'I Don't Love My Husband Anymore'

Reader Not Feeling It writes:

My husband and I have been married 7 years, together 12, one 5 year old daughter. He's a hard worker and does really well, I gave up my job to stay at home (which I think was a bad idea in my case). I know empirically that he is a good, kind, decent man and he loves me. But knowing that doesn't help me manage my feelings of resentment and repulsion (revulsion? It amounts to about the same). Anyone on the outside would think I'm utterly crazy to even consider ever leaving this marriage (which I'm not in a position to do anyway), but I can't help feeling like I just don't love him anymore. Respect? Sure. Even admire as a person. But love? Meh.

Every little thing annoys me. I probably started falling out of love when we had a baby. He wanted kids way more than me, but then he wasn't around nearly as much as I wanted and I got really frustrated. Things have gotten better as she got older but not as much as I would like. Since I'm home, he's a total slob, which drives me CRAZY. It's death by 1000 cuts. The sex is not good, as he has had some, ahem, performance issues lately and so it doesn't last very long. He knows I'm unhappy but I doubt he knows how much. He's always grabbing at me, which I know is just him expressing affection, but I find really irritating, especially when I'm in the middle of a chore.

I'm attracted to other men but I realize if I were to be with someone else, in the long run it'd probably be the same or worse. If money wasn't an object, and my kid was a little older, I think I would consider divorce. Or maybe it could get better as she gets a little less dependent. I just don't know how long I can live in these circumstances feeling as I feel.

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Dear NFI,

I feel for you.  It is certainly hard to feel stuck and alone in a marriage, and I see clients every day who struggle with these types of feelings, and many readers are in your same boat.  However, my clients who feel the same as you are at least in treatment, which means that both of the partners are aware of the issues.  In your case, it seems like your husband wants to believe that everything is okay, understandably, and you are allowing him to think this by not telling him much in depth about your feelings.  If he doesn't know the extent of your dissatisfaction or exactly what bothers you, it is going to be difficult for him to work on anything.  And it will also be difficult for you to work on any of your own issues that may be contributing to marital dissatisfaction if you're not open about how upset you are.  You don't want to end up like Mr. and Mrs. Not Feeling It, a.k.a. The Divorced in Spirit, but that seems to be where you're headed.

I believe that your husband's sexual issues are probably related to the fact that he senses your repulsion and disdain, which isn't super hot, to put it mildly. You're caught in a vicious loop where your disgust leads to him doing things (here, sexual dysfunction) that turn you off even more, and then you're even more disgusted by him.  Have you tried to work on enhancing your libido yourself?  Often women stop doing the very things that used to arouse them earlier in the relationship, because they're "not in the mood" anymore.  If you at all want to stay in this marriage, I suggest that you try to enjoy sex, to get in the mood, and to see if your husband becomes less repulsive in the face of your increased interest and effort.

In addition to trying to restore some of the physical intimacy in the marriage, I suggest that you take a deep and unflinching look at what you're acting like, and how this leads to your husband responding in his characteristic annoying and disappointing ways.  How did you used to act as a girlfriend versus now?  

I suggest you try my suggestions here to like your spouse more. It is unlikely that your husband will suck as much if he senses you're really trying.  Is there anything you still love about him?  Do you get out together for date night alone ever?  Kids can make you feel irritable, desexualized, and exhausted, so it's no surprise that you fell out of love with him around when you had children.  But is it really that you don't love him or that you're overwhelmed and overburdened?

Additionally, it seems that you're unhappy as a stay at home mom and that your feelings of unfulfillment in the marriage may be exacerbated by your feelings of unfulfillment in your life overall.  If you found something that you enjoy as a career, you may feel a lot happier, more confident, and more like your old self.  which can in turn make you feel more positive about him.  Now that your daughter may be in kindergarten, it would be a good time to explore what you want to do that can make you feel good about yourself and can utilize your talents.

The communication in this marriage needs improvement.  He is a slob, and this enrages you, but have you told him openly and honestly and discussed solutions?  If you're an unwilling stay at home mom, you may find his slovenly nature personally offensive, i.e., "Am I just a maid to you?"  I suggest that you think deeply about what his messiness triggers in you, and explore why you find it so personally offensive.

What did you learn about marriage at home? Did you see one parent annoyed by or disgusted by the other?  Was one parent always disappointing the other?  Was physical affection limited and strained?  It is essential to take a hard look at the way that you grew up and if you are falling into a default pattern that is familiar to you on a deep subconscious level.  I think this likely applies because of your statement that you'd likely fall into the same sorts of patterns even with a new man.  So you do on some level know that your husband isn't the whole problem, it's at least partially due to the way that you respond to being married, which has to be due to unexplored issues of your own.

I definitely encourage you and your husband to learn to communicate with each other in couples counseling.  If your husband doesn't want counseling, I suggest you either try to convince him, or go to counseling on your own, or even to couples counseling on your own.  I also suggest you get your own therapist to explore the roots of your dissatisfaction and to figure out how to start living the life you want.  Even if he were perfect, this wouldn't make your life perfect, as I'm sure you know intellectually at least.  Before divorce, there is a lot that you can try with a good couples therapist, and I think that your husband, and your daughter, deserve your complete and wholehearted effort to improve this marriage.

Good luck and thanks so much for writing in.  I wish you the best.  Till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says Go On PsychologyToday.com and Find a Therapist.

This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.

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