puter. After a while, Wife stopped asking me to go anywhere or do anything because she got tired of hearing, "I'm too tired, baby - maybe next time" or "I'm kinda stressed, now it not a good time!" or worse, "In a minute, honey!" ('cause a computer minute is like, 2 hours).
Eventually I noticed that she was doing things without me - it seemed she was shutting me out of her life. So I pointed out to her that she was excluding me from seemingly everything. Of course, in my "pointing it out" it was made clear that SHE was shutting ME out and this behavior needed to stop. My computer time, tiredness, etc. had nothing to do with it - I was the victim. She....ahem!...disagreed. Vigorously. Loudly. Vociferously, even. Recognizing that there was just no dealing with her in her current state, I gave up and went back to the computer.
Rinse, repeat. I always had a perfectly good reason for not interacting with her at that moment, she got tired of being denied my wondermous prescence and managed without me, I got upset at not being included, we argued. Groundhog Day for about 6 years.
Oh, we didn't always argue. We did eke out some good times. And the sex (when it happened) was pretty good but there was an underlying feeling of it being more a case of "because I"m his wife and that's what I'm supposed to do" than a case of "Take me! Take me now!". All our interactions had fallen into this sort of routine; everything seemed to be happening because we were dutiful spouses and parents, not because we wanted to.
Just as in the old joke about the farmer and the mule, it took a 2x4 across the head to make me see the light (I prefer my metaphors shaken, not stirred). This particular 2x4 was an IM log I'd chanced across while cleaning Windows cruft from her laptop. Yeah, I was nosy. Damned good thing, too! It was a conversation between her and a guy friend that I knew pretty well. She was explaining to him her feelings towards me (I would have loved to have seen the preceeding exchanges of text but they were garbled. The critical part, however, was perfect).
Not having time to read it all just then, I sent it to the printer and picked it up on the way out the door to work. Traffic was reasonable for a change and I had a few minutes before class started so I pulled the printout from my bag and commenced reading. Then read it again. Several times. In a nutshell, she felt I'd been pulling away from her for years. She even detailed for him WHY I was doing so - incidents from my life before her (including things that happened between my first two wives and I). My first thought was "What is she talking about?". Second: "She's nuts!" Third: "I'm not doing that! (Am I?)". Fourth: "Uhhhhhhh...." Fifth: "OH FECAL MATTER!!"
As it happened, she had taken the day off. I told the boss I wasn't feeling well and left. Ya know, it really IS hard to drive with tears in your eyes! I got home, told my very worried-at-my-state Wife that I'd had an epiphany, poured about 3 fingers of scotch, drank same, repeated, then sat down with her. I cried. I groveled. I apologized. I abjured myself. I abased myself. I cried. And she....she forgave.
12 years of marriage had passed with me thinking the world was rosy while she grew more and more unhappy. I didn't see that I was adding bricks to the wall between us; certainly I didn't intend to! After awhile, she got tired of trying to break the wall down because I was a better builder than she was a breaker. She 'cared for me, would protect me, defend me, take care of me, stand by me. But she didn't love me'. She had tried for years to '"give him my love but he didn't seem to want it anymore. So it just kind of died away."
I couldn't see the truth until I saw her side of things. When we'd tried to talk about relationship issues, I was hearing her through the filter of past wives and past lives. My mulish-ness drove her to emotionally closing herself off from me. Her sense of duty, the kids, the marriage vow she intended to keep all prevented her from leaving me but she wasn't happy. Mea Culpa.
I've never told her about seeing that IM. I just told her that a light had dawned; a realization hit. It's true, I just haven't explained what the catalyst for my mental metamorphasis was. So here we are, four years later, still together and much, much happier. Once we both understood how our actions and words were impacting the other person, we were able to find compromise and common ground. Fortunately, I stayed awake in my psych classes and was able to understand the dynamics of the relationship once my rectal-cranial inversion had been....er,...'rectified'. But some counseling is an option always on our table should we think we need it.
YOU, CharlesCS, need it. You and your wife need a counselor. You need a referee, a mediator, a advisor. Because you are right. And she is right. And you are wrong. And she is wrong. A professional counselor can help you understand how to deal with all of those scenarios. Humans are like living Heisenberg Uncertainty Principles - we can't fully understand the situation because we're in it. The outside observer - with no vested interest in either side - is needed to provide the guidance we need to gain understanding. It's not an admission of failure, or fault, or of some defect in you. Seeing a counselor is nothing more than being intelligent enough to realize that the relationship between two people is dynamic and complex and that sometimes, you just gotta call in the pros. Do you think poorly of your callers when they have a real, complicated problem? Or are you glad they called the expert when they needed to instead of trying to fix it themselves and completely trashing the system?
Several things you've typed, and the defensiveness in some of your responses, are EXACTLY what I would have said/done before I read that IM log. 'I have met the enemy, and [sometimes] he is me!'. Reading your post was like waltzing down Deja Vu Lane. You said that the wife was willing to get counseling and you said that you were willing to get counseling. So put down the remote, skip the frag-fest and GO.SEE.A.COUNSELOR. Don't try to tough it out or fix it yourself. The situation is bad but not quite yet ready for lawyerly interventions. When you're really sick, you see a doctor because they're the experts. Your marriage is really, really sick, Charles. Go see the marriage doctor before it needs a hearse and not an ambulance.