What do you do if your husband says he no longer loves you? He is cordial and polite, is not having an affair or viewing pornography, but won’t engage in any type of intimacy (physical or emotional). He doesn’t want to get a divorce because of our duty to the children (with which I agree) but he doesn’t want to get help either. He thinks that people cannot change and is resigned with the current state of affairs. On the other hand, I feel like I’m dying inside and am trapped because I don’t want to hurt our children but feel totally alone, unloved, hurt, angry and depressed about the future.
Chris: I think something else is going on. Ironically, he says he doesn’t think people can change, but from what you’re saying, he has changed. Why? There’s always a reason and it’s important to find out what that reason is. How has the relationship been to this point? Has he felt like he has had to give more than his share, or put up with “too much” whatever that is? Has something hurt the relationship in a way that he thinks is beyond repair?
If he is unwilling to try marriage counseling, would he be willing to meet with the bishop, at least to help you understand his feelings better. If your husband isn’t wiling to go voluntarily to the bishop, is your bishop willing to approach your husband? The idea wouldn’t be to attack or accuse your husband, but there is certainly reason to discuss why your husband doesn’t feel motivated to keep or work on his marriage covenants. And it seems apparent that your husband is not in a very good place spiritually. It might be helpful for the bishop to speak with your husband about those things, especially as it might help to discover more about what has happened to get your husband to this point. Other questions to ask would include: How he is relating to the kids? Is he withdrawing in other areas of his life? Is it limited to family? Is it limited to the marriage?
Since you both agree that divorce is not the best, which is probably right in this case, can you review your focus of energy and interests? Can you find rewarding activity with your children, a job, service opportunities, etc. If all you are doing is feeling a void, and not doing anything to change that, you’re going to get stuck in a very unhealthy place.
I completely agree with Chris, that there is some reason for all this. Love doesn’t die unless 1) we kill it, or 2) we let it starve to death. It would be important to find out what happened to change your husband’s feelings.
However, since you can’t—and shouldn’t—force your husband to work on the problem, or even discuss it. And, frankly, even the bishop can only invite your husband to address his issues, let me focus a bit more on what you can do, with or without your husband’s participation.
1. Strongly consider going to counseling on your own. Marriage counseling does not require both partners. Certainly there are advantages to having both partners participate but it’s not always possible. There is a lot that one partner can do in counseling to find emotional support, to consider the most effective and appropriate responses, and to become a healthier, non-victim partner and parent.
2. Create a network of personal support. This isn’t about bad-mouthing your husband to the neighbors, but between the extremes of taking out an ad to expose your husband’s emotional abandonment and keeping all of it bottled up inside you, there is a healthy balance to be found. Carefully and prayerfully choose a few individuals who, hopefully, care for both you and your husband, who can be relied upon to keep confidences, and who will offer caring listening without giving unsolicited advice (that last bit can be tricky, but it’s important). Don’t try to go it alone. If there doesn’t seem to be anyone you can vent to, use prayer, the counseling setting, and temporary (as opposed to “for posterity”) journaling. Vent on paper, or on the computer, and then rip, shred, burn, or delete.
3. As Chris mentioned, be pro-active about focusing on healthy involvements. Get “actively engaged” in good causes, beginning with your children.
4. Find resources—again, good counseling should help with this—to help you learn to live and feel like a non-victim. When you achieve this healthy place, which is entirely achievable, it’s completely possible to get past your hurt and anger at your husband and like him better, even if he stays stuck for a while—or forever.
Sadly, this is not a situation that is unique in our society. I have heard versions of this story before and they are always heartbreaking. In time, the reason for “falling out of love” is revealed, and—as I said—it always ends up being because of bad choices and behaviors that killed the love or severe neglect that let the love starve to death. Either of those situations can be recovered from if there is genuine motivation and sincere effort. In the meantime, the injured spouse can either remain miserable or accept the challenge to become unilaterally healthy and, yes, even happy. Do it for your kids, if for no other reason.
Very best wishes.