I Don't Love You Anymore
It's a scene too often played out in current American culture: One spouse offers the other these five little words, now considered a legitimate exit line from what was supposed to be a lifelong commitment. Discarding popular advice to use romance and sweetness to draw a wandering spouse back into the marriage, Dr. David Clarke lays out an action plan based on Matthew 18. It turns the tables on the divorce-minded spouse and guides the injured spouse from becoming mired in devastation to calling the shots- leaving the fate of the marriage in the hands of the person still committed to it. Dr. Clarke's beyond-tough-love program isn't merely theoretical; it's an approach that he has successfully used with hundreds of couples in his own practice. It's an action plan that can be used to regain confidence, power, and control- and create the best chance of saving and rebuilding the marriage.ons.
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A CLASSIC CASE OF HIT-AND-RUN
What " I Don't Love You" Really Means
You're walking alone in your neighborhood on a beautiful, sunny afternoon. The sun is warm, the flowers are blooming, and the breeze feels good. You feel confident, secure, and safe. Suddenly, you hear behind you the sound of an engine revving and wheels squealing. You turn and see with horror a car hurtling down the quiet street right at you. It must be going seventy miles an hour! You're in the middle of the road, and there's nothing you can do. There just isn't time. Just before impact, you notice it's one of your cars and your husband( or wife) is behind the wheel!
The car slams into you with a sickening crunch and you flip into the air, smashing into the windshield and then crashing to the pavement in a heap. With your face pressed to the gritty tarmac, you watch the car scream around the corner and disappear from sight.
You're stunned, dazed, bleeding, and confused. As you lie there, all twisted and broken, questions flood your mind: What happened? Was that really my husband? Why would he run me over? Why won't he stop and come back? There must be some mistake! What do I do now?
No, there's no mistake. That was your husband, and he meant to run you over. He's not going to stop. He's not going to say he's sorry. In fact, he thinks he had every right to run you over.
I know that was a pretty graphic story, but this scene is a pretty good description of what it's like to hear from your spouse's lips: "I don't love you anymore." Maybe he hasn't said these exact words to you, but his behavior screams out that he doesn't love you. He has run you over, and you don't even know why. The reasons he gives you make sense to him, but not to you. You've got to get up, get off that road, and get moving. You need to bind your wounds, protect yourself, and pull your life together.
The first step in healing is to push past your shock and denial and face the trust. If you can clearly understand three brutual, ugly realities, you can get up and begin your journey back to sanity and strength. And you'd better get up and out of that road, or he'll com back and run you over again...and again... and agin.
I want to be perfectly clear on something right up front. Throughout this book, I refer to the husband as the one who is the adulterer or involved in some other significant sin. The only reason for this is to avoid the awkward switching back and forth between the masculine and feminine pronouns: he/she, him/her. Obviously, the wife could be the one who says, "I don't
love you anymore," and is sinning.
TURN OUT THE LIGHTS; THE PARTY'S OVER
First of all, you must understand exactly what "I don't love you anymore" means. It does not mean any of these things:
"I'm unhappy, but I still want our marriage to work."
"I want to get my love for you back."
"If we get some help, maybe we can save the relationship."
"I'm confused and not sure what I want."
"If you make some changes, I think we'll be okay."
There are no ifs, maybe's, or we'll see's about it. It is not a cry for help. It is a cry of finality. It is a slamming door.
Here's what "I don't love you anymore" really and truly means:
"I've had it with you and our marriage."
"Our marriage is over."
"I've thought this through very carefully and I'm not changing my mind."
"I have a plan of escape mapped out and I'm going to follow it."
"I am divorcing you."
He's not kidding. He's not trying to get your attention. He has decided to get out of the marriage. Period. In a high percentage of cases, he also has found someone else he'd rather be with.
As I explain the tough-as-nails approach they must take in response to an unloving husband, many of my female clients say, "But if I'm too tough, I'll scare him off!" My response is always the same: "You can't scare him off because he's already gone." These clients desperately want to believe he's teetering on the fence. He's not. He jumped off the fence and is five neighborhoods away.
Oh, he may act confused and all torn up inside. Don't buy it. A lot of these husbands ought to receive Oscars for their "this really hurts me" performances. The pain you see is either fake, or just the last few gasps of guilt for what he's going to do. The guilt won't stop him. All he's worried about now is how to get away from you with the least amount of damage to his reputation and bank account.
WHERE'S THE COMMITMENT?
The second unpleasant reality is the state of marriage. American society used to value highly the institution of marriage. People revered it as one of the pillars upon which this country was based. When you got married, you were expected, by practically everybody, to stay married. There was a tremendous amount of healthy social pressure-from government, church,
business, media, school, neighborhood, friends, and family-to work through the tough times and remain husband and wife. Unless you had an extremely good reason, divorce was not an option.
Oh, how the times have changed. In the 1960s, society's commitment to marriage began to erode. In the 1970s and 1980s, this erosion became a landslide. We now stand at a point in American history where there is no commitment at all in secular culture to lifelong marriage. Zero. Zilch. The value of marriage has been buried under an avalanche of secular excuses,
rationalizations, New Age psychobabble, and selfish lusts.
Marriage has become another casualty of the world system. More accurately, Satan's system. We did not heed God's warning in I John 2: 15-17:
Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever.
Marriage has gone from being a permanent and essential home fixture to a temporary convenience. It's like an appliance-the refrigerator, the stove, or the dishwasher. As long as it works and meets your needs, fine. When it begins to break down and give you trouble, just get rid of it and get a new one.
Divorce used to be the last and worst alternative to continuing in a troubled marriage. Now it is considered the first and best alternative. Every single divorce has the world system seal of approval on it. The message trumpets from every corner of society: "If you're in pain, in conflict, or just not in love anymore, then get out of the marriage and get out quickly while you're still young enough to attract another partner. You're only going to live eighty years, so you might as well be happy. You're a fool if you stay!"
There's still plenty of support for marriages in the church. Wherever God's Word, the Bible, is faithfully taught, there will be Christians who will help you in your time of crisis. They'll genuinely want you and your spouse to stay together. They may not give you the best advice in the world. They may not have the guts to confront your husband, but at least you will benefit from their love and encouragement.
Unfortunately, the church will have little influence on your husband. By definition, he has rejected God and isn't interested in church or spiritual things. Oh, he may continue to play church, but the truth is, he has chosen to be sucked into the world and its beliefs. And the world says to him, "Welcome home! It's great to have you back. You're doing the right thing
by getting rid of your marriage. Look at all the fun activities available to you." It's music to his old nature ears.
I'm not telling you this to discourage you. I just want you to realize that you can't depend on society, or even your church, to change your husband. It's going to be up to you. With God's help, and backed up by a very small band of loyal supporters, you can take action.
I'M MARRIED TO AN ALIEN
The third truth you must come to grips with is the most painful one: this is not the person you married. Your loving, kind, and loyal spouse is gone. In his place is this stranger. You've never met this person. If you didn't know better, you'd say an alien has taken over the mind and body of your husband. And this alien is not nice.
Your new husband is cold, mean, devious, manipulative, and 100 percent selfish. He has no sympathy or compassion. He couldn't care less what you think and feel. His determination to meet his selfish needs is destroying your marriage, your family, and your dreams. You can't believe how he looks at you or how he treats you. Is this man the same person you married? No, he is not. And the sooner you realize this, the better off you and your marriage will be.
A huge part of your denial is thinking you're still dealing with your same old husband. Here are some of the favorite excuses(and my responses)from women who think they're living with the man they married:
CLIENT: I think he really wants to save the marriage.
ME: No, he doesn't. He wants to end it.
CLIENT: He's so stressed at work lately . . . maybe that's it.
ME: We're all stressed at work. Stress doesn't cause what you're seeing. I'm stressed at work, too, but I'm not walking out on my wife. He's walking out on you because he wants to.
CLIENT: He's confused.
ME: No, he's not. He knows exactly what he wants.
CLIENT: He's still living with me, though. Surely, that's a good sign.
ME: That means nothing. It's cheaper and more convenient than a hotel or apartment. He's only using your home as his temporary headquarters. He has planned his escape, believe me.
CLIENT: This is just not like him! This is my fault! I must have made some mistakes to cause him to act this way.
ME: Stop beating yourself up. This is all about him, not you. It's his fault for turning his back on you and God. I'm sure you haven't been a perfect wife, but that's no excuse for the sinful choices he's making.
As a clinical psychologist who's seen hundreds of couples in therapy, I've had a lot of experience with husbands(and wives)who have become aliens. I've talked to them. I've looked into their eyes. I've heard their rationalizations, distortions, and lies. They're in their own little worlds, their own little private realities. Satan has fooled them into believing that what they're doing is right. The trouble is, they don't know it. They are completely deceived, and no one can convince them that the path they're on will destroy them. They just don't get it.
The spouse who wants out has a very clear, very carefully planned agenda. He wants to retain the upper hand and stay in control of your relationship. By keeping you confused and emotionally distraught, he feels better about himself and what he is doing. Your ragged ups and downs and feeble efforts to win him back confirm that divorce is the only option. I mean,
why would anyone want to stay with a pathetic basket case like you?
He will assure you of his deep regret for the pain he is putting you through: "Honey, I'm sorry this is happening. I feel terrible seeing you so miserable." Baloney! Most of the time he wants you to be in pain. The more depressed and weak you are, the better divorce deal he is going to get. You're thinking only of saving the marriage, and he is adding up dollars and cents! I've
known plenty of persons who meticulously plotted to overwhelm their spouses so they could win custody of the kids.
Even if he actually does feel your pain, that's no comfort. He is still causing you terrible pain, and he has no intention of stopping.
The real skill is in smashing the spouse to bits without seeming to do so. Some are brazen and crude about it, but most are clever and subtle. One of the classic techniques is the "let's be friends" approach to divorce. He sadly admits that he doesn't love you and the marriage has to end, but that's no reason why you can't be friends. He wants you to agree that you both tried, but your marriage just didn't make it. If you play along and act like a real chum, he comes out smelling like a rose! You have legitimized your own divorce.
Grasping these three harsh realities will help propel you past your denial, bewilderment, and pain. By the time your partner runs you over, you are way behind in the race to salvage your marriage and family. You've got to catch up and make an impact on your overconfident, determined, and possibly soon-to-be ex-spouse. You can do it with a series of decisive steps. What kind of steps? Read on.