Morning friends, I’m in Chicago this week spending some time with my elderly parents. It’s so good to share this journey with them and it’s so hard. It’s never easy seeing those you love struggle and when you think of it, I’d appreciate your prayers for them.

 

Question: I've been married for almost 13 years now & have 2 small children. I haven't “been in love with” my husband for nearly a decade now, but I push through because it’s the right thing to do & I don't want to hurt him. It's difficult to explain everything in only a few short words, but essentially I'm asking, Should I stay in a marriage if the Love truly is non-existent? I'm essentially living a lie by doing so.

Answer: Obviously you feel conflicted about this because you have chosen to stay even though you haven’t felt “in love” for most of your marriage and have chosen to have children with this man. Did you feel “in love” when you dated and married? What happened? Have you worked on reviving your relationship? Nurturing it? Maintaining it? Repairing it?

Imagine if you moved into a new home as soon as you got married. You loved it. It had everything you wanted. And 13 years later, you don’t like living in this home anymore. It’s cluttered and messy. The paint is chipped. The rugs are stained. Windows have never been washed. The grass is patchy and dying in spots. Weeds grow everywhere. The upstairs toilet leaks and doesn’t flush. The ceiling is full of water stains and the whole house stinks. Every day, all day all you can think about is “I don’t want to stay here anymore.”

I don’t fault you for feeling that way but perhaps leaving isn’t your only option. What about putting in the energy, time, and money to fix up your house?

[Tweet “Just like a new house will deteriorate over time if there is no regular maintenance and repairs, your marriage can also deteriorate if it is not regularly tended, maintained, and repaired.”]

You don’t mention anything about being in an abusive relationship. It sounds like a disappointing marriage. You’re not feeling those loving, strong, emotions that you once felt. Your question is what to do? Do you stay because it’s the “right thing” or do you leave because you feel you’re living a lie because you’re not “in love” with him anymore?

This question is important to settle for your own well-being. Is it true that you lie to yourself (or to others) when you choose not to follow your feelings for your life choices?

Don’t get me wrong, your feelings are great informants, but usually, they are lousy decision-makers. For example, sometimes I don’t feel like getting up in the morning to go to work. I never “feel” like writing. Sometimes I feel like quitting something important or giving up on a goal because it’s hard. I never feel like exercising and I always feel like eating junk food. When my children were at home there were times I didn’t feel like being a mom and wanted to spend the day doing what I wanted to do. I always feel afraid when I write a new book or speak to a large audience. My feelings are my feelings but I must decide what power they hold in my decisions. Do I allow fear or anger or discouragement or lust or selfishness or laziness to decide what I do? And if I don’t, does that mean I’m lying to myself?

[Tweet “Our culture has bought into an enormous lie and the lie is that feelings trump all other considerations in decision making.”]That feelings give us our true north. But that’s not true. Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross, yet he did. Did that mean his act of obedience to God was hypocritical or that he lived a lie? No. Jesus’ feelings were real and powerful but they didn’t get the final say on his action steps. A bigger part of Jesus did. His desire to please/obey God.

How many times have you felt something strongly? For example, you feel intense romantic feelings or angry feelings, and over time, sometimes even in a few hours, you don’t feel those same feelings anymore. Feelings are fickle and fluid. There isn’t anyone who has a long-term marriage who feels “in love” all the time. That’s a Hollywood and Harlequin storyline, not a Biblical one. Romantic love is not a requirement for a strong marriage. Trust, safety, and loving actions are.

However, my concern is that you say you haven’t felt any love for your spouse for over ten years but you stay married because “it’s the right thing to do.” What part of you believes it’s the right thing to do? And if that’s true, if it the right thing to stay married, what could you do to help your feelings? Could you talk with your husband about what the two of you could do to make your marriage more intimate, exciting, interesting, romantic? Are there some old hurts that need to be talked through and repaired? Could you initiate some counseling, coaching, or go to a marriage intensive to get things more out in the open about where your marriage is hurting so that you can make repairs?

You don’t give any more details than I posted in your question but I believe that God uses marriage and family life to mature us. Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. For example, we don’t always feel “loving’ feelings for our kids, especially when they are behaving badly or doing things that we disapprove of. But that does not mean we stop being parents or leave our kids or feel like we’re lying to them just because we don’t feel warm, loving feelings. Even if we didn’t feel positive feelings for a child for a period of time, I hope you wouldn’t see that as a sign you should give up your kid for adoption or abandon your kid. Rather, it might mean that you would explore what’s going on inside you and get help for yourself to figure out why you’re struggling to feel and/or give love.

Ultimately the decision is yours but before you take any steps that would fracture your marriage and family, I’d encourage you to do your own work to see what’s going on inside and take very intentional steps to repair and build a closer relationship with your spouse.

Friend, what advice would you give this woman who is struggling with her feelings?

9 Comments

  1. JoAnn on June 16, 2021 at 10:23 am

    What does it mean to be “in love with” someone? To me, that implies a sort of romantic love, but it also means to share love with someone. Love is something you do. It is not a feeling, but a thing to be nurtured and expressed. I whole heartedly agree with Leslie that it needs to be maintained as part of the relationship. I have been married to the same man for 54 years. We STILL work to keep our relationship healthy and loving, though how we do that has changed somewhat over the years. I have to admit to having passed through a period of time when I felt “out of love” with my husband, but it was my commitment to the marriage and family that caused me to pray desperately to the God who IS love to put a new and fresh love into my heart for this man I had chosen to spend my life with. He is a good man and a loving man, but I felt that I didn’t love him anymore, so, not wanting to spend the rest of my life in a loveless marriage, I asked God to change my heart. And HE DID!! Our God wants to change our heart. He wants to fill us with His all-sufficient life so that we express Him in our daily life. We only need to ask. And if your husband is no longer loving toward you, if he needs a refresher, too, then work it out! Go to a marriage intensive program, or see a counselor. It is possible to refresh and recover a loveless marriage. And it is important to remember that more than a feeling, LOVE IS SOMETHING YOU CHOOSE TO DO.

    • Ruth Abby on July 23, 2021 at 8:56 pm

      JoAnn,

      I look up to you for your decisions to love on and praise God for what He has done in your heart as you prayed with such a God-honoring commitment… Praise the Lord! Thank you for sharing your story (^^)

      I’ve been really struggling because I, too, have discovered myself no longer “in love” with my husband; the more I see clearly who he actually has been and still is, the more hopeless I feel to continue on. I’m unable to see true transformation in him even though both of us have been doing his and my best to bring restoration to our marriage since I realized and communicated to him that he is quite toxic and emotionally abusive to me and our children. I don’t like him as a person, and it’s extremely hard to keep loving him (and teaching our children to love him) the ways Jesus tells us to on a daily basis.

      Please pray that God will give me a clear direction in what I’m supposed to do. It’s such a delicate and complex matter… While I hate seeing our children struggling and getting hurt (emotionally) periodically, and I’m working on getting more sufficient help and improved environment for them in current circumstances, I do not sense release in my spirit to proceed with separation… (I actually wish I did! How much easier for both me and children in many ways if I just could choose that option and be free from his negativities and all the dramas!)

      To me, discerning up to which degree of emotional pains they endure because of his flaws and sins is considered as “permissible” and within “safe” zone is the challenge… in other words, when is the time to say, “Ok, they shouldn’t have to deal with this anymore—I’m taking them away from him legally”?

      Wish I could phrase my thoughts/questions better, but your prayers and words of wisdom and encouragement would be greatly appreciated. Blessings!

      Prayerfully,
      Ruth Abby

  2. Autumn on June 19, 2021 at 9:37 am

    No, it is not ok to leave if you are not in a destructive relationship. You made a vow, now keep it. If you selfishly pursue your desires, so many people will be hurt by the act of divorce.

    Make yourself be loving even if you don’t feel love. Being out of “love” is far better than having sin on your hands. Make Jesus your true confidant and ask for him to show you ways to grow during your greatest disappointments of your relationship.

    Try what you can think of to find mutual interests with your spouse. Again, if it is not destructive, try marriage enrichment and relationship growth counseling. At a minimum, assume a roommate style respect and carry on. No one is promised a happy life. Make lemonade out of lemons and remember the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

    • Lost on June 27, 2021 at 10:29 pm

      I can identify with the question. If she is in a destructive marriage your answers would undoubtedly be different, my question is… What if she WAS in a destructive marriage? This is my dilemma. When I was at the end of my rope and my sanity, my husband decided to change. He’s been to a therapist a total of 2 times that I know of but has really turned his anger around. He’s started to try and be a better person. It’s been a few months so I assume it is a real change but I know time will tell. The real issue is… I am so done that I just don’t care anymore. I have become so cold and indifferent that I don’t know how to turn it around and even begin to like him anymore. After so many years of emotional abuse am I obligated to do so? It took over 20 years of horrible behavior for me to become this way, will I ever be able to connect with him again? How do you begin to have loving feelings towards someone that treated you badly for do long?

      • Leslie Vernick on June 29, 2021 at 10:33 pm

        So the first question is can you ever trust him again? Love cannot grow without safety. NOt emotional or safe love. You can do loving behaviors towards an enemy as Jesus commands us to love our enemy, but when he says “enemy” he is not requiring closeness or trust. We can’t, precisely because he or she is the enemy. So don’t worry about loving or affectionate ‘feelings’ but even when he is your enemy how can you act in his best interests which is loving him – telling him the truth, not pretending things are fine when they are not fine, defining the problem. JEsus did this with his own enemies, Judas and the Pharisees, but he did not have a good relationship with them but he loved them. Can you hear the difference?

        • Lost on July 5, 2021 at 11:00 pm

          Thank you for taking your time to answer my question. I’ll continue to try to BE a loving person. I’ll continue to pray and ask for clarity.

          • Leslie Vernick on July 5, 2021 at 11:52 pm

            It’s not an easy road. Long term marriages are hard work for some seasons. But if he generally is a safe and trustworthy person, then I believe that you can continue to develop your own maturity, and hopefully his.



      • Shannon on August 22, 2021 at 12:49 am

        I am in a very similar situation, but during our struggle, my feeling done and him trying so hard to change, my 29 yr old daughter dropped a bomb on me that her father, my husband, touched her inappropriately when she was a preteen. Now I feel completely done. I want him to move out. And the hardest part I am struggling with is that at this point, I promised her that I would not say anything to him. She is seeking counseling. I cannot tell him why I cannot give him another chance. I’m disgusted by it. I’m so upset and torn. I am seeking counseling myself tho I have only had one session so far.

  3. Rosa Kelson on June 25, 2021 at 2:30 pm

    Dear Leslie,

    I pray for you and your elderly parents. I no longer have my parents and even though they were frail when they passed, I miss them so so much. Hang in there and give them as much love as you can while they live.

    Thank you for your wise counsel above, it speaks so loudly to me as I’m “feeling” like walking away from a 47-year marriage. I love how you compared taking care of a marriage to taking care of a house. I also love how you explained feelings are not good decision makers.

    Many blessings to you and your family.

    Rosa Kelson

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