Question: Two months ago my wife advised me she has been unhappy, particularly of late, with our marriage. After some initial jostling to figure out the problem she has shared with me that she does not “love” me as wife should love her husband.
Unlike many similar problems like this with married couples who have been married a while she says that she hasn't “fallen out of love”, rather she has NEVER had those type of feelings from the beginning. While thinking through our issues over the last year, she realizes now that she was young when we met and living paycheck to paycheck so I provided security and I was a “good guy” she felt she should stay with, but never had the true love feelings a wife should have for her husband when she marries. She got caught up in the “whirlwind” of it, and we were married.
As a result our sex/love/intimate life from day one has been seriously lacking of any substance or depth necessary in gaining and maintaining the closeness a marriage needs. I chalked it up to this just being her nature, and never made too big a deal out of it for fear of trampling on her as a woman, and accepted it out of my love for her. She however knew the reasons, and tried to get by with the bare necessities to make it work as best she could. However, after 17 years of trying she has come to the point she feels she just can't go on in this manner for what she says is the sake of both of us. My wife steadfastly insists she has no sexual or intimate attraction to me and never really did. She is a “pleaser” and is very good at saying and doing the things necessary to keep everyone happy, and avoid confrontation, which in this case she did very well.
I always recognized our “up times” and “down times”, but never realized anything to this extent was going on or even possible. Words cannot describe how I feel and the hurt and pain I cannot for the moment escape. We have been to counseling alone and together as well as consulting with the likes of pastors, friends, and a plethora of books and articles from the internet. Nobody can provide any magical answer or cure to this situation and admit this is a somewhat unique situation compared to most cases they have seen. Although no counselor would tell us to get a divorce, no counselor has an alternative solution or other avenue to explore for how my wife feels and her desire to go through with a divorce.
I do not believe my wife ever wanted to hurt me, and, in fact, has spent 17 years trying to capture feelings she never had and feels she never can have with me, which are vital in a marriage. It is hard for me to convey her position, and in reality it is not even my place to do it for her. I will always love her, which is why I will always be there for her. However, at this point if she insists upon a divorce I feel I have no choice, but to proceed with as much love, maturity, strength and dignity as possible so it can be carried out in a way that limits the damage to our two daughters as much as is possible.
Unfortunately, I do not believe this is God's will, but as you know the Bible is full of holy men and women who have acted against God's will because of human nature and sin. My ultimate prayer is for God's grace for everyone involved. More than ever I look forward to a time when we can all be together in God's love with no hurt or suffering. I have faith this will happen, and the day I lose that faith is the day I die.
Answer: I am so sorry for this terrible pain you feel. I’m sure it is devastating to hear that your wife has not felt the kind of physical and emotional attraction that a woman feels for a man. From what you write, it sounds like you are a good person and that you truly care about your wife. As painful as it is for you to hear and for her to say, it is crucial that she learn to be more honest with herself and you with respect to her feelings. She has pretended and placated her entire life, and changing those patterns and habits take time, but are crucial to building true intimacy in any relationship.
You mention that your wife has tried over the years to “make” herself fall in love with you but to no avail. However, the primary ingredient to lasting marital love is not emotion it is choice. We decide to love even when we don’t feel like it. Even those that once felt passionate love, know that those feelings come and go and if they depended on those emotions to stay married they usually don’t stay married for very long.
Psychologists and those who study marital love understand that passionate love must deepen into something greater for marriage to survive the long haul. I fear your wife has bought into a notion of passion as an indicator of genuine love and is willing to throw away her family in search of her one true love.
Psychiatrist Scott Peck, who wrote the best-selling book, The Road Less Travelled has an excellent chapter in his book on love. I’d highly encourage you to check it out of the library and read it with your wife and talk through it together. I mention this particular book because Dr. Peck is a secular yet spiritual psychiatrist who defines love as God does, as a sacrificial commitment to the well being and spiritual growth of another. Peck talks about the myth of romantic love and that “falling in love” is a temporary idealization of the object of one’s attention. Sooner or later, he says, that kind of love has to grow into a deeper committed love or it will not last. For your wife’s emotional, mental and spiritual well-being, it’s important that she see the truth about genuine love.
The good news here is that your wife is finally willing to share honestly with you who she is and how she feels. She wants to stop pretending, but that’s doesn’t have to mean the end your marriage. It does mean however, that you will have some tough talks ahead to work through together. I believe that doing the hard work where you are both wanting to learn to love well can be a new start to building a strong base of committed love as well as positive feelings. I will pray that she will be willing to press pause and think through her next steps very carefully.
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