My wife told me she has never loved me. Now what?

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.

14 Comments

  1. Anonymous on August 4, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I can relate to that my wife just told me she marry me with loving me. It hard to comprehend the meaning of those words but when you get closer to God you get closer to his will. I understand that GOd can do mirecles and you just need to believe in him. A man is to love his wife and a wife to respect his husband.

  2. Anonymous on October 4, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Dear friend reading this I see myself in your place, I am in exact same situation but in my case my wife had a feeling for another person from her work and they both had intimate times after work and when I was away for few days. I figured it out by hacking her emails. It was painful but that other guy ditched my wife and my wife came back to me for the sake of my daughter but now after an year she told me that she is feeling bad because that other guy whom she used to feel for is marrying another girl. My wife again stopped sleeping with me and has started ignoring me completely I love her a lot but I am deciding to separate out of no choice and hopes.

    • Blocka04 on April 13, 2020 at 6:49 am

      I have been married to my wife for 26 years and I new from the 1st week that she had zero feelings for me. She only accepted to be married to me because she was over 30 years old and in my culture, a women is less likely to find a husband after her thirties. She also wanted someone to pay her bills.
      I tried to make it work all these years and it didn’t work. My advise is stop flogging the dead horse, if someone doesn’t have feelings for you and they are with you, it is because most likely they are benefitting from you.
      I discussed divorce with my wife and she never bothered about me, she only wanted me to continue paying her bills even after she will no longer be my wife and she also wanted to take my house that I worked so hard to get.
      I know how much it hurts to be used, but I decided not to let her win and I am not divorcing because the law here is on the women side no matter what. I feel now that I am the unappreciated, unloved husband, but I don’t want to be the robbed victims as well. So, she either goes or she has to wait until the death of me. Party I feel that life paid me back for letting down women who loved me truly before my wife . I didn’t go for them because I wasn’t financially ready for marriage.

  3. Anonymous on December 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Approaching my 30 year, my wife and I had a very frank talk about her lack of emotion for me and for our marriage and I expressed that for the last 10 years it seemed that it was just another notche in her belt, and that she had no positive emotion for our anniversary. She told me she was just tired, but after a while, I asked her from a scale of 1 to 10 what was her love for me the last 10 years and her reply was it's always been about a 2 or 3, and she has never really loved me. After raising 2 boys, I'm just numb because over the years I heard her say I love you, but now I realize she never meant it, it was just a response to my bids for love. Of course we both don't believe in divorce, but honestly, after 30 years I have no desire to try and win her heart now. I believe that separation in inevitable and probably divorce and she says with tears that she has no desire to put our family thru that, but if it hadn't happened in 30 years, I certainly not going to chase that rabbit. All I ever wanted in a relationship was unconditional love, and I believe in my heart that it's what I offer in return, but her words just empty me of any defense. I'm undone by her words and feel paralyzed to do anything about it. Good luck in your endeavor to overcome this form of rejection that totally takes all the wind out of your sails for life.

  4. Anonymous on December 24, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    And I forgot one other sort of backward comment…Merry Christmas darling….

  5. Anonymous on December 28, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Hey I am within 42hrs of being told the samething after 4years of marriage and a son and dating 8 years prior…we started early meeting in church and we have had the ups and downs and this is such a blind siding blow I am at a loss. its hard to go to work but I know and pray it will get better..She has agreed to go together to get help but doesnt see that it can change. reading this gives me some comfort but its going to be a long journey and need as much prayer as possible.

  6. Anonymous on May 14, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Today marks 20th day that I have been told the simular statement. My wife actually FOUND a guy that gave her that butterfly feeling… and has been involved for about 2 months before I finally found out. I have since moved out of our home because I can not bear the hurt. We have a 3 yo and a 4 yo… we are minimizing their pain by telling them that Daddy got a new apartment that they can go visit… I have try so very hard to move on and to give up, but hope always comes back… I just can't give up on the woman I love… for 9 years… no matter how she drift away from me… I kept killing the last bit of hope I have… and it keeps coming back… I love her with all my heart and soul and I would do anything to be with her… After reading this… It gives me another strong shot of HOPE. I wish all of you and myself luck with this. I will fight for her, for love, til the bitter end. Cheers.

  7. Catfishyoash on December 28, 2015 at 2:35 am

    Once a woman admits there is no turning back. She is getting older and wised up. She used him. Which is very selfish. Let this selfish woman go. Nothing good will grow. She decided the moment she let you in on her inner turmoil. To make this right she started with telling the truth herself, you, afterwards children. I saw the horrible moments and fake fun moments my mother displayed. Make me hate and act terrifying to liars.

  8. Rick on December 22, 2020 at 11:10 am

    This story is almost exactly mine. For me it has been going on for close to 3 years. During that time I have made huge changes in myself. At the slightest indication from my wife that she may love me, every time we have sex, every time we have a good date, every time we make progress, I tell myself that things are turning around.

    But then a couple weeks or months later she confirms again that she still does not love me. She hates how much she hurts me when she says it, but tells me she needs to be honest with herself and with me.

    We do not want a divorce. We are still best friends, and we have kids. And after 23 years of marriage, divorce seems like a horrible option, especially since we both have strong faith and believe divorce is never the answer except in the most dire of circumstances. But after 3 years of this, the worst thing for me is realizing in myself that I do not want to go on like this. Now, instead of thinking things are improving when something good happens, I know it is just a mirage. For the first time in years I start thinking forward to a time when I may be with someone that does love me. Divorce is looking like more of an option all the time.

    It’s hard to hear of others in this same situation since I know how difficult it is, but there is some comfort knowing that others have gotten through this. I wish I could offer hope, but right now I do not have much myself.

    • Russ on August 26, 2022 at 12:16 am

      “She hates how much she hurts me when she says it”

      No she does’t hate it. She loves it or she wouldn’t do it to you.

      You are NOT best friends. She is and always has used you.

      I’m praying for you and thanks for sharing. I’ve been going thru this for 33 years. Get a jump on me and save your next ten.

      These stories are heartbreaking.

      Men like to do thing for women. Women like men to do things for them.

      Find a woman who has been trained to do things for men, not just take. And women, find a man that will do things for himself and for others, not just you; and will tell you when you are asking too much and you need to pick up the slack.

  9. Anonymous on November 12, 2023 at 12:17 am

    After reading through these and now being a year from when my wife of over a decade (now ex-wife) tried to use this same language (I never loved you more than a friend) I can firmly say that what these women are likely suffering from is a condition called ‘covert narcissism’. After day one she admitted there was someone else. By day three she admitted to an affair. By day four she admitted it has been going on for two months as well as other lies that she had told me all while admitting to having issues with guilt and shame.

    They tend to have these deep issues with guilt and shame from childhood trauma and they will gaslight and use this kind of language to protect themselves. They want to keep your ‘friendship’ if they still view you as a source of narcissistic supply or to lessen the shame and guilt they feel, but if they do not think you will give them comfort or provide them with narcissistic supply they will simply discard you.

  10. Archie on January 3, 2024 at 2:42 pm

    I submit that mutual affection is a necessary component of durable, lasting marital love. It does not always hold between spouses and thus isn’t sufficient for this love, but it is still necessary in the sense of needing to be present as a dominate feature of the marriage if the love in question is to be aptly qualified as marital.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 3, 2024 at 4:54 pm

      Archie, I agree that mutuality is important but affection can be in the form of a smile, hug, back rub…not always sexual intimacy. But let me ask you – how does someone feel genuine desire for giving someone a deeper sense of affection when marital trust is broken and someone feels scared of her spouse because of past behavior – yelling, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, threats, etc.

      • Archie on January 3, 2024 at 8:26 pm

        Yes, affection can be expressed in many different ways, including ones that are non-sexual. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise but was only responding to the thought that one’s spouse need not have “feelings of love,” which in this context I liken to affection in the broadest sense, form of expression aside. Where there is marital love, there will be mutual affection, although not always and never to the exclusion of other necessary elements like patience and forgiveness. Of course, no spouse always has affection (feelings of love) for the other, just as no spouse has perfect patience or a perfect record of forgiveness. Many have no affection for the other for long periods of time. But in my view a marriage is not healthy, and indeed does not include marital love as such, when an absence of affection is or becomes ordinary to the marriage considered in its totality and one of its dominant characteristics. To your question: Because fear and distrust crowd out affection, these problems must be recognized, addressed, and overcome if the marriage is to be healed. This is not to say that two legally wed persons are required to live without distrust and fear but only that distrust, fear, and affection cannot cohabit. Over time, the absence of affection caused by distrust and fear will jeopardize a couple’s love, eventually precluding it altogether.

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