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My husband and I are in our early 60’s and have been married for 42 years. He says he has not been in love with me for the last 30 years. We have 5 children, 8 grandchildren and a cordial friendship. We sleep in separate rooms and have for 10 years. He says I snore so he started sleeping in the basement.
Our last child just left home, so it is more apparent than ever that our relationship is seriously lacking. I’m not sure what to do. I don’t intend to get a divorce because I love him and we have a temple marriage, but I’m sad that we don’t have a loving and caring relationship.
The truth is that for years I anguished over the lack of love from him but gradually the pain has subsided. He has no desire to be near me or hold my hand or show me any affection. He never talks with me about anything other than his day at work, or the weather. He seems perfectly content with things the way they are.
I wish we had a real marriage relationship but I’m terrified to bring anything up. Sharing my feelings never helped anyway and I’m afraid I will start feeling that same old pain again. At this point in life is it better to just deal with what is, rather than make things worse?
You’ve spent years trying to ignore the awful pain of emotional and physical abandonment from your husband. Now that your children have all left the home, the old pain is bubbling to the surface. Because your husband has avoided and neglected you for so many years, it’s completely normal for you to feel this pain. President James E. Faust said that it’s “destructive to the feeling essential for a happy marriage for either party to say to the other marriage partner, ‘I don’t need you.’ This is particularly so because the counsel of the Savior was and is to become one flesh.” [i]
Even though your pain doesn’t matter to your husband, it still matters. It’s a sign that you opened up to love and that you have the ability to love another person. He is important to you as someone who can love you and someone to whom you can show love.
All marriages require accepting things we can’t change. It’s one thing to accept personality differences or parenting philosophies, but accepting that your husband hasn’t loved you for 30 years would be unbearable for any wife. You’ve chosen to stay in this marriage, so let’s talk about how you can still let your pain matter and endure the conditions of a loveless marriage.
Elder David A. Bednar taught that Jesus Christ is the focal point of any marriage. He used the image of a triangle to show that when Jesus Christ is the apex of the triangle and husband and wife are at the base points, the closer they move toward the Savior, the closer they get to each other.[ii] You and your husband aren’t on the same line, so keep moving toward the Savior and let that sweet connection with Him fill the vacuous hole your husband has left in your heart.
Eliza R. Snow challenged women to “go forth and discharge their duties, in humility and faithfulness and the Spirit of God will rest upon them and they will be blest in their labors. Let them seek for wisdom instead of power and they will have all the power they have wisdom to exercise. The Holy Ghost satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that Spirit, … my soul is satisfied.”[iii]
As you seek for wisdom instead of the power to get your husband to move toward you, there will be answers on how you can thrive in the midst of such terrible abandonment. You need inspiration more than ever to help you guide your life toward meaningful connection with others. The pain of your marriage can make you want to numb out or it can propel you toward seeking answers of how you can build a life full of purpose.
I’m not suggesting you avoid your husband. If you are staying in this marriage out of hope that somehow he can change his heart, then look for openings when you can connect with him. If he is open to talking, taking a walk, or sharing an experience, then make room for those opportunities. However, please don’t sit around and wait for him to be available. You have much to create and offer your family and your community.
If you are choosing to stay, then you do have to accept the reality of how he feels and how he’s treating you. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to suppress those feelings and live beneath your privilege. Let the pain remind you that love and connection is important to you. Find ways to express and offer your heart to those around you. There are many lonely hearts who could use the empathy, compassion, and support you can offer.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.
[iii] Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (2011), 45-46