Why Your Husband Wants to Leave You


Usually, I write for people becoming distressed over their marriage. Recently, though, I have had an unusual number of comments from folks blindsided by a spouse who wants out. In this post and the one before it, I tackle the question of how to avoid being blindsided.
About twice as many divorces are initiated by wives as by husbands, but even men sometimes say, “I love you, but I am no longer ‘in love’ with you.” If it happens to you, your marriage is not over yet, but it could be soon.
Here’s a checklist of causes:
He’s afraid of you. You’ve become a bully. You might hurt him or make him feel like dirt at any moment, usually while you’re drinking, doing drugs, or crazy angry. [Solution: rehab, therapy, anger management classes, or Dr. Stosny’s Boot Camp] He has unmet needs he expects you to meet and you’re giving them and him the cold shoulder. [Solution: invite discussion of those needs, show you care about them, and help him find Third Alternative ways to get them met that don’t conflict with your needs or call for abilities you don’t possess] He’s full of resentment over something you did or didn’t do in the past. [Solution: tell him your relationship matters a lot to you and ask him what you can do now to get that relationship back on track] Yes, these first three probably sound very familiar if your read the post about wives who leave. Some issues transcend gender.
He’s full of resentment over getting belittled for some small overlooked chore. [Solution: treat your man with respect, even when you feel he’s left you in the role of the responsible one; he’s no child] He longs to feel respected but feels taken for granted. [Solution: even though he’s probably cut off all romantic gestures, try treating him with the respect and trust you showed initially to win his heart and watch them return] Physical touch is his Love Language, not yours, and you avoid any physical contact because you want no sex when you’re upset with him. [Read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages and get to know this language and what harm you’re doing] You broke your wedding vows and cheated on him, even a little, risking his self-esteem, physical health, obligations as a nominal parent if you get pregnant, and ability to trust your words or integrity. [Prepare for a long road back if he’ll have you, and go read DearPeggy.com for starters] You’re putting up with disrespect or excessive dependency from your kids, whether he’s their parent or step-parent. [Solution: look for Third Alternative solutions to your differences about how to raise them or how they should behave around you] You’re so busy being a good provider, mom, housekeeper, volunteer, or lost soul that you two no longer experience the emotion of love several times a day, that delicious bonus emotion felt in your chest when the two of you resonate with a shared experience of joy, amusement, awe, comfort, elevation, or better. [Solution: make time for it, be present for it, look into his eyes, smile, keep him at the top of your list and resentment-free, and do something enjoyable for a few minutes several times a day] Anger and resentment, often over a loss of trust and respect, are the culprits in most of these. If they lead to withdrawal, don’t mistake this for an improvement. Deal with them head-on and you can find your way back to “in-love” with almost any husband who loves you.

About the author

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.


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  • Excellent, Patty. If only miserable marriages would start looking for answers before the final straw. This is a way to open some eyes. Miserable marriages can regain the magic. I love that you say there is always hope!! (I’ve newly discovered your very wise site.)

  • “Physical touch is his Love Language, not yours, and you avoid any physical contact because you want no sex when you’re upset with him. [Read Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages and get to know this language and what harm you’re doing]”
    This doesn’t work if the female needs Words of Affirmation and all she gets is nasty and negative words. Offering physical touch and sexual touch when all you get is negative words just rewards the bad behavior. If the man wants physical touch he needs to speak OUR love language as well. I really am quite tired of all these Christian marriage blogs that are so man slanted and it’s the woman’s job to keep servicing the men and seeing to their needs despite the fact that our needs are going unmet.
    It is almost like prostituting yourself by offering sex and physical touch hoping that he will be kind to you.

  • Hi, Mary. This is not a Christian marriage blog. It’s a blog for people of all faiths (and none) who would like to know what they can do to make their own marriage experience better, without waiting for their spouse to change.
    One thing I would never advise to anyone who wants a happier marriage is withholding love in an attempt to get more love. It doesn’t work. If physical touch is what makes your husband feel loved, withholding it is withholding love. Offering to provide physical touch only in exchange for what you want or need sounds a lot more like prostituting oneself than does offering it in love to the person with whom you hope to have a life of love.
    I hear from women whose men suddenly walk out on them, and it breaks my heart. (Of course, I don’t hear from the ones who celebrate this turn of events.) Some quite innocently used sex as a negotiating chip while doing all sorts of other things they expected their husband to see as loving. Their resentment grew when he did not respond to those things, as his grew because he no longer felt any love. He may even have been deliberately withholding kind words because of his resentment.

  • I like how you followed your post addressed to men by a similar list addressed to women. As partners we can all forget that we’re not as pure as the driven snow, no matter how poorly our partner behaves.

  • I believe that you’ve forgotten a very important point. Maybe your husband is going through a midlife crisis (something that cannot be controlled). This is what’s happening to me at the moment. One day, out of the blue, my husband told me that he wasn’t happy, was feeling lonely, had never been in love with me, should never have married me(18years ago) and is leaving me when we return home after living abroad for 6 years. That was in May and we don’t move until the end of October. It’s been long and emotionally gut wrenching.
    And I can’t really say or do anything to make it better.

  • In my case my husband says that he loves me but does not love what I have become because I suffer from chronic illness. I do my best but am no longer able to keep house properly or work. He has now had an affair, which he is not moving on from, although he says it is over.
    I feel that if his health failed and I was well I would stand by him, he knows this because I stood by him during years of alcoholism.
    It is very hard now to cope with both my ill-health and his cheating; but ultimately the hardest to cope with is the loss of love, despite his saying that he loves me, I cannot see them being backed up by actions such as no further contact with the ‘other woman’ etc, so assuming love in practice is difficult too.

  • Sounds pretty awful, Yvonne. Let me add a few things that might help.
    First, when I say Assume Love, I do NOT mean act as if you are loved. I mean check out the things that cause you pain to see if perhaps your fear of not being loved keeps you from seeing the situation clearly.
    If you were to Assume Love for his not cutting off all contact with the woman he had an affair with, I would ask you to brainstorm explanations for a man who absolutely adores his wife continuing to have contact with a woman he once stupidly had an affair with. Some examples: The woman is someone he must talk to in the course of his work. He fears his wife is going to leave him and he wants to keep a door open because he can’t face being unloved. The woman provides support that helps him keep his alcoholism in check, and she’s found someone else to love her.
    First you brainstorm the list as if you’re not the woman getting hurt by this behavior, just someone writing a book and looking for a character’s motivation. As you brainstorm the list, you just might find yourself recalling things about your own situation that you could not recall while angry. This happens a lot. Once you have a list, you take a look at the evidence to see if any of these explanations might fit your own situation.
    It’s not a way to fool yourself. It’s a way to free your mind from the self-protective limited thinking we do when angry or afraid.
    Here’s another tool: Expect Love. When we expect some particular sign of love, we make it hard to see the love we’re offered and we rack up resentment.
    You expect your husband to love who you have become because you would (and did) do the same for him. Maybe he loves differently. His own experience of having you stand by him through alcoholism may not have been all positive. It’s worth exploring, since he says he loves you.
    You may also expect your husband to accept what you feel you can do with your new limitations. He may instead long to be consulted on which things get cut out of your day or on how to handle the new constraints on your budget. A chronic illness always affects both partners, and the one with the illness gets the final say, but involving the healthy one (that was me in my first marriage) in the choices pulls you together instead of pushing you apart to cope with the illness separately and disjointedly.
    One more comment on expectations. Sometimes, we feel so justified in ours that we cannot imagine our spouse not knowing what they are. Be sure you have asked your spouse for what you want. Unjustified blame leads to criticism and contempt, which lead to defensiveness and stonewalling, and those are the Four Horsemen of divorce that John Gottman identified in his research on how to predict divorce.
    I believe your husband wants to love you, not leave you.

  • MK said:
    “If the man wants physical touch he needs to speak OUR love language as well. I really am quite tired of all these Christian marriage blogs that are so man slanted and it’s the woman’s job to keep servicing the men and seeing to their needs despite the fact that our needs are going unmet.”
    I have been thinking for a week on these words and somehow this just bothers me. Instead of blurting out the million things in my mind, I’ll just pose a simple question in response. Is your significant other valuable to you aside from meeting your emotional needs?

  • Julie, I published your comment but failed to reply earlier, as we were away at the time. This is indeed a very sad reason for wanting to end a marriage. I hope that your husband will change his mind before it is too late.

  • Hello,
    I am not sure but I think my husband is thinking of leaving me, I recently opened my own business and my husband downs it, he is also very rude unless things are not going his way. When I got laid off all of this started

  • Hi, Jen. Starting a business is often tough on a marriage. The rudeness is likely a sign of insecurity and uncertainty. Be sure to share your business plan, especially your early cash flow projections. Be sure to go after small goals at first and meet them before you take bigger risks. Both will reduce that uncertainty and insecurity. And be sure you schedule your together time now the way you used to schedule your work time. A new business can consume you, and it can take your marriage with it.
    I also recommend your read this post for tips on keeping him feeling in love with you: Micro-Moments of Positivity Resonance.

  • Hello.
    All of the things you mention have been addressed. It feels like my husband has not been honest with me and that there has likely been an unfaithful incident over a year ago. In about a year’s time my husband went from being loving and caring to distant and downright mean. I’ve tried everything from being more available to being more loving, helping him and more. He’s a workaholic and his time is always strained. If I want to spend time with him it’s like I have asked for his arm. I try and try. So far, with no luck. I love my husband. I do not want a divorce. After ten years, how is this even happening? I know it seems like a stupid question, but this really took me by surprise and I’m trying to fix it but it seem like a lost cause. The suffering is dreadful. How do people survive a spouse who leaves? It feels like my future got blotted out. There must be some way for two people who once loved one another enough to say “I do” to find their way back to good. Isn’t there? Thanks ~ Brenna

  • So for how long must you keep this up? Things go smoothly you think you are making progress then he has another outburst of “you don’t do this or that””Why should I change, I’m still leaving”(He said that 6weeks ago, he still in spare room by choice)It’s slowly doing my head in. Help

  • Brenna, I am so sorry to hear this. It happens in a lot of marriages, and many of them pull through and become stronger and closer, but no one can make you any promises. However, I can suggest a shift in strategies. Be less helpful — it calms women but raises stress hormones in men. And switch from being more loving to being more respectful — again there is a sex difference between us.
    Many of us women have trouble understanding what respectful looks like. We’d prefer loving, so it’s really hard to stop doing unto husbands as we would have them do unto us. Respectful means appreciation for his hard work first, before any requests for more time together. It means never, ever referring to him as a child or treating him as one. It means not criticizing his way of doing things, even if you think yours is more effective or safer, as long as he’s not risking your lives, breaking laws, or ignoring his vows. It means praise for his strengths instead of criticism for his weaknesses. Those things will all make a big difference.
    Meanness is often just a way to even the score, and he’s using a different score card than you use.

  • My husband was having an affair online and I found out an emailed the women so I invaded his privacy. I know it was wrong but I was scared. He says he might leave me and get a divorce. He is willing to go to marriage counceling and he says he still loves me. Why would he want to leave me then? We are going to be married for 24 years in a few weeks. I am so down. I can’t think eat or sleep.

  • That is so sad, Sharon. I hope you two will try counseling.
    To explain the apparent contradiction in his feelings, many affairs begin with resentment over something in the marriage and a sense of futility about the ability to fix whatever is causing the resentment. So, when a person is caught violating their vows, it puts them in a pretty awful situation in which they now must ask for forgiveness and set aside whatever resentments they have been carrying around. And now there is the new feeling of being violated by having his privacy invaded (even if the rest of us call it sneaking around instead of acting in private).
    If you still love him, too, work through this. Hold him accountable for his actions, but also stay open to clearing up any resentments that predate the affair so you two can make a fresh new beginning. Twenty four years of your life is a lot, and he’s a big part of all of it. Rebuilding allows you to continue sharing those memories instead of pushing them aside or keeping them to yourself so you can establish a new relationship with someone else.

  • How do you learn to forgive the person who wanted to leave you but changed his mind and acts like it was never a big deal? And how do you stop questioning the future of your relationship?

  • Elizabeth, I think it would be very hard to trust he won’t leave you if he acts like it was no big deal to make the threat of going. But you’re as good as gone yourself if you cannot rebuild that trust, because your fears will overwhelm any feelings of love.
    It might be easier to address your fears than his behavior. What would it take for you to know you’ll be okay even if he does leave? What would need to be true for you to feel sad but not devastated if he left or died? Are those changes possible for you?
    If you want to address his behavior, imagine him saying or doing something that convinces you he will work out problems with you instead of threatening to leave when he’s unhappy with your relationship. You might find that several of the things you think you want from him don’t actually relieve your fears in this dress rehearsal.
    Keep trying. When you get to one that does, tell him what you imagined him doing and (this second part is very important) how much safer it made you feel, instead of why he owes it to you.
    He’s more likely to do something he knows will improve the situation than something he fears you could use as a club to punish him. You will feel some of the fear fall away just because he took this step.
    And then you trust him a day at a time. For one day, put your heart back into the marriage. Act as if this is your last day on earth and you want to spend it with him even though you have no future together. If it goes well, try it again tomorrow, like you’re in your own version of the movie Groundhog Day. When your heart is ready for it, give yourselves a month to live at a time, and your future will grow on its own.

  • Hi
    I just can’t believe how my hurt and misery is out there…and I am soon to join it too I think.
    31 years I have known my husband, 23 married and he is having a Mid Life Crisis plus the stresses of working too hard. Along comes a younger version of me and he wants to be with her and is fighting his demons. He may stay, he may not but ultimately it is his life, I don’t own him and if he feels he would be better off with someone else then perhaps he would be – I can see I have been negative about our relationship and perhaps even a bit of a bully (though only through trying to help him). I am so very lost and sad and so is he, he is racked with guilt and this is so hard to see and we love each other so much but I am not so sure it will be enough for him to stay – I have to believe that something positive will come out of all of this otherwise what was the point…

  • I am so sorry for what brings you here, Liz. While it is true you cannot make this decision for him, many people in his position hope and pray their spouse will ask them not to go. Sometimes, being unsure they are still wanted is all that is fueling the crisis.

  • My husband has already left. I’m sure he was experiencing a lot of the things you mentioned. About a month before he left (maybe slightly less) he started acting off, but before kept telling everyone he was happier than ever, including me. I felt the same. He just left very quickly and unexpectedly. I don’t know how to improve on the things mentioned since he is no longer in our home. We have been married 6 years, have a beautiful son and home, great jobs as well. He is under some stress at work and with his requirement to go back to school. I’m keeping my faith that he will come home. Since he left, a little less than two weeks ago, he is doing anything and everything he wants and the things he had to use time management for before because of family time (softball, surfing, volleyball, golf). He has always done those things just not every day. It feels like he is trading his family life for the opportunity to focus on hobbies.

  • Ashley, I am so sorry. It sounds like an awful time for you.
    And it does indeed sound like he’s walking away from the love and respect his wife and son offer him, the love and respect he’s hard-wired to crave, to make more time for these hobbies. They must be very important to him. And he must have come to a place in his life where he feels he must choose between what he gets from the two of you and what he gets from his hobbies. I can’t imagine the pain of such a belief.
    Any chance you could do some brainstorming on your own to think of some Third Alternatives to suggest when you get a chance to speak with him again? Those would be options for having both the hobbies and the family, options that would also appeal to you at least as much as your current unloved single-parent situation.
    Perhaps he could dump the stressful career with the unwanted education requirement for one as a golf pro, surfboard designer, or school teacher and softball coach. Maybe you could find a way for the three of you to enjoy one or more of these hobbies together, perhaps with a teen who gets paid to tag along and watch your son while you’re up at bat or out on your board. Maybe you could rethink the beautiful home for one that costs less and puts you in a better location and expense bracket for loving each other, like CJ and Tammy, authors of Wishing Our Days Away did — twice. Or maybe there is something you can do to bring in enough money to give your husband the freedom to say no to work demands so stressful that he would walk out on love to handle them.

  • Hi – my husband wants to leave all of sudden.. We have two beautiful boys. Been together for 10 years. He has long days at work and when he comes home I try to talk to him. He says he doesn’t wanna talk but just eat and go to sleep. I miss him so much during the day and I just want to sit down and have a conversation. He doesn’t give no hugs or kisses anymore either even if I try. He says I annoy and irritate him. He says it’s not working out and that we’d be happy without each other… I had no clue abut it not working out… I’m always trying to do everything for him and watch my mouth so I don’t say wrong thing.. I’m hurting so much.. I love him so much and would die without him… How can I have him fall in love with me again? I don’t know what to do.. It hurts so much

  • Jag, I am so sorry for your pain. It sounds like for some time, you two have been aware of each other’s wishes but ignoring them. You know he does not want to talk when he comes home from work, but you try to talk to him anyway. He knows you want to talk with him, but he does everything he can to avoid it and even make you cautious not to say anything that will upset him.
    Each of you thought things were working out this way until one day he decided this is an unpleasant way to live.
    It is not necessarily the end of your marriage, but it is definitely the end of this crazy standoff.
    There is one thing most men want to hear their wives say, but when he’s unwilling to have the sort of conversation she wants, it’s usually the first thing to go. He wants to hear he’s a good man, appreciated, respected for putting in a long day at work (or for looking for work or for staying home with the kids). He wants to hear this as much as she wants him to show up at the door the way he did when love was new: with a kiss and a hug.
    The script that would probably work wonders in most married US households goes like this:
    She: Welcome home. You must be tired after working so long today. You have no idea how much I appreciate the way you take care of us.
    He: You know what makes it all worth it? I get to come home to the most important person in my universe, my beautiful wife.
    Instead it often goes like this:
    She: Is that you? I’m in the family room. You won’t believe what broke today. Or what Veena said Raj did. I missed you today. You should have seen how well the boys did at soccer practice. How did your day go?
    He: I’m really tired. How soon is dinner?
    He’s deflated because he feels like an afterthought on her busy day. Because he was missed, not appreciated, not thought highly of. And because he’s worn out, at a transition point in his day, where he gets some food and sleep and repeats it all tomorrow or takes a few minutes to relax and regain his interest in life.
    She’s deflated because she feels unimportant to him, and he’s uninterested in all that happened during her busy day, which is still busy right now and won’t pause until either they sit down and have a chat or one of them gets dinner on the table.
    Deflated people don’t have much energy for hugs and kisses and thinking of each other’s needs.
    So, I would start with a Third Alternative approach. It begins by announcing that you want what he wants, but you need to find a different way to give it than he’s suggesting. In this case, you could agree that you want his time after work to be less annoying and irritating, and you want to find a way to give him this, but living apart cannot be the way. I would tell him all the reasons you want him in your life, skipping the you’re important to me, I can’t live without you reasons and focusing on the reasons why you admire and respect him, why you want your sons to grow up with him as a role model. Then I would tell him you take nothing for granted about your current lifestyle and circumstances in finding a better way to enjoy being married.
    My first husband and I made the mistake of thinking things were unchangeable. We chose not to go out at night because we both spent so many hours apart from our son. But his idea of fun at home was reading a book or playing a video game, while mine involved conversation. After he died and I was forced to knock an hour off my commute, I ended up working within walking distance of his university office. It occurred to me that if I had challenged the need for the commute sooner, we could have met for lunch once a week while our son was in school and we both had more energy. We could choose a different restaurant every week, and we would be in the middle of our workday, still hopeful we’d get everything there done and still oblivious to all that needed doing at home. Those times when he was hospitalized, I could have visited him on my lunch hour, maybe even taken things to and from his office for him. I would have heard more about his work just because he was in the middle of doing it, and I would have been in awe of him, because it was really challenging work and he was really good at it.
    I also discovered after he was dead that I still needed people to talk to, people who wanted to hear the bizarre minutiae of my day. So I found some, all of them women like me. And I realized I could have done this, too, while he was still alive. It wasn’t that he despised all conversation, but he feared starting one because I could go on and on and on once started. Maybe you’re a bit like me, too. I was really glad I figured this out back then, because being less in need of just talking has given me a lot more good but limited conversations with my second husband.

  • Im so hurt my husband out of nowhere comes home and says he dont love me anymore yes i admit im vary mean to him sometime with stress over work but i truly love him with all my heart

  • Hurtlady, I feel your pain. But did you really think your husband could handle your being very mean to him while you kept your love for him in your heart?
    Now you are both hurting, and the ball is in your court to rebuild love, one kindness, one touch, one shared moment of happiness or spirituality or awe at at time.

  • My husband told me the other day that he no longer is in love with me he cares about me and loves me in that he doesn’t want me to be hurt But he no longer wants to be with me. He says I’ve pushed him away to the point where he no longer feels anything for our relationship. We have a 9 month old daughter and I battle depression and anxiety which causes me to lash out at him. He says he feels like a slave and that I treat him extremely poorly and he’s right I’ve been horrible to him for the last year or two. He says there is nothing that will fix this but I do not want this to end. I love him with my whole heart and think that we have a wonderful family and are just going through hard times. Is there anything I can do to help hI’m want to stay? He refuses to go to councilling as he says it’s hopeless and that his feelings won’t change.

  • Christina, if you’ve been treating him poorly instead of treating your depression and anxiety, there’s a good chance that you could fix things just by going to counseling for yourself. First, see your OB/Gyn about postpartum depression (it’s common), because there are drugs that can help. Then start working with a cognitive behavioral therapist (a type of psychologist) who also counsels married couples. He or she will help you decide when it’s time to invite your husband to a session.
    In the meantime, ask him not to file for divorce or cheat on you for six months, even if he insists on living separately. You could be a totally different, happier person in that time, and you might even want to look into a marriage education class in your area (just for you now, until he sees a reason to invest more in the relationship). Many of these classes are listed at http://smartmarriages.com.

  • I have been married for 20 years this month. The majority of it has been happy although sometimes challenging due to chronic neuropathic pain that I suffer from. It is difficult to stand or walk for more than 30 minutes @ a time. I also cannot drive due to the increased burning it causes. My husband came to me about 2 years ago and told me that he was unhappy. He said he still loved me but resents the illness. Well, we got through 2 more years and didn’t talk about it much. I have chronic pain so of course it still put lots of limitations on our lives. I can go to movies,shows,out for dinner so I realize it could always be worse so I’m thankful I can walk @ all. Due to medicine and not being able to exercise like I used to caused me to gain weight which also others him tremendously. Anyway, he came to me again saying he dosent want to leave but is very unhappy and dosent know what to do 1. My weight 2. Limitations 3. He will be 50 next yr and can’t get promoted and hasn’t gotten other job offers. All of these things has him VERY unhappy. I feel he’s falling out of love. If I don’t find a way to ” stand more often” he’ll be unhappy. Is my marriage in trouble? What should I do. Would love some input.

  • Tammy, it’s good that you recognize a large part of his unhappiness has nothing to do with your illness. It comes from approaching one of those birthdays that can be very scary to approach, which will resolve itself soon after his birthday passes, and from stalling out in his career.
    Why does he tie this to your illness? Probably because he’d like to do better by you, and he can’t without a raise or a new job. Letting him know you respect the effort it takes to keep doing a job long after you’ve mastered it and deserve to move up may help relieve some of that unhappiness.
    If your weight gain adds to your disability, he may feel even more lack of control over his situation than the neuropathy causes. Problems seem smaller when we are taking action on them. So, you might ask his help in losing weight, if you’re up for that struggle.
    You might also ask his help in finding ways to get out more without standing or walking too long. A rollator or scooter might help, as would finding fun things to do in a seated position, like boating or fishing or bus tours, or renting a wheelchair at an amusement park or museum.
    It’s also possible that your husband is making the same mistake I made while married to someone with a chronic, painful disease. I limited my activities to what he could do with me. In retrospect, I realize how foolish this was. If I had joined a hiking group or taken dance classes or found some friends who wanted to take outdoor photos with me, I could have found a way to share this with him. When we were staying home not doing these things together, it was because he was in pain. But I was not. My body was screaming at me to get out and move more, and my brain was not preoccupied with the pain that was keeping us home, so my resentment grew and grew.
    It was an unrelated situation after my husband’s death that made it clear I had been silly not to get out and do things, alone or in a group where it was unlikely I’d accidentally fall for another man. I was planning a trip to Europe with my young son, and my good friend, mother of my son’s good friend, asked if I might take her son, too. The reason? Her husband would not fly, so they would never see Europe, and her son would miss out.
    It’s always easier to see through other people’s faulty thinking, so I asked her to come, too. At first she could not imagine her husband agreeing to this, but it turned out he, too, hated that his son and wife were missing out on Europe just because he wasn’t able to enjoy it. He helped us plan the trip, watched the videos we took, and looked at everything we brought back with us, even more than if he’d gone with us. And once she realized she wasn’t doing anything good for him by avoiding airplanes with him, she took her mother to see where her parents came from and now she travels halfway around the world to spend time with their grandchildren.
    Your husband may need a nudge from you to try a few things without you. I expect he’ll find himself a whole lot happier doing the things you can comfortably do if he’s also doing what he’s capable of.
    In the meantime, also remember the things that hold a marriage together: respect, touching, kissing, sharing positive emotions together, and celebrating his successes by paying active attention when he reports them and recalling aloud the efforts that led to them.
    I hope you two weather this difficult time, because it is the sort that can help build a stronger foundation for a happy retirement together if it doesn’t drive you apart.

  • The unfortunate truth about this blog is that it is obviously written for women and men will never read it. I am married over 30 years. The children are gone and my husband wants nothing to do except watch TV, complain about politics and his job,ask for dinner and expect to open his closet to find clean clothes. I do not yell at him, I am in shape…the more I cater to him or try to please him the more content he is to stay the same. I haven’t seen flowers for I can’t remember how long. When you have prayed, cried, prayed, sought counseling, read books, had numerous new hairdo’s and dressed up pretty for him…sought to make conversation, joined a Fantasy Football team in order to somehow have something in common with him to talk about and nothing makes him interested in you …You are burnt beyond hope. Love you wife as Christ loved the church?…I have seen this so many times and am experiencing it myself. Men don’t care enough…they do not wish to change and women are left hungry, lonely and wondering what on earth they did to live like this. When churches get serious about addressing husbands as to what their part is, how Christ loves first and we respond, then and only then will things change. The majority place the burden completely on the woman to somehow change, adapt, become more submissive etc, etc, etc. when both of you said you would “Forsake all others”. It is the generally the women who are willing and not the men, and I am speaking about Christian marriages. Very sad but very true. Do I want our marriage to end on such a sad note? No…I never have. But year after year of pain and loneliness and lost dreams becomes more than a heart can bear.

  • Bernie, I am so very sorry to hear how unhappy your marriage is. And you are exactly the sort of person I write it for. I write it for women and men like I was, those who try and try and try to get their spouses to “do the right thing.”
    You write, “the more I cater to him or try to please him the more content he is to stay the same.” We change when we’re uncomfortable with the status quo, not when it’s getting better. And we feel more loving, more generous when we’re loved freely, not when a spouse is desperately trying to manipulate us into behaving differently.
    So this strategy of yours, the one so many of us turn to first, is very likely to backfire just as it has.
    If you’ve ever flown on a commercial plane, you’ve surely heard the admonition to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. It’s good advice in marriage, too.
    Take up a new hobby that makes you happy. Make new friends. Spend time with old friends. Buy yourself flowers. Hug your children, your friends, your parents. Dress up pretty for yourself or buy some clothes that make your new hobby more fun. Write in a gratitude journal every night: 3 things you’re grateful for that happened today.
    Ask nothing from your husband, but as your happiness begins to grow, pay attention to find ways he still shows his love. At first, they may be as rare or difficult to spot as four-leaf clovers in your lawn, so give yourself five minutes a day to actively search for them. You may even need to stretch a bit. Did he shave today? That’s the male equivalent of dressing nice. Did he go to work? An awful lot of men see this as an act of love — it’s often unpleasant and many would choose less stressful jobs if they did not have someone else to take care of. Sometimes, complaining about a job is a way of fishing for love or respect for their sacrifice.
    I’m not suggesting you proclaim your husband Man of the Year for shaving his face and showing up at his job. Just notice that he’s showing love when he does them, and he probably does them pretty often. For now, you’re taking care of you, so just take notice. You don’t need to do anything to earn this love. If you feel moved to do so, say thank you for it. If not, just take it in.
    Other ways men show their love: through sex, stroking your hair, an arm around your shoulder, trusting your judgment, attempting to solve problems you share, fixing things around the house, picking up one item from your 30-item shopping list, taking you out to dinner, offering praise for your successes, spending time with you doing something you both enjoy.
    When their lives have become nothing more than work, TV, and meals, they’ve usually shut off a lot of ways of showing love out of fear or out of resentment that the things they do to show their love go unrecognized. Most women who feel unloved start trying to “earn” more love. Most men who feel unloved (especially those who feel unappreciated) start trying to avoid criticism, and their lives become so narrow that they despise them, but they have no idea what would fix this. They expect that starting over with someone new would fix it, so staying faithful actually becomes an act of respect for their wives, one for which no one gives them any credit.
    As you saw when you two were newly in love, most men instinctively know how to make a woman feel loved, and they do it willingly, even competitively, when they feel loving. But they never felt loving because a woman was pretty or slim or had a nice hairdo. They felt loving because a woman who was prettier or slimmer or better-looking than they felt they deserved was appreciating them.
    Their fathers said, “Get a job!” A woman who admired that job filled their hearts with the joy that leads to loving acts.
    Their friends asked questions about the latest sports scores, and he developed the habit of making sure he knew them. A woman asked them to serve as her expert to explain the game, filling their hearts with the joy that leads to loving acts.
    Now, that same woman doesn’t want to hear about how challenging the job is. She wants to play fantasy football and compete with him. In many cases, if he were to suggest they do something fun together for a few hours, she’d reply as household manager, not date, and remind him the leaves need to be raked before Friday morning or that it will soon be too cold to paint the front steps.
    Put your own oxygen mask on first:
    – Buy yourself flowers every week.
    – Do other things that make you happier.
    – Watch for the few little signs that your husband really still loves you and wants your respect and savor them. They are seeds that grow or die.
    – Allow into your heart the joy that makes you want to love him for him, not for you.
    – Remember to be his date if you get the chance.
    – Realize that it will take him a lot longer to let into his heart the joy that makes him want to love you for you, not for what you can make him for dinner, because he’s begrudgingly okay with the status quo, while you are not, but all of your new-found happiness will open up windows to let the love in.

  • Help After 17 years of marriage my wonderful giving, kind, patient, loving, thoughtful husband, aged 47 said he wanted to end the marriage to me aged 50. It was a complete shock I knew nothing was wrong. He said he didn’t ‘connect’ with me and didn’t even know if we ever had, we were from different classes (he came from a council estate, I a bungalow in the country I don’t understand this) and that I only showed affection sexually. I begged and wept all night to give me/us a chance. I thought perhaps the recent change of job (which he is not enjoying) house move or his health problems may have affected us. Also we didn’t go out as a couple alone. He went to work and the next day came home at lunch to say he didn’t know I cared so much and we would try. I spent the next 8 weeks trying my hardest to show more affection (i know I find it difficult to do this but initially he was the one who didn’t like shows of affection in public) we went on a couple of date nights, games night with our 16yr daughter and I up’ed my game in the bedroom (although sex had always been good and about once a week, he said that was enough for him these days) But 2 weeks ago he stopped trying after a bad weekend where his only enjoyment was running training for a marathon and when at home his hernia feeling worst. I said not to judge our marriage on this basis, he said it wasn’t the hernia (stating “it’s not that bad”) and I that have been doing everything right and have been brilliant but he still felt wrong to carry on trying. I had to go away for a week’s training course and the only communication via text and Facebook was brief , the day I was due back I messaged to say I would be finishing earlier than expected, his only reply was “OK, I’m still going to keep fit”. He didn’t even offer to meet me from the station or ask what time I would actually arrive. During this time I had arranged to see a counsellor, (i had asked him to come but he always said no) during the week before going I pulled away from him asking he not still hug me and peck me on the cheek as it upset me too much (it felt it was only pity he felt) I spent time with a friend, went out to do household tasks and basically cold shouldered him. After 3 days he rang the counsillor so he could go by himself as he said speaking in front of me would only hurt me more but they advised we both attend couples counselling. So we went it wasn’t very successful. He said he didn’t think he loved me anymore, he raised issues about my not trusting him as I `stamped` on his Facebook friends who were female who sent encouraging messages about his marathon training ( I said it was them I didn’t trust to have ulterior motives) and this was due to 8years ago he offered friendship to his badminton partner she was struggling in her marriage and took his kindness as something more. He wrote a letter to break it off with her saying he thought she was his sole mate but he would not leave me due to our then 9 year old daughter. He said at the meeting that he couldn’t remember saying sole mate and he was just trying to break off the relationship to make it sound final. After the session he felt physical sick and didn’t want to talk he feels he is not saying anything new and feel he is making it up, just to ‘please”me. He did say a couple of new things in the following nights that he feels on edge with me, everything I do seems forced and things I do/did make him upset or mad and they shouldn’t do and he doesn’t like the person he is turning into. I have tried to say if he is bottling it up and not saying then it is bound to affect the way he feels but he does want to give me any more time to try and he doesn’t want to try. He has told his parents we have grow apart and don’t have the same interest which I can’t understand we go to the same run group on a Saturday morning and I support his longer run, we like the same music and he doesn’t do anything else apart from Xbox games. He didn’t seem to have a plan apart from sell the house as he can’t afford to move out but tonight he tells me he has been to the building society to see if he can buy my half of the house and suggests I go to my mum’s as the atmosphere is affecting our daughter. I’m desperate I don’t want leave I don’t want him to leave but it’s a horrible nightmare I just want to wake up from.

  • Oh, Bridget, this must be so painful. I am so sorry you’re going through this. Take a deep breath (or seven), because once things get to this point it takes time to pull them back together, and you need to remain consistent over that time. It’s quite difficult to be consistent while panicked.
    I have to admit to not knowing the difference in class between country bungalow and council estate, but if he’s suggesting you outclass him, it fits with a number of other things he’s said.
    Here’s my best guess (and please note that I’m a marriage educator, not a therapist or counselor): What he means by affection is quite likely different from what you mean by affection and from what’s usually meant by public displays of affection. And his need for it is quite possibly triggered by his unpleasant new job.
    Because you’re both at the breaking point now, I suggest a quiet, calm, private conversation in which you ask him to tell you more about what non-sexual affection looks like and feels like to him. He may not be in touch with what it is, only what it isn’t, so let me suggest some possibilities you could inquire about.
    1. You tell someone else in public how proud you are of him for something he’s put a lot of effort into (e.g., changing jobs, learning new skills, dealing with new people, supporting his family for 17 years).
    2. You go out to dinner together and tell him this stuff in private.
    3. You tell him that while you worry constantly about the intentions of women who cheer him along in his physical development, you trust him to be able to protect your marriage from their bad intentions (trust is huge).
    4. You compliment the impression he makes in the clothes he wears or the improvements in his physique from all this running.
    5. You say in his earshot how fortunate you are to have a husband who is getting better-looking with age.
    6. You make time to show up for his longer runs and cheer his arrival at the finish line.
    7. You compliment his taste in music, even though it’s your taste, too.
    8. If his Love Language (see http://www.5lovelanguages.com) is gifts, you show affection with unexpected little gifts. If it’s Acts of Service, you do chores or helpful things for him and announce that you did them for him. If it’s Quality Time, you schedule larger blocks of time for being together and ask what he’d like to do then. If it’s Words of Affirmation, you add even more praise and compliments to those listed above. If it’s Physical Touch, you touch and kiss him (in private if you prefer) and don’t presume he’s being phony when he does the same.
    9. You tell your daughter, in his earshot, what Character Strengths you admire in him and how his strengths allow you to use your own strengths more. (For example, “papa’s great courage makes me feel safe, and that lets me be more creative” or “If it weren’t for his perseverance, I probably wouldn’t ever have known the great feeling of finishing that race”.)
    10. You don’t criticize him to anyone else or criticize him in private for actions that really don’t pose you any harm (like leaving jam on the counter or failing to pick up milk while he’s out), because those undo this sort of affection the same way a kick in the shins would undo physical affection.
    You might be able to buy yourself another chance if he realizes you simply misunderstood what he asked for during those eight weeks. Or you might plant a seed that leads to him choosing to try again after a few weeks apart. People who send their spouses packing often feel a good bit of pain once they realize that the emptiness of not seeing or hearing from you for a few weeks is worse than the resentment of feeling you had no affection for him.
    But try not to repeat the yo-yo of trying to improve things, then rejecting and withdrawing. Stay consistent as much as you possibly can. And rebuild one good feeling at a time.
    I wish you both renewed happiness as a couple.

  • Thank you, May I ask do you think it would be better if I went to my mum’s to give him space but then how could I carry out you advice when I wouldn’t see him or should I help him move out e.g. sort out money situation so he feel able to go.

  • Bridget, I am not close enough to your situation to know if things are tense enough that separating for a while before you start mending things would help.
    However, I can tell you that if you still love him, you should not do anything at all to make his departure any easier.
    And if you jointly own your home, I would advise anyone in the US to to talk to a local lawyer before doing anything that could later be interpreted as moving out. I don’t know if this caution applies in the UK.

  • I recently turned 50, my husband of 16 in a half years is almost 42. We have one 15 yr old son together. He works outside the US and is home on average 115 days per year. His days home are a little here or there each month or every other mo. I have had neck and back issues since 2001, off and on, but still worked and kept everything up, rental properties, son, vehicles, house, land, yard, bills, saving, repairing, maintaining, anything that comes up, I get it done before he even gets off rig, so he will have more time to spend with our son and me. I recently had back surgery. He was home for 2 weeks, I was down about a week but still had sex, still drugged myself around to do what I could manage. I thought and truly felt closer to him the past few times he was home than I ever have since being married in 1999. However, when he got back to his job/rig in different country, he starts acting distant, cold, hateful, and out of the blue blaming me for a long list of things, that blew my mind to hear. He only calls one time each night after he finishes his daily job on the rig. So during these brief calls he started raising cain with our son over making a few C’s, bc son normally has A’s and B’s, but due to being monitored every 3 months with a severe case of ADHD, and on medication for it, his grades do slip at times. My husband started out mad at our son, then turned it on me and kept coming at me. And said everything he could in the direction of divorce but I could tell he did not want to say the D word, he was trying to get me to say it. I did not say it. I did say, all of this unhappiness that you say you’ve been feeling for years, and all these things you don’t like about me has just stunned me like a stun gun all over my body, my heart feels crushed. Totally in a fog over it. I said think about it and let me know what you decide to do. He immediately goes, we will get divorce I knew you wanted to divorce, okay we will divide this and I will live here and he will live at so in so. He jumped on it. And the big kicker was, he said the sex is great, he couldn’t ask for a better sex life with me. But he hates that I save money and pay the bills down. He hates that I don’t like his mooching, drunken friends who use him so bad. He hates that I don’t sleep in bed with him when he snores so loud the neighbors probably wear ear plugs. He said I’m his wife and I SHOULD STAY IN BED WITH HIM SNORING, EVEN IF I DON’T GET ANY SLEEP. (That’s self centered, selfish individual in my opinion)
    He hates that I don’t agree for him to go charge money on his credit card and lose it gambling $$$$$$$ hundreds of thousands. (While I’m at home pinching pennies, eating tuna fish and not going anywhere, I’m not having any fun, I’m doing the work). He’s giving our hard earned money to a casino. And he hates that I want say to him, I will up and move with him to whatever country he decides to move to. And for me to move gladly with a huge smile on my face. We have a 15 year old in high school, who has to be looked after and helped with hw, and I have to stay on him to get him through school. Husband also said that even though sex is great, it would be nice to have sex in spontaneous places, just random places. (I do very good, to be able to do it in a bed with the neck and back issues I have), now he tells me this. And he hates that I want send him nude pics when ever he asks me. I’m so sick and freaked out over all this. I feel like everything Ive struggled for, busted my butt for, gave up years of my life to help him succeed and push and encourage him to succeed so he will be happy and we will have the things we always dreamed about, are NOW, poof gone. I told him I will work on those things to a degree. He said if I can do those things we can stay together. He said he loves me but can’t handle the things he mentioned. The more I think of all these things, I wonder does he have someone else, been with someone else (he said he hasn’t which of course a man or woman would say there’s no one else when there really was). I feel like the damage is done for me. BC even if I do everything he demands, in the front of my mind, I will be thinking he just told me he has been unhappy for years, (when I thought we were closer than ever, intimately and emotionally), and that was a lie, so how can I move on with him after this major blow????

  • DebrinaMaria, I am so sorry for the pain you must be feeling right now. You’ve both led a difficult life of separation and hard work.
    My guess is that you expect appreciation from him for all you do to keep your finances, rental properties, house, yard, vehicles, and son well taken care of. And that he expects appreciation for the exhausting work on the rig and the increasingly difficult travel to and from the rig.
    Unmet expectations lead to resentment, which corrodes the feelings you have for each other. And even though you felt closer during recent visits (probably because he was showing more emotion and affection), the resentment was still there underneath, ready to bubble up as soon as you learned of his resentment.
    If you just do as he asks, you’ll likely find yourself even more resentful. If you argue with what he asks, you’ll find him more resentful.
    But if you look behind his requests, you may find yourself willing to look for Third Alternatives, options that meet his needs and yours, too.
    It’s entirely possible that he’s trying to talk himself into choosing someone new — someone who lives where he works and has fewer physical limitations when it comes to sex than you and shares his attitudes about the use and abuse of money — over you. But he’s talking to you about it, looking for you to push him away, which means he’s aware of all the great reasons not to talk himself into this. Finding Third Alternatives will help him make the right choice.
    And you can only find them together. But you can take the lead. The way you start the search for Third Alternatives is to jump the net and put yourself on the same side, acknowledging that you want him to have what he seeks, and you’re objecting only to the way he proposes to get it.
    So, for example, you might recognize that maybe those mooching friends are also the same ones who protect his life doing a dangerous job, the ones who swap shifts with him when he’s not feeling well enough to do the job safely, and perhaps they mooch because gambling is how they all blow off steam, and he’s the only one with some restraint on his gambling. His need for money to spend on friends or gambling may be very different than yours because of how he makes his money. But you have a need to be secure in your ability to manage things at home. So maybe your Third Alternative is a fixed amount of money under your control each month and another amount of money he can manage as he sees fit from his very different vantage point.
    And perhaps the two of you can actually have some fun coming up with more spontaneous places to have sex, recognizing that it can’t be done in ways that cause you pain and it might require some equipment, like an air mattress or inflatable boat or swing you keep in your vehicle or your garage.
    And if traveling home is becoming wearing for him, moving yourself and your son could make things a lot worse, but perhaps you could agree to research and visit some places to consider living that are near rigs where he could work. Or maybe you could agree to meet up with him in places nearer his current rig a few times each year. It’s only a few years until your son will be off on his own, so you don’t really need a permanent solution right away.
    But what happens when we discuss such things is that fear narrows our thinking. We want to avoid agreeing to something that’s likely to be painful. We want to stay where we know we’re safe and comfortable in case the marriage ends. We want to hold onto all the money for fear of losing all the money. And our frightened response looks like rejection or the beginning of a battle to our spouses. And this narrows their thinking. They, too, retreat to all-or-nothing fears. And the only way to stop this is for one of us to cross that net and say, “I want you to have this, just not this way, because this way scares me. So tell me more about what you like about what you’re proposing.”
    What you’re likely to hear — once the mutual panic subsides — are things that make your heart melt and ease your fears of abandonment or suffocation.

  • I have been struggling for five months now since my husband left. We were together six years. I have three children from a previous marriage. My youngest was pre-school aged when we started dating. She was very upset when he left. We get along quite well, I would say 90-95% of the time. We have so many things in common, and the same goals. My struggle has been without activities outside the relationship. Having never had children himself, he has two, sometimes three, activities he does per week with friends. I complained a lot about this. My objective was to have us do more things together, not necessarily have him not do things with his friends, but, of course, however I said it gave him the impression I didn’t want him to do anything without me. This was an argument we had occasionally. It wasn’t every week or anything. We also argued about the kids. I am pretty passive and it bothered him that the kids took advantage of me or disrespected me. My oldest had a problem with him saying anything because he wasn’t the bio dad. So I felt caught in the middle, and I would talk to each one, taking the perspective of the other. I’m sure he felt like I was telling him he couldn’t do anything because eventually he told me to just handle everything and he would just stay out of it. After six years, he told me he wasn’t happy. He didn’t know why. He would say things like he didn’t think he loved me as much as I love him. I deserved better, etc. He stayed. He wanted to leave, but when I would suggest we tell the kids, he would get upset and wouldn’t do it. This went on for about four months. During that time, a coworker started contacting him. Since I already knew he wasn’t happy, I think this threw me into panic mode and I basically fell apart. After a very emotional incident, he left. He did not say goodbye to anyone. Now, months later, we have remained in contact. I have also worked a great deal on myself, my control issues, my insecurity, etc. Basically, my fears. I have explained all of these things to him. That I feel like I am a different person, and I feel like we could start over. At first he said he loved me, but didn’t think we could be together. Then it was what would people say. Then it was he couldn’t promise he wouldn’t leave again, and he doesn’t want to hurt us again/anymore. He thinks he’s messed up in the head, but when I ask him why he thinks that, he doesn’t know. He won’t talk about anything really. He’s also been in school a while and is struggling with that. The last time I saw him, he again said he didn’t feel like he could handle a relationship, with anyone, not just me. I almost feel like my not expressing I was ever happy with us pushed him into this and it’s maybe even depression, but he doesn’t know if it’s depression or not. I just gleaned that from the comments he’s made about not wanting to hurt anyone anymore, etc. He feels incredibly guilty, maybe even ashamed, for leaving without saying anything. Anytime I discuss the changes I’ve made with myself, he tells me it wasn’t me, I did nothing wrong, it’s all him. He tells me I’m great and that he can talk to me easier than anyone else (although we don’t talk about too many serious things because he shuts down if we do). I don’t feel that is accurate at all that it was all him. I would really love to know if there is anything that I can do at this point to “help” him see that it can be different/better. I’ve tried telling him how it would be different. I’m always positive, not complaining when he doesn’t give me any answer to a question or freaking out that he hasn’t come back because I’m so different now. Nothing like that. I remain calm and I don’t only talk about getting back together. Mostly I keep it light and friendly. I know it could happen and perhaps I need a great deal more patience. I’m kind of hoping there is something I haven’t done, a reason why it isn’t “clicking” with him that I have changed, for the better. Obviously I’ve had a big problem communicating effectively, and I still may be hitting that. I just don’t know if I’ve tried everything. It is very important to me to try everything before giving up.

  • Wendy, it sounds like your husband would feel really terrible if he left a second time, so he’s going to need to be even more certain than he was the first time that he’s prepared to commit to you. He needs to fall in love all over again.
    And nobody ever fell in love with an explanation. Or with being analyzed. Or fixed. They fall in love because they feel like a better person or more alive when they are around you. Men in particular fall in love when they feel respected, trustworthy, dependable, valued, and sexy.
    Don’t worry whether he’s depressed or not. That’s not for you to fix. And any attempt to fix someone else, unless they ask for your help, is a huge sign of disrespect and distrust.
    Pay attention to the joy in *your* life. You need friends who like to spend quality time together. You need activities that put a big, unselfconscious grin on your face. You need a new adventure, a dream to pursue. Pursuing a dream will make you your most irresistible. It will also give you a much softer landing if he can’t find the self-confidence to take another shot at loving you and your kids.

  • My husband files for divorce and then said in a card maybe we can work it out one day after the divorce if you can’t see I’m leaving the door open for you what does that mean??

  • What an interesting card, Connie. It sounds very much like someone who doesn’t want to end the marriage but does want a radical change in your relationship, especially a legal, financial, or child custody aspect.

By Patty Newbold

Patty Newbold

I am a widow who got it right the second time. I have been sharing here since February 14, 2006 what I learned from that experience and from positive psychology, marriage research, and my training as a marriage educator.

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