Tim asked Jess for the fourth time in the last four days.
“What’s the matter?”
“Why won’t you talk to me about it?”
“Why are you being so mean?”
“Why aren’t you attracted to me?”
“You just don’t love me anymore, do you?”
All she could say was, “Yes, I love you, Tim… I just don’t feel ‘in love’ with you anymore.”
Tim was stunned and speechless.
That’s when I got an email from him.
He asked me, “Do you think my marriage is doomed? What can I do to fix this?”
The Tim and Jessica Story
I’ll tell you my answer in a minute, but first a little about Tim and Jess.
Both are 35 years old, smart, hard-working and fun loving.
They’ve been married for 13 years, two boys 8 and 10 and a black lab named “Blondie”.
They both love their boys beyond measure.
Both work. Tim is a technical director for an IT consulting company. Jess runs an online business.
They own a home on a nice cul-de-sac with a toy-strewn front yard and neighbors they like to drink with on weekends.
No major money problems. No major fights. Very little sex.
Situation…normal, everyday America.
Except for today.
Tim is freaking out.
Why Tim is Freaking Out
Tim is freaking out because he never saw this coming. He assumed Jess would be in love with him forever.
In fact, for the last 13 years, most of Tim’s confidence, identity and sense of well-being came from the knowledge that Jess loved him and would never leave him.
Now he feels shell shocked. Tricked and betrayed.
His sense of certainty has been squashed and triggers of inadequacy and abandonment have sent him into a tailspin.
He suddenly sees everything he’s ever done wrong. All of his missteps and imperfections are playing like a bad movie in his mind waking him up every morning at 4:00am.
He isn’t sleeping or eating well and he’s cried alone on more than few occasions.
More than anything in the world, he wants to fix this. He must do something – anything to right the ship that is his sinking marriage…his whole life.
My Answer to Tim
When Tim called me he just started talking.
“I can’t believe this. How could she do this? I know our marriage isn’t perfect and I’m certainly not perfect. But everybody has problems and they don’t just fall out of love. I feel her slipping away and I’m not sure I can get her back. I’m falling apart. What should I be doing right now?!”
The first time I heard these words was from my own mouth. And as a men’s coach now there’s no telling how many times I’ve heard this story from other men – nearly word for word.
Here’s my response to Tim.
“I know it feels like your world is crashing down around you and you will do anything to stop it. The best thing you can do at this moment is nothing at all. There’s nothing you can do or say right now that will matter. There are no questions you can ask that will give you the answers you need right now.”
“The thing you have to know is she probably doesn’t have any clear answers right now. She is likely reacting to unshakable feelings of disconnection, loneliness, anxiety and fear. Her words are the only way she has to describe those feelings and those words will always come out messy. They will feel intentionally hurtful – but they’re not. You didn’t put all those feelings inside her. They are not all your fault and you can’t make her feel any different.”
“All you can do at this moment is take a deep breath and recognize you are living in a cliché. This happens to men every day. I don’t mean to minimize your pain or your concerns. I want you to understand that this is an extremely common situation over which you have no control and you never did.”
“But you can choose how you respond to the situation. Don’t panic. Don’t think you can fix it. And don’t interrogate her with questions. Patience is key – not pressure.”
“You’ll need to lower your heart rate, relax and find a place of cool, calm confidence. You are going to be fine. No matter what happens, you will be just fine. It’s from this place where you stand the best chance of reconnecting with her in a way she can handle.”
“But your mind can’t stop spinning with all the ‘what if’s, can it? You’re awake at 4:00am imagining every little thing you’ve ever done to deserve this. You wonder what she’s thinking, planning and doing when she’s not with you.”
“You’re about to enter what I call ‘Limbo Land’ – where you will have no idea how this will end up. You will crave certainty. There are only two ways to create certainty right now. You can either let her go and start a new life or you can stay and start a new life.”
“Either way you go there is only one way to move forward. You will need to detach from her orbit. You will need to start working on a new source of security, happiness and well-being. And that is within yourself. Always has been – always will be.”
“If she is to ever find her way back into a loving relationship with you, it will be after you become a stronger, more secure and more confident version of yourself. When you can want her with all your heart but not need her to be happy…you will feel liberated from these feelings of desperation and uncertainty. And you will know you’ll be okay.”
This is the beginning of a long but extremely rewarding process for Tim.
I tell men they will eventually feel gratitude for this trauma in their life.
Because if used correctly, it’s the best rocket fuel to propel them to a new place of inner strength, self-reliance, self-respect and self-confidence.
Sometimes it takes the deepest hurt to help us grow the most.
If you’re a man fearing the loss of a relationship, I wrote a free ebook just for you. Download your copy of The Hard-to-Swallow Secret to Saving Your Marriage HERE.