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My husband left, saying he was unhappy. He said he wants me to move on because he no longer loves me. He came back and for several months told me he loved me, but then he said he didn’t. Three months ago, he starting sticking to the belief that it’s definitely over between us. He says he has no feelings for me and he doesn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s feelings. He says he wasn’t ready for marriage in 2012, but he was in his thirties for goodness sake! What if I have already let him know I want to reconnect, but he says he doesn’t want to and that it’s over for him?
I can only imagine how much relief you desire from this constant back and forth in your fragile marriage. Each cycle of disconnection after reconnecting likely leaves you feeling more guarded and defensive, making future reconnection more tentative and uncertain. It’s an exhausting cycle that appears to have no end. Let’s talk about how you can cope under these crazy-making conditions.
First, it’s important for you to find your spiritual center so you don’t continue to get tossed around while your husband figures out what he wants to do with his marital commitment. Even though you know what you want in your marriage, your husband isn’t certain. You deserve a level of safety and stability while he figures out his path. The Savior described himself and his church as a “defense” and a “refuge” from the storm.[i] As you build a strong relationship with the Savior, you will be better protected from the exposure you’re experiencing in this marriage.
You’ve let your husband know what you want in this marriage and it’s his responsibility to figure out what he wants. It’s tragic and unfair to you that he didn’t figure this out before he committed to marriage. If you still want to stay married to him, even three months after he changed his mind back to divorce, then I recommend you hold your position.
However, you’ll want to hold this position from a place of safety and protection. Your husband’s back-and-forth is highly damaging to your security, confidence, and well-being. Create a safe distance where you can still observe what he’s doing while still sending a signal that you’re committed. For example, if he circles back around and wants to move back in to the home, you can recommend doing some marriage counseling before you make that decision. You’re essentially slowing down the impulsive tug and pull pattern he’s created so you can see where he lands before you put yourself back into the position of being dumped again.
Now, if your husband is truly finished with the relationship and is moving on, then you have to accept his decision and start the difficult work of building a new life without him. You’ll do this best with the support of loved ones and friends. Since it will take time for your heart to detach from him, recognize that you’ll keep checking to see if he’s changed his mind. At some point, you have to take him seriously, so if he’s held his position for the past three months, then it’s your turn to make your decision. Yes, he’s made the decision for your marriage to end, but accepting his reality is still your decision and will open you up to “things as they really are.”[ii]
Acceptance is an essential step in healing through grief and loss. It takes time to move into full acceptance, as we bargain with our loved one or with God that things can be different. Of course, we hold on to hope as long as we can. If your husband holds his position and you continue to move forward, the acceptance will gradually settle and you’ll experience peace and relief. I promise that there is hope for your future. The ancient apostle Paul’s promise to the people of Corinth applies to you and all of us when we experience unexpected losses in our lives: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[iii]
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you or a loved one are struggling with the devastating impact of pornography issues, sexual betrayal, and relationship trauma, I have created a 6-part audio program to help married couples strengthen their recovery. You can purchase the 6-hour audio program here for a limited time at the reduced price of $29 – https://geoff-steurer.mykajabi.com/marriage-recovery
About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.geoffsteurer.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.