He Wants to Win Her Back. She Feels Pressured.

Can You Help This Reader Out?

I got this question from a reader:

My wife and I have been married for twelve years and have two children. About 4 months ago, my wife informed me that she no longer loved me. Of course this came out in the midst of a fight as opposed to sitting down and talking about things.  The truth is that she had told me this several times, but it was always in the course of fighting. I didn’t take it that seriously. We all say things we don’t mean when fighting, right? The fights were always over stupid little things, which masked the real issue that she didn’t feel loved and appreciated. Frankly, neither have I since the children were born. I knew that our relationship wasn’t what it one was, but I thought this was the natural course of marriage. Hot at first and then things cool over the years, especially after children. The last four months, I have been a changed man. Even my wife admits that I’ve been a perfect husband. I truly am doing everything I can think of to make her feel loved and appreciated. I do household chores, send her sporadic notes, and bring home flowers. However, she says she still doesn’t love me. We don’t fight anymore and we’ve started talking about things.  She does want to make our marriage work, but she says she feels tremendous pressure to love me. She is scared that the feelings just aren’t coming back. I’ve told her that we aren’t on a schedule, that she needs to relax and take each day one at a time. I’ll wait as long as it takes.  Her happiness is more important to me then hearing the words “I love you”. I’m desperate for any advice you may have. Is my approach of being the best husband I can be and being patient the right approach? — A Reformed Husband

This is probably the most common problem that brings people to this site. Case in point: I wrote a post called “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” back in 2009. It’s still one of the most read posts on the site. People comment more on that post each week than they do on the fresh ones. It now has more than 200 comments, all of them from people mired in similar situations. Another popular post is “How to save your marriage when your spouse doesn’t want to try.” Oddly I wrote that one in 2009, too.

I don’t have much more to offer than what I wrote in those posts:

  • Reformed Husband: I think you are doing everything you can possibly do.
  • Situations like this can create a power dynamic that can actually hurt the marriage more than it helps. As you pursue, she retreats. Her retreating causes you to pursue even more. This causes her to feel more pressure and retreat even more. If this is the case, try to find a middle way of acting in love (being a supportive, loving husband) while still maintaining strong boundaries. Know what you need to be happy and ask for it. Be strong. Speak your voice. Do not become a timid doormat who is afraid to speak up for himself because he worries she will leave. Women are attracted to strong men. Stand strong in your convictions.
  • The feeling of love takes time. Actions can lead to feelings. Is your wife acting in love? Ask for her to behave in loving ways.

I wish I had better advice. I hope other readers here can step up and help. Readers: What should reformed husband do? Have you been in this situation? Are you in it? Are you the spouse who has fallen out of love? Can you provide that perspective? Leave a comment. (If you are reading by email, comment by clicking on the post headline, which will take you to the blog on the Internet).

93 comments… add one

  • Richard July 16, 2015, 4:25 am

    Hi Wayne,

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to give you an opinion that you don’t want to hear. From the behaviour of your wife, and from what little information I have to work with, it seems like she is not ready, willing, or able to make a serious, life-long commitment. I don’t know how old she is, but her behaviour seems quite immature. I think she likes you, but lacks the maturity to be able so settle down and stick at something long-term.

    I don’t know what was going through your and her mind when you got married – you had already split up once for 3 months. Was it because she was pregnant? Or to try and make a shaky relationship seem more permanent?

    Regardless, I don’t think that this sounds like a relationship that will survive long-term and healthy. Even if you do convince her to come back, you’ll always be wondering if she’s about to disappear again. She’ll always know there’s an open door and she can bolt any time she feels like it – and she’ll feel secure about bolting, because she knows she can always come back again if she wants, because you’ve always taken her back before. This is not a healthy, balanced relationship.

    However, you have a daughter, and so you have a responsibility, and so you cannot completely walk away either. As hard as it may be, I’d advise that you try and maintain a friendly relationship, so you can be a good father to your girl and see her as much as possible, but resist any temptation to try and recreate a relationship with your wife, even if she comes on to you or tells you she wants to, because you’ll just get trapped in the same cycle again and not be able to move on in your life.

    You will find someone else who loves you, and who will treat you with more respect, and is ready to make a long-term commitment. I can’t say when, but you will find someone who will stick with you, you don’t have to put up with what you wife has put you through.

  • Leo Darnell August 10, 2015, 11:33 pm

    I feel you! Actually, as you said, fighting is a natural course of marriage that needs to be talk with calm. I think my advice for for now is just relaxed and be patient. Talk to her one step at a time and eat your pride, until you reach your goal towards her. Goodluck!

  • Ruben March 29, 2016, 11:54 pm

    I just went through the same thing. I know it’s been a long time. I hope this worked out for you. In January I got the I love you but I’m not in love with you speech. I to started pursuing my wife intensely, which made her retreat. After a while I gave her space, but in all interactions was kind and listened intently. I convinced her to try marriage counseling and after almost two months of that of me trying to upbeat and funny and sweet and just the best friend she could ask for, she started to come around. She little by little began to warm up to me. I started with non-sexual foot and neck massages, then hugs and holding hands, after a long time of inching my way back into her heart and affections We were intimate for the first time in weeks and while we still had a couple of nasty fights, she came to point where she felt it was better to stay and then to try to leave. She stopped talking in I’s and me’s and started talking in we’s and us’es. I read several books, but really recommend How To Save Your Marriage In 3 Simple Steps by Lee H. Baucom Ph.D.and I Love You, but I’m Not IN Love with You: Seven Steps to Saving Your Relationship by Andrew G. Marshall. Both talk about this specific situation and what to do, and more importantly what NOT to do. I hope it worked out for you, Reformed, but if not I hope you’re happy now. I hope my advice helps someone.

  • jp June 18, 2016, 7:16 am

    I am in a rough place as well. My wife of 14 yrs(18 years total time together) recently told me she wanted a divorce. We have had some very rough patches. We have two boys ages 11 & 6 yrs old. We tried couples therapy but she didn’t really want to go and stopped after 2 sessions. My first few weeks after this horrible news I was freaking out and chasing after her which didn’t do me any good. I quickly turned my self around with the help of a good therapist and solid friends support. It was not that I was drinking or partying or anything along those lines. I work, gym and home with the family. She is just very discounted, feels disrespected as a wife and mother. She is passive/aggressive which has added to our fights. I am generally very happy and loving and a great father. Our problem has always been communication with each other. She has said she sees and loves my changes and this is always how or what she wanted from me. But she says its to late and doesn’t want to try. I have taken our family to Europe 5 times over the past 7 years which she and we all love. Those times were amazing. Her comments were I am only nice and sweet while we are on vacation. But the rest of the year I am mean. This is not true by any means but I do have my works stresses as I am a business owner. Until recently she hasn’t worked in the job force for over 10 yrs. We live in a million dollar house in a great town right outside NYC. She has driven mercedes for the longest time. All this sounds and is great. But I wasn’t always nice and understood her needs. Sexually we were always great. I just missed many signs of her needs.
    So at this point she has asked for a divorce, me to move out and for us to go to mediation. Nothing has really happened. I am still home after staying out of the house for 3 nites. She has contacted two different divorce attorneys but nothing yet. What I can do win her back? Our boys are amazing and will be affected. I know you cant just stay for the kids, but she right now doesn’t want to work on our marriage. She asked me 5 years ago to go to therapy. But I was to stupid, hard headed and arrogant to realize we needed to go. Now I got the whole picture. She is back and forth of staying or leaving. She is amazing women in every way you can think of and then some. I was a jerk, but not all the time. I was loving and caring but didnt listen and when we fought I got mean.
    Thank you for any help and suggestion and good luck to us all.
    jp´s last blog post ..Where Has All The Empathy Gone?


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge