Question

I’m in a bit of a rough spot with my marriage. I’ve been married 11 years and have no children. A few months ago, my husband told me he’s not in love with me and that he’s been “faking” it for the past 4 years. He wants to file for divorce and in the 6 months we have to wait for it to be final, he wants to see if we can work it out rather than just going our separate ways right away. He said he’s trying to see if he can feel anything for me. To me, I feel like he hasn’t made much of an effort because I’m always the one who asks him for a hug, puts my arm around him, gives him a kiss on the cheek, etc. He never makes efforts on his own. He seems wrapped up in the TV and his phone. It just bothers me because he says he wants to work on our marriage but his actions are telling me something else. We’ve been reading a marriage book together, but when I read it out loud, he doesn’t seem that interested. When it’s his turn to read, he tries to read through it fast and I ask him to slow down because I can’t understand. I’m literally out of ideas and I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve had so much stress and anxiety over these past few months, cried myself to sleep, even wished I weren’t here anymore because I’m tired of suffering in this pain. We’ve been best friends since I was seven years old and it breaks my heart to know that I could lose my husband and best friend forever. If you have any advice for me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Answer

Before you do anything to fix your broken relationship, it’s critical you get some personal help immediately so you can be safe emotionally and physically. The overwhelming stress you’re experiencing in your marriage is a signal you need to get support so you don’t have to do this alone. The thoughts of wanting to die aren’t something you should take lightly. Reach outside of yourself and let others know of your struggle.

While a professional counselor is an excellent option, it may take days or weeks to find one with whom you feel comfortable. Recognize you can get help immediately by talking with a friend or family member about your plight. This isn’t a time to minimize the seriousness of your pain and go through this alone. If the thoughts of wanting to die persist even after getting emotional support, make sure you get professional help immediately or go to the hospital so you can be safe. Your life matters.

With respect to your failing marriage, this is an important time to become more fierce in your commitment and loyalty to your promises. Musician and actor, Jon Bon Jovi, said the secret to keeping his 26-year marriage together is because his wife told him, “if I ever decide to leave, she is coming with me.” While I certainly don’t want to be flippant about your situation by sharing this comment, I believe there is some important wisdom in his comment.

Just because your husband wants to leave doesn’t mean you have to turn and walk the other way. You are not divorced yet. If you want to stay married, keep facing your marriage until he decides he’s done. While you can’t obviously force him to love you or stay with you, please know you still have a voice and can use it to fight for your marriage. You need to know you’ve faced your marriage and done everything you can do to keep your union intact.

Even though you and I both agree that his plan to file divorce papers as the opening gesture toward fixing his marriage isn’t the most effective plan, please see that he’s recognizing something is wrong and is making room to work on it. You don’t need to panic right now. You both recognize this marriage isn’t working well. I agree that you both need to divorce the old patterns in your marriage and build new ones. I just think you should stay married while you rebuild.

Tell him you agree that you both need create a new marriage because the old one wasn’t working. Let him know with no uncertain doubt that you are fully committed to working on building a new relationship that will last. Virtually all couples reach a point in their marriage where they realize there are patterns that aren’t working. His response might be dramatic, but he is doing something to try and fix it.

Go with the momentum and look honestly at yourself and encourage him to do the same. Don’t wait until he files papers. Get the professional and social support you need to repair this marriage. You can do an Internet search for “Hold Me Tight marriage workshop” and find one in your area. This is a great opportunity to get the education and support you both need to rebuild a new marriage. It sounds like he’s still willing to work on your marriage. Don’t fast forward to the worst possible outcome and miss out on an opportunity in the here-and-now to do something with your marriage.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves as the primary chorister. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT