“Married/Together with my wife for 10 years. We have two young children. She’s declared that she loves me, but is not “in love” with me. We have a great partnership, get along wonderfully (with the exception of this dilemma), have two beautiful children, parent well together.
What she claims to be lacking is the passion, the desire, the chemistry.
We have been processing through this for six months. I fell deeply into the quicksand of inadequacy and introspection to really see where I was out of integrity. I have demonstrated my commitment to the marriage in many ways, from my presence with my family, to creating special time for us to connect. Nothing has shifted for her.
Recently, she took up salsa dancing and found a new source of expression for herself. She “turned on” and it felt good. She also attracted another man, who she was beginning to have an affair with and lied and hid it from me until I discovered an email she wrote to him saying that she couldn’t wait to be in his arms again.”
The affair is over, no infidelity, but it was going there.
Recently, we’ve been discussing the option of a legal separation, but then she gets cold feet.
There is a tremendous amount of back and forth, her coming close to me and wanting me to comfort her, but then her position of not desiring me or thinking that I cannot give her what she needs comes back and we’re right back where we started.
My question is…with my family and my marriage at stake, where do I stand. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t desire me. I want love to flow into our lives. But I do love her, desire her, and want to continue building the beautiful life we have.
But it seems for her, this question of desire is a deal breaker and outweighs everything else.
Part of me wants to move on, but I’m pulled back for my love and for the sake of our long term marriage and especially for our children.
Where do I stand powerfully in this situation?”
Our Experts Responded:
This is a tough one. It’s difficult to know what will work and what won’t…in terms of strategy. Because my dear, you are now in a tug of war. And in my view all is fair in love and war. You must strategize and fight for what you want.
Since every other area of your lives seem to be working out great, you must now focus your attention on stirring up those flames. You must woo her. Chase her, but don’t appear too eager or desperate. And somehow, through all this, you must make yourself desirable as well. I know, this is a lot.
But take a look at what really happened so that you don’t make this mistake again. Have you let yourself go? Do you work out? Do you make sure your feet don’t smell? I know this sounds strange, but it’s very difficult for a woman to want a man that stinks and sits on the couch night after night. Nothing turns us off more. If you’ve not kept yourself up, it’s time you do. Go get a new smart and sexy haircut (ask the hairstylist what would be sexy and cute on you) and buy a new cologne you think she might like. Shower often and wear the sexy cologne you bought all the time. Women love a man that smells sexy right out of the shower. Dress better and work out!!! Make a dinner and movie date with her and let her pick the movie. It’s about her. And try to be interested in what she picks out, even if it’s a chick flick.
Make her breakfast in bed. Send her red roses to work. Take a weekend off alone somewhere. Wash her car. Wash her hair. Give her a massage. Buy her chocolate. Buy her jewelry!
You know what she likes. Take those dance classes with her. Yes. You must do that. She’s looking for something hot and seductive. She needs to find YOU there.
But through all this, don’t forget to take care of yourself and the kids. Work out together playing basketball. Get a hobby you can all do together. Do things with her alone, but also do things as a family.
She has a lot to lose as well. She knows that.
I hope this works for you. Good luck and stay positive!
– Blanca Marquez
1. Schedule an appointment with a counselor or therapist ASAP. A pastoral counselor may be a good choice if you’re religious; otherwise, there are many excellent marriage and family therapists.
2. Read the articles in the “Cheating” section — there’s a great deal of sound advice and experience there.
3. Take a “relationship inventory”. What’s good, what needs to change or improve, what needs to be removed entirely? Write it down and share it, first with someone you trust (preferably not biased towards or against either of you), then with your wife. Suggest that she does the same.
4. After doing the inventory and sharing it, write an amends letter to your wife, admitting where you may have been wrong (and I’m *not* saying that you were) and forgiving her for what she did and failed to do. Even if you choose to separate or divorce, this can be very healing.
Finally, whatever is going on with you and your wife, stay close to your kids. Children are very sensitive, and they need your reassurance that you still love them, regardless of what happens between you and Mom.
All the best,
Thanks for sharing of your painful situation with us. You have written a very thoughtful note, which clearly demonstrates that are no easy, “sound byte” solutions to such human dilemmas. What is a loving (and self-loving) husband to do? Here are a few thoughts.
*First, regarding the surface solutions of conventional versus open relationships and all the attendant boundaries/agreements: I will not comment on these, as so much has been said about these matters already. ( If you are so inclined, see the work of sex columnist Dan Savage for more.) Rather, I am going to operate with the assumption that either your wife makes an adjustment to where she can fully bond with you, or the two of you will separate. I am not foreclosing against other configurations; I am simply choosing not to go there in this limited space.
*We could go on and on about the “love you but not ‘in love’ with you” thing. Being “in love” with a relative stranger is easy enough, even for teens; being able to retain some degree of that passion in a committed, long-term relationship – this is harder and requires a greater commitment to human growth. If one partner doesn’t desire the other, it seems we can generally make one of two interpretations: Either she is with the wrong person – she chose badly when she got married – or she is experiencing some sort of emotional block. In the latter case, the problem is not with the choice of partner, but an “inner knot” which she has to unravel for her life to work.
The latter interpretation seems more operative, given that your wife claims love for you (not to mention that you have children) and that she cycles back to emotionally clinging to you. Unless you choose to endure this painful state of affairs for decades, she has the choice of either finding within herself desire for you or leaving you. So far she has been unable to do either.
*If this is correct, then your wife will need to do some work on herself, probably with the assistance of a competent therapist. You can help by telling her that as much as you love her, you are not okay with this situation remaining unresolved; if she fails to find within herself a more complete love for you, then you are going to end the relationship (or at least separate). Your firmness, which will require you not to lapse into self-inadequacy – will be necessary to support her in the possibility of her human movement.
In other words, you have done the “supportive and understanding” thing for some time now, and it has not worked. Some times what a partner needs from us is firmness and assertiveness, though it may initially trigger further pain and challenge for them.
*Further to the above point, sometimes separation is exactly what is needed. Sometimes human movement is not possible within the supportive (if strained) “comforts” of the existing relationship. Your wife has already demonstrated vulnerability in this regard, so at some point, if movement is not forthcoming, separating from her despite her “cold feet” may be what is needed. She may have to fall into the pain that she will experience when she separates from you for her heart to open sufficiently to remedy the central problem
*Regarding the kids, this of course complicates an already difficult situation. You will have to sort out what is right for you regarding this, but I would offer this point of view: Don’t stay in the relationship “for the kids’ sake”, as that is a dubious proposition. Yes, separation/divorce will be an acute trauma for them, but I don’t think you can spare them that by staying in a relationship that isn’t working – a chronic trauma which can be at least as damaging over time. Steps toward health and self-love, even when they may result in divorce, are likely in the kid’s best interest as well.
*Finally, regarding your felt sense of inadequacy: Certainly the circumstances of not being desired by your partner would be provocative for anyone. Initially we look toward ourselves for the answer; we inventory all our flaws which might explain our partner’s limitations. But with time we emerge with a greater self-acceptance, realizing that her failure to fully connect with you is likely more about her than about you. Certainly your note speaks well for you in that it is mature, thoughtful, and well-intended. In a short space you have demonstrated human qualities that surely will be attractive to other women, in the event that this relationship runs its course.
Just as your wife will need to own her failure to bond fully with you as her husband, you need to own the inadequacy that you feel in response to her rejection, not as an indicator of inadequacy, but as a lack of self-acceptance that warrants further attention. Therapeutic support through this process, whether your wife chooses to go that route or not, will no doubt help you to unpack as much value from this painful situation as quickly as possible.
In any case, good luck, and thanks for sharing so genuinely of your challenging circumstances!
Understanding your wife’s feelings requires looking at the issue from several directions. First of all, people are motivated to marry for a variety of reasons and many women in particular select mates who provide them with a sense of security. All our actions and motivations are based in core beliefs that were ingrained in us from childhood. It is through the beliefs our parents taught us and those relationship dynamics that lead us to adult decisions and choices, especially in love.
Reading between the lines of your email, it is quite possible the initial attraction that led your wife to marry you was the financial security and stability you brought to the table. That need surpassed her desire for emotional validation and connection at that time. This does not mean she does not love you or that your relationship is not real, but she is hiding something from you and that is the barrier that prevents the two of you from emotionally connecting. So what is she hiding? She may have presented a certain façade in the beginning of your relationship to try and become the woman you perceive is the “perfect” wife and mother. People can go through the motions of a relationship for years – raising a family and creating a home life. That does not mean that inside they feel they are living a lie. From your perspective it may appear that after ten years she has changed overnight and all of sudden she sees your marriage in a different light, but I assure you this was not a recent feeling.
You use an interesting phrase in your email and say that you really wanted to see where you were out of integrity. Words are very powerful and feeling that your integrity was not where it should have been indicates that perhaps you slipped into an emotional affair as well. I am mindful that I only have a glimpse of what is going on in your relationship, but do understand that this issue is not “her” problem, but one that involves you too.
From my viewpoint, something happened recently that set the chain of events in motion whereas the façade was too difficult to maintain. There is a reason why she goes back and forth and believes you cannot meet her emotional needs. Your relationship provides a sense of security she must have in her life based on her core beliefs, but the need for real emotional connection cannot be suppressed any longer. So she does not really want a separation but neither does she want to feel emotionally empty.
The passion that your wife is seeking is an emotional connection she is not receiving from you in the manner that makes her feel important, special and desired. Each one of us wants to feel this way in our committed relationships and what we need from our mate is unique. What many people do is give their love in accordance to the way they want to receive love. While these gestures and expressions of love are more than likely appreciated, it is highly possible those are not the things that make your wife feel loved and desired. And it is my belief that is the reason why she was so vulnerable to an emotional affair.
It is the responsibility of both people in the relationship to clearly communicate what they want and for the other person to follow through. You stated that you have demonstrated your commitment to the marriage in many ways but from what you have written, it is not resonating with her. A marriage does not get to this place overnight, nor does it rebound with a few quick fixes. I understand that six months seems like forever, but I encourage you to look at the state of your relationship not in a self-critical mode (which is unconstructive) but in a manner that allows you to see the marriage from her perspective.
It will take mutual effort, determination and resolve to fight for your marriage and family – together. I strongly encourage you to take bold steps and make up your mind that your wife is the number one priority in your life (next to your relationship with God) –and then act on that declaration. An impartial third part such as a counselor is highly recommended to keep your progress on track. Nothing in this world is more important than your wife and children and I encourage you not to sit on the fence. Be forthright and strongly committed to not only saying that you want your marriage to work out but following those words up with actions.
The question is not where you stand, but where your heart stands. What do you want? How do you want this to end?
You say you get along well, parent well, and have already been married 10 years…if those are your best reasons for staying married, then I can see how she thinks she’s missing out on that so called passion and desire.
Your wife says she’s not “in” love with you….that’s code for SOMETHING’S WRONG….
Of course she gets cold feet when you bring up the legal separation….that’s because she’s not blind —she sees you’re committed to the relationship, I don’t think she doubts your compatibility and commitment….but some small part of her..(maybe the salsa dancing part of her) … wonders what life would be like if she was adored, revered, and placed on a pedestal….that’s why people are vulnerable to affairs, because of the attention…because some other person stokes their egos in a way their spouse used to but hasn’t in a while.
So, the question is — WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
Are you going to let someone else sweep your wife off her feet and away from you….or are you going to put your dancing shoes on and salsa your way into her heart…..she needs needs to be reminded that you think she’s hot, smart, pretty, and the best thing since sliced bread….if you don’t think you can give her that…then she will find it elsewhere.
– Rebecca Allen
Woman naturally think more abstractly while we think objectionably and as far as “where you stand powerfully”, who cares. She is toying with your emotions. Give her more attention and ask more questions about her when you’re out. Part of her wanting to cheat is the mystery and the other part is letting go and letting someone else take over. Be as assertive as sexiness will let you. If you want to test her, go right ahead. All you have to do is strategically plan an outing and when her friends happen to be there try to create a friendly relationship with one of her friends. If she suggests that you build on it in any later conversations, you know you’re headed for trouble.
– Bill Wilburn
The fact that your wife gets cold feet when discussing a legal separation means two things:
#1: She’s not SURE she wants to COMPLETELY GIVE UP on you two yet (there’s a lot of love and history there, and MAYBE it can be worked OUT)
#2: It is POSSIBLE (and some women are LIKE this) that she doesn’t want to end THIS relationship, until she totally has a NEW man in the picture (to be with).
And, unfortunately, no amount of effort on your part, can make up for her not DESIRING you anymore. It might make her APPRECIATE you, and she might WISH she felt more for you than she does, but you can’t “force” desire, or lust. That has to happen on its own. It has to be there because SHE FEELS it. And if this continues, she WILL want out. Or, she’ll just cheat again. And you don’t want that.
Now, MY question is, did she EVER desire you? If so, what CHANGED? What went wrong? Have you gained weight? Got too involved with your work? What?
If talking about this situation doesn’t work, try some other things. Try & turn her on. Be spontaneous. Do things you don’t normally do. Surprise her. Turn her on. If you CAN’T, then take DRASTIC measures. Go see a SEX therapist. Ask a female FRIEND of yours what to do. There are a number of different actions you can take if you really want to make this WORK. I’d suggest trying ALL of them, before completely giving up.
– Jason Love
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