A Reader Writes…
I am reading I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You. After 14yrs married & two small children my husband (just turned 40) came to me a year ago pretty much asking for a divorce and letting me (age 37) know he “loves me but …”. This all came as a great shock as we have built a wonderful life & always that super couple to others.
We have always been each others best friends and seemingly always wanted the same out of life. But as he stated we also had a very good but functional marriage. What we have always lacked was the physical and therefore the emotional connection that is truly needed to have a healthy marriage. I had noticed that in the months before coming to me he had grown more quite but when I made comments about this he never gave any reasons. I didn’t realize then he had begun to question our marriage and his desire to stay in it & had begun to close down & check out. He had always been the one to try to improve our physical/emotional connection but with little help from me. I have always been a person with very high walls. He says he always knew this but thought they would come down.
After the shock of coming to me I did a lot of soul searching and my walls & defences came down. I realized why I had been that way ( my Mom died in my early teen yrs) & how destructive this had been to him & me. In these last months he & I have discussed all of this & he says he truly believes I get it now & my walls have come down but he still fears that it is too late. He can’t seem to gain the desire to try again & develop those feelings back again. He also can’t get past that it took this long for me to get it & we had to get this far for it to happen. He has a lot of anger about that. This has been a big road block in moving forward. During this year he has remained in the home with various levels of trying to make this work.
The confusing part for me though is that we have remained on good terms and have begun to have more physically & emotionally intimate & tender moments over these last months. More physical connection than we have shared in yrs. BUT after any of these moments which he says are very real for him he feels anger, sadness and emptiness. He doesn’t feel the connection he wants to feel & this scares him a lot & makes him scared to share these moments again. He says he knows he should want this to work out but can’t seem to get to a place where he can fully commit to wanting this to work or feeling the way he should about me & us.
Without those feelings being there he doesn’t want to make that step forward. He recently told me has rented an apartment but is still conflicted as if he should move out. He says he feels trapped by doing what is best for me & our daughters but yet what feels right for him. He says he wants this to work out but doesn’t understand how to get those feelings back or if that is even possible. he can’t figure out how to make it happen. What I am asking you is how do people know if it is still possible to get those feelings back or they have really died. Do you think this still has a shot of working. Should I encourage him moving out so he can get the space he feel he needs and if not how do I encourage him not to w/out making him feel more trapped.
Most importantly to me is what do you think all those feelings he feels after our moments together mean. Is that the clue this is over or not. I of course focus on the fact that we still have the ability to have them & he focuses on the fact that they produce the following feelings for him. How do I help him make sense of all of this. He refuses counselling after going to 2 sessions. Thank you for taking the time to read this and I would greatly appreciate any feedback.
I’m sorry to hear about your husband but if it is any comfort this is classic I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You material. However, the good news is that you have learnt from this experience, you’ve began to change and that means the whole dynamic between the two of you is in flux. That can be scary but it’s also a hopeful sign.
I think the best way to respond is to deal with your individual questions:
- Can you get the loving feelings back? Yes. Feelings change all the time because our thoughts, our interpretations of events and circumstances change.
- Does it have a shot at working? Sure thing but it will take time, patience and the right approach. My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Any More explains what to do and what not to do. However, there is a lot that you can learn too.
- Should I encourage him to stay or move out? This is a tough one. My programme is based on improving communication and learning to resolve difficulties (rather than shoving them under the carpet and suppressing our feelings) so I would much rather you lived under the same roof as more opportunity of positive interaction. However, I also want you to listen to him and take his feelings seriously? And that could mean letting him leave, basically I would explain your position and let him make his own mind up.
- What do his feelings of anger, sadness and emptiness mean? I know this will sound strange but this is positive too. It’s much better than being ‘switched off’. However, it’s important to let him know that you can deal with these feelings, so acknowledge them. ‘I see you’re feeling angry’. Of course, it will encourage him to vent but that’s fine. It’s better than the hard beaten down anger than lurked under the surface. After he’s finished, you can address the main points he’s made.
- Finally, you ask how I help him make sense of his feelings. I don’t think you can. In fact, now only is not your job (it’s something we’ve got to do for ourselves) but it could come across as controlling.
In the meantime, keep learning about yourself and perhaps read Learn to Love Yourself Enough.
Photography by Chris James Dade.