“Oh please don’t go
we’ll eat you up—we love you so!”
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.”
- I would ask if there was anything I could do to change his mind.
- 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?”
- Out loud, I would wish him much happiness, even if I really wanted him to come down with flesh-eating disease.
- 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.”
- I would emerge from said room and go through the motions of daily life.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- I would buy a new outfit and a new pair of shoes. I would also send myself flowers. I might get a massage.
- 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.
- I would ask myself, “Where do I go from here?”
- 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.