A Reader Writes…
I recently began re-reading your book I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You and the material is the closest advice that I can sincerely relate to. I have fallen in love with someone else but I am married to a patient and loving husband yet somehow I’m still not fulfilled.
We have been married for 5 years and together for over 8 but I feel like we’re both at a point where it’s just complacent. We started seeing a therapist for a few months but that has now stopped. I don’t feel we can effectively communicate because he’s reactions are so sporadic. I don’t know if he will get into a rage or start getting emotional.
What’s worse is that I think I may have fallen in love with someone at work. Nothing physically has happened but I’m consumed with guilt because my thoughts are constantly for this other person. We have good conversations, shared interests, and I feel he understands me. I’ve come to the realization that I’m having an emotional affair. I feel that I’ve been trying to work on this marriage, I’ve tried to minimize interactions with my co-worker, tried to be engaged with my husband, read self-help books, keeping myself distracted but I’m afraid I don’t have that desire to try even harder.
Looking back at our marriage, we’ve had a lot of conflicts and though I love and care for my husband I may have also married partly for security and companionship. I only want the best for him and he deserves someone that can return his love but I don’t know if I can be that person. I feel like I’m just forcing myself and I get anxious and depressed about it when I do, especially because I’m still thinking about this other person. I honestly don’t know what to do, whether to keep trying harder on the marriage or be on my own because I was never really on my own before we got married and was dependent on my husband.
I admire your determination and your good sense in stepping back from the brink of an affair. However, I can feel your inner strength crumbling as the letter goes on. I’m sure you realise this and that’s why you’ve written to me.
So what should you do? I think you’ve got to be extremely brave and come clean to your husband. Your marriage has gone from ‘I love you but you I’m not in love with you’ to ‘I don’t you love you any more’. You’ve tried to make things better but, as he knows, the couple counselling did not work. He is bound to ask if there is anybody else and you will need to tell him about the other man, how you recognised the problem, stepped back and stopped everything but essential work related contact. However, you are finding it hard to keep to your resolve. You don’t know what you want now but if things continue as they are you will explode – not now, not tomorrow but sometime soon (and you will have an affair and make everybody completely and utterly miserable).
What happens next depends on him (and you, but I will come to that in a moment). Once the shock and anger has worn off, he might be resigned to splitting up. In which case, you will have to deal with the guilt of being the person to throw in the towel but you will be free to discover who you are (rather than one half of a marriage). However, please do not restart your affair until you are properly separated as this would make the end of your marriage unnecessarily messy.
It could be that he will beg for another chance. This might seem, at first sight, less appealing. However, instead of being locked with your self-help books alone, it will be two of you trying to make matters better (and sometimes the threat of an affair or divorce is enough to get a man motivated to change in a way that lots of asking nicely doesn’t achieve).
However, this is where I think what comes next is down to you too. You need to learn to cope with his ‘sporadic’ communication. Let me explain what I mean, at the heart of your letter, there is a paradox. You complain that your husband is patient and loving (but I assume rather passionless) but when he shows something else, you’re critical because he is full or rage (which is certainly passionate!) or he gets emotional (which I guess is tears and again full of emotions). And that’s the quandary, we want the nice polite parts of love and don’t want to engage with the conflict (the not agreeing, getting angry part) but if we squash down all that so called stuff…..we’re left with half a person, passionless companionship and ILYB.
I know you’re going to say I can have passion and connection with Mr X but that’s just limerence and it will wear off. In all good relationships, you need to be able to live with the light AND the dark side of someone.
Ask yourself, why do I find my husband’s upset so difficult? How did my parent’s deal with conflict? What am I really frightened of? Try acknowledging your husband’s anger – rather than squashing it down (see My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Any More). Take a few deep breaths and sit tight. When the storm has passed, you can start to talk properly and possibly resolve your underlying issues.
So it’s over to you. I wish there was something easier to suggest than telling the truth because it’s painful and difficult….. but the alternative – having an affair – will end up being far worth. Over to you.