Should I stay with my husband even though I don't love him anymore? We've been married for nineteen years and have two children, ages thirteen and nine. I still care about him as a friend, and the thought of hurting him kills me. But we're very different people with very different needs and interests. I feel like time is passing me by and I'm wasting my life in this marriage. I've expressed this to him, and he says he's willing to try because he doesn't want to lose me. But I really don't love him as a wife should. What do we do?
Your frustration is understandable, but you need to back up a bit and take another look at what you're saying. When you made your wedding vows, did you promise to stay with your husband "until my feelings change"? Did you write an "escape clause" into your marriage contract that gave you permission to bail out if and when you "fell out of love"?
Marriage is about a great deal more than just feelings. So is love, for that matter. Modern culture tells us that love is a self-gratifying emotion and that marriage is about "self-actualization" and "getting our needs met." But from a Christian perspective, marriage is based on commitment, self-sacrifice, and putting our spouse's needs ahead of our own. That's not always easy. It means hanging in there when everything seems to be telling you to throw in the towel.
Feelings are important, but they tend to change over the course of a marriage. Rather than making a decision to end your relationship based on emotions, we'd encourage you to use them as a guide. In other words, ask yourself what they can show you about where you've come from, how you came to be in the present situation, where you want to go in the future, and what you need to do in order to get there.
Apparently your feelings are telling you that your marriage lacks excitement and intimacy. But unless you are in an arranged marriage, it's likely that you were once very muchin love with your husband. You can rediscover that phase of your relationship by pulling out some old photo albums from the days when you were dating, engaged, and first married. As you look at the pictures of the two of you together, it's likely that you will recall some of the tender, romantic feelings you once had for your husband.
If those feelings have changed over time, it's probably because you haven't been intentional about keeping your marriage vibrant. Relationships, like cars, need regular maintenance. Without it, engines fail and couples grow apart.
Another marriage-destroyer is the "child-centered" parenting philosophy which has become very popular in recent years. When kids come along, many couples begin to place all the emphasis on their roles as "mom" and "dad" and very little on their roles as "husband" and "wife." Some women, especially those with less expressive husbands, tend to put all of their emotional energy into their relationship with their kids during the child-rearing years. By the time their kids enter their teens or go off to college, the couple has drifted so far apart that they barely seem to know each other anymore. You can reverse this trend by setting aside some time for special "date nights"- activities that will give the two of you a chance to reconnect and rediscover what it was that brought you together in the first place.
In your case, the good news is that your husband says he's willing to work on the relationship. Many women who've been married for twenty years would give anything to have a husband like that. Now you need to ask yourself: are you willing to work on the marriage? If so, we suggest you start by seeing an experienced marriage and family therapist. He or she can help get your marriage back on track. If you'll simply make the commitment and put out the effort, you may find feelings that you thought were gone forever beginning to return.
Focus on the Family's Counseling Department can provide you with referrals to trained marriage counselors practicing in your area. They would also be happy to discuss your situation with you personally over the phone. If you think this might be helpful, don't hesitate to contact them for a free consultation Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4537). The Family Help Center staff member who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counselor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they're able.
In this iQuestions video from Focus on the Family, Dr. Greg Smalley tells how to turn things around when you think you've fallen out of love with your spouse.
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Love and Respect - This ministry offers materials, articles, and conferences designed to help those already married to enrich their relationship and for those considering marriage to prepare for the journey together.
Experiencing a Fulfilled Marriage (broadcast)
Hope Restored® marriage intensives - Focus on the Family offers marriage intensive programs in a retreat setting, designed to rebuild and restore marriages experiencing significant distress.
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