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).
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.