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?
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?
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?