Why some men stop loving their wives and what you can do about it
Angela was starting to despair
When she first contacted me she doubted if her husband loved her anymore. But, she loved him. When she tried to talk to him, he insisted that nothing was wrong, but she could see that their marriage wasn’t close like other couples. And she couldn’t feel the love from her husband the way she used to. She asked me, like many women do, if there was hope for her marriage. It was a very heavy question for her to ask and I knew that. I couldn’t give her a simple answer in an email and leave it at that. There never is a simple answer when marriages become distant. But there are answers. As we started our work together, I needed to know what her marriage was like and especially what she was doing or not doing because of the difficulties.
Angela didn’t have the kind of experience that would help her to effectively deal with her marriage problems.
She tried to think positively, but her good mood would burst like a bubble with just one uncaring, irritated look or one sharp tone from her husband. So, most of the time, she just tip-toed around him. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she also felt drained of energy. Like a wind up toy which had been wound up too often. She used to have so much energy and things she wanted to do. The mirror on the wall was not her friend anymore because she didn’t like the person she saw when she looked in it. Instead of her reflection telling her she was the fairest in all the land and the apple of her husband’s eye, it just told her she was getting older. She could see the future more clearly because each day was the same. So she preferred to think about the past. She was on a road going nowhere with a traveling companion who didn’t enjoy her company. She was in a bad marriage. Being positive seemed hopelessly out of the question.
As you know, we can’t continue to think positively when our life continues to go negatively. We can’t force it because it’s not connected to anything good in our future.
What Angela was doing and what many people are doing is “reacting.” Reactions are what come naturally, like quickly moving your hand away when you feel something hot, or jumping back when you suddenly see a spider near you. It doesn’t take any preparation. It is instinctive. Reactivity is a built-in safeguard that keeps us safe when we are in immediate danger. But, when the danger is ongoing, and more stressful than life threatening, quick reactions are not helpful. Like Angela, people become worn down and burned out by being in reactive mode day after day. And by being careful all the time. They condition themselves to fear their husband’s (or wife’s) reactions to protect their own feelings. That doesn’t work, though, because it continues a bad marriage, it doesn’t improve it. People live for today, but in anticipation of the future. When what we anticipate looks gloomy, our day to day life is drained of positive emotion. We are drained. We can only smile at what used to make us laugh. We feel nothing where we used to feel something.
Becoming positive means making a shift from being reactive to being proactive. From avoiding the bad to doing the good. From seeing what is to seeing what can be.
We don’t need to take on all of our problems at once. We can be proactive just by knocking down one major obstacle, and then after that another. Each proactive change we make gives us more energy for the next. When we make these changes, our partners also become more motivated by our relationship. Becoming proactive in a marriage means temporarily taking the lead. When you lead, you don’t have to make sure that your husband follows. He will because, deep down, he loves you. If your husband really didn’t care about being left behind, he would have left already. Your husband may or may not feel as hopeless as you, but he wants a better situation too. Being proactive means starting the process that makes it possible for you to change your situation to a better one and for your husband to have a better situation too, with you.
Becoming positive means becoming proactive. Being proactive means taking steps to deal with your immediate situation and moving forward to a new and better way of relating.
As you see more clearly and feel more deeply that reactivity is not helping you, like Angela, you will become more and more willing to take a new approach. You will begin to see that being brave, and loving, and admirable, means doing whatever is necessary to get love, and affection, and positive attention. And that while many people can’t do those things, that you can, because you realize that life is short and marriages are important and that life is for living.
Your feelings let you know that things are not the way they are supposed to be, or could be. Already you have learned many things from wise and experienced people. And you know, if you want to, you can learn to deal with your marriage problems in a positive and effective way. A good marriage coach is both a caring and know leg able person, who can help you to be more effective. After all, you deserve love, affection, and attention for your sacrifices and commitment to your marriage. You don’t really want to continue to be reactive any more than your partner wants you to.
Here are some steps Angela took with me:
1. Finding immediate small and important changes she could make without her husband’s help. Just like a huge flat tire can be fixed with a little patch, sometimes our marriages are like that. One hole may have caused a lot of love to leak out. Angela’s marriage was leaking love in specific places like communication and sexual issues. These problems as well as financial issues, family issues, and getting past a traumatic event leaks love for many couples. Learning skills to plug each of those leaks can make a big difference.
2. Working on understanding what would motivate her husband to make changes. Angela had not realized that her husband was missing out on a good marriage as much as she was. But, he certainly didn’t know what to do about it either. We began to look more at his motivations, his desires, and how to talk to him about those. This was important for helping her and her husband to get on common ground–working together to build their love instead of arguing about whether their were problems or not.
3. She learned to predict, plan, and practice. Angela learned to recognize the interactions that happened between her and her husband as patterns. Instead of just reacting to what he said or what he did, she could tell herself that this wasn’t something new. Then, in coaching, we practiced the changes that would help those patterns to change. Not all at once in some drastic way, but in a loving and persistent way. She soon realized that almost everything that happened in their marriage was a pattern. It really helped her to feel in control and to gain her husband’s respect.
Angela continues to work on her marriage and knows that she will have to be on guard not to let things slip back to where they were before. But, she and her husband are much closer now and walking on eggshells is a thing of the past. As Angela said to me, “I will never do that again!”
How important are these kinds of changes to your marriage? How much better would you feel about being that way?
Only you know if it would be helpful to wait for change or learn to make changes. If you want to wait, then counseling may give you the support you need to feel better until that happens. Or, if you are ready to make changes, with marriage coaching you can learn positive steps that you can take now to draw the both of you together again. If you would like, you can get a Love Discovery session with me so that we can talk about your situation and some positive options. If you want to, I can teach you how to be tough and loving at the same time. Won’t you start to take the steps that heal, and help both of you, to fall in love again?