Reader Question: I Checked Out of My Marriage

Reader Question of the WeekHow do you love your spouse again, especially after you’ve already given up your dream of a happy marriage?

That’s today’s Reader Question! Every Monday I like to take a stab at a question a reader sends in, and this week it’s from a man whose wife finally understands how hurt he’s been over the years–but he’s afraid it’s too late.

My wife and I have been married for 19 yrs. For the majority of that time we’ve been a mess. We don’t fight and never have. I very easy going and I have never even raised my voice to her. Our problems began early on. She simply did not pay any attention to me. I spoiled her, gave her everything. Every few years I would break and crumble due to loneliness. She said she loved me but didn’t know how to show it. Last year was the final straw! I melted down completely. I sought therapy and even took pills for my depression. I began to brace myself for divorce. I had done all I could do to get my wife to understand my needs.

I decided to “let her go” and with that, the dream of the wonderful fairytale marriage I had so longed for. Then my wife read your book “The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex”. After that she said she had been illuminated. She all of a sudden became interested in “fixing things”. Here is the problem, I “let her go” already. All my love and desire is just gone. I don’t feel anything anymore. She so wants to have everything I ever wanted and now I just don’t care. My friends say I should just go with it and be happy. But I would be faking everything. I am miserably sad about this and I’m broken. Please tell me you have something! Anything!

That’s tough, and I want to answer it both for the husband and the wife. But first, please understand: there are no easy answers. There’s so much heartache involved here and so much water under the bridge that an easy fix isn’t possible. That being said, let me leave you with some big picture ideas:

How to Love Your Spouse Again--if they've hurt you and now want to work on the relationship, can you decide to work on it, too?

Thoughts for the Spouse Who has “Checked Out” Already

You’ve likely been hurting your whole marriage, and you had to steel yourself to the idea that you’d never get what you want. You couldn’t live in the misery of unmet expectations anymore, so you decided to give up on your dream of ever being happy with your spouse. To do that, you had to seal off a portion of your heart. You decided, “I don’t need you anymore”, which is almost the same emotionally as saying, “I don’t love you anymore.” If you’ve done that, then how do you love your spouse again–after all that emotional turmoil of letting go?

Act Love Rather than Feel Love

We tend to think that love is a feeling, but it’s really not. Love is deciding to act kindly towards a person and to look after that person’s well-being tangibly. Love is just being kind.

I remember how absolutely devastated I was after various breakups in my late teen years. My heart was broken in two, and I really didn’t think that I’d ever be able to move on. Even when I met my husband, and we started getting closer, I still thought about that last boyfriend. I didn’t want to go back to him, but I secretly hoped to run into him in 15 or 20 years, and be able to say, “Ha! Look what you missed out on!” I didn’t think I’d ever really get him out of my system.

But he’s totally gone now. It didn’t even take very long. Even before I married, I realized I didn’t even care anymore.

I’ve heard of similar things from women who have had emotional (and even physical) affairs. Even though they chose their husband, they thought they’d never be able to be perfectly happy again, because they were without their one true love. And now that they knew what true love felt like, the marriage could never measure up, even if they stayed.

Yet a funny thing happened. Time goes on, and the act of being married and being committed changes you. Those heady infatuation feelings fade, and they’re replaced by real love that you feel for your spouse.

I believe a similar thing can happen if you’ve LOST love. You’re hurt, and you’re closed off. But if you stay, you’ll find that little by little, everyday, you start building a new life together. You start growing that love again.

There’s a story I heard about a counselor talking to a woman who was determined to get a divorce. He advised her that before she do so, she take 30 days and treat her husband as wonderfully as she could. Say nice things to him. Be affectionate. Shower him with blessings. And then, at the end of the 30 days, she could tell him she was leaving him.

That sounded like a great idea, she thought. It would be so perfect–like a whammy he’d never expect. She’d lull him into believing everything was alright, and then she’d leave. It would be so devastating, like an extra punishment.

So she did it. She was sweet. She was affectionate. She brought him coffee.

And when 30 days was up, she went to see the counselor. He asked if she was ready to tell him, and she said, “No way! A funny thing happened this month. I think I fell in love with him again!”

As she was nice to him, he was nice to her. And they found a new balance in their marriage that was actually quite fun. But it happened because she started ACTING love out, not because she started FEELING.

Our feelings normally follow our actions, not the other way around. Try acting out love, and you may find that your heart softens.

Think About the Benefits of Marriage

Being married makes you wealthier. It makes you happier. It adds as many years to a man’s life as quitting smoking does. It makes you less susceptible to disease. It helps you to raise better kids. Marriage is a wonderful thing.

Before you throw it away, think about the cost.

Work at Your Marriage

Thoughts If Your Spouse Has Checked Out

Your spouse has checked out of the marriage, and you’ve finally realized that you were doing wrong. You want your spouse to love you again. Maybe you had an affair. Maybe you withheld sex. Maybe you just never cared about your spouse’s feelings. What do you do now to show your spouse you’re different?

When You've Broken His TrustI’ve got a post with some great thoughts on what to do when you’re the one who needs forgiveness, and I’d encourage you to read it. Some quick thoughts from that: give your spouse time to be angry; work on a friendship before you work on a sex life; don’t just apologize, show tangible change; get counseling; and decide how much to tell the kids.

Read that post for lots of insight!

But I do have one more thought. I have a friend who is walking through this right now. He has checked out; and his wife is only starting to realize the damage that she has done. Much of that damage, though, has its roots in her own childhood, with trauma that she has never dealt with.

Often the reason that we are unable to give a spouse the love that he or she needs is because we ourselves didn’t receive it when we were young. We thus are in self-preservation mode. We have control issues and trust issues. And so it’s hard to build a good marriage, and we often hurt the one we want to love.

If someone hurt you in the past, do not give that person power over you today.

Do not continue to live with it. Get counseling!  Even if you have to pay a counselor $100 a week, it’s worth it. If you go for a whole year, that’s $5000. That’s a lot, but it’s less than it will cost to get divorced.

Take this seriously and deal with it. If your spouse sees that finally you are admitting you have issues, and finally you are admitting you have a problem, that may go a long way in helping your spouse to love you again.

Whichever spouse you are, this will be a long road. But I firmly believe that God is in the transformation business, and He’s in the reconciliation business. He loves nothing better than to take two broken people and make them whole again. And He can do that, when we finally let our guard down and be honest with Him and with ourselves. That means being vulnerable with each other. That means touching those deep hurts. But there is no hurt that is deeper than God’s love, and when we do become vulnerable, we finally give Him permission to touch that hurt and heal it.

I hope that both of you are able to do that.

Let me know in the comments: Have you ever closed yourself off from your spouse? How did you get over that (if you ever did?)


  1. Meredith says:

    Wow, this could have been my question! I grew tired of having to be the one to initiate attempts to make things better–talking, books, classes etc.–that he would half-heartedly go along with for a while. I withdrew to protect myself from this feeling of rejection, which felt even worse each time I dared to hope that things would be better. In some ways, he seemed to be relieved by this because he could work as long as he liked, watch as much tv as he wanted (while working at home) and I just said ok. He didn’t seem to realize that each “ok” meant, “I realize that work is more important than me so I am learning to live without you”.

    In a last-ditch effort, I have been trying, what this post suggests: Behaving in a loving manner (modifying my behavior because that’s really the only thing I can control in this situation) and trying to trust that the feelings will follow. Now he seems to want to work on things again, but the problem is that I am so used to him bailing on attempts to resolve issues that I am hesitant to go all in. I am just waiting for him to lose interest again because his mistress–work–is calling his name.

  2. Thats were I am, after 22 years of basically a sexless marriage (6 times a year or less).

    The funny thing is, she keeps buying books on having a marriage, or ones on how to not drift apart, and I participate with reading with her, and each and every book has a part on making sex an important, consistent, frequent part of a marriage and that if you don’t, bad things happen.

    And I tell her each and every single time that the only issue I have with our marriage is this one (really – our marriage is great everywhere else: parenting, kids, finances, church, kindness, etc). And she just rolls her eyes and says that not really that important, everything else is far more important first. Early on that would lead to fights and arguments, and at this point I’ve just given up and don’t care anymore. I take care of my “needs” because she won’t, and the combination has basically led me to check out of any intimacy at all. We are basically co-parents, roomies (and even that is barely now), and co-owners of a house.

    You know what? Life is just too short to go thru this. It really is. 22 years wasted.

    • I’m sorry, John. Have you ever confronted her with another present–say a pastor or a counselor? What she’s doing is harmful to her marriage obviously, but it’s also harmful to herself. She’s walling herself off from intimacy and likely has some real control issues that need to be dealt with. What about going to a pastor or counselor and asking to meet, and saying something like this to her: “You need to get help. No ifs, ands, or buts. This needs to be done.”

      Just letting things go on isn’t necessarily helping her, you know? Just a thought…

      • Yup, been to counselors 3 times. Pastors + wives from 3 different churches. And I made sure it wasn’t just “sex therapy” but whole marriage therapy. The last time we went thru a book, the last chapter was on sex (ie, we spent months going thru everything else -first-). And after long arguments and fighting at the end of the meeting, she said this to the face of our pastor and his wife:

        “Of course you would say that – you’re a man. And you (the wife), you aren’t me, so what do you know?”

        I’ve not seen too many pastors gape in shock. I was so humiliated. We left that church, as you can imagine she refused to go back. Its at that point that I realized that there was nothing anyone could do, short of me filing for divorce, which I 1) don’t believe in and 2) don’t want to put the kids thru. Prayer won’t work, arguing won’t work, fighting won’t work, logic won’t work, peer pressure won’t work. Nothing will. She has free will, and until she chooses to change her attitude and beliefs, nothing will change.

        So I try to keep the peace. I try to be the best father I can, the best husband I can. Try to concentrate at work. Try to serve in church. Try not to get frustrated, angry, depressed, despondent, humiliated. Try to be happy, to find joy in the rest of life. I haven’t brought it up in over 2 years. I no longer torture myself by looking forward to it, or anticipating it, or encouraging it. Sometimes I break down and ask – 10/90 shot, really. If she asks (1 or 2 times a year), I never say no, I participate, make sure she “goes first/is taken care of”, I’m done in a few minutes, and its over. At best, I’m surviving, at worst I’m barely hanging on.

        What I’m really getting frightened of, in about 10 years I’ll be in my 50s, the kids will be gone, and I’ll just one day wake up, say “I’m sorry, its over.” and walk out. And I’ll be all alone.

        • I’m so sorry, John. So sorry. I pray that one day she’ll open up whatever she has walled around her heart and lets herself experience real intimacy both with you and with God. So, so sad.

        • Katherine says:

          Hi John,
          I understand exactly what you are feeling. I have been married for 20 years, 2 kids, served in church for years. Our marriage was far from good. We never had sex, I rejected him for years, pushed him away, we basically lived in the same house. I really wanted a divorce but could not validate it. I was not happy, we had no communication, and had fallen into a lull of 20 years of bills, raising kids and jobs. My oldest daughter had a mental breakdown in high school and attempted suicide. I had to quit my well paying job to care for her that I had been at for years. In hindsight, it saved her life thank God. She is doing excellent now. My husband had to take a job out of state to make the bills with me not working. He had an affair with a coworker. He was planning on leaving us for her. He was not going to tell me but I found the proof and confronted him. He lied repeatedly. We are still married but there is nothing left of me. I blame myself -if I had not pushed him away all those years-if I had only been there for him in all areas- including sex. I really had no idea how important that was to a man. I was overweight (not now-lost a lot of weight due to the depression I deal with on a daily basis) and had no sex drive. I just always assumed he would always be there for me and the kids. My life has been ruined now. I have no peace, joy or security. I do not trust him and do not know if this marriage will survive. I pray daily for my family but feel like God does not hear me. I hurt and cry every single day and just getting through the day is a chore. My husband feels like I am over reacting and should just get over it. If I could do things over again, I would never take him for granted again. I would love him like there is no tomorrow. Because now I do not know if there is or not. I hope your wife wakes up and realizes what she has before it is too late.

        • John, same story here. we are in year 26 now. I am 46 and the pain is incredible. I should be working this very moment but once again, consumed with the misery and on this site. My only release is a daily or weekly chat like this. My wife says the same thing about the “lack of importance” and avoids any books on marriage but will devour anything else spiritual and Godly. I see it clearly as her mother was very harsh and being vulnerable makes her scared.
          Sex is NOT the only thing in marriage but when it’s not there it is EVERYTHING! Still have two younger boys at home but I’m so sad and distracted, I think a drastic measure is in order. I think about divorce all the time but feel as you do and just check out and remain busy to help the pain.

  3. Elisabeth says:

    I have rather checked out of my marriage as well. It makes it so I can go on living. If I didn’t check out and refuse to think about the mess that is called a marriage, I would loose what is left of my mind. I wouldn’t be able to function and care for my children. I didn’t check out because I wanted to. I hate that I have to. I care for my husband, I am kind to him even when he’s mean, I do his laundry, make his meals, greet him with a smile each time I see him, I offer sex even though I know he will refuse, I offer affection even though I may as we’ll be hugging a telephone pole. It’s been 5 years without sex, and I mean completely without sex. He even moved out of the bedroom for the most part. Recently he came back at the start if the night but if I hug him or lean against him, he gets mad. Anyway. Sometimes, checking out is all a person can do to survive. I have tried for years to be the perfect wife he thinks he wants but with no success. He won’t love me if I’m not perfect and since I’m only human, that’s not possible. We don’t believe in divorce, I don’t think I could do that to my kids anyway, and I don’t think it would do anything for us anyhow. Sure, God could work a miracle but I don’t think He will. I just have to stay alive and sane long enough to raise my kids to adulthood and then I can let go. Some days it doesn’t seem like its worth the effort that takes.

    • Elisabeth, I’m so sorry that your marriage is like this. 5 years is a LONG time. There is one thing that I notice, though, that I’d like to comment on. I may be totally out of left field, but it seems to me that what you’ve tried to do is keep the peace–you’ve tried to be the perfect wife, you’ve tried not to cause any conflict or rock the boat so that your family is not affected.

      However, what if that’s not the right approach? What God wants for us is real intimacy, with Him and with others, and often the reason that we run from it with others is because at heart we have blocks to God. Your husband is walling himself off from real relationship with you, which means that he is going deeper and deeper into an unhealthy pattern with others and also likely with God. His spiritual life will be affected as well, and that is never God’s best.

      And as much as you try to hold it together for the kids, they grow up not seeing what real intimacy is.

      I have another post called Are You a spouse or an enabler that may be more applicable to your situation. I’m not saying divorce; I’m just saying that sometimes we have to rock the boat and go through periods of discomfort so that we can get to the other side. I hope that helps!

      • Elisabeth says:

        I have rocked the boat so to speak. Once 2 years ago and then again earlier this year. Both times he claimed to have seen the problem and would work on it, would change. And yet, he hasn’t. This last time, he did change some. He hasn’t been so mean outright, he treats my side of the family better. He has had only had one screaming fit at me in the last 4 months instead of at least once a week. I’ve tried harder to live within his controls and that has seemed to appease him some. But I never know. He could chat with me and then 2 hours later refuse to speak to me and just glare at me. He moved out of the bedroom back in April. He won’t talk about it when I start talking about it. I’ve decided that I don’t deserve any better than he decides to hand out. I’ve done things wrong, caused problems for people without knowing it or meaning to do it, lots of things. This is part of reaping what I sowed. My goal is to stay alive and sane long enough to get the kids raised. After that, who knows? I feel the insanity creeping in, the depression strangling me, so I pray it away and keep going. I can’t change him, I can change me. I can be kind and considerate, meet the needs he demands, accept what he will give and give up what he won’t give. Yes, I’m enabling him to live however he wants but I have no “or else” ( not in a mean way mind you) just no consequence I guess, for not changing. I have no income, I’ve been a stay at home mom for 10 years so my marketable skills are pretty much nil when it comes to getting a job. I’ve never even had an interview from all the jobs I’ve applied for. Anyway.

        • “I’ve done things wrong, caused problems for people without knowing it or meaning to do it, lots of things. This is part of reaping what I sowed.”

          This statement sounds like it may be the root of the issue. If you want some real assistance/guidance, not just sympathy, you may need to spill the beans to someone that wants the best for all of you and truly desires to obey God.

          • Meredith says:

            Elisabeth and J:
            J: It’s odd that you only focused on the “I’ve done things wrong…reaping what I sowed” part of Elisabeth’s post. I thought that Elisabeth’s descriptions of screaming fits and appeasing him by trying to “live within his controls” is very worrisome especially because Elisabeth says before that, “I’ve decided that I don’t deserve any better than he decides to hand out.”

            Elisabeth: I do agree with J that you should find a pastor or counselor that you can talk to. I think you will find that they will tell you that you DO deserve better in your marriage and that your husband’s controlling behavior is emotionally abusive. By all means ask forgiveness of those you may have injured, whether purposefully or accidentally and change what you can. But then let it go and move on in the knowledge that God offers us grace.

            Also, you can move back into the workforce after an absence of 10 years if you want–just start looking around. Teacher aide jobs allow you to work only while your kids are at school–several of my friends have done that. I (and lots of other women) have done it.

          • Elisabeth says:

            Hmmm…I’ll have to look into the teachers aide thing. My youngest is 4, it was after finding out that I was pregnant with that child against my husbands wishes, even though he refused to discuss or use birth control, that he told me he would never have sex with me again. He told me that he can’t have a marriage relationship with me bc I despise him and that what he’s doing is biblical bc Michal had no children for having dispised David for dancing before The Lord, therefore he no longer had a marriage relationship with her. I don’t know if that’s all true or how that fits this but he’s a stubborn man and sees only what he wants to see and hears only what he wants to hear. Anyway, I’m not sure what I can do that will allow me to still be around to raise my kids you know? The fact that he works let’s me stay home with them. It keeps me with a place to live and food to feed us.

  4. First, I just want to say to the person who asked the question and to some of the commenters that I am so sorry for your pain and struggles! I love Sheila’s answer about acting love even I you don’t feel it. It brings to mind the movie Fireproof. I don’t know if you (the person who asked the question) have seen it, but if not, I highly recommend it. In the movie there is something called the Love Dare. You can google it and find a free list of the dare online. There is something to do for your spouse each day for 30 days, and doing it can help your marriage or even turn it around. It follows the same concept as acting love even when you don’t feel it, and doing it is illustrated in the movie. Anyway, I just thought some of you might enjoy the movie and benefit from trying the dare. I also want to testify that I know that God can work miracles. For a further discussion of that, please see my article How Faith Equals Power here:
    And thank you, also, to Sheila for your ministry and for all your wonderful articles and books!

  5. The first thing that came to mind when the husband said, “We don’t fight and never have,” is that maybe a fight is long overdue. Often conflict is necessary for resolution, and if they have never fought then he probably checked out a LONG time ago (and so did she). It’s natural for couples to fight when they express their needs, because our needs are so different from our spouse. Who said that people in a relationship are like two rocks rubbing against each other? At first there is friction, but then you find a good “fit” together. Conflict of course isn’t good for conflict’s sake, and discussions are preferable over fights, but still. . .fights will happen and if resolved they can be points of breakthrough. Thank you Sheila for reiterating counseling. Counseling is not for losers or people at the end of their ropes, but for couples seeking to connect in healthy ways.
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  6. I think Sheila has given really valuable advice to this question.The 30 day Love Dare and Seeking counselling.
    I want to add one more to it.

    My brother in christ.No one can fulfill us like god,thats why its important to place him first.Are you taking time to spend time with god?Two I always fast and pray when in fix.It always clears my mind and helps me focus on god.I hope it does for you too.I will be praying for you .
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  7. My husband and I both checked out of our marriage. We had spent years hurting each other and fighting. Neither of us were “bad” people, we just really didn’t know how to get out of the cycle. One of us would hurt the other and then we would “withdraw”, put up walls and the cycle would continue. Then one day, my husband announced we were getting a divorce. In reality, part of me had really wanted that for years, but God got a hold of me that day and told me to fight for my marriage. Well, my husband is extremely stubborn and once he makes up his mind, he hates to change it, but God told me to continue to fight for. I laid it all at God’s feet. I took a good look at what was going on and how we had both contributed to the toxicity of the marriage. I realized I couldn’t change him, but I could change my actions. I spent a lot of time in prayer asking God to guide me every step of the way. I saw areas that I needed to change, mostly stuff like, I needed to show my husband respect even if I didn’t think he always deserved it and I needed to let him be head of our house (yes, even while separated and him filing for divorce). I learned I needed to concentrate on being a better wife to him and not always put the kids first. Long story short, my husband returned 7 months later and the divorce case has been closed. We are both working on putting Christ in the center of marriage. Our marriage has never been better. We still have work to do, but we are dedicated to working on it now. Marriage problems are almost never one sided, but it is very easy to believe that when you are hurting, but the good thing is, even though they are not one side, they usually can be changed by one person changing the way they approach things. Some good books that I discovered are The 5 Love Languages, The Love Dare, Power of the Praying Wife (there is a husband version too) and of course, this blog (my friend directed me here right after my separation). God can change the hearts of each person in the marriage. It usually starts with just one and I don’t believe it is too late, because I have seen what God has done in my marriage. Pray daily (even hourly if need to) for God to restore your feelings for your spouse and believe that He will. Pray for your spouse and work on doing kind act for them. Try to discover their love language. That was one of our problems, we totally didn’t speak each other’s love language and our tanks were empty. Marriage isn’t about fulfilling our own needs, it’s about honoring the Father. When we live the Christian mandate of loving others unconditionally and serving our spouse, it really changes the dynamic of the marriage. It doesn’t happen right away, but over time, things usually start to change. Like I said, it took me 7 months, my husband and I sitting across from each other at our pre-trial for a divorce, before things changed, but it did. But if you keep doing things the way you always have, then you will continue to get the same results. Put it in God’s hands, pray continuously over it, serve your spouse and love them unconditionally as Christ loves us. It’s a tall order, but I know in my life, it has been totally worth ever minute.
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  8. Forgiveness is not easy. But, you harm yourself more if you do not let go of the pain and the hurt. Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself as they say and it is true. We, as Christians are also commanded to forgive. Do not let someone who hurt you in the past rob you of your future. Let go of the past.
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  9. We are going through this right now … Rather, I am going through the process of trying to soften my heart toward my husband, after reaching the point of deciding I was going to leave and file for divorce. We’ve only been married for 5 1/2 years, but our problems started from day 1 of our marriage. (They actually started long before that, I just wasn’t aware of them.)
    We’ve been through almost every horrible scenario you can imagine in a marriage. My husband is a Christian, but he has cheated, been emotionally and verbally abusive, and very nearly physically abusive. He’s also been very critical in the past about EVERYTHING about me, no exaggeration. He actually wrote out a long list once of all of the things he hoped I would change about myself. Which is kind of ironic since my love language is “words of affirmation.” It wasn’t until I actually packed up, and took our then 1 year-old son and left him for a few months that he seemed to “get” it and decided to work on his issues. We’ve begun counseling (together and separately), and through that I’ve learned that he has battled sex addiction from a very young age. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident when we were engaged, which is why he struggles with anger issues and why I never had any red flags about THAT while we were just dating.
    It helps me to see how hard he’s been working over the past year, to better himself and to be a better husband and father. And he is changing, I really know that in my heart. But at the same time, I’ve been so hurt by him that for much of the last year I was very angry and closed off and would act indifferent to him even while he was showering me with affection and trying desperately to meet my needs. It’s only been about two months since I decided to start ACTING like I love him in a last-ditch effort to save our marriage, and I honestly can say that I’ve been feeling the love return lately. I’ve especially made a point to be playful and initiate sex with him often, even though I don’t always feel like I want to be vulnerable with him in that way, because I find that we both feel closer and happier when we’ve been consistent with love-making. And I’ve been amazed to see that I enjoy it more each time! He has worked very hard to praise me often in the last year, and to take “time-outs” when he feels like he’s getting angry so that he doesn’t say or do anything hurtful. He certainly doesn’t do it perfectly every time, but then neither do I, and after all of the pain I’ve been through it is just a relief to see him changing for the better. So I’ve been telling him often that I love him (even when I don’t necessarily feel it), and that I respect him for how hard he’s working. And when I feel the hurt and anger beginning to rise in me – and it still does, often, even though I’ve forgiven him – I don’t push it down, but I’ve been making a point to use those moments to heap more praise on him, even if he’s not actually around, and then I use our weekly counseling sessions to talk about anything I feel I really need to get off my chest. Like I said, it’s only been two months or so, but I really see all of this making a difference. Also, it really helps that we’re seeing a Christian counselor!

    • Don’t understand why anyone would play the game of assuming/hoping your husband love you. Either you know he does or he doesn’t. Don’t waste years of waiting for the answer…. Sometimes the answer never comes. With real love, you just know. There’s no waiting game, unless you’re in very early stages.

  10. I am seconding the Love Dare, and counseling and everything said above. And Crissy – sending you love and prayers as I have been there and done that (though a different situation still much pain and walling off).

    My husband was checked out (not intending to be but was) for the first years of our marriage. And I kept fighting – meaning counseling, books, praying, trying to be a “good” wife. Then I’d check out for awhile so I wouldn’t get hurt. Then inevitably I would get hurt and it would start the process all over again. I must have gone through it at least 4 distinct times. Each time I would learn something new about myself and what patterns I was running into and why I was afraid.

    Then came the day (okay days into weeks into months) where I didn’t feel any love (or like for that matter) for him and didn’t want to be anywhere near him but I made the choice to marry him and that was that (we are both children of messily divorced parents). It was excruciating to do as mentioned above, make the choice to love, So many times I would do it and get hurt, or even worse get nothing. So many times I thought “Really? Really? This is what God wants me to do? This is how God wants me to live?” I faltered but always went back even though logically and emotionally it seemed ridiculous to keep subjecting myself to that pain.

    It’s been three years since the major conflict that shook him (saying unless it changed though I loved him I would have to remove myself from him for awhile) and two years since I felt like I didn’t love him. I’m not going to say “Yay! It’s all fixed now and everything is great!” because its not. But little by little it is getting better, and I know I truly do love him (always have and always will) and there have been places and ways God has healed the both of us and opened us up to each other which might not have happened otherwise.

    Do I still get hurt and want to wall off? Absolutely. Does he still wall me off? Of course. But we have learned more about what triggers each other and how to best support each other in it – knowing that we are in it for the long haul (even if it doesn’t seem that way to the other person sometimes.)

    My heart goes out to everyone dealing with a situation like this – it can be difficult to understand the pain since normally it seems to everyone else that it’s just a communication difference…

    I know it can be tough to “hang in there” and “keep doing the right thing” – I’ve watched it with others around me who I love. It does help to get a counselor who will support you in doing the right thing – while I never realized my counselor (we both go individually and together to the same one) if he was Christian – he has always supported us in staying together no matter what. (The counselor who wouldn’t help me figure out how to stay only lasted one visit – best decision of my life.)

  11. We’ve been married almost 13 years, and have not had sex/intimacy for over 6 years. Until recently.

    My husband has a condition which results in erectile dysfunction. So we gradually stopped having sex, and stopped touching one another, completely, over 6 years ago. I hid behind my kids, and made them my life for years, and then I turned 40, and something changed in me. Maybe my hormones kicked in, but I wanted to make love! I wanted to feel intimate, and I wanted to feel wanted and alive and cherished. I had a libido and it was strong! I decided the only choice I had was to have an affair. And I started actively looking up an ex boyfriend. This became the only solution and I convinced myself that my husband would accept this as he had shut down in this area, and this is my one life – why should I have to sacrifice this? I was angry and desperate. I justified it by telling myself that we could divorce on paper, co-parent our kids, still live together, as I still love him, but I was going to find affection elsewhere. I was at the lowest point I’ve ever been in our marriage.

    One day at church, 4 months ago, I went to speak to a pastor’s wife. And strangely enough opened up to her. I had told no-one of my plans. She knew from previous ‘therapy sessions’ with us as a couple, that my husband has ED, but I don’t think she realised that we have zero intimacy. She was amazing. She opened up about how years before she’d come close to having an affair, and it had taken her years to recover, and she told me about how much damage that did to her and her marriage. She was so grateful she had never slept with the guy, but it had gone too far already. The fact that she told me such a private thing, helped me open up to her. She started guiding me, and listening to me, and checking up on me regularly, never once judging me. I sent her text messages some nights after midnight, and she always responded. She was THERE FOR ME. I was able to be 100% honest and wept with her many times, feeling helpless for my marriage and for my life to feel fulfilled. The one thing she always did was point me to God. Repeatedly she told her to ‘leave my cloak and run from temptation’. She prayed for me. Fervently. She encouraged me to make small steps with my husband.
    One night 3 months ago, I did just that. I made a small step. I kissed him. He was shocked, but responded. We ended up spending more than an hour that night, ‘reacquainting’ ourselves with one another. There is still erectile dysfunction. There is still a long road ahead for us. I am committed to my marriage and am ashamed at how close I had come to giving up. My husband doesn’t know about me deciding to have an affair or leave him.

    It is in no way easy, we have MANY challenges going forward, but I feel like the connection between my husband and I is stronger than it’s EVER been. I am so grateful for ‘C’, that I had the courage to open up to her. That she had the courage to tell me her story, and that she was able to walk alongside me, coaching me and guiding me, ’til I found my way back. She’s my Titus 2v4 friend, helping me on my unconventional journey to being a Proverbs 31 wife.

    My husband and I are now spending more time cuddling, hugging, kissing, pillow-talking, and going to sleep snuggled in each other’s arms. 3 months ago we didn’t touch. We now have sex(what we can manage in our circumstance), and it’s not as often as I need/would like, but I am praying that it will get better, and trying to be patient with my husband as he works through what ED has done to him/our marriage. It takes a conscious choice and big effort, but it is possible to reconnect. What has happened in our marriage is nothing short of a miracle 😀

    • That’s a beautiful story! Thank you so much for sharing it and reminding us that there is hope, and that God wants to do a great work in our lives!

  12. This is all familiar. I have checked out completly. Something at the end of your blog stuck out. I have past hurts that have effected every decision I have ever made. Our marriage was founded on very non – Christian values. Things were going on that I will not admit it of protection for myself. We lived in a very sexually charged and based relationship. I thought that I must jump on this relationship, he payed all the attention I needed. Fast forward. God was brought into the relationship, back in my life, and I say no to the previous life. I see error of the way. I deal with someone that is overly charged by sex, I can’t stand it. A lot of it is because I have very little feeling during sex. (Cue childhood baggage) A hysterectomy didn’t help matters. We have 3 boys now and they all have neuro dx. There aren’t many nights that we don’t have 1 to 2 kids in bed with us or just me. We don’t have the resources to grab a cheep hotel and there is never time at home with out then. I think in the past 14 months we may have had sex 8 times. It’s killing him, pushing him to his porn addiction, blaming me for going back to it. I just feel lost. Plus, sex is a chore. Well, that’s what it feels like after 6 years of infertility issues. I know, tough break. Any thoughts on how to get things going again?

    • Elisabeth says:

      Do you have time during the day to be together? Have you read The Good Girls Guide to Sex? Do you have another bedroom that you could slip off to after the kids are asleep? High needs kids take a lot of energy and time! Hang in there!

  13. This blessed me Sheila, thanks. I’m encouraged to know that I’m not just staying for my children, I can grow that love again. It’s hard to believe after abuse which led to withdrawal and an emotional affair, but it’s encouraging just to see it written out there like that. God bless you.

  14. I am totally walled off so this article just loudly spoke to me. After several years of financial issues, feeling like I married another person to raise instead of a having a spouse, and having no sex or intimacy- hugging, kissing, for nearly 2 years, I just don’t know how to get those feelings back. Due to medical issues on my husband’s behalf, physical intimacy can be very painful, so it’s avoided, and just totally off the table. Even if I do the Love Dare, which I have been considering just have not started, the whole physical issue is still there and unless he is miraculously healed, I see no change in the area of having sex again. Even erections are painful. How do you survive a marraige without sex?? I am just stuck.

    • There is more to intimacy than penetrative intercourse–to be blunt. Tell him you miss him touching you and ask for him to give you pleasure in some other way–you get the idea. Ask him if you can massage his back, rub his feet, shower with him, any kind of touch that seems nice to him. You could also talk directly to your husband’s doctors about what you two can and cannot do and to possibly refer you to a therapist that deals with sex issues specifically. Sometimes the medical situation changes, but fear of pain keeps a person from wanting to try. God bless you as you keep persevering.

      • Unless you married a really great guy, there is no hope in this area. I am love starved, and my altruistic husband could care less. John said it best…life is too short to put up with this, and at 57, it’s even shorter.

        • I left out the most important word….narcisstic…..My husband is an altruistic narcissist. I have been grieving over a sexless marriage….(once in two years).

  15. Yes, I checked out 7 or 8 years ago. It ended the pain; I did not care whether I was married or not, anymore. I can’t say how to recover from it; I haven’t. I still am around and yes, I do try to be nice and show extra courtesy. I can’t really tell her I love her; that would be a lie and that does not set well with me. But it still hasn’t built the trust back ( my trust in her). It looks like I won’t live long enough to build back the love and trust I once had. If I could just get her to read your blog (and others), but, of course, she doesn’t need to learn anything; it’s just me. She already knows how everything should be!

  16. It can get better. I was the first commenter on this post, and at that time, I would have been relieved to have him decide to leave because it seemed better than pretending we were doing great. Since then, I’ve done a few things right and a lot of things wrong. First, I made a decision to treat him with more courtesy, which had started to fray at the edges due to my emotional detachment. Simple things like saying “I really appreciated (whatever he did)”, greeting him with warmth when he came home and not getting angry when he chose working over everything else. I wasn’t really up to showing love, so I did what I could.

    The second was to be honest about how disconnected I felt from him. It didn’t really sink in the first several times, even when I told him that I thought that if we weren’t committed Christians, we would be divorced by now. I told him that I was done being the prime “fixer” of the marriage because it was too heartbreaking to keep trying, but if he wanted to work on things and took the initiative, I would work with him. I know this seems contradictory to my statement above that I would do what I could, but I decided that I couldn’t fix the marriage, I could only work on my own behavior without an attitude of manipulation. I told him that I was committed to staying in the marriage because I believed it was a covenant I had made with him and God and I knew he felt the same way.

    He asked how we could fix things and I suggested couples therapy, but said if he was serious, he would need to arrange it. Two months later (!) he made an appointment. It has been three months and I am just now starting to believe that he may be serious enough to stick with it. I think he was stunned to realize that I truly didn’t believe that I was a higher priority than his work–and that it was his “job” to make sure that I knew he loved me. I am still not really necessarily feeling like his top priority, but I do believe that he loves me and is trying to do better. I found that that is enough to hold on to for now.

  17. Another testimonial here for the “5 Love Languages.” I really think every person alive should read that book and understand it’s principles. It not only helped me understand and meet my husband’s needs, but helped me understand myself, my son, my parents, my siblings and friends and I have new appreciation for them.

  18. I have checked out. I have been for the past year trying to end my marriage. We separated for three months this summer after things took a turn for the worse and what I felt was her addiction/dependency hitting rock bottom. Still I couldn’t bring myself to file and allowed her back in. And though the medications are not as much a problem, I still feel there is a deep need for therapy before I can really open back up. We have a two year old son, this makes it harder. I don’t want to be near her, and most times don’t even want to look at her. I really don’t want this but can’t leave.

  19. On December 21 2014 my wife told me she didn’t love me anymore she said that this was coming from 10 years of me not validating her feelings and from many selfish acts on my part. I knew that things were tough between us but not this bad. I begged for another chance but she said she had given me to many already. Since then I have completely changed I clean the house, do the laundry,make dinner and care for the kids. We have three kids 3,5,6. I make special trips to get her whatever she wants, I tell her daily how beautiful she is I praise all of her actions and abilities I apologize for ever causing her pain and am trying to show through my actions how remorseful I am. I have been receiving counselling from my minister. I pray to God several times daily to forgive me for not loving her as Christ loves the Church. I ask him to soften her heart and be receptive to his love through me. None of this has had any effect on her she still says she can’t ever love me again. I am at a loss as what will actually make a difference. There has not been any infidelity in the marriage until now I suspect that she is developing an emotional tie with another man and it is killing me. I need help.

  20. I am the shut down spouse. My husband has no interest in me as a woman – I’m far more mother to him than wife. I had bariatric surgery to lose weight, and even that’s not helping.

    There’s always some reason – something that gets in the way of being intimate. Excuses. All he really wants is someone to take care of him and someone to comfort him.

    I’ve checked out after so many years of trying, of listening to promises to change, of listening to how wrong I am and that he doesn’t see me as his mommy, and on and on.

    Hope is emotionally expensive and I can’t afford it any more.

  21. Julie Hays says:

    Have any of you seen the movie Fireproof or read The Love Dare? If not, I encourage you to do both!!! They are marriage changers if you are willing. I’m praying for all of your marriages! God is good!!

  22. My wife has checked out of our marriage completely… after 15 years of raising kids and putting the kids first, we just grew apart. We stopped talking, dating, having fun…. I recognized this a few years ago and begged her to change and start putting some emphasis on the marriage. It was too late. She had no desire at all. No desire for any connection with a man she hadn’t connected with in years. Not one date in 15 years, not one night out without the kids, and hardly 20 minutes of conversation in any given week. I begged to talk for a few minutes a day, greet each other with a kiss, go on a date once a week or two but it was too late. So I tired the Love Dare, Fireproof — and a dozen other things to get her to take an interest in me again. She got madder and madder the more I tried. She said it was forced and phony and she had no desire to even acknowledge I was trying desperately to be incomparably nice and kind and loving. She became furious that I was trying so hard. So here we are: not talking, no sex (that came to a halt years ago), no dating, she can’t even say good morning or good-bye or greet me when I come home.

    I hang in there for the kids but it’s just giving the kids a false sense of what a marriage is. I’m exhausted by obstacle after obstacle before me every time I tried with all my heart to turn things around. Sometimes, a partner makes up their mind and there’s no getting back what you lost.

    • Daniel,

      I feel your pain but she sounds so hardened. My wife made a comment during out last “talk” stating “I just want my life back”. Married at 20, so I asked her which life? She did not answer. I think that she has fantasy of how life might be or should be and no matter what you do, you cannot fulfill it. Nor should her happiness be all reliant on you. Unfortunately for me as a husband in a marriage with a “refuser”, I am pre-occupied with the sadness and pain of it and here I am at 11:00 on this site when I should be working. But I have found nothing is as important when marriage is so sad. I am at 28 years almost now. I could not say Happy Anniversary” last July as I cannot find happy in it. Your wife, mine and may others are “wishing” for a different life but do not realize the realities of that. I think of leaving all the time …but the kids. It is so painful. There is no fighting but also no good night, good morning, just avoidance and evasion to avoid intimacy. You are obviously trying but unless the bitterness stops and you and she can pray together about others and yourselves, there is only pain. I am really sorry, so many of us are in this boat.

  23. Jason,

    What is wrong with you? You seem like a selfish, narcissistic, and pompous guy. How would you feel if your wife treated you like a lesser species? I bet you strangle puppies.

  24. I am currently two years out from wife’s second affair in a seven year old marriage. Very difficult to not be checked out, that’s for sure. I am all about the “love is a choice not a feeling mantra”, but at what point do you have to just flat out protect yourself and throw up some barriers?? Her excuse for having had the affairs was that she was not getting enough affection from me at home. I will readily admit that number one, this is not my strong suit, number two that I would have probably shown more affection had I not been living in basically a sexless marriage (6 to 8 times a year). So fast forward to post second affair and I am doing everything in my power to show more affection and she is agreeing that I am. Unfortunately for me, the sexless marriage continues and I’m probably lucky to get it 4 to 5 times a year now…….that’s a great way show your spouse your committed after a second affair, huh?? We have been to numerous counselors, deacons, pastors, etc., nothing really seems to help. I’m just hanging in there now based on my trust in God and for my two darling children. God has definitely not wasted it as my relationship with Him has grown much stronger and I have improved myself in many ways where I was lacking. She has never been one to show any remorse or empathy. I pray that she will be humbled one of these days and understand the carnage she has left in her wake, hopefully before there is anymore.

    • Hi Hudson,
      I feel for you – having had your wife have two affairs in such a short marriage. But what struck a chord in me was your assertion that she has never been one to show remorse or empathy. My wife also cannot show remorse or empathy and I struggled with why she can’t. After a lot of reading and research (this was only part of the problem; she’s also verbally abusive), I found that it’s an indicator of a bigger problem (maybe a psychological problem) and one that is not likely to change. Think about it: a loving, committed partner would naturally have empathy when the other is hurt or tells her something bothers him or hurts him or frustrates him or whatever. … for a person to hear that from a spouse or anyone close — or even someone not so close at all — you would THINK they’d naturally be empathetic and concerned. If that ability to empathize or even feel remorse is not there it’s either that they need to have some power and not admit guilt or maybe something even deeper. It just doesn’t make sense to me how one can’t empathize with someone who is saddened. I have realized in my own marriage, that she won’t ever have that ability to empathize or even care at all about how I feel. I can’t even talk about how I feel or she attacks and says something like “do you want to start a fight?” or “oh, now your attacking me or putting me down??” — as if my saying something she said or did was hurtful was actually a put down and not just open communication about how we feel.

      Well, I wish you luck and peace.

  25. My husband sent me this article to read and although I am a non affectionate person I do not blame this on the down fall of my marriage. To begin with we knew each other for all of a month before we got married and now 5 years later there is so much hate and resentment. He bought a family business with his mother and sister and I was excluded and not even consulted about it. I was compared to his previous 3 wives for the first year or two. I have 3 kids from my previous marriage and we do not agree on how to raise them. They have heard him call me names and they disrespect him because of this so I’ve checked out. He thinks rubbing my feet and telling me I’m beautiful is all that’s needed in a marriage. We have been to church groups and counseling but never follow thru with anything. There is much more underlying problems but for me this is how it all began to be the end.

  26. Hi my name is chris lately ive been dreaming f my wife cheating on me and i never thought nything of it cause i couldnt believe she was ever capable of it so i kept the dreams to myself. I love my wife i know she loves me but i recieved a text from a number and it said she was going to lunch with a guy for the past month by herself turns out they kissed a few times ive asked her before i told her what i found out if there is anything she is unhappy with or anything she would like to tell me she said no. So i said lately it seems like your attention is somewhere else is there someone u talk to or hangout with i dont know about she said no. I told her what i found out and had to lie to het to get so.e of the truth out she swore they only kissed no sex how do i believe that and work threw this? Is this worth saving? We do have 2 kids together but i just dont know what to do.

  27. You should tell her to stop talking to or meeting that other guy. Also go on a date with her or plan a date at home by bringing home restaurant food. Read a book together. The books mentioned above (love languages or the love dare).

  28. Jennifer says:

    I am currently separated from my husband of 19 years of marriage (25 together). Years of resentment have built up. I had realized about 8 months ago in October how I had failed as a wife and came to him heartfelt asking for his forgiveness for where I had failed as a wife. I had a lot of baggage which I brought from upbringing as did my husband. Unfortunately over the last 5 years we both struggled in our marriage and neither one of his really did what was necessary and we just continued to withdraw. Unfortunately at the time I had come to my husband asking his forgiveness I was unaware that he was at that time texting with a female friend on a continuous basis. A few weeks later I found out and confronted him but he said she is just a friend. She was in the middle of a divorce. Fast forward to November and my husband decided the marriage was over, he never loved me, we are not a match etc….. He moved out in February. I am quite confident he is involved yet he won’t admit it. he tells me his personal life is none of my concern. I have learned over the last 8 months to lean on God as hard as this is. I have also come to the place of giving my failures to God and am trusting God. Obviously my desire is for my husband to come home. We have a 15 year old daughter who is very hurt and angry at her father for leaving. My husband is a believer. In one breath he says he is at peace with God about his decision and then says It will be a great day for me when I have to stand before God about leaving my marriage. He has stopped going to church last November. His heart is so hardened right now. Such a hard time in trying to discern if God wants me to stand for my marriage. I told my husband if he wants a divorce then he needs to proceed.

  29. My husband of 25 years left 7 months ago because he didn’t want to be married and wanted to live alone. We have been in touch until recently as we have been on holiday in different countries. I have decided to leave him alone and work on myself. I realize that I have found it difficult to show love as I wasn’t shown much during my childhood. I worry that he will not get in touch and we will have little chance of saving our marriage. However, I believe that he needs to make the first contact as it has always been me in the past.

    Any advice would be appreciated.

  30. This article could have been written about me! I experienced childhood trauma that made me insecure in love/trust. I have a wonderful husband that would try to be affectionate and caring and I pushed him away… in anger. ( I suffer from depression) I also took the stress of my job home and was too exhausted to do anything. After 10 yrs together he told me 4 weeks ago that wanted a divorce. He said that he was in a loveless marriage with a wife that hated him and he is ready to move on. We went to counseling and the therapist basically said that he is making the right decision to leave because our marriage was not healthy. I was floored. I love my husband with all my heart but he is angry and says I am cruel and selfish. He said any attempts I make to get better ( medication, therapy, kindness) make him angry as he feels I am lying to “trap him.” I don’t know what to do. He moved out 3 weeks ago and already filed for divorce. He is being so cold. He has said some hurtful things ( I assume its to push me away so I agree to the divorce). He just wont let his wall down and allow himself to be vulnerable for a chance at happiness again. I keep trying, but it is painful and difficult.

  31. My wife of 16 years told me 2 days ago that for almost 5 years she was getting up the courage to leave our marraige. We had a rough time earlier this year and since then I believed things had improved. She even had returned to saying that she loved me. When I asked about this I was told that it was only a word and she had continued to say it hoping it would actually make her love me. For the sake of our son in the short time she will spend her time between our home and her mothers. We have been together for 23 years and i love her deeply. I cant see any light or way out of this as she is so final in everything she says. I have agreed with everything she has asked me to do and she even said she could not believe I was so agreeable under the circumstances. Have you any advise as to how I could slowly start to try and win her back

  32. One thing you may want to consider in this case is that the husband said he has been taking antidepressants. The majority of the most popularly prescribed antidepressants can have a severe dampening effect on a relationship. Over a third of men (and women) report a loss of libido – which the literature says is permanent in some cases, even after the person stops using the antidepressant. But worse is the effects on other parts of the brain which actually affect how a person experiences and gives love, romantic feelings, etc., in many cases crippling their ability to have a meaningful relationship.

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  1. […] soul sent me this article it isn’t about infidelity just being hurt the whole article is How to Love Your Spouse Again. For me the best part […]

  2. […] Check out the rest of the article at: […]

  3. […] in a Loveless Marriage When You’ve Checked Out of Your Marriage Why the Vow Matters When is it Okay to Give Up on My Marriage? Encouragement for Those in Really […]

  4. […] I know her, she KNOWS that the right thing to do is to try and fix her marriage. She read this: How to Love Your Spouse Again: When You've Checked Out and wants to follow it…. And for a few days this week and a few days last week, things were […]

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