I have been married 16 years. I was so in love with my husband but he hadn't been very affectionate for a long time and really didn't treat me very well. He was never physically abusive but was always cutting me down emotionally, although he still said he loved me.
Things kept getting worse, eventually I fell out of love with him. Then he had a fling with a woman he knew I could not tolerate. But he insists it wasn't a full-blown affair. And he even says he feels that deep down inside, he thinks he did it to hurt me. I'm not sure why. I left the bedroom in January and we hadn't had any sexual relations since then. I did not love him and had no desire to be "with" him anymore.
Finally in June he asked for a divorce. I was relieved! It was the first time I had been happy in years. I did not want to be with him anymore. Then when it was just days from being final, he came to me extremely upset, wanting to work things out. He says he loves me deeply. So I took him back out of pity and because we have two children together. I come from a broken home myself and it was awful.
Now he is the man I've always needed him to be and is being wonderful. But I still cannot love him. And I don't know what to do. He has been back for four months now. How long do I wait around hoping it will all come back? Most of the time I can't stand it when he touches me, especially when he wants to have sex. But I try not to let him know that, because I really am trying. But I do not know what else to do. He is going to counseling, and has admitted his mistakes. I will probably start going with him soon. There are so many years of pain that I can't forget.
Do you feel there is any hope?
I hear your pain; I hear the years of humiliation you have suffered. I also hear that he has "mended his ways" and that he is continuing to work on his issues.
I feel that something has changed in you since you decided that you wanted a divorce. This feeling of freedom and release probably made you aware that you could live on your own, without the need to feel the daily abuse of a man you did not love anymore. Although it seems you were not ready to assume your newly gotten independence.
It is obvious that you cannot really love him after all that has happened to you. To do this you will need to forgive yourself for what has happened to you, and then forgive him -- if you can. It is your choice. Either way is okay. It is your right to decide it's enough, you've had it and it's time to walk away. It is also your right to decide that you want to give it another chance.
Either way, it is time for you to start your own therapy -- and probably not couple therapy as you suggested. You need to understand what has driven you to stay with such a man for so long and what has driven you to take him back. It is not pity! It might be guilt. It might be fear. It is important for you to understand that you have been abused and that it is time for this to stop. Abuse stops when self-abuse stops. If you don't want to have sex with your husband, that's fine. Do not try to feel things you don't feel. Do not do things you don't want to do.
It is time for you to make you the center of your life. To decide and do what is best for you, and not only to depend upon what your husband decides. You state in your letter that it is HE who asked for a divorce, and then again HE changed his mind, and now HE is mending his ways, even suggesting you joined HIM in his therapy. Whose life is this anyway? A marriage without love is good for nobody, neither for you nor your children.
What I'm about to say here may sound strange to you but it is very important for you to understand this: It is time to realize that whether you remain married to your husband or not, whether you succeed in rekindling your love for him is secondary, less important than your own happiness, and less important than your love for yourself. You need to resolve everything that stands in the way of you loving yourself. These might be childhood memories, emotional pain, feelings of guilt or beliefs that you deserve this kind of relationship.
Obviously you need to find love. You can find love, and you will find love if you accept yourself, as a dear and loving human being who has always tried her best to do what is right, and a person who is entitled to happiness. To find that happiness, you have to decide that anything that stands between you and that happiness has to be removed. So either remove your husband from your life, or remove the amassed anger, rage, sorrow and humiliation you still feel from him. It is time to stand on your two feet and decide, take charge, and remember that if you take responsibility for your life and your decisions, new opportunities will come your way.
With love and light,
Dr. Marc Gelkopf, PhD and Elisabeth Gelkopf-Belais, SW