Q. I’m no longer in love with my husband. He’s very upset about this, surprisingly so, as I didn’t think he cared that much. I think we should get a divorce. He wants us to go into marriage counseling. What good will counseling do if I don’t love him?
A. When you say you are no longer in love with your husband what do you mean? Do you mean “I care about him; I just don’t love him any more.” Yet doesn’t love mean caring? Do you mean that you no longer experience “butterflies in the stomach” or romantic feelings when with your husband? Is your infatuation over? But infatuation is not love.
Often when a person says “I’m no longer in love,” they have already begun an infatuation with someone else. They had no intention of beginning an affair—“It just happened.” But they have begun to invest romantic feelings elsewhere. They have begun to withdraw from the marriage. This is a dangerous path – throwing away a years of marriage in exchange for a new attraction.
- We may decide we are no longer in love when we begin to see our husband or wife’s flaws; when we discover he or she isn’t as perfect as we expected or thought.
- We may decide we are no longer in love when we are angry at him or her or when there is a power struggle going on. Our partner may have done something to hurt or even to betray us. Anger that we hold on to becomes resentment and this blocks our ability to love the other person.
- We may decide we are no longer in love when we feel bored with our partner or too distant from him or her. The marriage has become routine or stale. There’s little connection. We fail to see our own part in contributing to this and we don’t realize that we can help change it.
- We may decide we are no longer in love when our current relationship seems as frustrating or as hurtful to us as our childhood relationships were.
We can find many reasons for believing our marriage is untenable. Society today supports leaving a relationship which doesn’t fulfill us. There are some marriages that cannot be salvaged but most can be. Divorce is a painful choice. It hurts children and extended family as well as both partners. Divorce is not the easy answer it seems to be.
A long lasting, committed marriage takes work. Marriage is a very complex relationship. We bring to it all our hopes and dreams and all of our unmet childhood needs. The infatuation or honeymoon stage brings us together in a bond with our partner that makes us blind to his or her flaws and leads us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to our marriage. But we must move beyond this stage and beyond the disillusionment phase to a more mature love. If we don’t, the next relationship won’t satisfy us either.
Mature love accepts the other person, flaws and all. Mature love offers forgiveness, understanding, acceptance, kindness and affection. At some point you thought you loved him. Love isn’t easy. But you can choose to love by acting loving. Feelings often follow our actions rather than the other way around. Love is not just a wonderful emotion that we respond to. Love requires hard work and giving of ourselves. Love is a choice. Love is a decision.
Marital therapy is recommended to help both of you understand the issues in your marriage and hopefully to work on rebuilding your love and commitment to each other. Choose a counselor who is trained and experienced in marriage counseling. If you’re a Christian be certain to pick a Christian counselor.
“Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:8
This article was originally published in my Faith Notes blog.