I Love You, But I’m Not In Love With You

by Alisa Bowman on September 18, 2009

a.k.a.

“Oh please don’t go

we’ll eat you up—we love you so!”

a.k.a.

My spouse no longer wants to be married to me. I still want to be married. What should I do?

Several readers asked me this question this week. It was a little eerie—getting the same question over and over, from men and from women. It made me wonder whether one really persistent person was sending the same question from multiple email addresses or whether all of the disgruntled spouses decided to walk out on their marriages during the same week.

At any rate, when I get the same question that many times? I figure the universe is sending me this sign: Must. Blog. About. This.

So here we are. Now, before I answer this question, I must state a few disclaimers.

Disclaimer #1: My husband has never threatened to leave me. He’s also never admitted to not being in love with me. Even when I don’t shower for a few days at a time? He still seems to be quite smitten.

Disclaimer #2: I am not a psychologist.

Disclaimer #3: Based on #1 and #2, it’s quite possible that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

What follows is what I imagine I would do if my husband, one day, said, “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m outta here.”

  1. I would ask if there was anything I could do to change his mind.
  2. Assuming he said, “No,” then I would say, “Let’s try to make this go as easily as possible on our daughter. Can we agree to do that?”
  3. Out loud, I would wish him much happiness, even if I really wanted him to come down with flesh-eating disease.
  4. I would lock myself in small room and I would cry for a very long time. I would say things like, “This isn’t fair” and “That stupid bastard doesn’t know a good thing when he has one” and “wow this hurts more than I ever would have imagined.”
  5. I would emerge from said room and go through the motions of daily life.
  6. When I thought I could manage to get the words out of my mouth without becoming a snotty mess, I would tell a very close friend about it.
  7. I would do a number of things that I find comforting: drink a lot of hot tea, stay in bed under the covers a lot, wear the same fleecy outfit over and over again, and eat really bad food. I’m not saying that these things are constructive and healthy. I’m just being honest. This is what I would probably do.
  8. After my pits started to really stink and my clothes no longer fit, I would take a shower, blow dry my hair, and say, “That’s enough wallowing. I have a daughter to raise and a life to live.”
  9. I would buy a new outfit and a new pair of shoes. I would also send myself flowers. I might get a massage.
  10. I would take care of myself. I would exercise, meditate, read good books, listen to beautiful music, eat healthy food, and surround myself with people who make me laugh.
  11. I would ask myself, “Where do I go from here?”
  12. I would make a plan to go there. In other words, I would move on.

I don’t think I would try to win back my husband’s heart. I just don’t. Why? Because I think that would be futile. It’s my firm belief that the more you try to hold onto something, the more that something tries to break free. Stick a bird feeder on your porch and the same bird might come and eat from it every single day. Start chasing that bird around your yard in an attempt to catch it and put it in a cage? It will probably fly away and never come back.

So if you really want to win back your spouse, it’s my firm belief that you have to stop chasing him or her around the yard. Just put out a feeder. Get healthy. Get fit. Take care of yourself emotionally. Find yourself. Chances are that you’ve lost a part of yourself during all of these years of marriage anyway. Who are you? What drives you? Where can you go from here? How can you be happy without your spouse? Who can you become? What can you learn from this?

It’s possible that your spouse is just having one of those midlife crises. It’s possible that your spouse really doesn’t know how good he or she really has it. It’s possible that your spouse just needs some time to think things over. If any or all of those possibilities are really the case? Finding yourself is like putting out that feeder. It will lead your spouse back to you.

And if none of those possibilities are the case? Finding yourself will still lead you to a better place—a place where you can be happy with your spouse in your life or not. Either way, becoming a better, stronger, more independent person is a good thing. It gets you to a better place.

What do you think?

Oh, there’s a surprise free gift for the first person who leaves a comment that 1) correctly states the name of the book that includes the phrase that appears in this post’s second headline 2) describes why I thought that phrase was especially symbolic to this post’s subject matter. I’m not saying whether or not it’s a gift that you would ever truly want. Just saying that there is one, and it can be yours if you guess correctly.

A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.

{ 376 comments… read them below or add one }

kk August 15, 2013 at 7:05 am

my own questions on intimacy
I guess I should give some background here….
I met my husband and was instantly comfortable with him, We have and had a special bond; still do. definitely here to help one another progress. I cannot say that I was ever super attracted to him physically but mentally I certainly was. The sex was good, and I never foresaw any problems there. Well, it all hit me like a ton of bricks and suddenly I had no sexual interest in him at all. We were on vacation in Hawaii and he was complaining about so much,and I was losing my patience with him and could not believe so much of the negative patterns with which I had been anchored to for so long, and suddenly I just wanted out..like my hope for him to change (never a solid base for a marriage…always thinking..oh it will get better) just vanished and I didn’t even care. Four months later, I moved to Hawaii with my son NOT on the basis of separation, but on the basis of I just cannot deal with you anymore..I’m out of here, and two months later he followed me. We lived there in tumult and chaos ( I never pursued divorce, just stopped trying to get him to evolve as I had been spending so much of my life carrying his emotional state of mind, taking it on, and trying to get him to see a different perspective, He slowly began to see the patterns of passive aggression, guilt tripping, outright hostility, and woe is me moody patterns of self indulgence (victim hood).
I stayed in the relationship, and did counseling; I have given him lots of space to evolve with me and undo with me some of this obvious unhealthy interaction that we had. This is where prayer was and is crucial. Once forgiveness began to dawn in my heart and I was no longer angry at him for being or “not being” what I desired..real change began.
SO here i am now, and I have indeed learned a lot. We can talk again without huge blowups; Learning the NVC was critical, really taught us personal responsibility for all of our behaviors and emotional states of mind. My son is reaping the benefits of watching us learn to solve our tensions and evolve past them. Yet, my son never sees us intimate, and this is breaking my heart. I am sad that he is growing up without a firsthand experience of a loving intimate set of parents. He is seeing a set of people who make a pretty good team (for all the negatives I stated, there are double the positives), but that one of them is yearning for the other to see them in this different light

It feels like, the more I TRY to feel a certain way, the less it is there. I cannot force it; this is what I am learning. I do not know how that translates, but it is a truth. Maybe I see my husband as more of a child, and not so much as someone who inspires me, and I want to be inspired by my partner. I want to see them evolving and gaining new insights on their own and rebound off of one another. I crave a connection founded in two people who share a common goal of self evolving and self exploring, always choosing the higher path even when triggered, and coming back to that higher path. I am tired of being the one who does this for both myself and my partner. My controlling nature still feels that if he just becomes this…then I will be attracted. I just don’t think the heart works that way though.

I love him for who he is and always will be bonded to him in very deep ways, and yet intimacy is this whole other world. Friendship with him feels wonderful, but intimacy doesn’t.
Are there any thoughts out there on ways to deepen intimacy when the solid root of love, respect, and connection are already established, yet the lack of higher connection is there. Any great resources? How does one rekindle a flame, even if that flame was never raging, is there any way of getting even that small flame back?
kk

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YW August 15, 2013 at 1:56 pm

KK

It was so strange reading your post because I felt like I was reading about my own marriage. I am in serious danger zone with my marriage. We have a great family life, but no marriage. The hugs are strained, no more kisses, have not had sex in over a year, and my boys do not see their mum and dad intimate in any way. They have commented on this actually. The confusing thing is that our family dynamic is amazing. We provide a wonderful life in Hawaii for our boys, but outside of the boys there isn’t anything. I am interested to know how things have turned out for you and what you did differently. I need serious help, but my husband will not go to counseling. He claims he does not believe in it… I am eager to hear from you…Thanks!

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Dr. Frank Gunzburg August 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

In my experience, the love between a married couple rarely disappears. Instead, that in-love feeling is just hiding – hiding behind various negative feelings, such as anger, resentment, abandonment, loneliness, and neglect.

Those in-love feelings can be found again, by bringing back the romance and passion.
I would also suggest working through the resentful feelings, either by using a self-help program or by attending marriage counseling with a marriage-friendly therapist. Working past the resentment will really help you to open up those old, hidden feelings of love again.

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Nancy August 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Dr. Gunzburg,

I completely agree with what you’re saying, however what if a husband just flat out refuses counseling, and instead continues to want to harbor negative thoughts and feelings? What if his commitment level is just on the same level as mine? What if his ONLY interest is in reading the Bible? Our marriage has always been last. While I’ve continued to try and make us work, I simply can’t do it alone. He has to want it as well. And well, he just doesn’t. And romance and passion? What if that is something he only reserves for girlfriends? I’ve been married to him for nearly 3 years, and not once has he taken me out on a date, wined and dined me, etc.? However, while we were separated, he put all of his energy into a woman that he knew for only 2 months.

What does a wife do in situations such as these?

Thank You!

Reply

Stormdrain August 19, 2013 at 2:36 am

I would like to apologize for my remarks earlier on, I was carried away by frustration. Let me explain beyond what I had already mentioned in an earlier post and taking into account recent conversations I have had with my spouse.

My wife and I have had intimacy issues since almost the beginning. She has a self-confessed thing for cliché macho types and when we met, she thought I was like that, an uncomplicated alpha male. Unfortunately,what she got was not what she had expected, even though I had given her fair warning.
Because, whereas I am dominant male with clear masculine traits, I am also what some would describe as “intellectually gifted” and suffer from severe chronic pain, a combination which tends to lend a rather bleak and cynical outlook on life. I also happen to be a sweet and caring person when I am in a relationship and because I do not take part in power struggles with those I love, the alpha traits I may display elsewhere are less prevalent in interaction with my significant other.
Upon realizing this, her attraction to me waned quickly, even as her love grew. She could not quite appreciate the fact that being a doting husband, does not exclude my dominance in our interactions.

She has recently admitted that even though she can confirm all this rationally, she can not help the way her body reacts. She says that the bottom line, unfortunately, is that I haven’t been enough of an a****** to turn her on and that because she has the image in her head of me as a sweet guy, she simply can’t be aroused and therefore can not enjoy sex with me.

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Alan Caulley January 27, 2014 at 2:05 am

Well my wife and i are going through some really bad times I love my wife with all my heart and i dont know what to do because she dont feel the same way about me anymore and i want to be with my wife and plus we have two wounderful boys at the age of 5 and 7 and she dont like or love haveing sex with me anymore and she said she needs time alone time so she can figureout why she feels this way about me and why she dont love or like having sex with me anymore and i just want help and need help on my marriage because shes the only one i love and want to be with i love her with all my heart and she dont feel the same about me anymore and it kills me and hurts me really bad

Reply

Alan Caulley January 27, 2014 at 2:07 am

Well my wife and i are going through some really bad times I love my wife with all my heart and i dont know what to do because she dont feel the same way about me anymore and i want to be with my wife and plus we have two wounderful boys at the age of 5 and 7 and she dont like or love haveing sex with me anymore and she said she needs time alone time so she can figureout why she feels this way about me and why she dont love or like having sex with me anymore and i just want help and need help on my marriage because shes the only one i love and want to be with i love her with all my heart and she dont feel the same about me anymore and it kills me and hurts me really bad please help me im crying out for help because i really love my wife with all my heart and dont want to lose her and pray and hope she gets her love back and feels her love for once again

Reply

Alan Caulley January 27, 2014 at 2:10 am

Well my wife and i are going through some really bad times I love my wife with all my heart and i dont know what to do because she dont feel the same way about me anymore and i want to be with my wife and plus we have two wounderful boys at the age of 5 and 7 and she dont like or love haveing sex with me anymore and she said she needs time alone time so she can figureout why she feels this way about me and why she dont love or like having sex with me anymore and i just want help and need help on my marriage because shes the only one i love and want to be with i love her with all my heart and she dont feel the same about me anymore and it kills me and hurts me really bad please help me im crying out for help because i really love my wife with all my heart and dont want to lose her and pray and hope she gets her love back and feels her love for me once again

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