"I Don't Love My Wife Anymore"
I've talked to many couples facing seemingly doomed marriages. More often than not, the root cause isn't infidelity or addictions or crimes. Usually, the heart of a maritally disengaged spouse is summed up in a single statement: "I don't love my wife/husband anymore."
Many spouses wrestle with the debilitating realization that the flames of passion may have seemingly burned out. They feel guilt, anger, and disappointment. Often, they have tried to rekindle the fire, but they just can't seem to keep it going. After months and years of a "loveless marriage," many seek the illusion of finality in divorce. They give up.
It's tragic and heartbreaking. Mostly because it's based on a lie.
When you got married, you made a promise that you would do something important: love your spouse. You may have also promised to honor, respect, protect, provide, support, obey, forsake all others, etc. Your vows were a deliberate and binding statement of things that you would do for one another. They were not forecasts of emotions you hoped would continue to occur at a later date. They were promises of what you would do.
The things you vowed at your wedding were specific behaviors — not emotions. You can't always control nor predict your emotions, especially over the course of your lifetime. Therefore, you can't vow "until death do us part" that you will consistently have specific feelings. That would be like vowing beauty, a certain level of health, lifespan, sense of humor, or intelligence — all things you can maybe influence, but you absolutely cannot control.
You didn't promise "Love" as a noun — you promised "Love" as a verb, which is the only way you were capable of making such a vow. Merriam-Webster defines the verb of "Love" to include:
- to hold dear;
- to feel a lover's passion, devotion, or tenderness for;
- to caress, to fondle amorously, or to copulate with;
- to like or desire actively or take pleasure in; and
- to thrive in
What you vowed, as in any contract or covenant, were your behaviors. You promised what you would do, including how you would express your emotions. As a sane person, you have control over your behavior. Therefore, all of your behavior is the result of your choices. Including the behavior of love.
Love is a choice.
When husbands and wives tell me that they no longer love one another, what they're really saying is that they've chosen to no longer act out love toward one another. They've chosen to let their emotions usurp the behavioral obligations of their wedding vows. And, again, it is their choice.
Some will argue that they can't choose to "hold something dear" or to "desire something actively," if their emotions aren't similarly aligned. I say that's a lie.
If I were to hand you a gold bar, you would hold it dear. You would actively desire it. Why? It doesn't have much intrinsic value. You can't eat it. It won't keep you warm or comfortable. It won't treat you well, keep you company, nor respect your character. Left alone, it doesn't have much mechanical value. It's literally just a piece of metal. But you (and just about everyone else) choose to value it.
Likewise, you can choose to value your spouse — even if you're so heartless as to not see his or her intrinsic value. Anyone who says that they're unable to love their spouse is a liar. They have the ability. They're just choosing not to.
P.S. For more, get my book, The Marriage Commandments, which may also make you equally uncomfortable.