Ask Andrew – My husband has told me he loves but is NOT in love.
I have heard the words I love you but I am not in love with you. He has told me he put up a protective wall and he isn’t sure he can get the love feeling back. I have tried having candid discussions with him and he won’t talk or just says I don’t know. He says I am smothering him, my panic response so starting yesterday I backed way off and only give him a peck on the lips when leaving the house. We still sleep in the same bed but have very limited physical contact. We have had one therapy session so far. I am feeling very frustrated at this point in time and feel like no progress is being made to get that loving attachment back. It feels like he is completely disinterested in the whole process. I did ask him what he was afraid of and he again said, I don’t know. He told me ILYB about a month ago but says he has been unhappy for about 5 years. I have gleaned information from the websites, your book, but feel helpless. Any further suggestions?
If you take nothing away from my reply but one thing, please make it: Your panic is pushing him away. The more you become anxious, the worse he will feel (for causing all this pain) and the further he will retreat behind his wall. So when you’re worried, speak to your best friend, write a long letter to yourself, phone your mum, anything but candid discussions or taking your bad mood out on him.
Next let me offer some reassurance, five years is not a particularly long time for ILYB (and people tend to exaggerate to make a point as they’re terrified their pain might be brushed under the carpet). Men do not go to counselling unless they feel there is some chance of it working. His lips might be negative (and you will tend to remember these words and forget the ambivalent or positive) but his feet are taking him into the counselling room. Listen to the feet. Finally, one month is nothing – so don’t expect too much too soon – you’ve also made some good progress. You’ve stepped back. You’ve read my book and started to get help. Well done.
My final piece of advice would be not to rely on the counselling alone but to make a diagnosis yourself about what’s gone wrong and start to change your behaviour now. In a nutshell, I find most men fall out of love because they are find it hard to be assertive (asking for what you want in a clear way). I explain more about this in ‘Resolve your differences’. So instead of assuming he’s on board with something, ask and check it out. You probably already known when it’s a problem because there is an atmosphere but instead of challenging it, you let it ride (for fear of making things worse). Please be bolder and sort out the niggles. In effect, I want you to give him permission to disagree because it is much better for him to be honest – however painful at the time – than to drift out of the door on a cloud of niceness. You might also like to read ‘Help your partner say yes’ which will also help your communication.