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

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?

 

381 comments… add one

  • kk August 15, 2013, 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

    Reply
  • YW August 15, 2013, 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!

    Reply
  • Dr. Frank Gunzburg August 18, 2013, 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.

    Reply
  • Nancy August 18, 2013, 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, 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.

    Reply
  • Alan Caulley January 27, 2014, 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, 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, 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

    Reply
  • RW April 26, 2014, 1:27 pm

    Alan, I’m sorry you are going through this.

    Reply
  • BC May 20, 2014, 8:02 am

    My wife and I have always had a difficult relationship, going back to when we met in 2000. We have been married for almost 8 years, have 2 children aged 5 and7, but 2 weeks ago she said she didn’t know if she loved me anymore.
    I have come to many realizations since then – I am and have always been very insecure due to a tumultuous upbringing. I also have anger issues. These seem to combine into a neediness that, through reading other posts, make me an unattractive partner to my wife.
    I contribute a lot to the marriage – cook, clean, keep the books, pay the bills, do laundry, etc. I now believe that I did these things in order for my wife to “owe me” the love and gratification that I lacked and craved.
    A few weeks ago i discovered that while she said she was working, she was, in fact, not. I did not press, but offered several occasions for her to come clean, but she never took the opportunity. Finally, after 8 days of deceit, I flat-out confronted her and told her that I knew. She shrugged it off as if it was no big deal, but it certainly was to me. I harbored ill feelings for another week before we had quite the blow up. It ended with her leaving the house (the kids already were not there, thank God) and taking the dog with her.
    Things have been tense since then, but the normal circumstances of life kept things on the back burner – we had birthday parties, family get-togethers, etc. and we tried to put up a facade of normalcy. This all ended when I found out that she and her sister had consulted an attorney. When I asked if she was thinking of leaving, she replied that she was merely “researching” divorce.
    I am devastated. I have loved this woman through thick and thin since the day we met. I suffered through her other relationships the times that we broke up before marriage and always held that flame for her. I cannot imagine living without her in my everyday life – as my spouse, not as an acquaintance.
    She doesn’t seem to know what to do, she thinks the grass may be greener on the other side, but I don’t think she grasps the reality of divorce. I lived through my parents’ and so I know what damage will be done. I will do anything to win her back.
    In reading numerous other posts, I am learning not to pursue her, to push her away, to make her decision any easier. I am trying to be upbeat, to go about normal life with as much positivity as possible. This is quite difficult as I am drowning on the inside, I feel adrift and am haunted by the worst possible scenario and how I might react.
    We have had counseling, but things seemed to be going so well that we stopped going. I have since booked another appointment for next Friday – whether she goes with me or if I end up going by myself.
    I need help with the day-to-day functioning. I need help to not let this affect the children. I need help to make her realize that I am still the man that she supposedly fell in love with and with whom she exchanged vows.
    I need help.

    Reply
    • BC May 20, 2014, 8:19 am

      I have to note – the “blow-up” was almost entirely one-sided. I was so upset at having been deceived and it being regarded so lightly that I went off the deep end. We usually have one of these knock-down, drag ‘em out arguments once a year, before counseling it was more often than that. Often I would verbally goad her until she would get physical – I have had to come to work on more than one occasion with a visible injury.
      In this instance, however, I instigated the physicality and she fought back. I don’t blame her for leaving, I was afraid of what I might do myself. I know that I need to get to the bottom of this issue and eradicate such actions from my life.
      I do not wish to appear blameless in this. The majority of this issue is my doing. That is much of why I have been sleeping on the fold out couch…

      Reply
  • r.dunn May 22, 2014, 7:00 pm

    I feel for all the men and women out there that are in love with there partners and there to selfish or blind to see there problems are in loving themselves but more often than not they end up hurting or destroying not only there own lives but the lier es of the people /families they claim to love before they figure this out for themselves its to late and they’ve done unrepairable damage to a relationship that might have only been bent or wrinkled, what I have come to realize is there is alot of help book blogs and unscrupulous people out there that pray on hurt vulnerable people and women more then men, looking for ways to bring my wifes love and passion back to me I find alot of books on ways to get inside of womens minds to play on there insecurities the right things to say the right way to say them making them feel special important and beautiful and doing it in a no threatening no

    Reply
  • SBetter August 9, 2014, 11:04 pm

    So… I’m in a similar situation. A quick rundown: in college (about 18 or so years ago) I was stupid. Partied, etc., and got hung up with charges for drugs. I went through counseling, and at about the point I was finishing this (it was around a 2 year affair up to that point… with relapses, back into rehab, etc) I met my now wife of 13 years. I was honest about what was going on atm in my life, but for the most part at that time there were relatively long stretches of stability, and then, BAM, relapse. I was on probation, so ofc this meant that I went to jail a few times (I am embarrassed to admit… but, that is what happens when you do the things I did).

    Ofc, throughout the time even before we met, I did WANT to get cleaned up. At no time did I ever actually enjoy the negative things, partying, etc. In hindsight, I was dealing with a lot of issues. Long story short, after about a year and a half of some relapses, getting locked up, etc. (around 2004ish) I finally seemed to have worked through the things that were driving my addictions. I’ve been clean ever since, no AA or NA, its just literally stopped being an issue.

    So, it was because, amongst natural readiness and actually moving forward with divorce early on, something in my wife wanted to believe in me and hang on a little longer, she did. AND, there have not been problems of that nature ever since. Life has obviously been an interesting ride of ups and downs, but we’ve stuck together, love each other’s company, until recently have always kept respectful rules about arguments when they would come, etc. Basically, what I’m saying is, there seem to be a TON of positives between us. A strong connection, affection, etc. She has always been the person who was less openly affectionate, but that always came off as a matter of the way her family was growing up. She certainly did plenty in other ways to keep me securely feeling that she loved me.

    So now, we are at this point: She admits that, several years ago, she stopped feeling attracted to me. Despite wanting to trust me, that she can’t, etc. It all definitely seems to stem back to those early traumatic episodes in our marriage, which we never appropriately sought counseling or help for. We just kinda pushed through, but clearly many resentments built up.

    I don’t know what I’m asking here…. what even the point of writing this is. I guess maybe if nothing else just to express great distress. She has described the situation like this: “You have a dad maybe, who is physically abusive to a child… He gets help, it stops being a problem, but even though you see that your dad is a good, stable, loving, caring person that no longer has the issues that caused you hurt, you simply can’t remove those feelings from the equation”.

    I really wish we had sought counseling for this long, long ago. Communication over some issues is great with us… with others, especially emotional issues with her, it is very difficult. She never seemed to learn how to. But, even though several months ago she moved to Seattle (from Salt Lake City) to “nanny” for my brother in law for the summer while their normal nanny was home on summer school break, she HAS agreed to try counseling when she comes to visit for a week in August. The original plan was that she would be coming HOME in August, but as she’s been up in Washington, she has fallen in love with it… tbh I’d been trying to get us to move there for ages. Anyhow, that has changed to her brother offering to let her stay until Thanksgiving to see if she can find actual employment, get a car, apartment, etc. so she can literally just leave everything here behind. I must add, she has a wonderful, active social circle here, many friends, unfinished schooling… A lot of reasons to come home balanced against her reasoning that “well I’m already in Redmond now, it is so much easier for me to seek work when I am here and can interview, etc. rather than try to do so from Salt Lake…” Which is, ofc, correct.

    Sigh, clearly, there is so much more to this all. Details like the fact that, while highly intelligent, having a criminal record has made it massively difficult to obtain stable, gainful employment… which has meant she has had to tow the line a few times when I was laid off at a small company willing to hire me. Living in her brother’s house who works at Microsoft and makes 400k a year or so obviously slaps her in the face every day with the humble, cheap apartment we live in in Salt Lake City. I honestly can’t BLAME her for wanting to escape. I would do so as well. BUT, the attachment between us remains. She feels smothered by the way we have to live, but still says she loves me… not in the way she wants to love a husband, but she finally seems to be open to the possibility that she COULD, with some work and counseling.

    I guess… the moral of the story is, life happens. Love those you love, try to do the best you can in all that you do, but above all, don’t wait to seek professional help. But is so sad is, nearly every complaint she has are so common, and apparently treatable with willingness, as to be almost cliché. In the meantime, I try to do what I can to let my heart let go, but it won’t. That is why I am here. I believe the marriage IS saveable, but I’ve kinda given up on it and gone into self preservation mode… Focus on my happiness and stability. It doesn’t seem to be working. Day in, day out, I obsess about it, lol.

    I really don’t even want to post this, but I will… because I really need to just get another story I’m sure someone can relate to out there so they don’t feel alone.

    Reply

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