Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“Help – I’ve Fallen Out of Love with My Husband!”

I have been married for 18 years and just recently I find myself not in love with my husband anymore. I told him I care for him and love him as a person, BUT I’m not IN love with him. The only thing he could say is that he’d change, but I don’t think that’s enough for me to stay with someone I don’t love. I really need some advice on this. — No Longer In Love

If you’ve been with your husband for 18 years and you’ve only recently found yourself to be not in love with him anymore, I’d say that’s kind of fantastic and, really, pretty rare. In long-term relationships, like marriages that have lasted more than a decade, there’s a cycle of falling in and out of love. I’ve heard that the key to avoiding divorce is for both people in a marriage to not fall out of love at the same time. As long as one spouse still feels the “in love” sensation – even if it’s temporary – the relationship has a fighting chance. It’s when both fall out of love at the same time and neither person falls back in love before one or both of them loses hope and motivation, that the marriage is doomed.

From the sounds of it, this falling out of love sensation is new for you – maybe a first round of the in-love-out-of-love cycle (which, again, after 18 years of marriage is kind of extraordinary and maybe you should share your secrets) – and your spouse wants to fight. Sure, the way he wants to fight doesn’t sound super efficient (what does “he’d change” even mean?), but the fact that he isn’t countering your revelation of not being in love anymore with a “me too” is encouraging. He wants to fight for your marriage, and there’s nothing you’ve said in your brief note to indicate that it isn’t worth fighting for.

So, what do you do? Well, first, accept that what you’re feeling is pretty normal. Over the course of an 18-year marriage, I’m sure you’ve had challenges (because what long marriage hasn’t?!); I’m sure there’s been suffering and boredom and frustration. I hope, though, that there’s also been joy and excitement and closeness. Can you look at the life you’ve created together and feel proud about any of it? Can you feel a sense of accomplishment? (If not, maybe this feeling of being out of love with your spouse isn’t as recent as you say it is, and that’s a problem.) If you can feel some positivity about your marriage, let yourself celebrate those high points. Then, think about what it is you feel is missing. Can you articulate it? For a lot of people who have been in long marriages, it’s a general feeling of restlessness, boredom, and wondering – at this midpoint of life – what other paths might await. Is the second half of your life just going to be more of the same? This can be an uncomfortable thought for many people.

Again, all these feelings are normal and they don’t mean your marriage is doomed. But if you can articulate some things that make you feel dissatisfied with your marriage/your spouse, that’s the first step toward crossing the hurdles and finding the passion again. Some potential things that may be affecting you are: not feeling attracted to your spouse anymore; feeling a lack of an emotional connection; physical intimacy has waned; you don’t spend enough quality time alone together; you don’t prioritize fun. If you’re having trouble articulating what’s affected your recent falling out of love, a marriage counselor can help. A marriage counselor can also help address the underlying issues once you’ve pinpointed them. Because there is a reason you’ve suddenly fallen out of love after 18 years together. And barring a serious betrayal or complete apathy about the union from both parties, there is potential to save the marriage and to re-ignite the flame that fueled your love in the first place.

Maybe you really are simply ready to throw in the towel and move on, but I think 18 years together is worth some self-reflection about how you arrived at this juncture. Both your husband AND you deserve some attention and a fight to save what you share together – or to see if you can re-claim what you once shared. Life is hard, it’s full of suffering and loneliness and disappointment. If you’ve been lucky enough to have a companion to share in some of the burden of life’s challenges along with appreciation for and celebration of its many joys, you may not be aware of how hard that is for many people to find. Don’t be so quick to throw it away.

Yes, falling in love or being in love is a wonderful feeling. But it’s fleeting. Real, long-lasting love doesn’t always have sparks flying or leave you with butterflies in your stomach. Sometimes the strongest love is the one you’re considering walking away from; it may not be what makes you jump out of bed in the morning, but it’s what holds you up throughout the day, even – or especially – in moments of crisis when you want to collapse. If you think your marriage has gotten stagnant though and you miss a reason to jump out of bed, work on that. See a counselor if you need help figuring out how (you can also peruse the self-help section of your local library or bookstore for guides to re-establishing a connection with your spouse), but don’t walk away just because you’ve recently fallen out of love. That would be like selling a reliable car because it needs an oil change or it’s run out of gas. There may still be many miles left in your ride. Don’t walk away before seeing how a tune-up might make things feel fresh again.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

11 comments… add one
  • MP October 29, 2019, 10:51 am

    Perfect, compassionate advice Wendy.

    LW, you should watch the movie ‘Take This Waltz’. It’s a movie about a situation very similar to yours.

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  • Jlk187 October 29, 2019, 11:11 am

    I’m going to recommend not watching “take this waltz” unless you are also having an emotional affair with your sexy neighbor and that’s why you’ve fallen out of love with your husband.

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    • MP October 29, 2019, 3:23 pm

      I interpreted the film as the opposite of what you say – I felt that Michelle Williams was bored/out of love and THAT’S why she followed feelings of temptation. To me, the movie was a cautionary tale and reminder not to leave something good because there’s a lull.

      The movie helped ME move past a similar situation as LW so that’s why I recommended it. 🙂

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  • Sea witch October 29, 2019, 11:17 am

    I think that romantic novels and movies have given us the idea that the intense courtship phase should last a lifetime. But that’s unrealistic, we need to get back to reality at some point and live our lives. I suspect that very few people are still “madly in love” almost 2 decades on.

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  • csp October 29, 2019, 12:19 pm

    LW – I would start making a list about what you like about your husband and the life you built. Then list what changes you need to see if you can make it better again. Like do you need more date nights or screen free nights. Do you need to laugh more together or spice things up. My husband and I have been married almost 13 years. And there have been times that we have both said something needs to change. Maybe it is scheduling time together. For us, there was a time that we scheduled intamacy like wrote get it on on the the calendar. Or we set up date nights at brand new places. We did an escape room and a comedy club so it wasn’t the same old restaurants. Maybe there is nothing you can do but i think it is worth trying.

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  • Witchmom October 29, 2019, 12:26 pm

    I have been married for over 40+ years, and I agree with Wendy. You fall in and out of love with your spouse over the course of your marriage. When one falls the other is there to pick them up.

    “Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
    ~ Louis de Bernières, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin ~

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    • Moneypenny October 29, 2019, 12:35 pm

      That’s such a great quote!! 🙂

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  • Cassie November 27, 2020, 3:25 pm

    Iv fell out of love with my husband after 8 years. I felt like I woke up one morning and felt nothing. In therapy I realized there was a lot of resentment. But not enough to make this happen. He was the love of my life. I was always so proud of him on how hard he works for me and our son. He loves taking care of us. I could always look in his eyes and feel that connection. Until that morning I was filled with fear, doubt, no love etc. I t was like my world turned upside down. Never did I think this could happen. I started antidepressents 4 days ago. I try to be an outsider looking in and I know what we have so many people look for. Great family, we workout together, very healthy relationship.. so I thought. I’m praying with my whole heart I fall back in love. I want that story so badly how people fall back in love. Because I know the grass isnt greener and I dont want anyone else. I just want him. I want to look in his eyes again and recognize him. Its almost like he turned into a stranger

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    • Bittergaymark November 28, 2020, 12:43 pm

      Honestly? Really? Sounds to me like YOU’RE the one who has changed.

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    • ele4phant November 28, 2020, 7:44 pm

      If you just started taking anti-depressents, it takes time for them to build up in your system and for you to feel a difference. Four days is not very long. For me it was a couple weeks before I even noticed a slight
      difference.

      Give it some time to see how your meds work, and keep working with your therapist and continue to be honest with your husband about how you are doing. Sounds like couples therapy would be helpful, if you’re not doing that already.

      I’m sorry, it sounds like you’re in a really vulnerable place right now, but it sounds like you are doing the right things, so hopefully you’ll get some clarity and peace of mind soon, whatever it is that clarifies for you.

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  • Renee December 5, 2020, 10:27 am

    Cassie,
    How are things going?! There’s so much of this that I’m relating to! It honestly felt like one day I actually could feel my love and passion slipping out of my hands! It was and is the scariest thing I have ever gone through! It’s as if you are holding your love over a building and is falling out of your hands unwillingly. I talked everything over with my husband too! I have never said that I have fallen out of love, because I’m still not sure if that’s what it is. But the feelings of nothing and disconnect flooded over me! And not just my for my husband, but in all areas of life. I feel disconnected from everything. I no longer have passion or excitement for anything. A life that I/we worked so hard for now feels all wrong. I’m scared to death everyday that I feel this way! When this feeling first came over me I panicked stopped eating and lost 25 lbs in one month! I kept going back to pictures of great memories to try and hold the feeling from not burning out completely! I felt them still there, as they were like a flame slowly burning out. Nothing I did worked. Now I’m here, praying everyday, like you! Asking God to please bring it back! I too don’t want anyone else! I just want my love, passion and since of this is right back with my husband and the life I live. I cry a lot when I think back to days I remember having thoughts of feeling blessed’ ‘I’m so lucky’ ect. How did I get here!? Why! And now talking with husband about all the feeling just made it weird. I feel like we were always each other team mate and now I feel like I have betrayed him. Like I broke our ‘unbreakable’ packed that we shared. I truly am so heart broken! How does one feel like they UNWILLING loss everything they lived for! My passion and happiness came from loving my family! Now, I feel totally lost, wondering with no passion and totally filled with anxiety and depression! And yes I also went to counseling. He seemed to think I had ‘ intrusive thoughts‘ that I then began to believe to be true which them lead me to being confused. He seem to not hear or see any signs of me ‘not in love’ but rather me suck on thoughts that were changing my everyday outlook on life, therefore changing the way I feel in the present. OCD thinking. But going to the counseling just left me feeling more confused and made me feel that I made it even a ‘bigger’ Reality of what I was going through.
    Anyhow, it’s a bit of a relief to fine someone that has the same feelings as me! I hope you are finding your way back to your love you both shared!!

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