Dear Neil: Regarding your recent column on the confusing message “I love you, but I’m not in love with you,” does it matter that my husband of many years says he no longer loves me, but is still the same caring man he has always been? Don’t actions mean more than words?
Puzzled in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Wellington: If your husband is saying he no longer loves you, that sounds very serious, and I would not recommend you ignore those words simply because he is still sweet and caring.
You can ask him to talk about his feelings toward you and about his relationship with you. What is he unhappy about? How long has he been feeling this way? What would he need different in order for him to feel happy and fulfilled about his marriage?
Let’s say you were willing to go to the edge of the earth in order to fix what’s wrong. What would he like you to do, or quit doing? What’s broken that he would like fixed? What else would he like different? What would be the best first step you could take that would communicate to him that you care how he feels, and that you want to please him and keep him content and happy?
Ask him these questions, and take a genuine interest in his feelings and his requests. Don’t allow yourself to get defensive or angry, or you will sabotage the conversation. Then, if you choose, you are at least in the position to repair what’s stopping him from feeling more “in love” with you.
Dear Neil: I’m in a 5 month relationship that has been healthy and loving. Friends from my church that know both of us suggest that after my boyfriend’s last relationship (which ended over a year ago), that he will never be able to truly love anyone again. They say that he was inconsolable when they broke up, and that he’d make comments like “this was the only girl for him.” I can’t stop thinking of how sweet and protective he was with her. Yesterday, he made a joke that he wasn’t going to take me home to visit his mom for years to come. This concerns me and makes me question his seriousness. I don’t want to be with someone who can’t give himself to me fully. How can I know for sure if he has healed?
Bombarded in Flagstaff, Arizona
Dear Flagstaff: The only thing you can do is to ask him about his feelings regarding the other woman. Why does he think that relationship broke up? Were there warning signs he missed? What does he think his contribution was to the relationship going sour? On a scale of 100 to 0, how attached was he to her when they were at their best? Where is he today on that scale regarding his attachment to her? How healed does he think he is from that whole experience, again using that same scale? What does he need now in order to heal even more?
Quit concentrating on whether he is ready to make a full commitment right now, and start looking at how you can strengthen the closeness and tighten the connection between the two of you. That will tell you whether he can be yours or not—along with how attached he still is to his ex and how healed he is from that relationship.
One other thought. For most people, it takes 2 years or so to get to know someone well enough to know if you are genuinely compatible with each other. Perhaps you are expecting things to move too fast.
Dear Neil: I do not have an attractive body, nor am I good in bed—and I don’t want a man who initially values those things in a woman. How can I get to a peaceful feeling of acceptance about this issue?
Determined in Australia
Dear Australia: Restrict yourself to those men that find you appealing and desirable. Men are also attracted to a woman’s personality, her sense of humor, how much fun she is and how close and intimate they grow to feel toward her. If you make such a connection with a man, perhaps then you might challenge your attitude regarding lovemaking, because most people (men and women) consider it to be a very important part of their relationship.