Dear Bonnie:

I have been married for 14 years to the woman of my dreams. We met and fell in love, and I thought we would live happily ever after.

Though our love is strong, our marriage has been tumultuous. She is my best friend, but we fight a lot. I know that I am often at fault. But other times, when things seem so good, suddenly, out of the blue, we are fighting again. Sometimes I get so angry, I could explode.

There is always so much to do, and we don't seem to have much time together anymore. I don't know what to do. I just want things to be the way they were when we first got married. Can you help?

Dear Bonnie:

My husband showed me what he had written to you, and I thought that it might be a good idea to write to you as well. I too, fell madly in love. I was only 19 at the time; he was quite a bit older. In the beginning, we were everything to each other. I felt that I had met my soul mate. Then, as time passed, I started to change.

I learned more about myself and what I needed. When I would express this to my husband, he wouldn't listen. That's when the fighting began.

I felt as if he wanted me to stay the same as I had been. He even told me as much. After our first child was born (we now have two), things just got worse. I felt that he wanted more of me than I could give. We still have our special moments - though often, afterwards, I pull away because I feel so vulnerable.

It is so painful when we fight that I almost wish I didn't love him so much. Is it possible to regain what we have lost?

Dear Soul mates:

Your love is strong. Of that I have no doubt. In order to have the relationship you both desire, a few things must change.

First, you need to make time to spend alone together. Relationships need to be nurtured. With all the responsibilities you have, not much time is left for yourselves.

As difficult as it may be to do, it is important that you set aside one night a week to have fun. Create an evening just for the two of you, to simply enjoy each other's company without any outside distractions or demands. Also, start planning a vacation. It doesn't need to be a long or expensive one. Set the date now for sometime in the near future. You'll find that just looking forward to going away together will, in and of itself, bring some of the romance you are looking for back into your lives.

Life is about change, whether we like it or not. Though your love for each other hasn't changed, both of you have.

The secret to keeping love alive is to find a way to grow together rather than letting life pull you apart.

Listen to each other. Learn from each other. Find out what the other needs and try to give it. Make an effort to understand and appreciate each other's uniqueness. When needs that were met earlier in the relationship are no longer being filled, it can be very difficult. Realize that many of your needs still can be met, but in a different way.

When you first married, you had time to be together. You were excited about learning about each other. Though you have less available time now, these still are the two elements that will bring you close again.

When we are hurt, it is natural to protect ourselves. Often, we either lash out or turn inward. The more you work together to create a relationship built on healthy communication, acceptance, understanding and positive action, the safer you will feel expressing the deep feelings you have for each other.

Psychotherapist Bonnie Barness is in private practice in Scottsdale. Send questions here. To make an appointment, e-mail BonnieBarness@yahoo.com.

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