Dear Patricia: He's still the love of my life, even though he wants to move out
I HAVE been living in a very strange arrangement for a number of years now, and am at a crossroads in terms of how to proceed.
I've been married for many years, and am blessed with great children, who are now grown up. I am financially fairly secure, and outwardly would seem to have it all. Unfortunately, my husband doesn't seem to love me anymore, and I don't know whether to separate or stay together for the sake of the children -- especially as I still love him.
We were madly in love when we married, and have had good times and bad times together. About four years ago, he turned nasty, saying I was not attractive to him and everything was my fault. We started sleeping apart and had several terrible rows. I suspect he'd had an affair, but he denies this.
A couple of months ago, he told me he didn't love me anymore and was thinking of moving out. When I was confronted with this, I suddenly realised how much I'd be losing, and how much I still loved him, and asked him not to leave. I've improved my appearance since then, lost weight among other things, and have generally been making a real effort. But even though we're getting on much better, I'm beginning to think things have gone too far and he has lost his love for me.
This evening, I asked him if he'd like to go out for a drink to celebrate our anniversary, but he declined. I left the room and now can't get over the hurt and upset. I don't know if he's too afraid to love me again in case it goes back to the bad old days of fighting, or whether his love has just died. I feel if I knew for sure that he'll never again love me then I would ask for a separation.
I am very lonely and very afraid of the future. I don't know if living in a loveless marriage is better than risking a future alone with my children. Or do you think he will ever come round? Is it possible? I don't know why, but he's the love of my life. And it's torture being on the outside of his world, rather than fully part of it.
YOU are dodging. Frightened of the future, you're avoiding the conversation you have to have with your husband. And from the sounds of it, you've been doing that for a long time.
Four years ago, he effectively left you emotionally, socially and sexually. You may have challenged him then. Certainly you had rows. But you didn't reach him. You didn't confront him with the reality of what was going on between you.
Instead, you settled for some kind of Mexican stand-off. No, I'm not criticising you. Nor am I suggesting that your marital difficulties are your fault. I'm just telling you, perhaps in clearer terms, what you have already told me. The reality is that you really only woke up a few months ago, around four years down the line, when your husband said he was thinking of moving out.
And you're still dodging. And it's still doing you no good. From where I'm sitting, you sound as though you're in a fog. Which undoubtedly means that you feel you are in a fog. Clear it. Clarify your own thoughts first. Even if you haven't got the answers, you have to think about the questions. Are you really interested in your husband? Or are you, understandably, just afraid of the future? Do you want him to stay, at any price? Or, as you seem to suggest, do you need him to do a lot of things differently in order to keep the marriage intact? If you did part company, what would be your terms? Do you think you could reach an amicable separation in terms of money? And does he have to disappear entirely from your life? He's the father of your children, so could he remain as some kind of friendly support to you?
The point I'm making is that a separation is not just down to him. Staying or leaving, the terms have to be agreed between the two of you. It's not just a question of whether he loves you or not. It's a question of the quality of your relationship, be that a marriage or the life-long task of civilly respecting each other, particularly in the context of the kids.
When you've at least framed these issues in your head, ask your husband what's really going on. He's dodging too. So tell him you need to hear the truth, and the whole truth, because you do. Certainly it's scary. But it's not half as damaging as living in limbo. Start talking.