January 21, 2008 9:06 PM   Subscribe

I don't love the person I am married to. What can I do? I like my spouse but I don't 'love'. Is it wrong for me to stay with that person?
posted by Kilovolt to Religion & Philosophy (31 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It's only wrong if you're not comfortable with it. Screw what other people think. How do YOU feel about it?
posted by PowerCat at 9:08 PM on January 21, 2008

posted by gjc at 9:12 PM on January 21, 2008

Maybe you do love your spouse. Do you suppose that love is always like the first weeks/months of romance, with flowers, sex five times a day, and fluttering hearts? Long-term relationships aren't like that for most people. Is this your first long-term relationship?
posted by dhartung at 9:16 PM on January 21, 2008

Details please. Do you have kids? How long have you been married? Have you always felt this way and if not when did your feelings change?
posted by LarryC at 9:17 PM on January 21, 2008

My question is more properly put as: What is the best way to tell someone that you don't love them?
posted by Kilovolt at 9:19 PM on January 21, 2008

Why do you want to tell them? What is your purpose? To be hurtful? Start a divorce?
posted by Tinen at 9:27 PM on January 21, 2008

The problem is that these questions you're asking have very subtle answers, depending on a considerable amount of detail. The questions you're asking are often different from person to person. So far, you have given us none of the details we would need to help you figure out, for yourself, what your best course of action is.

If you want helpful advice, it would be good to explain the following to us: why do you seem to want to stay with this person? Did you love them when you married them? Is there a reason you fell out of love? What led you to marry them? Why might you want to leave? What do you want to gain from telling them you do not love them?

Tell us that, and then we'll have a chance to give you good advice.
posted by Ms. Saint at 9:31 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I heard an interview recently with a sociologist who believes it is possible for a couple to learn to love each other after making a partnership commitment. He has written a book about it and is using himself as a guinea pig to test the theory. I wish I could remember his name.
posted by robcorr at 9:33 PM on January 21, 2008

Also, what is the "love-hate" tag about?

The best way to tell someone that you don't love them is to say "I don't love you." Particularly if you are married to them it is far too late to pussyfoot around.

I'd be darn sure of my feelings before I did anything like that though.
posted by tkolar at 9:36 PM on January 21, 2008

What is the best way to tell someone that you don't love them?

Honestly, directly, and kindly.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 9:38 PM on January 21, 2008

Well, hoe are you defining love? Is it some fantasy where your heart palpitates every time you see your spouse? Do you expect birds to sing when he or she enters a room? If that's not there, don't worry.

Or is it concern for their welfare, enjoyment of their companionship, affection for their personality? If that's not there, you should end the relationship.

Is it sexual desire? If that's not there, you've got a problem too.

Love is just too vague a word to be useful here. To this day, OJ Simpson argues that he loved his deceased wife. The way he defines love and the way people who don't kill their spouses define love is probably quite a lot different.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:47 PM on January 21, 2008

Just curious:

Is this the same person that you asked this previous AskMeFi question about?
How do you tell someone that you don't want to be their friend?

I have a 'friend' that I have nothing in common with. He likes to think that we are good friends. How can I politely tell him to fuck off. I don't hate this person but I just don't like him latching on to me at parties and such.
You tagged that question with both "love" and "hate", too.

And your questions here seem... like you're dancing around. "Is it right to stay with a person I don't love" is not "better put" as "How do I tell someone I don't love them". Those are two totally different questions.

Plus, "hate" in your tags, despite saying you like this person? Similarly to the "hate" tag in your "non-friends" question, despite saying you didn't hate that person?

How about you stop spinning in your interaction with us, and just come out and directly say what you mean? Maybe then we can actually respond in a meaningful way.
posted by Flunkie at 9:49 PM on January 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Read Peter Kramer's Should You Leave? I found it well written and enlightening.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:14 PM on January 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Should You Leave?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:15 PM on January 21, 2008

the best way to tell someone you don't love them? soon. on a friday, so they have the weekend to regroup before going back to work.

i would have a new place to live lined up, too, or at least a place to stay. i imagine you won't be welcome at home for a while, if ever.

who knows? they may feel the same way. then you can stay together for stability and friendship, and have affairs on the side and separate bedrooms. this model works for more people than you think. but if the other party assumes it's a love match, it's going to get messy. which is all the more reason to do it quickly--it will only get messier as time goes on.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:34 AM on January 22, 2008

Be honest. Talk to your spouse. All these questions going around in your head will make you ill. A problem shared is a problem halved. Maybe then you will be able to see things clearer.
posted by DZ-015 at 4:35 AM on January 22, 2008

Flunkie How about you stop spinning in your interaction with us, and just come out and directly say what you mean?

Many people find doing that extremely difficult, particularly if what they mean is something incompatible with their preferred self-image. To some extent the anonymity helps encourage honesty and cuts down on the "review of past questions this person has asked", which may or may not be helpful. Perhaps the OP could ask the question in more detail, more anonymously.

Anyway, for the OP: you need to ask yourself a few more questions, IMO, which will help you clarify your own feelings and come to a decision.

- Do you have strong negative feelings towards your spouse? You mention liking them but not loving them, but this is a great deal different from dislike or hate.

- What kind of obligations do you have in the marriage? Children are the most important, but others such as mutual property, mutual friends, etc should be considered. Work out a way to fulfil your obligations as much as possible, if you do divorce.

- Is there someone else you're considering leaving your spouse for, and if so, is that just a passing infatuation? Could you be thinking the best of the new person, and the worst of your spouse, when you compare the two?

- Even if there's no-one else in particular, what are your prospects of doing better? For a 20-year-old the answer is almost certainly yes; for a 60-year-old, almost certainly no. A somewhat unhappy marriage is preferable to miserable lonely single life.

- On the other hand, a somewhat unhappy single life is preferable to a miserable marriage. Have you been single? How long for? What was it like for you? Are you missing it?

- Are there specifics you want to change in the marriage? Do you need more time to yourself, more weekends with your friends, or quiet time to watch TV or email, for instance? Do you need less time to yourself, do you wish your spouse spent more time with you and sought your company more often? Are you finding your standards of housekeeping incompatible?

- Are you under financial strain, especially from mutual debts? Do you feel your spouse is not pulling their share? Do you feel "shackled together" by debts, and as a result, inclined to resist staying together?

- Are you sexually compatible? If not, what would it take to become so?

- Is there anything else you can think of that might be strongly influencing you to want to split up?

- Imagine the process of divorce in as much detail as possible - talking to the spouse, talking to the kids if any, telling friends and relatives, deciding which ones to keep in contact with, deciding what to do about pets, perhaps getting lawyers, lodging forms, moving house, selling the house, dividing up your stuff, working out how much contact to have in the future, battling regrets, and so on. Imagine it all the way to having gone through it, living in an apartment on your own with your stuff and your pets and a visitation schedule for your kids, and eventually meeting someone attractive and dating and marrying them. Does it seem that doing this would be a relief to you? After the pain and hassle of the divorce itself was over, do you think it would have been worth it?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:42 AM on January 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


The grass is NOT greener.

If your spouse is not cheating, and not beating, then, no reason to be retreating.
posted by konolia at 6:43 AM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Love is not necessary for a successful marriage, which is a political alliance, too. It's also a verb, I think. Once can act lovingly without the overwhelming emotion most folks think of when they say 'love'. Sometimes, it's just a decision.

I am not a fan of marriage, particularly, so I am unbiased as to your particular circumstances, but the 'right/wrong' nature of your question seems like a bad way to phrase the question.

If you are hurting or impeding your partner, it's certainly time to consider a change. Don't be the agent of unhappiness, if you can avoid it, not just with her, but with humanity at large.

The primary criteria for an adult relationship is that it be mutually satisfying and growth producing. If your marriage fails that, then your choices are to change its nature, somehow. Fix it like it's a broken chair. Find the defects, assess the cost to address them, evaluate the salvage value, decide on repair versus dispose, or learn to tolerate a suboptimal situation. It's really not hard conceptually. (Practically, it is hard to terminate a relationship you have had for a while, however!)

Good luck.
posted by FauxScot at 7:05 AM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

There is not nearly enough information here to give meaningful advice.

If you're under 25 and have no kids: get out of there.

But it all depends on whether you're happy, whether your partner is happy, whether you have dependents, how old you are, whether you've tried out a bunch of relationships before, whether you and your partner are likely to find partners who will make you happier...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 7:19 AM on January 22, 2008

Kilovolt: I don't love the person I am married to. What can I do? I like my spouse but I don't 'love'. Is it wrong for me to stay with that person? ...My question is more properly put as: What is the best way to tell someone that you don't love them?

My first thought is: good god, what do you mean? What do you mean by 'love'? That's a big word, there, and you have to be clear on what you want to say with it. The notion that it's a magical thing that just sometimes disappears is flat wrong-- it's clearly something that involves work and time and life and a dozen other factors-- so there's always more to it than "I don't love you anymore." And you're not giving us any kind of background on that, maybe understandably.

My second though is that, if you aren't completely clear on these questions, then you won't be able to explain your position. And you'd damn well better be able to explain your position to the person you're married to. Marriage involves moral obligations, and at the very least that means the moral obligation to explain a statement like "I don't love you any more."

My hunch is that you need to think about this a hell of a lot harder than you have.
posted by koeselitz at 7:49 AM on January 22, 2008

Yes, by all means leave. You're not doing either one of you any favors.

My only experience with this sort of thing was leaving a girlfriend of around 5 years. We lived together. She was out of town for a week, so I moved all my stuff out to a friend's place, and we had a long talk when she got back. And then again the next day.

I took such drastic measures because I had tried to break up with her a few times before, but it didn't take, so I needed to make it difficult to back out. However, this was pretty hard on her and I wouldn't recommend this method for anyone else unless you know you're likely to cave once they start getting upset.

A lot of talking is in order. Like I said, I have problems sticking with the plan in situations like this, so I always need to be absolutely sure that it's what I want to do.

It's never easy to leave someone. But if you're not happy, you'll be better off.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:28 AM on January 22, 2008

You have a son in the second grade. How do you think your boy would answer this question?
posted by jamjam at 8:29 AM on January 22, 2008

jamjam: You have a son in the second grade. How do you think your boy would answer this question?

Oh. That changes things.

Again, there's not that much information you're giving here on why you feel this way or what the circumstance is. But I have a feeling that if there was some tremendous thing, or even any real obvious reason at all, you'd be telling us that. "My partner cheated on me," or "my partner has goals that are totally different from mine," or "my partner doesn't treat me the way I need," or something like that.

Love, well, hell. What the fuck does that mean? I don't love anybody all the time. Nobody does. You go through ups, you go through downs. Emotions are like that. That's why it's best not to live your life according to your emotions, but according to what makes sense. You don't want to feel ambivalent about your partner; of course not. So talk to your partner and tell that partner you want to make it better.

It is not wrong to stay with somebody despite an emotion, or, as in this case, a lack of a certain emotion. In fact, it is (a) a shirking of moral responsibility and (b) an act of cowardice to run away from a family on the basis of a feeling. That might sound like a hard thing to say, but it's the truth.
posted by koeselitz at 10:58 AM on January 22, 2008

To your first question: It depends on what "wrong" is to you. I'm a strong believer in individual happiness. I don't believe in staying together for the sake of the kids. (I was one of those kids.) And I believe in marrying for love. If you are in a situation where you are unhappy, if you believe in individual happiness as I do, you should change the situation. If you're happy enough and aren't particularly interested in pursuing anything else, then don't make a change.

To your followup question: you just tell them. That is, if you think you should. If you want to make a change, tell the person you don't love them. If you are happy with things the way they are, then maybe there isn't a point in telling them. Now, if *I* found out that my spouse hasn't loved me for the past X years, I'd be very, very angry and would feel betrayed. I want to be married to someone who does love me. (And he would know that.) But maybe your spouse isn't that way. People get married for different reasons. Stability, both mental and financial, is a big reason. Maybe that's why you're where you are. I guess, if you think your lack of love is relevant to your marriage, you should tell your spouse. How? Just do it. Say you'd like to sit down and have a serious discussion.
posted by iguanapolitico at 11:20 AM on January 22, 2008

Robcorr, I believe the guy who decided to audition partners on certain parameters and then forcibly fall in love is the former editor of Psychology Today. From what I heard, the experiment failed disastrously and the book is not happening

I think his name was Epstein. Either way, it's impossible to do.
posted by Maias at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2008

Either way, it's impossible to do.

People in arranged marriages fall in love, or not. It's not impossible to grow to love someone after the knot has been tied.
posted by tkolar at 12:56 PM on January 22, 2008

It sounds like you've pretty much made up your mind, but could I just say (please take with a grain of salt) that along with what I think others are trying to say is...feelings are fleeting.

Are you sure?

Just think this through a little bit more...please.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:31 PM on January 22, 2008

To look at this from another perspective: does your partner have any idea you're harboring these feelings? Good god, I think the only thing worse than finding out my partner didn't love me might be finding out much later on that my partner doesn't love me and in fact -hasn't- loved me in a very long time, but has been staying with me out of 'obligation' anyway. It seems like you BOTH ought to have the right to be in a relationship with someone who actually loves you. Beyond that, if you're tagging this question with 'love-hate' - is that hate coming through in how you're acting towards them? Even subtly? Years of being with someone who secretly thought I was hate-worthy seems like it would just -have- to erode at a person's self esteem no matter how well you think you're hiding it (this of course assumes that that 'love-hate' tag really -does- indicate some feelings of hate on your part; obviously I have no idea how true that is).

On the other hand, I do partly agree with all of the folks who suggest that maybe you need to do a little more work in figuring out just how you DO feel. Towards that end, while I realize that "go seek counseling" is a pretty pat answer, I wonder if marriage counseling for the two of you would be a good first step in this case? At the very least, perhaps the counselor could help you in eventually expressing whatever it is you need to express to your spouse, even if it IS "I just don't love you" ...
posted by zeph at 3:46 PM on January 22, 2008

Maias: right you are, it was Robert Epstein. He said in the interview that his first attempt didn't work out, but he said it was for practical reasons (she lived in Venezuela, he in the US) and this article says the same thing. Doesn't prove he's right, but it's hardly the same thing as "fail[ing] spectacularly".
posted by robcorr at 8:17 PM on January 22, 2008

You made a commitment to your wife, and perhaps the bloom is off the rose. However, you've also made a commitment to your son, and that's a more important one right now.

So the question isn't "how do I tell her I don't love her", but "how do I recapture the feelings I once had for this woman so that I can be happy again?"
posted by davejay at 10:05 AM on January 23, 2008

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