“I Don’t Love You Anymore”
What to do when the man you love says those awful words
-The Betty Editors
It wasn’t about the President’s health care plan or about the arrest of Professor Gates but it still was the most e-mailed story from the New York Times this weekend. It was in the section called “Modern Love” and, yes, it was a story about love lost and love regained. But it wasn’t about romance; it was about reality. And, maybe, that’s what made it so remarkable.
Written by Laura A. Munson, she tells about hearing her husband say the words that every wife who loves her husband dreads: “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did. I’m moving out. The kids will understand. They’ll want me to be happy.”
Yes, her husband, she explains, was having a “profound and troubling meltdown.” Disappointed with himself, he was disappointed with her and the life they had made over their years together. And so he began to act the way a man who tells his wife “I don’t love you anymore. I’m not sure I ever did” would act. He stayed out late, was unreliable and uncaring, blew off family occasions, and didn’t even wish her a “Happy birthday.” He was a total rat.
Of course the rotten way he acted is no surprise. How many marriages have ended when one partner declares, “I don’t love you anymore.” But what makes this story so intriguing is how she reacted to his declaration and his behavior. She didn’t rant and rage. She didn’t even cry. She didn’t suggest therapy. She didn’t get a lawyer. While her friends were irate, she stayed calm. As she writes, “He threw a sucker punch and I ducked. She simply told him “I don’t buy it,” and decided to wait him out.
She says she is no pushover but had come to understand that she was not the root of her husband’s problem. He was. But if he could turn it into a marital fight he would not have to deal with his own unhappiness. And so she stepped away and kept smiling.
And there is probably something more. She loved him and wanted to keep the marriage and the family together. And to do this was more important than winning their arguments or getting sympathy from family and friends or proving she was independent. She used some very old-fashioned, almost forgotten tactics that few women would even think to employ nowadays like patience, and good sense and good humor. And it worked. They stayed together. He worked out his problems. He became a husband again. He even wanted her to tell their tale.
But how many others of us could be so smart, so strategic, so strong? Wouldn’t most of us have fought back? Been as hateful as he was? At least, had a tantrum? And then consulted a lawyer? How many of us could stop and think and realize that real love isn’t always about passion but sometimes must be about plain good common sense.