Every marriage I’ve seen fall apart can have its issues traced back to a lack of communication. Cheating happens when needs aren’t met, and needs aren’t met when they’re not communicated. Money problems, different opinions on child rearing, conflicts between careers and family, all seem to come from a lack of communication. Communication is not screaming at each other in the living room, and it’s not crafting the perfect zinger retort while they talk. Communication is each person hearing the other out on what they think and what they feel, as well as the speaker being honest and rational and properly conveying what they are feeling without shifting blame to their spouse. Communication is a two-way street where each party tries to convey what they’re really feeling and thinking.
When you’ve “tried bringing it up to her on a few occasions,” has it been over dinner, dishes, or other distractions, or has it been over a deliberate sit-down session? Discussing serious issues needs to be done at “the right time,” and communication of important issues needs and deserves full attention from both of you. Maybe ask her during the day if y’all can have a talk that evening after dinner, or in the transition time say between washing dishes and watching TV, or even between eating and doing dishes, put a hand on her shoulder and ask “Hey, can we talk for a bit?”
To avoid a blowup, prepare yourself by writing an open letter to her. Don’t lay blame or point fingers at her, but write down how her specific actions make you feel. Putting it on paper can help you collect and analyze your thoughts, and maybe even see patterns. One clause might be: I feel like your new friendship has taken precedence over our marriage, and that makes me feel unloved and empty. There’s no mention of “you,” but rather “your new friendship,” which is a far less aggressive way of addressing the real adversary. When you talk, ask her to please just hear you out. You don’t have to use the letter, but stick to what you wrote and avoid personal attacks. She may get angry and react, but that’s on her. Stay calm and don’t feed her anger or push her away. Try to keep the conversation focused on your observations and feelings. Congratulations, she has your side of the story now. Now it’s her turn. Ask her what she’s feeling, why she feels the need for distance or to spend more time with her friend, what’s missing, and what you can do to make her feel more loved. When she answers, don’t interrupt her. Listen, actually hear what she’s saying, instead of thinking about what to come back with. Put yourself in her shoes for a few minutes. I can’t say whether or not she’ll participate just like this, but if you come with an olive branch instead of a battle axe, you’re more likely to have a calm, successful conversation; but most importantly, you’ll have done your part and put the ball in her court. Whether she responds then or storms, just wait patiently. Your part is done for now.
I’ve been married for just over a year, but while my wife and I were dating, we saw a lot of important couples split up because they got complacent, quit talking, and just grew apart. It’s easy to resort to coping mechanisms, like new friendships, as a substitute for interaction and affection with your spouse, and the more time you spend away from your spouse mentally, the more awkward it is to come back and the easier it is to lean harder into those coping mechanisms. To avoid that, we’re prompt and direct when we feel like our needs aren’t being met, but still courteous and kind. One example: she has a friend who perpetually complained about bad relationships and job woes. I told my wife I felt like she was getting too preoccupied with her friend’s life and fading out of our marriage. She thought on it for an evening, evaluated her behavior, considered my feelings, and concluded that she was getting really wrapped up in her friend’s issues and that she needed to set some healthy boundaries. It sounds like y’all have a longer way to go to closing the rift between you, but that journey begins with asking her to evaluate her priorities vs where she’s putting her energy, and in return she may tell you what you can do to reignite the spark between you.
If you haven’t, take the 5 Love Languages quiz and read the same book by Gary Chapman. Too many people have tried to fix marriages with expensive jewelry when all their spouse wanted was to hear “I love you” a little more often. His “Four Seasons of Marriage” book also helps guide couples through good times and bad, and look at the opportunities and pitfalls at every stage of a relationship. I hope this helps, and I hope you can find each other again.