A Reader Writes…
My husband of 13 years (but together for 25 yrs with 2 teenage children) has told me that he doesn’t love me any more.
This came about 6 weeks ago when I said to him that I wasn’t feeling very loved. It hit me like a brick. For the previous 18 months I felt we had been getting on really well. Our sex life was fantastic and although we had limited time together due to him working abroad (home 2-3 weekends a month) we enjoyed each others company. In June this year we sold a house abroad (we had lived there in the past but it had been a holiday home for the past 4 years). He believes this was the catalyst to deciding our relationship was going no-where. He blames me for wanting to move back to the UK but says he has dealt with that now.
I am devastated and having difficulty coping and many of the feelings you discuss in ILYB I relate to. My husband says he wants to continue to support both me and the children but wants us to stay friends. We still sleep in the same bed when he is home (currently every week so we have time and opportunity to talk) and we have continued with a sexual relationship. But he is adamant he does not want to try to find a way to save our marriage. He wants to develop a new life. He says there is no-one else but he has met someone who he likes but has not taken it further and he says he won’t take it further at present.
When asked why he does not love me he cannot say why (we have been very open and honest about our thoughts and feelings since the ILYB speech) but there is no real knowledge as to why. I suggested that we go to Relate so that we can explore the past together in order to make some sense of it. I also hope this will help him really decide whether our marriage is over. He feels really guilty and sorry for the pain I am feeling and has agreed to explore our relationship in counselling.
He keeps saying to me that he doesn’t want to give me any hope but wants to support me through this. The children are unaware, mainly due to him being away from home all week and my exceptional acting skills. Only limited family and friends are aware and are giving us both support. We do not want to tell anyone else until we have a plan. My husband has said he will find somewhere else to stay when he comes home but that will involve telling the children or he will sleep here on a sofabed.
I have to still have some hope he will change his mind to try to work at our marriage. I have been very emotional with him and he has comforted me. He had panic attacks a few years ago when he was unemployed and supported me when I had one last week. So he says he cares for me deeply and I am his best friend and he doesn’t want to loose that. What I am asking is am I being too hopeful that counselling will help our marriage even if he says he doesn’t want to try and can I really be friends with him if we do break up?
I’m glad that I Love You but I’m Not in Love With You has helped. I will start by making a couple of general observations about your letter and then answer your questions.
Firstly, it is not unusual for men who have detached and moved from ‘I love you but’ to ‘I don’t love you any more’ to have a potential woman in the sidelines. This is often the catalyst that makes them speak up (and although it is easy to obsess about them, they are just a side show). Secondly, it is good that you are both being so open and honest with each other. That will be helpful for the painful and difficult months ahead.
So are you expecting too much from counselling? To be honest, probably yes. My guess is you’re looking for a magical bullet to make him see the light. Counselling will often just amplify the feelings – and make him more determined to leave. Plus if you’re not seeing a lot of ‘ILYB’ plus ‘I’ve fallen out of love and want a divorce’, you probably don’t understand the bigger picture and cannot support the person who is terrified of being left or the person who is terrified of staying (and being stuck in a marriage that isn’t working).
I cover a lot of this in my book My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Any More where I stress the importance of coaching to help the person who is trying to save the marriage from letting their anxiety become overwhelming and thereby push their partner out the door. Although it is written for men, the plan works equally well for women.
Your next question is can I be friends with him if you split? I don’t know about friends but I would hope that you could have a business relationship (in the job of bringing up your children.)
Whether he decides to stay or go, my advice is the same—improve communication. (You need it whether you are partners or co-parents). Ultimately, we detach from a relationship because we feel we can’t ask for what we need. I call this being assertive. I explain it in Resolve Your Differences and I always recommend Help Your Partner Say Yes in these circumstances too. There is much more about assertiveness in My Wife Doesn’t Love Me Any More.
So basically, this can be turned around. However, it takes time, good communication, being prepared to look at yourself honestly and change, rather than expecting your partner to change and a dash of luck.
Photography by Chris James Dade.