I have just read an interesting question on the website ask.metafilter.com. Someone wrote in asking how she can tell her husband that she doesn’t love him without totally crushing him? She starts out by confessing that she knew she didn’t love her husband before she married him but went ahead and married him anyway. There’s a temptation to immediately condemn her for knowing she didn’t love her husband but going ahead with the marriage, but the fact of the matter is people get married for all kinds of different reasons and sometimes people get married even though they don’t love the person they’re marrying.
If I were to be honest with myself I probably didn’t love my husband when I married him. I’ve written before about the day we got married how I told him before we left for the justice of the peace that marrying him was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. Our story and situation is different from the story I read on ask.metafilter.com; but it’s very possible neither of us really loved each other when we got married. We wouldn’t have necessarily admitted it to ourselves, though we probably knew it somewhere deep in our individual hearts. For sure we knew we didn’t like each other; but we had exchanged so many words of undying love in the letters we’d written over the 5 years of our long distance relationship and we’d made promises to each other. I think neither of us really wanted it to turn out to be that we hadn’t been born for each other the way we’d convinced ourselves before we took the physical distance out of our relationship and began living together. Aside from that, we both needed each other for very practical life related reasons. So we went ahead and got married even though, if the truth were to be told, we really couldn’t stand each others guts by that point.
People get married for all kinds of different reasons. Sometimes people who don’t love each other get married and grow to love each other. It’s just the same way that many people grow out of love who started their marriage in love. The woman who wrote in at ask.metafilter.com for advise on how to tell her husband she doesn’t love him without totally crushing him, explained how she thought she might grow to love her husband but that never happened. Now 5 years later she’s wanting to sit him down, and as she writes, say to him “I’m so sorry. You deserve to have someone in your life who loves you, but it’s not me.”
Her question and a lot of what she wrote struck a chord with me. My husband and I have been married for 16 years. We’ve gone through various dimensions of hell. I care about my husband deeply and hurting him is the last thing in the world I would want to do; but the way he wants me to be–the things he wants from me in the way of demonstrations of love, I can seldom bring myself to where I can do as this woman says she has been doing throughout her marriage:
I try to pantomime all the things people in love do when they are in love, but increasingly it feels like a lie, and one that is driving me crazy. Because I don’t really love him, I don’t listen to him as empathetically or as closely as I should, I don’t give him the care and kindness he deserves, I have very little patience for life’s inevitable relationship challenges, and I don’t want to have sex with him (I can’t fake it anymore, it makes me feel sick). We spoke about the distance between us and agreed to try counseling. But counseling can’t create love that was never there, can it? Why even bother, if really the truth is that I just don’t love him? (Source link)
The thing is, I don’t know if it’s that I don’t love my husband or that I’ve just lost all faith after everything I’ve gone through with him. He keeps fighting for the marriage. I keep telling him I don’t have any fight left in me. Sometimes I tell him he can go and find someone who can be for him what he needs because I can’t do it and I can’t pretend to do it. No matter how many times and how many ways I try to get across to him that I don’t have the kind of feeling he wants me to have and I don’t know if it’s something that can be fixed, he continues to insist that we belong together and that we’re going to stay together till one of us dies. I’ll admit that sometimes I look at him, at his feeble vein covered hands and I feel a kind of pity that makes me think I do love him because I know then he’s a good, kind man at the end of the day. He has done unkind things and he has ways still now that make me no more want to be married to him presently than I wanted to marry him 16 years ago; but at those times when something strikes me, whether it’s the sight of his hands showing signs of aging, or the sight of his weary face as he hovers over me while I lie in bed, hoping to rouse desire in me, I want to be able to love him the way I believe he deserves; but something in me refuses to open and trust and have faith and take the emotional risk.
Like the woman who wrote the original post, I’ve had reminders of what it’s like to feel in love. I’ve had my fair share of emotional affairs, but they have all fizzled out; and that’s almost inevitable. Nothing stays forever on fire. The nature of fire being what it is, the flames will go out. For me, after the flames have gone out it has still been my husband standing there. And it almost seems fitting because, even though things were what they were by the time we got married, we did experience what for us was something deep and intense. Even if in looking back and psychoanalyzing each of us individually it is apparent that we were drawn to each other out of mutual need and that neither one of us was emotionally mature or mentally stable enough to make the kind of life changing decisions that we did make after just a week of knowing each other, our love was still something very special in our minds; and to this day I cannot say anyone has ever come close to making me feel the way I felt in my husband’s arms in the beginning. I don’t know that any of it means anything; but I do know that not “loving” my husband as in not feeling on fire when he touches me, not becoming aroused at the sound of his voice, not wanting to put on his shirt when he’s not home so I can still have his smell around me, these things are not reason to trade him in for someone about whom I can feel that way. Inevitably I will stop feeling that way about the new person as well.
None of this is to suggest to anyone they should stay in a situation they know in their heart they no longer want to be a part of; but sometimes people throw away valuable relationships because they don’t feel “in love”; and they end up regretting it because they never find this ever-burning love they go off in search of. It ends up being that they traded their partner for nothing.