Steven Lake felt blindsided when his wife of 15 years said she wasn’t “in love” with him anymore. Here’s what he decided to do.
WTF is what went through my head when my wife of 15 years said she is not “in love” with me. We were having a rather innocuous conversation and I said that I was still “in love” with her. I was thinking that this was a pleasant state of being given how long we have been together. Her reply was swift, unequivocal, and steely, “I’m not.” I was shocked. “What do you mean you are not in love with me,” I shot back. She explained that she loved me but was not “in love” with me. Huh! Say that again. “I love you but I’m not in love with you,” she patiently repeated for my devastated ego.
After bantering back and forth on this for a few minutes and getting nowhere fast, I said, “If you’re not in love with me, then why are you with me?” She looked at me as if I had a screw loose, and went on to say that she loves me but is not in love with me. I am getting frustrated at this point and thinking I must be missing something.
I resort to my fallback position when in a difficult situation—definitions. Maybe this is an issue of how we are looking at the concept of “in love.” She said she does not even want to be in love (double look of confusion now) as it is not real, full of hormones making people do and feel crazy things. Ah, I’m thinking, so she’s talking about when we first got together and that infatuated or hormonal feeling of ecstasy. And I agree, I don’t feel that way anymore. We have now found our first place of agreement. We both can categorically say we are not in love with each other as we were when we first started going out. Furthermore, we love each other. This is good. I am feeling much less afraid now.
But still, I insist, even though we don’t feel that overwhelming headiness of first love, I still feel “in love” with her. She responds by saying that she loves me with “all her heart.” I believe her and ask why it is so difficult to say she is “in love” with me. Now get this, she said, “I love you so much that if it makes you feel better—I will be ‘in love’ with you.”
That’s a pretty big love but part of me is still not buying it. I’m feeling a definite resistance or sticking point on her part. This conversation goes back and forth for the rest of the day while we ski, work and do our daily chores. I create a running joke about her “not being in love” with me, mainly to siphon off my hurt and disappointment.
By early evening I have stopped with the jokes and take a moment to ask her, now that she understands that for me being in love is not equated with that first love or infatuation feeling, but still has a certain warmth and excitement about it. I ask her what it would take to have some of that feeling back again. This is where the conversation gets interesting, and a little scary for me, as she said that I would need to do some of those things I used to do that made being together romantic.
My beloved wants to be surprised with gifts more often, taken out for a special meal (one that I had planned, not just us going out for dinner together on the spur of the moment), stop being so grumpy, and have more fun and lightness when we are home together. I pause and think for a second, then, “OK, I can do that.” And I saw in that moment that even though the flame of passion still burned in me, for my partner the wick was glowing but not lit.
Fortunately, she had given me the match (what to do) and now it was up to me to strike and re-kindle the flame. Somehow, maybe because her love was so evident, I was able to take this as a joyous challenge. I did not feel threatened anymore nor did I need her to be in the same place I was about being, “in love.”
Later that evening the process continued as we came up with a game we would play out for the next week. Who could be the sweetest to the other person (there would be a prize at the end of the week). It is 24 hours on since we started this game and we are having fun with it. The game has induced laughter as we try to out-sweet the other, whether it is giving a backrub, making tea or asking what the other person needs. We have already changed our typical way of interacting thus setting the stage, I hope, for my partner to be “in love.”
photo: Michael Caven / flickr