Woohoo! A Great Example of Assume Love


A brand new reader named Ona shared a fantastic example of what you can learn about your spouse and yourself when you Assume Love. At the end, she asks for a little help with her next steps, so I want to share her comment and my advice with you. I hope it lights a few candles for you, because I want you to enjoy being married.
Ona wrote:

Wow has this philosophy been an eye opener. I can’t stop reading. But now I need to practice what I’m learning. My husband and I had an argument that ended with him expressing he’s ready to leave the marriage. This isn’t a complete shock as we’ve both been feeling frustrated and expressing this for over a year. But now 3 days after he expressed this conclusion, 2 days after confirming it, I realize I wasn’t ever assuming love. But how to go about life now? We’re in separate bedrooms and barely talk.
The last argument was because he signed up for 2 runs on Thanksgiving morning, and we host both of our extended families at our home. He had asked if I was interested a few days prior and I immediately gave him the reasons why I couldn’t (& therefore he couldn’t) including needing the morning hours for setting the table, getting the turkey cooking,
preparing the meal and cleaning the house. I told him he needed to be home to help too and entertain our 3 year old so that I could work on the dinner. But now I see all sorts of possibilities for this last act that we fought about, the one that I assumed meant he’s just a selfish person with no regard for the importance I place on providing a fabulous Thanksgiving feast.
Being around the family stresses him and running is a great stress reliever for him and could help him prepare for the family coming into his space. Perhaps he was even planning on taking our toddler along, I didn’t ask, but we have a running stroller. He monitors his weight and running before a big feast may allow him to enjoy the food I’ll work hard to prepare.
But now as I’ve assumed love and have allowed my assumption to change, do I go to him and express this? He barely looks me in the eye and we circle around each other within our home, careful to not find ourselves in the same room. I don’t know how to approach him. I fear if I do it in the wrong language he will not receive my love.

I am overjoyed to see how well you did on your first try as Assuming Love, Ona. Way to go! Yes, you really have to share this with him. It sounds like he would like to have back the old you, the one who cared more about him than logistics, the one who found his ideas well worth listening to.
Start with an apology. He was proposing a new way to celebrate Thanksgiving, a healthier one, a less stressful one, and you called him selfish. And he probably labeled you controlling. And neither of you are either of those.
You are just human beings who actually care about each other and your child and your families, in search of a good way to celebrate a holiday. Even though you sleep apart, he invited you to join him for this run. And you can still see the situation through his loving eyes. You two are far from done loving each other. You’re just having a hard time designing a life that lets you do it.
So get to work on a Third Alternative. Your picture of Thanksgiving and his are not the only two available to you. There is at least one version you could both really enjoy together and welcome your grandchildren to in another 25 years or so.
You could use paper plates, eat in a restaurant, have the food catered, hand your first guest a vacuum cleaner and dust rag, hire a cleaning service on Wednesday or Thursday, send your child out with your husband if he agrees, or offer a friend who loves the parade a pie and a couple of reheatable side dishes to take your child for the duration of the parade.
You could brainstorm conversation topics to bring up together to avoid the usual stressful topics, taste test the local bakeries for rolls and desserts you won’t need to bake, put the kids at the grownups table or move them off to their own table, switch to buffet or to pass-the-bowl service to lower the dinner stress level.
You could (maybe not so soon after a blowup, but next year perhaps) have a fun Sunday cook-a-thon together with music and no time pressure to prepare enough in advance to free you up to join the Thanksgiving Day race, or ask each of your guests to bring a side dish or gravy so you can go out as a family while the turkey and ham are in the oven.

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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  • Patty, you are right that she should start with an apology. She fears using the wrong love language, but no matter what her husband’s love language is, a soft voice and a gentle touch are great ways to start. Telling him that she understands how stressful this is for him would let him know that she sees his point of view. Asking him what his view of the perfect holiday would be would be a great first step to understanding what they both really want so a third alternative can be found.
    If they both really want to host their families, then finding easier ways to do it, as you have suggested, makes a lot of sense. In particular, getting friends or relatives to help could make a world of difference. If someone else were getting things started in the kitchen, the wife might be able to join her husband on one of those runs. Being supportive of his interests would go a long way toward making him feel loved.
    One more thought. If I were in her situation I would muster up my courage and tell my husband that I missed him and wanted him back in the same bedroom with me. (Being prepared to calmly accept whatever his response might be.) If they have been alienated a long time, he might not feel ready, and so reconnecting might require patience. But knowing that she wants to be close to him is bound to help him see things in a more positive light.

  • very inspiring, Ona! And great advice from Patty & Rosemary, too!
    My hubby & I are 3 wks into sleeping apart now (in the same house), though we are generally more than civil & still attending marriage counseling.
    I don’t think either of us is ready for him to move back into the bedroom, but now I feel it would be ok — maybe even a very good thing — to make sure he hears that I very much miss him being there, while assuring him I don’t expect anything, that I just want him to know.

  • What courage all of you have! Yay!
    I hope you are all feeling very hopeful. I am the Felix to my husband’s Oscar and used to drive him crazy with my expectations for a clean and organized home, for the kind of elaborate family dinners I wanted to have, etc.
    We moved past all this to a truly amazing marriage and so will you.
    I’d suggest in addition to an apology, show him what your posting on this blog. Start a conversation going.
    I cannot emphasize the healing nature of sexual connection. We were short on money but decided when our daughter was about four to prioritize private time together. We found a babysitter who took our daughter into her home. Sat nights we sent her out and instead of spending money on dinner and a movie, we had the house to ourselves and indulged in many hours of bathing together, luxurious lovemaking. This was such a balm to our marriage. It went so well that we decided to get up an hour early each day, before our child awoke (at 5 am) to have an hour privacy together. After having screaming orgasms every day I no longer cared that he stuck his dirty laundry on top of instead of in the hamper. I just put it in the hamper.
    As we bonded sexually more and more, we were both very willing to compromise. I gave up on my Leave it to Beaver desire for a home cooked meal each night because of the time it took to clean up after. It left us too tired to get to bed early enough to have sex in the morning. We switched to takeout almost every night.
    Decades later, menopause now means the playground is open 24/7 with no worries of pregnancy. We are studying tantra massage, got a massage table and just generally exploring sex together. This is the glue that dissipates anger. Try it!!
    Get those men back in your beds!

  • Unfortunately it was this fight and the immediate fear I felt when he said he didn’t think counseling was worth it that caused me to offer moving into the guest room. I wanted to give him the space, but I’m not sure that’s what he really was asking for. He’s stonewalling and has since last Sunday. Also I’m realizing he has done this a lot in our marriage of 5 years.
    All he has given me is an occassional “I’m sorry” as I talk to him. And he has expressed fear that all of our friends will hate him. I assured him that I have no hatred toward him. He also told me that his Mom seems mad with him.
    I have talked to a few of my friends, explaining that we are struggling in our marriage and that I need support and love. He has told his family and friends that we are getting a divorce. So final. As if he believes we’ve discussed it and agreed to it.
    I am so trying to assume love and work on getting my own needs met, let go of resentment that I created myself, and get myself happy. But I’m miserable and a flood of emotions. I’ve tried to talk to him on 3 separate occasions, but I cry each time. I’m sure seeing me crying and unhappy isn’t helping him. So I’ve resolved to stop trying to discuss this. Instead I’m trying to just offer light words of encouragement, words of praise and thanks, acts of service, and cherish each bit of time we’re together. For instance, he did make our entire family dinner last night while I was out with our child to run some errands. We all sat at the table to eat it together.
    But when I did try to talk this last Sunday night, I told him that we really needed to get a plan established around our child. I am so anxious over him being in the midst of the stress in the house and brought that up. I wanted him to know that I am wanting to keep our child but let my husband have whatever time he wants with him. I asked him if we could sit down at some time and make a plan around being with our kid. He suggested we just email!
    He sent an email yesterday asking what my thoughts were on the house & our stuff. There was a list of our acquisitions and how he anticipates we divy it all up! He did say that he hears that I want to keep our son, and he offered that I could stay “in our home.” I so fear that many things I’ve said have pushed my husband to respond faster. Maybe he believes that I am ready to leave (moving into guest room), & that I needed the stress cleared out of our home with our child (he offered in the email to look for a place to rent). I don’t know how to stop this sprint that he’s on to get out.
    I did not respond to his email. He did not ask me anything about it last night. We have a class that we’re both scheduled to attend Thursday and I’m debating going. I skipped last Thursday to give him space. But I want him to remember that we have common interests.
    I’m open to any and all suggestions! I’m in such a whirlwind of emotional & logical thinking. I am seeing a counselor for myself too.

  • Ona, if you have moved into another room, skipped going to class with him, and talked with him about protecting your child through a divorce, I can see why your husband might be telling people you’re on your way to divorce.
    And his stonewalling could accelerate your trip. I hope you will ignore it for now.
    Some of us pull off a bandage a little at a time. Others rip them off. How quickly your husband moves toward divorce is more a measure of which of these types he is than how sure he is that he wants a divorce.
    Could you reply to the acquisitions email with (1) you don’t want a divorce, (2) you are working on changing your way of dealing with the world and hope to find him still in it when you come out the other side, and (3) would really like a 90-day delay in any further discussion of divorce or separation?
    And would it be reasonable to cancel this year’s Thanksgiving with the families and spend it at the two races with him instead?

  • Ona, I hope you will try Patty’s excellent advice.
    According to John Gottman, men are significantly more likely to stonewall than women are. One major reason is that they become emotionally flooded. They are so overwhelmed with emotion that they stop functioning. This can make it very hard to have a discussion with a husband, especially if the wife is upset and crying. Responding to his email in a simple, straightforward way as Patty suggested might make it easier for him to experience positive feelings instead of shutting down. Your message that you love him and don’t want a divorce needs to be very clear.

  • Ona, I have been where your husband is. His reason for emailing is because the spoken word cannot be taken back, and written word can be edited. He doesn’t want to misunderstand you, and nor you him, which is likely his intention for emailing. 2ndly, if you are discussing what to do with/about childrenm, rather than how much you desire him, then obviously the path is going to continue towards divorce. He may not want space, but he would much rather have space (be alone and unloved) than inadequate and dissrespected. If you do desire him and want him then he needs to know that NOW. He needs to know that underneith all the pain and frustration in the relationship there is a person that wants and desires him. I’ll leave you to figure out how to do that, and how best to assume that your husband is being loving, rather than being selfish all the time.

  • Thank you so much for the advise and encouragement. I didn’t get a response emailed before my husband cornered me. But I calmly told him exactly the truth; I’m not ready for divorce, I am working on my personal growth and would like to postpone this divorce discussion until at least next year (only 6 weeks!).
    He grew frustrated and wanted to know why I wanted to drag this out. I stayed very calm and explained that I’d rather focus on how we could repair. Or if he wanted to talk logistics, how we can go through the holidays as a family. His response, we go separately to be with our own families, hopefully getting our son to both sides. He said he’d move out if I wasn’t leaving, so I calmly acknowledged that I couldn’t stop him but I didn’t want him to leave our home. He admitted he can’t afford half the mortgage and rent. I told him that we can establish some guidelines around us being in the home together if that would make it easier for him.
    I have been trying to assume love and show gratitude at all times. There have been almost no negative interactions since the in home separation. Until last night when I asked if he could stay in Sat. night so that I could be with friends. He’s not happy to have agreed. He had been thinking about going out with a friend. So I offered up some alternatives, but he would take none or suggest none other than I just don’t go. The good news, I didn’t give in and take on resentment. I am going out and trusting in him to take care of our child.
    I have tried to let him know that I want him. I emailed him since he doesn’t enjoy talks the way I do.
    I have tried to physically reach out to him, but he shys away and shrugs off my touch.
    I so hope he didn’t just wake up one day and decided to divorce, but he really keeps sending that message.
    Please keep positive thoughts and encouragement and advice coming!

  • Ona, we are all hoping for the best for you and you husband. I especially love that you were able to recognize and avoid an option that would bring on marriage-destroying resentment for you.

  • Ona, we wish you the best in your endevour. This is hard, its not easy. I truly believe necessity is the mother of invention, and if you truly want HIM then you’ll find a way to tell him that is effective. best of luck and take care.

  • Patty, if I may post one other thought. I find this situation very interesting. In the traditional view of male/female interaction, we typically think of the men being the pursuer in relationships. Ona, I don’t know how your relationship with your husband began, but either way, it seems like it is your turn to do the pursuing. Indeed, this will test your will and your resolve. The more effort you put into it, *hopefully* the more he will see your intentions and be attracted to that. (Personally, I’m very attracted to women that know what they want, especially when what they want is me). The risk here is the same as the risks run by anyone that has ever pursued anything… and that of course is failure. In your case, the potential gain is a solid relationship with your husband, the downside is divorce (which already seems to be pending). At this point what to do you have to lose? Again, necessity is the mother of invention, and it is always the job of the pursuer to figure out how best to go about the process…. fast/slow, hard/soft, determined/aloof … etc. Only you can decide how much effort you want to put in. I could be speaking completely out of turn here, so please ignore me if I’m that far off base. I doubt your man just woke up one morning and decided he didn’t want to be with you anymore… likely it was a process. And so it will be with reconnection. A process. Don’t expect just to put a hand out and have him follow you to bed. This is unlikely (as you have already found out)…. especially if during the day he feels inadequate or disrespected by you in any small or large way. Only you can fix this. I wish you the best of luck and I will be praying for you today.

  • My husband had already moved on unfortunately. He filed the divorce papers on Nov 18, 15 days after telling me he was done.

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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