I just got a call from a friend. The fourth friend in two years to call me with the exact same situation. The sixth person I know in real life who this has happened to. The upshot: her husband turned to her this morning over breakfast and said, "You know, I'm just not in love with you anymore. I don't want to be married to you anymore. It's not you. It's me. I'm really sorry."This post immediately reminded me of an article I read in The Week just a few weeks ago (actually, at this point, about a month ago). Powerful.
. . .
In the midst of my prayers for my friend, her husband and their precious children, I am asking myself WHY? Why does this kind of thing keep happening? Why does one party in a marriage suddenly feel the need to throw their hands up in the air and walk away? Why? Why? Why?
It was a reprint of an article from the July 31st edition of the New York Times: Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear, in which the author was told exactly the same thing by her husband.
“I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did.”The rest of the story is very well worth reading. Laura Munson, the author, should be given a medal. I believe what she has written could possibly save thousands--maybe millions--of marriages.
His words came at me like a speeding fist, like a sucker punch, yet somehow in that moment I was able to duck. And once I recovered and composed myself, I managed to say, “I don’t buy it.” Because I didn’t.
He drew back in surprise. Apparently he’d expected me to burst into tears, to rage at him, to threaten him with a custody battle. Or beg him to change his mind.
So he turned mean. “I don’t like what you’ve become.”
Gut-wrenching pause. How could he say such a thing? That’s when I really wanted to fight. To rage. To cry. But I didn’t.
Instead, a shroud of calm enveloped me, and I repeated those words: “I don’t buy it.”
You see, I’d recently committed to a non-negotiable understanding with myself. I’d committed to “the End of Suffering.” I’d finally managed to exile the voices in my head that told me my personal happiness was only as good as my outward success, rooted in things that were often outside my control. I’d seen the insanity of that equation and decided to take responsibility for my own happiness. And I mean all of it.
My husband hadn’t yet come to this understanding with himself. He had enjoyed many years of hard work, and its rewards had supported our family of four all along. But his new endeavor hadn’t been going so well, and his ability to be the breadwinner was in rapid decline. He’d been miserable about this, felt useless, was losing himself emotionally and letting himself go physically. And now he wanted out of our marriage; to be done with our family.
But I wasn’t buying it.
I said: “It’s not age-appropriate to expect children to be concerned with their parents’ happiness. Not unless you want to create co-dependents who’ll spend their lives in bad relationships and therapy. There are times in every relationship when the parties involved need a break. What can we do to give you the distance you need, without hurting the family?”
“Huh?” he said.
If only people will listen
I spoke with a woman on Friday who told me something very similar had happened with some dear friends of her family. The rebound took longer than it did in Munson's case, and the pain, it seems, may have been greater. But the end results were every bit as wonderful.