“Why Couldn’t My Husband Love Me?”

My divorce is finally done nearly eight months from filing. We had to file bankruptcy, so it delayed the process. “Henry” and I were married 21 years. Always wanted a child, wasn’t able to conceive. After 18 years of marriage, we adopted a beautiful baby girl and brought her home from the hospital. It was an instant connection for me. She’s nearly four years old now and Henry doesn’t seem to have a true bond with her yet. He never helped me with her or with the housework or anything. He complained when I asked, so I quit asking. Our marriage consisted of barely any affection shown from him, no wild nights of passion, just get what we needed and that’s it. There was never a true connection between us. I was 18 when we married, and I thought he was my only chance at happiness. He’s quiet, to himself, and never seemed comfortable with me or anything in general. He lied during our years about using porn sites and phone sex calls. After the separation, he admitted it all but made light of it. I could write a book of how bad it was.

Then when I left, he sat in a chair in the living room, only saying, “I hope you know what you’re doing.” About a week later, I tried to come back. He said no because of the bankruptcy and other things, with just a cold answer. About a month later, I tried yet again and he said basically the same thing—as well as, “Well, the mobile home is having to go back. We won’t have anywhere to live. I just don’t think it would work.”

I was packing things up in our mobile home when he wouldn’t be there. He started leaving me “notes” of how he doesn’t understand stuff. No ownership for anything. No “I love you’s.” No “I want us to try again.” NOTHING! Just a bunch of words that didn’t make any sense.

Finally, I’m out. But my question: Why couldn’t he love me? I was the perfect wife to him. Why didn’t he fight and try to make our marriage work? Why didn’t he fight to get me back? I would ask him these questions, but I hope you can imagine that I wouldn’t get an answer that would make any sense. He was cold and heartless like the pitiful apology I got from him on this past Sunday, yet I accepted it because it did give me closure of some kind.

I’m thankful to say I have met a wonderful man. He is amazing! He treats me and my daughter wonderfully.

Thank you for listening and for any input you may have. — Never Loved By My Husband

I think what you’re wondering, especially now that you’ve moved on and have found a new relationship, is: what did you do wrong? Or, what could you have done differently? It is so tempting when a relationship ends or fails or doesn’t work out or however you want to phrase the dismantling of a union to try to pinpoint an exact reason or moment when the unraveling began so you can avoid such a moment again in the future, so you can protect your heart from ever breaking again or your ego from ever being so bruised. But the truth is, there is never a specific event or reason a relationship combusts. There’s never a criteria unmet that keeps someone from giving his or her full heart to someone. Sometimes, yes, there is a last straw — an incident, an action, a word, however big or small, that finally breaks the back that’s been giving the appearance of holding everything up. But those backs are weak already for a reason.

You were only 18 when you married, you say there was never a true connection between you, you settled for him — a quiet man who never seemed comfortable with you or with “anything in general,” with whom you never shared any passion or affection — out of fear that he was your only chance for happiness. You didn’t even know what happiness looked like if you thought he — someone whom you felt nothing for — was your only chance at it. And now you want to know why he didn’t fight for you? You want to know why, after you left him, he didn’t jump at the chance of reconciliation after you asked for him back?

After 21 years together, you manufactured the drama you hoped would ignite the spark you’d waited all this time to find and were surprised when it failed to light. And then you wondered: where did it go wrong? The answer is in another question: when was it ever right?

If the failure of this relationship to grow into anything that would finally bring you the happiness you believed you only had one chance at can be reduced to a single mistake it was in marrying someone you weren’t in love with. There was nothing you could have done or said to force your husband to fall in love with you if the connection simply wasn’t there. But what if you changed your perspective on the marriage? Couldn’t it be said that it did, in fact, finally bring you happiness? Doesn’t the child you adopted together bring you joy? Do you not find in her an undeniable connection, a closeness, an affection, and the promise of a love so deep and unconditional that your heart could burst at the thought of it? If you hadn’t married Henry, would the path of your life taken you to that exact baby? Probably not.

And maybe that is the secret to risking the chance of heartbreak again, which I think is the crux of your question to me. There is no guarantee that love will stay in the way you want it to stay, or that it will ignite and grow in the way you want it to. There’s no assurance that a relationship will last. And every time we agree to try or to simply surrender to the waves of feeling pushing us somewhere we can’t yet see, we risk being hurt. And I don’t know what the percentage is of relationships that hurt us – maybe 100%? — or what the percentage is of relationships that end, but I have a pretty good idea what happens when you continue your pursuit of love and happiness: eventually, you do find it. But maybe it was over your right shoulder the whole time when you were busy looking over your left and saying it wasn’t there.

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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.


  1. Avatar photo Guy Friday says:

    I was the perfect wife to him.

    No, you weren’t. I’ve never met you, and I don’t know you personally, but just based on the letter I can say with absolute certainty that you were NOT the perfect wife to him. But that’s not a comment on you as a person; it’s a comment on how poorly you two fit together. Neither of you were what the other one wanted, but neither of you wanted to be the one to walk away and admit defeat. And while that stubbornness can be admirable, even noble, it sets you up for the world of pain you experienced throughout your marriage.

    One thing Wendy didn’t explicitly say (though I think it was pretty well inferred) is that blame doesn’t always need to be assigned when a relationship ends. It’s all at once both of your faults and neither of your faults, in the sense that both of you could have been more honest about the incompatibility and neither of you are wrong for being incompatible. But at the end of the day, it didn’t work, and you both have the chance to be happier in new relationships. It sounds like you are, and I hope he ends up finding happiness too. It doesn’t mean either of you are bad or wrong; it just means you’re human.

  2. It you are now in a better relationship, why are you feeling so compelled to look back and dissect the remains of your failed marriage.

    I agree with Guy Friday. You weren’t the perfect wife for him and he wasn’t close to the perfect match for you. In fact, the two of you were a colossal, dysfunctional mismatch, with economic and fertility woes to make it all that much worse.

    What did you do wrong? I thin this line from your letter says it all: ” I was 18 when we married, and I thought he was my only chance at happiness. ” So… at the ripe old age of 18, you decided that you’d never find better than him, and desperately settled for what you knew in your heart was an uninspiring match. What else did you do wrong? You stayed in a bad marriage for far too long.

    Why, after you broke up, did you keep trying to get back together with him? He is a little braver than you. He finally internalized what a bad match you and he were and wasn’t up for a second round.

    The root of your problems seem to be low self-esteem driving your sense that you had to settle for this guy and having done so couldn’t leave and do better. Now you’ve quickly learned the reality: you could do better. Congratulation on finding a better man. Perhaps that will assuage your self-esteem issues, but I think you should work with a therapist so that those self-esteem issues don’t either sabotage your current relationship when it’s going well, or cause you to desperately cling to it if it goes south.

  3. This is one of the most baffling letters I’ve ever read here.

    You asked why he couldn’t love you? I’m not sure how you expected love to sprout from a marriage between two incompatible people, who apparently never felt much of a connection to each other. You settled for him. Maybe he settled for you, too?

    I’m also not sure how you mean that you were a perfect wife to him. Are you talking about superficial things, like having dinner on the table every night or keeping the rugs vacuumed, or dressing nicely for him? That’s nice and all, but it doesn’t have anything to do with creating a deep emotional bond where none existed before.

    The mistake here was one that both of you made – marrying someone you didn’t truly love. Marriage can certainly strengthen and deepen a powerful love, but the fact that you live in a house together and raise a kid together and have a piece of paper from the state that says you’re married doesn’t mean that you’ll fall in love with each other.

  4. anonymousse says:

    One could also ask, why couldn’t you just love him? It’s always sad when a relationship fails, but you’re past that now and in a new relationship. Maybe going to see a therapist to unpack all your mixed emotions would be a good start to truly moving on. No one is to blame, except maybe both of you for staying in a relationship that wasn’t working for so long. You married too young, neither of you ever loved each other in the way you think a married couple should. Forgive him for not loving you. Forgive yourself for staying too long. Look to your new partner and your future and get excited about better days ahead.

  5. Bittergaymark says:

    Eh, nobody with a pity party martyr complex is ever the perfect anything — much less the perfect wife. You blame him for not loving you… the woman who NEVER loved him, but married him anyway and thus fucking ruined his life.

    Talk about delusional.

  6. After a 21 year marriage, it is way, way, way too early for you to be getting into another relationship. And it is way, way, way, way, way too early for the new flame to have met your daughter already. I give it 3 months.

  7. LW, you should NOT be in a new relationship right now, especially not one where he’s already met your child! STOP. Be alone for a while, discover who you are when you’re not in a relationship, seek therapy to help you deal with all of the complex emotions you’re having about the ending of your marriage, etc. The last thing you should be doing is seeing someone new.

  8. CurlyQue —
    Very true. LW seems to see whatever man she is currently with as her last chance for happiness. That’s why therapy is a must.

  9. I really appreciate all of your comments. Yes, I settled for a man I truly didn’t love. I didn’t think much about it but no he didn’t truly love me. He just came out of a broken marriage and was looking for “love”. Yes we stayed together too long. Yes we “tried” and it didn’t work. Yes, I’m moving fast. No one is pushing me. I’m not settling for just anyone this time. Say I need therapy?! Who doesn’t these days?!

  10. I almost regretted writing my letter to Wendy. No disrespect intended to her. As I read the comments of therapy needed and how I’m searching for a man to find my happiness, I was resentful. There was so many things I wanted to say back to you and didn’t have the words. My situation could very well have been kept to myself and avoided all of what I read, that was judgmental in my opinion and hurtful. But, there was comments that also helped me to realize, neither of us was happy in the little world we created. Yes, I believe we were both wanting out and didn’t know how. I was not fair to him in not being what he needed. He was not fair to me in looking at things on the computer and making phone calls that he made either, but, oh well! My point is, I have a clearer mind now. I see that we were both living a lie. I see that what I have found, my first true love is real. Criticize me, ridicule me all you want. I know now what I am doing for myself and my daughter is right. I am not settling for the first man that has came along. I am deciding on what the true love in my heart and his is saying. Don’t question our love, please! I’m not questioning anything about your love life, don’t question mine any further. That’s all I’m going to say. I’m not obligated to explain it any further or convince you. But, I wanted you to know that your comments, no matter what I first thought about them, truly helped me.

    1. anonymousse says:

      Advising you to go to therapy is not an insult. It can really help you put your marriage in perspective and help you overcome the mixed feelings and emotions you’re still holding onto.

      It is worrisome that the guy you’re seeing now already has a great relationship with your daughter. We normally advise single parents not to introduce new relationships until after 6 months or so and when you know it’s stable. That’s for your daughter’s wellbeing.

      1. anonymousse says:

        You should take things slow before introducing your kid and playing family.

    2. You sound really, really defensive about your new relationship. Maybe just sit with that for a bit.

  11. Hi LW, I just wanted to say therapy is really great. It has helped me a ton. I’m sorry your first marriage did not work out. In my opinion making huge decisions (like getting married) at age 18 means you are more destined to fail. We change and grow a lot in our 20s and 30s…we get to know ourselves better…we become our true selves. I hope you find happiness in your next relationship, but be careful and take your time. This is especially important when you have a child. There is no hurry to get married….my husband and I lived together 7 years before tying the knot. We have been married 20 years. PS – My mom got divorced and had a series of boyfriends who lived with us…one after the other. She truly was insecure when she was single and having a man in her life made her feel more confident. This lead to many terrible relationships…some abusive. Be careful. And yes, consider therapy! It’s a great way to work on yourself and create the best version of yourself.

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